Yankees' direction signals close of '09 chapter

A-Rod, Teixeira played significant roles in most recent championship

Yankees' direction signals close of '09 chapter

NEW YORK -- After a week in which seven days felt like seven years, it's hard to put into words how long ago seven years must feel. But that's where the New York Yankees are now.

It began with the Yankees trading Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran and ended with the surprise retirement announcements of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, making it evident that the Yanks are moving on. Not just from the present, but also in a lot of ways from a past that brought the club its 27th and most recent World Series title seven years ago.

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Especially with the impending retirements of Teixeira and Rodriguez, it's difficult not to reflect on that 2009 season. Both Tex and A-Rod, two men who have combined to hit 1,100 home runs, described that postseason as the highlight of their career. And why shouldn't they? Rodriguez hit .365 with six home runs and 18 RBIs in the '09 playoffs, and Teixeira supplied the dramatics with a walk-off home run in Game 2 of the American League Division Series and satisfied his childhood dream by catching the last out of a World Series.

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Looking back on it now, Teixeira said it took him a while to realize the gravity of the moment.

"I probably didn't appreciate it at the time," Teixeira said. "I was like, 'Oh, the Yankees win the World Series all the time. We'll probably win three or four more.' But you realize how difficult it is. It's so hard."

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In a way, Teixeira's initial thought was right. Prior to his, and to Rodriguez's, arrival in the Bronx, the Yankees did win pennants all the time. Between 1996 and 2003, the Yanks appeared in six of eight World Series, winning four of them. And it's that history that makes New York's decision to rebuild so interesting.

As general manager Brian Cashman explained before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Yankees' plan is to replace aging stars and reinvigorate the roster with an abundance of homegrown youth. The idea is to replicate how the Yanks' farm system looked in the late '80s and early '90s, the system that reared legendary Yankees Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams.

That strategy worked in the '90s. But it's not what brought the team that 2009 championship.

Sure, the Core Four of Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte and Posada was still around. But many of the other stars on that team were purchased. From Rodriguez to Teixeira to CC Sabathia to A.J. Burnett to World Series MVP Hideki Matsui, a huge portion of that 2009 team had layovers in other cities -- and countries -- before calling the Bronx their home.

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And that was the strategy the Yankees had held onto through this season. The most productive players on the active roster -- Didi Gregorius by batting average, Masahiro Tanaka by ERA and Brian McCann by home runs -- were developed elsewhere. And the three biggest players the Yanks traded this year were Beltran, Miller and Aroldis Chapman -- all free-agent acquisitions.

To Cashman, this was a concerted effort.

"Clearly there's a transition going on," Cashman said. "This roster has been getting younger the last few years. It's by intent, as stated publicly. It's something that's necessary. And I think it's an exciting time, because there's young blood that's coming in here because they have big dreams and they have big hopes."

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Cashman went on to compare the hopes and dreams of the Yankees of the future to those of the former Yanks of the not-too-distant past. In particular, Cashman brought back up and applauded Teixeira's story of wanting to catch the last out of the World Series and achieving that in New York.

As the general manager of a rebuilding team, it's Cashman's job to look ahead. But even he couldn't help but reflect when 2009 was brought up. That era might be over, but it lives on for Cashman.

"I'm wearing this 2009 ring right here," Cashman said. "That doesn't come along into this franchise's trophy case without Alex's significant contributions. … This [ring] right here, I know Matsui was the MVP of the World Series that year. But Alex was a big part of it."

Nick Suss is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.