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World Series 2001
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11/08/2001 10:50 AM ET
Brenly's club believed it was meant to be
By Ken Gurnick
MLB.com

Brenly holds up the World Series trophy after Sunday's amazing win.

PHOENIX -- What's meant to be will always find a way.

That's as good an explanation as the Arizona Diamondbacks can offer up for a championship season that defies conventional wisdom.

"After everything we went through this year, the way that crazy pennant race worked out where we win, they win, we lose, they lose, the division series and the way that played out, we felt like we were the team of destiny," manager Bob Brenly said Monday.

"'This is meant to happen.' That's what I heard in the clubhouse a lot over the last couple weeks of the season. 'It's meant to happen.' We're just all really, really glad it did. If it's destiny, if it's mystique, whatever, we'll start our own. That's fine."

Brenly and many of his players were amused last week by the media's portrayal of the Yankees and their aura and mystique, of the recent New York dynasty and the legacy of Yankee titles and the House that Ruth Built, etc.

"I think talking about supernatural things or destiny or aura or pixie dust or whatever it is, takes away from the abilities of the players to go out and play the game well," Brenly said.

"Certainly, the Yankees had much more history working for them than we did. Now, whether the ghost of Babe Ruth was flying over Yankee Stadium, helping those balls get over the fence, I don't know. I doubt it. But if we're talking about destiny, we were the team that felt like we had destiny on our side this year."

The day after the stunning ninth-inning, Game 7 comeback victory, while a city soaked in the satisfaction of its first major professional title, the manager reflected on what had just happened, along with how in the heck it happened.

He touched on his two-headed pitching monster, Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, the co-MVPs; on the second-guessing he endured, as well as his role as only the fourth pure rookie manager to win a World Series. He singled out Tony Womack, who repeatedly delivered clutch postseason hits, and Game 7 hero Luis Gonzalez, who was playing more hurt than anyone cared to admit.

He said he wasn't even annoyed that Schilling predicted more titles and he hoped the critics who harped on Johnson's seven-game postseason losing streak will be silenced by Johnson's current five-game postseason win streak.

Fighting off the effects of a recurring flu, Brenly sat proudly next to the championship trophy and said all the right things. Even when asked if he felt vindicated after the criticism he took for his pitching decisions in Games 4 and 5, particularly the use of reliever Byung-Hyun Kim, Brenly took the pitch instead of taking a rip at his critics.

"Vindication is not necessary," he said. "I knew coming into this job, second-guessing is part of the gig. You can't avoid it. It never feels good to have people calling you names, questioning your sanity. But I've insisted all along that the only opinions I care about are those of my employer and the players who work for me. In the clubhouse, I was never second-guessed and I never doubted them."

General Manager Joe Garagiola Jr. was a little more aggressive at the plate.

"It seems to me the New York media takes pride in pushing the envelope, being out there and hearing as shrill a note as they can sound," Garagiola said. "The Arizona Diamondbacks were a ball teed up perfectly to go off on, everything about us. I think the hammering of Bob was part and parcel of that. A lot of people know what they know about the Diamondbacks and have no interest in being dissuaded by the facts."

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Brenly had never managed a game at any level before coming out of the broadcast booth to take over the Diamondbacks this year. He eschewed traditional managing strategies, juggled his lineup daily, platooned at cleanup and now has a ring to show for it. But he refused, as usual, to take credit for the title or to even characterize the impact he had on the team's success.

"I don't know if I can answer that, but I learned very early that it's all about how the players play," he said. "I can make all the moves, crunch all the numbers, but if the player doesn't come through, you don't have an effect. The players win and lose. The players realize that and I realize that. I cheer, I put everybody in position that gives us the best chance to get it done. Then it's all on them."

Garagiola again pinch-hit on the question.

"From the beginning, there's been a two-way flow of respect between Bob Brenly and the players," Garagiola said. "They know what he accomplished as a player, what he's brought into the clubhouse. Bob is comfortable with who he is and there is mutual respect there. I've heard more than once when a move didn't work, the players saying they would pick Bob Brenly up. They want it to come out right for him."

Brenly shed some light on Womack, who spent very little time in the clubhouse celebrating Sunday night and even less time speaking with the media.

Womack's father died in late July and the shortstop took it hard.

"The grief he endured, he played the game under the worst circumstances," Brenly said. "But he came to me after that and said, 'Stick with me. I'll get us where we want to go.' From that point on he was the best leadoff hitter in the league. He underwent a transformation. There was a sense of determination. Tony is the guy who put this club on his shoulders."

Womack hit .340 after Aug. 1. His clutch hit in the bottom of the ninth in Game 5 of the Division Series against St. Louis advanced Arizona into the League Championship Series. And his double off Mariano Rivera Sunday night was the biggest single play in the most improbable rally against the most unhittable reliever in the final game of the most remarkable World Series in recent memory.

Brenly didn't even cringe at Schilling's postgame prediction that this would not be the last Diamondbacks title.

"He's been known to be bold in his statements, but he's also backed them up," Brenly said. "We just want to do what the Yankees have done, what the Oakland A's of the '70s did. It's the dream of every organization. I don't mind him saying it. I won't say it, but I don't mind him saying it."

For Schilling and Johnson, it will be interesting to see what long-term toll this most demanding of World Series takes on their pitching arms.

Combined, they were 9-1 with 11 starts and one relief appearance, pitching five complete games and 90 2/3 innings with a 1.29 ERA. Schilling became the first pitcher ever to start six games in the same postseason, while Johnson started five and was the winning reliever in Game 7 the day after pitching seven innings in Game 6. Combining the regular season and postseason, Schilling pitched 305 innings in 2001, Johnson 291.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com.