Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Dirty Dozen...and a half

Twelve reasons the Yankees are languishing behind the Red Sox

Currently the Red Sox are leading the AL East by 11.5 games over the Baltimore Orioles, 12 over the Toronto Blue Jays, and 12.5 over New York. As the Yankees were a chic pick to finish atop the AL East amongst many of the sports writers out there and the two teams have been inexorably linked since Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees, I want to address twelve reasons why the Bronx Bombers find themselves twelve-plus games back.

1. Keeping up with the Soxes: In order to keep up with Boston's personnel moves, George Steinbrenner mandated trading the farm for his own "OWGA" (Old White Guy Ace), in acquiring Randy Johnson (in order to keep up with the Schilling acquisition). Problem was, Schilling had more left than Johnson, and Brian Cashman worked hard to replenish the depleted farm system. Unfortunately, between injuries and youth, the now replenished farm system is not yet ready for prime time.

2. Health: This goes back to the OWGA's, and to the now fired strength and conditioning guy. The Bommahs have had injuries to key starters in the field and in the rotation - Johnny Damon, Jorge Posada, Mike Mussina, Chien-Ming Wang...the list goes on. While not all have gone on the DL, it has resulted in sub-par play, and sub-par starting pitching.

3. The Yankees Dirty Dozen: When Roger Clemens joins the rotation in about a week, it will make the twelfth starter the Yanks have had in the rotation this year. Of the Yankees' 22 wins on the season, only 14 have come from the starters (for perspective, the Red Sox' Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka combined have 14 wins). Their best starter has been Andy Pettitte against whom the AL is batting at a .268 clip. How long could his sub-3.00 ERA last if he's not fooling the batters.

4. Abreu being Abreu: Last year for two months after being acquired by the Phillies, Bobby Abreu had (arguably) the best two months of his career. Talk to Phillies fans...the real Bobby Abreu has just stood up.

5. The Bullpen stops here: If there has been one historical criticism of Joe Torre, even in the team's World Series years, it has been his handling of the pitching staff, particularly when and how to use his relievers. Unfortunately his starting pitching has been so bad that he has had to use his bullpen to excess.

6. The Rocket is the Answer: Never mind that Allen Iverson is the answer (and that I have no idea then what the question is), The Yankees answer to their pitching woes is to sign a 44 year old power pitcher who was barely able to maintain a 4.00 ERA during his last go-around in the AL, averaged only six innings per game in the weaker NL, and is two years older than the last time he pitched in the AL...well, you get where I'm going. I guess the bullpen will live by the "no rest for the wicked" credo.

7. Hideous No Mo: Ever since 2004 lights out closer Mo Rivera has been a crap shoot against the Red Sox, blowing saves in the early season series this year against the Sox who have a higher batting average as a team against Mariano than any other team in the majors.

8. Unity/Chemistry: Maybe a little overrated in baseball, but the fact of the matter is that Jeter doesn't like A-Rod, management is unhappy with Giambi, reliever Kyle Farnsworth doesn't like Clemens' special treatment...and those are just the situations we know. Steinbrenner went out and bought a lot of talented, shiny baubles that might not necessarily all fit together. He lacks that Alex Cora/Dave Roberts-type guy off the bench that becomes a fan favorite not because he's talented, but because he's the hard-nosed get my uniform dirty guy that makes things happen when he gets in the game.

9. The Sox Future Rotation: Right now the core of the Red Sox future is making the future the present...Matsuzaka and Beckett (the same number of wins as all Yankees starters combined) are the cornerstones of the future pitching staff, and right now the Sox have top rated pitching prospects in excess at AA and AAA ball. The Yankees have Wang who suddenly seems unsure of himself, and an injured Philip Hughes. Sure, Beckett is on the DL, but this season they will be getting Jonathan Lester as their fifth guy in the rotation, and will be faced with who to trade and who to keep amongst pitchers named Delcarmen, Buchholz, Gabbard, and at least two others that buzz is only now beginning to surface about.

10. Quality Starts: Even when the Sox starters are getting roughed up early as they have been lately, they are still making it into, and typically to at least the end of the sixth inning. The Yankees have only recently even raised the average number of innings from their starters to five innings per start.

11. Bench contributions: See some of what was written under the heading Unity, but also consider the following: The Red Sox and the Yankees are currently tied with a .277 team batting average. The Yankees have Posada, Jeter and A-Rod among the top five in hitting. A-Rod is showcasing his power like never before for his contract opt-out. The Red Sox still haven't seen a hot Manny Ramirez, JD Drew is struggling with a batting average hovering around .220, their lead-off guy, Julio Lugo, is struggling as much this year as Coco Crisp was last year...yet their offense right now is keeping pace with the Yankees offense.

12. One Full Run: The Yankees team ERA is more than one full run higher than the Red Sox. The Sox are in the top five in the league in team ERA, the Yankees are in the bottom five. It doesn't matter how good your offense is if your pitching can't hold a lead.


soxfaninny said...

Good points can't underestimate the good karma on this TEAM right now...let's keep it going...

sugarshane024 said...

I can't remember a Red Sox like this one. In prior years, you just knew they would go on a losing streak or have something unfortunate happen and lose out to the Yankees. This year is different. They just go about their business and keep winning. It's a, for lack of a less adolescent word, magical team.