Though it would be a bit much for a NY columnist to focus on the one thing no one in Boston or New York wants to acknowledge — that the 2005 Orioles might have a better pitching staff than either the Red Sox or Yankees (and certainly have enough offensive firepower to compete with anyone in the league) — Newsday’s Jon Heyman is comforable enough with his own bad self to reference his good buddy Curt Schilling with the title of today’s “Have Mystique & Aura Left The Building?”

Not only have the Yankees lost a lot of games already, they’ve lost their chance at intimidation. One AL exec said, “I don’t think people fear the Yankees at this point.”

GM Brian Cashman doesn’t disagree, saying, “Right now, if you’ve watched us … you want to play us.”

One AL scout recently offered these thoughts:

“Bernie’s banged up … When I saw Brown, he was soft. It wasn’t that hard, biting stuff you’re used to. I don’t think Brown’s going to be an asset … Jaret Wright was never a given. He came back, and his velocity came back. But he had arm trouble before. I’m just surprised it surfaced so early …

“I don’t fear Giambi anymore. He’s got big holes in his swing … Posada’s going to be OK. Tino, I don’t know. We’re talking age … Tom Gordon might have been over-used last year … Stanton can’t pitch anymore. I was surprised they got him … Joe’s been mixing and matching. Gimme a break. What was that old song? ‘I’ve been searching …'”

Some observations of my own:

They should have picked up Jon Lieber’s one-year, $8-million option rather than try to save pennies by offering $12 million over two years. “Everyone wanted Jon Lieber, but no one felt eight for one was justified,” Cashman said. “But I’m the [GM], so I’ll take responsibility for that misread of the pitching market.”

The rotation has been underwhelming (batting averages against heading into the weekend: Wright .400, Mike Mussina .361, Brown .346, Carl Pavano .288, Randy Johnson .211), and the radar-gun readings are down. Torre didn’t like readings being posted on the scoreboard because they can be “distracting.” Embarrassing, too.

Perhaps it’s time to question Mel Stottlemyre. Javier Vazquez, Jeff Weaver and Jose Contreras never pitched to expectations. Cashman countered those examples, pointing out that David Wells did his best work in pinstripes, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera developed under Stottlemyre and Tanyon Sturtze emerged. Cashman looked at the data, which he called “a hodgepodge” that doesn’t point one way or the other.

It’s been a rough afternoon for Yankee pitchers, Carl Pavano and Mike Stanton in particular, Toronto leading 8-6 after 8 innings. If you’re a fan of the Bombers (and I understand 3 or 4 of you are just that), I sincerely hope that you’ve paid your cable bill — the only way Michael Kay comes off like an intelligent, non-biased broadcaster is if you compare his TV work to the radio calls of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. To hear Waldman wax poetic about Hideki Matsui’s “professionalism” when the left fielder knocked in Alex Rodriguez via a sacrifice fly to left was nothing short of cringe inducing. To believe Waldman’s account, Matsui intentionally interrupted his quest to break out of an acknowledged slump by popping up to Frank Catalanatto, thus helping his team. Going by the same logic, had Matsui blasted one out park, would that have been unprofessional (or unintentional?).