10/08/07 3:39 AM ET
Yankees refuse to go out quietly
Trailing 2-0 in the ALDS, Yanks win and avoid the sweep
It just isn't their style.
The Yankees entered their Division Series with the Cleveland Indians Sunday night trailing 2-0, one loss from elimination.
When the game started, the Angels, Cubs and Phillies -- the other three teams that had entered their postseason playoffs trailing 2-0 -- already had gone to the sidelines.
In less than one week these three teams had gone from champagne celebrations to packing up for the offseason.
Just to add spice to the postseason picture, Yankee owner George Steinbrenner let it be known that if the Yankees failed to reach the American League Championship Series, his manager, Joe Torre, likely would be out of a job.
There's nothing like adding a little more pressure to an already pressure situation.
"You're not surprised by whatever comes down the pike," said Torre in a very matter of fact manner.
The Indians scored a run in each of the first three innings to take a 3-0 lead and it appeared this could be a night at Yankee Stadium that would be noteworthy for all of the wrong reasons -- Torre's final game as manager, Roger Clemens' final game on the mound and Alex Rodriguez's farewell appearance as a Yankee.
A funny thing happened on the way to this Yankee funeral procession.
The Yankees' Johnny Damon delivered a run-scoring single in the third inning and a three-run home run in the fifth inning to help propel his team to an 8-4 victory.
Two young and talented rookie pitchers -- Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain -- took over for the veteran Clemens and then Mariano Rivera did what he usually does with a masterful ninth inning to close out the Indians.
"I don't think we're ready to see Roger Clemens' last steps off the mound or Joe Torre's last game," said Damon.
On this night, the Yankees avoided any immediate changes when it comes to their manager, their Hall of Fame pitcher and their star player.
However, changes are coming for the Yankees just as they already have been put in place by a number of Major League teams.
Steinbrenner has sent a signal that anything less than advancement to the Championship Series will signal the end of Torre's tenure with the Yankees.
Clemens is in his 24th season and this indeed may be his final season. All of the signs point in that direction.
The Yankees will have to make an offer of historic proportions to keep Rodriguez from exercising the opt-out clause in his contract.
Regardless of the changes, Yankee fans can be assured that the team will spend the money it needs to spend to field another competitive team next year.
The Yankee payroll again will lead the way in 2008 and the team has shown it has a few young pitchers like Hughes and Chamberlain to build for the future.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have a new president and general manager and will have a new manager. They also will make key changes in their scouting and player development areas. Will it all add up to an end to a never-ending string of losing seasons?
The Minnesota Twins have a new general manager in Bill Smith, the longtime assistant to Terry Ryan. The Twins will stay with continuity in their baseball operations and one presumes it will mean the same type of consistent performance.
The Houston Astros have a new general manager in Ed Wade and the Baltimore Orioles are in the process of revamping their front office under Andy MacPhail.
The St. Louis Cardinals will be hiring a new general manager and may even be looking for a new manager if Tony La Russa decides not to return. And Kansas City is on the search for a new manager.
Change is simply part of the baseball scene and not even the Yankees can avoid the script.
The Yankees, however, weren't willing to buy into the idea of three and out at the hands of the Cleveland Indians.
You can say whatever you want to about the Yankees but they do manage to keep things interesting.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers' organization from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice president and general manager. His book, "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue," was published by SportsPublishingLLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.