They still have the swagger and confidence that they'll be back in the postseason.
But when the Yankees and their smug legion of fans invade Camden Yards starting Friday, the club will be bringing Bubba, Sid, Melky, T.J. and Sal. Those names conjure up New Jersey sub shop owners, not wearers of the famous pinstripes.
But that's the deal these days with the Yankees, who have somehow maintained a glimmer of dominance despite injuries forcing them to lean on a cadre of nobodies.
Sure, they still have eight players on the 25-man roster who make $10 million or more this season. And that doesn't include starter Jaret Wright and outfielder Bernie Williams, both of whom still hold their own.
Six members of their roster have never played a full big league season. And those are the surer things. Again toying with baseball karma, the Yankees have relied on castoffs from some of the league's worst teams. Outfielder Aaron Guiel was squeezed out of the Kansas City Royals and infielder Nick Green escaped the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Two other ex-Royals, Kelly Stinnett and Kris Wilson, also played for the Yankees this season. And, just for giggles, a pair of Orioles dumpees from 2005, troubled pitcher Sidney Ponson and fan favorite catcher Sal Fasano, could make up a Yankees battery here next weekend. No kidding.
The Yankees seemingly have always excelled at getting the most out of retreads -- Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon last season -- but unless All-Stars such as Robinson Cano, Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui come back healthy, this stretch run could be the Yankees' biggest test of fate yet.
Or maybe they'll just annex the Florida Marlins.
Chance on O. Perez
How bad was Odalis Perez (6.83 ERA in 20 games) for the Los Angeles Dodgers? After criticizing management, he was shipped to baseball Siberia (Kansas City) with about $8 million and a couple of prospects for reliever Elmer Dessens. Ouch.
But give new Royals general manager Dayton Moore a hand. He just picked up a 29-year-old left-hander and former 15-game winner at a seriously slashed rate. Perez must re-establish himself, and no-pressure Kansas City is the perfect place. Since he was dealt in the middle of a long-term contract, Perez could demand a trade at season's end. But even that could help the struggling Royals rebuild.
The Minnesota Twins' filthy rotation might be getting filthier. Matt Garza, 22, the club's first draft pick in 2005, has cruised into Triple-A, and manager Ron Gardenhire is lobbying for his promotion. One scout called the 6-foot-4 right-hander with a 95-mph fastball and power slider "maybe the best pitcher in the minors."
Battling slight injury and a lack of run support, Tampa Bay left-hander Scott Kazmir hasn't won since July 3. ... The Cleveland Indians hope to use the $2 million saved by trading closer Bob Wickman in this winter's free-agent market.