NEW YORK -- When the clock struck midnight on Thursday, reality encroached on victory. The Yankees had just defeated the Phillies at the new Yankee Stadium to win the 27th World Series championship in franchise history when the free-agency filing period began.
Under George Steinbrenner, the Yankees are always moving forward, and indeed, a statement released by "The Boss" on Thursday reflected those sentiments.
"We'll enjoy this win," he said. "And the quest for number 28 begins."
Eligible players have two weeks to file for free agency, and during that time frame, they can talk financial numbers with other teams but can't field offers. Their originating clubs maintain exclusive negotiating rights for those 14 days, which this year will be midnight ET on Nov. 19.
The Yankees have seven potential free agents, including World Series heroes Hideki Matsui, Andy Pettitte and Johnny Damon.
The Phillies, who were unable to defend their 2008 World Series victory over the Rays, have nine potential free agents, including Scott Eyre, Chan Ho Park, Pedro Martinez and Brett Myers. They have two club options to exercise: Cliff Lee at $8 million with a $1 million buyout, and Pedro Feliz at $5 million with a $500,000 buyout.
Unlike his famous father, Hal Steinbrenner, now the club's managing general partner and co-chairman, said after the 7-3 victory that he didn't even want to think about the future just yet. He wanted to enjoy the moment.
Matsui had just been named World Series MVP for hitting .615 (8-for-13) with three homers and eight RBIs, six of them in the final game to tie a 49-year-old World Series record set by another Yankee, Bobby Richardson. The obvious question was whether Matsui will be back.
"There will be plenty of time to talk about that," Hal Steinbrenner said. "We'll have our organization meetings [in Tampa] and figure it all out."
Steinbrenner was 7 years old in 1977 when the Yankees defeated the Dodgers to win the first of seven World Series titles under his dad's stewardship. He was raised in the immediacy of now and was an eyewitness to his father stressing constant success and victory.
"Particularly when we lost in the World Series," he said. "He was right on it."
That has only happened four times since Steinbrenner bought the team from CBS in 1973, but after each defeat, global apologies were issued and efforts redoubled.
The decisions on Damon and Matsui will have an impact on Jorge Posada. Matsui, 35 and a former outfielder with bad knees, didn't play a game in the field this season as manager Joe Girardi used him 116 times as the designated hitter. Damon, who turned 36 on Thursday, is also reaching a stage because of leg injuries that he'd be better off playing left field less and DHing more. To punctuate that, Damon had to leave Wednesday night's game after three innings with a calf injury.
Posada, 38, caught 100 games this season, which would seem to be his norm as he grows older. He DHed only nine times, although those appearances would probably increase if Damon or Matsui don't return. For example, Gary Carter, the last catcher to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, played only 85 games behind the plate at 38, his last season as a Major Leaguer.
The Phillies really have a no-brainer when it comes to picking up Lee's option. The left-hander was 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five postseason starts and was the winning pitcher in his club's two World Series victories. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel also likes Feliz, who had a big home run in their Game 4 loss.
It was the first time in club history that the Phillies had been to the World Series in consecutive years, and there's no doubt where they want to be again next postseason, particularly with their core of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hammels all under contract.
"I expect to be back [to the World Series] next year," Lee said. "There's no reason why we shouldn't be."
Just ask the Steinbrenners. Despite far and away leading the Majors in player payroll for more than a decade, the Yankees last had been to the World Series in 2003 and hadn't won one since 2000 until the clincher on Wednesday night.
Injuries take their toll, as does what transpires in the personal life of every player. There then are the offseason decisions that sometimes do not work out very well.
For the Yankees, in the earlier part of the decade, the retirements of Paul O'Neill and Scott Brosius had a profound effect on the franchise. Steinbrenner's decision to replace Tino Martinez at first base with Jason Giambi and allow Pettitte to walk as a free agent to the Astros also turned out to be significant blunders.
The Yanks, as well, have their core tied up for the long term: Posada, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. But they only have stalwarts Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivers signed through 2010. Those talks (or lack thereof) ought to also be a major topic of conjecture during this offseason.
To the victor belong the spoils, the old cliché goes. But as the next two weeks evolve, the offseason could quickly spoil the victory.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.