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July 14, 2005

The Importance of Taking Care of Business
by Sean McNally

Three wins and 10 losses. If the Yankees fall short of the playoffs, they'll only have themselves and their play against the dregs of baseball to blame.

In the first half, New York posted just three wins in 10 games against the woeful Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Similarly, the team went 1-5 versus Kansas City and Milwaukee as part of their "Road Trip from Hell," including a three-game sweep in Kaufman Stadium.

Going into tonight's game against Boston, the Yankees stand 2.5 games back from the Red Sox and just two in the loss column, but their miserable record against the most miserable in the league will leave them and their fans to wonder what might have been.

Last year, New York carried a 55-31 record and a seven-game lead on Boston, who possessed a 48-38 mark themselves. This year the Boston hold is just one-half game better at 49-38, but the Yankees are 46-40 - an astounding NINE (9!) games worse than in 2004.

Where’s the difference? It's in a 7-16 vs. Tampa, KC, Milwaukee and Baltimore.

If the Yanks had played up to expectations versus the weaker teams, which is what teams that fancy themselves contenders do, then essentially 2005 would look a lot like 2004 did.

Consider this, the Yankees finished 15-4 against Tampa and 5-1 versus the Royals last year. So let’s for sake of argument (and wishcasting), flip-flop their records against those teams this year - giving them a 7-3 mark against the D-Rays, rather than its current 3-7 and a 3-0 mark against Kansas City.

Hypothetically, that adds 10 wins to the Yankees record placing it at 56-30: one game better than last year! A 56-30 mark that would be good for a 7.5 game lead in the East, eight games in the loss column and second-best in the majors behind the scalding hot Chicago White Sox.

What's this all mean? Well, it proves that the Yankees should have listened to Washington Wizards head coach Eddie Jordan.

In basketball's version of the dog days of winter, Jordan uttered one of my new favorite quotes after being questioned about his team’s success against weaker opponents.

"We have to be like squirrels. We have to harvest our nuts right now, build up some wins for when things get thin later." - January 12, 2005

Well, things are looking thin coming up for New York going into an 11-game road trip where they will face Boston, Texas and the Angels - teams that are decidedly better than Tampa or Milwaukee.

Between now and Sept. 1, the Yankees play 47 games - of which 31 are against teams that are over .500.

These are the thin times, and the Yanks may not have the nuts to get through them. If they stumble in the next month and a half and fall short of the playoffs, they only have themselves to blame.