Jon Heyman
Thursday November 5th, 2009

NEW YORK -- The unique Yankees foursome of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada probably didn't need to win one more World Series together to prove anything. But they did, anyway. And they did it 13 years after their first one together. No other foursome can say that.

In one word Rivera summed up how he felt to win another title with his three longtime teammates: "Wonderful.''

The reputations of that quartet were already secure, but they enhanced them by winning together in their mid-to-late 30s, just as they had done originally in their early-to-mid 20s.

Here are the men who enhanced their reps, furthered their cause and did themselves most proud in the 2009 postseason (followed by a few who missed their chance to do so).

1. Hideki Matsui. Never has a player done more damage in a World Series in such a limited role. Not only is he a half-game player, but he started only half the games, since there was no DH used in Philly. Nonetheless, he managed to stand out in what might be his last week as a Yankee, posting the third-highest average for a player with at least 10 at-bats in the World Series, and the second highest slugging percentage to Lou Gehrig. Yankees people seemed to view him as a square peg this spring, as they've started to believe that a fulltime DH doesn't make sense for such a veteran team. For that reason they still don't seem likely to bring him back. But now, in a place where sentiment has a place and there are dollars to spare, it can't be completely ruled out.

2. Alex Rodriguez. The October choker label is gone after a .365 postseason with 18 RBIs. "He's not the same man. He's a different guy, and we're all better for it,'' Yankees GM Brian Cashman said after Rodriguez won his first ring many years after it was expected. Maybe it took something bad to happen to him. Only eight months after he came clean about being dirty in Texas, his rep has never been better. "Sometimes out of the worst of times, people rise from it,'' Cashman said. Rodriguez carried the Yankees through the first two rounds, and after a rough first two World Series games that included six whiffs, he was awakened by a record string of hit-by-pitches and began tormenting the Phillies with big hits.

3. Johnny Damon. He showed his quick bat and otherworldly instincts in a wondrous World Series. His steal of second and third together in Game 4 is the single most memorable play of the best-contested World Series in at least the last seven years. Teammates marveled at it, and it turned the pivotal game in the Yankees' favor.

4. Derek Jeter. Can we all agree now that he isn't anything close to over-rated? His 11 hits fell one shy of the record for a six-game World Series. His lifetime World Series average is .321 after his .407 2009 Series. He is completely unfazed by the game's best pitching and continually comes through in the clutch (he singlehandedly spoiled the silly contention that there's no such thing as clutch). In 29 postseason series he has hit .300 18 times and .400 10 times. As Reggie Jackson said, "You just tip your cap to him and be thankful he's on your team.''

5. Cliff Lee. He turned in incredible performance after incredible performance this postseason. He was easily the best mid-year pickup and the man most responsible for getting the Phillies to their second straight World Series. The final tally of 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA shouldn't be diminished at all because he wasn't called upon to pitch on three days' rest, like the Yankees' pitching studs. The Philadelphia Inquirer suggested that the Phillies haven't decided whether they will try to lock up Lee beyond 2010, and word is that they don't have as much spending money as you'd think. But wherever he lands after 2010, he'll be making a lot of loot.

6. Mariano Rivera. For the 19th time in 29 postseason series, Rivera did not allow a run. His patented cutter is a mystery to practically everyone, but especially to National League batters who haven't seen it. He actually lowered his lifetime 0.77 postseason ERA to 0.74 by allowing one run in 16 innings. He might be the most valuable player of his generation.

7. Andy Pettitte. He may have turned out to he the best winter signing of the year, inking for $5.5 million guaranteed (plus incentives). "He made a life decision, not a business decision,'' Cashman said. "He chose to come back at a discounted rate because he felt there'd be a better chance to do something spectacular.'' He was superb through the season, then even better when it counted most. With four more postseason victories, he became the alltime leader with 18, and is looking more and more like a Cooperstown candidate. He also became the first starter to win all three postseason clinchers (Derek Lowe did it, too, but one of his wins came in relief). Pettitte's final one came on three days' rest, making old teammate Joe Girardi look good.

