Commentary

Yankees are psyched for ring ceremony

Tuesday afternoon, the team will hold one final celebration for championship No. 27

Updated: April 12, 2010, 11:30 PM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

Alex Rodriguez has done just about everything you can do on a baseball field. He has hit 583 home runs. He has won a couple of Gold Gloves. But he has never levitated. That could soon change.

[+] EnlargeA.J. Burnett
AP Photo/Kathy WillensA.J. Burnett, pictured working out at Yankee Stadium on Monday, is actually nervous about Tuesday's ring ceremony.

At Yankee Stadium at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, A-Rod and his teammates will walk behind home plate to accept their 2009 World Series rings from Joe Girardi, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford.

"I'm not sure Al will feel he is actually walking on the ground when he goes out there," Girardi said. "I think he will have that feeling that he's walking on air. That's what he has worked very hard for, for a long time. I'm going to really enjoy seeing that smile on his face."

Tuesday will be the final exclamation point on last season for A-Rod and the Yankees. At this time last year, general manager Brian Cashman had just finished talking about how the Yankees had to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. A-Rod sat in Colorado and, according to him, spent moments thinking his career might be over with a bad hip and after his PED disgrace.

The Yankees had gone nearly a decade without winning a championship -- a Cubs-like drought for them -- and Girardi was returning to the diamond after managing a 2008 team that failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.

The year ended with A-Rod swatting away his October failures and Girardi looking as if he might be the Yankees' manager for life. On Tuesday, the Yankees and their fans will have one final celebration for championship No. 27.

"To me, it will be the last time, in a sense, that you maybe think about it a little bit," said Girardi, who began this spring by switching his uniform number to 28 to make sure his team knew what he wanted them focused on. "We've talked about all the challenges we are going to face. The message that the players might get from it is, how great it is to get a ring again."

Fittingly, Core Four member Andy Pettitte will be the Yankees' starting pitcher on Tuesday. Pettitte, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada -- who are now the Yankees' version of The Beatles, spanning from one dynasty to possibly the next -- will be receiving their fifth World Series rings overall, but their first since 2001.

"That's a good story," Pettitte said. "It's been a special story."

Still, Pettitte seemed to be just as excited to see the looks on the faces of the many teammates who will be receiving their first ring.

CC Sabathia said he is glad he is not starting on Tuesday, because he wants to soak in the day. (He may get soaked, though, because it is supposed to drizzle.) Sabathia is looking forward to seeing his ring, but he said he will never wear it because it is "corny" to put on such a big piece of jewelry.

A.J. Burnett said inside he will have jitters, and outside, "goose bumps." "I'm more nervous about it than starting a big league game," Burnett said.

For last year's new Yankees, this ring ceremony means they won't have to continually answer questions about whether they can finish the job. If the Yankees hadn't won the World Series last season, this spring the focus on Burnett would have been centered on what he didn't do in the playoffs (pitch well on the road) and not on what he did do (pitch well at home).

Mark Teixeira would have been questioned about whether he has October mettle. Teixeira galloped around the bases with a Game 2-winning homer in the ALDS, and he played tremendous defense in October, but he didn't hit that much overall.

Instead, they are all champions. A-Rod is a champion for the first time, stomping his label as a career loser. He conquered October. Love him or hate him, it is impossible to argue that his 2009 was not a legendary tale.

A year ago, the Yankees were trying to put A-Rod back together. Now, they think he can fly.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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