Twins’ Mauer earns much-deserved 2009 AL MVP award

In a unanimous decision, Twins catcher Joe Mauer was named the 2009 American League’s Most Valuable Player on Monday. Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira and shortstop Derek Jeter finished second and third, respectively.

Mauer received 27 of 28 first-place votes after leading the league in batting average (.365), on-base percentage (.444) and slugging percentage (.587). No other catcher has ever led the league in those three categories and he even threw in a Gold Glove this season, just for good measure.

Not to take anything away from Teixeira, Jeter or Miguel Cabrera (who finished fourth), but there simply was no other choice for this award than Mauer. He was phenomenal and most likely parlayed his ’09 season into a fat contract extension. (Mauer becomes a free agent in 2011.)

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Yankees win 2009 World Series

What a difference a year makes.

This time last year, the New York Yankees were at home on their couches watching as their 2009 World Series counterparts, the Philadelphia Phillies, defeated the Tampa Bay Rays to become world champions.

One of the big reasons the Bronx Bombers were at home during the Fall Classic and not participating in it was because their pitching wasn’t good enough. That’s why GM Brian Cashman opened George Steinbrenner’s fat checkbook to sign starting pitchers CC Sabathia (7-years, $161 million) and A.J. Burnett (five-year, $82.5 million). And just to make sure he had enough offense, Cashman also inked the top bat on the free agent market, Mark Teixeira, to an eight-year, $180 million deal.

The end result is that the Yankees got what they paid for.

With their 7-3 victory over the Phillies in Game 6 of the World Series, the Bombers won their 27th championship in club history. Hideki Matsui (who was later named Series MVP) went 3-for-4 with six RBI and a run scored, while Derek Jeter finished 3-for-5 with two runs scored. Long-time veteran Andy Pettitte earned the victory, yielding three runs on four hits over 5.2 innings of work.

The Yankees are clearly at an advantage because they’re willing to spend. But at least they spend their money the right way unlike clubs like the Mets, who spend widely only to miss the postseason every year. The Yankees want to win and they knew last year that they’re pitching wasn’t good enough to match their offensive firepower. So yes, they spent and spent big. But they spent to win and they accomplished their one and only goal: To win a World Series.

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Can Cliff Lee save the Phillies’ season?

The Phillies acquired Cliff Lee at the trade deadline this season to help bolster their starting pitching and help get the back to the World Series. But now that they’re back in the Fall Classic, the Phillies need one more thing from Lee: To save their season.

Lee will pitch Game 5 against the Yankees tonight in a do-or-die game for the Phillies, who trail 3-1 in the best of seven series. So far, Lee is 3-0 in the postseason and has only allowed two earned runs on 20 hits over 33.1 innings of work. He has also fanned 30 batters, has only walked three and has a sparklingly 0.54 ERA.

But even though he has been masterful so far, the problem is that this is the second time the Yankees will be facing Lee this week. Even though they lost, the Rockies fared a tad better against Lee in Game 4 of the NLDS than they did in Game 1. And Colorado doesn’t have near the offensive firepower as New York does.

If the Yankees are going to be crowned world champions tonight, the top of their order must come through, unlike in Game 1 of this series. Outside of Derek Jeter, who had three hits and scored a run, Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez combined to go 1-for-12 against Lee in their first outing. While A-Rod has been on fire since then, he looked lost in all four of his at bats against Lee in New York while striking out three times.

Time will tell if Lee can continue his dominance in the postseason, or if A.J. Burnett and the Yankees will put the final touches on their championship run.

A-Rod redemption

It’s been a surreal year for Alex Rodriguez. It began with disgrace, as he joined the club of major league players implicated in the never-ending steroids scandal. He was never a fan favorites in New York, and now he had sunk to a new low. His reputation would be forever tarnished.

Yet after watching A-Rod’s postseason performance so far, this may be the best thing that ever happened to him. Last night, A-Rod rose to the occasion again to provide a dramatic home run to save the day for the Yankees in Game 2.

• To be honest, for all his remarkable numbers, A-Rod has never inspired legend quite like a Williams or Ruth, a Bonds or a Mantle. Yet through five postseason games, he now has three home runs that have either tied or put the Yankees ahead. One off Joe Nathan and another off Brian Fuentes, two pretty darn good closers, too. Here’s the reaction from The LoHud Yankees Blog:

• His story of exorcising October demons has almost become old hat. Four times he has been asked the same questions and four times he has continued to repeat what he said in St. Pete. “I know you guys are probably looking for something profound. I’m just in a good place. I’m seeing the ball and I’m hitting it. That’s about it.” Rodriguez now has an RBI in each of the first five postseason games, setting a new Yankee record. Here’s audio from Rodriguez:

• Burnett said he, Phil Hughes, Phil Coke and Joba Chamberlain were in the clubhouse watching the 11th inning unfold. People would never believe the scene they made after Rodriguez hit the tying homer. “We were like little kids,” Burnett said, “jumping around and hugging.”

• In the dugout, Mark Teixeira couldn’t fathom that Rodriguez had done it. Again. “I just kept yelling, ‘He did it again! He did it again!” Teixeira said. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

It’s amazing what a great athlete can do when he just focuses on the job at hand. A-Rod has admitted to being so self-absorbed that he put tremendous pressure on himself. The scandal seems to have forced A-Rod to grow up and develop a more mature approach to the game. If he keeps this up and the Yankees win the World Series, this will be one of the fastest and most dramatic image turnarounds we’ve ever seen in sports.

New Mr. October in New York?

Mark Teixeira has the city of New York in a frenzy after his dramatic walk-off home run last night in Game 2 for the Yankees vs the Twins. Yankee fans have been very frustrated in recent years as a result of collapses in the postseason, so they’re giddy with excitement at the prospect of a high-priced player who can live up to the hype in the playoffs. Even C.C. Sabathia got off to a great start in game one. Who knows, maybe even A-Rod will get into the act. We’ll see in the next round when they face a better team.

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