The first win of the season
goes to my friend Julia, of Julia’s Rants.
Despite an 0-6 start to the season, the Boston Red Sox were able to
capture their first two wins of the season in this past weekend’s series
against the New York Yankees.
With the loss, I have to
write about what’s right with the Red Sox and what’s wrong with the Yankees. So, here it goes…
Why the Boston Red Sox will win…
Pitching, pitching, pitching. Say what you
will about Dice-K, but the Red Sox have, arguably, the best starting rotation
in the American League. Jon Lester has
been one of my favorite pitchers and will be a Cy Young candidate when the
season is over. Despite some early
season struggles, I definitely feel that Clay Buchholz is one of the up and
coming stars and will be solid over the course of the long season. I know that the third starter, John Lackey,
has also struggled, but I feel very strongly that he’ll find his niche in
Boston and will consistently put the Sox in a position to win. Josh Beckett, if he continues to pitch like
he did on Sunday, is back. The Yankees
have a rookie in the 4th spot…the Sox have a former ace and one who
is capable of pitching like the elite pitcher he once was.
You can say that the Yankees
have the better bullpen, but if Jonathan Papelbon falters, the Sox have several
fallback options in former Chicago White Sox closer Bobby Jenks and future
closer Daniel Bard. They have reliable
arms in the pen, and have a proven long man in a guy the Yankees are well
familiar with (Alfredo Aceves). The gap
between the Sox and Yankee pens won’t be as big as experts may believe,
especially since the Sox will be able to be more selective in relief with a
superior rotation that is able to go much deeper into games.
Adrian Gonzalez. Count me as one of those who
believe that Gonzalez will be a monster at Fenway Park. He counteracts anything the Yankees have with
Mark Teixeira plus he has the intangibles.
A few years back, I was constantly looking up to see the highlights of
David Ortiz with another walk-off home run.
I fully expect Gonzalez to be that guy for the Sox, and he is going to
win games with both his bat and his glove.
Disruption. Once Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury get
going (it’s a question of when, not if), the Sox are going to be very
disruptive for opposing pitchers.
Singlehandedly, they have the ability to change the complexion and
momentum of games.
The forgotten hitter. For all the
headlines the newest additions have gotten and the return of players who were
injured last year (like Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia), it is easy to forget that
this lineup still features third baseman Kevin Youkilis. Youk is one of the best clutch hitters in
baseball, and teams will be so focused on stopping Crawford and Gonzalez that
they’ll lose sight of Youk…and will pay a high price for it.
The dead will rise. It is easy
for people to write off David Ortiz and Jason Varitek given their respective
ages, however, they are both consummate professionals who can still perform at
a high level. Like the Toby Keith song
goes, ‘I may not be a good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was’. There’s no doubt that these two will figure
prominently in Sox wins over the summer.
The bench. If there is anything I’ve learned about the
Sox, it is to never underestimate the power of Theo. Time and again, names come out of nowhere to
lead the Sox to victory. They had a
chance to catch the Yankees last September despite fielding a roster of
unknowns. Even on Tuesday night’s game,
the first run of the game came courtesy of a home run by Darnell McDonald. It wasn’t that long ago the Yankees wanted
Mike Cameron as their centerfielder, and here he is backing up the Sox
regulars. I don’t care if the player’s name
is Dork Fumblefingers. If he puts on a
Sox uniform, he is most likely going to hit game winning home runs and make
highlight reel catches in the outfield.
Terry Francona. When the Sox lose, Francona
detractors seem to come out of the woodwork, but he is, in my opinion, the best
manager in baseball. The only place with
greater expectations than New York might just be Boston, yet Terry is always a
show of class and his decision making skills show a deft understanding of now
and the future (i.e., the season). He
garners the most of his roster, and I have no doubt that he’ll right the ship
despite the slow start to the 2011 season.
With the Sox standing at 2-8 entering play tonight, people are quick to
say how poorly comparable teams have finished.
I will argue that when the season is done, the Sox will be the model of
the franchise that was able to successfully overcome such a poor start. In future years, when a team goes on a losing
streak to start the season, the media will be saying ‘but the 2011 Red Sox were
able to overcome…’.
Theo Epstein, Larry Lucchino, and John Henry. These
gentlemen took a franchise that was “cursed” from the 1923 trade that sent Babe
Ruth to the Yankees, and eradicated the word “curse” from the Red Sox
vocabulary. I also have not heard any
mention of Bucky Friggin’ Dent in several years. These guys have successfully brought two
world championships to Boston, and there is no doubt that they’ll have a third
one in the not-so-distant future (much to my chagrin).
