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September 8, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

CART MASTER: Bring out your dead!
MEDIA: Here's one.
CART MASTER: Ninepence.
YANKEES: I'm not dead!
MEDIA: Nothing. Here's your ninepence.
YANKEES: I'm not dead!
CART MASTER: 'Ere. He says he's not dead!
MEDIA: Yes, he is.
YANKEES: I'm not!
CART MASTER: He isn't?
MEDIA: Well, he will be soon. He's very ill.
YANKEES: I'm getting better!
MEDIA: No, you're not. You'll be stone dead in a moment.
CART MASTER: Oh, I can't take him like that. It's against regulations.
YANKEES: I don't want to go on the cart!
MEDIA: Oh, don't be such a baby.
CART MASTER: I can't take him.
YANKEES: I feel fine!
MEDIA: Well, do us a favour.
MEDIA: Well, can you hang around a couple of minutes? He won't be long.
CART MASTER: No, I've got to go to Kansas City. They've lost nine today.
MEDIA: Well, when's your next round?
CART MASTER: Thursday.
YANKEES: I think I'll go for a walk.
MEDIA: You're not fooling anyone, you know. Look. Isn't there something you can do?
YANKEES: (singing) I feel happy! I feel happy!
MEDIA: Ah, thanks very much.
CART MASTER: Not at all. See you on Thursday.
Nice job, Boomer.  Now get rid of the soul patch.Bernie Williams get his biggest hit of the year in the seventhReports of the Yankees' demise have been greatly exaggerated. Sure, it was an awful weekend, and only a masterful performance by David Wells prevented a sweep, but lost in all the finger-pointing and eulogizing of the Yankees, people lost sight of the tiny detail that, win or lose Sunday, this miserable disastrous embarrassment of a team had THE BEST RECORD IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE. They're not eeking by in a weak division, they're fighting off what may be the best team in baseball. But, by all means, let's judge them by two weeks.

To be honest, I did panic a bit after Saturday's debacle. Those who know me (and most who read me) know that I take my Yankees seriously--probably too seriously--and invest myself emotionally in their successes and failures. When they lost in the Series in 2001, my grief was had to shake, and their unceremonious exit brought out an unhealthy burst of frustration and rage, as my coffee table can attest to (it can also tell you what it's like to fly). But in a regular season game, in a slump, I'm much more capable of using reason to soothe my nerves and de-panickify myself. I was able to do that Saturday, and it made me more comfortable going into Sunday's game. Even if they lost, they were still in first, even if they lost, they still had the best record in the AL.

Of course, I had to work, and was forced to wait until 8:00 to come home and watch the game, though my pleasure was greatly decreased by a coworker who decided it would be a good idea to tell me that they won at about 5:30 (services are Tuesday, in lieu of flowers, please don't tell me the outcome of the game unless I ask). Still, I didn't know how they won, was hoping for a blowout, but instead got to see David Wells bounce back from an extended slumpto stop the surging Sox in their tracks. Boomer's back was obviously not ailing him as much today as in recent starts, but I'm still uncomfortable with him starting in the postseason. But today, in as close to a must-win game as the Yankees have had this season, he was fantastic.

But, of course, you can't say that they Yankees have turned it back around yet. Despite Bernie's homer, the Yankees' offense is still slumping, and they need to get that turned around by October--it's their bread and butter, and I'm sure that come the ALDS, they'll be putting runs on the board again at an acceptable rate. More satisfactory is the Mariners' loss to Baltimore (you wanna talk collapse? Try 6-12), which puts the M's five behind the Yankees' in the loss column, and--I'll say it--makes the Bombers a lock for the postseason. Another Oakland loss in Tampa Bay gives the Yankees a 3 game lead in the loss column for Home Field Advantage, though a quick look at the Home/Away splits for the Yanks makes one question if that's a good thing.

As Grady Little said after the game, there's a big difference, especially this late in the season, between a 1 game lead in the loss column and a 3 game lead. This win by the Yankees' was big, there's no doubt about that. It greatly improves the Yankees' chances of holding the Sox off for the division title in what is certain to be a spectacular which the loser will almost certainly get in anyway. Ahh yes, the Wild Card, one of Bud Selig's good moves, if by good, you mean not a totally idiotic one. It's had its good side (making late season baseball more interesting for more teams) and its bad side (destroying great pennant races by giving the second place team a back door). I'd be more in favor of an expanded 32-team league (Expos in Washington, and expansion teams in Portland and New York/New Jersey) with eight 4-team divisions, but that's probably something to talk about in the offseason.

And, completely unrelated to baseball or the Yankees, both of the football teams I root for--the Giants and the Bills, won Sunday. So it was a good day all around.