Page 2 staff

We're not here to analyze, scout, predict, project or proclaim Derek Jeter a "winner." We're here to Second Guess. Hey, isn't that half the fun of baseball's postseason?

Wednesday, October 20
David Schoenfield: Well, Eric, the Yankees used $25 million worth of pitchers in Brown and Vazquez. I'm second guessing trading in Clemens and Pettitte for those two since it didn't work out so well in the end.

Eric Neel: You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting someone who was ready to hand the Series title to George for those pickups. And it was weird, right, because if you were clear-eyed, you had to look at Brown and see exactly what they got: a guy prone to injury and meltdowns. Vazquez was a surprise. I thought he'd be better this year than he was. I'll tell you the move that smelled of Yankee panic: The Loaiza pickup. Here was a guy who was pretty clearly bad, and they were so desperate they brought him in anyway.

The Pettitte thing might be the voodoo moment for this team. The Yanks are the authors of all that is mystiqueish, of all that is clutch. They are the intangibles team, their captain is the epitome of that idea, and so on. So what I'm getting at is Pettitte was a heart-and-soul guy for this team. I don't put much stock in the heart-and-soul idea, but the Yankees and their fans and the media who loves them sure do.

So here's what you don't do if you're the Yanks ... you don't mess with that mojo, you don't let Pettitte go, and you sure don't do it the way they did it, without so much as an effort out of respect to keep him. They dissed a company man, a Yankee through and through.

And make no mistake, D. The mystique piñata is laying in tatters on the floor after tonight. Where were the clutch hits the last four games? Where were the patient, wait-for-your pitch at-bats? Where was the cool in all the first-pitch swinging? And where, for the love of Babe Ruth, was Derek Jeter, not just tonight but for days now?

The script is officially flipped right now. A-Rod makes a bush play and the Yanks' mystique is gone. Schill stares 'em down and it's gone. Lowe comes up El Duque and it's gone daddy gone.

The Yanks' hitters take poor approach after poor approach all night, against a guy on two days' rest, as if they're playing against their own demons, as if they're afraid of what they might hear from Mike and the Mad Dog tomorrow, and it's long, long gone.

Am I exaggerating? Maybe, but I don't think so, because if the Sox are the team that hasn't won the World Series since 1918, that's bad, but at least they aren't (or aren't any more) the team that has suffered the worst series and single-game loss of all time.

And the Yanks suffered it on their home field, and at the hands of their rivals, and with Billy Crystal moping, and with the whole world watching and dancing on their freshly dug graves.

David: Life is good, life is good. What else can I say?

Eric: This whole thing comes back to Schilling, to his decision not to sign with New York. He changes the character of the Sox right there. And he sustains it throughout the season and the series, too, even up until his slaps at A-Rod and at a disbelieving Boston press before Game 7.

David: I'm with you, Eric. This is the night the dynasty died. The mother of all choke jobs completed with a trouncing on their home stadium, with Joe D, the Mick (birthdate: October 20!) and the Babe watching on from center field. Yes, I know they're not buried there, but you can bury the 1996-2004 Yankees there.

This is an old team with a payroll that even Donald Trump can't carry in his wallet. Bernie is declining, Giambi may be washed up (with $75 million left on his contract), Posada is an old catcher ready for a rapid fall and while Mo is still tough to beat, he CAN be beat and they don't have the starting pitchers to get him the ball anymore.

Eric: You're right; the future is a big question mark for this club. Remember, they couldn't close the Randy Johnson deal this summer because their minor-league cupboard was so bare they couldn't entice the lowly D-Backs to make a deal.

David: Here's another area where I think George's greed backfired: Despite that $185 million payroll, he didn't have one good left-handed pitcher on the staff. Everyone knows to beat the Red Sox -- with Ortiz, Nixon, Damon and Mueller all worse against lefties -- you need a lefty starter and at least one lefty killer in the pen. But he was greedy and wanted Brown and Vazquez and Loaiza and Gordon -- oh, and lineup that went about 10 deep in All-Stars.

Eric: Right, and let's not forget the money spent on A-Rod. That's, at base, just a vanity pick-up, just a we-can-do-it-and-you-can't move, meant to crush Boston spirits. One player, one offensive player, even one as great as Rodriguez is, just doesn't make that big a difference. The money, as you say, would have much better spent on left-handed pitching.

The A-Rod signing was pure hubris, a perfect match for his taking their money instead of Boston's, a perfect match for his unadulterated greed.

And speaking of hubris, the Yanks invited this with having Bucky Dent throw out the first pitch ...

David: Look, I know Yankee fans can say they were a couple outs away from a sweep. But know this: the Red Sox scored more runs than the Yankees this season and allowed fewer. They were the better team.

Eric: Right. I wrote some time in midsummer, when everyone was saying that the Sox were dead, that the run differential suggested, records be damned, that the Sox were the better offensive team, and might only be victims of some bad luck.

Is it too much to wonder, too much to hope for, that the 2005 Yankees will look like the 2004 Mariners?

David: Well, they won't be the 2004 Mariners, but they have to be concerned. They already have $170 million committed in payroll in 2005. Essentially, every starting player except Lieber (who has a team option) is back under contract for next year. But none of them are tradeable and all of them are a year older. Logic says they'll go big after Beltran for center field and move Bernie to DH and George will want a first baseman to replace Giambi, if his career is over.

But that means, shoot, if you figure $17M for Beltran and, say, $11 million for someone like Sexson, a $200M+ payroll.

Eric: And notice that nowhere in all that math, do you have a solution to their biggest problem: pitching.

David: Exactly, which means they can't go after Beltran. It makes no sense. They're stuck with no-range Bernie in center for another year, $25 million worth of mediocrity in Brown and Vazquez, plus Mussina, who didn't exactly pitch like an ace this season. They're in trouble.

And there is a limit to how much they can spend, isn't there?

Eric: And who is there out there for them to get?

David: Well, there's Derek Lowe and this guy named Pedro ...

Eric: Wouldn't that be sweet ... first they drill the Yanks, then they get the pleasure of seeing Georgie overpay Petey. Doesn't get any better than that.

David: And a guy named Clemens. The best left-handed starters out there are Odalis Perez, Eric Milton and perhaps Al Leiter (who has a mutual option).

Eric: Like I said, D: Who's out there for them to get?!

DavidL So, what's the starting lineup for the 2005 Yankees?

Eric: I don't know, but it begins, if you'll forgive me, with "Who's on First?"

David: Exactly, E. Yanks win 89 next year and miss the playoffs for first time since 1993. You read it here first.

Eric: G'night, my friend. G'night, America. G'night, Damons and Demons everywhere.

Previous editions of Second Guessing
Oct. 19: Curt Schilling's legacy

Oct. 18: ALCS Game 5 as it happened

Oct. 17: First-guessing NLCS Game 5

Oct. 16: Another Scrap Iron stinker

Oct. 14: Another Scrap Iron stinker

Oct. 13: The ALCS & NLCS are already over

Oct. 12: Yankees get the better of the Red Sox

Oct. 11: Phil Garner got away with one

Oct. 10: Phil Garner wears the dunce cap

Oct. 9: Ten things on Twins-Yankees

Oct. 8: Angels decide to go with Jarrod Washburn

Oct. 7: Did Bobby Cox play too much Small Ball?

Oct. 6: Ron Gardenhire leaves in Joe Nathan