Keidel: The Boston Dread Sox

By Jason Keidel
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Junkies are, by definition, an illogical lot. The substance you choose to abuse is incidental.

I’m a sports junkie and, if you’re reading this, chances are that you’re plagued, too. And thus, no matter the Yankees’ or Red Sox’ record this season, we try to glean a theme from their summer Tête-à-têtes. Despite the fact that the Bronx Bombers started slowly against Boston in 2009 and still won the World Series is meaningless to you because you want Boston’s blood. It’s quite understandable considering this is baseball’s – if not America’s – iteration of the Hatfields and McCoys. And they renew the rancor 19 times every season.

No one would love a 19-0 bashing of Beantown more than yours truly. But these games matter strictly in the standings. There’s no greater meaning or wider narrative, no overarching symbolism in an arbitrary summer game. Regardless, every time Mo blows a game in Boston you reach back into your brain, recalling 2004. But each of the 162 contests this season counts the same, except for the fact that these Bostonian duels mean a direct bump north or south in the standings, which, again, is incidental since both teams have sprinted miles ahead of the American League. One team has already secured the division and the other has procured the wild card.

But in baseball’s summer marathon there are races inside races, all part of the sport’s innate charm, from no time clock to quirky ballparks to no tie scores to its historical prerogative as our pastime and authentic, American Melting Pot.

And when you glanced at the marquee beaming Beckett vs. Garcia you internally and immediately surrendered and looked forward to the next series. Yet there the Yankees were, three outs from slaying the Yankee slayer.

Beckett’s bona fides as a Yankee killer are long certified, going back to Miami, where he put the Bombers in a chokehold and made the Yankee Stadium infield his personal party room after shutting out the Bombers, a nine-inning yarn on their yard. I’m still stunned by the baleful image, losing a series to a cadre of kids once stuck (but never awestruck) in a 2-1 series hole, pinstriped boots jammed into the their throats, with enough remnants of the ‘90s dynasty to recall the kill shot. And Beckett continues his mastery over the pinstripes, entering last night’s game 2-0 (0.86 ERA) against New York.

Ever notice general managers, managers, players, and pundits can’t predict a game or series any better than you? If they could, they’d swap suits and cleats for betting sheets at their local sports book.

You’d like a more profound prognostication, something swathed in stats, but I’m afraid it’s no more complicated than the hottest team – or, more specifically, the best pitching – will win the World Series. None of us thought the San Francisco Giants would run away with the trophy last year, yet they handily handled the Texas Rangers, the talk and chalk of baseball after they spanked the Yanks in the ALCS.

And it doesn’t take a 10-2 series record to realize the Red Sox are, frankly, better than the Yankees. Their lineup hits for a higher average, has a better on-base percentage, and scores more runs. They have four batters (with over 100 plate appearances) batting over .300; the Yankees have none. And with Beckett and Lester leading their rotation in a short series, their pitching is better than the Yankees’ troubling quartet, “CC and the Three Variables.”

The Yankees’ lone edge – which could be vital in October – is in the bullpen, the very one that blew last night’s game Despite the Sunday burp in Boston, they are the best relief corps in the American League (Boston ranks No. 4).

The immortal Mariano Rivera is indeed mortal. We knew that, particularly against Boston, the only team against whom he’s struggled over his transcendent career. We just hope the Red Sox have a hiccup before this year’s ALCS.

And don’t fret the fall or refrain of the New York Yankees, who don’t need mojo or swagger or whatever your silly euphemism is for onstage arrogance. Do you really think Mariano Rivera is rattled by blowing a save last night? Do you think CC Sabathia trembles at the notion of Red Sox Nation? I’m hearing way too many Yankees fans refer to their club posthumously, as though the Sox clinched the pennant last night. Relax. Had Jack Curry proposed a 69-44 August record in April, you’d sign the line in a New York minute.

