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September 3, 2004

Back in Business
by Larry Mahnken

The recent Yankees collapse has, of course, not been so much a collapse as it's been a crazy surge by the Red Sox. Oh yeah, they lost six of seven, and they lost 22-0, but if Boston had only been hot instead of crazy-insane hot, the Yankees would still have quite a big lead. And, of course, 3½ ain't so bad a lead, either. It just sucks in comparison to a 10½ game lead. Or a 4½ game lead, for that matter.

Anyway, when the problem is not so much with your team as it is with the fact that the team you're battling in the standings is seemingly incapable of losing, it's a kind of hard to fix things. You just have to go forward with the expectation that, eventually, the Red Sox will lose a game, and normalcy will return. Let go of the 10½ game lead, because it's gone and ain't coming back. Don't press too hard, because, as I said, there's not that much you can do about it, and if you try too hard, you might make things worse. All you can do is go out and win, and it won't matter one damn bit what the Red Sox do.

While the collapse has been more Boston's success than the Yankees' failure, the fact remains that they hadn't been playing very well at all for two weeks entering Tuesday's debacle. Maybe, from that perspective, something positive came out of the disaster, it woke the Yankees up to the fact that they're not playing as well as they should. It relieved Joe Torre of the difficult task of calling attention to what's gone wrong, and trying to fix it, and made every player realize that everything went wrong, and to fix it, they need to play better.

And so they have. While the newspapers and sports shows have been decrying the Yankees' lack of starting pitching, they've gotten two spectacular -- not good, spectacular -- starts in a row from Orlando Hernandez and Jon Lieber. They got off the pavement with a solid win on Wednesday, and last night, they administered a much-needed beating. They took the series the hard way -- the really, really hard way -- and won the season series 4-2. 22-0 was an abberation, and they proved it to everyone, themselves in particular.

While the Yankees were getting off their asses against the Indians, the Angels were getting theirs handed to them by the Red Sox. Now, it's tough to decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand the Yankees are still only 3½ up, but on the other, their postseason berth is essentially secured. On someone else's hand, so is Boston's. Ask me again in a month. There might be other hands out there.

Now the Yanks head into the weekend against the Orioles, who they've been beating on this year. If they keep that up, things should be all right.

* * *

OK, that homer screwed things up, but Steve Karsay's return last night was pretty much everything the Yankees could have hoped for. His fastball was in the low-90's, his curve ball was breaking hard, and I think the Yankees' long middle-relief nightmare is coming to an end.

* * *

Inexplicably, Joe Torre is giving Esteban Loaiza another start in one of the doubleheader games on Labor Day. I would have given Sturtze or Halsey the start personally. Hell, I've got the day off from work, I'm available.

* * *

Breaking up is hard to do. You only hurt the ones you love, the ones you shouldn't hurt at all.