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New York Yankees TOO MUCH IS ENOUGH

TANNED, FOCUSED AND LOADED/AL EAST

Life as the highest of high-revenue clubs is very good, except
for the rare mornings when the fresh bagels are a bit tardy.
"Where are those bagels today? I'm starved," Yankees
rightfielder Paul O'Neill wondered out loud one day at the
team's spring training headquarters in Tampa. As if on cue, a
door near O'Neill opened and a cart loaded with bagels and fresh
fruit was wheeled toward the gleaming clubhouse commissary.

While much of the rest of baseball makes do with crusty
doughnuts and cold cereal, George Steinbrenner applies the same
philosophy to keeping his team sated as he does to his payroll:
No expense is spared. "The hot tub, the masseuse...it's
unbelievable here," says third baseman Dale Sveum, who enjoyed a
productive but decidedly coach-class season with the Pirates
last year. "Everything here is first-class, right down to the
batting-practice pitchers. I've never seen so many quality arms
throwing batting practice."

Likewise, Scott Brosius, another third base addition, marvels at
the luxuries he never knew with the low-budget Athletics. "Here
they drag the infield while you're taking ground balls so that
the dirt is always smooth," he says. "I was amazed. And no, we
didn't have a masseuse in Oakland."

The Yankees are an embarrassment of riches. Before the first
baseball was unpacked or the first bagel sliced, New York's
25-man roster was essentially set. The only competition was
conditional--jockeying for playing time in the event of an
injury. How loaded are the Yankees? So loaded that the 10th
pitcher on their 11-man staff, Darren Holmes, has a three-year
contract. So loaded that they have a backup at every position
with at least one year of major league experience. So loaded
that the three players competing for the leftfield job--Chad
Curtis, Tim Raines and Darryl Strawberry--have 40 combined years
of major league service.

In the past 11 months Steinbrenner has shelled out $9.6 million
just to complete four trades (jettisoning lefthander Kenny
Rogers and third baseman Charlie Hayes, acquiring Chuck
Knoblauch and righthander Hideki Irabu). That's more than the
Expos will pay their entire roster to actually play for them
this year. The trade for Knoblauch, in which the Yankees sent
four prospects and $3 million to acquire a $6-million-per-year
player, shows that Steinbrenner pays as much attention to the
luxury tax as a New Yorker does to crosswalks. Even after that
deal, Steinbrenner courted and signed free-agent pitchers
Orlando Hernandez of Cuba and Ricardo Aramboles of the Dominican
Republic, swelling the Yankees' payroll to more than $70
million. "At some point, the Boss has got to shut it down," says
Mark Newman, Steinbrenner's top adviser.

Steinbrenner's largesse is largely bankrolled by his
broadcasting contracts--most notably a $486 million, 12-year
local TV deal signed in 1989 with MSG. The team ranked only 10th
in home attendance last season, seemingly appreciated more on
the road, where it was the biggest draw in baseball. With a new
or refurbished stadium probable after his Yankee Stadium lease
expires in 2002, Steinbrenner and his checkbook will be more
dangerous than ever.

The reason other clubs lament Steinbrenner's lavish spending
habits is not that he can sign free agents, but that he can't be
hurt by free agents who go bust. For instance, Steinbrenner is
paying the Athletics half of the $10 million remaining on
Rogers's contract just to take the pitcher off Steinbrenner's
hands. "The rest of us," says one American League general
manager, "have to live with our mistakes."

Says New York righthander David Cone, whose surgically repaired
throwing shoulder will be closely monitored, "The biggest
difference between high-revenue clubs like us and others is
depth. This is the deepest team I've been around here."

Spring training for the Yankees is nothing but a six-week sound
check. "The only thing I'd like," manager Joe Torre said early
in camp, "is for my starting pitchers to be healthy. That's
about it." Absent were the typical spring urgencies such as
breaking in a young starter or trying to fill a need with a
trade. Need? The toughest decisions in Tampa involve sesame or
poppy.

--Tom Verducci

COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT JORDAN LEVY FORT KNOX Thanks to the Boss's open-wallet policy, nothing can stop Bernie Williams and the Yanks from contending.

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON [Darryl Strawberry]

BY THE NUMBERS

1997 Team Statistics (AL rank)
1997 record: 96-66 (second in AL East)

BATTING AVERAGE .287 (2) OPP. BATTING AVG. .260 (2)
RUNS SCORED 891 (2) ERA 3.84 (1)
HOME RUNS 161 (8) FIELDING PCT. .983 (6)

OFF-SEASON MOVES

WHAT THEY NEEDED: A third baseman to replace Charlie Hayes and
Wade Boggs, and a starter to replace Doc Gooden. Also, a
designated hitter and a second baseman not named Luis Sojo.

WHAT THEY GOT: DH Chili Davis; third basemen Scott Brosius and
Dale Sveum; long reliever Darren Holmes; and Chuck Knoblauch,
one of the AL's best second basemen, from the Twins.

WHAT IT ALL MEANS: Davis will contribute more pop than the
exiled Cecil Fielder did, and Holmes can be used as either a
starter or a reliever. Whether Brosius still has it is a
question, but not a particularly pressing one on a team this
deep. If the starting pitchers--mainly David Cone, Andy Pettitte
and David Wells--stay healthy, this is the team to beat in the
East.

THE X-FACTOR

Has it really been 15 years since that tall, lanky kid with the
Ted Williams swing joined the Mets? Darryl Strawberry, now 36,
may be a shadow of the powder keg he once was, but that doesn't
mean George Steinbrenner can't dream. Strawberry is expected to
start in left, with one very clear goal: 25 home runs. If he can
reach that, Strawberry and fellow lefthanders Paul O'Neill and
Tino Martinez will make the Yankees murderous for the AL East's
mostly righthanded starters. That should be enough to put the
Yankees in command again and put Straw back in the New York
spotlight.

Projected Roster With 1997 Statistics
Manager: Joe Torre (third season with New York)

BATTING ORDER B/T BA HRs RBIs SBs

2B Chuck Knoblauch[*] R .291 9 58 62
SS Derek Jeter R .291 10 70 23
RF Paul O'Neill L .324 21 117 10
CF Bernie Williams S/R .328 21 100 15
1B Tino Martinez L/R .296 44 141 3
DH Chili Davis[*] S/R .279 30 90 6
LF Darryl Strawberry L .103 0 2 0
3B Scott Brosius[*] R .203 11 41 9
C Joe Girardi R .264 1 50 2

BENCH

IF Dale Sveum[*] S/R .261 12 47 0
OF Chad Curtis R .284 15 55 12
C Jorge Posada S/R .250 6 25 1
IF Luis Sojo R .307 2 25 3

STARTERS W L IPS BR ERA

RH David Cone 12 6 6.7 1.26 2.82
LH Andy Pettitte 18 7 6.9 1.25 2.88
LH David Wells 16 10 6.8 1.33 4.21
RH Ramiro Mendoza 8 6 5.8 1.42 4.24
RH Hideki Irabu 5 4 4.9 1.69 7.09

RELIEVERS W L S BR ERA

RH Mariano Rivera 6 4 43 1.19 1.88
LH Mike Stanton 6 1 3 1.31 2.57
RH Jeff Nelson 3 7 2 1.19 2.86
LH Graeme Lloyd 1 1 1 1.55 3.31
RH Darren Holmes[*] 9 2 3 1.67 5.34
RH Willie Banks 3 0 0 1.14 1.93

[*] New acquisition (R) Rookie B/T: Bats/throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
BR: Base runners per inning pitched