Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
It was the first full day of summer everywhere else in America, but in the Bronx it might as well have been Aug. 1.
Fans were talking about the non-waiver trade deadline. Reporters were asking about the non-waiver trade deadline.
The Yankees general manager and manager were answering questions about the deadline — and about the owner’s answers the previous evening about the deadline.
Buy? Sell? Hold?
On one hand, it was nutty, given that as they began a home stand against the Rockies Tuesday night, the Yankees were only a game below .500 and six games out of first place in the loss column — no further behind than 17 other teams.
Things got worse after a dismal 8-4 loss, but still: It only was June 21.
On the other hand, this is the bed the Yankees made for themselves, mired in mediocrity and stuck in a limbo their fans have not experienced in recent decades.
So it goes when you are a team that markets history and excellence and does not budget for midsummer fire sales.
The whole thing is . . . well, it’s weird. But with not much else to talk about, GM Brian Cashman excused those of us outside the team for obsessing. He said if he were a reporter or fan, that is what he would be discussing, too.
“Listen, I think we’ve created the atmosphere to force people to have this dialogue,” he said. “So I get it. Maybe it’s frustrating, but the frustration part is to have the underperformance last for a long enough period of time that creates the atmosphere that creates the questions.
“So I’m sorry that you guys and girls are in a position to have to ask and people have to talk about what’s in our best interests.”
The problem here is that it is too soon to make any definitive decision about whether to move assets such as Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran, who Tuesday night played rightfield like a guy who should be on a team that needs a DH.
Would I bet the college fund on the Yankees being 10 games over come late July and going into “buyer” mode? Um, no, especially after watching them make a mess of the early innings against the Rockies. But stranger things have happened.
Last July 28, the Blue Jays were a game under .500 and eight behind the Yankees. They added Troy Tulowitzki and David Price anyway and reached the ALCS.
That does not mean the Yankees should bank on that kind of minor miracle. If they have not shown more life six weeks from now, by all means, they should act. But can we all just chillax and see what happens between the lines first?
Cashman said that is the plan, even as he acknowledged the alternative reality.
“Over time you eventually become what your record says you are,” he said, channeling Bill Parcells.
Hal Steinbrenner, the managing general partner, opened the door for this latest round of buy/sell debate Monday when he spoke before a fundraiser for Harlem RBI in Manhattan.
When asked whether the pieces are on the roster to compete, he said an assessment will be made in late July, but that “if we stay healthy, I’ve always believed we have a shot.”
He added, “Let’s just see. I believe we’re going to be right smack in the middle of it come the end of July.”
Cashman said nothing he has heard from ownership indicates a change in the mandate, which is “always trying to live for today.”
The worst-case scenario is uncertainty. As Cashman said, “I hope this team declares itself in such a way one way or the other that it’s pretty damn obvious.”
Then he laughed and acknowledged many fans on social media would react to his comment by arguing that things already are pretty damn obvious.
But are they? For now, just play ball and see what happens.
“Right now I’d say we’re still looking to improve in areas that need improving to give ourselves the best chance to be all we want,” Cashman said.
“If the roster continues to fight back on that and say, ‘no, no, no’ and send us other messages then at some point we’ll hear them.”
Everyone is listening.