Had the Yankees won last night, their record would have swollen to 70-43. Sound familiar? That was their mark many moons ago, in 1994. Sound familiar? That was the only season without a World Series since 1904. That season ended without a winner or a whimper, an empty autumn, an unanswered question swirling like a dead leaf in the crisp October wind. There was no champion then, just as there isn’t one now. Those answers arrive another time, not in muggy, midsummer nights. The regular season isn’t lost because the season series is lost. It’s just one of those things and, thankfully, the other 143 games played against the rest of baseball are of equal heft.

The Red Sox and Yankees reaching the playoffs have become as predictable as the pumpkins glowing orange from your neighbor’s windows, the candlelight flickering behind the carved, demonic facades. This series won’t change that yearly, monolithic mantra of World Series or Bust. Would you want it any other way? Though we regard the Red Sox with supreme disgust and wince at their wayward hypocrisy, we need them, as an emblem of and repository for our sporting vitriol.

How many Red Sox fans have dropped an S-Bomb (steroids) on the Yankees’ dynasty? And where are they now that we learned that the meat of their order and soul of the squad, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, were squatting over toilets, tossing needles to and fro, blasting their tan tushies with equine cocktails that would make War Admiral blush?

Despite this, my hand throbbing with pain and regret as it rises, I tip my cap to Josh Beckett. If he pitches until he’s 60, he’ll always have a job. He can go 0-10 against the American League yet go six-and-oh against New York. Beckett is precisely the pitcher the Yankees covet: clutch, never daunted or haunted by the ghosts of Babe Ruth’s past, those apparitions Curt Schilling called out in 2001.

Aura and Destiny are indeed dancing at your local strip club, not pitching in the Bronx. But come October, will it be the Yankees or Red Sox stuffing bills in their bikinis?

Feel free to email me:

What is it about the 2011 Red Sox that the Yankees just can’t figure out? Sound off in the comments below…

  • Jonas A-K

    I mean… yeah, I guess the Yankees are a little overrated in that many fans/media/etc do assume that the Bombers have what it takes to win a championship. That’s fair – since they don’t. That sheer blindness comes from believing that guys like Jeter, A-Rod and Jeter will still get the job done in the playoffs a la five years ago (was that the year that A-Rod actually got clutch? I can’t remember). To beat a dead horse, the Yankees by no means have all the facets of a championship team.

    But the Yankees certainly don’t suck, either. The fact that they’re 2-10 against Boston means that they’re 67-34 against all other opponents – whereas the Sox are 61-41. Which means that in theory, the Yanks can have a glimmer of hope that if they make the ALCS, their opponent won’t hail from New England.

    Also, clutch or not clutch, the loss of Damon and Matsui are not what is bringing this team down. Neither were pitchers, and the pitchers are really the main culprits here. The hitters, more or less, have been fine. Who knows – maybe Soriano can come back and be clutch against Boston. After all, he was fine against them when he was Tampa’s closer last year. What the Yankees’ offense needs is for Gardner to catch fire again, be a great leadoff hitter (and for Girardi to *keep* him there) and for the rest of the lineup to feed off of that. We Mets fans know how infectious an exciting leadoff hitter can be.

    On the other hand, what the Yanks’ pitching needs… is to catch lightning in a bottle.

  • Victor Cruz

    The Yanks are the most overrated team in sports. Talk about a team with providence in their corner. Their inflated payroll fails to exceed the egos of it’s fans. I’m sooooo glad they suck! Go Red Sox!

    • Boston Sucks

      27>7. it’s simple math buddy. the red sox are the most overrated team. there were barely any boston fans out here in the suburbs until 2004. bunch of bandwagoners.

      • A-Rod

        What are you stupid? Baseball is and always will be based on the past, success is 100% derived from the past. It doesn’t matter what your team has done in the past 10 years, it doesn’t make them that much more successful. The only reason Boston fans say that is because it gives them reassurance that even though their team that has had no past anywhere near the yankees, they still have some glimpse of glory behind them.

        If I make 6.25 an hour at my job today, and then end up making 7.00 an hour the next day, does that make me the best employee ever? Does it make me better than everyone else? And, if some one else has made 25 an hour at the same job consistently for the past say 10 years, but the next day he gets cut down to 20 an hour, that makes me better than him? Since when did that reasoning come into play.

