After failing to make the playoffs for the first time in 14 years the previous season, the New York Yankees returned to the top of the A.L. East standings in 2009, compiling a major-league best 103-59 record that left them eight games ahead of the runner-up Boston Red Sox. The Yankees subsequently went on to capture their 27th world championship by sweeping the Minnesota Twins in the Division Series and posting six-game victories over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the ALCS and the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.
Improved starting pitching and a powerful offense proved to be the keys to New York’s success over the course of the season. The team's free-agent signings of slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira and pitchers C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett during the off-season ended up paying huge dividends. Although Burnett pitched inconsistently at times, he finished the year with a record of 13-9 and an ERA of 4.04. Sabathia quickly established himself as the ace of the staff, compiling a record of 19-8 and an ERA of 3.37, and throwing 230 innings. Andy Pettitte chipped in with 14 victories, while the incomparable Mariano Rivera showed no signs of aging, pitching to a 1.76 ERA and compiling 44 saves in 46 save opportunities.
Meanwhile, Teixeira gave the Yankees another powerful bat in the middle of their lineup, helping them to lead the American League with 915 runs scored and 244 home runs. Teixeira earned a second-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting by batting .292, scoring 103 runs, and topping the circuit with 39 home runs and 122 runs batted in. He received a considerable amount of help from holdovers Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, Robinson Cano, Johnny Damon, Alex Rodriguez, and Derek Jeter. Posada batted .285, hit 22 homers, and drove in 81 runs. Matsui homered 28 times and knocked in 90 runs. Cano batted .320, knocked in 85 runs, and established new career highs with 25 home runs and 103 runs scored. Damon batted .282, hit 24 homers, drove in 82 runs, and scored 107 others. Although Rodriguez missed the first month of the season recovering from hip surgery, he still managed to hit 30 home runs and knock in 100 runs. Jeter scored 107 runs, stole 30 bases, and finished among the league leaders with a .334 batting average and 212 hits, en route to earning a third-place finish in the MVP balloting.
Injuries to two of Boston’s top starters, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield, prevented the Red Sox from mounting a serious challenge to the Yankees for the division title. Nevertheless, they earned a postseason berth as the league’s wild-card representative by compiling a record of 95-67 over the course of the campaign.
Josh Beckett and Jon Lester helped pick up some of the slack in Boston’s starting rotation, posting 17 and 15 victories, respectively. Boston’s offense also helped compensate for the team’s lack of pitching depth by finishing third in the league with 872 runs scored and 212 home runs. The quartet of Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Jason Bay, and Kevin Youkilis paced the Red Sox on offense. Pedroia batted .296 and scored 115 runs. After coming over to Boston from Cleveland at the trade deadline, Martinez ended the campaign with 23 home runs, 108 runs batted in, and a .303 batting average. Bay scored 103 runs and placed among the league leaders with 36 home runs and 119 runs batted in. Youkilis hit 27 homers, knocked in 94 runs, scored 99 others, and led the team with a .305 batting average and a .413 on-base percentage.
While the Yankees regained the top spot in the A.L. East, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim coasted to their third consecutive Western Division title, finishing the season with a record of 97-65, 10 games ahead of the runner-up Texas Rangers, and 12 games in front of the third-place Seattle Mariners, who were the junior circuit’s most improved team. After posting a record of only 61-101 the previous year, the Mariners concluded the campaign with a mark of 85-77 that represented a whopping 24-game improvement.
Solid pitching contributed greatly to Seattle’s strong showing. The Mariners led the league with a team ERA of 3.87, with staff ace Felix Hernandez earning a second-place finish in the Cy Young voting by compiling a record of 19-5, to tie for the league lead in wins. He also placed among the leaders with a 2.49 ERA, 217 strikeouts, and 239 innings pitched. The Mariners also featured one of the junior circuit’s top offensive performers in Ichiro Suzuki, who finished second in the league with a .352 batting average while amassing a league-leading 225 hits.
Although the Angels’ pitching staff compiled a rather unseemly 4.45 team ERA, their improved offense made them easily the division’s strongest team. Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders proved to be the team’s only reliable starters, posting 16 victories apiece. Meanwhile, closer Brian Fuentes struggled at times, blowing seven save opportunities, losing five games, and pitching to a rather mediocre 3.93 ERA. Nevertheless, the 35-year-old southpaw ended up leading the league with 48 saves.
