I came up with a completely original and brilliant idea: How about I copy Paul? That’s right: A list of the biggest WPA moments in Yankee wildcard history wasn’t just going to make itself. So I went all the way back to 1995 when it all began. In the beginning there was Don Mattingly and he hit a homer during a postseason game that brought grown men to tears, that drove the fans at the game to madness, that all of us remember.
Alas, that homer didn’t make the list.
I set the cut-off at 25% for the WPA swing. The Yanks have been in a lot of postseason games in the last 15 years, in case you didn’t know. Because I’m lazy and because these big moments have more meaning in victory, I limited the search to Yankee postseason wins. Alfonso Soriano’s 8th inning homer off of the reclusive Curt Schilling would have cracked the list if not for this. So would have Ruben Sierra’s unlikely 9th inning triple in Game 4 of the 2003 World Series. Then Jeff Weaver was brought into the game. Still, the list does contain a lot of great memories. Here it is: But before you click further: Any guesses as to who has the biggest hit per WPA in Yankee wildcard postseason history? That’s right! It’s not Rafael Santana.
- 53% — Scott Brosius, home run, 8th inning, Game 3, 1998 WS
- 50% — Alex Rodriguez, double, 12th inning, Game 2, 2004 ALDS
- 49% — Scott Brosius, home run, 9th inning, Game 5, 2001 WS
- 49% — Tino Martinez, home run, 9th inning, Game 4, 2001 WS
- 46% — Derek Jeter, home run, 10th inning (November), Game 4, 2001 WS
- 45% — Alex Rodriguez, home run, 9th inning, Game 2, 2009 ALDS
- 43% — Alex Rodriguez, home run, 11th inning, Game 2, 2009 ALCS
- 36% — Aaron Boone, home run, 11th inning, Game 7, 2003 ALCS
- 36% — Chuck Knoblauch, home run, 7th inning, Game 1, 1998 WS
- 36% — Alfonso Soriano, home run, 9th inning, Game 4, 2001 ALCS
- 36% — Bernie Williams, home run, 8th inning, Game 1, 2002 ALDS
- 36% — Jim Leyritz, home run, 15th inning, Game 2, 1995 ALDS
- 35% — Chuck Knoblauch, home run, 8th inning, Game 3, 1999 WS
- 35% — Chad Curtis, home run, 10th inning, Game 3, 1999 WS
- 35% — Bernie Williams, home run, 10th inning, Game 1, 1999 ALCS
- 35% — Mark Teixeira, home run, 11th inning, Game 2, 2009 ALDS
- 34% — Alex Rodriguez, double, 9th inning, Game 4, 2009 WS
- 34% –Tino Martinez, home run, 7th inning, Game 1, 1998 WS
- 34% –David Justice, home run, 7th inning, Game 6, 2000 ALCS
- 34% — Bernie Williams, home run, 11th inning, Game 1, 1996 ALCS
- 34% –Mariano Duncan, single, 9th inning, Game 3, 1996 ALDS
- 32% — Ruben Sierra, double, 12th inning, Game 2, 1995 ALDS
- 33% — Jose Viscaino, single, 12th inning, Game 1, 2000 WS
- 31% –Jim Leyritz, home run, 8th inning, Game 3, 1996 WS
- 31% — Bernie Williams, home run, 8th inning, Game 4, 2001 ALCS
- 31% –Wade Boggs, walk, 8th inning, Game 3, 1996 WS
- 31% — Jason Giambi, single, 8th inning, Game 3, 2002 ALDS
- 31% –Derek Jeter, home run, 5th inning, Game 4, 2000 ALCS
- 30% — Jorge Posada, double, 8th inning, Game 7, 2003 ALCS
- 30% — Ruben Sierra, home run, 8th inning, Game 4, 2004 ALDS
- 29% –Derek Jeter, home run, 8th inning, Game 1, 1996 ALCS
- 29% — Alfonso Soriano, 12th inning, Game 5, 2001 WS
- 29% — Melky Cabrera, reached on e-4, 13th inning, Game 2, 2009 ALCS
- 27% –Tino Martinez, double, 8th inning, Game 3, 1996 ALCS
- 27% — Johnny Damon, home run, 5th inning, Game 3, 2007 ALDS
- 26% — Cecil Fielder, single, 8th inning, Game 2, 1996 ALDS
- 26% — Ruben Sierra, single , 7th inning, Game 4, 2005 ALDS
- 25% — Tim Raines, single, Game 3, 1996 ALDS
- 25% — John Wetteland, ground out, 9th inning, Game 4, 1996 WS
As you can see, A-Rod is still living in the enormous shadow of Scott Brosius. Brosius's 3-run shot off of Trevor Hoffman with 1 out in the 8th in the 1998 WS is the Yanks' biggest moment WPA-wise. While A-Rod's exploits this past postseason might have done a lot to shed the label of "choker", he still has one more Brosius-sized mountain to climb. And yet, as big as Brosius's homer was, it doesn't register in my personal top 10 list. This might because, at the time of the Brosius homer, I was sleeping in a cheap dorm room in Prague where I was a student. But I'd guess the home run doesn't resonate much with other fans as well. Still, it's to the credit of Brosius, that his second biggest moment on the list is, in my view, the best, most awesome home run hit by a Yankee in my lifetime (post-Reggie). The home run he hit off Byung-Hyun Kim briefly converted me to every religion in the world. The gods I was thanking are too numerous to name here. But I am certain the Unicorn God will allow me into his/her(?) heaven if such a thing exists. On the other hand, the Brosius home run was only miraculous because of what had happened the night before.
Tino's shot laid the ground work. There is actually some debate in Yankeeland that it's an even bigger moment than Brosius's. The thinking is that the Yanks seemed so dead in the water at the moment Tino came to bat, and the magic of his bat resurrected us for long enough to make that world series the greatest world series ever. WPA respects this debate as both homers are seen as equally significant statistically.
Ahh, these memories are making me overly excited and prone to superlative!
Anyway, back to the list. Let's get the A-Rod issue out the way. Rodriguez's name comes up in three of the top 10 and 4 of the Top 39. His 2009 postseason contains three of those at bats. You probably didn't need that–or even better, more telling statistics– to let you know that what he did this October was amazing and, likely, historic.
I had a fun time compiling this list mainly because I got to re-live some half-forgotten memories. Remember David Justice's shot into the right field stands against Arthur Rhodes? I believe that home run ignited the "overrated" chant that ended the series against the great 2001 Seattle Mariners.
Then there is Jim Leyritz and Ruben Sierra. Who would have thought they'd make the list multiple times? Leyritz's homer off of Wohlers is thought to have turned around the Braves series. It certainly felt like it did at the time. Which means that Leyritz's homer might have gotten the ball rolling and might be the reason there was this dynasty in the first place. But probably not. And Ruben Sierra has three big WPA hits in the postseason (if you count the Marlins' Jeff Weaver game), which I find, for some reason, very comical. Funniest of all, however, is Melky's inclusion. He makes it by reaching on an error! What did Homer Simpson once say about "de-fault"?
The legends also feature prominently. Bernie Williams' walk-offs, Jeter's "Mr. November" moment, Jorge's double off Pedro in the 2003 ALCS Game 7.
And, of course, this list wouldn't have passed the smell test without Aaron Boone's name. That's as good as time as any to end this. What do you think? What other moments, not here, count as big moments in your mind? I can think of Damon's dash against Philly, and the flip by Jeter in Oakland, as being huge moments not recorded here. Also, how can you have a Yankee postseason list and not have Mariano's name on it?