8. Chase Utley. He was accused of having a bad hip or a case of the yips. But all he did was rake. His five home runs in the World Series tied Reggie Jackson's alltime record, and three of them came against one of the best pitchers in baseball, CC Sabathia.

9. CC Sabathia. Nothing fazes this big fellow. He never complained about one thing all year, whether it was Jorge Posada's constant mound conferences or pitching on three days' rest, which he did whenever asked. "He's our ace, he's out horse. And thankfully, he's getting a well-deserved rest,'' Cashman said of the ALCS MVP, who was slated to start the Game 7 that became unnecessary. "He was our first block [this winter]. I remember talking to him in the winter, and you saw how badly I felt we needed him by the demonstration of the contract. He came to New York with a lot of hesitancy, and I think he's absolutely ecstatic with the move he made.'' A bonus: He's truly one of the nicest people in baseball.

10. Joe Girardi. It looked like he used the first two rounds as a warmup to learn the postseason ropes. In the World Series he threw away his boring book and put himself on the line by going with a three-man rotation throughout. He knew there was no sense throwing righty journeyman Chad Gaudin at the Phillies' killer lefty lineup. He also knew how to handle the bullpen, and it showed when he found a new hero in Damaso Marte. He also learned from last year and he loosened up, starting spring training with a billiards outing for the boys. Whether that was the reason or not, this Yankees team meshed like some other didn't. "Joe kept us al together,'' Rivera said. His players seemed slightly better prepared than the Phillies in the World Series, as well. That's probably because they were.

11. Brian Cashman. He was knocked around pretty good in the papers last year when the Yankees fell short of the playoffs for the first time after 13 straight October appearances, including 12 with the departed Joe Torre. This year he seemed to bat 1.000. The $423.5 million spent on Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett looks well spent. Smaller moves netted Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairstson Jr., who aided the cause more than most think this summer. Even the three-year contract for Marte looks worth it today. The behind-the-scenes Yankees catchphrase held up: Mission accomplished.

12. Jayson Werth. He actually hit more home runs in the postseason than Utley (seven to six), and provided worthy protection for cleanup man Ryan Howard, who was hot the first two rounds. Werth finished the postseason with a .755 slugging percentage, not bad for a player making just $2.5 million.

13. Carlos Gonzalez. Most folks won't recall that this guy was a force in the first round vs. Philly. He finished with the highest OPS of anyone this postseason, 1.514, and impressed everyone who saw his first-round feats.

14. Andre Ethier. He came up with big hits and generally looked like the best player of all the good, young ones the Dodgers have. He finished the postseason with a 1.235 OPS.

15. Joe Mauer. He hit great (just like in the regular season) and never complained about Phil Cuzzi's brutal call in the Division Series. He finished with five hits in 12 at-bats (and technically it was 6 in 13). An all-around great player.

16. Vicente Padilla. He was only released from Texas because they were tired of having him around. The man can pitch, and he showed it a few times in October before finally falling to the Phillies. He began the offseason by accidentally shooting himself in the leg, but he does have great stuff.

17. Pedro Martinez. Sure, the Yankees spanked him in the World Series finale. But did anyone expect him to get two Series starts when he was throwing tryouts in the Dominican this summer? "I'm extremely proud,'' he said. "[But] they got me.''

18. John Lackey. Well-timed postseason performances for Lackey, who hits the free-agent market as by far the best starting pitcher. Wanted to tough it out against the Yankees in Game 4, and would have come back in Game 7 -- free agency be damned. But guess what? The Yankees noticed his mettle, and if they enter the derby as expected, he should hit the $100 million mark.

19. Vladimir Guerrero. He had the winning hit in the clinching Game 3 against the nemesis Red Sox, and just kept going. He finished the postseason with a .378 postseason average.

