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Yankees Get Across Jason Dickson Line

It’s four days until the trading deadline, two first-place teams are on the field, and one dugout is buzzing.

Everyone is talking about trading for a starting pitcher, improving for the pennant stretch, making a championship commitment.

In the other dugout are the Angels.

For three days this week at Edison Field, the New York Yankees should be considered more than just an Angel opponent.

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They should be a role model.

If a team with a 15-game lead and a chance to finish with the best record in history can talk about getting better. . . .

Why can’t the Angels?

A team gripping a one-game lead.

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A team desperately needing another starting pitcher to hold it.

A team that will never have a better chance to steal fans from the chaotic empire up the road.

The Yankees talk about acquiring Randy Johnson.

The Angels talk about protecting a minor leaguer named Scott Schoeneweis.

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The Yankees talk about beefing up for October.

“There is a second season involved, everyone knows it,” Manager Joe Torre said.

The emaciated Angels sound resigned to survival.

“It’s like I told the players earlier this year,” Manager Terry Collins said. “If you don’t think we’re good enough, come in my office and I’ll get you out of here.”

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If Collins doesn’t win manager of the year, his game face should at least qualify him for Disney employee of the month.

He continues to publicly push and prod the Angels into believing they can win the American League West with mirrors and heart . . . while everyone quietly knows that only works in Mighty Duck movies.

They need a veteran starting pitcher.

They need to trade whatever prospects are required to obtain one.

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Period.

Bill Bavasi, general manager, has captured lightning before. There was Jim Abbott in 1995, Ken Hill in 1997, both worthwhile investments at the moment.

Bavasi is trying to do it again, but things seem to have stalled. The Angels don’t have what others want. Others don’t have what the Angels want.

Because of injuries, the Angels can no longer afford to trade a regular position player without getting one in return. The “get rid of Jim Edmonds” ditty has momentarily been silenced.

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But there are other players they can deal, from Vancouver to Midland to Lake Elsinore.

The trade talks have come upon roadblocks, but Bavasi needs to figure how to get around them. More than one season depends on it.

With an inspired everyday lineup, world-class coaching staff and homey new stadium, imagine the juice around town if they make the playoffs and play the Yankees in the first round.

The Dodgers guaranteed it, but the Angels did it.

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Now . . . imagine what will happen if they fall one pitcher short.

The Angels are still the, uh, Angels.

As Cecil Fielder noted Tuesday, adding a veteran late in the season is not always an elixir. There are chemistry problems, contract problems, oh-no-we-just-traded-three-great-prospects-for-a-stiff problems.

But Fielder, who was such a veteran when traded from the Detroit Tigers to the Yankees on July 31 in their world championship season in 1996, also said this:

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“It seems like the guy over there [George Steinbrenner] never has a problem with getting another player. And I’m not saying he has more money than the Walt Disney company. He just has that mentality.”

About a late-season acquisition, he also said this:

“It can be very important, a very important scenario. Sometimes you need to fill a void. It’s not only good on the field, it helps the guys in the clubhouse.”

Now is one of those times.

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They currently have one No. 1 starter--Chuck Finley--and a handful of No. 5 starters.

They are counting on the August return of Hill from elbow surgery and Jack McDowell from an elbow injury . . . which is a little like handing the baton to someone with shaky fingers.

They endure too many nights like Tuesday’s 9-3 defeat, when Jason Dickson took the mound against a Yankee lineup with seven starters batting at least .300 against him.

They were trailing, 5-0, after two innings. The three errors came later, when the fielders grew tired of standing around watching the ball get pummeled.

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The stands rocking with excitement, a slight breeze blowing in from center field, the smell of popcorn in the air, Tuesday was a good night for Angel fans to ease down into this pennant race, sigh and say . . . “Boy, good thing the Rangers stink.”

“We’re close, it all boils down to pitching and defense,” reminded Hill of this time of the year.

On Tuesday they had neither, and now it comes down to a third element roaming around Edison Field, that being ghosts.

You can tear out a bunch of seats, install what looks like a miniature golf course in center field, serve prime rib behind home plate, but the ghosts are still here.

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You can see them in the Angel eyes before Tuesday’s game when they were watching Texas playing on the clubhouse’s big-screen TV, a Ranger batter hitting a fly ball to . . . Tony Phillips.

You can hear it in their voices when they irritatingly entertain talk of another September failure.

“This team has had a lot of bad things happen to it,” Fielder said. “Sometimes, you add some players who are used to playing late in the year, do something to change it, it can help that.

“When you don’t, it will always be in their mind.”

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The paint is fresh but the ghosts are still here, from Dave Henderson to Luis Sojo, from Dodger this to Dodger that.

Bill Bavasi has another chance to get rid of them. Maybe his best chance yet.


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