- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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NEW YORK -- Call it Sunday in the Park Without George.
With their series-clinching 2-0 win in Game 6, the Florida Marlins became the first visiting team to celebrate a championship at Yankee Stadium since Roger Clemens was in college, and they didn't waste the occasion. As midnight passed and Saturday dissolved into Sunday, hundreds of players, family, friends and fans covered the field, grabbing handfuls of grass, drinking champagne, taking photos and generally partying as if they had just liberated Baghdad.
Leadoff man Juan Pierre posed for a photo in Monument Park. Alex Gonzalez lay on the grass behind his normal shortstop position, sipping a bottle of champagne. Josh Beckett stood at home plate chugging from a 32-ounce bottle of beer.
And then Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria (who clearly didn't earn this), raced around the basepaths and made his way through the crowd as if he were Chris Chambliss homering against the Royals.
Hmmm. So how do you imagine George Steinbrenner feels about this revelry?
"I know he doesn't like this," first baseman Derrek Lee said. "I know he doesn't like this. But this is sweet. Dancing on the field at Yankee Stadium? That's sweet."
Sweet? It would have killed lab rats. But as wonderful as it was to see another team celebrate on "sacred" Yankee Stadium soil, many heads are going to roll for this.
To lose the World Series is bad enough when Furious George signs your checks. To lose to the Marlins, a team with a payroll $128 million lower than the Yankees? We're lucky George didn't light Brian Cashman on fire and toss him onto the subway tracks. I'm also surprised he didn't immediately offer Loria $100 million for the trophy and Beckett.
"I hope he spends double what he spent this year," Florida reliever Chad Fox said. "We beat them with a bunch of nobodies. That's not how I consider ourselves, but that's how they looked at us. They felt like they were going back to Yankee Stadium and going to win two games easily.
"I looked into the dugout when we were celebrating, and there were a couple guys who looked like they were thinking, 'Oh, s---.' "
Oh, s---. That's an expression Yankees employees will use a lot over the winter, replacing the most popular one used after the game by players and management alike: "There are going to be changes."
"There will be some changes," Bernie Williams said.
"There are going to be changes," Mike Mussina said.
"Changes are a natural part of baseball," Cashman said.
Oh, there are definitely going to be changes. There are always changes. Clemens swears he's retiring. David Wells undoubtedly drank his last Heineken in the clubhouse. Andy Pettitte is a free agent. And that's just the starting rotation. The Yankees also need to find a replacement for Aaron Boone at third base, a decent right fielder, several reliable relievers and some capable guys on the bench -- and then hope Jason Giambi's left knee gets better.
And that's just the players. The Yankees also will likely replace most of the coaching staff other than manager Joe Torre. (Memo to the WWE: If you need a 72-year-old, fat, bald curmudgeon, Don Zimmer is available.)
Changes? Consider the first question Torre received in the postgame press conference:
"First, congratulations on a great year and a great run for your team. In your mind, is this the end of an era for the Yankees?"
Nice question, huh? It's like going to a funeral and asking the widow, "Sorry about the death of your husband, who was truly a wonderful man, but would you like to grab a couple beers after the wake?"
But that's the way it is with the Yankees. Win, and the fans want to know what you're going to do for an encore. Lose, and they want to know why your carcass is still stinking up the city.
George spent anywhere from $162 million to $180 million (the actual figure is as elusive as the national debt) on this team, but all that largesse only covered the rotation and the starting lineup. New York had outstanding starters and closer Mariano Rivera, but terrible middle relief. The Yankees had a solid lineup, but nobody to come off the bench.
That barely slowed them down during the regular season -- they won 101 games and their sixth consecutive division title -- but it caught up to them during the World Series. They hit .261, averaged 3.5 runs per game and went 7-for-50 with runners in scoring position.
Even Jeter failed them in Game 6, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and an error that provided Florida with its second run. Evidently, he must have been distracted by some bad news from his father, Jor-El.
"They were better than us in this series," Jeter said when asked whether the best team won. "We didn't know much about them, but they beat the Giants, then they beat the Cubs. And then they beat us."
Jeter watched the Diamondbacks celebrate when the Yankees lost the 2001 World Series, but he said he didn't bother watching the Marlins pile on the Yankee Stadium mound. "I just walked off the field," he said. "The only reason you play is to win the championship. That's the only reason I play -- to win."
"I watched it for about 10 minutes," Cashman said. "It's something you don't like to see, but you watch it so you'll remember. It's a sight I never wanted to see."
Poor Cashman. I never realized how many shades of beige there are until I saw his face immediately after the loss. He looked as though someone had just shot his dog. And that was before he had heard from Furious George. Asked when he expected to hear from Steinbrenner, the general manager replied succinctly: "Soon."
Cashman said he and his staff will begin evaluating the team's needs and start preparing for 2004 as early as today. "We'll analyze our differences and shore up our weaknesses," he said. "We need to shore up the bullpen and middle relief."
Shortly after Loria's championship trot, the Yankee Stadium security began clearing the field. They had seen enough. The series was over. The postseason was over. The season was over. It was time to go home for the winter.
The Yankees' world championship drought is at 1,095 days and counting. Gentlemen, start your resumes.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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