By Kalle Oakes

Staff Writer

The only thing more delicious than watching the New York Yankees and their $53 trillion payroll lose is seeing how they do it.

Two nights after they slapped around Curt Schilling and beat the Boston Red Sox, taking two out of three and giving their front-running fandom a glimmer of hope, the real Yankees reappeared Friday.

Pitching-poor and desperate. Unfit to be included in the wild-card discussion, much less a legitimate threat to finish within 20 games of the American League East lead.

Summer began with a tale of two 10-6 games Friday evening.

In the Bronx, the Bombers were treated for whiplash after watching the immortal Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman club mammoth home runs at the expense of their Triple-A pitching staff.

Deep in the heart of Texas, the Sox rode out a two-hour rain delay and a substandard start by a violently ill Daisuke Matsuzaka. Then they celebrated four lights-out innings from their bullpen to win going away.

The knee-slapping element of this inevitable collapse is observing George Steinbrenner’s implosion. Not that I wish a slow descent into dementia upon anyone, but heck, if he’s going to take the plunge publicly, far be it from me to turn a blind eye and fail to redeem the full entertainment value.

King George has unraveled into the rambling, out-of-touch, impotent nut job who inspired a fringe character on “Seinfeld” from 1992 to ’95. That’s when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays weren’t around to play flotation device for the remainder of the AL East and protect the Yankees from the cellar.

In a rambling soliloquy deemed a “rare interview” by the suck-up media, Steinbrenner went off Thursday.

He painted desperate General Manager Brian Cashman as sitting on the end of “a big hook.” Presumably that means he’ll be fired before Roger Clemens can duck his first start at Fenway Park.

In other, um, news, Steinbrenner belatedly begged Jason Giambi to take a vow of silence, praised Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter (even a notoriously blind judge of character can recognize class when he sees it for a dozen years), and raved about the future of bench coach Don Mattingly (Translation: “Please, please, PLEASE don’t go manage the Astros until I have a chance to give Joe Torre the golden parachute.”)

Much like the Montreal Canadiens, Notre Dame football and Larry King, the Yankees are given excessive respect based upon ancient history. I hear so much about those 26 world championships. Nobody ever mentions that two of the franchise’s last three decades have been dark and untitled. ‘Tis not a dynasty.

The current Yankees, like the boob who owns the team, are much closer to the end than the beginning.


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