At one point during the French Open final last Sunday, Mary Carillo mused about the strangeness of feeling that Roger Federer was the greatest tennis player of all time when he wasn't even the best player of his generation.
That's what happens when you lose to Rafael Nadal as often as Federer has lost to him over the years. Suddenly all those other wins and all those other major titles fall by the wayside because you can't beat the one guy who matters above all the others.
The Yankees are feeling a lot like Federer at this point in the season. The Red Sox only lead them by one game after Wednesday night's 11-6 pounding, but the gap between the teams feels as wide as Nadal's 17-8 margin over his biggest rival.
And it only seems to be growing.
The Yankees rotation is so thin that they turned to A.J. Burnett, who has done nothing but get crushed by the Red Sox since coming to town, and asked him to stop the bleeding caused during the first seven games between the teams this season. In a fairy tale, Burnett would have thrown a gem but real life is not a fairy tale and the Yankees were down 3-0 before the bleacher creatures had finished the roll call.
If it wasn't so brutal to watch, it would almost be funny to see Burnett get torn to bits by the Sox every time he faces them. Part of the reason he got a big contract from the Yankees was the way he pitched against Boston while with the Blue Jays, which is a pretty good lesson in taking the entire body of work into account.
On a night when the Yankees found out that they wouldn't have Joba Chamberlain to help nail down leads in the bullpen, two of the guys who will have to pick up the slack failed to so in spectacular fashion. Boone Logan, the lefty specialist who can't get lefties out, walked Adrian Gonzalez to force in a run and Lance Pendleton turned an 8-5 games into a rout by allowing a pair of home runs in top of the ninth.
The rotation troubles aren't a surprise, although the fact that Bartolo Colon is the second most-trusted pitcher sends a chill down the spine all the same. The bullpen was supposed to be one of the team's strengths this season, however, and it is anything but one at this point in time.
Boston, meanwhile, started with a major handicap thanks to their dreadful start and have been outplaying the Yankees by a wide margin for quite some time now. Their team isn't perfect, but their questions -- including the potential loss of Dustin Pedroia to knee surgery -- feel a lot less pressing than the ones the Yankees have to answer to get their team in order for the back end of the season.
A win on Thursday won't change any of the above, though it would make everyone feel better. If CC Sabathia gets crushed like Burnett and Freddy Garcia before him, however, that two game gap will feel like the Grand Canyon.