Yanks' run near its end

BOB ELLIOTT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

"They are old, they are tired and they are yesterday's news.

"Their expiry date has reached the past due date.

"Meet the New York Yankees."

We wrote those words one late September evening in 2000. The Yankees had limped into the American League post-season, having lost seven games in a row and 15 of 18.

Eight seasons later, the same words seem appropriate as the Yankees open a three-game series tonight against the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre, having won only five of their past 13.

The Yanks, who have appeared in the post-season each year since 1995, are ten games back of the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays -- and trail the Boston Red Sox by 51/2 games in the wild-card race -- after the Rays and Red Sox won last night.

The odds of the Yankees reaching the playoffs, according to Baseball Prospectus, were just 5% going into last night's action. Of course, the Blue Jays were a barely legible 1.5%, and hardly in a position to gloat.

In fact, when the subject of those Yankees pinstripes came up, as always, the Jays were full of platitudes.

"I only saw them when we opened the season in New York when they had everyone healthy," said Jays outfielder Vernon Wells, who missed the next two meetings with New York because of his injuries.

Pitchers Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Phillip Hughes started the season for the Yanks, who took two of three from the Jays in that early April series.

Wang has not pitched since June 15 because of a foot injury, while Hughes made only six starts before succumbing to a rib ailment. In fact, tonight was supposed to be Hughes' first start since April 29, but New York will go with Darrell Rasner instead

The Yankees also lost outfielder Hideki Matsui, third baseman Alex Rodriguez, outfielder Johnny Damon and catcher Jorge Posada for considerable periods. In fact, only the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers have placed more players on the disabled list than the Yankees, who have had 18 different players on the DL.

They are hoping Matsui can play tonight.

"It's tough when you lose your second captain (Posada)," Wells said. "I know Jose Molina has done a good job (filling in at catcher) and they've added Pudge (Ivan Rodriguez, from the Detroit Tigers), but they haven't been able to pitch the guys they wanted."

Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston knows all about the injuries to the Yankees pitchers, but said: "They still have the hitters there."

While the Yankees put up 15 runs on Sunday against the Kansas City Royals, they have scored fewer than three runs in 39 games this season, ranking second in the American League in that futility column.

"I have a lot of respect for the organization and George Steinbrenner," Gaston said. "They try to win it every year."

Gaston told the story of former Jays president Paul Beeston and the late Bobby Mattick visiting Tampa one fall years ago and sitting with Steinbrenner during an instructional league game.

"George says to me: 'Cito, I have video of you standing in the tunnel at Yankee Stadium after you were ejected,' " Gaston said.

"I asked George: 'If I was managing your club would you want me in the tunnel or up in the clubhouse?' He just laughed.

"You know what kind of a job I think George Steinbrenner has done as an owner? He belongs in Cooperstown."

As former manager Bob Lemon used to say: "The man might be tough to work for, but he pays VERY well and he has never once bounced a cheque."

Today, though, there are other trouble spots besides not being healthy and scuffling some nights with the offence. During the past 21 games, the Yankees bullpen has allowed 12 home runs in 64 innings.

In 2000, those old and decaying Yankees we wrote about eliminated the Oakland Athletics in a fifth and deciding game of their opening playoff series, then, despite scoring only two runs in their first 18 innings, rebounded to win the AL championship series over the Seattle Mariners. They throttled the New York Mets in five games to take the World Series.

So, boy, were we ever wrong that year.

This year, though, the odds are too great for even the legendary New York Yankees to overcome.


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