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And while Giambi is the big prize, Cashman's new supporting cast will show its value as the summer wears on. The ever patient Robin Ventura will be the perfect placeholder until Drew Henson is ready, and he'll remind Mets fans that you don't need Mike Schmidt to win a World Series. John Van Der Wal will draw some BBs, play a decent outfield, and give Michael Kay ample pun-making opportunities. And while Yankee fans may spend the summer wondering why the team overpaid for Steve Karsay, Cashman knows the truth. If the Yankees had re-signed Jeff Nelson, giving Joe Torre a reliable setup man and sparing Mariano Rivera a few of those six-out saves, they Yankees might be seeking a five-peat this season.
Given the money at his disposal, Cashman's rebuilding job sounds easy. It wasn't. Jimmy Neutron Boy GM does a better job of managing up than Dick Cheney. Whatever he tells George Steinbrenner during those midnight calls, it's got to be better phone work than the girls at 970-LUST. It's gotten short shrift, but Steinbrenner is a changed man. His baseball jones once demanded running the Columbus Shuttle a couple times a month, but now his appetite is satisfied by firing the odd hitting coach. Patience will do that to a man.
Are there black clouds on the Yankee horizon? A couple. While the position players are youngVentura and Bernie Williams are the only regulars on the long side of 30the pitching is a tad long in the tooth. With Roger Clemens, David Wells, and El Duque in the season-opening rotation, they've got three starters pushing 40. If Andy Pettitte's tender elbow goes south, Sterling Hitchcock's back doesn't come around, the toll of all those innings that Mike Mussina's thrown over the years catches up with him, or the magic disappears from Mariano Rivera's skinny right arm . . . well, let's not think about it.
With the addition of Johnny Damon, Rickey Henderson (who led the majors, watching 4.39 pitches per plate appearance), and a new skipper, the Red Sox got a better off-season face-lift than Greta Van Susteren. With Pedro healthy, Nomar Garciaparra likewise, and Jeff Lowe in the rotation where he belongs, the BoSos will likely provide, um, stiffer competition for the Yanks. But assuming the Yanks make the playoffsand 13 and a half games is a lot for the Beanos to make upthe post-season road looks easier. The A's and Indians will be shadows of their former selves, and the aging Mariners are unlikely to repeat their 116-win heroics. Waiting for another trip to the World Series, Yankee fans? Just be patient.