But, I'm looking at the Sox and Yankees from a half-full kinda way these days, and I'm pretty happy with the ways things're setting up. I'm also curious to see the outcome of a few things, among them:
- Who will have a better season, Smoltz with the Sox or Lowe with the Braves -- not absolute numbers, because /Smoltz may not be in there right away, but on average. And, at least accordng to Simmons, Atlanta is a Mecca for hooking up - think D-Lowe will fall back on his rumored older ways (I was going to put 'self-destructing', but he still ddoes well either way)?
- Very strange the Sox & Tek haven't just said okay, 12 mill, 2 years, plus incentives (and, as we all know Tek could've had 11 for 1 yr if he accepted arbitration, but he's gotta just lookit that as spilt milk). I heard the Sox aren't budging ffrom a 1 yr deal on the radio, so who knows? I would not be stunned if, at the 11th hour, they pull a Salty Teagarden Montiero outa the terible new hanging Sox hat (to be seen at select away games at a theatre near you, rated 'V', fo vomit) .
- As it is right now, the Sox bullpen looks about 20 feet taller and a whole lot scarier than any Green Monsters. Think about a lot of the losses last year... they happened in games where the connection fom the starter to Paps dropped the ball -- while ramping Masterson up, going w/ on again off again Delcarmen, etc., something tells me Bill James and the Jamesettes sang a song at Yawkey way about the statistical possibilities with a team of strong mid-relievers.
Picture a starting bullpen off Beckett/Lester/Dice-K (especially the Diceman!)/Wake/Penny-Smoltz having to only go 6 - and yes, maybe even 5 on occassion - to essentially lock up games. Less innings, less wear on the arms, and a bullpen that can be relied on to give up zero to 2 runs before handing the ball to Paps. Again, this is on paper, but this doesn't even take into account some other pitchers that are sure to get a call-up to Boston occassionally... Bucholtz - if he gets the slot right, Bowden who seems very likely to step in... The 'pen has been improved by a possible factor of ten (pulling that number from my posterior's orafice) and the starting five/six is definitely an improvement, with solid pitching in the wings.
I would posit that more games were lost last year by either a mid-relief staff that blew the game, or Tito letting a starter go farther in the gamer than he should have, as opposed to games not won, due to the offensive drop off from Manny Ramiewz to Jason Bay.
- Yankees picked up CC (2-9 vs Sox, o8), Burnett, Tex & Swisher (who, I can only think was their safety net/smokescreen? in case they didn't get Tex). Moose knocked down 20 teams last year -- not a lot of 20-game winners in baseball anymore. That's a big number to match up to. Pettitte didn't have a great season, but there's no doubt he's a workhorse that always seemed to give the Sox problems when we least could afford it. Burnett is a very good pitcher, but comes with almost the exact opposite reputation.
- Yanks snagged Tex from the Sox in such a way, to me it was reminscent of the World Series paint being started in Fenway Park in '03 before Grady-ball took place. Both times, the Yankees decided they were not going to lose. But I think Tex would've meant more to the Sox than he will to the Yankees, this year -- overall, Tex will be a great face of the franchise, especially with Jeter on the back nine (not saying his play has declined, just saying he's no longer a young Turk!) and A-Rod skipping Spring Training for Kabala tutotials. Tex would've replaced Lowell - gotta love the man, but Tex is flat out better. As far as I can tell, Tex & Swisher are replacing Giambi & Abreu -- I'll take the latter two for overall better numbers (at least last year, which saw Giambi actually crushing the ball again).
- Damon and Matsui will both be back, but they are putting on the 18th green at this point -- I will be surprised if they play more than a combined 200 games next year.
- There's always the chance that Cano will return to his former brialliance, but who knows?
- I'd expect Jeter & A-Rod to do more of the same this year
- I'd expect Bay to be about the same, with a mid-June slump
- Even though I would've said bye-bye to Ellsbury for Hanley Ramirez (and Clay for that matter), I think Ellsbury will beat his last season.
- Rocco Baldelli portends some interesting possibilities filling in for both Drew/Jacoby/Bay -- let's hope this new disgnosis gives him the energy he needs. With his hometown just past the late afternoon shadow of the Pru, he'll have a lot of support.
- So, I guess I'm just saying, on my paper, the Sox should do as least as well as last year, while the Yankees will be lucky to finish as well.
AL East prediction: Sox, Yanks, Jays, Rays, O's