10/26/2003 1:13 AM ET
Yankees put loss in perspective
Somber players credit Marlins, look ahead to future
NEW YORK -- When you've won four championships in seven years, it's never easy to lose.
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
That was the overwhelming sentiment in a subdued, but understanding, Yankees clubhouse following New York's 2-0 loss to the Florida Marlins in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series, which allowed the Marlins to party on the Yankees' field.
"We played hard and it's very frustrating to take a loss like that, but they executed and we didn't," Bernie Williams said. "If we can't score, we can't win. I think we played as hard as we could, but we just couldn't put it together."
They couldn't put it together Saturday because World Series MVP Josh Beckett threw a five-hit shutout, striking out nine batters with a 97 mph fastball and baffling curveball.
"All you can do is give him a lot of credit," said the Yankees' Saturday starter, Andy Pettitte, who pitched a good game of his own, giving up two runs in seven innings. "He stood out there, we had runners in scoring position early in the game, and he was able to get it done."
The presence of a certain team owner who has stocked Yankee Stadium with $180 million worth of talent has put huge expectations on this team, expectations that it met in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Mike Mussina, one of the high-priced free agents that has signed with the club in recent years, put it in perspective.
"This team has set the bar pretty high for itself," Mussina said. "I'm glad we battled through everything we battled through to get here. It's not easy to win a World Series. One bounce, one hit can change everything in the postseason."
As Pettitte explained, the mood around the most scrutinized clubhouse in the big leagues is something the Yankees just have to accept, even when they're not champions.
"Since we won in '96, it's always been that way," Pettitte said. "Mr. Steinbrenner demands a lot of this team and spends a lot of money to get the best players out on the field. When you do that, you're expected to win. There's a lot of pressure on us, but that's the way it's always been."
Manager Joe Torre decided to focus on some of the positives about his club's season that fell two games short of the mountaintop.
"I just went in and thanked my ballclub right after the game was over," Torre said. "It took us time to come together, but once we did, they realized how much they cared for each other, how they picked up for each other. Very unselfish. It's a lesson that even though you work hard, it's not always a fact that you are going to win."
That fact had quite a few of the Yankees hurting inside, and they weren't afraid to talk about it.
Team captain Derek Jeter put it in very blunt terms.
"It makes you sick," Jeter said. "How else can you put it? If it doesn't make you sick, you shouldn't be competing. It's disappointing, to say the least. You play for one thing, and that's to win."
One thing the Yankees refused to do was claim that the result of this year's Fall Classic was more of a case of New York losing, not Florida winning.
"They beat three tough teams and they did it with pitching and clutch hitting," catcher Jorge Posada said. "They're not champions because they ran into the ball. They did everything possible to be world champions. You have to give them a lot of credit."
That was something Jeter could agree with. When asked if he felt that the Yankees suffered an emotional letdown after a draining seven-game American League Championship Series win over their archrival Boston Red Sox, Jeter almost raised his voice.
"No," he said flatly. "They beat us. They beat San Francisco, Chicago and us. No one deserves it more than they do."
Pettitte, showing the maturity of an eight-year veteran, seconded that.
"They outplayed us," Pettitte said. "That's the bottom line. In every aspect of the game. They beat us. You have to stand up and be a man about it. But I just want to get home and get over this sickening feeling right now in my stomach."
Most of the Yankees seemed to agree that no matter what changes will be made in the offseason, and there probably will be plenty, there still might be some rings left in this core group.
"I don't think this is the end," said closer Mariano Rivera.
"I still think we have the team to win a championship."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.