However, after finishing near the middle of the pack in the A.L. in both runs scored and team batting average the previous season, the Angels placed near the top of the league rankings in both categories in 2009. Their .285 team batting average led the American League, and they also finished second in the circuit with 883 runs scored. Torii Hunter, Juan Rivera, Bobby Abreu, Chone Figgins, and Kendry Morales paced the Angels on offense. Hunter hit 22 home runs, drove in 90 runs, and batted .299. Rivera batted .287 and established new career highs with 25 homers and 88 runs batted in. Abreu proved to be a free-agent bargain after signing with the team during the off-season. Abreu batted .293, hit 15 home runs, knocked in 103 runs, scored 96 others, and stole 30 bases. Figgins batted .298 and placed among the league leaders with 114 runs scored and 42 stolen bases. Morales earned a top-five finish in the A.L. MVP balloting by batting .306 and placing among the league leaders with 34 home runs, 108 runs batted in, and a .569 slugging percentage.
In the A.L. Central, the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers engaged in the league’s closest divisional race, finishing the regular season with identical 86-76 records that forced them to face each other in a one-game playoff. The two clubs continued to demonstrate how evenly-matched they
were by battling one another into the 12th inning of their elimination contest. Minnesota finally prevailed by a score of 6-5 when Alexi Casilla delivered a walk-off run-scoring single that gave the Twins their first division title in three years. Minnesota concluded the campaign with a record of 87-76, one game ahead of the Tigers, who finished the year with a mark of 86-77.
Although the Twins finished just ninth in the league with 172 home runs, they nevertheless managed to place fourth in the league rankings with 817 runs scored. Jason Kubel hit 28 home runs, knocked in 103 runs, and batted .300. Denard Span batted .311, scored 97 runs, and stole 23 bases. Prior to being sidelined for the final three weeks of the season with a back injury, Justin Morneau hit 30 homers, knocked in 100 runs, and scored 85 others. Michael Cuddyer hit 32 home runs, drove in 94 runs, scored another 93 times, and did a creditable job at first base after taking over for the injured Morneau. Joe Mauer had a season of historical proportions for the Twins, compiling a league-leading .365 batting average that represented the highest figure ever posted by a catcher in the major leagues. In addition, Mauer became the first major-league receiver to win three batting titles and, also, the first catcher to lead his league in batting average, on-base percentage (.444), and slugging percentage (.587) in the same season. Despite missing the season's first month with a back injury, Mauer also established new career highs with 28 home runs and 96 runs batted in, en route to earning A.L. MVP honors.
Mauer continued to excel against the Yankees in the Division Series, collecting five hits in 12 at-bats, for a .417 batting average. However, led by the clutch hitting of Alex Rodriguez, who clouted two late-inning, game-tying home runs, the Yankees swept the Twins in three straight games. New York then defeated in six games an Angels team that earlier disposed of the Red Sox in three straight games in the other Division Series.
Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee and Chase Utley subsequently proved to be New York’s primary obstacles to winning the World Series. Lee handcuffed New York’s lineup in Games One and Five, while Utley slugged five home runs against Yankee pitching. Nevertheless, the Yankees ended up defeating the Phillies in six games behind the solid pitching of Andy Pettitte and the powerful hitting of Hideki Matsui. Pettite posted victories in the third and sixth contests, thereby becoming the first pitcher to record wins in the clinching game of the ALDS, ALCS, and World Series in the same year. Meanwhile, Matsui earned World Series MVP honors by hitting three home runs, knocking in eight runs, and batting .615.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• The members of the BBWAA elected Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice to the Hall of Fame. The Veterans Committee also voted in Joe Gordon.
• February 7 – Sports Illustrated reported that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003.
• February 9 – Alex Rodriguez admitted during an interview with ESPN's Peter Gammons that he used performance-enhancing drugs while with the Texas Rangers from 2001 to 2003.
• February 17 – Alex Rodriguez met the press at George M. Steinbrenner Field to discuss his admission of having used performance-enhancing drugs to ESPN's Peter Gammons. Rodriguez claimed that a cousin repeatedly injected him with a drug called “Boli” (a likely reference to Primobolan) that he obtained over the counter in the Dominican Republic.
