“Chien-Ming Wang in a Game 1. Kyle Farnsworth in the eighth inning. And Johan Santana on the Red Sox. It™s hard to believe the Yankees are letting this happen” writes the New York Observer’s Howard Megdal (link courtesy Baseball Think Factory). Hey, there’s always Freddy Garcia.

It™s not too late, and the Yankees may rally as they did in the Alex Rodriguez sweepstakes some weeks back, which cast a dubious light on Hank™s grasp of the words œdeadline and œout. But if the Yankees let either factor keep them from Johan Santana (above), the more than $400 million in total salary commitments they™ve signed on for since the season ended were little more than jogging in place.

œThe deadline is the deadline, Steinbrenner told the New York Times on Dec. 4. œI extended it a few hours more, and that was it. So it™s done.

And the Daily News reported that the final deal the Yankees turned down included Hughes, Cabrera, a AA pitcher in Jeff Marquez with a mediocre strikeout rate, and a A-level singles hitter in Mitch Hilligoss.

While Hughes would be a real loss, his spot in the rotation would be filled by the best pitcher in baseball. It is unclear just whether Melky Cabrera will be a star. And neither Marquez or Hilligoss are guaranteed to be much of anything.

The worst part of the non-deal is that the favorites to nab Santana are the Boston Red Sox. And the Yankees, by dropping out of the bidding publicly, have given Minnesota less leverage to extract talent from New York™s primary competition for the AL East.

Perhaps Hank believes that, as with A-Rod, any player or team is bound to come begging to the New York Yankees eventually. Or maybe the Yankees, having spent to retain Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, are finally at the bottom of their Scrooge McDuck-sized pile of money.

But Santana is the finest pitcher to become available in many years. Through revenue sharing, a larger percentage of teams are able to lock up their top players to long-term contracts. The top pitchers simply don™t hit the free agent market”they are either traded or signed.