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Thinking Outside The Box Score, 7/04/06

We really, really wanted the opportunity to spend about 500 words reveling in the failure of the Yankees on the birthday of both America and the Boss, who like the President also runs an evil empire. But we figured that'd probably be too easy. Besides, when an asshole is dirty you don't rub it in more feces, you clean it. And the Yankees are one stinky sphincter after last night's 19-1 loss to Cleveland.

So instead we'll focus on Jose Contreras, a man the Yankees expected to hurl them towards another World Series trophy and who is having the last laugh after they impatiently dumped him after a season and a half.


It was the White Sox pitching staff that launched them into the stratosphere early last year, kept them alive after the Indians made things close in September, and carried them to a trophy in October. And Contreras was an integral part of that. After the All-Star break in 2005, Contreras went 11-4 and then went 3-1 with a 3.09 ERA in the playoffs, winning two Game 1s and the pennant-clinching Game 5 -- the fourth of four consecutive complete games Pale Hose pitchers had thrown in that series. At this point, with the Yankees back home finding solace in their bank statements, Contreras was obviously excelling, delivering the type of dominating performances that had led Brian Cashman to lure him away from Cuba and the Red Sox. How good did Esteban Loaiza look then, Cash?

Last night, Contreras won his 17th straight decision dating back to last year to bring his record so far this season to 9-0 as the White Sox beat the Orioles, 13-0. Suddenly, the Sox are only 1.5 back of the Tigers, who are (as we predicted) crumbling around the All-Star break. Contreras' last loss was August 15th, 2005 against the Twins -- 23 starts ago. During that span, he has an ERA of 2.86 and sure looks like the best pitcher in baseball. What's inspiring for the White Sox is that Contreras hasn't let up since inking a three-year contract extension before the season.

Contreras' streak has tied Johan Santana for the longest without a loss in 20 years, and like Santana, Contreras is primed to take the AL Cy Young. This is the perfect example of the Yankees stubborn win-now philosophy and their absolute impatience when it comes to dealing with prospects. Instead of letting Contreras fight through his transitional troubles, they shipped him away for a "proven" in Loaiza, who was coming off of his one respectable season in eight and who went 1-2 for the Yankees after the trade. They didn't have much patience for him either, letting him walk to Washington following the season. Sensing a theme here? While Contreras burns down batters in Chicago the Yankees struggle to find a consistent, legimiate No. 1 starter after for the second season in a row -- since Contreras was escorted out of town, carrying the dreams of another New York championship to a city that deserved it more.