Don't look now, but the Flyers are in free fall.

A collapse on defense Tuesday turned a 3-0 lead into a 4-3 loss to Toronto.

A third-period goal last night meant a 3-2 loss. And that was to a Maple Leafs team that played the final two periods without leading scorer Matts Sundin.

In maybe the most telling point of all, the Flyers dropped to 16-14-6 at home and their bitter fans booed them off the ice in the final minute.

The boo birds must be wondering how long John Stevens will be behind the bench. The Flyers have the quickest trigger finger in sports and the current slide to the brink of missing the playoffs is critical.

The Flyers are in the eighth and last playoff position in the Eastern Conference. If they fail to hold on to that sport, after compiling the league's worst record a season ago, would anybody be shocked if Stevens was gone shortly after?

Don't be surprised if Craig Berube or Jack McIlhargey gets a chance at shaking this team out of its lethargy.

Scoreboard watching. If you're keeping score at home, the Phillies' 6-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds yesterday dropped the local lads to 4-9 in full-squad games. Only San Francisco (4-11) has a worse record in the entire NL.

The Phillies played Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard for the entire game.

"I think that it's about time for us to start allowing them to play a full game," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We're not hitting the ball good. One of our guys will put good wood on it every now and again, but we're not consistent."

The Phillies have more than two weeks to go in Florida. But that annual 1-8 start is lurking just around the calendar.

Humor. Billy Crystal showed up for spring training at the New York Yankees' camp in Tampa yesterday.

The comedian, who will play in today's exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, brought his full gear.

Black maple bat in hand, the Yankees newcomer brought a well-worn glove with his name neatly stitched on the side, too.

The hitting and fielding part, the comedian felt confident about. It was the drug test that had him worried.

"I'm supposed to bring blood and urine to the umpire [today]," he kidded. "I might test positive for Maalox."

Exactly what Crystal will do against Pittsburgh remains a mystery. He'll get to swing, but it's unclear if the former high school infielder will need his black Rawlings mitt.

Asked by a fan what position he would play, Crystal quipped: "DH - designated Hebrew."

While a few tradition-laden critics complained that Crystal's appearance was a stunt that somehow offended baseball, former Yankee reliever Goose Gossage said he had no problems.

"It doesn't bother me," the hard-throwing Goose told the Associated Press. "Of course, if I pitched to him, I'd flip him. I'd knock him down. And that would be the end of it."

Crystal was a favorite of former Yankees manager Joe Torre and became something of a pinstripe mascot, once keeping the Yanks loose by taking infield with them before a World Series game.

Commissioner Bud Selig approved this appearance and the Pirates sounded fine with Crystal's guest shot.

"He's been a big ambassador for baseball," Pittsburgh manager John Russell said. "It's a kid's game at heart, and he has loved it since he was a kid. I have no qualms about it whatsoever."

Nor does lefty Paul Maholm, scheduled to start for the Pirates.

"It's a no-win situation for me," he said, smiling. "I'm supposed to get the guy out. If he gets a hit off me, though, I might to have hang 'em up after the game."