Wednesday, March 31, 2010

10 Reasons Why the Red Sox Will Surpass the Yankees in 2010

I’ve enjoyed living with my roommate. He’s a great guy, but sometimes he drives me nuts. He’s known to misplace his keys and accidentally drop my toothpaste in the toilet. His favorite shows are American Idol and America’s Funniest Home Videos. But what really irks me is that he’s a Yankees fan.

Last week, while mocking the Red Sox, he proposed a challenge to me. He knows the Yankees will win the World Series again this year. He is so confident that he jokingly suggested I write why the Red Sox will surpass his beloved Yankees in 2010. 

Sean, this post is for you:  













#1 The Target

This is the first year since 2001 where the Yankees have entered the MLB season as World Series Champs. They Yanks have always intimidated opposing teams with their money, aura, and pinstripes. But this year will be different. Teams will check their calendars for the Yankees, and gear up. They will be on a mission. Every series will be a dogfight because these Yankees are the defending champs and will have a big fat target on their pinstripes. And over the course of the year, it will exhaust them. That’s one of the reasons there are so few back-to-back champions. (The last team to do it: The Yankees in 98-2000; oh, shit, that’s not good.)

#2 Rule of 3

Baseball has become a numbers dominated game. Bill James and other statisticians have broken down every number and equation that you can think of. Here’s a very simple one. The Red Sox won in 2004, then in 2007. Based on simple arithmetic, and a pattern of 3, who do you think will this year? Yup, you got it. The Red Sox in 2010. The rule of 3.

#3 Hunger

The Yankees came into last year famished. For nearly a decade, the Yankees choked, unraveled, folded, and cried. Despite bringing in big name after big name, they could not get over that hump. Last year, the Yanks were starving. They had to win. There were no other options. After a nine-year hiatus, (which for the Yankees was equivalent to the Cubs 102 year drought) the Yankees FINALLY won the World Series.

Now they enter 2010 just another team. Their hunger has decreased, and if they don’t win this year, it won’t be the end of the world. Meanwhile, the Red Sox come in with something to prove. They’ve made the playoffs the last two years, but were embarrassed by the Rays in 2008, and then the Angels in 2009. The Red Sox come into this year like they skipped breakfast and lunch, and now they’re ready for the all-you-can-eat buffet. And the Yanks, they’re pretty full. They might just have a salad.

#4 The 2nd Year of a NEW Stadium

Last year, the talk of the town was the Yankees new 1.5 billion dollar stadium. There was buzz. There was excitement. And there were a lot of home runs. But now it’s just another stadium. Teams will enter prepared, and not be intimidated by the mammoth beast known as the New Yankee Stadium. It had a great rookie year. But this year it will hit the sophomore slump, and it will definitely takes its toll on the Yankees.

#5 Health and Misfortune

On the Simpsons in 1992, Mr. Burns put together the greatest softball team of all-time: Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey, Jr., Don Mattingly, Steve Sax, Mike Scioscia, Ozzie Smith, and Darryl Strawberry.



The night before the big game, Mr. Burns scratches his chin and knows there’s no way his team can lose.



``Unless, of course, my nine all-stars fall victim to nine separate misfortunes and are unable to play.  But that will never happen.
 Three misfortunes, that's possible.  Seven misfortunes, there's an outside chance.  But nine misfortunes?  I'd like to see that!''

I can just see little Steinbrenner rubbing his chin a la Mr. Burns. Yes, it’s possible that the Yankees could suffer these misfortunes. Sabathia and Joba are overweight, Jeter is engaged (google Tiger Woods and marriage), Rivera is 40, Chan Ho Park is well Chan Ho Park, AJ Burnett always get hurt, Pettitte wears eye liner, A-Rod is in love with himself, Posada’s teammates hate him, and Teixiera seems perfect in every way, but he’s a professional athlete, so you know something’s up.

 #6 The Underdog

The Red Sox have one of the highest payrolls in the league, but they’re back in their old spot as the underdog. The last decade has been confusing for Red Sox fans. Our identity was all about being the underdog, and our team letting us down. And we could never get by those damn Yankees. But then 04 happened! And then 07. Wait a second, we thought, we’re not underdogs anymore. It was just as confusing for Yankees fans.

But now the slate is clean. Since the Yankees won last year, things are back to normal. The Red Sox need to prove themselves again. They are the little brother to the Yankees; the underdog. They perform so much better in that role. There’s less pressure, and the Red Sox will come together as a team to knock off their big brother.

#7 Pitching

















Red Sox: Lester, Lackey, Beckett, Buchholz, Wakefield, Bard, Papelbon

Yankees: Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitt, Vazquez, Hughes, Chamberlain, Rivera

If Beckett can regain his form, and Wakefield stays healthy (he made the All-Star team last year before getting hurt), the Red Sox have a formidable pitching staff. Beckett, Lester, and Lackey are all studs and will constantly be competing to prove who’s the ace of this staff.

Plus, Papelbon’s in a contract year, and Bard wants to prove he can be a top closer too. Scary.

