1 New York Yankees An unmatched quartet of starters will bring New York another Octoberfest

March 26, 2001

The rest of the American League prays that the Yankees have
regressed toward the middle of the pack--imagine New York as only
the ninth-winningest team in baseball--and that three of their
every-day players are rust-covered and in career free fall. The
problem with that scenario is that it's exactly what occurred
last season, which nonetheless ended as did the previous two,
with the Yankees spilling champagne on one another. This is the
one team in baseball that could cut a deal with Dom Perignon for
stadium pouring rights.

The Yankees are a modern dynasty not because they dominate their
league, but because they act as if they own October. Just ask
George Steinbrenner, who locked and barricaded himself behind the
door of the Yankees' clubhouse at Shea Stadium as his team scored
the World Series-clinching runs in the ninth inning of Game 5
against the Mets. In a desperate bid to keep his club from being
jinxed by advance preparations for a postgame celebration,
Steinbrenner refused to open the door to TV technicians who
needed to quickly construct a small stage for the
championship-trophy presentation. Commissioner Bud Selig, not
daring to face Steinbrenner's wrath, dispatched his lieutenant,
Paul Beeston, who was greeted with expletives from behind the
door. Steinbrenner at last relented upon the conclusion of the
top of the ninth, but only with a warning that Beeston, not
closer Mariano Rivera, would be to blame if the two-run lead did
not hold up. Only minutes later Steinbrenner was crying tears of
joy on the shoulder of a relieved Beeston.

Even after they won just 87 games and after the struggles of
third baseman Scott Brosius, first baseman Tino Martinez and
rightfielder Paul O'Neill, the Yankees once again morphed into
bullies in October. Under manager Joe Torre they are a .754 team
in the postseason (46-15), including a 33-8 run during their
three-peat. "If we lose a game, we know how to handle it,"
Martinez says. "We don't panic. Other teams start to think, Now
we have to win."

"The other thing," Brosius says, "is that the one constant has
been great pitching. In the postseason you only need three
starters. If you have four, that's a bonus. When you have three
guys throwing well, you have to like your chances. We've always
had that."

Torre's Yankees have never been better equipped for October than
they are this year. The addition of free agent Mike Mussina to a
rotation that includes Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Orlando
Hernandez gives Torre four starters who are capable of pitching
Game 1 of a series. Mussina, freed from the responsibility of
propping up the entire Orioles staff, might follow David Wells in
1998, Hernandez in 1999 and Clemens in 2000 as New York's fourth
postseason staff leader in as many years. Says Torre, "He should
have a big year for us. When you have one guy you count on, you
don't want that one day he pitches to get away from you; if it
does, it can be crushing. Here, we have four guys to rely on."

The rotation is Wite-Out for those blemishes that might otherwise
inspire optimism in New York's opponents. Chuck Knoblauch is
always just one heave away from the throwing yips, even though
Torre said, "I don't see the uneasiness anymore." Knoblauch's arm
has continued to be erratic this spring--he had six errors in his
first 15 exhibition games--though he was more direct in answering
questions about it. Torre nonetheless raised the prospect of
moving Knoblauch to leftfield and replacing him at second with
hot-hitting rookie Alfonso Soriano.

Then there is the declining production of O'Neill, 38, Brosius,
34, and Martinez, 33, all of whom are playing in the walk year of
their contracts. The batting, slugging and on-base averages of
O'Neill (who will retire after this season) and Martinez have
dropped for four consecutive years. Brosius hit .230 last season,
second-to-last among the 87 AL players with at least 400 at bats.
Naturally, the trio awoke to hit a combined .308 in the
postseason.

The rest of baseball should know by now that their best shot at
ending the Yankees' run is to keep them out of October. This is a
team immune to complacency--Steinbrenner included. In January,
when the Super Bowl was played in Tampa, across the street from
the Yankees' spring training site, the owner blistered NFL
commissioner Paul Tagliabue over the phone for three days before
the game. Steinbrenner blew a fuse over the mere site of
Port-a-Johns that the NFL had happened to station beneath a sign
that read NEW YORK YANKEES. 26-TIME WORLD CHAMPIONS. The toilets
were repositioned. The Boss was just getting ready for October.
Bully for him.

