Day 6: Yankees | Extra Innings
TAMPA, Fla. – He'll be 39 years old on Opening Day, but he's as excited as a teen-ager. He's with his sixth big-league franchise, but he says he feels a little like a rookie. He is in the middle of an nine-figure contract, but you believe him when he says he is playing for more than money.
An often-brilliant career is winding down for Brown, and he has a chance at a perfect final scene as the Yankees' big offseason pitching acquisition. He joins a franchise where there is one single, solitary goal: to win the World Series.
Individual stuff doesn't matter. Getting close doesn't cut it. Everyone in the clubhouse, everyone in the front office is all about winning.
"Year in, year out they are used to winning, they expect to win," Brown said Friday from Yankees Spring Training. "What more could you ask for as a player? It is a great opportunity.
"We all know there are no guarantees in this game, no matter what kind of team you put together," he said. "But from the standpoint of controlling what you can control, which on a personal level is your effort as a player, your preparation and your desire and [as a franchise] your willingness to go out and make moves and bring people in to try to do the job, [the Yankees are] just about as good as you can ask for."
The big right-hander from Georgia threw batting practice Friday and looked good doing it. His importance to the Yankees cannot be understated. Everyone knows New York has a murderer's row for a lineup, but question marks remain for its rotation.
New York missed on Curt Schilling, who went to the Boston Red Sox. But they got Brown from the Los Angeles Dodgers, and if he can capture some of his past magic – from 1996 to 2001 he averaged 15 victories and a 2.53 ERA – the Yankees' rotation won't be far behind their archrivals.
Injuries limited Brown to just 10 starts in 2002. But he rebounded last season to post a 2.32 ERA and go 14-9 even though the Dodgers provided him just 3.7 runs a game of support.
"That's the key to our season, the pitching," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said. "I said that last year: pitching will win. And they've got great pitching in Boston. They got the guy I really wanted (Schilling). And then I got Brown, so that made it OK. I'll take Brown. I like Brown. I tell ya, I think he's going to be a great pitcher for us."
Yankees manager Joe Torre says a successful season from Brown will not only deliver victories but also help alleviate the pressure off the rest of his developing staff.
"He is very key for us," Torre said. "Coupling him with Mike Mussina allows the other three guys in the rotation to come along at their pace."
Whatever role Torre asks of him is fine with Brown. He's tasted a World Series championship before (Marlins, 1997) and is obsessed with doing it again.
"Obviously you push yourself to have personal success, but when that good year is just set in the midst of a good season with the team, it means that much more.
"A good season for yourself while the team is struggling, well, OK, you've done a good job but it doesn't have the meaning, it doesn't have the depth of when the team does well," Brown said.
He has found fame and incredible fortune, now he wants more. He is eager to show his reputation as a difficult teammate is mistaken – "such a bunch of crap," he said. "You can ask the guys I've played with." He wants to finish out his career playing for something meaningful.
No offense to Los Angeles, he said, but the Yankees provide everything he could dream of at this point. Another title. Another chance. A final chapter.
"From an excitement standpoint you have to be a little caught up in the expectations and the energy of being a part of a group like that," Brown said. "I have an opportunity to really accomplish something personally and as a team.
"They talk about money [as a motivator] but it is pride and your determination to do something competitively. I'm getting that here."
In exchange the pitching-desperate Yankees are getting a quality, veteran arm with a rookie's rah-rah enthusiasm attached.
It just may be a match made in pinstripe heaven.
Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. Send him a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.