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Yankees doing dandy

National | Sports

Issue: "Iraq: Liberation Day 2004," April 10, 2004

Yankees doing dandy

A bit more than a year ago, The Onion, a satire newspaper, led off a story somewhat prophetically. "With a week to go before pitchers and catchers report for spring training, the New York Yankees shored up their pitching, hitting, and defense Monday by signing every player in professional baseball," the paper joked. If only it were true -- or that efficient. Then, Red Sox fans could really have something to complain about. Not only could Boston fans say the Yankees truly were trying to buy a World Series, but Bostonians could finally give up hope. (What hope is there when Pedro and Nomar play for New York?)

This year's non-pinstriped baseball fan may be convinced the 2004 Yankees are using a "killing them softly" approach. Sure, trading for Alex Rodriguez was a big help for their lineup. But adding Gary Sheffield and Kenny Lofton should have taken care of that. New York lost Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens but added Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez. The real benefit of the Yankees off-season may wind up being Paul Quantrill and Tom Gordon, both relief pitchers signed to bridge the gap between New York's ace starters and closer Mariano Rivera. It may not be the sizzle, but it's the steak. As Hall-of-Fame pitcher Bob Gibson said: "The two most important things in life: good friends and a strong bullpen." And every team is in need -- now and in August.

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Except for the Yankees, the Donald Trump of baseball. "You kind of get spoiled around here real quick," said Mr. Rodriguez, who apparently did not feel sufficiently coddled earning $22 million a year in Texas. "Obviously, I haven't been exposed to this type of an environment."

Terror & tennis

Perhaps Serena Williams should care more about shoddy construction than Olympic security. With just months to go before Athens hosts the Summer Olympics, builders will need to hurry to finish work in time for the August 13 opening ceremony. Already delayed, the work was disrupted by a one-day labor strike last week (worker demands: an 8 percent raise and a 39-hour work week).

Ms. Williams, one of America's best shots for Olympic gold in women's tennis, said she'd skip the games unless her security were guaranteed. "My security and my safety and my life are a little bit more important than tennis," she said. "And so if it became a real concern to where I personally wouldn't feel comfortable, then I wouldn't go to Athens."

The Olympic Committee has spent $800 million on security, including paying 50,000 security personnel to see that nothing goes wrong. But in light of the recent Madrid bombings and the Olympics' terror-fringed past, some like Ms. Williams wonder if even that's enough.

Around the Horn

Fans of quick, interruption-free football may be dismayed to know the NFL's instant-replay system is headed for an extension. League owners, voting to extend commissioner Paul Tagliabue's contract, also voted to extend or expand the league's one-of-a-kind system for fixing officials' mistakes.

Barry Bonds seems to have found a way to talk to the public without the need for the sports reporters he disdained for years. The Giants slugger opened his own website (www.barrybonds.com), but San Jose Mercury News columnist Skip Bayless found an ulterior motive: "[It] doesn't have nearly as much to do with Barry having to think like a pitcher -- spin control, baby -- as it does with Barry thinking like a businessman."

Denver Nuggets rookie Carmelo Anthony received some personal criticism from an unlikely source last month: Michael Jordan. Mr. Anthony, who considers the former Bulls star a mentor, received a call from Mr. Jordan, who warned him against refusing to reenter a game, even if it is a blowout. Mr. Anthony's chances of winning the Rookie of the Year award took a hit when he declined to go back onto the court during a drubbing by Detroit. But he says he considers himself a long shot anyway.

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