When asked the next morning if Steinbrenner's criticism had influenced his revival, Clemens snapped, "People can write whatever they want. That's not what I think about when I'm out there. I've got my legs under me now.... If he wants to get after me, that's fine. But it's not going to motivate me any more than I'm motivated. That comes from my work ethic, which comes from my family background. My mother worked three jobs while raising six kids. That's where the motivation comes from."
The win was the 259th for Clemens, who this summer agreed to a three-year, $30.9 million extension. He has talked about winning his 300th game in a Yankees uniform. Oddly, though, Clemens said on Sunday he will consider retirement after this season: "Nothing's set until I sit down with my family after the season. I have a boy who just started high school. I haven't seen my family in 14 days. I had a sister-in-law who was murdered this summer. Those are the things that are important.... It will be especially interesting if we are fortunate to finish up the way we did last year, to go out like that."
Whether or not Steinbrenner is the Prod of the Yankees, general manager Brian Cashman is their Sultan of Swap. Though heralded deals for Sammy Sosa, Juan Gonzalez and B.J. Surhoff fizzled, Cashman added lefthander Denny Neagle, who through Monday had won six of his 11 starts with New York, and six other players, all of whom have performed better with the Yankees than they did with their previous teams: Canseco, outfielders Glenallen Hill, David Justice and Luis Polonia, and utilitymen Luis Sojo and Jose Vizcaino.
Cashman made his acquisitions without giving up any major leaguer of prominence. Besides helping New York weather injuries to regulars like second baseman Knoblauch, centerfielder Bernie Williams, rightfielder Paul O'Neill and leftfielder Shane Spencer, those six additions were batting a combined .309 with 36 homers (including 16 by Justice and 12 by Hill) and 113 RBIs (48 by Justice) in 683 at bats. "Guys play better here because they want to be here," shortstop Jeter says. "Every player wants to win, and that's what this team is about."
Even Canseco, with his .387 on-base percentage in his parttime role, has contributed. Cashman claimed the 36-year-old Canseco on waivers from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to block Tampa Bay from trading him to another contender and then was shocked when the Devil Rays, instead of withdrawing the waivers, awarded Canseco to the Yankees. The addition angered Torre, who hadn't been consulted and who had planned to use Justice primarily as designated hitter rather than in the outfield, where he would be more likely to aggravate a strained groin muscle.
Torre, who turned 60 on July 18, has another season on his contract. Nevertheless, the Yankees are pondering potential replacements for him if he chooses to retire after this season, which Torre says he doesn't plan to do. "Right now it's still fun for me," he says. "I don't think it matters what happens in the postseason. To me, it's a contract, and I plan to honor it. I wouldn't even rule out [signing another one]."
Torre does have a short list of concerns to address before October. He says he needs to get Knoblauch "comfortable again"; the second baseman, suffering from tendinitis in his right elbow, was 1 for 18 through Monday since returning to the lineup on Sept. 6. Moreover, as evidenced by two off-target throws to first last Saturday, he's still plagued by his infamous scattershot aim. Torre also needs to get setup men Jason Grimsley, Jeff Nelson and Mike Stanton out of their slumps (chart, page 46) and to find rest for overworked closer Mariano Rivera. Nelson, Rivera and Stanton have a combined 1.10 ERA over 114% career postseason innings.
The Yankees are 35-10 in postseason games since 1996, including 18 wins in their past 19 games. The kind of crisp baseball they played in Boston appeared to be a dress rehearsal for October. Patience at the plate and timely hitting supported the strong pitching of Clemens and Pettitte. For instance, though the Yankees got only two hits in the first six innings, they wore down Martinez by forcing him to throw 92 pitches. Then, with New York trailing 1-0 in the seventh, third baseman Scott Brosius belted a two-strike, two-out changeup into the leftfield screen for a three-run homer, only the second three-run dinger allowed by Martinez in nearly two years. On Sunday, Brosius banged a two-run shot in the second inning that gave New York a lead it never relinquished.
Brosius may be the consummate Yankee, a guy with a knack for a clutch hit who is so humble he keeps his 1998 World Series MVP trophy stashed away in a closet at home. Whether Brosius and the rest of the lords of the rings add to their collection may depend greatly on Clemens, who's uniquely motivated to earn some more jewelry. When the Yankees received their team-ordered rings before a game on May 29, Clemens was shocked to find that his ring was inscribed not with his 22 but with 33—the number worn by Wells. He immediately gave the ring back to a club official to return to the manufacturer. Clemens refused an offer to have the ring replaced. "I don't want it and never will," he says. "It's the principle. Very odd, don't you think? It upset a lot of guys on the team, I know that."
This time, with a lead role, Clemens may give the Yankees another chance to get it right.