Red (Sox) Alert: Yankees Putting Distance Between Rival
Chan Ho Park's legacy in the Bronx can essentially be boiled down to two components:
1) The opening night gastrointestinal issues that made him a YouTube sensation .
2) His propensity for allowing home runs to the Boston Red Sox.
In other words, Park may struggle to fill pages in his upcoming memoir, "Longballs and Loose Bowels: Stuff I Did With The Yankees Before Being Unceremoniously Designated For Assignment," scheduled to be published by Simon & Schuster in June.
Park's meltdown very well could have been the story of Monday's series-opener against the Red Sox at the Stadium, narrowly edging out the moment Girardi pinch-hit Ramiro Pena for Juan Miranda in a move that channeled the Stump Merrill Yankees, and gave fans the comfort level of being trapped in a bathroom stall next to, you know, Chan Ho Park.
Thankfully, Jonathan Papelbon was around to wash away all that mess.
The Red Sox closer has been an under-the-radar basketcase against the Yankees in his career, and now that his fastball has lost some of its trademark zip, he's become a batting practice pitcher at times.
A really good batting practice pitcher, sure, but still a dude throwing BP four-seamers nonetheless.
(Note to Red Sox fans: When your closer is likened to a guy who stands behind an L-screen while he pitches, it may be time to get nervous. But I don't have to tell you fatalistic lot to be nervous about anything, do I?)
Alex Rodriguez unloaded on a Papelbon offering for a game-tying two-run shot in the ninth, and then Marcus Thames—admit it, you still pronounce it Th-AAAAA-mes—put Papelbon out of his misery with a rocket two-run shot of his own.
Commence pie celebration and a little-too -excited Kim Jones.
It's not a loss that will finish off the Red Sox—it's just May after all, Dan Shaughnessy —but it's absolutely damaging in the ongoing realization that the Yankees seem to have become a far, far better team than their rivals to the northeast.
How have the Red Sox fallen so far behind the pace in such a short amount of time?
You don't have to look any further than the general managers, which has become a bigger mismatch than Mike Tyson-Peter McNeeley.
Boston GM Theo Epstein took it to Yankees GM Brian Cashman in 2004-2008 period that saw the Red Sox capture their first two World Series titles since 1918.
The Yankees' failure to qualify for the postseason in 2008 seemed to light a fire under Cashman, however.
Of course, he made the obvious moves that only the Yankees can make—signing CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett to multi-year deals in the same offseason—but Cashman also acquired high-character, low-cost contributor Nick Swisher while refusing to deal away homegrown talent like Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Brett Gardner.
In the same time period, Epstein dealt away Manny Ramirez, a difficult personality, sure, but still one of the greatest run producers of all-time.
He filled the void admirably by trading for Jason Bay, but then let him walk a season after driving in 119 runs.
He acquired Victor Martinez in a deadline deal last July, then sold Red Sox Nation on a team built on pitching and defense when Martinez was perhaps the worst defensive catcher in baseball.
The results speak for themselves: The Yankees are 25-13 and a good weekend away from overtaking the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the AL East. The Red Sox, meanwhile, are 19-20, 8.5 games behind the Rays and closer to last place than first.
Are the Red Sox dead?
Only the most ardent Boston hater would claim that.
There is talent on the roster, especially in the underachieving pitching staff, and the Red Sox—like the Yankees—have the financial wherewith-all to pull off a big-money trade between now and July 31.
But from where we stand now, a once neck-and-neck battle has turned into a blowout. Unless you're Chan Ho Park, it has to give you an easy feeling in your stomach.
Program note: River & Sunset will host its second live blog of the season for Friday's series-opener against the Mets! Visit www.hollywoodyankees.blogspot.com to follow along. I guarantee at least one Matt Nokes joke!
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