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World Series 2001
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10/31/2001 03:43 AM ET
Mayo: Momentum is a myth
Roger Clemens congratulates Shane Spencer for his potentially game-saving catch.

NEW YORK -- There's a mythical pendulum in sports. We in the media call it momentum.

It swings back and forth on a whim, from one day to the next, maybe even one play to the next. It's a fickle friend, that momentum. One moment it's your best pal, carrying you to glory. The next, it's vanished like the Baha Men.

As Matt Williams points out, "It makes for good copy."

But does it really exist? Arizona seemingly had it after taking the first two games. Have they lost it after dropping Game 3? Has momentum switched teams as quickly as Anne Heche?

"I don't think so," Matt Williams said. "You play game-to-game. Just because you win one game doesn't mean you win the next game. In baseball, I don't know if you can get momentum."

The other old and tattered cliche about momentum is that it's only as good as your next day's pitcher. Maybe that's why Bob Brenly decided to start Curt Schilling in Game 4. If Schilling can pitch the way he did in Game 1, momentum will be pretty darn good, won't it?

"We need to play well, we need to do what we're capable of doing or we don't win," Williams said. "It's the same whether it's Curt, Randy [Johnson] or Brian [Anderson] pitching."

We know Williams falls firmly in the anti-momentum camp. But there must be some Diamondback who believes in this phantom energy, this feeling that can shift with one win or loss, especially in a short series.

"There's nothing short about the World Series," Tony Womack said. "It's still the best out of seven. It doesn't matter how you get it done. It's still the first to get to four.

"We knew it wasn't an easy task. We accepted the challenge and have to be ready [for Game 4]."


That challenge must be more difficult in Yankee Stadium, right? Come on, this is a tough place to play. Those raucous, often-obnoxious fans can rattle even the most experienced teams. That's got to give the old pendulum a push in the home team's direction, doesn't it?

"This is a fantastic place to play," Williams said. "There's a lot of tradition, a lot of history. All you have to do is walk out to left-center field [where Monument Park is] to know that. Hostile? I don't know. They love their Yankees. That's the way it should be."

"It was exciting and fun," Luis Gonzalez said. "We're a veteran team. A lot of us have played here before."

Yeah, but not in a World Series. That was the knock on these guys coming into this series -- long on years, short on playoff experience. When the only guy on your team with a ring is Craig Counsell, losing the opener here has got to be painful. You know the Yankees will be ready to pounce and tie this series up, feeling a little better about themselves. You know those fans will be out for blood, smelling things shifting their beloved Yankees' way. That has to weigh on the Diamondbacks' mind, doesn't it?

"Games are nine innings, it's 60 feet, six inches to the plate, 90 feet between bases," Williams said.

Williams must've been watching "Hoosiers" with Brian Anderson before the game. Remember that part when Gene Hackman has the team take all the measurements in the huge arena before the big game? It calms the team, knowing the hoop is still 10 feet in the air, and the foul line is just 15 feet away.

But this isn't a movie, folks. It's real sports. You can act like the pressure isn't there on screen, but here, in the real world, it must be there. Playing in Yankee Stadium, on hallowed ground, must be humbling and difficult to deal with emotionally.

"To me, when I get between the white lines, it's just another ballpark," Womack said.

Come on guys, help me out here. Give me something to hang my hat on here, some glimpse that you feel the series slipping away.

"It's great," Williams said. "That's why we play. I enjoyed [Game 3]. The Yankees came out on top. We'll see if we can get them [on Wednesday].

"This is the World Series and we know we have a tough customer across the hall. We know if we play well we have a shot at winning."

Ugh. Doesn't Williams know that kind of response isn't "good copy?"

Jonathan Mayo is a columnist for The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.