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Phillies vs. Yankees: How They Got Here

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One is baseball's most storied franchise; the other is trying to shake off a mostly losing legacy. One is lionized and loathed in roughly equal measure; the other, though the reigning World F. Champions and boasting a clutch of likable stars, is to an extent still introducing itself to the world. But the shared strengths of the Phillies and Yankees—power throughout the lineup, rotations fronted by former Cleveland Indians aces, a flair for dramatic late-inning rallies, demonstrated ability to win both at home and on the road, and tight-knit clubhouses where "intangibles" seem to march in lockstep with talent—have baseball fans excitedly anticipating the first really memorable World Series in years.

As SBN blogger John Sickels observes, the teams were also constructed in similar ways: each boasts a homegrown core of superstars, surrounded by free agent or trade acquisitions that superbly complement the farm system products. For how differently they're perceived--and the unusual coincidence, particularly notable after the near-civil war vibe of the NLCS against the Dodgers, that neither team includes a former member of the other on the active roster (sorry, Miguel Cairo)--the opposing dugout will be something of a funhouse mirror for however long the Series goes. 

The only real divergence of note is where they’ve typically done their shopping: Sharper Image for New York, Value City for the Phils. The Yankees wrote checks totaling more than $50 million this year to imports C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixiera and A.J. Burnett, while the Phils are paying Jayson Werth, Joe Blanton and Pedro Martinez around $10 million combined. (To be fair, the Phils are paying retail for free-agent pickup Raul Ibanez, while the Yanks got great value for trade acquisition Nick Swisher.)

It might come as a surprise that the Yankees are actually more home-grown than the Phils: 12 of the players on their 25-man roster were originally signed by the organization (including Andy Pettitte, who left and came back), compared to 9 for the defending World Champs. The difference here is that the Yankees’ developed stars reached the majors in two very distinct eras: the mid-‘90s, when Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Pettitte and Mariano Rivera arrived on the scene to spark the dynastic Joe Torre champions, and about ten years later, when Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and others showed up to provide the depth and cohesion that had gone missing from the early-'00s menagerie of mega-stars and head cases. While the work of Sabathia, Teixiera, Alex Rodriguez and the other big names has gotten the attention, the contributions of the relatively modestly paid young Yankees in 2009 might explain why they’re back in the World Series where their recent predecessors fell short.

One edge the Phillies have, unusual for an underdog, is World Series experience. All but five members of the current roster—Antonio Bastardo, Cliff Lee, Paul Bako, Raul Ibanez, and Ben Francisco—are veterans of the 2008 Series win over Tampa Bay. Only nine of the 25 Yankees—Pettitte, Rivera, Posada, Jeter, Hideki Matsui, Damaso Marte, Jose Molina, Johnny Damon, and Eric Hinske—have played in the Fall Classic, as has manager Joe Girardi. In a matchup where the Phils might need every little edge to prevail against by far the most formidable foe they’ve faced in the last two Octobers, here’s hoping that turns out to be significant.