12 Things We Learned from 2012's First Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry Clash
The Yankees are riding high, while the Red Sox are scrambling.
There's a "Fire Bobby Valentine" march being organized on Yawkey Way. Meanwhile, celebrations are being scheduled on River Avenue.
Things do not look good for the Red Sox. The Yankees, as well as their fans, couldn't be any happier. The season is still young, but the future does not bode well for the Red Sox if they continue to be beaten by their rivals like this.
I haven't seen a rivalry this lopsided since Batman threw the Joker in jail in the comic books, TV shows and movies.
Looking over the games from the weekend, there's 12 things we've learned about this rivalry and the teams involved so far. Why 12? Because it's 2012, and I like to keep things festive by sticking with the 12 theme.
Anyway, here are those 12 things we all learned.
The New York Yankees Are Living the High Life
Only four teams have a higher winning percentage than them.
Their offense is on fire and starting to perform like the Bronx Bombers. They crushed five home runs in Friday's games and hit two more on Saturday.
A little over a week ago, the offense was struggling and far from the powerhouse it is now.
The Yankees are red hot right now, having won four straight. They also won 10 of the last 13 games they played. The Tampa Bay Rays were the last team to sweep them or win a series.
Of course, all this success must be taken with a grain of salt. Out of those last three teams, only the Orioles were above .500. And as we all know, the Orioles aren't exactly contenders for the division.
Nevertheless, the Yankees are finding success, and hopefully they can continue to ride it.
Boston, You Have a Problem
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Or should I say problems?
The Boston Red Sox have more than stumbled out of the gate.
They've fallen flat on their faces.
Bobby Valentine has alienated fans and players alike with his remarks.
The Red Sox have a minus-24 run differential. They're dead last in just about every pitching category. And don't forget that their MVP of last season, Jacoby Ellsbury, is out for who knows how long.
Granted, it's still early in the season, and injuries have hurt the team more than anything, but this is Boston we're talking about. We've seen the fans turn on the team before, and they're just about ready to turn on them now.
When was the last time the Red Sox were at the bottom of the division this late in April? Not to mention, only three teams have worse winning percentages than they do.
Boston needs to turn things around fast, otherwise it's gonna be a repeat of last September—only this time, it'll be all season long.
Father Time Is Not Welcome Here
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Everyone thought that the core of the New York Yankees were going to decline this year.
After all, there was no way they'd be able to hold Father Time off for long.
Now here's Derek Jeter with a batting average over .400, Alex Rodriguez still crushing homers and Mariano Rivera still striking people out.
The Yankees are going to need them to do that, as no one has shown they can take over the role that Jeter, A-Rod, and Mo currently hold. Jeter is still the captain and carries the team on his back. A-Rod is still the go-to guy for that important homer, even if it's in name only and no fan wants to admit it.
Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano aren't ready to take over that job just yet. They haven't performed consistently enough to merit that.
Then there's Mariano Rivera, who the Yankees still rely on to close out games.
Rafael Soriano and David Robertson are showing why they're contenders for Mo's job, but let's face it—every Yankee fan feels safer with old Mo closing the game.
Guess it's a good thing those three are still contributing and helping the team out.
The New York Yankees' Pitching Still Needs Some Work
Friday's game was a good indication that the New York Yankees' pitching is not exactly as strong as everyone believes.
It's deep, yes, but strong it is not.
When the Yankees traded for Michael Pineda and signed Hiroki Kuroda, every talking head and sportswriter was saying that the Yankees had turned one of their weaknesses into one of their strengths.
As of today, the Yankees are 21st in ERA, 29th in quality starts and 24th in WHIP. Guess the pitching is not as strong as it was supposed to be.
Phil Hughes is not as good as he was back in spring training. Freddy Garcia seems to have lost the magic he held last season. Hiroki Kuroda is inconsistent. The ever-so-reliable CC Sabathia is struggling and still trying to find his groove.
Only Ivan Nova seems to be doing what he's supposed to be doing, but the Yankees can't rely on the 25-year-old for the entire season.
The good news is that the Yankees have plenty of time to fix the problems. There are also a lot of options for the Yankees down in the minors. Pineda is coming back from his injury and Andy Pettitte seems just about ready to join the major league rotation.
Thank goodness for all that depth.
Big Papi Is Still Big Papi
David Ortiz might have been the lone bright spot for the Boston Red Sox.
He got six hits out of eight at-bats and added a home run and two RBI to that.
Ortiz continues to crush the Yankees. Betcha the Red Sox are glad they re-signed him.
If the Red Sox are going to turn things around, they're going to need Ortiz to help start it.
Kevin Youkilis is struggling, and Jacoby Ellsbury is out with an injury. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are far from their former selves. Adrian Gonzalez is having a solid season thus far, but he's only done just that.
Ortiz's 4-for-4 showing Saturday proves that he can perform when the rivals are in town. The rest of the team is going to need to rally behind him if they want to avoid last season's fate.
Ivan Nova Can Handle the Pressure
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Ivan Nova went six innings, giving up two earned runs, one of them being a homer, and striking out five.
He got the win in Friday's game, showing that he can handle the Boston Red Sox on their turf.
Nova surprised everyone last year with his dazzling performance.
He stepped up and became that No. 2 pitcher that New York Yankees needed.
There've been questions going into this season if he can repeat the performance and handle the pressure of coming through.
Those questions have been answered for the most part. Nova has the most quality starts on the team. He also leads the rotation in ERA and wins. He's going above and beyond and has been the team's ace so far.
