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Sunday reading: The Yankees' long day, the Mets' long list, awards and Mike Lowell

Your updated playoff seeds:

AL: Tampa Bay (1) vs. Texas (3), Minnesota (2) vs. Yankees (4)

NL: Philadelphia (1) vs. Cincinnati (3) or San Diego (4), San Francisco (2) vs. Cincinnati (3) or Atlanta (4)

Thoughts: Yes, the tables turned once again in the AL East, as the Rays now control their own destiny. If they win in Kansas City today, they win the division, regardless of what the Yankees do. If Tampa Bay loses and the Yankees win, then the Yankees get the division title.

The NL, meanwhile, is crazy fun. If it ended like this - which would be the case if both Atlanta and San Diego lost today - then the Braves would host the Padres Monday in a one-game play-in.

If the Braves lose to the Phillies and the Padres beat the Giants, then the Braves are done, the Padres win the NL West and the Giants get the wild card (based on the Padres' head-to-head advantage over the Giants).

If the the Braves and Giants both win, then the Padres go home.

And if the Braves and Padres both win, then we have our first-ever, three-way tie, with the Padres hosting the Giants tomorrow for the NL West title and the loser of that game going to Atlanta Tuesday to determine the wild card.

Who needs football today?

--So anyway, yes it was quite the day for the Yankees here in Beantown, and as I sat down to write a Web column at about 2 this morning, I figured, "Enough with the niceties of a standard column" and just listed my thoughts.

The lasting notion, as I sit here some six hours later, is I don't see how the Yankees avoid starting A.J. Burnett in the second round, if they make it that far. Who else are they going to use? Ivan Nova seems to have lost his mojo. Javier Vazquez? No.

It'll be interesting to see what kind of lineup the Yankees put in today, although Joe Girardi did a pretty good job of not pushing too many guys too much. The only regulars who played all 20 innings in the field were Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson.

"We'll see how guys are," an unhappy-looking Girardi said.

Girardi added that the plan never called for Phil Hughes to start today. Too restricted by the innings limit, I'd assume.

Meanwhile, we'll get more into the postseason roster tomorrow, but at this point, of these four, which three would you want: Greg Golson, Austin Kearns, Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena. I might take Golson, Nunez and Pena. Kearns has been giving the Yankees absolutely nothing. Golson can play outfield defense, Nunez potential pop from the plate and Pena infield defense, and all three can run. I'd rather start Gardner and Granderson against a tough lefty than Kearns, anyway.

--David Lennon has a good analysis of the Mets' situation. This whole process is going to take a while. Lennon's lead gave me another thought: If they really want to commit to changing the culture, the Mets have to back their next head of baseball operations more in every way. That means supporting him or her even on mistakes.

Yes, Omar Minaya signed Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo to horrible contract. But even the best GMs have made mistakes of similar caliber. Boston's Theo Epstein gave $36 million to Julio Lugo. The legendary Pat Gillick gave $24.5 million to Adam Eaton to pitch horribly for the Phillies. Brian Cashman has to wake up every morning knowing he committed $46 million (combined posting fee and contract) to Kei Igawa.

The Yankees have been able to store Igawa at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre because of his lack of service time. In the cases of Lugo and Eaton, however, when it became clear they were sunk costs, the Red Sox's and Phillies' ownerships took a deep breath, sighed and said, "All right, we'll pay to get him out of here."

The Wilpons have to take the same approach. Jerry Manuel didn't necessarily deserve to keep his job, anyway, but it was unfair to him to make him carry Perez, in particular, on his roster for the bulk of the season.

--For my Sunday Insider, I offered my end-of-season awards. Remember, my actual vote is for NL Manager, and given that NL action will last another three days, there's always the chance I could change my mind (but probably not).

--Boy, did I feel old yesterday watching Mike Lowell get honored for his retirement. I remember Lowell very well from 1998, my first year as a Yankees beat writer, when Lowell spent the entire season with the Yankees' Triple-A Columbus affiliate before getting called up to the big leagues in September. It was pretty clear he could play, and he knew it, and he vocalized that knowledge.

You want to get Yankees fans upset? Tell them the Yankees should've held onto Lowell and let Scott Brosius leave as a free agent after the 1998 season. Brosius deserves no criticism, as following his MVP performance in the 1998 World Series, he contributed to three more pennant-winning teams, two of them World Series winners, before retiring.

But the Yankees would've had Lowell under control for six more years - through 2004, in other words - and he would've provided better value from 2000 through 2003 than did Brosius and then Robin Ventura and Aaron Boone. Not so much Alex Rodriguez in 2004, though.

Let's put it this way: If the Brian Cashman of 2009 (with the power and experience he had built at that time) were running the team in 1998 (when he was finishing his first year), then he would've let Brosius go and committed to Lowell.

--Have a great day.

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