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Legends On Deck

Schilling and Johnson v. A-Rod and Jeter: 2001 Diamondbacks v. 2009 Yankees

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The 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks won a very thrilling and somber 2001 World Series beating the favorite New York Yankees in very thrilling seven game championship series. Arizona was managed by Bob Brenly and to get to the World Series they beat the Cards in the NLDS 3 games to 2, then the Braves 4 games to 1 before taking on and beating the Yankees. Brenly would have the following players in the one game playoff to advance.  Catching would be Damian Miller and at first base was Mark Grace. The second baseman was Jay Bell and at shortstop was Tony Womack with Matt Williams finishing out the D Backs infield at 3rd base. Arizona’s outfield was Luis Gonzalez in left field, Steve Finley in center field and Reggie Sanders in right field. As for the designated hitter in looking over the numbers it could either be Craig Counsell or David Dellucci. The pitchers that Brenly could choose from were Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling. They were logical choices as both were 20 game winners that season.

The 2009 Yankees were managed by Joe Girardi and to get to the World Series they beat the Minnesota Twins 3 games to 0 in the ALDS, then the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim would go down to defeat 4 games to 2 games in the ALCS before they went to the 2009 World Series, beating the Phillies 4 games to 2 for their 28th World Series title. Girardi would send Jorge Posada at catcher with Mark Teixeira at first base. Second baseman for the 2009 Yankees was Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter at shortstop and Alex Rodriguez at third base would complete the infield. The Yankees outfield was Johnny Damon in left field, Melky Cabrera in centerfield and Nick Swisher in right field with Hideki Matsui at the designated hitter position. Girardi had the choice of CC Sabathia, A J Burnett or a member of the famed “Core Four” Andy Pettitte. Of course ,if the game was on the line he had Phil Hughes, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera.

Both Brenly and Girardi are former major league catchers well versed on the nuances of the game of baseball. As a manager both men brought the fire they had as players to the bench when they were managing. Even though a lot of people chide Girardi for being a manager prone to tendencies and statistics his success makes him the choice over Brenly as the winner in the manager’s duel.

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Damian Miller was the catcher for the 2001 Arizona team and in 123 games he had 103 hits, (19 doubles,13 home runs), 47 RBIs and a .271 batting average. When he was behind the plate he had only 7 errors in 1,054 chances for a .993 fielding average. In the 101 games that Yankee catcher Jorge Posada played in he had 109 hits (25 doubles, 22 home runs), 81 runs batted in and a .285 batting average. When he was behind the plate Posada had 7 errors in 708 chances, a .990 fielding average. Miller was a tad bit better than Posada on defense and Posada was way above Miller on offense despite playing in less ball games. Posada is the logical choice no question about it.

As for first base Mark Grace was the Diamondbacks first baseman in 2001 and during that season Grace had a .298 batting average with 106 hits. 24 of those hits were doubles, 1 was a triple and 15 were HRs to go 78 RBIs. In the field Grace had only five errors in 1062 chances for a .995 fielding average. During the course of his 16 year career he won 3 Gold Gloves and was a three time selection for the All Star team. The Yankees would have as their first baseman in 2009 Mark Teixeira who in 156 games had 178 hits for a .292 batting average. Of those 178 hits, 43 were doubles, 3 were triples and he had 39 home runs and 122 RBIs both of which led the American League. In the field in 2009 Teixeira made 4 errors in 1,275 chances for a .997 fielding average. During his career, he won 3 Silver Slugger Awards, 5 Gold Gloves for best fielding first baseman and was a 3 time All Star. Suprisingly this one was not as close as thought to be. In this match up Teixeira wins in a landslide over Grace based on his offense numbers as the defensive numbers are close.

The second baseman for the 2001 D Backs was Jay Bell. In 129 games Bell had 106 hits for a .248 batting average. Of the 106 hits 24 were doubles, 1 was a triple and 13 were home runs. He had 46 runs batted in and a .248 batting average. In the field Bell had 7 errors in 406 chances for a .983 fielding average. In his career Bell won 1 Gold Glove and 1 Silver Slugger and was a 3 time All Star selection. Second base for the Yankees in 2009 was Robinson Cano who had 204 hits in 161 games for a .320 batting average. In breaking his hits down he had 48 doubles, 2 triples and 25 home runs. He also had 85 RBIs as well. In the field Cano made 12 errors in 744 chances for a .984 fielding average. He is still active today as a member of the Settle Mariners and as of 2016 he has been an 8 time All Star selection, a 5 time Silver Slugger and won 2 Gold Gloves at the second base position. This one is not close either as Robinson Cano gets the nod.