The RSN. The fan base for the Sox is the most
passionate and fervent of any that I’ve experienced. I am not saying that Yankees fans aren’t
passionate, but Sox fans are like no other.
They stuck by their team when championships were only something their
grandparents or great-grandparents had ever experienced. Yankees fans get spoiled by championships in
almost every decade. The Sox fans have a
greater understanding and appreciation of what it means to be a true
champion. I am not one of them, but I
Why the Yankees won’t win…
Pitching, pitching, pitching. As great as
CC Sabathia is, he is still not a sure thing.
He has his moments where he struggles.
I know, like all pitchers, but there is something special when a pitcher
like Roy Halladay takes the mound. Win
or lose, you expect the team to win. I
expect the Yankees to win when CC is on the mound, but it is not with the
confidence that I’d have if Halladay were a Yankee. After CC, there is nothing but question
marks. A.J. Burnett has pitched well to
start the season, but he always starts good.
It is how he finishes. If he
reverts to 2010 A.J., the Yankees are toast.
Phil Hughes and the decreased velocity are a concern. He finished poorly last season, and he has
yet to pitch lights out this year. At
this point, I am really not sure what Hughes lies ahead. After Hughes is a rookie, Ivan Nova, who has
pitched well, but how will he perform the second time around when opposing
lineups get used to him? Can he make the
necessary adjustments? As it stood, the
ceiling for Nova was much lower than it is for guys like Brian Matusz or Jeremy
Hellickson (or even Michael Pineda). Is
he in the rotation because he has the potential to be great or is it because
none of the other prospects are ready. I
remain fearful that it’s the latter. I’ve
heard that Nova’s future is in the pen, and that doesn’t bode well for the
rotation. In the fifth spot, who
knows. Freddy Garcia has yet to pitch
due to rain delays. Bartolo Colon is
waiting in the wings if Garcia stumbles, as are Kevin Millwood and Carlos
Silva. None of the options instill
The bullpen looks great on
paper, but already this season, there have been failures by Rafael Soriano and
Joba Chamberlain. Pedro Feliciano is on
the DL and I heard that he had a setback today.
Luis Ayala is headed for the DL so the Yankees are already looking to
Scranton-Wilkes Barre for replacements.
One of these years, Mariano Rivera is actually going to show his
age. Will this be the year?
Aging lineup. Mark Teixeira is already
31? Seriously, we are already in the
midst of another April chill for Tex. He
started strong this year (thanks to Opening Day in March), but he went 0-fer
against the Sox. He was as much responsible
for me writing this post as anyone.
Derek Jeter has continued to show his age and is providing evidence that
his down season in 2010 may be a sign of things to come. Jorge Posada feels like a fish out of water
at DH. He’s done at catcher so where’s
his long-term potential with this team?
Alex Rodriguez looked great during spring training, but he is getting
older. Question marks continue to dog
Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner. The
Yankees are a great offensive club, but their hitters just don’t put fear in
you. If they don’t hit, they can be beat
as Josh Beckett proved on Sunday night.
In October, you’re facing the best pitchers in baseball. If the Yankees can’t hit the best, they can’t
be the best.
The bench. Don’t get me wrong…I love Eric Chavez and I
am glad that he’s a Yankee. But I am
concerned that injuries may force the Yankees to play Chavez more than they
should, exposing him to potential injury.
What if Derek Jeter is done? Is
Nunez ready to take over at short? I really
don’t expect this to be the year that Jeter goes south, but you have to
recognize that it could happen. It
eventually happens to all superstars.
Hank Steinbrenner. Eventually,
Hank is going to make an impulsive move that he’ll regret. I am sure that he has a Jay Buhner like trade
that he’ll force causing the Yankees to relinquish a prime prospect for an
aging past-his-prime veteran in an effort to shake things up.
The off-season. As difficult as last season was,
there is the potential that this off-season will be even more difficult. CC Sabathia can opt out of his contract, as
can Rafael Soriano. If the Yankees lose
Sabathia, they won’t be able to recover.
As the season progresses, the Sabathia opt-out is going to get more and
more ink. Hopefully, it doesn’t become a
Who knows that the 2011
season holds in store for the Yankees and the Red Sox, but I can assure you,
that both teams will be in the thick of things come September. I will never be fooled by Boston’s slow start. This is a very dangerous team and one that
can never be underestimated.
