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The Yankees? Perfect they're not

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman says he fined Falstaffian pitcher David "Boomer" Wells $100,000 because Wells' controversial new semi-autobiography "tarnished the Yankee image."

Cashman's solemn vow to protect the Yankee image "on a daily basis" must have left Babe Ruth, Billy Martin and Mickey Mantle laughing hard enough to send beer spewing out of their nostrils in the big barroom in the sky.

In truth, Wells fits right in with the Yankee image _ and team executives knew that when they signed (and re-signed) him. The title of his new book says it all: Perfect I'm Not! Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches and Baseball. If anything, Cashman and his boss, George Steinbrenner, should be relieved that Boomer kept Broads and Bennies out of the title.

Among other things, the book claims Wells was still suffering from an all-night drunk when he threw a rare perfect game in 1998. If the story is even partly true, it extends a long Yankee tradition. Ruth was known for belting home runs with a hot dog in each pocket and half a brewery in his belly. Mantle and Martin were among the most famous of the many Yankees who excelled on the field and in the dugout despite late-night habits that would have hospitalized lesser men.

Wells originally fell back on the traditional excuse that some of the most outlandish statements in his book resulted from his having been misquoted. Not every author can claim to be misquoted in his autobiography, but Wells can try to blame some of his problems on his ghostwriter.

Wells would be better off just sitting back and enjoying the publicity, which should help him recoup his $100,000 (which is being given to charity) many times over. If true Yankee tradition prevails, all sins will be forgiven as long as Wells' left arm stays strong.

And when age and dissolution finally catch up with Wells, a Nobel Peace Prize wouldn't be enough to prevent Steinbrenner _ who knows a thing or two about tarnishing the Yankee image _ from unloading him faster than the Babe could run out the back door of a brothel.

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