Williams is the lead domino. He wants a seven-year contract for more than the $77 million he requested last winter. "That was last year," says his agent, Scott Boras, about the price tag. Privately Williams seethes that the Yankees offered him half that much last year while explaining to Boras that he wasn't an elite player. Williams then batted cleanup, played centerfield, won a batting title and a Gold Glove in his walk year—but slogged through such an uninspired postseason that Boras said "several players" asked the agent what was bothering him. Club sources say only that Williams was dealing with "personal issues." Now the Yankees sound as if Williams is gone. "I'm going to miss Bernie," Torre said after Game 4.
Williams said before Game 4 that he is interested in returning but refused to identify the Yankees as his first choice. "I'm going to take two weeks, and then I'll have a clearer idea," he said.
Brosius's fate is directly linked to what happens with Williams. "We're just going to have to wait on Bernie," says Tony Attanasio, Brosius's agent. "If Bernie comes out and says he wants $75 million and the Yankees give it to him, well, they'll probably go with a third baseman who makes $200,000 instead of Scotty. For a guy who was devastated last year when I told him he had been traded to New York, he's found a comfort zone in New York and would absolutely love to come back."
The Yankees must decide whether to resign Brosius at about $5 million a year or give the third base job to Mike Lowell, 24, a power-hitting prospect who in his first full season in Triple A this year had 26 home runs, 99 RBIs and a .304 average. "That's going to be Newman's call," says an American League executive. "He's so good, he'll make the right one. If he thinks Lowell is ready, Lowell will play."
The Yankees must also bump up the salary of Cone, who can elect free agency, and reckon with the first year of arbitration leverage for Jeter, who one baseball source says has already rejected a five-year, $25 million deal. The emergence of rookie outfielders Ledee and Shane Spencer most likely will push out Raines. "It becomes much more difficult to keep a team together, the more you win," Newman says, "because that means players are having a lot of success and they will be paid more."
Says Jeter of the serendipity of 125 wins, "Who knows? It may never happen again."
Before Game 4 Molitor, one of the game's aficionados, was sitting near some Fox executives who were bemoaning the possibility of a sweep and lamenting the shortfall of drama, ad revenue and, no doubt, opportunities to shamelessly plug the network's B-list actors. "I was saying, 'I totally disagree,' " Molitor says. "Rather than having a tight World Series, it's perfect to have it end with this great Yankee team sweeping. What better exclamation point could you have to this season?"
The lasting beauty of the Yankees is the perfect tongue-and-groove fit of their parts, as subtle as a wine's bouquet. This was a team whose greatness will not be obvious in Cooperstown. It was a team you had to see to believe.