NEW YORK -- George Steinbrenner did not appear in the Yankees' clubhouse after the Florida Marlins won the World Series, but his presence was so thick that he might as well have been standing in every corner, glaring at the players and staff.
Bench coach Don Zimmer stood outside the coaches' room and took a shot at Steinbrenner while asserting he would not return for 2004. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre talked about the increasingly oppressive expectations of Steinbrenner and the Yankees fans: Win the World Series or you stink. General manager Brian Cashman was asked whether he was still with the team, and all the players answered questions about the extensive turnover Steinbrenner might effect in the offseason.
"We're usually busy in the winter, and this will be no different," said Cashman, but his words sounded empty. Throughout the organization, there is a wide assumption that Steinbrenner -- now three World Series removed from his last championship -- will have a Pompeii eruption.
Zimmer, the bench coach for manager Joe Torre for eight seasons, figured to be one of the first casualties, but Zimmer beat him to the punch, saying he would not return.
Zimmer had intended to go out throwing verbal haymakers at Steinbrenner, but when he woke Saturday morning, his wife Soot was crying, concerned that Zimmer would depart the Yankees in an unseemly fashion. "Don't make yourself a little man," she told him, and so Zimmer was reserved in his remarks about Steinbrenner, mostly.
"The only thing I can say is that for 25 years, Steinbrenner has called me 'Zimmer' and I've called him 'The Boss,'" Zimmer said. "He's no longer The Boss. He's just Steinbrenner."
Zimmer said he is open to the idea of coaching again, and similarly, Stottlemyre -- for eight years the pitching coach of the Yankees -- might want to coach again. But he is going to take a few days to cool off, to consider his options. Roger Clemens is retiring and Andy Pettitte could depart the team as a free agent, and Stottlemyre said these circumstances could weigh into his decision whether to come back.
While winning four championships in five years from 1996 to 2001, Stottlemyre said, the team created a monster, and "that makes it hard for us to live up to the so-called standards" of "George and the baseball fan."
"It's terrible," Stottlemyre added. "It stung a little bit hard, the feeling everybody has ... Even though we got beat, we should feel better than we do."
Hitting coach Rick Down will not return, and some sources in the organization say first base coach Lee Mazzilli -- a managerial candidate with the Baltimore Orioles -- almost certainly will be replaced.
Cashman has a year left on his contract, and even if he is retained, he could be stripped of his power. Almost all members of the organization expect that Steinbrenner will keep Torre, who has a contract through the 2004 season, but several executives won't rule out anything. "Who knows with George?" one official said. "It all depends on how crazy he goes."
Pettitte is feeling a strong lure to his home state of Texas, and if Stottlemyre follows Clemens out the door, two of his biggest reasons for staying will be gone. David Wells' inability to pitch past the first inning of Game 5 will greatly hurt his chances for being brought back. The Yankees probably will need to fill a couple of holes in the rotation, and try to unload some of their less-trusted pitchers, such as Jeff Weaver and Chris Hammond.
Whoever holds the power to make the baseball decisions will have to decide whether to shift second baseman Alfonso Soriano to the outfield, or perhaps trade him altogether. Third baseman Aaron Boone was a major disappointment, except for one moment at the end of the American League Championship Series. The World Series demonstrated a Yankees need for more contact hitters, which was one of the strengths of the organization in the championship years.
But no one seemed ready to think about this Saturday night. Instead, there was a great sense of weariness. Torre spoke to the team tearfully, thanking them -- "because he knew, better than anybody, what we went through [with Steinbrenner] this season," one player said.
"Everybody is very upset," said Bernie Williams, who has been with the organization longer than any other player. "The front office and the people in charge design this team not to play well in the postseason but to win."
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.