clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Yankees at the World Baseball Classic: 2009

Jeter returns, A-Rod bails, and a backstop suits up for Italy.

Baseball: World Baseball Classic-Team USA Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Although I enjoyed writing Wednesday’s recap of Yankees activity at the 2006 World Baseball Classic, it’s clear to me in retrospect that something was missing. As the weeks dwindle until the next Classic begins, one must ask themselves: What is an international sporting event without an incredibly corny (but also kind of awesome) TV spot to promote it?

At the very least, it explains why Alex Rodríguez appeared on the verge of representing La República Dominicana three years after knocking walk-off hits for the stars and stripes in the inaugural. It didn’t really strike me at first, but the commercial just gets just a little bit funnier each time I watch it. He’s still much closer to his 30th birthday than his 40th in this clip, but the seeds of the now quasi-infamous Sunday Night Baseball A-Rod are unmistakable. The furrowed eyebrows, glassy stare directly into the camera, awkward power stance, reading-lines-from-a-notecard cadence — it’s all there.

That’s the posture of a man in the process of getting annoyed that your dog walked on the edge of his grass. Or try to convince you that singles and homers are basically the same. Anyhow, Rodríguez was set to be one of three Yankees representing their countries in the ‘09 Classic before the hip surgery that delayed his MLB season debut forced him to bail, a point that when combined with the news of his first PED scandal can perhaps be described as the beginning of the topsy-turvy descent for the Hall of Fame candidate. A long-awaited championship, a season-long suspension, an improbable comeback, and a midseason release remained in the years ahead for No. 13, but the countdown to retirement started here.

Although he wound up retiring a year earlier than A-Rod, Derek Jeter still had plenty of left in the tank. He’d go on to hit .334 in the MLB portion of the 2009 championship season, but he didn’t have the same success in March as he did in 2006. Despite the fact that the U.S. was far more successful as a whole, playing twice as many games as the previous edition and making it all the way to the semifinals with an exciting walk-off win before bowing out, Jeter hit just .276 (8-for-29) with a pair of doubles along the way.

Jeter spent most of the tournament sandwiched in the U.S. lineup between Jimmy Rollins, who was named All-Tournament shortstop after scorching intercontinental pitching with 10 hits (including two triples) and four walks in 28 plate appearances, and one of two future best-forgotten teammates: Kevin Youkilis or Brian Roberts. Jeter’s lone run came against Venezuela, when he hustled out a weak chopper against Victor Zambrano and was subsequently driven in by Ryan Braun following a walk from Adam Dunn. Here, remember some guys:

Unfortunately, the Captain finished the tournament on a not so blazing 4-for-20 stretch (all singles) as the U.S. puttered out with losses against Venezuela (in a 10-6 rematch) and eventual repeat champion Japan in the semifinals.

No Yankees pitcher made the trip from the Florida Gulf Coast to Miami, San Juan, or any of the other four considerably farther destinations that hosted games. However, all the Yankees pitchers at camp were left without half of the Yankees’ catching tandem to throw to, as rising second-stringer (and native Venezuelan) Francisco Cervelli departed to represent Italy, his father’s homeland, for the three games they lasted in the tournament.

(As an aside, take a moment to consider that 2008 seventh-round pick and 2023 Team USA member Kyle Higashioka likely caught a bullpen or two in the big leaguer’s absence.)

The Italian box scores are a veritable gold mine of Remembering Some Dudes, with a team composed half of native Italian ballplayers and half of journeyman major leaguers whose last names remove any need to question their place on the Italian roster. In his two starts, Cervelli batted near the bottom of a lineup that at various times included Nick Punto, Frank Catalanotto, Chris Denorfia, Alex Liddi, Jason Grilli, and Adam Ottavino. Hardly a consonant in sight!

Neither Cervelli nor the Italian squad made much of a mark on the ‘09 Classic, with the catcher notching just a single single in seven trips to the plate. Still, that solid single then became gli Azzuri’s only run in two contests against a Venezuela lineup that I probably should have mentioned included Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordoñez, Carlos Guillén, and erstwhile Yankee Bobby Abreu.

That wasn’t quite it for the Yankees in the ‘09 World Baseball Classic — much to the chagrin of a powerhouse Dominican team that still included Robinson Canó and Dámaso Marté even after A-Rod’s withdrawal. That’s because they meekly bowed out* with two losses to a Netherlands team led by — you’re gonna love this one — Sidney Ponson, Rick Vanden Hurk, and someone named Tom Stuifbergen.

*The Netherlands advanced, but the team that won this pool was Puerto Rico, which featured now-former Yankee Bernie Williams in his final career competitive games after over two years away from the majors. He sadly looked his age and went 0-for-5 across four games with two walks representing his only positive production.

This wasn’t the smallest showing the Bronx has ever sent to the international stage, as Canó was the team’s sole MLB representative in 2013, but on the whole, it was probably the least impactful. Canó went just 3-for-13 in the DR’s three contests this time around, scoring his only run and only reaching base multiple times in their 9-0 rout of Panama sandwiched between those Dutch losses. At least Marté had himself some moments, keeping his team alive with a scoreless 10th inning in the DR’s extra-inning tournament-ending loss.

Marté kept the Netherlands off the board in his two appearances against them, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out two along the way. For better or worse, that was that for the ‘09 Yankees in the ‘09 Classic. The lack of representation that season seems to work out just fine in the end — perhaps 2023 will bring the same.