In defeat, Yankees tip caps to D'backs

Rivera: `They played great and deserved to win'

November 05, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

PHOENIX - The New York Yankees dynasty may not have ended last night, but it certainly was interrupted when Luis Gonzalez lofted a broken-bat single into center field to topple the three-time defending world champions and carry the Arizona Diamondbacks to their first world title.

The Diamondbacks and their fans went wild and the Yankees got to see what it was like to watch one of those raucous on-field celebrations that they had enjoyed so regularly over the past few years. They may not have liked it, but they handled defeat like champions.

No tears. No recriminations. The Yankees went out the way they came in, with a touch of class.

"There only can be one [champion]," said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. "We know how difficult it is to win. We know what they are feeling over there. We appreciate what they've done."

The Yankees had done it so many times. They won their first world title in 18 years in 1996 and - after a disappointing postseason the following year - reeled off three more in a row to reach this point. They were an inning away from a fourth straight when the Diamondbacks finally got revenge for the two devastating comeback victories the Yankees scored against closer Byung-Hyun Kim at Yankee Stadium.

"I told our players that we're disappointed in the outcome, but they should be very proud of what went on here," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "On one hand, we realize how close we were, but on the other hand, we also realize how many times we snatched it away from people when they were close, so you really have to take both sides of this thing."

Maybe it was poetic justice that the Diamondbacks finally got back at Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who had dominated the late innings so thoroughly over the past several Octobers. Maybe it was just the law of averages.

"It happens," said Rivera, who has to look back to 1997 to remember his last blown save in postseason play. "I tell you what, they did everything to win. Sometimes things go the other way. Sometimes, they don't go the way you expect. I think they played great and deserved to win."

Instead of expressing frustration that the best postseason reliever in history had fallen victim to a handful of bloop hits and his own throwing error, Cashman said that he wouldn't have wanted the Yankees to end their run of world titles any other way.

"He's one of the major reasons why people even are discussing our dynasty," Cashman said. "At the end of the day, they earned it. It was Game 7. All the marbles were on the field. This was great for baseball."

If anyone suspected that the Yankees had grown spoiled by their long record of success, there was no sign of that in the losing clubhouse. To a man, they tipped their sweat-soaked caps in the direction of the on-field celebration that carried on at Bank One Ballpark well into the night.

Even New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani, who is known to be as competitive as anyone actually wearing pinstripes, had nothing but praise for the Diamondbacks and the city of Phoenix.

"I would prefer to have won," he said, "but if we have to lose, I'm glad it's to a great city like Phoenix. They did a lot for New York. They sent search-and-rescue teams to New York. They handled themselves well."

The Yankees wanted to win for the people of New York, who had been so devastated by the horrific terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. They did score inspiring victories in the Division Series and American League Championship Series, and came back from two games down to the Diamondbacks to carry a 3-2 lead back to Arizona. It just wasn't to be.

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