One year later, Yankees look just as dominant
Posted: Monday October 25, 1999 02:29 AM
The Yankees hope they aren't seeing a role-reversal of the 1996 World Series. AP
By Jamal Greene, Sports Illustrated
ATLANTA -- In a small pocket of downtown Atlanta last night -- namely Turner Field -- time was in a state of flux. The Yankee starting pitcher dominated opposing hitters, the Yankee batters took advantage of Atlanta mistakes and Chuck Knoblauch made no fielding errors.
Was this the on-again, off-again Yankee team of 1999, or was this the 1998 version of the Bombers, the one that rolled virtually unmolested through the regular season and the playoffs?
With its win, New York's 1999 postseason record improved to 9-1; last season the club went 11-2 in the playoffs.
David Cone's masterful seven innings of one-hit shutout ball lowered the ERA of Yankee starters in this Series to 0.64. He and Game 1 starter Orlando Hernandez have allowed just one hit in 14 innings of work.
As they dressed in their Sunday-make that early Monday-bests for the flight back to New York, the Yankees spoke of gutty pitching and playing one game at a time, of Jim Gray and Pete Rose and, notably, not of 1996, when the Braves won the first two games in New York only to lose the Series in four. Third baseman Scott Brosius predicted Cone would downplay his outing, saying, "This was one of those starts when Conie would probably say he didn't have his best stuff." Across the locker room and out of earshot, Cone told reporters, "I felt strong, maybe a little too strong. I was wild early."
Catcher Joe Girardi offered an objective view. "Cone didn't make any mistakes," he said. "When he had to make a big pitch, he made a big pitch. The delay of the game (due to All-Century Team festivities) was toughest for him. When he finished his warm-up, he was sharp, and sometimes it's hard to get rid of that excess energy."
Members of the media tried to bait the players with comparisons between this Series and 1996, and the Yankees didn't bite.
Said shortstop Derek Jeter, "We know the Braves are a great team and an experienced team, and with their pitching they're capable of putting teams away, so we don't need any reminders of 1996." Added Knoblauch, "I'm thinking about Game 3."
The press was a little bit more successful with its questions about Rose. Never one to pass up a juicy worm on the media's hook, Jim Leyritz blasted NBC's Gray for what he deemed "unprofessional" questions asked of All-Century Team member Rose before the game.
Gray implied that Rose should admit to having bet on baseball in light of what many believe to be overwhelming evidence, and Rose fired back that the line of questioning was ill-timed.
Leyritz revealed to members of the media that the Yankee players had considered blackballing Gray and refusing to speak to him, but eventually decided that doing so would be unprofessional on their parts.
Said Paul O'Neill, who played under Rose as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, "I was happy for Pete. I thought it was a special time and was absolutely embarrassed at the questions that were asked of him. I think the guy's been through enough, baseball's obviously been his life and people want to see him back-you could see by the ovation he got that Pete Rose is a big part of what a lot of people think about baseball."
Both the 1998 and 1999 Yankees have handled distractions with expert aplomb, and it did not take O'Neill long to get his thoughts back on the field.
"It's been the same the last couple of years in the playoffs," he said. "Our guys know how to pitch, they know how to pitch with a lead, they pitch well in close games, and they continually keep us in the game day in and day out.
"But there's so much baseball left to be played."
Baseball and the clock resume their dance on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.