My New York Yankees, and our biggest rivals the Boston Red Sox. Yes, still have some smoke left for these two teams, but after watching and reading about the Rays there is major reason for both to worry.
New York and Boston fans had cemented spots in their brains to make the playoffs over the last decade. The Yanks and Red Sox represent the biggest rivalry in sports, which is never short of drama and has ruled the division and the league since 1995 brought the term wild-card into play.
No question these two hate each other, and nothing fires up the ‘nation’ more than when the Universe is back on top. Now add the annoying and pushy Rays, who are starting to learn why these two teams have earned, not bought every success and all the respect by playing their hearts out each season.
How do the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox look for the coming season?
Let’s sort it out:
THE NEW YORK YANKEES
The Yankees are back on top once again. In the Bronx, failure is straightforward, anything less than winning the World Series is unacceptable, making the Yankees defend this position harder than any team in history.
Lead by Skipper and ex-Yankees Joe Girardi, along with Captain Derek Jeter is an advantage the Yankees do not take for granted. Add Posada, Rivera and Pettitte to the list of veterans who just continue to play excellent baseball, and that should remain for another season.
The other foursome of Teixeira, Sabathia, Burnett and Swisher who are entering their second season in pinstripes. Each has used the off-season to work on getting better. Swisher lost 12 pounds, and by early December was on a plane to batting coach Kevin Long to work on his swing.
Pitcher Javier Vazquez, is back in the Bronx again, filling the four spot and making the Yankees pitching rotation lethal . Vazquez wants to prove himself to the fans, after 2004 (not going back there), and he looks exceptionally strong in Spring Training. Hughes or Chamberlain will complete the final spot, and the New York need for drama.
Arod is well and even more relaxed than last season. I expect that Arod will reign in 2010, and win the MVP. Pending Arod has a ‘no problem’ rule, to affect him playing. Arod knows any distractions and he can wave his new bff Jeter adios. We all know Arod wanted that more than a ring.
Rivera is still the best, and new Yankee Curtis Granderson brings speed, power with hopes to control his strikeouts to the line-up. In the outfield, Granderson is far superior to what the Yanks had in Damon last season, making it an obvious improvement.
Yankee Universe should still rein in 2010, because it would be harder for this group not to win again. Teixeira summed up this Yankees team best….
“If you get complacent, it’s going to be a tough year for you. Once you taste that championship, taste that victory, it makes you want it even more because you realize it’s everything you’ve ever hoped for.” – Mark Teixeira
THE BOSTON RED SOX
The Red Sox broke a curse dating back to 1918 by winning the 2004 World Series, but once again their hated rivals stole the enterprise by winning last season. The Red Sox beat the Yanks the first eight times in 2009 and at the all-star break seemed to be the team to beat.
Not for long, as the Yankees bulldozed them in the second half of the season, losing the next eight games and watching the Yanks win the World Series. The Red Sox had a lot of disappointing injuries in 2009, but they still snagged the Wild Card but barely.
Manager Terry Francona is so compelling, and the Red Sox know how to win that they scrapped by but just were worn out and it showed. This team is going to fight like hell in 2010 because they are not going to let the Yankees steal the spotlight again.
Are the 2010 Red Sox team strong enough to make post-season? Or beat the Yankees?
The Red Sox are always contenders, but what makes them dangerous is they are fighters. This group has players who know that it is never over till the last out, and internally are a distinct group in the clubhouse.
The addition of pitcher John Lackey to a rotation led by ace Josh Beckett, veteran pitcher Tim Wakefield who looks healthy again; and youngsters Clay Buchholz and John Lester who are getting better as the season gets closer is a legitimate rotation.
Without a doubt, closer Johnathan Papelbaum is a key role in the team’s success. Papelbaum is harmful, but hittable and can not comes to grips with it. He needs to stop and be himself, and prove himself again.
The Red Sox GM Theo Epstein has made adequate pick-ups in the off-season, giving Boston a lot of weight on the bench, one luxury the Yankees do not have.
Offensively with Youkilis, Pedoria, Elsbury, Drew, but without Jason Bay is one of the weaker line-ups seen in Fenway over the last decade.
Looking at defense, which has been a weak spot in Boston is not anymore. The off-season added outfielder Mark Cameron and 3B Adrian Beltre to replace an aging Mike Lowell.
GM Epstein is no dummy, he evened out the team’s slight reduction in power by having a defense who will undoubtedly control runs scored.
Lowell, Ortiz and Vareteck have lost value in the field but not in the clubhouse. They bring respect and leadership, and that is a good reason to have them stay. If any just start to pick up space, it will be a gracius departure. They respect their company and this trio would do nothing less.
Mike Lowell has had a string of bad luck with persistent injuries the last two seasons. It is no secret that they would love to get rid of him, but for now he will be a support on the bench. It is so hard to witness great players slip, even on the Red Sox. Lowell did grow-up as a Yankee, so he can get a break.
This is where the Yankees differ because the old guard is still useful. Example being Derek Jeter having a career year in his 11th season. Posada cannot reasonably be compared to Vareteck, because of how rare Posada’s power, switch-hitting bat is for a catcher. Vareteck hitting is just average or below.
The record this team has with a great Skipper in Terry Francona still make them a huge threat for any opponent who faces them. Their fans have been through the worst drought and did not budge, but nothing angers the entire city of Boston than the New York Yankees.
The plague was only broken a few years ago, freshly still remember how demoralizing and demanding that time was at Fenway Park. The Red Sox can succeed through their determination not to mention the word ‘curse’ ever in their club again.
From a Yankees fan, that is plenty initiative to fight till the end because the 2010 Red Sox need another piece to get there.