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Published: Friday, 10/26/2001

Yankees will find way to win, as is their habit

Tomorrow, when the Arizona Diamondbacks take on the three-time defending World Series champions, the Diamondbacks must go in with the mind-set that they can accomplish the impossible.

Facing the greatness that is the New York Yankees, the Diamondbacks must take it one pitch at a time, one out at a time, one game at a time.

Arizona manager Bob Brenly and his players know what's coming: a whirlwind.

The Diamondbacks are prepared for the Yankees. They will start dominating pitchers Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, back-to-back. They open the series at home. They will do everything within their power to break the Yankees' chain of championships.

In the end, though, probably none of it will matter.

The Yankees are still the Yankees.

They may not have all the best players. But they still have the best team.

I didn't always like the Yankees. Their owner, George Steinbrenner, The Boss, is a bit too loud, a bit too proud.

When the Yankees needed another accomplished starter and pursued free-agent Mike Mussina, Steinbrenner was the highest bidder, and knew he would be.

I always thought the Yankees and their owner were too overbearing.

While they also pull on their pants one leg at a time, they somehow always win, even when they're supposed to lose.

This year, probably because several key players are nearing the end of their careers, the Yankees don't strike me as being as intimidating and dangerous.

Yeah, that's what might be most different about the Yankees this season.

When the Yankees trailed Oakland 0-2 in the American League Division Series, I didn't rejoice. I almost felt sorry for the Yankees because it seemed like I was watching the end of an era.

In past playoffs, the Yankees broke the spirit of their opponents - absolutely destroyed them.

This year they're more calculating and precise, like nine skilled surgeons going to work with scalpels. They win games step-by-step.

Whenever they need a big hit, someone gets it. Whenever they need a big play, someone makes it.

If it's not shortstop Derek Jeter making a great relay throw to nail an Oakland runner at home to turn that series around, it's rookie infielder Alfonso Soriano cranking a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to beat Seattle in Game 4 of the AL championship series. Or it's clutch left-hander Andy Pettitte bearing down to handcuff the Mariners in the clinching game.

It's why the Yankees defeated Seattle 4-1 despite the Mariners tying the major league record with 116 regular-season victories.

This year the Yankees approached the playoffs the way Bill Russell's Boston Celtics used to set up for the postseason.

The Celtics knew they were good enough to win championships, so they geared everything for the playoffs.

In the postseason, every game is magnified. It's easier to concentrate and focus when you treat every game like a must-win situation.

Translation: The Yankees are still the best team, even if they don't have all the best players.

John Harris is The Blade's sports columnist. Contact him by e-mail at jharris@theblade.com

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