Happy New Year to all Baseball Fans!…
January 1, 2014. Time to replace the calendars. With the arrival of the New Year, it brings optimism for baseball fans everywhere as they anticipate whether or not their team has done enough to ensure October success. Boston fans dream of a back-to-back championship, while others hope they can be the ones to de-throne the defending champs. In January, anything is possible, although arguably some teams have a much better chance than others.
As a Yankees fan, it has been a bittersweet off-season. The team finally made some bold moves after a couple of years of inactivity in signing Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran, but the loss of Robinson Cano will hurt. The team still has not done enough to improve the starting rotation nor has it repaired the losses in the pen.
I thought the Washington Nationals did a good job in bringing in Doug Fister for its starting rotation. He was a solid performer for the Detroit Tigers and he should help provide back-end stability for the frontline starters.
The Boston Red Sox did well in re-signing Mike Napoli. He is a great role performer and he seems to thrive in the Fenway environment, however, I am not sure that A.J. Pierzynski makes up for the loss of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I think they’ll be okay losing Jacoby Ellsbury if Jackie Bradley, Jr is able to take the next step up in his promising career. While it remains questionable whether Stephen Drew will be back or will be playing in Citi Field, any team would love to have Xander Bogaerts standing ready to take over the shortstop position. Regardless of what happens, I think the Red Sox will be a force in 2014 and won’t relinquish their crown easily.
The Minnesota Twins showed an unusual side in signing free agent pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, and bringing back Mike Pelfrey. They missed out on A.J. Pierzynski, but the signing of Kurt Suzuki will allow them to bring their young catcher, Josmil Pinto, along slowly in the major leagues as they replace Joe Mauer who has moved to first.
Among others, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Oakland A’s, and the San Francisco Giants (in bringing Tim Hudson back to the Bay Area) have had productive off-seasons.
There are countless other major moves that have been made and other teams that have significantly enhanced their chances for winning, but the point is that January is a time of optimism. Spring Training looms on the horizon as this is the last full month before pitchers and catchers begin to report. Players, if they took time off for the holidays, are aggressively starting or continuing their off-season workout regimens. This is the time that will set in motion the attitudes and the chemistry that makes up each team. Baseball is not about having the most physically gifted team, it’s about the team that can do the most to maximize the synergy of the team and create a culture that is unwilling to accept losing.
It should be a fun season. It’s too early to form an opinion of the teams that stand the best chance as there are still some roster-changing moves that will be made before spring training breaks, but in the AL, you know that the Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Rangers, A’s, and Angels will have a say in who wins and who loses.
I hope it’s a very happy and enjoyable New Year for everyone! Time to make new friends, create fantastic new opportunities, experiences, and memories. Time to get excited about the arrival of the upcoming Major League Baseball season. May the 2014 season bring you great satisfaction and enjoyment!
The Masahiro Tanaka Sweepstakes…
It’s been written that the New York Yankees are the favorites to sign prized Japanese free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, but it’s really anybody’s guess where he will sign. Personally, I could see the Los Angeles Dodgers blowing away the competition, and they would certainly provide a main stage for Tanaka to perform. No offense to the Minnesota Twins, but I couldn’t really see a player with Tanaka’s potential playing in a small market. I would love to see Tanaka sign with the Yankees and I think Hiroki Kuroda would be the perfect mentor to help Tanaka’s transition to the United States. But the Dodgers have a strong history with Japanese players. The Texas Rangers may be players and you certainly cannot underestimate the Seattle Mariners or the Los Angeles Angels. The Tanaka decision will be made within the next three weeks as it has to be completed by January 24th, so it should be interesting to watch Tanaka’s tour and to see how much teams are willing to pay for his potential. Guys like Clayton Kershaw, with free agency looming in the not-so-distant future, have to love this, and it will help enhance the monetary packages it will take to sign or retain them with proven superior performance in the MLB.
