It’s been just three weeks since the Yankees last met the Red Sox. The Yanks have had their own struggles meanwhile, but nothing compared to that of the Red Sox. The fallout of what might as well been a failed Bobby Valentine mutiny not only included some terrible baseball play, but the team trading away a core group of players.
With Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez now playing in Los Angeles, with Kevin Youkilis in Chicago, and with David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks on the DL, this team is far from what was expected. Essentially all that remains of the Red Sox most Yankee fans know are Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester, each of whom have underperformed this season.
As different as we see Boston, both teams were meant to make the playoffs before their injury bugs hit, and if the Yankees didn’t have additional depth on their bench and minor league systems, their fate this season might not have been too dissimilar. After reaching the playoffs in 16 of the last 17 seasons, it’s hard to imagine what the fans and the players of the Red Sox are feeling in the coming days. Marc Normandin does a much better job than I could in summarizing his aspirations for the final few weeks of baseball in Boston.
Boston’s season has hit the point where losses can be comforted with dreams of better draft position, meaning that what we want out of the games has changed dramatically. At this late stage, the hope is that established players do well and give hope for 2013, but also that newer faces, given a shot to play through injuries, roster expansion, or both, play in a way that determines their role with the Sox going forward.
Players like Scott Podsednik, Pedro Ciriaco, Ryan Kalish, and Ryan Lavarnway have become regular starters for the Red Sox. With young and unproven teammates at the healm, there’s no reason to wonder why this team has won just 10 of their last 37 games since August 1st. More recently, over their last 12 games, they’ve won just one game, and been outscored 83 to 31.
Of course, the huge run differential they’re facing isn’t just spurred by a weak offense, the pitching has been abysmal. The Yankees look to face three starting pitchers with 5 ERA’s. While Aaron Cook and Felix Doubront weren’t expected to make huge contributions this year, Jon Lester has posted a miserable 4.99 ERA, following four consecutive years with that number in the low 3′s.
Hopefully the Yankees can take a few games in Fenway, but there’s an even bigger picture here. Both teams had such promising lineups this winter, only to be chewed apart by vicious injuries. The Yankees barely held things together with a strong bench and farm system, while the Red Sox collapsed. This is a series where we’ll see what could have been without guys like Eric Chavez, Andy Pettitte, Rafael Soriano, David Phelps, and even Freddy Garcia. We can appreciate that the Yankee front office had larger foresight, and that Joe Girardi and the coaches more properly scheduled the workloads of their bullpen and veteran players.
While we won’t fully appreciate the rivalry this week, it couldn’t come at a better time. The Yankees need to face an easy opponent with a chance to rest some players, especially while the Rays and Orioles face each other in Camden.Still, there’s just something a little sad about playing the Red Sox and not expecting 4 hours of carnage.
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