Memories of Series loss linger as Yankees begin title quest

Clemens on 2001 defeat: 'It was just depressing'

Division Series

October 02, 2002|By Ken Davidoff | Ken Davidoff,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

NEW YORK — Late game: Last nights AL Division Series game between the Anaheim Angels and New York Yankees ended too late to be included in this edition.

NEW YORK -- A blob of New York Yankees players drifted off the Bank One Ballpark field last Nov. 4, back to the visitors dugout, zombie-like. As the Arizona Diamondbacks mobbed Luis Gonzalez, one lower-paid Yankee cursed in the dugout.

"There goes a hundred thousand bucks," he said.

Last night, as they played host to the Anaheim Angels in Game 1 of an American League Division Series, the Yankees began the next step in their quest to bury their dramatic demise of last year. To reclaim the World Series trophy they captured in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. And, yes, to pick up that extra $100,000 or so per man that the championship team receives.

"You shouldn't want to experience losing again, shortstop Derek Jeter said Monday. You shouldnt want to watch another team celebrate in front of you. You remember that."

"Sometimes you can get spoiled in certain situations, because your expectations are so high and you reached those goals, said Roger Clemens, who started for the Yankees last night against left-hander Jarrod Washburn. "Then, to come up short, it was just depressing. ...That's why our bar is set so high."

Two years ago, the Yankees entered the playoffs having lost 15 of 18 games, and they felt self-doubt. Last year, they faced an Oakland Athletics team that truly scared them, to the point where they hid injuries to Clemens and Ramiro Mendoza. This year, they're taking on an Anaheim team that they handled four games to three during the regular season, and that possesses minimal postseason experience.

"It'll probably be a shock to them, being in the postseason for the first time," center fielder Bernie Williams said, before adding:"But once they get past that, I think they're going to treat it like any other team."

The Yankees, moreover, are a better team than they have been in the two previous postseasons. Williams and Jeter will have to carry less of the offensive load, thanks to Jason Giambis arrival and Alfonso Sorianos explosive development. Clemens and his fellow starters can look to a deeper bullpen, as can closer Mariano Rivera, whom the Yankees hope to limit to the ninth inning to protect his right shoulder." At this juncture, I feel good today," manager Joe Torre said.

Torre often speaks of how he met fans last winter, and heard consoling words from many of them. They told him, "You'll get 'em next year, and Torre felt miffed. After all, he thought, his team had come within two outs of a fourth consecutive World Series title.

But so many people, from the fans to owner George Steinbrenx ner to some players, share that sentiment. After the loss last November, Torre went around the Yankees clubhouse, exchanging hugs and handshakes. Jeter, Torre recalled, wanted no part of it.

Of the 25 players on the Yankees postseason roster, only 13 were here a year ago, so the desire for atonement isn't universal. And not all of the returnees say they still feel the pain of last year's loss." That's over and done with," reliever Mike Stanton said. "We're about '02, not '01.

"That was last year," said Rivera, who served up Gonzalez's Series-winning hit.

Game 2 starter Andy Pettitte is haunted by his poor outing in Game 6 of last years World Series, when he allowed six runs in two innings.

"We hadn't tasted a loss in a while," he said Monday. I really can't speak for anyone else, but I know for me ... not that it isn't always exciting to make the playoffs, but its a little more exciting this year."

Ken Davidoff is a reporter for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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