Work in Sports
Business as usual
Yankees remain stoic after busting out of doldrums
By Stephen Cannella, Sports Illustrated
NEW YORK -- During the past four Octobers, the Yankees have perfected their placid postgame act.
There's nothing to get excited about until the champagne and cigars are wheeled into the clubhouse, regardless of how bright or dismal things may have looked on the field minutes earlier.
Yes, the Yankees' dormant bats exploded in a seven-run eighth inning, giving New York a 7-1 victory and tying the ALCS at one game apiece. Yes, those were the first runs the Yankees had scored since the fourth inning of the final game of the Division Series, a span of 21 innings. And, yes, those were the first chinks in the Seattle bullpen's postseason armor.
Still, all was calm in a Yankee clubhouse that seemed as electrified as it might be after a June victory against the Royals.
The stereo was off; players dressed quickly and packed for the flight to Seattle; bench coach Don Zimmer snarled at a TV cameraman to get out of his way.
"Every team tries to sweep every team they play," Derek Jeter said. "But that doesn't usually happen. If you win ,it's not the end of the world, and if you lose, it's not the end of the world."
There was a sense, however, that the professional veneer hid a desire by some Yankees to scream I TOLD YOU SO into every microphone available.
A team that has struggled for most of the 2000 season, regular and post, to score runs is tired of constant questions about its punchless offense, and of justifying themselves to a media corps and fan base that may well expect perfection.
"I think y'all are so spoiled by the Yankee teams of the past that you expect us to just float through the playoffs," said left fielder David Justice, who kickstarted New York's seven-run outburst with a leadoff double off left-hander Arthur Rhodes. "We wouldn't be in this position [the playoffs] if we couldn't hit or didn't have clutch hitting. The fact that we don't do it every time shows we're human."
Even the unflappable Jeter, discussing his team's inability to break through aginst Mariners starter John Halama, allowed, "We're human. We're going to make mistakes."
It's been a while since the Yankees -- losers of all of three games during the past two postseasons -- have been reminded of that truism. This October has been a struggle, and as the scoreless innings mounted in Game 2, the Yankees tightened.
Orlando Hernandez kept them in the game with eight artistic innings; the rest of the team pressed to make sure his effort wasn't wasted.
"Normally, we're joking around on the bench," second baseman Luis Sojo said. "Today, everybody was saying, 'Come on, let's get some runs.'"
"We've been through it before," manager Joe Torre said. "But still, that human element takes over when everybody tries too hard."
You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from the dugout in the eighth. Bernie Williams followed Justice's double with an epic at-bat, fouling off several pitches and working the count full before lining a single to center that tied the game.
Will that emotional high survive a cross-country flight to Seattle? The Yankees find out against M's right-hander Aaron Sele on Friday.