If the Yankees lose out on Tanaka, I am not sure what a good Plan B will be. I’ve heard Ubaldo Jimenez’ name mentioned, but it’s not a guarantee that 2013 was a return to the promise he once held or if it was just an aberration and he’ll continue his prior downward slide. Bronson Arroyo, Ervin Santana. None of these names excite me. I am more hopeful that guys like Michael Pineda and Manny Banuelos can come into training camp and make statements for why they should be the guys.
Roster moves await…
With the 40-man roster filled, and the signings of second baseman Brian Roberts or reliever Matt Thornton to be made official, it’s clear the Yankees will need to open roster space. Given the excess at catcher with the signing of Brian McCann, it’s fairly clear that either Austin Romine or J.R. Murphy could be moved. I think we’ll see the departure of Vernon Wells despite his salary friendly status thanks to the Angels. Even something free is not worth keeping if it has no value. As speculated, I could still see a trade of Ichiro Suzuki to a team like the San Francisco Giants. I have no problem with Zoilo Almonte taking the fifth outfielder role, particularly in light of his strong winter play.
I don’t think the Yankees have done enough yet, but I also do not think they are finished. I am confident that by the time training camp opens, the Yankees will have the collection of players capable of restoring the team’s 90+ win ability. Time will tell if they’ve caught up with their prime AL East competitors but at least with the Yankees, you know it won’t be for the lack of trying.
The words of Randy Levine…
Admittedly, I do not know much about Yankees president Randy Levine, but I am not impressed with the man. I wasn’t before the text messages between Levine and Alex Rodriguez were released and I am even less so now. Some of his comments come off as very unprofessional. I remember how vilified Red Sox president Larry Lucchino was by Yankees fans when he made his ‘Evil Empire’ remark and how hated he is, but I really do not see Levine as any better and very likely, much worse. At least Lucchino has overseen three world championships since 2004. The Yankees’ 2009 World Championship was more Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman, among others.
Perhaps Levine is a great leader and effective in his role within the Yankees organization, but it is not apparent from the outside looking in. I can only shake my head when I see his text message comments. Aside from any of his words or how I may feel about the man, I strikes me as very odd that the president of the team would go direct to a player, bypassing the manager and the GM. Maybe it would help if more stories about Levine’s positives were written, but then again, they wouldn’t be interesting and wouldn’t sell papers. So, maybe we’ll never know the good the man potentially does. But as it stands, he just seems like a buffoon to me.
I hope the holiday season has been a very happy time for you and your families. Enjoy the New Year, and may good health, success, happiness, and prosperity be yours!
Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox…
I know, I never expected to see the words appear on my blog. But you have to give credit where credit is due and the 2013 Boston Red Sox proved that they were the best team in baseball. This is a team that hit the bottom with the 2011 collapse in September that cost beloved manager Terry Francona his job, followed up by a year of Bobby Valentine that ranks as one of the worst teams in recent memory.
Proving that he is nobody’s fool, GM Ben Cherington deserves much of the credit. I am not sure how much the decisions can be attributed to Cherington or to Larry Lucchino, but the deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year to unload salary-draining dead wood was genius. The malcontents were shipped to the West Coast, while the recaptured dollars were re-invested to good clubhouse types like Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino and Koji Uehara among others. The pieces made for good chemistry and the team, beards and all, became a very cohesive unit.
This may have been the first time that I ever pulled for the Red Sox in the post-season but they gained my respect and I thought they were the team to beat.
Naturally, I hope this is the end of the Sox championship run that started in 2004, but for this off-season, they are the champions of Baseball. Again, congratulations to the Red Sox, the city of Boston, and the Red Sox Nation.
Turns up like a bad penny…
I am so tired of Alex Rodriguez and anything A-Rod. His battle against the MLB is extending the inevitable suspension and is likely throwing a monkey wrench into the Yankees off-season plans. For a team that appears bent on getting under the $189 million salary cap, A-Rod’s salary is substantial. Will they be freed of it, for a season, or will they be responsible for some portion thereof, or does A-Rod win to bring his salary back in full? I think the latter is very remote if impossible. I, for one, would accept a year of no A-Rod even if it means the entire salary counts against the cap. The guy is poison and I don’t think the team will win again with him on the roster. Yes, they won in 2009, but teams generally do not win with such narcissistic players.
