An in-depth look at what makes baseball so great - and what I think heading into Series #1
So it's April 19th. I'm getting ready for a weekend that includes partying, Archie Moore wings, hopefully a game or two of 'ruit (as my roomie would call it), and baseball.
Not just any baseball, Yankees and Red Sox.
Sufficed to say, it's not just any game.
I have so many things to say, that I don't really know where to begin. I've been waiting for this for such a long time. Last season, by the time we arrived to Fairfield, the Sawx were starting Javy Lopez behind the plate and looked more like the Sox we swept in the '99 ALCS than the team that stood toe-to-toe with us in '03 and '04.
5 straight at Fenway? It seemed just too easy.
As for the Fairfield campus, Sox fans were already turning the calender to 2006 and didn't care at all about that one series we had while we were here. Yankees fan (NEVER one to rub it in) let them know about it, but realized how boring our ride to the World Series would be without playing our buddies from Beantown.
Unfortunately, the hopes of another ring we're derailed.
And now, both of us are in the same spot: starting from scratch, trying to get back to the promised land.
So the world will watch Friday night as the two teams battle it out. Here's what's running through my head going into the lion's den.
- Fenway is scary. I don't like it at all. Believe it or not, I actually like watching games at Fenway more than in the Bronx for some reason. It sort of reminds me of that scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Connery turns to his son at the German camp and says, "Son, we're pilgrims in an unholy place". That's what Fenway is. It's everything against what I root for. Wins there are just so much sweeter. Most Yankee fans would agree, I think.
- On the topic of Fenway, the reason it scares me is that it's an offensive playground. Throwing Jeff Karstens and Chase Wright out to the Sox lineup does not enthuse me. I don't think either are bad pitchers, just very young, very raw, and are being asked to do a lot. It's a tall order for a veteran.
- As long as we're on the "raw, not yet ready for the majors players," Joel Piniero said he can't wait "to rip the Yankees heads off" for the fans. JOEL PINIERO? You've gotta be kidding. I'm pretty sure that you'd be pitching in Triple A for Durham telling stories to the kids about how it used to be in "the show" if it wasn't for Theo Epstein liking your WHIP like the stat nerd he is and giving you a deal. By the end of the weekend, if he's used at all, he's be Joel Pinata.
- Schilling's blog - I'll be honest, I'm a fan. I wish more players did it. A very opinionated guy, but I like that about him. And he's a gamer. I'm expecting a great outing out of him tomorrow night. He always comes up big.
- I'm thinking a big weekend on the way for Manny. He homered on Thursday and is finally starting to heat up. Not that that scares me - he's always done well against us. I just think that he'll be the feared hitter this weekend. Other than Ortiz, of course.
- The player I'll be watching for the Sawx is J.D. Drew. He's had a nice start statistically and thus far has proved worth the investment. In a big spot, though, I'm still not convinced. He's never played with this kind of pressure - regardless of his experiences with the Cardinals. Nothing is like this. Especially when you're a controversial signing brought in specifically to beat the Yankees. It's not like L.A. when people don't care and show up in the 4th. At Fenway, they'll remember that 1-2 pitch you took in the 4th on April 20th in the 8th with two men on that lost them a chance to win. Welcome to Boston.
- We NEED A-Rod. He's been absolutely on fire thus far - especially after his ridiculous walk-off against the Tribe. He's better than anybody on the Sox, by far. Probably MLB, too. Keep Ortiz. Keep Manny. Keep Pujols, Howard, Reyes. I'll take A-Rod and take my chances. Especially now that he's clutch.
- Speaking of clutch, I've got my eye on two Yankees that have yet to really come through yet: 1) Andy Pettitte - probably the only good match-up we get in terms of starting pitching all weekend, Andy goes mono e mono (that's right, I brought out the Latin for this game) with blogger Curt Schilling. If that doesn't sound like an October game, I don't know what does. He's been okay this year, not yet fantastic. Pettitte's big game persona will shine this weekend. Just a gut feeling. That being said, Curt is just as good of a gamer. Odds are Sox could pull out a win just as easy. I'm just waiting on Andy to finally show his stripes. 2) Jeter - Jeter haunts the Red Sox. He always does something that completely changes the course of the games/series/year. Expecting anything less is just dumb. If Jeter's up against Papelbon with the game on the line, I'll be fine. On the verge on a heart attack, but fine.
- Mo vs. Papelbon? I love Paps, he's a great kid with a good stare and a live arm. There's not much not to like. I would like to add though that the Yankees, a patient team with a great team OPS, got a good look at him last season. As if that's not enough, Papelbon has a history of arm problems and has pitched for two consecutive games. I like our chances.
- Mo's money. I'm fine with him. He got his one blown save out of the way. We'll be fine. He's rested. Am I trying to convince myself? Who knows anymore. I think his days of getting owned by Boston are over. This is a different Red Sox team. OK, I need to stop talking now.
- Karstens and Wright had a great spring - I like both kids. It's just a tall order. I'm not expecting much from Karstens, who fresh of a stint on the DL and definitely not ready for a team as good as Boston. I'm thinking a loss on Saturday is more than 50% likely.
- As for Chase, I like him a lot. I think he's got potential to be a great big leaguer. Especially good poise and athleticism. I'm thinking that they found a gem in this kid. Reminds me a little of a Jamie Moyer. Anyway, don't be shocked to see him throw well on Sunday. If not for two shaky innings in his first taste of the big leagues that resulted in a handful of walks - it would've been a gem.
- Dice-K - I know, I know. We're expected to roll over and bow down to this giant of Japan. In all honesty, he doesn't scare me a bit. So he strikes out a lot of guys. Great. I watched the game against Seattle (SEATTLE! THE MARINERS! They have been good since I was a sperm! Maybe longer!) worked a great inning, made him sweat, and beat him. I think he'll be a bit over hyped for this game and he'll probably make a few mistakes. A very underrated part of this too is the Yanks' patient and OPS. Dice-K strikes out people on guys making mistakes a.k.a. swinging at balls a.k.a. inexperience and impatient. When he's facing Damon, Jeter, Abreu, and Giambi - all workers and great eyes - it won't be easy. I think he gets beat.
- BOTTOM LINE: Pettitte and Jeter help us on Friday to a 3-2 win. Mo gets the save. The Sox blow us out (we'll say 9-3) on Saturday as Beckett goes 8 and Donnelly finishes it up. On Sunday, Wright goes 7 and shocks the world be out pitching Dice-K and giving us a series win, 4-2.
Start up the grill (70 all weekend.) Let's do this.
Oh yeah, and tune up Sinatra.
- Keith Connors