In last night’s Yankees game thread YF somewhat reluctantly gave the Mets their due. While he acknowledged their accomplishments, he took a minor swipe at the best team currently playing in New York (and elsewhere, for that matter) for their schedule. And while the Metropolitans haven’t exacly faced the giant-killers of the NL, going 8-1 to start a season is no small accomplishment, no matter who you are facing. Which brings us to our two teams. The Red Sox opened up against the Rangers, a team deep with hitters, and then followed with another bat-happy lineup, the Orioles; both series were played on the road. And though neither team will sniff the ERA title this year, it seemed to me like a reasonable test of the Sox’ new makeup, steered more towards pitching and defense than at any time since the deadline trades in 2004. The Sox aced this first exam. The Yankees, on the other hand, opened with a stiff challenge, the Angels and then the Athletics, also on the road. Both teams are critics’ darlings, the A’s being the hot pick of the pre-season for most everyone who didn’t concede the world championship, in advance of a single game being played, to the Bombers. It was a test they failed. Unable to score runs against solid pitchers whose names weren’t "Zito", the Yankees stumbled home 2-4, their offensive machine humbled by men who can make the ball dance and skip, who anticipated well their next thunderous hack.
Which takes us to each teams’ first homestand. The Sox were handed the Blue Jays by the MLB schedulemaker, these Torontonians wishful internecine divisional rivals after an offseason spending spree, while the Yankees faced off against their nemesis from 2005, the lowly Royals of Kansas City. The Sox fared less than well; besides the work of Josh Beckett the starting pitchers looked as lost as George Bush at a press conference, serving up oversized marshmallows in the form of flat, belt-high fastballs and hanging curveballs. Not encouraging. Back home in the Bronx, the Yankees crushed the spirits of a hopeless young team while raising those of their own fans, looking fully the part of a 21st Century murderer’s row in scoring 30 runs over 3 games.
So which are the real teams, and has the schedule fooled us? Are the Sox the ones led by Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett, the ones who dart around the basepaths, who field their positions with competence and occasional flair, the team that can finally win low-scoring ballgames against high-scoring opponents? Or are they the ones who will continue to be hobbled by inconsistency, by the likes of the older and less healthy David Wells and the inconsistent Matt Clement, a team that will have to constantly dig itself out of the holes placed in their paths by the bottom part of their rotation? And who are the real Yankees? Are they the Paul Bunyans who bullied that lowly team from KC, the beer-leaguers who makes fences look as if they are just behind the edge of the infield? Or are they the the quiet millionaires who failed in the clutch against the better teams of the league, the ones who against really good pitching look no more dangerous a contender than Kevin Covais? Has the schedule told us anything this early in the season?