Posted 08/10/2009 at 03:22 AM
I guess I can say I called it, but not like this. Right around the All-Star break on my daily radio show (Cofield & Cokin, 12-3 PM ESPN 1100 in Las Vegas, online at http://werlv.com) I commented that I thought the Yankees were a better team than the Red Sox, even though Boston was in first place at the time. The Red Sox fan in me didn’t like making that admission, but the idea when trying to provide analysis and commentary is to put the colors in the closet and call it down the middle.
My reasoning was simple. The one defining edge the Red Sox had over the Yankees going into the campaign was in starting pitching. Not only did Boston have the better rotation at the big league level, they also had all kinds of depth should problems arise. Or so I thought. But by the break, it was clear that the tables had turned. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester remain a tremendously formidable 1-2 punch. But Tim Wakefield was pitching over his head, Daisuke Matsuzaka had gotten hurt after pitching horribly, Brad Penny and John Smoltz were looking average or worse at best, and Clay Buchholz was still in Pawtucket. Meanwhile, the Yankees staff was getting stronger and it looked to me like they had passed the Red Sox in terms of overall quality on the staff. There never was much question that the Yankees had the better offense, so add it up and it was pretty clear to me which team was better.
As it turns out, the Yankees are now looking to be substantially stronger than the Red Sox. The starting pitching disparity is wider than at any previous point in the season. Smoltz is gone, Buchholz is again having problems finding the strike zone, and the Boston offense is in dire need of a game-changing bomber. The Yankees look flat out nasty at this point. They have power galore, and with Joba Chamberlain really coming into his own as a starter, the team has a mean trio to throw at the opposition come playoff time. They’re going to be very tough to beat.
As for the Red Sox, they’re now in a major dogfight just to make the playoffs. The Rangers have moved into a tie for the wild card and Tampa Bay is breathing down both teams necks. I still like Boston’s chances of squeezing in as they still have the Beckett-Lester combo, they’re very good at home, and most importantly, I think they’ll make another deal to improve themselves. They put in a waiver claim on Washington SS Cristian Guzman Sunday, and there may be a deal in the works to firm up what has been a major and ongoing positional problem. The Rangers and Rays don’t seem to have the same sense of urgency to make that crucial trade, and in the end, that could well cost either team dearly.
It’s been years since the Dodgers and Giants went into a series with something significant on the line. That’s about to change as they open a huge series in San Francisco that starts tonight.
On the radio show, Steve and I get ripped all the time by some listeners for paying too much attention to the Red Sox and Yankees, while ignoring all the other teams. It’s my contention that we don’t ignore the other teams at all. In fact, I’ve lost track of the hours we’ve spent ranting on how the lesser lights in the game don’t really try to win, instead relying on the phony small market excuse that doesn’t really exist.
In any case, tonight’s Dodgers-Giants duel is huge with SF, along with the Rockies, in a flat footed tie for the wild card lead, and they’re both just 5.5 games behind the suddenly struggling Dodgers. This is big stuff, and I’m really looking forward to seeing if the Dodgers are about to put their foot down and finish off their rivals, or whether we’re heading for a phenomenal down the stretch duel between two or three teams in the NL West. I’ll also find out how much those who beef about too much Red Sox-Yankees coverage respond to an opportunity to opine about a potentially epic battle taking place much closer to home.
The Diamondbacks are not very good, and they just got swept by the Nationals. The Mets are obviously no bargain themselves, and Mike Pelfrey is not fooling anyone. But the DBacks just aren’t worthy of laying this kind of lumber against anybody, so just on the price, I’ll side with the Mets tonight.