After A-Rod’s less than Brooks Robinson-ian showing on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, George Steinbrenner was widely quoted as expressing dissatisfaction with “the third baseman”. For the Daily News’ Bob Raissman, this is less than mind-blowing stuff.

Ignoring reality, we dog Steinbrenner when he’s doggable with the fond hope – and mission – of catching a quote capable of producing a few days of sparks. If three words can ignite that stick of dynamite, so be it. We’ll take it.

His menu now consists of crumbs. Crumbs like: “The third baseman!” Granted, the powers that be went gaga, spreading those crumbs over a few back pages. The reaction was, at best, dubious. After all, do we really know what Steinbrenner’s words actually meant? What if he meant to say: “The third baseman…. He had a rough night.”

And isn’t it strange that after spending all that money on the dude, and recognizing his reputation as one of the greatest players in the game, Steinbrenner would not mention A-Rod by name? Yeah, maybe The Boss is getting a little forgetful. Or perhaps there was some strange hidden meaning in his three-word outburst.

The third baseman?

Was this The Boss’ version of “Rosebud?”

Or “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?”

The driving force behind these Steinbrenner stakeouts is competition. If one newspaper happens to miss what now passes for a Steinbrenner session with the media, and The Boss says something like, “The shortstop,” there could be hell to pay for the reporter who missed it.

Really, should any scribe catch heat if, while leaving the Stadium, Steinbrenner walks past the assembled notebooks and blurts out: “The third base … coach?” Probably not. But if someone happens to blow those words up into a back page, the reporter absent from the session will be in for some grief.’s Buster Olney might’ve discussed the Yankees making a run at Junior or Austin Kearns last night in the wake of Hideki Matsui’s injury, but today, he’s got an entirely more sensible proposition.

Bobby Abreu, Phillies. General managers from other teams say Phillies GM Pat Gillick was extremely motivated in his effort to trade Abreu all winter — mostly because of the $30 million still owed to Abreu for this year and for next year. There is a dramatic split among evaluators on how good of a player Abreu is: The New School Number Crunchers love Abreu for his incredible on-base percentage, prolonged at-bats, and his offensive production, while a lot of the Old School Scouts say he’s worth much less than his numbers suggest, believing he doesn’t play hard all the time and that his physical condition is regressing. An Old School scout asked of him recently, “Can’t he just dive for a ball one time?”

Gillick acquired David Dellucci on the eve of the season, so he has options if he really wants to move Abreu, who is batting .264 with four homers and a .438 on-base percentage so far. If the Phillies are ready to deal the All-Star, the Yankees probably wouldn’t have to give up much talent — maybe a couple of Grade B prospects — in order to get him, because of the size of his contract. The real value of the deal to Gillick may be the financial flexibility gained, as he considers ways of helping the team before the trade deadline.