If Sabathia pitches like last year, the Yanks are in good shape again. But here’s a weird stat for you: Sabathia has double-digit losses in every EVEN year he’s pitched (2002--11, 2004--10, 2006--11, 2008—10, 2010--??.) Once again, if the Yanks stay healthy, they’re sick. Rivera is the best closer of all time. But will this team be healthy in October?

#8 Roll of the Dice

The Red Sox rolled the dice and forked over a boatload of money when they signed Daisuke Matsuzaka.  Most fans have had it with Dice-K and his sore back, shoulder and neck.  How soon we forget that Dice-K was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 2008. Sure, he’s painful to watch. He reminds me of a little league pitcher: every batter either strikes out or walks. But if Dice-K can return mid-season with some nasty stuff, the Yankees and the rest of the league better watch out. 

#9 A Long Season

The Red Sox started off with 8 consecutive victories over the Yankees last year. It was early, but there was lots of talk. Talk of the Sox going all the way. Talk of the Yankees dismantling their team.

But it’s a very long season. The Yankees went on to win 9 of the last 10 games against the Red Sox including the AL East clinching victory. While the Yanks soaked in champagne, the Sox hung their heads and wondered what happened.

In 2010, the Red Sox will remember what Yankees fans have been telling me forever: it’s all about October. The Sox will have a stronger mentality this year. They will pace themselves; not get too excited too early. They will work hard in April, May, June, July, August, and September. But they’ll know this year: it’s all about October.

#10 I Will Be a Better Fan

In 2004 and 2007, I watched nearly every single Red Sox game. I traveled, and saw them play in Boston, New York, and California. I lived and breathed Red Sox. It sucked the life out of me, but it was worth it.

The last two years, I watched less, and the Red Sox seemed to suffer. The spiritual connection was broken, and they knew it. I cannot prove anything, but when I watched my Sox obsessively, they performed better. They put me through pain and misery, and joy and ecstasy. And in the end, they won it all.

So to spite my roommate, and all those Yankees fans out there, I will dedicate myself to the Sox once again. I will live and die on every series, every game, and every pitch. I’ll laugh. I’ll cry. I’ll scream. I’ll shout. I’ll buy some peanuts and cracker jacks.

I’ll be exhausted. I’ll have no life. But come October, I’ll be covered in champagne just like the 2010 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox. 


Monday, March 29, 2010

The Madness Continues: And then there were 4!



17 years ago, I remember babysitting my neighbors and Christian Laettner hit the shot. The kids were asleep so I let out a silent scream. It was unbelievable. There’s nothing like March Madness, and this year has been no exception. Buzzer beaters, overtimes, and Cinderella stories.

I watched the 1st round at work via cbssports.com. It was fun being sneaky and catching Nova almost getting bounced by Robert Morris, Murray State’s buzzer beater, and BYU surviving double overtime with Florida. There was an even a Boss Button on the site; if you clicked it, the video feed would switch to a business chart. Ingenious.

Somehow and someway I’ve caught every single game whether it was at a bar with friends, at work, or at home. I love it, but there have been some consequences. My girlfriend tells me, apparently, that I’m not a very good listener while watching the games. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, she’s right. And I’m sorry. But it’s March Madness. I’ll buy her flowers in April.



There’s the gambler in me that loves the tournament. Every day, I break down a new scenario in my head that could make me the winner. “If there’s an upset here, and then Baylor makes it the final 4, I win!” But, unfortunately, just like with scratch tickets, I barely ever win.

I was in two pools this year, but it didn’t stop me from rooting on Northern Iowa over Kansas. I happily handed over my $20 entry fee for the memory. Winning the bracket is more about pride than money anyhow. And if I’m not gonna win it, I’m rooting for the underdog.

And this year has been all about the underdog (Ohio, Murray State, Cornell, Washington, Old Dominion, St. Mary’s, Northern Iowa, Xavier, Butler, Michigan State…on a side note, it was a little odd that most of the upsets occurred on the 1st day of each region. Were favorites less prepared because they played first? Did the favorites play better on the 2nd day because they saw what happened on the 1st day? Who knows?)

The Underdog



I was so impressed with St. Mary’s that I asked Omar Samhan to be my friend on facebook. He accepted!

I somehow ended up at a “Cornell” party at a bar and rooted on Big Red as they thrashed Wisconsin.

I watched Georgetown go down, then Villanova, then Kansas, Kansas St., Syracuse, Ohio St., and Kentucky. What the hell happened this year?



Well…here’s a quick personal story that captures this year’s tournament.

Several years ago, I was playing pickup in LA. Somehow, I ended up on a team with this guy named Evan Burns. He was 6’ 6”, all muscle, all athlete. I mention the name because he was a top recruit for UCLA, but he never passed his SATs, got into some trouble, and lost his scholarship. As a result, he dropped out of school and ended up playing pickup with guys like me.

So my team was Evan Burns, me, and 3 duds. On the first play Burns, through an alley-oop to himself off the backboard and slammed it home. Holy shit. This guy was sick. Three dunks later, and we blew out our first opponent.

