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Changes on deck for Yankees after loss

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner promised "whatever changes are needed" one day after the Florida Marlins beat his team for the World Series title.

The Yankees, who have the largest player payroll in baseball at about $160 million, won four titles in five years between 1996 and 2000, but have lost in the World Series twice in the last three seasons.

"A lot of people are upset," center fielder Bernie Williams said. "There's going to be a lot of changes."

Indeed, changes are expected in owner Steinbrenner's world. Especially after such an upset, finished off by Josh Beckett and low-budget Florida, 2-0, in Game 6 Saturday night.

"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 count on it."

Roger Clemens, who went 17-9 this season, will retire, and starters Andy Pettitte and David Wells are eligible for free agency.

Center fielder Williams led the Yankees with a .400 average and five RBIs during the Series, but other high-profile players had disappointing performances. Jason Giambi, the first baseman/designated hitter with a $10.4 million-a-year contract, went 4 for 17 with one RBI, and the team batted .169 with runners on base.

Bench coach Don Zimmer said after Saturday's loss that he is quitting, angry with Steinbrenner's treatment of him.

Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre doesn't know if he wants to return, saying he wants to talk it over with his family. Stottlemyre made clear this was the most difficult of his eight years as the Yankees pitching coach.

"I just think to get this far, and accomplish as much as we have, we should feel better about this thing than we do. But unfortunately, because of somebody's attitude, we're considered failures," Stottlemyre said.

Steinbrenner repeatedly has backed manager Joe Torre, who led the team to four World Series titles. Steinbrenner has not given similar support to general manager Brian Cashman, whose contract extends through the 2004 season.

Torre has said in recent days that he hopes to speak with Zimmer after emotions calm, but Zimmer told the New York Daily News yesterday that he won't be back.

Torre was in his office yesterday but didn't speak with reporters, preferring to wait a few days. Hitting coach Rick Down appears to be a likely goner following a Series in which the Yankees hit .140 (7 for 50) with runners in scoring position -- .077 if you don't include Derek Jeter (2 for 4) and Hideki Matsui (2 for 7).

While some teams may be happy with winning pennants, the Yankees' 39th AL championship left them with an empty feeling -- with the team's World Series title total stuck on 26, Steinbrenner has become even more restless in the past year.

Available on the free agent market are outfielders such as Gary Sheffield, Vladimir Guerrero, and Mike Cameron, and pitchers such as Bartolo Colon.

Red Sox' Walker files Red Sox second baseman Todd Walker was one of 35 players who filed for free agency yesterday. In his first season with Boston, Walker played 144 games, hit .283, and drove in 85 runs. He hit .349 in the postseason with five home runs.

Less than 18 hours after winning the World Series, Marlins closer Ugueth Urbina and pitcher Rick Helling filed for free agency, as did Yankees backup catcher John Flaherty.

About 230 players potentially are eligible to file by the Nov. 9 deadline. Players cannot start talking money with clubs other than their own until Nov. 10.

Also filing were Texas outfielder Juan Gonzalez, Atlanta catcher Javy Lopez, Minnesota closer Eddie Guardado, Twins outfielder Shannon Stewart, Arizona outfielder Raul Mondesi, and San Francisco pitcher Sidney Ponson.

Good bet to return

Despite their loss, the Yankees are 3-1 favorites to win the 2004 World Series, according to Las Vegas sports books. The Stardust Race and Sports Book, Caesars Palace, and Las Vegas Sports Consultants see the Yankees as favorites to win their 27th World Series and their fifth since 1996.

Stardust and Las Vegas Sports Consultants have the Marlins at 20-1 to win next year's World Series, while Caesars has them at 15-1.

The Red Sox have the second-shortest odds of winning the World Series. Caesars Palace has Boston at 5-1.

Home, sweet home

Thousands of fans turned out in Dania Beach, Fla., to welcome the Marlins home, chanting and shouting until every player, coach and team official passed by for a quick wave, handshake, or picture. "It's got to be uplifting for the community," manager Jack McKeon said after he stepped off the plane. "This is a great story, maybe the story of the century." . . . Television ratings on Fox for the postseason were the best since 1995, even with a World Series that drew the third-lowest ratings average in history. The Marlins' victory in six games averaged 12.8 percent of viewers in the 108.4 million US households with televisions, according to Nielsen Media Research Inc. That's 8 percent better than last year's record-low 11.9 average and 3 percent ahead of the series between the Yankees and New York Mets in 2000, which averaged 12.4. Ratings for the first two playoff rounds were 53 percent higher than last year . . . Sources told the Chicago Tribune that Cito Gaston has interviewed twice with the Chicago White Sox in their quest to hire a new manager . . . Montreal Expos general manager Omar Minaya turned down an offer to return to the New York Mets for a position in their front office. Minaya was the Mets' senior assistant general manager prior to joining Montreal in 2002.

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