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'They were good last year and they are better this year. We held on by our teeth last year.' - New York Yankees manager Joe Torre on playing the Oakland Athletics in the division series playoffs

End of Yankee Dynasty?

The Oakland Athletics are quick to admit they weren't aware of what it took to win playoff baseball last year. Oakland hopes a year of experience will help them beat the New York Yankees this year.

"We came very close to knocking the Yankees off last year - probably the closest of any team they played in the postseason," manager Art Howe said.

Because of Oakland's late-season success and New York's signs of aging this past month, some are wondering if this is the end of the Yankees' dynasty. Those same questions were asked last October, when New York entered the playoffs having lost 15 of 18 games.

"Nobody gave us a fighting chance last year because of the way we struggled in September," Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius said. "I felt good about our team last year, and I feel good right now."

Jordan makes fans happy

Fans in Detroit and Miami got what they want. Michael Jordan said Wednesday that he would not play in the Washington Wizards' first two preseason games, and then changed his mind later. Detroit sold more than 19,000 tickets for last night's game, and Miami sold about 18,000 for its game Saturday. "After I made my first announcement earlier today, I realized that many fans purchased tickets to these games to see me in my return," Jordan said.

The Most wanted ball

Barry Bonds hit it, and Alex Popov may have caught it, but Patrick Hayashi emerged from a scrum of Giants fans to become the happy owner of the ball the San Francisco slugger launched last Sunday for his 73rd homer. Hayashi is tight-lipped about what he'll do with the ball, valued at perhaps $1 million.

TV footage shows that Popov, from Berkeley, Calif., gloved the ball, but then was mobbed by a crush of clawing fans. "Once Major League Baseball identifies the individual with possession of the ball, that's the end of that," said Jorge Costa, a Giants' official.

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