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Ross Newhan / ON BASEBALL

The Dodgers' Loss Was Their Gain

October 18, 2003|Ross Newhan

NEW YORK — Who said Dan Evans didn't have good taste and judgment?

Weren't Aaron Boone and Mike Lowell the two third basemen and run producers the Dodger general manager most coveted and pursued before the July 31 trade deadline?

Won't Boone and Lowell be the starting third basemen for the New York Yankees and Florida Marlins in tonight's Game 1 of the World Series?

Didn't they make significant contributions to the Yankees' and Marlins' getting here?

Evans laughed when it was suggested that their appearance on the national stage justified his evaluation. He refused to comment, however, because of tampering rules.

Said another Dodger official: "We had the right guys targeted. We just weren't able to reap the rewards."

Well, there's something to be said for a relaxing day of golf, a cold beer and a chance to sit back and watch the Series on the tube.

Of course, that has become a routine for the Dodgers since 1988, but that's an oft-chronicled story that doesn't need repeating.

As for Boone and Lowell, they're not exactly looking back with regret for having not been traded to the Dodgers, although it was impossible to predict at the time that their scenarios would play out as they have.

Whether looking back or ahead Friday, Boone was doing it with bleary eyes.

In a whirlwind span of less than 12 hours, Boone had slugged the 11th-inning home run that capped the Yankees' dramatic comeback against the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of their league championship series and then joined celebrating teammates in the city that never sleeps, getting little himself before being awakened by a phone call from Manager Joe Torre requesting that he join him at City Hall's public celebration of this latest pennant.

At his locker Friday afternoon, Boone was still pretty much speechless.

He was moved by the emotional e-mails and voice mails from friends, relatives and strangers. He was unable to describe beyond unbelievable the home run moment that he and brother Bret -- now third-generation major leaguers from the Boone clan -- had often mimicked in the backyard of their Orange County home. He was convinced that what Derek Jeter had been telling him since the start of October was true.

"Derek kept telling me that the ghosts come out at Yankee Stadium in October, and they sure did last night," Boone said.

A little help is always appreciated.

Boone had struggled since his acquisition by the Yankees in the trade-deadline deal with the Cincinnati Reds. He was two for 16 in the postseason, a .254 batter in 54 games in the regular season.

On Wednesday night, brother Bret, the Seattle Mariner second baseman who did analysis for Fox on the Boston series, told him that he had been playing terribly, "but if you go out and win tomorrow it won't matter."

A tearful Bret had to hit the mute button in the Fox booth when he saw it was his brother who delivered the win.

On Friday, of course, there were all kinds of people telling Aaron they predicted he would win it with a home run.

Included was his dad, Bob, calling from an Idaho hunting trip.

"He said he predicted it in the seventh inning," Boone said with a laugh. "I wasn't even in the game yet."

Laughs have come hard in an emotional year. His dad was fired by the Reds and he was traded by the team with which he had spent his entire career.

Traded to a new team in a new city in a new league. Traded to the Yankees with all the inherent expectations of the Bronx and the team owner.

If Boone has been pressing, as Torre believes, the third baseman said he would simply call it a period of adjustment.

"I'm my own worst critic," he said. "I'm never happy when I'm not swinging well, but it's a game of ups and downs and you keep grinding. I know what I'm capable of, and I generally persevere."

Maybe, said Torre, the home run will help lift the weight, "emotionally calm him down. He's had a tough year in his mind, but he's helped us win a lot of games. I'm looking for him to have a big Series."

Two things are certain:

* Amid the storied Yankee-Red Sox rivalry, Torre said, the home run is "something they can never take away from him, something that will never go away."

* And Boone, having heard all the trade rumors about Seattle (where he would have teamed with his brother), Los Angeles (close to his Newport Beach home) and New York (with all of the tradition), now insists that "while all three were potentially great for different reasons, I think the right one happened."

In Lowell's case, the most persistent rumors involved the Dodgers and Chicago Cubs. The Marlins, picking up the wild-card scent, took him off the block in July.

"I definitely pictured myself in Cubs and Dodger uniforms simply because the rumors were ridiculous every day," he said. "But I also had mixed emotions because I live in South Florida, I liked our team, we were three or four games out of the wild card with a lot of season to play, and the grass isn't always greener.

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