• February 18 - Ken Griffey Jr. returned to the Seattle Mariners, agreeing to a one year deal that included a $2 million base salary, plus additional incentives.
• March 23 - After having missed the entire 2008 season with right shoulder problems, Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling announced his retirement from baseball.
• April 9 – In the early morning hours after pitching six shutout innings against the Oakland Athletics, rookie Angels starter Nick Adenhart and two others were killed when their car was struck by a drunk driver.
• April 16 – The New York Yankees played their first game at the new Yankee Stadium, losing to the Cleveland Indians 10–2.
• July 11 – New York’s Alex Rodriguez hit his 570th career home run off Los Angeles Angels pitcher Jason Bulger, passing Rafael Palmeiro for 10th place on the all-time list.
• July 14 – The American League defeated the National League for the seventh consecutive time in the All-Star Game, posting a 4-3 victory over the senior circuit in the Midsummer Classic. Carl Crawford, whose leaping catch in the seventh inning robbed Brad Hawpe of a home run, earned game MVP honors, while Mariano Rivera set an All-Star record by posting his fourth save in All-Star competition.
• July 23 – At Chicago’s U. S. Cellular Field, White Sox hurler Mark Buehrle pitched a 5–0 perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
• July 28 - Two days after his enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Boston Red Sox retired Jim Rice's number 14.
• July 30 – The New York Times reported that Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were among the 104 Major League Baseball players to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, according to lawyers with knowledge of the results.
• August 16 - Derek Jeter collected his 2,674th hit during a 10-3 Yankee loss to the Seattle Mariners, moving him past Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio as the all-time leader in hits at shortstop.
• September 6 – Ichiro Suzuki became the second-fastest player in major league history to reach 2,000 hits with a first inning double in his 1,402nd game. Al Simmons accomplished the feat in 1,390 games, from 1924 to 1934.
• September 11 – With a single off Chris Tillman to lead off the third inning, Derek Jeter collected his 2,722nd career hit to pass Lou Gehrig as the all-time Yankees hit leader.
• September 13 – Ichiro Suzuki reached the 200-hit mark for a major-league record ninth consecutive season.
• Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Adam Lind batted .305 and placed among the league leaders with 35 home runs and 114 runs batted in.
• Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill batted .286, knocked in 108 runs, scored 103 others, and finished among the league leaders with 36 home runs.
• Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria batted .281, hit 33 homers, drove in 113 runs, and scored 100 others.
• Kansas City’s Zack Greinke earned A.L. Cy Young honors by leading the league with a 2.16 ERA, striking out 242 batters, and compiling a record of 16-8 for a team that finished last in the A.L. Central with only 65 wins.
• Detroit’s Justin Verlander finished 19-9, to tie for the league lead in victories. He also topped the circuit with 269 strikeouts and 240 innings pitched.
• Tigers teammate Miguel Cabrera hit 34 home runs, knocked in 103 runs, scored 96 others, and batted .324.
- C.C. Sabathia won the ALCS MVP
- Alex Rodriguez won the Babe Ruth Award
- Zack Greinke won the Cy Young
- Derek Jeter won the Hank Aaron Award
- Mike Scioscia won the Mgr of the year
- Joe Mauer won the MVP
- Mariano Rivera won the Rolaids Relief
- Andrew Bailey won the Rookie of the Year
- Zack Greinke won the TSN Pitcher of the Year
- 2009 ALCS, 2009 ALDS1, 2009 ALDS2, 2009 World Series, A.J. Burnett, Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, Alex Rodriguez, Alexi Casilla, American League, Anaheim Angels, Andy Pettitte, Bobby Abreu, Brian Fuentes, C.C. Sabathia, Carl Crawford, Chone Figgins, Curt Schilling, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Denard Span, Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia, Evan Longoria, Felix Hernandez, Hideki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki, Jason Bay, Jason Bulger, Jason Kubel, Jered Weaver, Joe Mauer, Joe Saunders, Johnny Damon, Jon Lester, Jorge Posada, Josh Beckett, Josh Hamilton, Juan Rivera, Justin Morneau, Justin Verlander, Ken Griffey, Jr., Kendry Morales, Kevin Youkilis, Mariano Rivera, Mark Buehrle, Mark Teixeira, Michael Cuddyer, Miguel Cabrera, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Nick Adenhart, Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano, Tim Wakefield, Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez, Zack Greinke