20. Damaso Marte. Never has such an awful regular season (9.45 ERA) been followed by four so beautiful postseason October innings. He allowed no hits, struck out six and seemed to delight in making Phillies slugger Ryan Howard look foolish. In the upset of Octobers, by the end he superseded Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain as the main bridge to Mariano.

21. Jorge Posada. Sure, he isn't the best defensive catcher anymore. And he has far too many mound meetings. But he reminded folks again that he's among the greatest hitting catchers of all-time.

And a few that didn't have the greatest of postseasons...

1. Cole Hamels. The 2008 World Series MVP threw four clinkers, then seemed to suggest in an interview that he was ready for the season to end. Like a lot of young guys who found success early, he seemed to spend far too much time enjoying his first taste and lost focus. He said he scarcely had time for a breath last winter, but that's his own doing. Reggie Jackson said he has seen this sort of post-success failure many times and predicted that Hamels will bounce back to 16-8 next year. The alleged altercation with Brett Myers appears to have been nothing more than Myers doing his usual, which is goofing around (Myers didn't help his own free-agent cause by exposing himself as a giant goofball again).

2. Matt Holliday. The drop in L.A. didn't enhance his free-agent cause (but it probably didn't hurt it, either, as he's a well-established star who earned his October stripes as NLCS MVP in 2007). His big finish as Albert Pujols' running mate surely made him millions. Joe Strauss in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch hinted that the Cardinals suggested a framework in the $96-million range, which isn't a terrible starting point for a mid-market club but not close to what's expected to get it done. Mark Teixeira, the most oft-used comp, received almost double that at $180 million, after all.

3. Tim McClelland, C.B. Bucknor, Phil Cuzzi, etc. The umpires will be remembered for a rough first two rounds, though they did much better by the time the World Series came around, as baseball wised up by actually considering the in-season evaluations when assigning umps to the games on the greatest stage.

4. Tony La Russa. Some folks are starting to wonder again whether his teams sometimes tighten up in the postseason. He's a sure Hall of Famer who did take a title with an 83-win team in 2006, so that talk is mostly whispers among insiders. But it does exist.

5. Jonathan Papelbon. Gave up runs in two straight innings to blow Game 3 of the Division Series vs. the Angels. Nothing to dance about.

6. Joe Nathan. Looked spent in two bad outings vs. the Yankees, and probably was.

7. Ben Francisco. The poor guy went 0 for 11 in World Series.

• Some baseball people are speculating that the Red Sox will try even harder to keep up with the Yankees now and make a renewed push to try to acquire star Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay. Boston made perhaps the best offer for Halladay last summer (Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Michael Bowden, Nick Hagadone and a positional prospect) and their incentive to improve may be enhanced after the Yankees' championship. Some believe that the Jays could wait until the summer to deal Halladay, though, and one GM said he believes they'd get as much for Halladay at next year's trade deadline as they could this winter (but still significantly less than they could have gotten at last year's deadline).

• Boston is also seen as a team that will make sure it gets at least one big power hitter, and maybe two. Some wonder whether ex-Red Sox executive and new Padres GM Jed Hoyer might be more likely to make a deal with Boston (e.g., Adrian Gonzalez) since he's familiar with their prospects (but maybe he's so familiar that he'll want exactly the ones Boston wants to hold onto). Like Hoyer, deposed Padres GM Kevin Towers had strong a connection to Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. Epstein was Hoyer's boss, and Towers was Epstein's boss.

• The Cubs are holding organizational meetings in the coming days, with Milton Bradley on the agenda. A lot of different teams have been speculated as landing spots for Bradley. But here's the one that makes the most sense: How about to the Angels for unhappy outfielder Gary Matthews Jr.? Both have two years to go at about $11 mil per, and neither is wanted by his current team. Matthews Jr. might even get a jolt out of going to a place where his father starred.

• One nice thing about this year -- besides World Series ratings that were up nearly 50 percent -- is that the four best teams made it to the League Championship Series, the two best played in the World Series, and the best team won the championship. Most years that doesn't happen.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.