Dare I Say ... En Fuego!

By Bob Klapisch

Talk of lighting a fire under a struggling Yankees squad turned tragic early Friday morning when the corpse of an unidentified man was found aflame in a Yankee Stadium parking lot. While details about this incident are still being uncovered - ABC7 reports the man is of Hispanic origin, while NY1 News reports that the victim suffered severe blunt force trauma to the head and may have also been a gunshot victim - and no suspects have been uncovered by police, stragglers at the scene are quick to suggest that the victim's proximity to the Yankee's baseball home is no coincidence.

"Lemme put it this way," says an anonymous bystander. "Yankees get swept by KC, win only one against Minnesota - in extra innings, I might add - and then lose two to the Brewers. The Brewers? You heard what Reg said about the Brewers, right? And that Bob Sheets guy? So, yeah, Yankees are stinkin' up the joint. And then, Wednesday night, they score 12 runs. And we find the body early Friday morning. You tell me what the math says, OK?" The bystander intimates that this corpse might be the result of a religious ceremony gone awry. "You know that flick Major League? Eff you, Jobu and all that? Look at all the [expletive deleted] the Yanks got - A-Fraud, Sanchez, Sierra, Posada, even Bernie. You gotta think that one of those guys was trying some satanic Santeria bull to right the ship, right? And you know what they say about people and chickens, right? Badaboom badabing."

Another bystander, who also preferred to remain anonymous, had his own theories. "Well, at first, I thought the guy was [infielder] Andy Phillips or [outfielder] Bubba Crosby - you know, because you never see 'em in the game. I mean, Crosby was on the team earlier this year, right? What happened to him? Where'd he go? Why the hell is Womack getting play in LF? And Phillips - he has some pop. But, no, you gotta play the guy with the contract. You know, I gotta tell ya, when I heard the sirens, and someone told me what happened, I was kinda hoping it was the Giambino [first baseman Jason Giambi] making like a burnt Brat, y'know?" The bystander noted remnants of a Black Cat firework near the body. "And all of a sudden BOOM, it hit me. Vince Coleman. You remember when he was a Met, and he was chucking cherry bombs at 5 year olds and s--t? Maybe he's upping the ante? Y'know, looking for a little attention, maybe a job. You know - PAY VINCE!" Vince Coleman was unavailable for comment.

As Yankee employees came into work this morning amidst swaths of yellow tape and flashing lights, a rumor spread that the victim was actually a hitman contracted by Yankee owner George Steinbrenner to assassinate Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman. Late Thursday evening, Cashman was reported as saying that the Yankees' problems this season might stem from over-estimating the team's talent heading into the season. "The answers have to be here," Cashman said in a article by New York Daily News columnist John Harper, "because I'm not sure how much we can do on the outside. We made our bed. This is not a flexible roster. It doesn't mean I'm not going to look to do as much as I possibly can. But I'm being honest. Our options are very limited."

During the offseason, the Yankees signed free agent pitchers Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano to multi-million dollar, multi-year contracts, as well as trading for veteran pitcher Randy Johnson. Johnson also received a multi-million dollar contract extension. While many baseball pundits thought such moves would ensure the Yankees yet another trip to the post-season, the team finds themselves in 4th place in the American League East, with 29 wins and 30 losses. This is the latest in a season a Yankee team have been under .500 since Joe Torre took over as manager.

In most cases, Cashman would bear the brunt of this failure, as the General Manager is primarily responsible for making personnel decisions. However, it is common knowledge that Steinbrenner exercises an enormous amount of influence on his team's roster. Earlier this week, Steinbrenner order Cashman to join the team on their road trip, a sign that the Yankees owner is once again losing his patience with this year's Yankee squad. According to NorthJersey.com Staff Writer Randy Lange, Cashman had this to say before Wednesday night's Yankee victory: "George, like all of us, is looking for reasons why. We have underperformed, no question."

According to an anonymous source within the Yankee organization, Steinbrenner found his reason for the team's underperformance. "For a couple of weeks, prior to the recent roadtrip, I found myself … I mean, I heard that Mr. Cashman was being tailed by a couple of strange looking guys. And these guys would always loiter around the stadium after games, like they were waiting for someone or something. And I heard they were asking folks questions about me … I mean, Mr. Cashman. And then George calls me … Mr. Cashman out to Milwaukee. Maybe it was a ploy to sabotage something of Mr. Cashman's while he was away. I mean, mine. I mean, Cashman's.

"Maybe this was a message that George shouldn't try to get kids to do a man's job. Maybe Mr. Cashman was telling George to back up his idle threats with some actual action instead of sending some overpaid errand boys to try and take me out. He thinks he's so tough, but he ain't jack, lemme tell you. I know my way around a Luger, George. You wanna run with the bulls, you better watch out for my tail, George." Calls to Mr. Steinbrenner's office regarding this anonymous account or his supposed toughness were not returned.

When approached for comment by the Boston Globe, Red Sox Clubhouse Manager Joe Cochran had this to say: "Sometimes, it's hard to hang in there against the high heat. And even if you stick it out and stand your ground, you're gonna get burned. But, still, when the chips are down and you get the chance, you gotta take a shot."

Bob Klapisch is a sports columnist for The Bergen Record (N.J.) and a regular contributor to E$PN.com. His book, "The Worst Team Money Can Buy: The Collapse of the New York Mets" (co-written by John Harper), has recently been released in paperback by Bison Books.


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