But something happened in the 2nd game. We played against five guys who knew how to pass, cut, play defense, box out, and hit the open shot. These guys couldn’t touch the rim, but it didn’t matter. They exploited matchups, used their quickness, and double teamed our all star. Thirty minutes later, we lost, and were pushed off the court.

This seems to be the theme of NCAA basketball in 2010. It’s not a one man game. It’s a team game. This is what really separates the NCAA from the NBA. The best team wins; not the team with the best players.

I watched Syracuse, Kansas, Kentucky, Kansas St. and Ohio State all go down for the same reason. They gave the ball to their all-stars and everyone else just watched. Meanwhile, their opponents scrapped, clawed, and did the dirty work.

Here are some staggering stats from this year’s tourney:

Kansas St. had 0 assists in the first half against Butler. Zero!

Kentucky ended up shooting 4-32 from three point land against West Virginia. At one point, they were 0-20.

Syracuse committed 18 turnovers against Butler.

Naismith Award Nominee Sherron Collins of Kansas shot 4-15 with 5 turnovers against Northern Iowa.

One of my favorite quotes of the tournament was from Bruce Pearl (a native of my hometown, Sharon, MA!!!) After 6th ranked Tennessee upset #2 Ohio State, he said: “It was our 10 versus their 6.” What he probably wanted to say was: “It was our 10 versus Evan Turner.”

Turner will be a top 2 pick in the NBA draft this year (either behind or in front of John Wall of Kentucky.) When he gets to the NBA, he can make all the one-on-one moves he wants. He can even take a few extra steps since it’s the NBA. But in college, it’s a team game. Tennessee won that game because they played as a team. And Ohio State lost because they played like it was the NBA—give it to the all-star and watch him make his move.

Shut Up, Bill Simmons


I read the Sports Guy on Page 2. I listen to his podcast. And I read his books.

But Mr. Sports Guy, please give it a rest about college basketball. Bill lives in an alternate universe where he believes the NBA is far superior to March Madness.



His knowledge of NCAA basketball seems to be on par with his tipping skills. (A story for another time.) Just stop talking about the tournament, please.

The Final Four

BUTLER

Butler is by far the best story of these final four teams. In the next week, you’ll read countless articles comparing them to Jimmy Chitwood’s Hoosiers. They’re playing 20 minutes from their campus and will definitely have the home crowd. Their coach is a year older then me, and he looks like he’s 12. They scrap. They hustle. They have underdog written all over them. Will they win it all? Probably not. But how great would it be if they upset Duke for the title!

Text of the month was from bruisahb after Butler knocked off Kansas State: “The Butler did it, in the Salt Lake conservatory with the three point dagger!”

MICHIGAN STATE

H to the Izzo.

Tom Izzo has done it again. Despite being a #5 seed, Sparty and the Spartans are back in the final four for the 6th time in 12 years. They’ve provided some amazing moments so far including the buzzer beater against Maryland. Don’t count them out for another chance at a title. (On a side note, I watched the Michigan St.—Maryland game at a sports bar called Tonic and they refused to put the sound on for the game. I was furious. Who does that? I ended up making my own “call” for this game, but man, did I miss Gus Johnson.)

DUKE

It wouldn’t be a final four without a villain. As much as I hate Duke (If they had lost to Baylor, I would’ve been $150 richer.) it’s probably good to have a team in it that you despise. It always fun watching Duke lose and seeing all the rich, preppy kids cry. But if Duke wins, it would spoil what has been a great tournament so far. Plus, I couldn’t handle the Lakers, Yankees, and Duke winning all in the same sports year. At least the Colts choked against the Saints. Let’s hope Duke does the same.

WEST VIRGINIA

There’s actually two Butlers in the tournament. Da’Sean Butler is the other one. He has proven to be one of the best players in the country. I knew this team was for real when they won the Big East tournament (of course, I still picked them to lose to Kentucky.)

I read a great quote about Butler after he banked home a three pointer at the buzzer to beat Cincinatti in the Big East tourney. Lance Stephenson (from Brooklyn hence the bad grammar) was the man guarding him. He said: “I tried my hardest to strip him but he made an incredible move and an incredible shot. I was all over him, nothing I could do. I couldn’t do nothing different. I actually fouled him.” When a reported asked if it was a lucky bank shot, Stephenson admitted Butler called BANK when he released it. Not much more you can do.

I’m actually supporting West Virginia for a couple of reasons. Kevin Pittsnoggle, Mike Gandy and the gang provided me with some of the best NCAA memories from about five years ago. If they win, I hope those guys are invited to the parade. And my second reason: I just love that Take me home to West Virginia song by John Denver. That John Denver’s full of shit, man so here’s another version from The Office by Dwight and the Nard-dog.



FINAL FOUR PREDICTIONS:

West Virginia 71
Duke 67

Butler 62
Michigan St. 56

Take me home…country road…to the place… I belong:

WEST VIRGINIA 66
BUTLER 59