MINNEAPOLIS - Through the prism of a high-def screen, it was easy to connect the delirious present to a dynastic past. Tino Martinez watched Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira unleash their epic swings, watched men celebrate like boys, and immediately he summoned a time when happy October endings were an everyday Bronx tale.
Martinez saw A-Rod hit the ninth-inning homer off Joe Nathan that he had hit off Byung-Hyun Kim in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series. He saw Teixeira hit the 11th-inning homer that Derek Jeter had hit off Arizona's Kim in the 10th.
More than anything Friday night, the first baseman who won four championships under Joe Torre saw a contender morph into something entirely familiar under Joe Girardi.
"They had gotten away from being the Yankees for a little while," Martinez said Saturday by phone, "but now I think they're back."
The Yankees are back because of their first game-ending hit in the postseason in five years, back because of their first game-ending homer in the postseason since Aaron Boone knocked out the Red Sox in 2003.
The Yankees are alive and well in the American League playoffs because their A-Rods, Teixeiras and Jeters of today are as comfortable with the stakes as the Tinos, Bernies, Brosiuses and Jeters of yesterday.
"I still believe this team has more talent on paper than we had when we won those championships," said Martinez, who first made that concession in spring.
"But the thing I was concerned about was whether they would come together. Would they play together? Would they develop that attitude we had when we were winning in October?
"And I think they've answered those questions. You can't get tested any more than they were [Friday] night. They had to have that game. That was as close to a must-win game as you'll see, because you can't let Minnesota go back to their place with momentum and a chance to close out the series."
Tino's teams almost always seized those moment-of-truth nights in the division series and ALCS, games against the A's, Indians, Rangers, Mariners, whoever.
The Yankee teams of the recent past?
"Those teams probably would've folded in the ninth," Martinez said. "They would've packed it in. And it's been demoralizing to a former player to see other teams celebrating at our expense the last few years, especially when you know how Jeter and Mariano [Rivera] are feeling.
"But this team never quits. It's reminiscent of what we did."
Of course, these Yankees make more money than those Yankees. A lot more.
At the time they closed out the Mets in the 2000 Subway Series, claiming their final title under Torre, the Yanks never had signed a player to a contract worth $100 million or more.
The 2009 Yankees have players working on a $305 million deal (A-Rod), a $189 million deal (Jeter), a $180 million deal (Teixeira) and a $161 million deal (CC Sabathia). A.J. Burnett had to settle for eight-figure crumbs at $82.5 million.
"But once those guys signed the big contracts," Martinez said, "they put that away and made their whole focus about winning. I don't think some of the guys they brought in the last few years had that same feeling.
"A lot of guys are just happy to get the money, and then whatever happens on the field happens. Not these guys. You take CC and A.J. and Teixeira, and throw in [Nick] Swisher, and put them with the four guys who were there when I played; that's a great combination."
If Martinez wasn't naming the recruits who took their scholarships as a free ride, it's clear Carl Pavano, the Twins' Game 3 starter, was one of them.
Pavano will remain the moping face of a dark time in Yankeedom. That was then, this is now.
In Game 2, the new guys and the not-so-new guys turned the new Yankee Stadium upside down.
Martinez connected with the feeling. He overcame his own Jorge Posada moment - a benching in the middle of the '96 World Series - to hit his way to a permanent place in Yankee lore.
The dramatic homer off Kim. The grand slam off Mark Langston in the '98 World Series after the plate umpire, Richie Garcia, granted him a fourth strike.
"So I knew exactly what Alex and Teixeira were feeling when they rounded the bases," Martinez said. "It's a feeling that lasts forever, and it's almost impossible to explain. When you're the guy, it all happens so fast, and you're almost numb. It's like an out-of-body experience."
Rodriguez needed one of those more than any figure in the sport. He was hurting the Twins with singles, small-ballin' the small ballers, until finally doing to Nathan what the old third baseman, Brosius, had done to Trevor Hoffman and Kim.
"Now the monkey's off Alex's back, and he's going to have a great postseason run," Martinez said. "Other teams have to be saying, 'Oh no, this is the last guy we want to see hot this time of year.' There's no break in that Yankee lineup."
Meaning there might be no break for the poor-sap pitchers assigned to stop the walk-offs and shelve Burnett's pies.
"I still love seeing the Yankees celebrate," Martinez said. "You've got guys making $20 million a year and others making the minimum, and they're all jumping up and down like 12-year-old kids."
Men to boys, boys to men. Tino's teams knew how and when to make the appropriate transitions, and in the fall of 2009, Martinez sees and feels the same thing.
The Yankees are back to being the Yankees, and they're making all dynastic alums proud.