An Uncertain Ratio: Red Sox, Yankees and Misleading Arithmetic
The Boston Red Sox have beaten the New York Yankees in all eight of their pre-All Star encounters. While this bald fact might warm the cockles of every heart in the Sox diaspora it does not guarantee long term superiority over their despised rivals (the Sox lead in the AL East is a scanty two games) nor does it demonstrate that Francona's twenty-five are a better team than Girardi's.
WFAN's vox populi seems to believe that the Yankees' competitiveness is misleading, that the Yankees can only beat the bad teams. In an age of greater parity within MLB there are still weak teams, but to dismiss the Yankees as schoolyard bullies is to ignore the facts. They've won series against the Angels, the reigning AL champs Tampa Bay, the AL West-leading Rangers (twice), and swept the colossal Mauer/Morneau Twins in a four game set. But for their squalid record against the Red Sox the Yankees' winning percentage would be hovering around .660. They may be ageing and overpaid, but the Yankees are still a potent force.
What concerns the Bronx fanbase, one is forced to conclude, is not what has happened so far this season, but what will happen next. Of their three monolithic off-season purchases, only Teixeira has approached expectations. Sabathia, while still consuming innings like a starving man at a buffet, has looked more like the pitcher the Indians let go, rather than the redoubtable behemoth that the Brewers rented. A J Burnett has looked like the walk-prone enigma that most GMs were chary of.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, seem to have their team, and in particular their starting pitching going in the right direction. Beckett and Lester are returning to dominance. The Sox bullpen, traditionally GM Theo Epstein's foible, has been ridiculous, despite some April shakiness from the totemic Papelbon. The principle points of concern for the Red Sox are at shortstop and DH. Nick Green and Julio Lugo are two utility-level infielders vieing for the vacancy left by the injured Jed Lowrie. David Ortiz has been hitting like a backup catcher.
The Yankees, for the moment, lack the balance that the Red Sox boast. They will score more runs than the Red Sox and will concede more. Many more, possibly. This is a bad equation for New York, and surely no more money can be made available for starting pitching. Phil Hughes may be the answer to Wang's struggles. The bullpen will surely need attention if they aspire to reach the postseason and certainly will if they get there. Which they will, one suspects. The Yankee offense is irresistable and their rotation is probably just too expensive to fail.
So, that 8-0 ratio is an aberration. The Red Sox will lose some of the remaining ten games they play against New York. Because baseball is, as Updike reminds us, the game of relentless evening-out. As gaudy and unusual as the record is, one suspects that 2009 might be the year that the traditional powerhouses of the AL East return to their accustomed positions, the year that normalcy resumes.
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