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.
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.
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.