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Joel Sherman:

IT WAS worse last season. Much, much worse. How easy it is to forget, but the Yankees were in a far more dire spot than their current plight when the second half began a year ago today.

Chien-Ming Wang mysteriously came up with a shoulder injury during the break that would disable him for two months. Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright already were out, meaning four starting pitchers on the DL. When the second half opened, the Yanks were a third-place team - in both the AL East and AL wild card - with Jason Anderson, Wayne Franklin, Darrell May and Tim Redding all on their pitching staff.

The rotation was in such shambles that Redding started the second game and lasted one inning in a 17-1 loss at Fenway Park, a humiliation hastened when a 20-year-old center fielder named Melky Cabrera misplayed a Trot Nixon liner into an inside-the-park homer. Al Leiter, the NL's worst pitcher, was obtained to start the series finale because, essentially, the Yanks had no other options.

People forget that the wild card wasn't a done deal last year for the Yanks either. Cleveland was the powerhouse. If it wasn't for a complete meltdown by the Indians, things might have been different for everybody. And everyone seems to forget that the White Sox almost choked  away the Central division until they caught fire down the stretch and into the World Series.

This is the year that the Yanks are the most vulnerable. They have showed a great deal of heart to be only three games behind Boston at this point and they might come to regret that fact. The trading deadline seems to hold all the cards for a plethora of teams and unless Chacon suddenly finds himself, I don't think there is another Aaron Small sitting in our laps.