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Tom Verducci's View
Tom Verducci
May 22, 2006
PLAYING IT COOL IN THE BRONX
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May 22, 2006

Tom Verducci's View

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PLAYING IT COOL IN THE BRONX

The Yankees' bid to score 1,000 runs was derailed last Thursday when leftfielder Hideki Matsui suffered a gruesome broken left wrist diving for a pop fly. He will miss at least three months, if not the rest of the year--a major blow because he is the team's most versatile and best situational hitter.

There was immediate buzz about trades for possible replacements, including the Phillies' Bobby Abreu, the Devil Rays' Aubrey Huff, the Twins' Shannon Stewart and the Nationals' Alfonso Soriano. Says Oakland general manager Billy Beane, "The only thing faster in New York than the time between the light turning green and the guy behind you honking is the time between an injury to a Yankees starter and reports of the names of guys the Yankees will get."

But New York G.M. Brian Cashman, having wrested power away from the club's Tampa-based officials last winter, promised patience instead of a quick deal. That's fine as long as rightfielder Gary Sheffield comes back in about a week, as expected, from a sprained left wrist. If Sheffield's injury lingers, however, Cashman will tire of seeing an aged Bernie Williams (above) and the underwhelming Melky Cabrera and Bubba Crosby sharing the corner outfield spots. Cashman also knows that his supply of attractive trading chips is thin, with not much beyond righthander Philip Hughes and first baseman Eric Duncan.

TOUGHER STEROID POLICY APPEARS SAFE

The players' union can unilaterally get rid of the three-strikes-and-you're-out steroid penalty, rolling back to the softer 2005 drug policy, if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached by Aug. 1. And Donald Fehr (left) & Co. can expect another grilling by Congress if they even consider such a wrongheaded action. "No way it's going to happen," says one insider. Players and owners met twice last week in what have been cordial talks toward a new CBA. The current one expires on Dec. 19.

THE RUNDOWN

?The Cubs are paying for not finding a replacement for injured first baseman Derrek Lee last month and for thinking that winter acquisitions Juan Pierre (right) and Jacque Jones would help their offense. During a 2--14 free fall through Sunday, Chicago was outscored 101--32, the franchise's worst 16-game run production since 1992.

?Let me get this straight: Oakland designated hitter Frank Thomas strained a leg muscle last Thursday because he ran "a little too fast" on the bases? Better stick to the safety of the trainer's room.

?No one gets more bang for their buck in the bullpen than the Cardinals. They led the majors in relief ERA at week's end (2.76), including a 2.02 combined mark by Brad Thompson, Adam Wainwright, Josh Hancock, Brian Falkenborg and Randy Flores--none of whom earn more than $355,000.

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