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July 16, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

For Jose Contreras, it's do or die time. With Orlando Hernandez back from Columbus, Kevin Brown on the way back, and rumors about some sort of Unit of Unusual Size being perhaps available for trade, Contreras needs to start pitching really, really well.

If he pitches okay, that will help the Yankees win, but it won't instill confidence in his ability to keep pitching okay. He needs to completely turn it around to if he wants people to forget his first half 5.64 ERA. Facing the Detroit Tigers, who have been one of the best hitting teams in baseball so far, he had his hands full.

He didn't do himself any favors to start off, walking the leadoff batter on five pitches -- the only strike being a foul ball on a pitch out of the strike zone.

But that would be the only walk Contreras would give up, and he'd go on to strike out seven in giving up only 1 run in 8 innings. Contreras had exactly the type of start he needs to save his season and career in pinstripes, and never was he more impressive than when he struck out the side after giving up a leadoff triple to Dimitri Young, and didn't allow the run to score.

His opponent, Jeremy "Chall" Bonderman (There's an inside joke for long-time RLYW readers...) and the Detroit bullpen held the Yankees to only five hits. But all five of them landed on the happy side of the fence, one each for Lofton, Jeter, Matsui, and two for the Inanimate Carbon-Rod. It wasn't the most balanced offensive attack, but it was more than good enough, and the Yankees won 5-1.

Over the All-Star break, Randy Johnson rumors shitfted away from the Bronx somewhat more towards Beantown (despite the fact that Arizona still hasn't put Johnson on the market).  The Boston rumors involve Nomar Garciaparra going to a contending team, which is certainly a bargaining chip the Yankees are incapable of matching, but if that's the trade, I've gotta say I don't mind Boston making it.  Yeah, Johnson/Schilling/Pedro would be a killer rotation in the postseason, but if Boston's giving up Nomar, I think that hurts their chances of making the postseason.  And they probably won't be able to keep Pedro next year, either--and they'll have a very talented, but very old front of the rotation next season.
Now, the immediate reaction to the rumors of Johnson going to the Yankees was hositility towards the Yanks and Yankee fans.  Such a sense of entitlement!  How dare we pursue another superstar!  The Yankees already have enough, and they already spend enough.
And while the Yankees are the most talent-laden team in baseball, the difference between them and their nearest competitors isn't nearly as large as the standings might make one believe.  If Boston was to add Randy Johnson for the right price (i.e., less than Nomar), I think it might make them better than the Yankees.  The same might be true for other teams, as well.
I've said many times before that the point of assembling a baseball team isn't to have "enough" talent, it's to win the World Series.  It doesn't matter how many you've won in the past, the point is to win going forward.
To win the World Series, you have to try and field the best team within your means (and if you really think this is the year, perhaps a bit beyond your means).  If the Yankees have the opportunity to accquire Randy Johnson, why shouldn't they?  Because other teams are more worthy of having a great player than the Yankees?
What a sense of entitlement you have!  Go Cheney yourself.