2001 World Series
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Stephen Cannella's World Series Breakdown
Starters: This series has more aces than a crooked poker game. The Diamondbacks will live or die by supermen Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson -- if the Yankees beat either one in the first two games, Arizona is in serious trouble. Game 3 starter Brian Anderson lost his spot in the rotation in August, but D'Backs manager Bob Brenly likes the idea of a left-hander pitching against New York's lineup in Yankee Stadium. The underrated Miguel Batista, who has a 96-mph cutter that can be devastating, will go in Game 4; don't be surprised to see him pitch out of the bullpen early in the series. The Yankees can come close to matching Schilling and Johnson with Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte in the first two games -- someone will have to throw a shutout to win one of those. Roger Clemens and Orlando Hernandez have been shaky in the postseason, but both are capable of throwing gems, especially against a Diamondbacks lineup that has been struggling. None of New York's Big Four is on a postseason roll like Schilling and Johnson, but the depth of the Yankees' rotation should be enough to nail down the series. Advantage:


Bullpen: When Randy Johnson got in trouble late in Game 5 of the NLCS and was about to face Chipper Jones and Brian Jordan, the Braves' two best hitters, the best Brenly could do was get 42-year-old Mike Morgan warming in the pen. That tells you all you need to know about Arizona's relief corps. The only thing close to a power arm is closer Byung-Hyun Kim, and he's no sure thing in pressure spots. Everyone else (Morgan, Bobby Witt, Greg Swindell) is ancient and relies on location and guile to get hitters out. The Yankees pen isn't deep, but with Joe Torre now often calling on Mariano Rivera for two-inning stints, New York plays a shorter game than everyone else. Ramiro Mendoza and Mike Stanton, two of the best postseason relievers in history, are enough to get to Rivera as long as the starters pitch into the sixth inning. Advantage:


Catcher: In a lineup full of clutch hitters, Jorge Posada is one of the most dangerous. The Diamondbacks would do well to force the switch-hitter to bat from the right side, where he has less power, late in the game. Posada has had some problems defensively this season, especially with passed balls. Damian Miller, on the other hand, is excellent at blocking the ball, an important skill considering that many of Schilling's splitters and Johnson's sliders dive into the dirt. Both pitchers say Miller deserves a Gold Glove. He doesn't have a lot of power, but he's a decent hitter. Advantage:


First Base: Mark Grace isn't a home run threat at what should be a power position, but he's a smart and dependable hitter, and his defense and soft hands probably save the Diamondbacks an error per game. Grace has a good postseason track record, and that should continue in the first World Series of his 14-year career. Tino Martinez is the Yankees' most consistent power threat, and he should flourish against Arizona's predominantly right-handed bullpen. Advantage:

EVEN


Second Base: Craig Counsell is solid defensively, and he seems to be in the middle of things every time the Diamondbacks score. He might be the hitter Brenly most wants to see at the plate when his team needs a baserunner. If leadoff hitter Tony Womack gets on, look for Counsell to bunt or hit-and-run behind him. Alfonso Soriano -- remember, he's a rookie and this is his first season at the position -- makes the occasional mental mistake in the field, but he can make up for those with his bat and speed. Advantage:

Third Base: Matt Williams' bat has looked slow throughout the postseason (he has just two extra base hits and no homers). He's a plus defensively, but the fitful Diamondbacks' offense desperately needs him to start driving the ball. Scott Brosius' Gold Glove-caliber defense will be tested: Arizona left-handers like Counsell and Womack made their living going the other way in the NLCS. Brosius hasn't exactly been on fire at the plate either -- he's hitting .121 in the postseason and will have trouble if Arizona pounds him inside. Advantage:

Shortstop: Derek Jeter was completely out of whack at the plate during the ALCS, chasing pitches in the dirt and letting fat fastballs go by. The four-day layoff before Game 1 will help him tremendously -- he might still be recovering from his tumble into the stands in the Division Series. Even so, is there a more clutch postseason player in the game today? Womack has to get on base, something he did well against the Braves. If the leadoff hitter doesn't get things started, the Diamondbacks' offense suffers. Advantage:


Left Field: After a monster regular season, Luis Gonzalez has been quiet (.211 in the NLCS) in October. The Cardinals and Braves had success jamming him inside. He has to start turning on those pitches if the Diamondbacks are to score enough runs in the Series. It's an adventure sometimes, but Chuck Knoblauch has developed into an adequate outfielder. He's done a better job of getting on base in the postseason after a horrid regular season. New York's lineup is much better when he concentrates on getting on and stealing bases rather than jacking every pitch he sees out of the park. Advantage:

Center Field: Bernie Williams is a streaky hitter, and right now he's locked in: He's been the Yankees' leading postseason run producer. Williams is an excellent defender, but he plays shallow and sometimes has trouble getting to balls over his head. That could be a factor in Bank One Ballpark, which is very spacious in center. Steve Finley has been Arizona's most consistent hitter in the postseason, but hasn't shown much power. He, too, is a Gold Glove outfielder. Advantage:


Right Field: Reggie Sanders will chase pitches and get himself out, but if he sees a mistake over the plate he'll kill it. Good fastballs up in the zone from Yankees pitchers should be enough to keep him quiet in the series. Paul O'Neill is aging and about to retire, and with his slow bat and creaking legs, he looks it. Still, he's capable of having good at-bats, especially against Arizona's soft-throwing bullpen. If the Diamondbacks bust him inside they'll be OK. If they leave anything out over the plate, O'Neill will start spraying hits around the field. Advantage:

EVEN


Designated Hitter: David Justice isn't as frightening at the plate as he once was and doesn't catch up to good heat anymore, but his bat seems to speed up in the postseason. He's a spotlight player. The Diamondbacks' deep bench gives them several choices at DH. Erubiel Durazo got most of the starts there in interleague play; Jay Bell will probably DH against left-hander Andy Pettitte. Durazo will add much-needed power to the lineup. Advantage:

Bench: An Arizona strength. Durazo, Dave Dellucci, Greg Colbrunn and Danny Bautista are a deep and balanced group. All four are dangerous bats off the bench, and Bautista is solid outfielder. With so many options, Brenly can usually create a favorable matchup against any bullpen. The Yankees aren't as deep. Shane Spencer has a lot of power, especially against left-handers, and Luis Sojo is a dangerous pinch hitter because he swings at everything and makes contact. Clay Bellinger is little more than a pinch runner, and Enrique Wilson is a versatile defensive replacement in the infield. But Torre won't rely on his bench to win a game for him. Advantage:

Manager: Brenly made a bunch of offbeat decisions in the first two postseason rounds, and everything he did worked. He lets his veteran team play without overmanaging, and when Schilling and Johnson are pitching he can be as much of a spectator as you and I. But, unlike his Yankees' counterpart, he is inexperienced. Torre, meanwhile, has seen everything there is to be seen at this time of year. It's sounds like a broken record: He's the best postseason manager of his generation, and no one's better at guiding a team through the pressures of October. Advantage:


Prediction: In theory the Diamondbacks have enough to win the Series -- Schilling and Johnson just have to win all four of their starts. That's easier said than done against the Yankees, though, who have dominant starters of their own and are smart enough to steal one of those games. New York is better suited to manufacture runs in tight situations than the station-to-station Diamondbacks are. And it can't be overstated: With Mariano Rivera looming in the pen, Arizona really only has seven innings to grab a lead. Schilling and Johnson are fearsome, but they're not enough to trip up the New York dynasty. Yankees in 7

Sports Illustrated baseball writer Stephen Cannella will contribute regularly to CNNSI.com throughout the World Series.

 

   
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