Clearly, I want the Yankees
to win, and I am hopeful they will, but Boston, even at 2-9, is still the best
team in the American League from top to bottom.
That may change by the trading deadline, but as it stands today, the Sox
are still a team capable of 100 wins.
Julia, I’m out…
So far, it feels like the Yankees are on the outside
looking in for the Hot Stove League.
Missing out on Cliff Lee, they’ve made some under the
radar moves, but that’s it. The Boston
Red Sox, who potentially had a much stronger team than the Yankees LAST season
if not for the injuries, have significantly improved this off-season with the
additions of Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Bobby Jenks, Matt Albers and Dan Wheeler.
At this point, I’d have to say that the
Red Sox are the favorites to win the American League Eastern Division.
Today, the Milwaukee Brewers stunned everyone by
acquiring Kansas City Royals ace Zack Greinke.
After their earlier acquisition of former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher
Shaun Marcum, the Brewers now feature a very formidable trio of Yovani
Gallardo, Greinke, and Marcum. Randy
Wolf is not a slouch at #4 so the Brewers certainly have a play-off contending
There was no attempt by the Yankees to acquire Greinke,
and I have mixed feelings. On one hand,
there is the doubt about whether or not he could have handled the pressure that
goes with playing in the Bronx given his prior anxiety problems. Greinke didn’t shy away from New York when
the Yankees were rumored as a potential destination but family members
apparently echoed a different sentiment.
I would certainly hate to give away the likes of Jesus Montero, Dellin
Betances, Eduardo Nunez, Manny Banuelos, and others for what could have been Ed
Whitson II or worse, A.J. Burnett II.
If the Yankees get Andy Pettitte for one more season (and
it’s still a big IF), there are still so many questions about the rotation.
Andy is not getting any younger and his potential for injury is increased as
each year passes. Ivan Nova was solid
during his brief audition, but he does not have a high ceiling as a
starter. So, the only sure bets in the
rotation would be CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes.
I expect Hughes to be stronger in 2011 than last year when he faded at
the end. But I recognize that you have
to wonder what if he isn’t able to take it to another level like Sox starters
Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have. The
mention of Sergio Mitre in the starting rotation gives me reason for worry
before the first pitch of 2011 is even thrown.
There have been a number of reports that the Yankees
should pursue Felix Hernandez, but those are simply pipe dreams. There is absolutely no way that the Seattle
Mariners are going to trade King Felix.
What’s left? I am
not sure. There is not really anything
out there that excites me. But if the
Yankees do nothing, their best hope is a Wild Card slot and the worst case
scenario is potentially a 4th place finish. I know, that’s a very pessimistic view, but
the Red Sox, at this point, are that much better and the other teams in the AL
East, except maybe the Tampa Bay Rays, have improved. The Rays cannot be underestimated because
they’ve been able to replace veterans with youth, so there’s always the chance
they will be every bit as good in 2011 as they were last year when they won the
I fully expect improved performances by the Buck
Showalter-led Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays, so 2011 may be the
toughest year yet in baseball’s toughest division.
Mark Goldman/Icon SMI
Of the moves the Yankees have made, I do like the
acquisitions of catcher Russell Martin and reliever Pedro Feliciano. I also think the Yankees should pony up and
pay closer dollars to free agent reliever Rafael Soriano unless they can entice
the Royals to continue their rebuilding by unloading Joakim Soria. I know that Mariano Rivera had a great 2010,
but let’s face it, he will be 41 years old next season. At some point, even Hall of Famers begin to
fade. The Yankees need to be prepared by
having a closer-in-waiting. Given the
shortcomings in the starting rotation, a superior bullpen is a must.
I can only hope that GM Brian Cashman is actively working
this holiday season and will be at work tomorrow morning dialing his fellow GM’s
for his Christmas wish list. If he’s
home enjoying his family, that’s sweet, but it spells doom for the Yankees in
2011. Just sayin’….
I waited for the Baseball Winter Meetings with so much
anticipation and in the end, it was a week of disappointment.
Of course, the Yankees were solely focused on one
objective (Cliff Lee) and it is clear that Lee is in no hurry to decide where
he’ll be pitching in Game 1 of the play-offs next fall.
