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Wednesday, October 08, 2003

'Twas In The Darkest Depths Of Mordor...

The saga continues.

The Bad News:
* To put it as succinctly and neutrally as possible, history is not on our side.
* While home-field advantage does not seem to matter much to the Yankees either way, having four on the road makes a substantial difference in the case of the Red Sox.
* The enemy has reset its rotation, and in any case has far more starting depth (and pitching depth) in general. Pedro may Martinez may only start once unless the series goes to seven. The first game aside, Minnesota didn't really tax the Yankee pitchers much. They have a bona fide closer, we don't. They have four starters who at their best can shut down anyone, we don't.
* The Sox start with some major disadvantages - Johnny Damon is injured. Derek Lowe, Mike Timlin and Scott Williamson have been leaned upon a great deal.
* The offense seems to be in a slump. If Yankee pitching can do to the Sox what Oakland's staff did, Red Sox Nation will be treated to another long and painful off-season in short order. And the supply of lefthanders the Yankees have on hand may limit the effectiveness of Ortiz, Nixon, Walker and Mueller.
* Todd Jones is now on the roster. Need I say more?
* The Yankees yet again took the season series (though it was only 10-9 this time around) and seemed to win nearly all the close games.
* Tim Wakefield has to pitch Game 1. John Burkett has to pitch Game 4.

The Good News:
* The Sox may have lost the season series, but that was entirely due to the first two series they played, where the Yanks took 4 of 6. From July 4 on, the Sox took 7 of 13. In general, the later in the season, the better the Sox fared in the matchups. And they may have lost more heartbreakers, but in some senses the true measure of quality is how often you can bury opponents, and there were more games where the Yankees looked overmatched than vice versa.
* The Yankees won 101 games, about the same as in the recent past, but they've looked more beatable than they have in a long while for long stretches of the season. They finished strong, but so did the Red Sox, and the schedule was easy in both cases.
* Unlike a Sox-Oakland series, if it comes down to who can execute on defense, or on the bases, it's not at all clear who would have an expected advantage.
* The Red Sox have better track records against the Yankee staff than against the Athletics pitchers. Boston has faced all four Yankee starters more than once this season, and each one of them got pounded at least once, even Pettite, who in general has the best record against the Sox.
* Sure, the Yankee pitchers had their way with the Twins. This offense isn't the Twins. Not an automatic out to be found anywhere in this batting order.
* Wakefield actually has a good record at the Stadium. (Though Burkett still worries me.)
* The Yankee bullpen apart from Rivera is somewhat shaky this year.
* It's a new century, a century which has seen the Yankees lose a series two years in a row. Granted, one of them was against a team which effectively no historical baggage, but the other one was against the Angels, who until 2002 had their own reputation (1986 ALCS, 1995 pennant race collapse) as "chokers." Perhaps Aura and Mystique are more fickle than many believe.

This one's going to come down to the Red Sox bats. Can they make up for the inferior pitching staff?

The Sox are definitely the underdogs this time. My brain says they're not going to make it through, that they will fall in six, but it was wrong last time around. My heart says that it will go seven, and that this Red Sox team is somehow special, special enough to bring about a possibly world-ending showdown with the Cubbies.

Please, oh please, let me be wrong. Let there be peace, at long last, in the Shire.


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