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For Fifth Straight Year, Yankees Aren't Dandy

While not as stunning as last season's collapse, it adds much uncertainty to a team always expected to win big.

October 11, 2005|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

Alex Rodriguez, the $252-million man, a star among stars even in the New York Yankee constellation, stared into a sea of cameras and microphones, his eyes moist, his voice soft, and said, "I played like a dog."

Rodriguez, two for 15 in the series without a run batted in, wasn't alone in his despondency.

Everywhere in the Yankee clubhouse Monday night after the Angels had won the deciding game of their division series, 5-3, there were bowed heads, slumped shoulders and an air of uncertainty.

After winning four World Series in five years, the Yankees, for the fifth straight season, found themselves in the losers' locker room at the end of a season.

"The best teams get to the playoffs," said Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter. "The hottest team wins. We haven't been the hottest team for the last few years."

This year may not be as shocking as last season, when they collapsed against the Boston Red Sox in the American League championship series, losing four straight after winning the first three games.

But with this season's early exit comes perhaps all sorts of exits from an organization that is always under pressure to excel.

And nobody applies that pressure harder than the man who sits in the owner's suite, George Steinbrenner.

So now the spotlight shifts to him for what surely figures to be a bitter off-season of soul-searching and personnel shuffling in the Bronx.

Will General Manager Brian Cashman, whose contract is up, be retained?

Will Manager Joe Torre, who has two years and $13 million left on his contract, be brought back?.

And will 37-year-old centerfielder Bernie Williams, a free agent, be re-signed?

Questions abound for a team that once seemed to have all the answers.

Williams was quick to say in the locker room after the game that the question of his retirement is better left for another time.

"Today is a day to reflect on our year," he said. "I have to think about my future, but today is not the day. Not the time. When the time does come, everybody will know my decision."

He looked around at the media mob and seemed to inhale the atmosphere as if to retain it as he heads into an unknown future.

"The older you get," he said, "the more you savor the moments."

Torre wasn't in the mood to savor anything.

"I'm just terribly disappointed," he said. "I don't think I've ever been more disappointed in the final score ... I wanted this very badly. ... It wasn't supposed to happen, evidently."

According to Torre, it was even tougher in a way than last year's debacle against the Red Sox.

"Last year was one of those gradual things," he said. "So yeah, I am more disappointed than last year only because I just felt deep down that we were going to find a way to get it done."

Disappointment came from all corners of the Yankee locker room. There was center fielder Bubba Crosby, who was trying to explain his collision with right fielder Gary Sheffield at the base of the wall in right-centerfield, a collision that allowed Adam Kennedy's fly ball to bounce free for a two-run triple in the Angels' three-run second inning.

"I didn't know [Sheffield] was there," Crosby said. "And he didn't know I was there. They hit it at just the right spot for them."

And in another corner was 22-year-old rookie second baseman Robinson Cano, who was called out in the fifth inning for running inside the base line on a play that would have loaded the bases for the Yankees.

"I was right on the line. I was right on top of the line," he kept saying as the play was brought up over and over again.

So will there be changes for the Yankees?

"There are always changes," Jeter said.

But not to the degree being discussed. Not to the Yankees.

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