“I mean, dude, which is it? In or out? You need to decide dude. None of this sometimes cr*p, whenever you want.” It was Saturday afternoon, beautiful and sunny, and Vino was breaking my chops about my sporadic posts as we sat in section 110 at Citi Field taking in the Mets-Nationals game. Big Willie was with us. ”I go on there every day, and nothing. Nothing, nothing, and nothing. If you’re not going to do it, shut it down dude. Or at least pick a day and do a post that day, once a week.” Of course, he’s right. I don’t have any excuses. Just my own laziness… So at the very least, I’m going to try to do Sunday nights. Here we go….
I just watched Mike Francesa crush the Yankees for the last 12 minutes on “Mike’d up,” the show he does every Sunday night here in the New York Metro area at 11:30pm. Francesa is as pompass as they come, but he is a unique sports commentator in the New York area for one reason. He’s a Yankee fan. It’s kind of funny. With two 24-hour all-sports radio networks and four New York-based TV sports channels, there is exactly one guy who roots for the Yankees. Everybody, but absolutely everybody, is a Met fan. Not sure why that is… But this is why I’m curious as to Francesa’s take, because at least I know he’s not another Met fan reveling in Yankee problems, coming at it with an agenda. He’s not going to pull a lot of punches. The Mets guys usually take a sky-is-falling posture with the Yankees, often seemingly trying to make it so. So tonight, Francesa was laying waste to the Yankees, saying that the organization from to to bottom is completely and totally out-classed by the Red Sox, and that it was on display in spades this weekend. And he’s not the only one. There’s a lot of that flying around today…
So I’ll take a little bit different posture. Not because I don’t agree with a lot of what Francesa said, but because I’m not as completely convinced that we can put this in the book and call it a season. So if you’re going to accuse me of looking at the world through Yankee glasses, for today at least, I’m completely guilty.
A couple of reasons this weekend was not as defining as people will make it out to be: The Yankees were playing with a depleted lineup. We all know about A-Rod. Matsui is still not 100% (who knows how healthy he will get, but he started the weekend clearly not healthy). Mark Texeira, an always-awful hitter in April, was playing in, well, April. Nady is out, and the Yankees haven’t had a chance to plug that hole. Nick Swisher was not brought to this team to hit in the 3,4, or 5 hole. Yet that’s where he’s hitting. All of this meant that the Yankee bats were not anywhere near where they will eventually be in a month or two. And yet the Red Sox needed the miracle Friday night to beat them, and had to get every nugget of offense they could on Saturday when this battered Yankee lineup hung 8 runs on their best pitcher, and another 3 on their bullpen. The Red Sox only have one injury to their lineup right now, and it’s in the nine-hole. Most of their hitters are perfectly healthy and on fire. They have six guys in their lineup hitting .293 or better. And the Red Sox bullpen, which was widely touted as a strength, was clobbered by the Yankees, giving up runs in key spots and creating jams all over the park. Even Papelbon struggled in both of his outings. The Yankee bullpen, never touted as a strength, was devastated on Friday when Brian Bruney, who had been electric lights-out this year, was unexpectedly sent to the DL at the worst possible time. And perhaps most importantly, there is one thing you have to remember when looking at this weekend’s mess. The Red Sox got to enjoy their meaty, soft, succulent, home ballpark. The Red Sox are a magical ballclub in their own home park. Don’t get me wrong; good teams tend to make their own magic at home. But the Red Sox have made it almost comical. They’ve always been a plucky bunch, but in this ten-game home stand they came back from 7 runs down in one game, 6 runs down in another, and pulled off a down-two-with-two-outs miracle against Mo in the bottom of the ninth. Say whatever you want. That stuff doesn’t happen on the road, and it won’t happen twice in one season. The Red Sox can enjoy that one, because at some point this season, the Yankees will get it back. And neither team gets two… That’s how it goes with these two teams. There is a lot that has to go right to pull one of those off, and luck is a huge part of it. And the last point along those lines is that the Red Sox have now played 12 of their first 18 games in Fenway. Last year they were otherworldly at Fenway and mediocre on the road. And it cost them the pennant, as they couldn’t beat Tampa in Tampa when they had to. They could pull off one of their miracles in Fenway, but they couldn’t close the deal on the road. And their road record this year is exactly 3-6. The Yankees, meanwhile, will play 15 of their first 21 games on the road, including a franchise-record low 7 games at home in the entire month of April. Make of it what you will.
My big issue with the Red Sox before the season began was that their starting pitching was not as good as people were making it out to be. And over these three games, I saw absolutely to convince me otherwise. Their top two guns, Beckett and Lester, were not good in their own home park. Lester was bad, Beckett was absolutely disgusting. And Justin Masterson, whose outing will be portrayed prettier than it was as a few days go by, made it five and a third innings and ran out of gas. My big beef with the Yankees was that their lineup was not that good. Again, I remain convinced. I still don’t think Nady is the answer, so they need to find another bat. A-Rod needs to come back, Matsui needs to get healthy, and they need to go get another bat. This is only more crucial now that we know that Yankee Stadium is going to have more trouble keeping balls in play than the old Kingdome.
A couple of other points. Melky Cabrera is Joe Girardi’s siren. Girardi seems to be mesmerized by the fact that Melky is a switch hitter. He can’t resist the lure of Melky’s decent outfielding, slightly above average speed, and of course, his spellbinding ability to switch hit. What Girardi doesn’t realize is that Melky Cabrera is a cancer in a lineup. Steer your ship too close and it will crash in a rocky heap. Swinging at bad pitches, a pathetic approach at the plate, and an absolute guaranteed out with men on base
, Melky Cabrera cannot be a part of your lineup if you want to win. Period. He needs to go.
So outside of the playoffs, this had to be three of the most satisfying days of baseball in Boston that there ever was. What else could you ask for if you’re the Red Sox? I guess it could be the harbinger of things to come, of a season in which Boston solidifies its dominance. But if you’ve watched this rivalry over the last few years, it was too perfect. These series always seem to even out. And as I always say, if you look at history, this always happens. The Red Sox always find a way to beat the Yankees. They always find a way to end up on top, to get the last laugh. No matter what they try, or how hard they fight, the Yankees just can’t find a way to beat the Red Sox….in April.