How Chemistry Will Win the Yankees a World Series

Jim Rosen

“They make a terrific pair. They go together like lamb and tuna fish,” Rob Schneider’s character said in Big Daddy. Just as lamb and tuna fish do not mix very well, the New York Yankees and team chemistry were not synonymous throughout the 2000s. The team was riddled with arrogant superstars and players collapsed as quickly as Ryan Leaf the minute they put on their pinstripes. As most fans know, team chemistry is the difference between a good team and a championship team. This year, the Yankees have finally found that special ingredient.

While the Yankees have gone out and signed free agents in the past, this offseason they have finally acquired the right ones. The addition of Mark Teixeira was just as big in terms of his offensive prowess and Gold Glove defense as it was with leaving a gaping hole in the Red Sox lineup. C.C. Sabathia, along with being a possible Cy Young winner this year, brought a sense of family to the team by hosting team meals cooked by his mother. Nick Swisher and A.J. Burnett have created a loose atmosphere in the clubhouse. Swisher has made baseball fun again in New York with his unbridled enthusiasm and Burnett has added a new tradition of shoving shaving cream pies in the faces of players after a walk-off hit. The clubhouse has grown even tighter with the introduction of Kangaroo Court, presided over by the Honorable Mariano Rivera, in which players are brought in front of a jury of three teammates and plead their case against fines for clubhouse infractions.

Of course, the Yankee veterans, like Judge Rivera, have also played an integral role in creating an actual team in the Bronx. Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter have all been with the club since the dynasty of the late ’90s. Young guys like Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner have given the team some much needed faith in its farm system and have infused a sense of youth among big-name veterans. Even Alex Rodriguez (hear me out) has helped develop team chemistry this season.

The archetype of a selfish superstar in the past, A-Rod has truly been a team player this year. Ever since his steroid scandal this past spring, he seems to have the burden of being perfect off of his back. A humbled man, he has put personal drama with his ex-wife behind him and actually is having fun with his teammates this year. Rodriguez jokes around with teammates and is one of the first people off the bench after a big hit. Winning, of course, doesn’t hurt either, and the Yankees have been 74-35 since his return from the Disabled List in the beginning of May.

General Manager Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi seem to have put together the perfect formula for the Yankees in 2009. With a combination of young and old, a dominant offensive lineup and a solid defense, strong starting pitching and a shut-down bullpen, the Bronx Bombers have finally put it all together and are the team to beat this postseason. For the first time since the Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino in 2004, the Yankees and team chemistry go hand in hand, sort of like spaghetti and meatballs. And as Steve Buscemi’s “homeless guy” character says in response to Rob Schneider, “if you don’t like spaghetti and meatballs, why don’t you get the hell out!”