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August 11, 2005

Near Done
by Larry Mahnken

Let's not call 5½ games back the end of contention. It's not. 5½ games can be made up, it can be made up quickly. It's not over.

But this team has lost games it shouldn't have lost. They lost 2 of 3 to the White Sox, which may sound acceptable. But the Yankees faced the soft underbelly of the White Sox rotation, and gave up 2 runs in each of the three games. But they managed to score only 1 run in the last two games. This lineup, the best in baseball, could only scratch 2 runs.

That's pathetic, that's inexcusable.

The Yankees have lost games they had no business losing since coming out of Boston in a practical tie for first. They blew a game in Texas when Joe Torre left Wayne Franklin (career ERA 5.49 in over 300 innings) in the game with the tying run on third base. Result: home run, Yankees lose. They blew a game when Randy Johnson had to leave early leading 5-2, so Torre brought in Scott Proctor and Buddy Groom -- result: bases loaded, 1 out. Tom Gordon comes in and gives up a Grand Slam to Vlad, Yankees lose. If Torre was willing to use Gordon in the seventh, he should have used Gordon to start the seventh. Stop futzing around.

But even if they'd won those games, they'd still be in trouble. Chien-Ming Wang is likely done for the season, as is Kevin Brown, as is Carl Pavano. Randy Johnson is going to miss at least one start. Their rotation is now Mike Mussina, Shawn Chacon, Aaron Small, Al Leiter, and mystery meat.

They might not have enough offense to overcome that -- and when you're starting Tony Womack in right field, you probably don't. This is their own fault, of course, they should have seen this coming when they signed Womack and Wright, when they traded for a 41-year-old pitcher, when they decided in the offseason that Bernie Williams was OK in center. This is entirely their own fault.

But that doesn't make it any easier. I don't want to say, "I told you so." I want to say, "Woohoo! World Champions!" I criticize, but only because I'm a small man attempting to compensate for my deficiencies in the size of my genitalia. What I really want is for the Yankees to win.

It doesn't look like that's going to happen.