Noah K. Murray/The Star Ledger
While the Yankees waited and then finally made their
offer to Lee, the nemesis Boston Red Sox were very active in acquiring the long
anticipated first baseman Adrian Gonzalez of the San Diego Padres. I am not quite sure how they were able to
pull off the deal without the inclusion of a single major leaguer but the
Padres did get highly touted pitching prospect Casey Kelly and first baseman
Anthony Rizzo. They also acquired
outfield prospect Reymond Fuentes, cousin to the Mets’ Carlos Beltran and a
player to be named later. Gonzalez is a
huge acquisition for the Sox. As Don
Mattingly said, Gonzalez has a perfect swing for Fenway Park and he’ll be a
beast in their lineup.
The Red Sox also pulled off a major surprise when they
signed former Tampa Bay Ray Carl Crawford.
The off-season rumors had the Red Sox in pursuit of either Jayson Werth
(who subsequently signed the incredulous deal with the Washington Nationals) or
Crawford. However, after the Gonzalez
acquisition, it appeared that Crawford was headed for the Los Angeles
Angels. The move was a good one for the
Sox although they’ll pay a hefty premium with the extension for Gonzalez along
with the contract for Crawford. It will
be interesting to see how this plays out for the other Red Sox outfielders. Ryan Kalish proved that he is a major
leaguer, so it would seem that somebody will depart in a trade for potentially
a catcher (Kalish, Jacoby Ellsbury, or Mike Cameron?).
Prior to the moves, I thought the Red Sox had the best
combination of pitching, hitting and defense in the division. Throw in Crawford and Gonzalez and there
seems to be a bit of a gulf between the Sox and the Yankees (and Rays). At the moment, the Yankees have only one
surefire ace to throw at the Red Sox (CC Sabathia). Behind CC is Phil Hughes. Sure, Hughes is capable to shutting down the
Sox but he does fall into the category of ‘you never really know for sure if he’s
going to have his best stuff’. After
that comes A.J. Burnett and for the moment, Ivan Nova. That’s it.
Clearly, the Yankees pitching staff needs much work between now and
Which of course leads us back to Cliff Lee. This off-season is all about Lee. The Yankees have made a huge offer for Lee (a
menu of 5, 6 and 7 year deals). The
Texas Rangers countered with a menu of their own offers and owner Chuck
Greenberg even flew to Arkansas to personally deliver the offers, bringing
along billionaire partner Ray Davis.
The Rangers have the wherewithal to pay Lee, although I’d
have to believe that a 7 year deal would hurt the Rangers for more than it
would the Yankees. Greenberg was
optimistic about the talks yesterday but I can’t tell if it is legitimate or
I am biased (of course), but if I was Cliff Lee, I would
look at this decision as how you want to be remembered in baseball long after
you are gone. To succeed in New York
gives players lasting celebrity. Paul O’Neill
will always be so beloved in New York, along with Tino Martinez and others,
even though they didn’t start their careers with the Yankees. At old-timer games, you see guys like Goose
Gossage and next year, Lou Piniella. If
you asked me to name former Rangers, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a list
of the Hall of Famers. I lived in Dallas
during the days of Jim Sundberg, Nolan Ryan, Steve Buechele and Larry Parrish,
but I couldn’t tell you where they are today (well, except for Nolan of
course). Being a former Texas Ranger is “nice”,
but forgettable. Being a former New York
Yankee is first class celebrity status, especially if you win. If Lee is as competitive as I think he is, he’ll
view the challenge of the improved Boston Red Sox squad as an opportunity to
shine. Texas may have been in the World
Series last year, but will they be a powerhouse for the next 7 years? Tough to tell. With the Yankees, you always know that
ownership is committed to fielding the best possible team. As a player, I would want to be in the
environment of the team who expects nothing less than the World Series every
Quality of Life? I
agree that Texas probably wins. The cost
of real estate is substantially less, and there is no state income tax. Lee can live in a mansion with acreage and
drive to/from the stadium with an easy commute.
In New York, you’re going to pay a premium for housing and the commute
won’t be easy. But c’mon, there is
nothing like the city of New York. I am
a small town Midwesterner, yet I think New York City is the greatest city in
the world. I love the energy and
excitement of the city. I’ve lived in
Dallas. It’s a fun town, no doubt. But it’s not New York. If I’m Cliff Lee, the decision is easy. I’d be on the phone asking Brian Cashman
where to sign…
George McNish/The Star Ledger
I found it very interesting that the Yankees picked two
players in the Rule 5 Draft. They lost two
players including pitcher George Kontos but they acquired an Angel and a Red
Sock. The Angel is pitcher Robert
Fish. I don’t know anything about Fish
and more than likely he’ll be offered back to the Angels, but you gotta love
his name. I am sure that the TV and
radio announcers would love to say how Joe Girardi is “bobbin'” for Fish when
he goes to the bullpen. Turpen is a
pitcher the Red Sox acquired for one of the two Ramon Ramirezes they had on
their roster (don’t ask me which one it was!).
