Jeter, Damon, Rivera win TYIB Awards
Yanks honored for Moment of Year, Postseason Moment, Closer
NEW YORK -- A campaign already flush with Yankees honors just got a little bit busier for three of the World Series champions, who won 2009 MLB.com This Year in Baseball Awards.
Once again, the fans voted in record numbers when given the chance to weigh in on the season's best players, plays and moments, as more than 12 million votes were cast on MLB.com. Winners will be presented their trophies on the field in 2010.
When considering their ballots, those TYIB voters couldn't forget about the men who were wearing pinstripes on a cool evening in the Bronx when the final out of the year was recorded.
Mariano Rivera was a landslide winner for Closer of the Year, Johnny Damon was chosen for the Postseason Moment of the Year, and Derek Jeter was victorious in the tallies for Moment of the Year.
Rivera showed everyone that he still knows how to get it done at crunch time. Another season resulted in more remarkable numbers, as Rivera converted 44 of 46 save chances during the regular season and paced all full-time closers with a 1.76 ERA.
Maybe that famous cutter doesn't sizzle as much as it once did, a fact Rivera readily admits. But try telling that to anyone who has to face him -- it's no picnic. Rivera still loves the thrill as much as ever, even hinting that he could pitch another five years.
"To me, the game's on the line," Rivera said. "And when you're there, you just don't think about tomorrow. You just want to win that game. ... You cannot replace youth. You cannot replace that. But I think when you get older, you get more wise. I wish when I was younger, I was this wise."
Reaching the 40-save plateau for the seventh time in his career, Rivera now has 526 career saves -- second only to Trevor Hoffman (591) -- and put another cherry on top of his fantastic postseason career when he recorded the final out of the World Series, securing New York's 27th World Series championship.
Voters gave Rivera 46.9 percent of ballots, with Jonathan Papelbon (8.8 percent) coming in a distant second. Why not? As Rivera came trotting out of the bullpen for Game 6 in short, understated strides, there was only one thought coursing through Jeter's mind: It's over.
"That's it," Jeter said. "It's over. It's the same feeling you have every single time he comes out of the bullpen. ... He's human; he's going to give up some runs here and there. But a four-run lead? C'mon, man. We could have gone and played another nine innings."
Damon may have single-handedly turned the course of the 105th World Series with his dash into the history books, a display of instinctual baserunning that will be replayed and referenced for years to come.
In the ninth inning of Game 4 at Citizens Bank Park, Damon singled with two out, ending a nine-pitch battle with closer Brad Lidge. Stealing second on a slider in the dirt, Damon knew the infield had shifted for Mark Teixeira and executed a popup slide to see third baseman Pedro Feliz near second.
Damon instantly broke, hoping his legs had enough juice left in them to outrun Feliz to third.
"I knew Feliz covered the bag, and I knew how he caught the ball," Damon said. "When I saw him right behind me, I thought, 'Man, I hope I'm still the Johnny Damon of 21 years old and not the 35-year-old guy.'"
Damon's dash appeared on 19.4 percent of ballots, edging Jimmy Rollins' walk-off homer in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, which received 18.6 percent of the votes.
In the Yankees' dugout, players were speechless for a moment until they realized where Damon was going. When Damon pulled into third base safely after the footrace, the Bombers erupted into applause.
"He called himself an 'Idiot' a few years back, right?" Jeter said, referencing Damon's nickname on the 2004 Red Sox. "He looked pretty smart on that play."
MLB.com's Moment of the Year went to Jeter, a man who will have run out of shelf space to store his accolades by the time the ball drops in Times Square on New Year's Eve.
Already the winner of a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year and the Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente Awards, Jeter can now put a '09 TYIB in the collection, with his 24.6 percent narrowly edging Jacoby Ellsbury (22.7 percent) and his April 26 steal of home against the Yankees.
Jeter will be feted for shattering Lou Gehrig's Yankees franchise record for hits, a mark which fell on Sept. 11 when Jeter singled to right field off the Orioles' Chris Tillman, his 2,721st hit in pinstripes.
"It's still hard to believe for me," Jeter said that night. "The way the fans have treated me around the city, at the field ... being a Yankee fan, I never dreamt of this. The whole experience has been overwhelming."
Jeter finished the year with 2,741 hits, and his pursuit of the Iron Horse was more a proposition of when rather than if. But it made for captivating theater as Jeter grew closer, with each at-bat drawing standing ovations in the Bronx.
When the record-breaking hit rattled down the right-field line, Jeter's teammates spilled out of the dugout and engulfed him at first base before he took several moments to acknowledge the roaring and chanting crowd -- most of whom sat through a one-hour, 27-minute delay and a steady rain throughout the game for the chance to witness history.
"For those who say today's game can't produce legendary players, I have two words: Derek Jeter," principal owner George M. Steinbrenner said in a statement. "Game in and game out, he just produces. As historic and significant as becoming the Yankees' all-time hit leader is, the accomplishment is all the more impressive because Derek is one of the finest young men playing the game today."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.