Rest assured that no decision Alex Rodriguez makes will be in the best interests of the Yankees and Major League Baseball. MLB needs the authority to end this foolish A-Rod farce and banish him for his sustained PEDS use and lies. I’d love a lifetime ban but I doubt that happens so I want nothing less than the original 214 game suspension.
Introducing the 2014 Yankees…
Check back with me in a few months.
There will be changes, but I am not sure that they will be the moves necessary to return the Yankees to AL East and American League prominence. I saw one New York paper running an article this morning that indicated the Yankees may go after the Detroit Tigers’ Omar Infante should free agent Robinson Cano. No offense to Infante, but what a drop off. I don’t think it is smart to pay Cano $300 million, but hopefully the Yankees and Cano can find common ground that is mutually rewarding for both.
I have seen the Yankees linked to free agents Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Ervin Santana, and A.J. Pierzynski. Yes, Beltran is a good post-season performer but you need to get there first. As a McCann fantasy owner this past season, I was frustrated with how much time he spent on the DL. I’ve always thought Santana was a decent pitcher, but he’s not a frontliner. Then again, when you’ve lost Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and possibly Hiroki Kuroda, you just need arms. The Yankees will most likely lose Curtis Granderson so the Yankees will spend most of the winter just trying to fill holes rather than being able to focus on adding significant upgrades.
It would be nice if some members of the farm system were ready to take the major league stage but that does not appear to be the case. We may see Dellin Betances in the bullpen as the Yankees look to find a quality setup specialist for new closer David Robertson.
I do not want to lose Robinson Cano but then again, I do not want the Yankees to give him an A-Rod like contract that will become a financial albatross in future years. I may be the only one who feels this way, but I am not excited about a 40 year old Derek Jeter at shortstop with bad ankles. The Yankees really need to find a younger shortstop who can spell Jeter and perhaps push #2 to DH more times than not.
Mark Teixeira, cold starts and a bad wrist. Second base…currently there are nothing but crickets. Shortstop…see aforementioned comment about DJ. Third base is really anybody’s guess. Catcher needs more than a backup catcher who can’t hit and a proven PEDS user. Right field is even older than shortstop. Left field, at the moment, only shows the largely unreliable Vernon Wells. Centerfield is truly the only position that I feel comfortable with, and even that carries some injury risk. On the pitching staff, CC Sabathia is starting to show that he’s on the downward slide, and Hiroki Kuroda could very well be pitching in Japan next season. The enigma, more commonly referred to as Ivan Nova, will be in the rotation but who really knows what we’ll get. Adam Warren, David Phelps, Manny Banuelos (if he can make it back), Michael Pineda and others form the pool that Joe Girardi will be picking from.
In the bullpen, it is no sure thing that David Robertson will succeed as a closer. In 2011, when the great Mariano Rivera went down for the season, Robertson had first crack at the job and failed. He gave way to Rafael Soriano who proved very capable in the role. Going into 2014, at the moment, there is no safety net for Robertson. This is truly an off-season of uncertainty and it doesn’t help that A-Rod is doing his part to ensure greater uncertainty.
The Red Sox, the Rays, the Jays, and the O’s must be loving this. I can only hope that GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner Boys prove that they can check Ben Cherington’s move and bring championship baseball back to the Bronx where it belongs.
After some thought, I’ve come around…
Now that I’ve had time to digest the Friday night whirlwind that brought pitchers Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda to the Bronx, my initial disappointment was evaporated. Don’t get me wrong, I love the power potential of Jesus Montero, and I know full well that he’ll be as devastating against the Yankees as Jay Buhner was if not more. But I recognize that from a position of need, a top of the rotation starter is better than a player without a position.
