CLEARWATER – As the Yankees hoped that after his minor stumble on some balky carpet that Yogi Berra has that insurance, you know, the kind that pays you cash, which is just as good as money, CC Sabathia and Roy Halladay met up in Clearwater in a dream match-up. Literally a dream, because you don’t need to spend looking much time at either roster to realize that despite the Phillies’ glittering rotation and the Yankees’ three Hall-of-Famers in waiting, neither of these teams is going very deep in the post-season (presuming they make it at all). This is contrary to Conventional Wisdom, which was last heard from telling you that Cliff Lee was going to the Yankees last winter, just as it had told you he was going to them last July. Lee is part of the Yankees’ most obvious problem: based on performance so far, Bartolo Colon is a) a vampire and b) their number two starter. Colon, with his ten-pitch warm-up sessions and newly refound control, has been a joyous mystery even to his new pitching coach Larry Rothschild. But comebacks like his almost always fizzle before the first of June and the Yanks have a long way to before Manny Banuelos, Andrew Brackman, and/or Dellin Betances join the rotation or buy them a veteran starter. The Yankees are also aging alarmingly. I will spare you my usual pronouncements on how moribund Derek Jeter is, but the recent pronouncement that Jorge Posada would not even be used as a temporary back-up catcher should tell you exactly how little the Yanks think he has left. The joke around here is that Cameron Diaz was feeding Alex Rodriguez popcorn in that Super Bowl luxury suite because he now gets too tired doing it himself. Jesus Montero offers a glimmer of youth but the reality is that in two at bats today, Roy Halladay made him look like he’d never been to the plate before (to be fair, Halladay did the same thing to Robby Cano). The Yanks only matchup with Boston at the back of the bullpen and if their lineup is better than Tampa’s, it isn’t much better. The Phils have an advantage the Yanks don’t – the NL East may be as bad as the AL East is good, but they have two enormous crises. I ran into my old friend Ruben Amaro in the hallway just before first pitch and he swore he felt better than he looked – and he looked exactly like a General Manager of a team with a devastating rotation and no second baseman or right fielder. Chase Utley’s injury is a riddle wrapped in an enigma inside some tendinitis and it would be called “indefinite” if only Amaro was that certain. Nobody has any idea what’s next, and Utley’s absence not only puts a Wilson Valdez or Josh Barfield in the lineup, but it also deranges their batting order and perhaps places Jimmy Rollins hitting in a three-hole for which he is ill-suited. Right field may be a bigger problem still. You could make a viable platoon out of Ben Francisco (who absolutely kills lefties) and John Mayberry, Jr (he homered again today) but both hit right-handed. In news that should terrify every Philadelphian, Domonic Brown’s replacement four of the last five days has been Delwyn Young, a scat back of a utility infielder who was not good enough to stick with the Pirates. This is a team that is suddenly in deep trouble on offense – Halladay looked gorgeous for six innings today but they got him only three hits before Sabathia left) and as awe-inspiring as the Four Aces look, having Brad Lidge close for them is like owning four Maseratis and employing a staff of blind valet parkers.
The bad news for the Yankees is that Mark Teixeira suffered a Grade 2 strain of the hamstring and will miss the rest of the season.
Few recent stories have sounded so comical yet contained such madness and potential threat. In the top of the fifth inning if Monday nights third game of the American League Championship Series, a man bolted from the stands behind third base and scrambled towards the foul line. Police and Yankee Stadium Security caught up to him quickly, but despite their intervention the individual continued to struggle for several minutes before he was finally removed – still kicking and shouting – from the field. Just as Game Four of the Series began tonight, Ben Rogers of the Ben and Skin show on the ESPN radio station in Dallas broke the amazing back story: the man was not just an ordinary drunken spectator but, as one police source phrased it to me, a guy intent on harming Alex Rodriguez because of Cameron Diaz. As Rogers reported from his multiple police sources, the man was identified as 33-year old Grim LeRogue of the Bronx, and he had gotten into the Stadium and on to the field without even a ticket to the game. But he was carrying photographs of Diaz and Rodriguez and what I was told was some kind of threat against Rodriguez. There is no evidence that Rodriguez was aware of the threat, at least as of late in Mondays game as he was chatting and joking with fans near the on-deck circle during the bottom of the 9th. Yankees Media Relations Director Jason Zillo adds he had no indication until the middle of Tuesday nights game of the nature of the on-field incident and did not think Rodriguez did, either. Unless there are two Grim LeRougees in the metropolitan New York area, some of his resistance might be explained by this: a Grim LeRogue fought in the areas Golden Gloves in 2008.