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Can the Yankees beat the Red Sox?
That's been a big question over a first half that's seen them handle everybody other than Boston with ease and it will be the question during the second half as long as the two teams remain favorites in the American League.
The Yankees certainly seem capable of pulling it off, so long as their roster is operating at peak levels.
And that's the rub. Or it could be the rub if things don't unfold the right way for a roster that is looking uncomfortably vulnerable to the effects athletic activities can take on the human body.
Alex Rodriguez is already out until at least the middle of August after knee surgery and it remains to be seen if his power will return once he's back in the lineup. That's just the tip of the potential iceberg.
Bartolo Colon had revolutionary surgery to return to baseball, has already been on the disabled list once this season and feels like a player racing against a clock that is getting close to midnight. The Yankees don't have an obvious replacement for him on hand and, depending on when the alarm sounds, they might not have a chance to find one somewhere else.
Age has clearly taken a toll on Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, two players who are even more important to the lineup with A-Rod out of the picture. Russell Martin has battled back issues during the first half, but the team can't afford to give much time to Francisco Cervelli if they hope to get anything approaching major league competence behind the plate.
That's a lot to worry about and we haven't even gotten to the scariest parts yet.
Mariano Rivera is dealing with elbow tendinitis, which hasn't kept him out of action long but raises the possibility that something could take him out of a bullpen that can't begin to replace him. If that doesn't frighten you enough, what if we added CC Sabathia to the worry pile?
There are no red flags attached to his left arm, but the man has put serious miles on it over the last few years and did show some signs of fatigue last September and October. There's no more important player to the Yankees this season and they can ill afford to see their horse break down in the stretch.
The great fear here isn't that the Yankees wind up missing the playoffs altogether. It's possible, of course, but it is hard to see it happening without a confluence of massive system failure on their part with a charmed half by the Rays or an AL West team that feels unlikely.
No, the bigger fear is that this team pulls a reprise of what happened from 2005-2007 when a strong regular season record amounted to nothing because the wheels came off in October. Those teams had plenty of creaky bodies, unlikely players in key spots and other similarities to this year's Yankees.
The hard part is that there's very little the Yankees can do other than cross their fingers and hope for the best. They can't get where they want to go without pushing Sabathia, Colon, Jeter, Martin and A-Rod and can't do anything to assure that pushing them won't result in a team too spent to succeed when the chips are in the middle of the table.
That calls to mind something about being stuck between rocks and hard places, a.k.a. the Bronx for the next three months.