Alex Rodriguez hopped up and down in the clubhouse, chilled by yet another Champagne shower from a different group of teammates, reveling in the bath as if it could cleanse some of his past.

The Yankees' new "horse," CC Sabathia, spoke about winning his first world championship in his first season as a Yankee. In still another part of the clubhouse, there was a horse of a different kind, a warhorse named Andy Pettitte who had come through with his record 18th postseason victory.

On the field, Hal Steinbrenner, the franchise's new patriarch, talked about the original, who was watching at home in Tampa, Fla., and very much enjoying the Yankees' 27th world championship, captured in the first year of a new stadium.

"It means a lot," Hal Steinbrenner said. "It has been nine years and he put his heart and soul into this team for over 30 years."

As the celebration continued early Thursday , general manager Brian Cashman talked outside the clubhouse about "mission accomplished." His manager, who put the No. 27 on his back as a reminder of what was expected, discussed delivering the goods to the family and organization that gave him a dream job. And an exacting one.

"This is what the Steinbrenner family has strived for year after year after year and has tried to deliver to the city of New York," Joe Girardi said. "George Steinbrenner and his family are champions. To be able to deliver this to The Boss, the stadium that he created and the atmosphere he has created around here, is very gratifying for all of us."

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The Big Four - Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter - cornerstones on the last title team and on this one, were overjoyed to win another one together. "Priceless," Rivera said of winning again with his longtime teammates. "It's wonderful. To be able to play with those bunch of guys . . . it's like working for a company with four or five people for your whole career. God bless those guys. Just wonderful."

It had seemed like much longer than nine years for the Yankees, who lost in seven to the Diamondbacks in 2001 and in six to the Marlins in 2003.

"I forgot how good it felt," said Jeter, who added to an already sterling postseason resume by hitting .407 (11-for-27) in the World Series. "This is outstanding. It's a long year. Couldn't ask for anything better."

Hideki Matsui certainly couldn't. In possibly his last game as a Yankee, he delivered an all-time game, going 3-for-4 with a home run, a double and six RBIs, which tied a World Series record.

"My first and foremost goal when I joined the Yankees was to win the world championship," said Matsui, named Series MVP after hitting .615 (8-for-13) with three homers, eight RBIs and a 2.027 OPS. "Certainly it's been a long road and a very difficult journey. But it's just . . . I'm just happy that after all these years, we were able to win and reach the goal that I came here for."

 

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Matsui, a pending free agent, said, "I love New York," but beyond that, he doesn't know his prospects of returning. With the Yankees looking to get younger and more athletic and with other options at designated hitter, those prospects appear slim. "I have no idea right now," he said.

The same goes for Pettitte, who, on three days' rest, gave the Yankees enough in Game 6 - four hits and three runs in 52/3 innings - to create as short a bridge as possible to Rivera.

Pettitte, Matsui and Johnny Damon are the big-name Yankees free agents Cashman will have to decide on in the coming weeks and months. The general manager said Thursday that the Yankees have not met to discuss those issues yet.

"I'm going to go home and talk to my wife and kids," said Pettitte, 37, when asked if he has thrown his last pitch off the Stadium mound. "I'm going to talk to the Yankees, ask them what they want to do and what they're thinking and then I can start trying to figure out exactly what I want to do . . . But I'm going to enjoy this, that's for sure."

There was a lot of that going around into the wee hours in the clubhouse, but also with an anticipatory look toward today's parade up the Canyon of Heroes.

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"Derek told me to be ready for the most incredible parade you've ever seen in your life," said Mark Teixeira, one of the big-money free agents who fit seamlessly into the clubhouse this year. "And I'm ready for it."

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