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Getting hard to find the bright side for the Yankees

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If you take a deep breath, and put on your lucky Paul O’Neill jersey, and outline the absolute best-case scenario for the Yankees, you just might find a road map that gets them into the playoffs.

If you instead look at the American League standings, you’ll notice that the Royals have a better record.

Since the All-Star break, the Yankees have split with the Rangers and split with the Dodgers (those are the high points of the second half). They’ve also lost two of three against the Red Sox and two of three against the Rays (those are the top two teams they’re chasing in the American League East). The Yankees have also lost two of three against the Padres and taken a three-game sweep against the White Sox (those are sub-.500 teams, and the Yankees badly needed to take advantage of them).

On a Thursday off day in early August, everything positive about the Yankees is hypothetical and requires real best-case-scenario thinking.

• Maybe CC Sabathia can turn things around, pitch like an ace again, and put together a string of starts like he did for Milwaukee five years ago.

• Maybe Alex Rodriguez will be motivated by the negativity, want to prove his talent before an inevitable suspension, and hit like an MVP for two months.

• Maybe Robinson Cano really is one of those elite hitters capable of a career-defining stretch, and he can come up with big hits for about seven weeks.

• Maybe Hiroki Kuroda is a Cy Young pitcher, and Ivan Nova has put it all together, and Andy Pettitte shouldn’t be counted out, and the bullpen is deep, and pitching really is the key to the kingdom.

• Maybe Derek Jeter will use these two weeks to become fully healthy, something about his Jeter-ness will rally the troops, and the Yankees will will themselves into the playoffs.

Or, you know, maybe the Red Sox and Rays and Orioles and Rangers — and Royals! — will stumble along the way and leave the door wide open for a team that hung in there for about a month and a half, but has since looked like a team that’s old and hurt and heading the absolute wrong direction.

Are you wearing your Paul O’Neill jersey? Or are you looking at the standings?

Associated Press photo