Tue, Oct 28, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Focus moves off-field after World Series

REUTERS , NEW YORK

The day after the Florida Marlins beat the New York Yankees to win the 99th World Series, the attention shifted from on-field to off-field for both teams.

The Marlins will celebrate their second World Series championship in their 11-year history, but not for long as they have tough decisions to make to ensure the team does not dismantle, as was the case after their 1997 triumph.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, meanwhile, has already made it clear he expects better from his team next year.

Florida manager Jack McKeon, who finally picked up a World Series ring at 72, will likely be back but his team may have to change, at least a little.

"These are a great group of guys," McKeon told reporters on Sunday. "I'm not thinking about next year yet but how could anybody leave this team?"

The answer to that question is easy, though, as the Marlins have several players entering option years.

The team spent lots of money to win the championship in 1997 and then proceeded to dismantle the roster in cost-saving moves. While owner Jeffrey Loria says that will not happen this time, there will definitely be changes by next April.

Florida is expected to keep its payroll at around US$54 million next year but estimates it could cost as much as US$80 million to keep the team intact.

General manager Larry Beinfest may pass on signing deals with three players who are free agents, catcher Ivan Rodriguez, second baseman Luis Castillo and closer Ugueth Urbina.

In addition, third baseman Mike Lowell, first baseman Derrek Lee, right fielder Juan Encarnacion and starting pitcher Brad Penny, who won two games in the World Series, are eligible for arbitration.

Payroll is not a problem for the free-spending Yankees, who lavished three times as much as the Marlins (approximately US$160 million) this season.

Not winning the World Series for that kind of money, however, is a problem for Steinbrenner.

"Of course, I was disappointed, but we will be meeting soon to make whatever changes are needed to bring back a stronger, better team for New York and our fans," Steinbrenner said in a statement. "You can bet on it."

Fans and media are betting there will be changes in the front office to start with.

Bench coach Don Zimmer has already said he will not return next season and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre says he wants time to rethink his plans.

Hitting coach Rick Down is expected to pay the price for New York's poor post-season hitting and even manager Joe Torre, who has won six pennants and four World Series in eight seasons, is not completely certain to return after several public spats with Steinbrenner this season.

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