Surmising that the AL East is all but done and dusted, the New York Sun’s Tim Marchman examines the bigger question marks for the New York Yankees as they, uh, play out the string?

First, who’s who in the bullpen? The closer is decent enough, but past that things are, in October terms at least, a bit of a puzzle. As outstanding as Scott Proctor has been all year ” and he’s showing no signs of slowing down, with a 1.83 ERA this month ” I doubt he strikes anyone as the menacing (and reliable) presence one would ideally want on the mound in the 8th inning of a playoff game with Paul Konerko, Jim Thome, and Jermaine Dye coming up.

And Ron Villone, so unexpectedly effective all season, is showing every sign of becoming the latest casualty of Torre’s complete inability to resist overusing his better relievers, as he’s given up runs in a third of his appearances this month and seems to have lost a bit of whatever zip there was on his pitches.Resting these two while still keeping them sharp will probably be the most important thing for the teams’ playoff hopes over the next month.

This leaves the mystery man, Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth has been exactly what anyone who followed his career before this year would have told you he’d be: alternating between brilliant and clueless, a perfect example of why being able to pop 99 mph fastballs at will isn’t the goal of pitching. The key is to get him in one of his mysterious grooves where he stops thinking (make your own joke) and thus stops giving up runs. If the Yanks can coax him into a perfectly blank state he can absolutely be that Jeff Nelson-type shutdown presence in the 8th inning. I wouldn’t bet on it.

Second is of course the mystery of Alex Rodriguez (above). As far as I’m concerned, the main mystery should be whether or not the people who are convinced he’s singlehandedly responsible for crippling the American economy along with his team, actually watch Yankees games. His batting line this month is .280 BA/.381 OBA/.494 SLG, enviable numbers in line with Derek Jeter’s career averages, but then again striking out 10 times in three games does raise questions.

Assuming that we can find the root cause of his woes somewhere between his mysterious injuries and the pressure of being labeled a failure whenever he doesn’t hit four home runs in a game, it would probably be for the best to continue the unexpected but entertaining Nick Green experience as much as possible in hopes that a rejuvenated and refreshed Rodriguez can come out strong a month from now.

As things go, however, were Rodriguez actually to sit out a substantial number of games he’d probably be labeled a fraud, and so we’ll continue to see a fried A-Rod swinging through pitches he shouldn’t even be offering at. A hearty hand to all those who have kicked the man while he’s down.

Not everyone has it in for A-Rod, however, as the whifftastic third baseman had the support this weekend of John Wooden and Reggie Jackson. The former advised him never to record a spoken word album for New Alliance, while the latter merely brandished a pistol and mumbled something about The Queen before being wrestled to ground by Leslie Neilsen.