CC Sabathia is still working out the kinks, Hiroki Kuroda has been inconsistent, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes are showing pitchers everywhere what to do when you want to lose your spot in the rotation.
Nova has been the only consistent factor in the Yankees' rotation. He proved his worth to the team when he took the mound and beat the Red Sox in Fenway Park on the day they celebrated 100 years at Fenway.
The Boston Red Sox Have Some Explaining to Do with Pitching
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Whenever Josh Beckett has the same amount of wins as Vincente Padilla, you know your rotation has problems.
Heck, Padilla even has more wins than Jon Lester and fewer losses, too.
The Boston Red Sox have a team ERA of 6.56, good for 30th in the league. The Red Sox have a team WHIP of 1.59, also good for 30th in the league.
As a team, they've allowed 100 runs, 97 of them earned and—you guessed it—that's good for 30th in the league.
Needless to say, the Red Sox pitching needs work, a lot of work. The problem isn't only the rotation, it's the bullpen, too.
They don't have a closer, as Andrew Bailey is out. Alfredo Aceves is filling in for him in the meantime, and the Red Sox would rather that Aceves didn't.
Aceves has an ERA of 18.00. A good amount of the pitchers in the bullpen each have an ERA over 6.00. That's never a good thing, especially when you have more pitchers, relievers and starters with an ERA over 6.00 than those under it.
The Countdown to Bobby Valentine's Firing Has Begun
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Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine already made enemies earlier last week with his remarks about Kevin Youkilis and his so-called "apology" afterwards.
He didn't help things by proceeding to lose five straight after making the comment.
Two of those losses came against the Red Sox's rival, the New York Yankees.
Even worse was the disaster on Saturday, when the Yankees came back from a nine-run hole to win by six. Now there's reports that Bobby Valentine and Red Sox shortstop Mike Aviles had a confrontation during spring training.
If there was ever a time to right the wrongs of the past, Valentine had that chance over the weekend. It was the celebration of 100 years at Fenway Park, and the hated Yankees were coming to play.
A sweep, even winning the series, would help get the fans and the media back on his side.
Instead, they lost two games by a combined 10 runs, and one of those losses was a comeback with an eight-run lead in the seventh inning.
Bobby Valentine is on a short leash, and the fans are already looking forward to the day he's fired.
The New York Yankees Can Score
When you outscore your rival by 10 runs in two games and score 15 runs in three innings, you have a pretty good offense.
There were some worries a little over a week ago as to when the New York Yankees offense was going to click.
All of those worries evaporated as soon as those seven runs were scored in the seventh inning.
The Yankees that were struggling are now hitting their stride, and it won't be long before they're back to their career numbers in average and on-base percentage.
They'll also be on track to post their usual in RBI and home runs.
In every major offensive category, the Yankees are either first or second in ranking. That's where they're supposed to be. They'll continue to score runs as the season goes on. They just needed that old rivalry spark to get them going.
It's Not Over Until It's Over
The words of Mr. Yogi Berra have never been more true. So true, Yogi, so true.
The New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox rivalry games have been known for their slug-fests and come-from-behind wins.
Extra innings are common when it comes to Yankee-Red Sox games. Just look at Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS for evidence.
Saturday's game adds to that notion, as the Yankees came back from a nine-run deficit to win the game. Everyone thought the game was over by the start of the seventh inning. Seven runs later, and the Yankees are back in the game.
There's a lot of importance on starting pitching, but Yankees-Red Sox games go on long enough for the relievers to be the focal point. Both teams have patient hitters who work the count and can foul balls until Doomsday.
This causes starting pitchers to tire earlier than usual, and the managers have to turn to the bullpen.
With the amount of sluggers on each team, it's up to the bullpen to not give up that game-winning home run, let alone 14 runs in two innings.
It's Going to Be a Long Season
Game 1 lasted three hours and 18 minutes. Game 2 lasted three hours and 52 minutes.
The second game sure had some exciting baseball toward the end, but a game lasting for more than three hours is too long, especially if it's baseball.
Look, I like baseball. It's one of my favorite sports, but I'd be lying if I said I'm able to sit in front of my TV and watch every pitch of every game I watch, not just the New York Yankees.
Not many people can. Even Bill Simmons admits baseball is boring.
Many Yankees fans, even some Boston Red Sox fans. watching from home had given up watching when the Red Sox were up by nine. They had better things to do then watch the Yankees get thrashed.
Of course, you can just imagine their surprise when the Yankees came back.
Expect many more games like this as the season goes on. There will be more comeback games and even more games that will hover around or beyond the four-hour mark.
Yankees-Red Sox games are long and hard fought—this weekend was an indication of that.
July Is Going to Be Interesting
The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox don't meet again until July 6th, when they have a three-game series.
After that, they meet again July 27th for another three-game series.
Those games are going to be just as, if not more, interesting as these two were.
By then, CC Sabathia will be back to form and return to his ace status for the Yankees.
The Yankees offense will be stronger then, as Robinson Cano heats up in the warmer months. Andy Pettitte might even make an appearance in one of those games.
The Red Sox will be looking to July hoping that questions will be answered by then and problems will be fixed. Will Bobby Valentine still be the manager in July? Will the Red Sox be over .500? Will the rotation have a combined ERA below 5.00?
There's also the question of who'll be the AL East leaders by the time August comes around. The pennant races heat up during August and teams want to have a secure lead by then.
Those six games in July can help determine who will be doing the leading and who will be doing the following.
Either way, I can't wait for July.