Let's play 'What if ...'

Do you ever look at a team and wonder ... What if? It's sort of a silly exercise, because in addition to the what-ifs we can think of, there are an infinite number of others that are beyond our ability to conceive, thus picking particular what-ifs is highly selective and (at best) pseudo-analytical. Still, it's fun (for at least one of us), so I hope you'll indulge me for a few moments of our valuable time.

Hideki Matsui Matsui

Gary Sheffield Sheffield

What if Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui hadn't gone down with serious injuries early in the season? On the one hand, it's hard to imagine the Yankees playing much better than they've played. After all, they're in first place and current projections have them finishing the season with 98 wins, and you can't do much better than 98. However, the Yankees' corner outfielders, not including Matsui and Sheffield, have totaled 621 at-bats -- a season's worth for one player, roughly -- and the combined numbers include 15 home runs, 73 RBI and a .742 OPS (on-base plus slugging isn't the perfect statistic, but it is favored by GM Brian Cashman). Not so hot for the team with the Yankees' payroll.