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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Showdown

New York Yankees v. Boston Red Sox

Back, as if by popular demand, Red Sox-Yankees II.

I know I'm supposed to be expounding on every last facet of this potentially apocalyptic matchup, but other people have more than adequately done so.

I think the bottom line is as follows:
* The Red Sox were more than good enough to win last year's ALCS, even if they failed to do so; the Red Sox were not, as they were in 1999, outclassed by the Yankees. This year, the Sox went 11-8 against them.
* The biggest advantage the Yankees had going into last year's ALCS was in starting pitching. If anything, the Red Sox have the advantage this year with Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez as the #2 starter, Bronson Arroyo (who's been as good all season as anyone the Yankees could slide in the #3 spot,) and Tim Wakefield, who has generally performed well against New York in recent years.
* The offenses are still both outstanding, with the Yankees upgrading and the Sox trading a little lumber for some leather. Adjusting for Park Factor arguably tips the scale slightly in favor of New York; however, these games will only take place at Fenway and in Yankee Stadium, generally a park well-suited to the Sox lineup.
* New York improved their defense, but not by as much as Boston. Neither team is considered to have a great defense, but this was the Sox' biggest weakness early in the season, and it's by and large been fixed.
* The Sox can't match Mariano Rivera, but they've shown more ability to hit him recently than anyone else, and the rest of the Red Sox bullpen is considerably better than that of the Yankees, who can only really count on setup man Tom Gordon. (Obviously, chasing the Yankee starters before the 7th inning will be critical for Boston.)
* The only big advantage the Yankees have left is...history. And we've already seen the Houston Astros overcome history.

Though it's unfortunate that the Twins failed to push the Yankees to the limit in their playoff series, the Sox' three-game sweep of Anaheim has to be comforting. They blew a 5-run lead late in a game...and still won. The crowd at Fenway fell eerily silent, the announcers began reciting the litany of famous collapses (even bringing up the Dave Henderson homer in '86 off of Donnie Moore, suggesting a karmic reversal in favor of the Halos) but this team still came through.

As I said in a previous blog, being a pessimist has not pre-empted disappointment when the Sox lose. I'm going to be an optimist this time, not only because it might work, but because it's rational.

Red Sox in 6.


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