The Chicago White Sox have lost 6 consecutive games, but the manager of the team that beat them tonight is the subject of print speculation about how soon he’ll lose his job. 1 game out of the AL Wild Card (pending the finish of tonight’s Royals/A’s game — please, play along and pretend KC has a chance) and Joe Torre has the NY Daily News’ Mike Lupica measuring Lou Piniella for pinstripes.

Over all the years George Steinbrenner has owned the Yankees, there is only one person about whom he has acted really afraid.

Joe Torre.

But if the Yankees don’t make the playoffs this season despite the biggest payroll in the history of professional sports, we may find out just how afraid Steinbrenner still is.

There is no way of knowing whether the Yankees have to catch the Red Sox in the American League East, or catch the A’s in the wild-card race, for Torre to keep his job. That’s not the point here. The point is this: It is no longer impossible to imagine a scenario where Torre might have to make it to one more October to keep his job, especially if Steinbrenner thinks there is some way to replace him with Lou Piniella, the only possible successor who makes any sense.

“Lou’s the only one George would be able to sell to the fans,” one member of the organization said yesterday. “I’m not saying I think it’s going to happen, but he’s the only one out there who would look comparable to Joe.”

The only possible successor who would make sense has a managerial record of 182-263 over the last three seasons. His sole World Series victory as a manager came 15 years ago. Granted, Piniella isn’t Stump Merrill. But he’s no Joe Torre.