I doubt that Turpen sticks but he was potentially on the list of players
for the player to be named later in the Gonzalez deal. So, if the Yankees made the selection to
spite the Red Sox, I am cool with it! J
I think the Yankees play for former Los Angeles Dodgers
catcher Russell Martin is a good one. I’ve
always liked Martin, and I think the combination of him and Jesus Montero would
be a good one. Hopefully, Martin doesn’t
get spooked by the presence of Montero and decide to sign elsewhere, like
Boston. I am hoping that Joe Torre and
Don Mattingly told enough great Yankee stories last year to entice Martin to pursue
a Yankee career!
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
There’s still a lot of work to be done between now and
spring training so hopefully things start to fall into place soon. Okay Cliff, the next move is up to you…
How can we enjoy the Championship off-season when the Red Sox are just so darn busy?…
The champagne on the Yankee Stadium clubhouse floor hadn’t dried when it was announced that the Red Sox had acquired promising outfielder Jeremy Hermida from the Florida Marlins. Hermida, 25, has underachieved in Miami but something tells me that he is about to blossom in Beantown.
As expected, the Red Sox exercised the option for Victor Martinez, the 2010 starting catcher and they re-signed the ageless Tim Wakefield for two years. The team did not pick up the option of former starting catcher Jason Varitek, however, I fully expect him to exercise his player option for a return in 2010 to back up Martinez. I agree with Julia that Tek is a manager in waiting so I see next year as a transition year to coaching. It would not surprise me at all to see him on Terry Francona’s staff in 2011.
Bob Breidenbach/The Providence Journal
As much as I would like to see Jason Bay sign with the Yankees, I fully expect him to return to Boston. I think the Yankees need a solid addition for the outfield, but I do not expect them to pursue either Bay or Matt Holliday. I’d like to see them pursue someone like Jeremy Hermida…oops, too late! Nevertheless, I am sure that there are other deals that could be made under the radar for a potential horse.
There have been rumors that Boston will acquire San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. That’s a deal, if it happens, which would not surprise me and would significantly strengthen the Sox.
Brad Mangin/Sport Illustrated
That, in turn, could force the Yanks to be major players for Angels starter John Lackey. Imagine Lackey as the #2 starter behind CC Sabathia, sliding A.J. Burnett to third. That would be a top trio in baseball, and one that would virtually guarantee a return to the post-season next year.
William Perlman/The Star Ledger
I hope this off-season does not turn into another Brett Favre-like ordeal with pitcher Andy Pettitte. If Andy wants to come back for at least one more year, and I think he does, the Yanks should move quickly to wrap him up on a one year deal. The Red Sox showed Tim Wakefield much respect by how quickly they tore up his contract and signed him to a new two-year deal. The Yankees need to give Andy the same respect.
Jae C. Hong/AP
I saw that the Los Angeles Dodgers announced that Joe Torre’s staff would return intact for 2010. It will be Torre’s final year on his current contract, although I read he is in negotiations for a new contract. During his final years, I remember always hearing how his wife wanted him to retire and spend time with their daughter. Here we are years later and the daughter is getting older. Yet, Torre continues to manage. Maybe he just can’t get managing out of his blood. I hope it is something more like that than possible revenge against the Yankee brass or the desire to prove that he can win without the support of the Steinbrenner’s money. I don’t want to take away from Don Mattingly but if he wants to be a future manager, is hitting coach the right spot? I have always heard that Bench Coach or Third Base are better positions for future managers. I still think that Donnie Baseball will replace Torre as Dodgers manager, however, it looks like it may be a few more years.
Pedro Feliz may have hit a home run in Game 4 of the World Series, however, it didn’t take the Philadelphia Phillies long to say goodbye to their third baseman. Thanks for all you do Pedro, but don’t let the door hit you on the way out!
Why is my worst fear that the Yankees will be staring at Roy Halladay on the mound when April 5, 2010 rolls around? I hope not, but of course, I am sure that a certain Red Sox blog will be gleefully delighted…