Tony Womack was Arizona’s shortstop in 2001 and in 125 games Womack had 128 hits including 19 doubles, 5 triples and 3 home runs to go with his 30 RBIs and a .266 batting average. In 485 chances in the field he had 22 errors for a .955 fielding percentage. In 1997 Womack made the National League All Star team as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The shortstop for the Yankees in 2009 was their captain Derek Jeter who in 2009 had 212 hits in 153 games for a .334 batting average. Of the 212 hits Jeter had 27 were doubles, 1 was a triple and he also hit 18 home runs and drove in 66 runs. In the field as the Yankees shortstop Jeter had 8 errors in 554 chances for a .986 fielding percentage. Jeter’s career numbers do not even come into this equation as he too is a landslide winner at his position. Also, while Jeter may not be the best at everything he is a winner and a great addition to the world of major league baseball.

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Third baseman in the D Backs infield for the 2001 season was Matt Williams who in 106 games had 30 doubles, 16 home runs, 65 RBIs and a .275 batting average. In the field at the hot corner Williams made 9 errors in 251 chances for a .964 fielding average. Williams who was nearing the end of his career in 2001 was a 5 time All Star, a 4 time Gold Glove winner and a 4 time Silver Slugger winner for his position. His 3rd base counterpart on the NY Yankees for 2009 was Alex Rodriguez who in 124 games had 127 hits and a .286 batting average. Of the 127 hits he had 17 doubles, 1 triple and 30 home runs. In the field for New York t 3rd base A Rod had 9 errors in 275 chances for a .967 fielding percentage. Career numbers here do not need to be discussed and as for the seasonal numbers this is a landslide too with A Rod taking the honors for New York.

The outfield is the next position or positions to look at and for Arizona in 2001 the following players were in the outfield for them. In left fielder was Luis Gonzalez (198 hits-36 doubles-7 triples-57 HRs-142 RBIs and a .325 batting average-fielding numbers-0 errors-288 chances-1.000 fielding). Center field was Steve Finley (136 hits-27 doubles-4 triples-14-HRs 73 RBIs-.275 batting average-fielding numbers-2 errors-308 chances-.994 fielding percentage). The right fielder for the D Backs was Reggie Sanders (116 hits-21 doubles-3 triples-33 HRs-90 RBIs .263 batting average-fielding numbers-1 error-237 chances-.996 fielding). For the Yankees, it was Johnny Damon in left field (155 hits-36 doubles-3 triples-24 HRs-82 RBIs-.282 batting average-fielding numbers- 5 errors in 231 chances-.978 fielding average. In center field for New York was Melky “the Milk Man” Cabrera (133 hits-28 doubles-1 triple-13 HRs-68 RBIs-.274 batting average-fielding numbers-3 errors in 303 chances-.990 fielding average. In right field for New York was Steve Swisher (124 hits-35 doubles-1 triple-29 HRs-82 RBIs-.249 batting average-fielding numbers- 6 errors-351 chances-.983 fielding average. This one is fairly easy as the Diamondbaks outfield of Gonzalez, Finley and Sanders all have better all-around numbers than the Yankees outfield of Damon, Cabrera and Swisher.

Now for the pitching matchup, Arizona could choose from only two men, Curt Schilling 22-6. 2.98 ERA and 293 strikeouts or Randy “the Big Unit” Johnson, 21-6, 2.49 ERA with 372 strikeouts. I would think Brenley would go with Johnson just for the fact that he averaged almost 11 strikeouts per game during the 2001 season. New York would have 3 choices, CC Sabathia 19-8, 3.37 ERA, 197 strikeouts, A J Burnett 13-9 4.04 ERA, 195 strikeouts or Andy Pettitte 14-8, 4.16 ERA, 148 strikeouts. It comes down to Sabbathia or Pettitte and for one game, Pettitte a big game pitcher in his career would be the logical choice. Girardi would remember that in the bullpen were Phil Hughes and of course Mariano Rivera. However, Johnson would dominate on the mound and Girardi would not be able to use Hughes or Rivera as Arizona would take this matchup based solely on the “Big Unit” dominating the Yankee lineup

Kevin Larkin

Kevin Larkin has been going to minor league and major league baseball games since 1967. He has been to numerous major league and minor league parks and describes himself as a "baseball fan" who likes the Yankees. He enjoys researching, writing and reading about about baseball and will talk for hours on end about his favorite sport.
He is in love with the history of the game, having written three books about his beloved sport. They are "Baseball in the Bay State" a history of baseball in the state of Massachusetts. Then he wrote Gehrig:Game by Game, a history of all of the major league ballgames including All Star games and World Series games as well as regular season that the "Iron Horse" Lou Gehrig played in. The third book "Baseball in the Berkshires" a history of baseball in Berkshire County co written with three others, Tom Daley, Jim Overmyer and Larry Moore. As a result of this book Larkin and the other three gentlemen have put together a museum exhibit that is now permanently housed at the Berkshire Mall in Lanesboro Massachusetts.
Larkin also does fact checking and writing for the Society for American Baseball Research or SABR and has had numerous articles published there as well.
He lives in Great Barrington Massachusetts, in the heart of Red Sox country and is involved in a number of projects. He also is a security guard at Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington after having been a police officer for 24 years in his home town