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Winds of change

Win or lose, Yankees' roster will change for next season

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Posted: Thursday October 26, 2000 8:18 PM

  Joe Torre Joe Torre will be saying goodbye to some of his favorite players soon. AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- Joe Torre knows big changes are coming, knows that some of the principal players who have been at his side in four of the past five World Series won't be back next year.

A manager like Torre doesn't just write names on a lineup or bark out orders in the dugout. He gets to know his players as people, understands what motivates them, how they deal with injuries and slumps, what they're going through with their families.

So in this World Series, Torre has had some soft spots in his heart for players such as David Cone and Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez, all of whom may be gone next year.

"Yeah, if you don't see them in uniform again after this year, it's going to be sad," Torre said. "But the fun part is to think of what it was like for those five years. And celebrating that, probably, would take precedent over anything."

There are others whom Torre didn't know as well or as long, like Scott Brosius, who were key players and may be gone soon. And there are those who have been around only a short while but who made a difference in this most difficult and most satisfying season.

Breaking up is hard to do, the old song goes, but sometimes it has to be done. Take a long look at these New York Yankees because they won't be the same next year.

The midseason shake-up the Yankees underwent this year was nothing compared with what's ahead, as boss George Steinbrenner tries to sustain, or reinvigorate, an aging dynasty.

Eight of the 25 players on the Yankees' World Series roster were acquired this year to shore up the offense and patch up holes left by injured players.

Two of those, left-fielder David Justice and second baseman Jose Vizcaino, are likely to stay, but the others -- Denny Neagle, Luis Polonia, Luis Sojo, Dwight Gooden, Glenallen Hill, Jose Canseco -- are doubtful.

Steinbrenner is ready to open the vault for either or both of the young, established sluggers in the free-agent market -- Cleveland's Manny Ramirez, who could take over O'Neill's spot in right field; and Seattle shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who could shift to third and take over for the light-hitting, 34-year-old Brosius.

Another free agent, Baltimore pitcher Mike Mussina, is high on the Yankees' wish list to replace Neagle.

Down on the farm in Triple A, the Yankees have two hot 22-year-old prospects, Alfonso Soriano and D'Angelo Jimenez.

Soriano has been playing shortstop, Derek Jeter's untouchable position. But if the Yankees don't get Rodriguez, Soriano could be moved to third. Jimenez, also an infielder, batted .327 last year for Columbus, but missed most of this season after injuring himself in a car crash. He played late in the year and could make the jump to the Yankees in spring training.

Shane Spencer, sidelined since the All-Star break after blowing out his knee, could be back and give the Yankees more power in the outfield if they can't get Ramirez.

Martinez, 33, is signed for another year, but the Yankees may look to trade him along with one of their young pitching prospects for Anaheim first baseman Mo Vaughn, who hit 36 homers and drove in 117 runs for the Angels.

No matter how it shakes out, the 2001 Yankees will be vastly different from this year's edition.

But the constants that could carry them back to the World Series will still be there. Chief among those are Torre's leadership and the strength up the middle of Bernie Williams in center, Jeter at short, Jorge Posada behind the plate, the solid starting pitchers and Mariano Rivera in the bullpen.

And perhaps most important of all is Steinbrenner, who still calls the shots for this team and whose money can buy almost anyone the Yankees need.

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