Now that the Yankees have clinched their 40th trip to the World Series, it is already commonplace for those souls who consider the Yankees bad for humanity to mock the team and its fans for their overcelebration. Oh, no, it's been six whole years since you've been to the World Series. Talk to the Cubs. On a surface level, this is true, but completely misses the point. This team is so different than the 2003 version that they might as well be the Cubs. The 2009 Yankees have seven players who have been to the World Series before. That's one more than the 2009 Cubs.
Baseball, an individual sport repeated often enough that it becomes a collective one, is not as enslaved to the notion that All Superstars Must Be Champions Or They Are Failures as their counterparts in the NFL and the NBA. No one looks at Barry Bonds or Ted Williams they way they look at Dan Marino in the NFL and Charles Barkley in the NBA. But it doesn't hurt. Alex Rodriguez, who in the playoffs finally looked like the elite, all-time top-10 player that he is, is finally in the World Series at the age of 34. He has already played in 12 different postseason series and 48 postseason games and made 212 postseason plate appearances. That's an absurdly high number, and one that is now completely meaningless.
Can you name the seven Yankees to have made the World Series before? Four are obvious: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada (who has one less than everyone by dint of missing 1996) and Andy Pettitte (who has one more, from 2005 with the Houston Astros). The other three from the playoff roster: Hideki Matsui (2003 Yankees), Johnny Damon (2004 Boston Red Sox, which you may vaguely remember) and Jose Molina (2002 Anaheim Angels; he went 0-for-3). If Eric Hinske makes the World Series roster -- which is possible -- he would become the
seventh eighth. He homered off Jeff Blanton in Game 4 of last year's matchup between the Phillies and the Rays.
But that's it. Some big-name players are making their first-ever World Series appearances: Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett (who has a World Series ring with the 2003 Marlins but was hurt that whole postseason), Nick Swisher and, of course, A-Rod. The Yankees might have been to the World Series three other times this decade, but most of their players haven't. It's worth keeping in mind: It's the first time most of them will have ever been on this particular stage before. Expect them to play like it, for better or worse.
But that's something for Wednesday. Today is the day after. The Yankees are back in the World Series. Huzzah, humans!