Ever since I first heard Jesus Montero’s name, it always included a statement that he’d eventually have to find a new position because he would outgrow catcher. The obvious moves would be to either first base or left field, but last time I checked, both of those positions were occupied by long-term tenants. Putting an offensive juggernaut at DH is great for offense but it does nothing to help with the defensive aspects of catching or learning a new position. With Russell Martin in the fold for the foreseeable future, there was no way that Montero would gain the starting position at catcher. Martin’s ability to handle the pitching staff is simply too important to the team even if his bat is nothing remotely close to Montero.
With Montero, I was always worried about the other young Yankee catchers. Of course, there’s Francisco Cervelli on the active roster. If Montero were to take the backup catching job, where would that leave Cervelli? Most likely playing for the Twins, backing up oft-injured Joe Mauer or someone like that. I like the defensive reports that I’ve heard about both Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez, but if their path was clogged by Martin and Montero, where did that leave them? Sanchez needs more time in the minors, but Romine is nearing major league ready status. With an injury or two, I fully expect him to get his chance to make an impression at Yankee Stadium in 2012. The trade of Montero ensures that Romine will get his major league opportunity with the Yankees so that’s a good thing. He doesn’t have Montero’s bat (who does?) but good defense is essential for championships.
Maybe just tell us who the Yankees haven’t talked to…
As for the DH slot, it seems like the Yankees have expressed interest in about everyone. There have been reports they’ve spoken to the agents for Carlos Pena, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui. There are pros and cons with all three players, but whoever the Yankees bring on board will have to share time at DH with Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones, and Derek Jeter so I’d be okay with any of the three. I’ve always liked the clutch bats of Damon and Matsui, and the swing for the fences power of Pena is nice even if the average is hovering slightly above the Mendoza line. With all the reports that the Yankees only have a $1 million or two to spend on a DH, I half expect a report that they’ve talked to Reggie Jackson! Okay, that might be a stretch, but I’d consider letting ‘all or nothing’ slugger Jorge Vazquez. He does deserve a shot. If not, the Yanks should cut him loose and let him pursue a team that will.
If Jorge Posada had embraced the DH role last year, he’d be on his way back to the Bronx for an encore performance…
Upon second thought…
As for the pitching staff, my initial prediction about the rotation order was flawed. I recognize that Micheal Pineda is the clear #2 in the rotation. I’ve seen Ivan Nova slotted at #4, but I’d still keep him at #3 at least until he gives reason to drop him in the order. I think Kuroda is a great addition, but he has to adjust to the American League in the most difficult division, while moving from a pitcher’s ballpark to a park that is less forgiving. So, I’d give Nova time for pinstripes served and put him ahead of Kuroda. After the former Dodger, it’s anybody’s guess who will win out…Phil Hughes, my personal favorite; Freddy Garcia, probably the better choice among the pitchers in terms of consistency; and A.J. Burnett, the candidate for most likely to depart the Bronx if the Yanks can find a willing trade partner that wants Burnett…and a boatload of cash to pay that ridiculous salary. What happens if either Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances pitches “lights out” in training camp? This is going to be an interesting battle.
He’s really a cousin of Alcides and Kelvim Escobar?…
Back to Friday night’s trade, I was a bit dismayed when I saw that pitcher Hector Noesi had been included in the trade. I kept hearing that his ceiling was the back end of the rotation but there was something that I liked about the pitcher. At first, I didn’t know anything about the “other” Mariner included in the deal, Jose Campos. But since the initial report of the trade, I’ve come to realize that he has great potential. At 19, he’s 6’4” and throws in the mid 90’s. He’ll more than make up for Noesi and fits a better timeline in terms of being major league ready given the high level pitching prospects already in the organization (Banuelos and Betances, for example). The Curtis Granderson trade has been labeled as a ‘win-win-win’ for all concerned. Hopefully, this M’s-Yankees trade will meet a similar fate.
