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Friday, October 22, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 44

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A series for the century

Braves and Yanks duke it out in this year's Fall Classic

1999 World Series Preview
By Anna Sivadasan

Expectations are one thing. Delivering on those expectations is something else.

Heading into the 1999 baseball season, many prognosticators envisioned a matchup between the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees in the last World Series of this century.

During the course of the regular season, both lived up to their respective preseason billings as the two best teams in baseball. And while both teams had their share of challenges in the postseason, they have both survived to play each other in the 1999 Fall Classic which begins Saturday night at Turner Field.

The Braves -- the so-called team of the '90s -- against the tradition-laden and championship-stocked Yankees.

Aside from a subway series between the two New York teams (the Mets fell short of a World Series appearance after losing to the Braves in the National League Championship Series), baseball fans couldn't have asked for a better World Series matchup than the Braves and Yanks in late October.

Although it's been three years since the two have met in the World Series, the names and faces are all too familiar:

The managerial styles of a Bobby Cox vs. a Joe Torre. The MVP abilities of Chipper Jones against Derek Jeter. The unsung heroes like Brian Jordan and Bernie Williams. Ted Turner against George Steinbrenner. The relatively new ballpark of Turner Field against historic Yankee Stadium.

There are stories on both sides that will be beaten to death in the next few days.

This marks the Braves' fifth appearance this decade in the Fall Classic. And it is the Yankees' second consecutive trip and their third in four years.

Despite their differences, the Braves and Yankees have reached this point on one common thread -- great starting pitching. While great players will be everywhere in this series, the starting pitching, like it usually does, will decide the title.

While Atlanta's Cy Young starters are the more celebrated of the two staffs, the Yankees have shown in the last two postseasons that they don't have to take a back seat to anyone.

And although Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine did not perform up to their own lofty standards this season, the Braves are still built around their starting pitchers, and they would not be playing for the title without them.

Maddux was outstanding in the Game 1 win over the Mets in the NLCS. Smoltz came out of the bullpen to save the Game 2 win and Glavine threw a shutout in Game 3, which was played in New York's Shea Stadium.

In addition to the presence of that trio, Kevin Milwood was the Braves' best pitcher this season, and was a major reason Atlanta survived the first round series against the Astros.

Then there is the "Fab Four" version of the Yankees' starters: Orlando Hernandez, David Cone, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.

Cone is known as one of the game's best money pitchers and Pettitte has also had the propensity to deliver big pitching performances in big games. He clinched the title last season and has been outstanding in his two postseason starts this year.

Hernandez is quietly gaining the reputation as a big-game pitcher after compiling a 4-0 record and 0.97 ERA in the last two Yankee postseasons. Clemens hasn't had the playoff success the other three have, but he still has the ability to dominate a game against anybody.

Unlike previous years, this season's World Series is a tough one to call because both teams match up well against each other. The starting pitching is relatively even. Mariano Rivera and John Rocker are two of the game's most dominant and outstanding closers.

The Yankees do have the better overall bullpen and thus have the edge in middle relief. More importantly, though, New York has more weapons on offense.

The Yanks have the luxury of pitching around Chipper Jones, and they can also choose to pitch carefully to Jordan. Take away those two guys in the middle of the Atlanta lineup, and the Braves will have trouble scoring runs.

On the other side, the Yankees' lineup is loaded with guys who can beat anyone. Jeter and Williams are the two obvious guys who can win games by themselves, but Paul O'Neill and the designated hitter duo of Chili Davis and Darryl Strawberry can also be threats on offense.

At the bottom of the lineup, guys like Scott Brosius (the 1998 World Series MVP) and Ricky Ledee are both capable of coming up with clutch hits in big games.

And, of course, all baseball fans -- and especially Braves' fans -- know how Jim Leyritz turned the 1996 Series around with one swing off Mark Wohlers. With Leyritz's playoff history, the Braves may want to face Jeter rather than Leyritz late in a game in this series.

The Yankees have the better team -- not by much, but just enough to get by Atlanta in six or seven games. In the end, championship No. 25 will go to the team of the century -- at the expense of the team of the 90s.
 

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