As a small boy -- this would've been a number of years back -- I used to turn to my sports section, go to the baseball page, close my eyes and hope when I opened them, the American League standings magically would list the New York Yankees with a 3-159 record. Again and again, this failed to materialize, so I did the logical thing -- I canceled my subscription to the newspaper.

As a large man -- I am now a somewhat aging adult -- these days I buy multiple newspapers every morning so I can see the Yankees foundering around .500 in the standings as many times as possible.

That's right, the New York Yankees -- with a bigger payroll than the Gambino family, with Derek Jeter and Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera and Hideki Matsui, with an owner who would buy happiness if he could -- can't even get past the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East.

They've lost 11 of their last 14 games, including three straight to one of the worst teams in baseball, the Kansas City Royals. They've called team meetings, juggled the lineup, even canceled batting practice. And no matter what the Yankees do, every day they wake up, look in the mirror and see the Cleveland Indians in pinstripes.

(Meanwhile, how about the Washington Nationals? You've got to love our Nats! In fact, if they hang around first place long enough, I just might move back to D.C., pledge every one of my tax dollars to that spankin' new stadium and even spend weekends on my own dime fixing potholes on New York Avenue.)

Now, for those of us tired of the Yankees outspending everybody and winning -- I don't mind them outspending everybody as long as they don't win -- we got even better news this past week:

George Steinbrenner made a public statement supporting Manager Joe Torre.

"Joe Torre's job is safe," Steinbrenner said through his publicist, Howard Rubenstein.

Memo to Joe Torre: U-Haul has a good daily rate.

One might think that Torre would be an untouchable, but for Steinbrenner, nothing within his reach goes untouched. (I half-expected to turn on the Belmont Stakes on Saturday and see Brian Cashman aboard Bellamy Road. Alas, Bellamy Road wasn't running, so the Yankees' general manager probably was in the stables washing down the disgraced horse.) In Torre's nine Yankee seasons, he has won four World Series and six AL pennants.

To which Steinbrenner might respond: What have you done for me lately? Indeed, the Yankees haven't won it all since 2000, which, in King George years, is usually five or six managers ago.

Of course, Steinbrenner has said, "You're fired!" more than Donald Trump and Murphy Brown combined.

He fired Billy Martin as manager four times. He fired Bob Lemon after 14 games in 1982 and Yogi Berra after 16 games in 1985. He fired Dick Howser in 1980 after Howser had won 103 games.

Steinbrenner once even fired a secretary who got the wrong sandwich for his lunch.

(On this count, I have to defend The Boss. I mean, if I order a turkey club and I get an egg salad, what's the future hold? Next thing you know, they're bringing me Buffalo wings when I've asked for a Philly cheesesteak, and frankly, nothing good can come of this.)

In addition to Steinbrenner's dreaded vote of confidence, Torre has to deal with the New York media. Trust me: If Mahatma Gandhi ever worked for non-violence out of midtown Manhattan, they would've run him out of town the first time there were two Central Park muggings in one day.

Here are some actual New York Post back-page headlines during the Yankees' recent slide:

"Dead Team Walking." "Broom & Doom." "The Big Disgrace." "Sloppy, Joe." "Joe Blow."

Now, there's a newspaper I want to read.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Where will a new football stadium be built in Los Angeles? (Mike Robbins; Hayward, Calif.)

A. Speaking for my fellow Angelenos, we don't need another football stadium. We already have the Rose Bowl and the Coliseum. Heck, I've got neighbors who have a pool and a stadium in their backyards. Now, if they do build a new facility for the NFL, I'd like to suggest the first "drive-thru stadium" in which we literally would watch the game while we sit in traffic.

Q. Don't NBA playoff games seem scripted, like pro wrestling matches? (Robert Lindsay; Bethesda)

A. Actually, I seem to recall Dick Bavetta and Bennett Salvatore working Wrestlemania 21, and, indeed, when you hear Bill Walton's voice, the WWE immediately comes to mind.

Q. If I send you $1.50, will you send me $1.25 and put my name in the newspaper? (Pete Phillipos; New Bethlehem, Pa.)

A. Please send your buck-fifty to Couch Slouch, care of this newspaper. (Psst, Shirley -- make this our new promotion; we'll be rolling into retirement seven years ahead of schedule.)

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. E-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!