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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Should Yankees buy or sell? Heated debate nears conclusion

Carlos Beltran of the New York Yankees follows

Carlos Beltran of the New York Yankees follows through on a first-inning double against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, July 17, 2016. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

At last, relief is in sight, an oasis shimmering on the horizon, a mere fortnight away.

Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline on Aug. 1 will mean various things to various teams and people, but around here, it will mean the end of the most tedious, drawn-out sports debate in recent New York sports history.

Should the Yankees be sellers or buyers? Oops, I did it again!

About 11,000 babies are born in the United States every day, meaning that more than 300,000 of our fellow Americans never have known a world in which New York sports journalists and radio hosts did not obsess over buy vs. sell.

Speaking of which, 79 percent of newspaper columns and 52 percent of news articles written about the Yankees during the last four to six weeks have focused on whether they should trade assets or acquire more for the stretch run.

OK, so I totally made those numbers up. But it’s a plausible guesstimate!

In fairness, journalists are under pressure to write or say something — anything — about the Yankees on a daily basis, and thus their repetitiveness must be forgiven. Fans are under no such obligation and can view the situation more clearly.

Based on recent conversations with Yankees fans of my acquaintance, 23 percent talk mostly about buy vs. sell and 77 percent talk mostly about being bored with this team and season.

OK, fine, I made up those numbers, too. Still: another plausible guesstimate!

The Yankees are not good enough to be excited about nor bad enough to be angry about, which is an awkward spot because their brand is based on not being mediocre.

The last time the Yankees were under .500 this late in the season, Derek Jeter was playing for Columbus and Joe Torre was lamenting his recent firing as the Cardinals’ manager.

People do keep coming out to the ballpark, albeit in lower numbers than in recent seasons.

The first two games against the Red Sox this weekend drew healthy crowds of 47,439 and 48,329 to see the Yankees get a combined nine hits and score a combined five runs. The latter was the biggest paid audience at Yankee Stadium this season.

The series finale attracted 42,884, not bad for an ESPN Sunday night sleep-depriver, although it must be pointed out that many thousands of them were rooting for the home team’s arch, ancient rival. Maybe some showed up at the last minute to witness what Joe Girardi had dubbed “probably as important a game as we’ve had in July in a long time.”

The fans were treated to a strong start from Masahiro Tanaka before “No Runs DMC,” aka “Deadline Trade Bait,” were summoned from the bullpen to close out a 3-1 victory.

More telling than attendance figures: Yankees games on YES averaged 2.28 percent of New York-area homes at the All-Star break, behind the Mets’ 2.91 average on SNY. (YES’ ongoing carriage dispute with Comcast surely is part of the slide, but a relatively small part.)

Anyway, the Yankees are 45-46. Most fans would be fine with them as sellers, unless . . . they somehow sweep four from the first-place Orioles this week, in which case, remember that they have had a winning record after the break 23 years in a row, so . . . Then again, are Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran worth keeping compared to the young talent they might bring in return? Or . . . oh, never mind.

Beltran inevitably was asked after the game about you-know-what, this time in front of an ESPN camera. “I think this homestand will dictate what the future holds for a lot of guys here,” he said. “If you basically get caught up in thinking what’s going to happen, where you’re going to go, things like that, that’s too much thinking in baseball.”

Too much thinking. Too much talking. Too much speculating. Two weeks to go.

New York Sports