Yankees fiddle while Bronx burns   

Updated: October 9, 2007, 3:22 PM ET

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It's a big story, maybe the biggest of baseball's postseason and offseason: Will George Steinbrenner not re-sign Joe Torre now that the Yankees lost again in the Division Series?

The news of Torre's impending dismissal came Sunday, in a newspaper report from the Bergen Record quoting Steinbrenner as saying Torre would take the fall for the Yankees' failure. The team was down 0-2 to the Indians, which allowed the Yankees to rally behind their manager Sunday night with a brief flurry of timely hitting and strong relief pitching.

Add in the prospect of Sunday being Roger Clemens' last game, and it doesn't get much bigger in our Yankee-dominated world.

However, there's a deeper issue at work with the Steinbrenner story. It's been an open secret for the past couple of years that Steinbrenner might no longer be in complete control of his faculties. His public appearances are infrequent and closely guarded, and interviews -- once a staple of the Steinbrenner oeuvre -- now arrive in the form of bland statements from his publicity man, Howard Rubenstein.

So, is it fair to take Steinbrenner's word for something at this point? It's definitely newsworthy, and it might turn out to be true, so how can anybody in the news business argue against it?

Well, it becomes easier if you had the benefit of reading a recent piece in Portfolio magazine, in which a writer used questionable means to get an inside look at Steinbrenner's mental state.

The writer used his friendship with one of Steinbrenner's old friends in the Tampa media to gain entrée into Steinbrenner's Tampa home. The story is creepy and cringe-inducing, with Steinbrenner wandering around in his pajamas in midafternoon, repeatedly greeting and re-greeting his old friend and barely acknowledging the writer.

Reading it feels a little like trespassing.

It's fascinating and disturbing at the same time.

Anyway, it brings up the efficacy of quoting Steinbrenner on something important, like Torre's fate, which at this point seems accompli.

After the game Monday night, Torre sounded like a man resigned to being an ex-Yankees manager. That means he'll be blamed for a starting rotation that was embarrassingly thin.

But who's the loser here? When Torre asked the New York media to forgo the vigil outside his home this year, it raised a question: Why would he want to go through this again?

This Week's List

Since I heard from far too many people with Stanford.edu in their e-mail address, I can't very well ignore them: Last week's contention that nothing in sports is as sad as Stanford football probably needs to be amended -- considerably -- this week.

If I were Mike Bellotti, I actually might consider calling it a season right now and wait to see if the final BCS rankings put me in the title game: Oregon was ranked No. 11 two weeks ago, then it lost to Cal and had a bye this past weekend, and now the Ducks are No. 8.

Didn't somebody write a book about this once? Two years after her performance-enhancing drug use was meticulously detailed in "Game of Shadows," Marion Jones admits her fraudulence and a weeping nation expresses its shocked dismay.

This might be too much to ask of people who have devoted their lives to lying, cheating and preserving the appearance of deniability: If you're going to take responsibility, please go all the way -- even if it means leaving the Flaxseed Defense out of it.

Working slogan -- "I Can't Believe It's Not Steroids": If I'm in charge of marketing for International Flaxseed Inc., I'm coming up with a campaign to get the word out.

The PR guy from the Flaxseed Defense Fund came up with this one: Jones' confession first appeared as a "letter to family and close friends," presumably as a means of humanizing her plight and courting whatever shards of public favor that still might exist.

Just for the heck of it: David Nied.

The best reason to root for the Rockies: The players' decision to vote a full playoff share to the widow of Mike Coolbaugh, the team's minor-league coach who died after being hit with a line drive in the first-base coaching box.

One overlooked aspect of Lou Piniella's decision to lift Carlos Zambrano after six innings and one run in the first game of the Diamondbacks' series: Big Z'll be plenty rested to start the opener in April.

Perhaps there was an issue of strike-zone recognition? Ryan Howard struck out looking in the ninth inning of each of the three games against the Rockies.

From the franchise that gave you David Woodley as a Super Bowl quarterback: Cleo Lemon, starting quarterback, Miami Dolphins.

Truth No. 1: The outburst by the Texans' Travis Johnson -- especially the show he put on with Trent Green lying unconscious on the field -- was totally classless and unacceptable.

Truth No. 2: The blind cut block by Green was cheap and dangerous.

And finally, because sometimes words like "hyperbole" are woefully inadequate: Do yourself a favor and try to find the clip of the Stanford radio broadcast of the game-winning play Saturday afternoon -- the man's name is Bob Murphy, and that was not -- repeat not -- out of character.

Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Tim here.


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