Many Top Yanks Will Be Going, Going, Gone

Several stars - including David Cone, Paul O'Neill and Joe Girardi - may not be back next year.Fans of the Atlanta Braves - who are screaming "Break up the Yankees!" after the Bronx Bombers won their third world championship in four years - may get their wish in the off-season.

Several top Yank stars - including pitcher David Cone, right-fielder Paul O'Neill and catcher Joe Girardi - may not be back in pinstripes next year, thanks to free agency.

Fans are already nervous that the "team of the decade" will be broken up.

"They should renew all the contracts," said Queens student Diana Loaza, 17. "They've proven themselves to be winners."

The biggest loss would be O'Neill, a .290 hitter over his 15-year major-league career and a solid presence in his seven years as a Yankee.

This season, he hit .285 with 19 homers and 110 runs batted in.

Yankee owner George Steinbrenner can pay the 36-year-old O'Neill $6.5 million next year or let him become a free agent.

"O'Neill is such a clutch player," said Ewald Parolari, 43, a New Jersey businessman. "He always comes through when the team needs him."

And then fans have to worry about losing Cone, the former Met whose 12-9, 177-strikeout season included a perfect game and two key post-season wins.

"They have to re-sign Cone," said Ernie Salazar, 40, a mortgage broker from The Bronx. "He's the most valuable of all."

Steinbrenner might let Girardi - and his $3.5 million salary - go in hopes that backup backstop Jorge Posada is ready for full-time catching duties.

As with O'Neill, Steinbrenner will have to decide whether to renew the contract of designated hitter Chili Davis, who stands to make $4.6 million next year if the Yankees exercise their option. Davis his 19 homers this season. He has said he'll retire if the Yankees do not pick up his contract.

And the Yankee front office will also have to decide what to do with Darryl Strawberry, Luis Sojo, utility man Jim Leyritz and relievers Mike Stanton and Allen Watson, who are all free agents after the season.

Sports experts believe the World Champion Bombers will take the field for the 2000 season in fine form.

"There'll always be a few off-season changes, but Steinbrenner has shown he's committed to winning and keeping this team together," said Brandon Steiner, an agent who specializes in player marketing.


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