The Yankees got their shiny new rings today, and they were just as subtle and understated as you might expect. But if the swelling music and the giant hunks of ice were not exactly humble, the ring ceremony itself still managed to be lovely – because of the presence of Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra, the glee of the crowd, and the obvious joy on the players’ faces as they jogged out to collect – and a perfect prelude to a 7-5 win.
The highlight was the reception for Hideki Matsui, now the Los Angeles Godzilla of Anaheim, who was given a ring, a huge ovation from the fans, and hugs on the field from all his teammates. I can hardly wait for the inevitable squawking about the horrors of fraternizing with the “enemy.” This may be the most amicable player-team divorce I can recall, and it was nice to see the uber-professional Matsui reap the benefits of that. Even the many Yankee-haters of my acquaintance find it hard to work up any bile for the guy.
(Less fuss was made over current Padre Jerry Hairston Jr’s presence, but I like that he flew all night to be in the Bronx for this moment – without even asking permission, because he was afraid someone might say no. It’s always nice to get a sense that the players care as much or more than the fans; it helps us feel less silly).
As for the game itself, it was about as low-stress as Yankees-Angels games ever are. Is there any Major League player we know better, at this point, than Andy Pettitte? How many times over the last few years have I tried to find a new way to describe a start like this? He got himself into trouble and then he got out of it; he was not dominant or overwhelming, but he was enough. Pettitte’s demeanor and persona do not seem to fit the word “crafty” (more like “aw shucks”), but he has gradually turned into one of those lefties; I wouldn’t necessarily say he strikes me as a deep thinker, but he knows what the hell — “the heck”, he might say — he’s doing. Today’s final line was six innings pitched and no runs allowed, despite five hits and three walks, aided by six strikeouts.
The offense was provided by Nick Johnson and Derek Jeter, who hit solo homers early on, and the Yankees tacked on gradually via a slew of infield singles, walks, and doubles, which never quite coalesced into a huge inning but came out to the same thing in the end. It was a good homecoming for Johnson, who came through in several key moments (and managed not to lose any limbs), as did Cano, an ultra-patient Swisher, and the usual suspects – Jeter, Posada, and of course Mariano Rivera, who saved Chan Ho Park and David Robertson from themselves with his usual easy flair.
So far, so good.