By Jason Keidel
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We haven’t forgotten baseball, though this season has been forgettable. Nearly all the chalk will walk to the playoffs, with Arizona being the only serious aberration, going from 97 losses to over 90 wins – a siege of seismic contours.
Almost every pundit had the Red Sox and Phillies playing in the World Series, which is looking pretty prescient at the moment.
Or is it?
The Red Sox have seen their lead slip – heck, rumble down like an avalanche – over the last two weeks. They’ve lost six straight games to an ever-scrappy Tampa Bay team, and their near double-digit wildcard cushion has shrunk to three, with three more to play against Rays over the weekend, including a series finale against David Price.
Like many of you, my veins are pinstriped, but I can’t bet on Burnett, or any rotation that has him or Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon – two men who may get their AARP cards before their next playoff win – and a rookie (Ivan Nova). As I said months ago, the Yankees’ playoff rotation is little more than a quartet named CC and the Three Variables.
At least not against Beckett and Lester, if they make it…
I slid secretly onto the Bartolo Bandwagon in May. But can Colon, 38, really be trusted with this workload? Before this season, he hadn’t pitched in earnest in five years. He’s still the steal of the year, but he can he still deal at the end of the year?
Moxie is a euphemism to describe old men who can’t throw like they used to, who now rely less on the radar gun and more on guile to trick the hitters they used to blow away. But Smoke and Mirrors can evaporate in the cold air of October. Science and surgery have helped stretch the careers of pitchers like Colon, but the craft is sill for younger men, particularly after six months worth of pitches already drained from his aging arm. After CC Sabathia, is there another hurler near his heft?
Maybe it won’t matter, as panic is oozing down the spine of Red Sox Nation, led by our friends in Bristol, who noted the Red Sox are hitting just .178 against Joe Madden’s squad, their worst against any team since 1946…
Sure, you can argue that every rotation outside of Philadelphia has doubts, but it’s better to have two studs and two duds than once ace and three question marks. Do you feel comfortable with Garcia against Lester? With the lefty-heavy lineup the Yankees have? (Not to mention the Red Sox are 11-4 against the Yanks.) A week ago, Lester, 27, was 15-6 with a 2.93 ERA, while Garcia – Lester’s presumed opponent in Game 2 of any series – is 11-7 with a 3.71 ERA. And Garcia will be 35 in October.
Assuming Boston doesn’t bungle this evaporating lead…
Colon (8-9, 3.55 ERA) and Garcia have had lovely careers, but their peaks came in 2005, when Colon won the Cy Young and Garcia won the World Series. A lot happens in six years, and time is brutal to the brittle arms of old pitchers. Since his superlative year in 2005, Garcia has an ERA far closer to 4.50 than this year’s 3.70, and Colon hadn’t pitched more than 99 innings in a season since he won the Cy Young (including zero innings just last year) while battling elbow and shoulder problems. Forgive the cliché, but something (or someone) has to give.
Or Boston does us a serious solid and chokes this lead away…
I’m hardly a stat geek, but it doesn’t take Bill James to know that the odds are against the Yankees to win the World Series. Even if they beat Boston they will probably face Philadelphia, and that well-paid arsenal of arms, the most regal rotation since the Braves of the 1990s.
Unless Boston misses the playoffs. It says here the Yankees can beat the Phillies or the Red Sox, but not both. Our friends up I-95 can make life a whole lot safer if the Sox channel their pre-2004 ways, finding one more gag in their game.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com
Will the Red Sox choke away their playoff hopes? And will it really matter to the Yankees? Let Keidel know in the comments below…