T-minus seven and a half hours and counting, as I begin this all-business, all-the-time post...

--The Yankees lost to the Rays, and it was a good game, and the Yankees' American League East lead over exciting Tampa Bay dropped to one game, and I sat in the Tropicana Field press box as the game went on. But 'tis the season that I wrote a Yankees column - about the Yankees flexing their financial muscles once again - that didn't so much as include the score of the game.

I'm curious how the Yankees are going to make both roster space and daily lineup space for Austin Kearns. Check this noise:

1) Kearns against LHP this year: .330 OBP/.390 SLG/.720 OPS. Career: .383/.416/.799. The last time he had better splits against leties than righties was 2007 (.401/.482/.883 vs. LHP, .339/.389/.728 vs. RHP).

2) Marcus Thames against LHP this year: .406/.426/.832. Career: .335/.509/.844.

3) Brett Gardner against LHP this year: .391/.383/.774. Career: .356/.353/.709.

4) Kearns has played 69 games in leftfield this season, and has a -2.1 UZR. Thames has played 19 games in leftfield this season, and has a -1.3 UZR. Plus, if you've watched Thames play out there, you know he looks even worse.

So...with the arrival of both Kearns and Lance Berkman, do you dump Thames? I wouldn't. He still has the very valuable skill set of being able to hit lefties. I'd start Berkman at DH against most righties and Thames at DH against most lefties. Then I'd start Kearns in leftield against most lefties, moving Gardner to centerfield, because Curtis Granderson is a train wreck against leties (.252/.286/.538), as advertised.

So I'd send Colin Curtis back to Scranton for now, and he'd be a candidate as that extra position player come playoff time.

--I haven't been to the Trop much in recent years, but it did indeed feel different without George Steinbrenner in the house. I have fond (in a perverse sort of way) memories of staking out The Boss outside the Ted Williams Suite, where he would always sit. It was always a relief when we got word, down in the press box, that Steinbrenner had departed the premises.

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 --I only followed the Mets game on my computer, but Mike Pelfrey is obviously a huge problem for the Mets, as David Lennon wrote. Forget about the playofs. For their future, the Mets need to figure out what they have with Pelfrey moving forward, as he's due for a big raise through arbitration this winter. You can't non-tender him - he has too much of an upside, as we've seen - but maybe you shop him around some and see what other clubs think of him.

--The Wilpons are still getting hit by shrapnel from the Bernie Madoff mess, as this story indicates.

--I like the Rays' acquisition of Chad Qualls. It's low-risk, with Tampa Bay simply assuming Qualls' salary, and Qualls won't have to close. He has become a darling of the statistical analysis community this season because his peripherals paint a different picture than the woeful 8.29 ERA.

--Do I even have to pretend to care about Pittsburgh's acquisition of Chris Snyder from Arizona? No? Good.

--We'll have a live chat here Monday at 11:00, wrapping up one of the crazier months I've ever experienced covering baseball. And this coming week, we'll have not one, but two book giveaway contests. I'm targeting Monday and Thursday, but schedule issues could shuffle those.

@NewsdaySports

UPDATE, 12:53 p.m.: Huge, three-way deal involving St. Louis, San Diego and Cleveland, with Ryan Ludwick going to San Diego and Jake Westbrook to St. Louis. Wow! the prospect names are still coming down, but the first take is this is a huge win for the Padres, who now look like a bona fide contender not only this year, but beyond (with Ludwick under control next year, too).

Westbrook hasn't been great this year, but the Cardinals don't carry great expectations for him. They just want him to solidify the back end of their starting rotation. Switching from the AL to the NL, that should be quite doable for Westbrook.

UPDATE, 2:41 p.m.: Greetings from the Trop! I like the Ted Lilly-to-the-Dodgers trade for both teams. Lilly gives the Dodgers some badly needed pitching depth, and the Cubs, while paying more than half of Lilly's salary, get some high-ceiling prospects. Ryan Theriot? Whatever.

UPDATE, 3:31 p.m.: As first reported by Buster Olney, the Yankees are getting Kerry Wood, in yet another salary dump. Crazy. Again, it's hard to kill any of these Yankees moves given the method of acquiring him, but Wood has been anything but money since coming over to the American League last year.