--Tom Verducci

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON Brosius is typical of many of the older Yanks: Their stats are less than dazzling, but in the clutch--and in the postseason--they shine. COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON RIVERA

[ENEMY LINES]
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Yankees

"Anyone who thinks this staff is as good as last year's is
fooling themselves. Jeff Nelson will be missed a ton. Except for
Mike Stanton and Mariano Rivera, their bullpen is very thin.
Rivera is simply the best. He still has the good fastball that
runs like hell, and a great cutter. The pitcher to remember is
Edison Reynoso, whom the Yanks bought from Japan for $900,000.
He'll be a stud. He has a 92- to 96-mph fastball with dizzying
movement....It's too late for Chuck Knoblauch. You never know
when he'll throw one away. It's sad. His throwing has also
affected his DP pivot. The guy who could be good there is
D'Angelo Jimenez. He has great baseball instincts and can play a
lot of positions....I think Tino Martinez will bounce back with
his bat, but Nick Johnson is probably a better player right now.
He's an outstanding glove man, and he's one of the best young
power hitters to come along. Next season he's the Yankees' first
baseman....Derek Jeter is simply great. If I had to pitch him,
I'd start him off down and in. He loves the ball over the plate.
But he has no weaknesses....Bernie Williams is not a good
centerfielder. He gets very bad jumps on balls, and his arm is
below average. His reputation is carried by his offense, which
is tremendous. Plus, his speed makes up for a lot of the other
problems....Alfonso Soriano is too good not to play. He can hit
for average and for power, and whenever I see him, he's not easy
to strike out. He's a defensive liability in leftfield, but he's
a good enough athlete to make up for that."

[THE LINEUP]
projected roster with 2000 statistics

2000 record: 87-74 (first in AL East)
Manager: Joe Torre (sixth season with New York)

BATTING ORDER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

2B Chuck Knoblauch R 146 .283 5 26 15
SS Derek Jeter R 40 .339 15 73 22
RF Paul O'Neill L 115 .283 18 100 14
CF Bernie Williams S-R 33 .307 30 121 13
DH David Justice L 38 .286 41 118 2
C Jorge Posada S-R 61 .287 28 86 2
1B Tino Martinez L-R 153 .258 16 91 4
LF Alfonso Soriano* (R) R 178 .290 12 66 14
3B Scott Brosius R 247 .230 16 64 0

BENCH

OF Glenallen Hill[2] R 162 .293 27 58 0
OF Shane Spencer R 260 .282 9 40 1
C Joe Oliver[1] R 312 .265 10 35 2
IF Luis Sojo[2] R 316 .286 7 37 2

STARTERS PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Roger Clemens 23 13 8 6.4 1.31 3.70
LH Andy Pettitte 19 19 9 6.4 1.46 4.35
RH Mike Mussina[1] 13 11 15 7.0 1.19 3.79
RH Orlando Hernandez 64 12 13 6.7 1.21 4.51
RH Adrian Hernandez* (R) 264 2 1 6.1 1.37 4.40

BULLPEN PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Mariano Rivera 11 7 4 36 1.10 2.85
LH Mike Stanton 210 2 3 0 1.35 4.10
RH Todd Williams*[1] 223 2 3 32 1.35 2.98
RH Ramiro Mendoza 131 7 4 0 1.31 4.25
RH Dwight Gooden[2] 295 6 5 2 1.55 4.71
LH Randy Choate 304 0 1 0 1.29 4.76
RH Brian Boehringer[1] 344 0 3 0 1.79 5.74

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 156)
*Triple A stats
[2]Combined AL and NL stats

"Johnson is an outstanding glove man. He's probably a better
player than Tino."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)