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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Yanks focused on championships, not 'chickens'

Justice: Yanks are best at blocking out noise

Yanks focused on championships, not 'chickens'
It's actually not important what Mets reliever Frank Francisco was attempting to say when he used the word "chickens" to describe the Yankees.

It doesn't matter. Not to the Yankees, one of the most unflappable teams in Major League Baseball.

These Yankees are the same every day. That's their greatest strength.

OK, all those home runs and that pitching are pretty important, too. But the Yankees have the kind of makeup every other general manager and manager is striving to get.

Whether they're playing a mid-season game in Cleveland or a deciding game in the World Series, the Yankees approach it all the same way.

I'm guessing you know who sets this kind of tone for the Yankees. Yes, The Captain.

Derek Jeter isn't a first-ballot Hall of Famer just because of those five championships and 3,179 hits.

He's also admired for his professionalism, consistency, work ethic and focus. Few players in history have been as able to zero in on what's important and ignore all the other noise.

The genius of Joe Torre and Joe Girardi as managers is an ability to keep the noise associated with the Yankees -- tabloids, talk shows, gossip, drama, etc. -- out in the hallway.

They transformed the way a lot of people viewed the Yankees. Once upon a time, they were the franchise we loved to hate.

How can you hate Derek Jeter? Come on, Red Sox Nation, you know you don't really hate him.

Torre and Girardi have always wanted their players to get the lion's share of the credit. Indeed, the players have deserved it.

When you think of the Yankees now, you don't think of feuds and tabloid wars and all that stuff.

You think of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte and Bernie Williams. Even Roger Clemens, who had his moments with the Red Sox, bought in completely.

The Yankees changed the way a lot of people see The Rocket because, for the first time, he was not bigger than the franchise.

No one -- not Derek Jeter and certainly not Roger Clemens -- is bigger than the New York Yankees.

I joked with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman that his club was no longer fun to cover, that he'd succeeded in eliminating all the side shows.

"That's the plan," he said.

Even Alex Rodriguez has bought into being a Yankee. He almost never makes news off the field anymore.

There are plenty of other clubs with this approach. The Rangers don't get rattled. Neither do the Phillies and Cardinals.

There surely are plenty of others, but those are the teams that have spent plenty of time on the game's biggest stage the past few years.

They worry about it themselves and don't give a rip about others. They show up, prepare and play.

They pay virtually no attention to what's said or written. When someone asked Jeter the other day if he'd been paying attention to the National League teams the Yankees would be playing, he said he hadn't.

Jeter said he barely paid attention to the American League, that his focus was on playing that day's game and not much else.

That's why the Yankees paid no attention to Frank Francisco. First, a bunch of them probably had no idea who he was. Second, it didn't have anything to do with them.

Can you imagine Pettitte getting fired up because some other player said something about the Yankees? Mark Teixeira?

That stuff just doesn't register with the Yankees. As reporters went looking for reactions to Francisco's words, Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano walked past a group of reporters and asked, "What's up, chickens?"

Jeter smiled at a copy of the New York Post with his head atop a chicken.

"I've been treated worse," he said.

All around baseball, people seem to be running their mouths. One day, it's Dusty Baker and Derek Lowe. Another day, it's Joe Maddon and Davey Johnson.

There was a time when no team made more of this kind of news than the Bronx Bombers. Now, they're just about winning. Nothing else matter. Talk is cheap. Tabloids are irrelevant. Winning is everything.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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