Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe wrote an article in today’s paper about how the Red Sox need to decide quickly whether they are indeed the best team in Baseball or prime for one of the most memorable collapses since, 1978.
As usual Mr. Shaughnessy makes some interesting points both in favor of a collapse and against. I’m still in the camp that the Red Sox will win the AL East. But to do that, several things need to happen.
Terry Francona needs to step up as a manager. He needs to get his team fired up and ready to play everyday. Sometimes it does appear the Red Sox are mailing it in, playing like they have a sizeable lead and not playing for their lives. You have to first win the regular season before you can worry about the post season. As soon as the clinch the East, they can rest all they want, but until then they need to play hard every day and night.
Yesterday’s game against the Angels was a good example. The Sox couldn’t hit, they wasted a great spot start by Julian Tavarez. They only two Red Sox players who showed some life? Bobby Kielty recently acquired from Oakland and called up from Pawtucket had a hit and made a great catch and Kevin Cash the catcher from Pawtucket who is playing in place of the injured Doug ‘The Slug’ Mirabelli, who shows at least he has a pair by getting into a shouting match with Orlando Cabrera. Sure Ortiz hasn’t felt well and Manny is Manny, but someone has got to step up take the team on their shoulders and carry them forward. Eric Gagne will be fine, I think a lot of his problems right now is mental. He played well in LA so, I’m not concerned that he can’t handle Boston. He can turn it up a notch and play well.
But still I place most of the blame on Francona. He needs to show he can actually manage and not just fill out a line-up card. He needs to get his veteran players to get things going in the club house. This I think is where the Red Sox badly miss Kevin Millar, even down 3 game to none, losing 4 to 3 in the bottom of the ninth with Mariano Rivera on the mound, Millar was the kind of guy to get a team fired up, no matter how bleak the situation. This years Red Sox seem to give up when behind and there has not been a lot of late inning magic this season (2 to be exact, the Mother’s Day meltdown by the Orioles and the game against Tampa Bay the other night).
There is no question the Yankees are hot, but they are a one losing streak away from getting into deep water. They have a huge road trip this week to Anahiem to play the Angels who are very difficult at home. I think the Yankees have to take 3 of 4 to keep themselves in a good position to play the Red Sox soon. Losing 3 of 4 or getting swept would crush the Yankees, especially if Boston plays well against Tampa Bay.
For those interested the Red Sox magic number as of this writing is 35. That means any combination of 35 Red Sox wins and Yankee losses means the Red Sox win the AL East. Boston has 16 of it’s final 38 games against Tampa Bay and Baltimore, 6 more against the Yankees and 12 vs Toronto and the rest of the league.
The Yankees have a tough four game series in Anahiem, followed by a 3 game set in Detroit, a tough 7 game Road trip before coming home to play Boston for 3 games. Therefore the next 10 games will tell exactly how the Yankees will fare in September, I would think 7 and 3 is a must for this team. They can’t afford to play .500 or worse at this point. I should also point out that the Yankees also have 3 games left against Seattle in September which should be huge games.
The bottom line is that I’m not giving up on the Red Sox yet, their pitching is too good and their offense could come alive at any time and they could easily run off a good 7 or 10 game winning streak and leave the Yankees in the dust, but give credit to the Yankees they were a mess not to long ago and have climbed back to within sight of the top, they haven’t made it yet and only time will tell if they do.