We asked ESPNNewYork.com's beat writers to rank their five top stories of 2011. Last but not least: Wallace Matthews, who covered the Bombers in a year of individual triumph and team letdown. Check out Wally's picks and let us know what you think in the comments section.
The 2011 season was a milestone year for the New York Yankees, which is not necessarily good news. Successful baseball seasons are about accomplishing team goals, not individual milestones, and it is highly indicative of the Yankees' season that the biggest stories of the year involved not the team, but individual players -- three of whom achieved great goals, while the team failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs.
1. Derek Jeter reaches 3,000 hits
And of course, he did it in grand style. Needing one hit, he came up with five, and needing no more than an opposite-field single, Jeter instead rocketed a David Price curveball into the left-field seats, into the hands of a fan named Christian Lopez, and into the memories of everyone in the ballpark on that glorious July afternoon.
Here's my column from after the game:
2. Mariano Rivera sets all-time saves record
As if we needed further justification for calling Mariano Rivera the greatest closer in baseball history -- and in my estimation, one of the three greatest players ever to wear a Yankees uniform -- Mo achieved the number to prove it to future generations with No. 602. Fittingly enough, the save came at Yankee Stadium in spectacularly unspectacular fashion, a routine 1-2-3 ninth inning against the Twins.
Here's Ian O'Connor's column on the magnificence of Mo:
3. Granderson has a grand season
After struggling through most of his first season as a Bomber, center fielder Curtis Granderson had the kind of year the Yankees hoped he was capable of when they acquired him from the Tigers before the 2010 season and traded away young Austin Jackson in a three-way deal. So good was Granderson that he was in the middle of the AL MVP conversation all season, and wound up finishing fourth in the voting.
ESPN's Jerry Crasnick examined the Grandy Man's credentials here:
4. Bats, not manager, let Yankees down in ALDS
Despite the heroics of Jeter, Rivera, Granderson and Robinson Cano in the regular season, the Yankees' lineup came up empty in the clutch against the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS, resulting in a first-round playoff KO.
Here's the column I wrote after the Yankees were eliminated at home on the night of Oct. 6:
5. Five more years of CC Sabathia (maybe six)
The winter isn't over yet, but for the second consecutive year, it appears that the Yankees' biggest free-agent signing will be the re-signing of one of their own guys. Last year, it was Jeter, this year, Sabathia, whose new deal forestalled the prospect of his opting out and forcing the Yankees to bid for his services on the open market.
Here's the column I did late on Halloween night after GM Brian Cashman announced the signing: