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August 24, 2005

Newsday: Playoffs in the cards for Yanks, count on it
by Larry Mahnken

1. Even with Kevin Brown and Carl Pavano out, the Yankees still have a $183-million payroll, or a lot more than anyone else.

This is no more relevant now than it was before.

2. Although the clubhouse may not be what it was without Brown (aka Mr. Giggles), the rotation is actually much better.

Not true. From the Sunday start against Oakland in May until he hurt his back in Minnesota, Brown was pitching quite well. They'd be much better if they still had that Brown.

3. If Jaret Wright can put a healthy six weeks together (and he's done it once or twice before), he'll be a bigger help than you think.

Well, he could be. Jaret Wright healthy ? Jaret Wright good. But if he keeps doing what he did in his last two starts, on anything like it, that would be a huge help.

4. Turns out the Yankees were by far the biggest trade-deadline winners with their deal for little-heralded Shawn Chacon. Joe Torre called Chacon "a huge get."

Well, maybe. Chacon could also have an ERA of 5.00 the rest of the season. That wouldn't be much of a "get".

5. Nobody else made even a mid-sized get.

I suppose. But the other teams were probably in better shape to begin with. And the Red Sox are replacing a lot of Kevin Millar's ABs with John Olerud and Roberto Petagine, and swapped Tony Graffanino for Mark Bellhorn. They got better.

6. While we still can't say he's underpaid (at least not straight-faced, we can't), Alex Rodriguez is under-appreciated for all he does. Besides his offensive exploits, he hasn't made an error in 52 games. He is MVP-worthy.


7. None of the other wild-card contestants has anyone even remotely like A-Rod.

Well, no. But the Yankees don't have anyone remotely like Rich Harden this season, and their bullpen isn't remotely like the Indians'.

8. Or, for that matter, Derek Jeter or Gary Sheffield.

Jhonny Peralta has been much better than Jeter this year, Crosby just as good. Travis Hafner is better than Sheffield.

9. Sheffield hasn't mentioned deferred payments in more than a month.

This is true. I don't know how this helps the team compete against the Indians and A's, though...

10. He's even occasionally running out grounders.

Wow. That'll help. Maybe he'll get on base once, maybe twice the rest of the season more than otherwise.

11. Jason Giambi may not be MVP material anymore. But he's weathered the worst of things, abdicated his "Mr. Steroids" title to Raffy Palmeiro and can still carry a team on occasion.

100% true.

12. Robinson Cano is still going to account for more runs on offense than he'll let in with his defensive stylings.

This is a plus for a contender?

13. Joe Torre has to use Randy Johnson only once every five games.

Again, a plus? Randy Johnson should have been a Cy Young contender. Now he's dragging the team down? Way to spin that one, Jon.

14. Nobody has to talk to Johnson the other days.

That's your problem, not the team's.

15. While Johnson has lost his fastball, his slider and his temper, occasionally he looks something like what they paid for.

Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to ever keep that up for a whole game.

16. George Steinbrenner has lost his fastball, too, at least when it comes to his bark. His public statements have zero bite nowadays.

Complementing Billy Connors is supposed to be a jab at Mel Stottlemyre, I guess, but it isn't exactly the kind of cutting stuff we're used to from Steinbrenner. It was such a tame remark, in fact, that Torre basically repeated it yesterday, saying in regard to Wright, "The people in Florida did a great job with him."

It's possible that what this team needs is George's bite, too.

17. Some of the Yankees' players actually like Torre, and would be happy to do what they can to save his job (this distinguishes him from most major-league managers). "We just haven't performed well at times. I think it's unfair to blame him," Jeter said yesterday. "It's our job to change the speculation."

If the players were playing well, there wouldn't be any speculation about Torre in the first place.

18. Torre may not be the greatest game-day manager going. But it's hard to imagine him being outdone by the likes of Cleveland's Eric Wedge (no offense to you Wedge fans out there) down the stretch.

No, not really.

19. Or Oakland's Ken Macha.

No, not really.

20. Or even Minnesota's Ron Gardenhire.

No, not really.

21. The Yankees are much more experienced than their competitors. This isn't the 1998 Yankees, but there are still nine players with 26 winning World Series rings.

Well, that helped in the ALCS last year.

22. Their schedule may not be the easiest of the wild-card finalists, but they're going to get a head start with three gimmies against the Royals this weekend. Yes, yes, I know, they lost to the Royals three straight earlier this year. But that was when Buddy Bell was just starting and Kansas City didn't know what it had. Now the Royals know that anything they have is worth flushing.

Uh-huh... Yankees had just come off a 16-4 run then, too.

23. No team will admit to being psyched out by the Yankees. But if any team is psyched out, it's the Twins.

That doesn't usually hold up when teams aren't competing directly against each other, but okay.

24. If any city is psyched out by the Yankees, it's Cleveland.

Yeah, those Indians who won 2 of 3 from the Yankees a couple of weeks back are sure psyched out by the Yanks.

25. The A's, while outperforming expectations every year, also are in that vast group of teams that roll over for the Yankees when it counts.

Well, that'll hold up.

26. Last but not least, the Yankees have Mariano Rivera, who's having about his best year ever, last night notwithstanding, and almost always writes happy endings.

Except last year.

I think they've got a great, great shot to make the playoffs right now. But this is a bad list.