What would I expect Bobby V to say?…
Contrary to what Bobby Valentine may think, the Yankees are a better team today than they were last Thursday. But, I recognize the Boston Red Sox are not done yet. They signed former Dodger pitcher Vicente Padilla today (a guy I loathe personally) and there’s rumors they could go after Roy Oswalt if they can move payroll. I still think Boston could be a player for Cubs starter Matt Garza given Theo Epstein’s knowledge of the Red Sox minor league prospects. Whether Ben Cherington or rather Larry Lucchino would trade with Epstein is another matter. Still, I think there are changes to be made on both the Yankees and Red Sox between now and training camp. Last year, I saw a Red Sox friend predict 118 or 119 wins for Boston. Teams look great on paper, but as they say, the ‘proof is in the pudding’!
Moneyball II, starring Jorge Garcia…
It’s hard to think of the Oakland A’s signing former Yankees starter Bartolo Colon as a low-cost, high reward “Moneyball” kind of move. At 39, I don’t think there’s really any upside to Colon at this point and in my opinion, he’s not capable of sustaining a full season of starts. I’d rather have Gio Gonzalez or Trevor Cahill in the rotation, but I guess since those are no longer options, they have to look at the scrap heap that served the Yankees so well last season.
Yes, I know the way to San Jose!…
Speaking of Oakland, I do hope they are successful in their desire to move to San Jose. As a former San Jose resident, I think it’s very exciting for the city and its metro area to be on the verge of landing both the A’s and the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, to go with the NHL’s Sharks. I saw that A’s owner bought the famed Hotel Sainte Claire in downtown San Jose. He already owns one hotel in San Jose so I guess you can’t read too much into it, but he’s definitely positioning himself for the growth and excitement that San Jose could see in the coming years. I’d be happy with a Stanley Cup Championship this year, but that’s a little off-topic…
I really don’t forsee another 99 losses when you place character first…
I was a little surprised to see the Minnesota Twins sign former Detroit Tigers flamethrower Joel Zumaya. He suffered his devastating arm injury at Target Field in 2010. So, in terms of Karma, you’d think that he’d avoid Target Field like the plague. But I read comments in this morning’s paper about how he was touched by the reception he received from the Twins fans as he left the field that fateful day. Stories like that certainly make me feel honored to be a Minneapolis resident, but I was still surprised by Zumaya’s decision. I wish him the best as he begins the Comeback Trail. Hopefully he can get back to the level he was before. For the Twins, with Joe Nathan in Texas and Matt Capps scheduled to close games, they need Zumaya as the pitcher he once was and hopefully will be again.
When it’s tough being the son of Donnie Baseball, come home to the Bronx!…
Before I go, I want to say that I am really hopeful that the Yankees organization proves to be a blessing for former Dodgers prospect Preston Mattingly. I’ve always heard what a great athlete he is/was when he was younger. I don’t know what happened through his time in the Dodgers and Indians organizations and I realize that he is getting a bit long in tooth for a prospect, but I really hope that he can find some level of success with the Yankees. It would be very cool to see Mattingly make a debut at Yankee Stadium at some point in the future. Who knows if it is in the cards, but being a late bloomer is not outside of the realm of possibility when it comes to someone with his bloodline.
It’s hard to believe that we are just a month away from training camp. I’m excited and looking forward to a great season.
What’s on TV?…
With the Yankees at home for the year and an AL team that I don’t care for still playing, I have to admit that I have not been watching the World Series this year. Of course, that cost me the chance to watch history last night as Albert Pujols showed why he is a living legend with three home runs, ala Reggie Jackson. Somehow that huge contract that he’ll get in the off-season just got a little bigger. I am not saying that the Yankees should try to sign Albert (I’m satisfied with Mark Teixeira at first and feel that the money is better served for weaker areas like starting pitching), but the Yankees do need someone like that who is capable to singlehandedly taking over a game. I have no doubt that Robby Cano is that type of player, but with the deteriorating skills of Alex Rodriguez, it puts so much pressure on the rest of the lineup to pick up the slack.
