Work in Sports
Yankees put on stoic front, win or lose
By Jamal Greene, Sports Illustrated
OAKLAND -- What difference does a day make? A second straight sellout at Network Associates Coliseum, though the announced attendance of 47,860 was 500 higher than in Game 1.
A sputtering Yankee offense, though this time produced by a drastically different lineup that had Chuck Knoblauch riding pine, Paul O'Neill hitting sixth in the order for the first time since 1997 and Jorge Posada and Dave Justice -- the previous game's seven and five hitters, respectively -- hitting second and third.
A New York team that once again tripped over itself, though this time only literally.
Thanks to Andy Pettitte, the Yankees won, the team's first victory in eight games. But it was accompanied by the same straight, occasionally quasi-somber faces and pat responses that followed the previous day's defeat.
What difference does a day make? To the postgame attitude of the Yankees, very little.
One day after insisting their psyches were barely affected by losing their eighth straight game in Game One of the Division Series, the same sense (or is it ignorance?) of perspective prevailed in the New York locker room.
Shortstop Derek Jeter repeated a refrain that has been ringing throughout Yankee clubhouses for a week, saying, "We can't worry about what happened during the regular season."
Said center fielder Bernie Williams: "It's not time to relax. It's time to go out there and play game three."
The 46 championship rings the Yankees brought with them to Oakland may not have been showing on their fingers but they were thus gleaming in their answers.
Said first baseman Tino Martinez: "We looked at this as being down one game, not as having lost seven straight."
The only real difference in postgame behavior may have been that New York scarfed down its pork ribs as a team, rather than dining in small groups as they had a day before. Symbolic? Probably not, though it's always a good sign when your team is aggravating sportswriters (by making them wait).
Of course just because you answer questions mechanically doesn't mean you're a machine.
Several Yankees were visibly happy; a couple of smiles were even cracked. Mariano Rivera grinned slyly and said to a reporter, "The monkey is definitely off our back."
Pettitte betrayed the typical stoicism by saying, "We needed this one in a bad way." Williams, at one point, said "Oh, my god, it feels great to win."
Forgive the Yankees for letting their hearts show so early in the postseason. They'd never been in such a slump.
Still, no one will mistake New York for, say, the A's, who have been wearing their hearts on their sleeves ever since a raucous division-clinching ceremony on Sunday.
Perhaps the Yanks know, intuitively if not in fact, that two of the three times the Yankees have lost the first game of a five-game playoff series, they have gone on to win the series.
Yes, New York's 87 wins was the lowest total of any playoff team in club history, but the team with the second-lowest was the World Series-winning 1996 team.