NEW YORK -- Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs. Sammy Sosa drove in 160 runs. Ichiro Suzuki hit .350.
|Roger Clemens was the closest the Yankees came this season to having an MVP candidate.
None of them are playing in the World Series.
The Yankees are making their fifth appearance in the Fall Classic in six years, yet in not one of those seasons have they had a player that has been considered to be a legitimate MVP candidate. How has this franchise been so successful without a big-bopping, home run-hitting slugger? Very easily. They have had the best team.
"We have a good team," said shortstop Derek Jeter. "We don't rely on one individual. You say it time and time again, but in order to be successful year after year, you need contributions from a lot of people, not just one. We haven't had someone come up with a huge, huge year. It would be nice if we did, but I don't think we need that in order to win."
In fact, the only time in the last six years that anyone on the Yankees had what could have been considered an "MVP-type" season was in 1997, when Tino Martinez hit 44 home runs and drove in 141 RBIs. That season ended with a first-round loss to the Cleveland Indians.
And a resolve to return to the grand stage of the World Series.
"Losing in 1997 was a big part of this run," said right fielder Paul O'Neill. "After seeing 1996, how much it meant to this city, the parade, all of it, then to lose in 1997, that disappointment can drive you more than anyone knows. When you just win, win, win, you don't know what the alternative is. When you feel the disappointment of losing, it can be a big motivation."
So Manager Joe Torre built a feeling in the clubhouse that no one player was any more important than any other player. From the superstars to the bench players, the No. 1 starter to the 11th man in the bullpen, every player had his role, and if each player didn't perform, the Yankees would be in trouble.
"We always felt that if you allow yourself to rely on any one individual, that when that guy is missing, you have a big letdown," said Torre. "We allow ourselves to think as a team, go out there and have everyone contribute. There is no one person that we rely on more than anyone else. We feel that even if we are missing Derek Jeter or Bernie Williams in the lineup, we can plug someone else in to do their job."
The team that the Yankees will face in the World Series has one of those MVP types on their team. Arizona's Luis Gonzalez bashed 57 home runs, driving in 142 runs and batting .325, which may induce the Yankees to pitch around him, forcing the rest of the hitters to beat them.
"Luis Gonzalez had a great year, he's a good hitter," said catcher Jorge Posada. "There is not one guy here that does it every day. Different guys get the job done and that's why we win."
With the Yankees, if you pitch around Jeter, you get David Justice. If you pitch around Williams, you get Martinez. With five players that hit more than 20 home runs in the Yankees' starting lineup (and two more that hit 18, including Justice, who did so in just 111 games), there aren't many places in New York's lineup to pitch around. Arizona on the other hand, had just two players (Reggie Sanders hit 33, joining Gonzalez) break the 20-homer barrier.
"It's a matter of which guy is going to step forward each day, and it will probably be a different guy than the one that did it yesterday," Torre said. "It's a good feeling for me, because I always feel we can get something started no matter where we start the inning."
The Yankee cited by many as their best AL MVP candidate this season was Roger Clemens, who was 20-3 in the regular season. Yet, despite Clemens' tight right hamstring and three short outings in the postseason, the Yankees advanced to yet another World Series. If you had told them before the postseason began that they would win eight games without a Clemens victory, they probably wouldn't have believed you.
Yet here they are. Again.
"If you look at each of our wins in the playoffs, there's a different guy's name at the top of the story that helped us win," O'Neill said. "Soriano one day, someone else the next. That's the nature of our team.
"The way we win, I don't think that we rely on one person offensively or pitching," added O'Neill. "If you look at one guy that we depend on, the only guy we depend on every day for the same thing is Mariano Rivera.
O'Neill says that the lack of a true MVP candidate suits this team just fine. As long as they keep winning titles, no one in the Yankees' clubhouse will disagree.
Mark Feinsand is the site reporter for Yankees.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.