The Schedule’s the Thing?

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? 

4 comments… add one
  • The Sox are the real thing. The only thing that concerns me (and that includes pitching of Wells and Clement)is their propensity for leaving men on base in general and in scoring position in particular. Last night was a perfect example – 10 hits and 4 walks translating into a team OBP of .378 for the night, yet only 2 runs to show for it. Now, some of this has to do with Manny slugging for his batting average (.200), but its my sense that overall, they’ve not done as well as they should with RISP.
    As for Wells, he’ll come out of it, he just wasn’t ready. At the end of the day, he’ll get them at least 12 wins. Clement, when he’s on, is a pretty solid pitcher. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with him throwing in big games, but over the course of the season he’ll get at least a dozen wins as well.
    I really haven’t seen much of the Yankees, so I won’t comment.

    Craig April 15, 2006, 8:50 am
  • Wells is back on the DL, so he won’t “come out of it” for at least another 15 days. Supposedly his knee is acting up.
    I’m not too worried about the Sox leaving guys on base. That happens when you get a lot of baserunners on. Some days you get timely hits and plate them, other days you end up leaving guys on base. Yesterday was the second for Boston, but they managed to win despite that, which is good news.
    I still think the big concerns for the Red Sox are the health of Schilling and Beckett. We’ve seen how effective they can be when healthy (as they are now), and we’ve also seen how ineffective the rest of the rotation can be. This just highlights the importantance of them staying healthy and making most to all of their starts. If either of them goes down for anything approaching an extended period of time then the Sox could be in trouble.
    Same goes for the Yankees with the Big Ugly and Over The Hill Mike, possibly even more so. The dropoff between their top two guys and the rest of their rotation is, I believe, steaper than it is with Boston’s rotation. Of course, their lineup may be able to make up for that.
    Basically, its early. Early early early. (But we’ve still got a two game lead on the Yankees Ha ha!)

    mattymatty April 15, 2006, 12:40 pm
  • I completely agree about Beckett and Schilling, but I disagree about the Sox leaving runners on base. If we pull out the 14 run explosion at Baltimore, the Sox have only scored 36 runs in the other 10 games. That’s not a lot. Some of its Manny’s anemic slugging, but as a team they could be doing better. A case in point was Boston’s second inning today against Seattle. Bases loaded, nobody out and a big goose egg. In fairness though, they started Stern, Pena, Cora, Bard and Snow.

    Craig April 15, 2006, 6:05 pm
  • Good point, SF. It strikes fear into the hearts of both Yanks and Sox fans. And now I see how the Cold War worked. But it’s early, and both teams are still just trying to figure out what kind of a team they’ve got. Like Craig says, look at who the Sox started tonight.

    The Fare Cod April 16, 2006, 12:47 am

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