Yankees awed by MVP Jeter

Just 26 years old, Derek Jeter has more awards than most major-leaguers win in a lifetime.

Capping what for him was a subpar season, the New York Yankees shortstop hit a game-tying homer in Thursday night's 4-2 win over the Mets and was voted the World Series' most valuable player.

"What can you say?" Jeter said as he accepted the MVP trophy. "This is a group of MVPs.

" Every game, we have a new hero. You can't say enough about this team.

"You could pick a name out of the hat. Vizcaino in the first game. O'Neill, Stanton, our bullpen, Luis tonight. That's how you win. It's not just one guy."

Reliever Mike Stanton would disagree with Jeter.

"The guy's incredible," he said. "It doesn't matter if you bat him first or second, that guy's going to hack it.

I don't think there's any doubt he's the leader of this team."

Jeter has become the Yankees' central character, a clutch performer with a Mona Lisa smile who seems to get better when the games become more important.

"This kid, right now -- the tougher the situation, the more fire gets in his eyes," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "You don't teach that.

"It's something you have to be born with."

He's played just five major-league seasons and already has four World Series rings.

He won the American League rookie of the year award in 1996, helping the Yankees to their first championship in 18 years.

This summer, he was voted MVP of the all-star game in Atlanta.

And his best years are still ahead.

He batted .409 (9-for-22) with two solo homers in the five-game win over the Mets, the Yankees' third straight Series title, a feat only three teams accomplished before.

He extended his Series hitting streak to 14 games, matching the third-longest in history.

Only Marquis Grissom, who hit in 15 straight Series games from 1995-97 and Hank Bauer with 17 games from 1956-58 had longer streaks.

Jeter's arrival in the Bronx mirrors that of Joe DiMaggio, who joined the Yankees in 1936 and won Series titles in his first four seasons.

"There's something about this kid," Torre said before Thursday's game. "I remember saying that he was going to be our shortstop.

"Then I heard him on an interview and he sort of cleaned up what I said. He basically said, `I'm going to get an opportunity to be the shortstop here, to win the job. Wow!'

"That's a 20-year-old kid putting it in a pretty good light."

In Game 2, he doubled and scored what appeared to be an insignificant run in the eighth inning.

It turned out to be the difference in the Yankees' 6-5 win.

In Game 4, with the Mets surging following their 4-2 win Tuesday night, he homered on Bobby Jones's very first pitch of the game, and the Mets never recovered.

"It was huge for us," Jeter said, the closest he comes to a boast.

In Thursday night's clincher, he extended his Series hitting streak with a sixth-inning homer off Al Leiter that tied the game at 2.

Whenever the Yankees are great, there always is that star who comes through.

"I think the pressure has always been on the Yankees because the Babe Ruths and the DiMaggios and the Mantles and Berras and Elston Howards have set for us a very high bar," Torre said.

"The Yankees were always this group of elite players, for good reason: They won a lot.

"Pressure is always on us."

Jeter handles that pressure the same way the others did, and he has the hardware to prove it.

By Hal Bock