      • Jonas Altman-Kurosaki

        Congratulations, “Boston Sucks!” You just reset the record for the most uninformed statement I’ve heard, taking over from my friend in preschool who was convinced that counting stopped after the number 10.

        Here’s some simple math for you that I wrote in an earlier comment: the Red Sox lead the majors with a .280 team batting average (Yanks .265), 617 runs scored (Yanks 603), 242 doubles (Yanks 183) and 592 RBI (Yanks 587). As you mentioned, the Yanks don’t even have a .300 hitter.

        You, sir, are no doubt a bandwagon Yankees fan. That’s why you pull the “27>7” junk. If you knew even the slightest bit about baseball, you’d know that the game is not won based on the past. But if it were, here’s some more simple math for you: 2>1. The Red Sox have won two World Series in the past ten years. The Yankees have won one.

      • Jonas Altman-Kurosaki

        Oh, shoot! You’re right! Never mind. Of course a team’s success each season is based on how they’ve done historically. That’s why the 1980s Yankees did so well – because they had Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mantle, Maris and 20 World Series championships on their side!

        No, sir, I am not stupid. You undoubtedly, undeniably are, though. This article, and subsequent discussion, is NOT about which team is better historically. It is about which team is better THIS YEAR and THIS YEAR ALONE. *That’s why teams even bother playing every year!* That’s why the Red Sox went out and got Crawford and Gonzalez this winter. That’s why the Yankees WANTED Crawford and Cliff Lee. That’s why Yankees fans and baseball fans everywhere wrote the Yankees off this winter because they made no significant moves. They didn’t say, “Oh, well, they’ve won 27 World Series already, so this should be a cakewalk for ’em!” How ignorant can you be?

        The Red Sox are a better team THIS YEAR. Not historically. THIS YEAR. As in 2011, the year after 2010 and before 2012, and two (2) years after the Yankees’ 27th World Series championship. If each season’s success is 100% historically based, why have the Yankees not won the Series each of the past two years?

        By the way: your ridiculous salary argument is absolutely irrelevant. First of all, why would someone doing the same job as you be making that much more than you? Secondly, if they got their pay cut and you got your pay raised, it also doesn’t mean anything, because that may be purely budget-related and absolutely unrelated to any talent or success. Just look up the whole Circuit City fiasco from a few years ago. I don’t know why I’d tell you to – you obviously won’t, you boor – and if you did, I doubt you’d understand the significance.

        Here’s a more realistic analogy for your ignorant brain to ponder: in some theoretical (imaginary) workplace, if I’ve won Employee of the Month six times in the past seven months, does that mean I’m guaranteed to win it this time? What if, someone else puts in the work and is determined to win it and does a better job than me? Well, that person would probably win.

        “But I won it many times before!” I could whine (but I wouldn’t, because I’m not you).

        “So?” the boss would say. “He did a better job this time. Plain and simple.” The Red Sox so far are doing a better job THIS YEAR AND THIS YEAR ALONE. There’s still plenty of season left. But all we have to go on is the year so far.

        One more thing: if the game is purely historical, how can you explain the Rays winning the division in ’08, the year the Yankees finished third in the division? Or are you denying that ever happened?

        It’s people like you and “Boston Sucks” that remind me how irritatingly, insipidly ignorant Yankees fans can be, and you ruin it for all the smart ones.

  • Kurt Spitzner


    • Jonas A-K

      This is a good point, and no, I’m not being facetious.

  • dabooch

    The Yanks are losing because they got rid of their clutch players, Matsui and Damon. Cashman also signed his version of “Oliver on Broadway” a guy that doesn’t belong in the ML. The Yanks brought in CHOKE ARTISTS that suddenly have bowel movement troubles when they see scruffy men with B’s on their hats: these are big names who may have gone 10 for 15 the series before but swing like patsies against the Bean Towners.