Back to Albert, I do hope that he continues his drive and helps deliver another world championship to the city of St. Louis. As much as I would like Albert on my team, I really hope that the Cardinals do what it takes to keep him in the organization for the duration of his career. To this day, Stan “The Man” Musial is still a huge part of the Cardinals and their history, and Albert would have that same impact for years to come. If he departed and played a few years for, say, the Chicago Cubs, it would definitely taint his Cardinals legacy.
If there are no concerns, why am I concerned?…
I keep hearing that there are no concerns about getting a new contract in place for GM Brian Cashman, but as each day passes and we draw closer to the end of the month, I do grow a bit more concerned. Given how difficult the Derek Jeter negotiations were last year, what if the team tries to short pennies on Cash? What is Plan B if Cashman opts to leave? With Damon Oppenheimer and Billy Eppler talking to other teams, the best in-house talent could be gone. I doubt if both of those guys leave and from the sounds of it, neither one is the leading candidate for the Angels GM job. Still, a team could turn to one of them. I’d really prefer to go to Oppenheimer or Eppler should Cashman leave in order to maintain the continuity within the organization. That’s very similar to what the Red Sox will be doing by promoting Ben Cherington to GM to replace Theo Epstein.
Can he replicate the success of Larry Lucchino?…
I do wish Theo Epstein and soon-to-be GM Jed Hoyer the best of luck in Chicago as they try to end the World Series drought for the Cubs. I know that the road is much more difficult than it was when Epstein became the Red Sox GM, but I’ve certainly learned to never under-estimate Theo. He has made his share of poor decisions (such as signing John Lackey), but that only means that he is not afraid of making difficult decisions. Some will pan out, some will not. I am sure that there are a few moves that Brian Cashman would like to undo. But I’d rather see a GM make the bold moves and potentially uncover great talent and chemistry for the betterment of the team. Given that Theo will be bringing a few of his guys to Chicago, I wonder when manager Mike Quade gets the ax. It would be interesting to see if Theo and Jed would go for a top managerial candidate with Red Sox connections like DeMarlo Hale or go to a Cubs legend like Ryne Sandberg. I think either move would be sound should they decide to part ways with Quade.
It’s only money…
Put me in the category of those who would like to see the Yankees pursue Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. I know that the past success of Japanese pitchers has been mixed, but I really feel that Darvish is a special talent. He would like great in the middle of the rotation. I am also anxious to see what pitcher Hector Noesi can do in winter ball. As much as I thought Freddy Garcia did everything asked of him, I’d really rather see the Yankees develop a younger arm in the rotation. Just like last year, A.J. Burnett will come to camp as a question mark. Plus, there’s the potential that CC Sabathia opts out and takes an offer from another city despite how well he has adapted to New York. I have come to not rely upon Phil Hughes, so that means the only certain reliable starter at the moment is Ivan Nova. I would aggressively go after Rangers starter C.J. Wilson regardless of whether CC stays or goes. I wish the Yankees could find a way to unload Burnett, but it’s probably not going to happen. The Red Sox will probably have better luck getting rid of John Lackey.
You have the right to remain silent…
As a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan, I’ve faced my share of disappointment over the years. I have never had to deal with losing Super Bowls like I did as a kid, but that’s only because the team has never been back. I think character is a quality component to building team chemistry and unity, and the Vikings have had more than their fair share of poor off the field decisions. Now we have the latest news that starting cornerback Chris Cook is in jail for the weekend on domestic assault charges. This is very disappointing news.
The Vikings certainly have their hands full this weekend as they will be facing the undefeated Green Bay Packers with a rookie QB (Christian Ponder) making his first NFL start. It looks to me as if the deck has been stacked against Ponder, but hopefully, he’ll show why he was a surprise, but great, early selection in the first round of the last NFL Draft.
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…