  • robby z

    i think the genuine problem right now with the yankees wohs against the red sox stem fro the fact that that the yankees best pitcher is o and 4 and the yankees cannot hit the red sox best two guys a short series lester and beckett would suggestion to the yanks bring back matsui or damon or a comprable dh that can hit lefties..or get another righty is a new era now .it used to be that the yankees had better athleates a quicker team and always better pitching its the red sox a younger team built a lot within its own organization with a tremenous one two combination of ellsbury and pedroia…who will both score 100 runs..gardi and jeter are good but dont hit for the aveages and dont score as many runs….it ussed to be that the yankees always had supreme confidence against the red seems to now be the other way around….

    • Jonas A-K

      “my suggestion to the yanks bring back matsui or damon or a comprable dh that can hit lefties.”

      Two things: first, believe it or not, the Yanks lead the AL in BA vs. LHP (.283), thanks a lot in part to Curtis Granderson and, to a lesser degree, Nick Swisher. They’re hitting .258 against RHP, thanks in part to everybody (the Sox are hitting .281 and .279 against righties and lefties, respectively). Secondly, between Damon and Matsui, who both bat left-handed, you’d probably only want Matsui, who actually has been quite productive against lefties, whereas Damon most certainly has not been. But, as we established that lefties are not the problem (sure, Lester is a lefty, but Beckett is most certainly a righty), the Yanks may just have to hope for more production from Eric Chavez and/or, sigh, Jorge Posada.

  • Robert Richardson

    Well done, I agree 100%. Yankee Nation has to differentiate between the match ups and the playoffs. But it ,just hurts to not only lose but to be dominated by our northern nemesis. The truth is that we don’t have the best roster that money can buy but we DO have a team that can compete. The ultimate question is how far and deep can “CC & the 3 Variables” take us.

    • Jonas Altman-Kurosaki

      Precisely – maybe a Lackey-Burnett matchup can produce a 20-11 Yankees win a la 2009.

    • JK

      Thanks, Robert. Your points are well taken, too. We must admit they have the edge in nearly every facet of the game. The defining difference between this year and ’09 is we stole Teixeira from Boston, and now they have his replacement – Adrian Gonzalez.

      • JK

        And I hate to regurgitate bad memories, but losing Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte in the same off-season removed the chalk from our status. Instead, we got Rafael Soriano, who is pillow-soft, ducks the media when he blows a game, and can’t wait to get the heck out of New York. Only problem is no one else will pay $10 million for a head case closer who showed he can’t pitch in the clutch, and only prospers in the anonymity of 15 thousand fans in a dome for a team no one cares about. Soriano has Kyle Farnsworth written all over him. Great arm; weak heart.

  • Jonas A-K

    Before I begin, one question – the Yanks weren’t just 1-9 against Boston in ’09, were they? If I recall, they went 9-1 against them after the Sox won the first 8 matchups.

    Either way, gotta say I love the constant alliteration and other tropes, and I think this is a very good analysis of the state of the Yanks-Sox this season. The gap between the Yanks’ and Red Sox’s offense is vast. Sure, the Yankees have homers out the wazoo between Granderson and Tex, but not every postseason game is played at Yankee Stadium, and the Red Sox lead the majors with a .280 team batting average (Yanks .265), 617 runs scored (Yanks 603), 242 doubles (Yanks 183) and 592 RBI (Yanks 587). As you mentioned, the Yanks don’t even have a .300 hitter. Ah, if only Jeter were still five years younger…

    As weak as the Sox’s bullpen may seem, the Yankees’ relief corps is a lot less intimidating if you take away Robertson and Mariano. Mariano, as you mentioned, has had his fair share of struggles against Boston anyway, and on top of that, the Boston ‘pen pitched pretty darn well this past weekend. The point being: Bullpens are too much of a variable to base anything off of. Just ask any Mets fan – our ‘pen is horrendous, but there were stretches this year when it was statistically the best in baseball.

    If there ends up being a BOS-NYY ALCS – and there should be – then it’d certainly be easy to pick Boston with their balanced lineup and their rotation led by Beckett and Lester. Even the Sox’s worst starter, John Lackey, is 100% more reliable than AJ Burnett, and if Garcia or Colon can keep up their moderate success then God bless ’em. But the postseason history between the two juggernauts of the AL has had more than its fair share of surprises, so just what will happen can never be written in stone.

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