Sports Illustrated’s Tom Donovan says Terry Francona needs to stop fiddling and start winning.

Donovan acknowledges that the Red Sox appear to be perfectly happy to let the division slip in favor of being more strongly positioned for the playoffs (health, rotation alignment, etc.):

Bye-bye, division title? Right now, it’s sure looking that way. What’s worse is that it’s clear that the division crown doesn’t seem to matter to the Red Sox. Winning the AL East — which the Sox haven’t done since 1995, by the way — is nothing but icing for Francona and the Sox. They’ll take it. But the cake, they insist, is the important thing.

"Ultimately," Francona said in an interview with NESN before Wednesday night’s loss in Toronto, practically dismissing the notion of winning the East, "what we’d like to do is go farther than that. We want to win a World Series."

He also acknowledges that a. The Red Sox have won the World Series as a wild card team, and b. That teams that looked terrible through Sept. 30 have made it to and won the World Series:

I’m not a big believer in momentum. It’s a hugely overrated concept in baseball. The Cardinals proved that last season as they limped to the finish line before winning it all. But losing going into the postseason, while fighting to the end, is one thing. Backing into the postseason while giving away games is something else entirely.

But, he insists, Francona needs to get his team into gear and win now. Why?

More than that, though, what kind of competitor would settle for second place? What message does that send to the Red Sox players and their fans? What kind of message does it send to the Yankees, or the Angels, or the Indians? By essentially conceding wins now, you put doubt into your own team — it’s there, you can tell — and embolden the competition.

Really? That’s the answer you’re going to go with? The Red Sox need to win now, at whatever costs, to send a message to their playoff competition? That really makes no sense to me.

After thinking about this for a couple days, I have to admit the Sox’ apparent strategy makes sense. The Detroit Tigers aren’t keeping the Red Sox from going to the playoffs. The way the races are going, if the Sox don’t win the division, they will face the Indians while the Yanks play the Angels (arguably the ideal matchups for Boston). They’ll be healthier, better aligned, better rested as a wild card team. Better prepared for battle, in other words.

Donovan argues the Sox could use the home-field advantage (which matters not a lick until the World Series) and the choice of which ALDS schedule they’d like. These sound like pyrrhic victories to me. Home-field advantage and a better schedule are worthless if your team is exhausted from a final-week battle for a division crown that has essentially no meaning in the current format.

So, my question remains: If you’re already discounting the role of momentum, why, other than the short-term pain of losing ballgames, should the Red Sox kill themselves to win the division when in fact the division matters not at all in determining who is the World Champion?

112 comments… add one
  • The thing about this potential division fold that bothers me most is that it dredges up all the old mythology for the press (and for some fans, too). The idea that the Sox were “cursed” was nipped in the bud in 2004, right? But I bet a million bucks that the same stupid montages of Babe Ruth, Bucky Dent, Aaron Boone that were played to death until 2004 will all be dredged up during the postseason if the Yanks win the division and the two teams meet. 2004 will have meant nothing in the grand scheme of things, narrative-wise, at least to the pinheads who put pre-game footage together, the talking heads, and many, many reflexively stupid fans. In other words, the Sox performing the greatest comeback in baseball history against their arch-rival in the playoffs and going on to win a World Series will be supplanted as narrative drama by the distant past and a (potential) division loss that may not, in fact, cost them a thing. That accomplishment will be minimized to feed the narrative.
    I want the Sox to win the division, if only to keep this from happening.

    SF September 20, 2007, 5:06 pm
  • I agree completely, SF. I’m already sick of the fraudulent comparisons to 1978, etc. But I’d rather that and a deep run in the playoffs than hanging on for dear life and a quick first-round exit.
    The best scenario is the Sox continue resting bodies and experimenting with players while the Yankees stumble and make this whole question moot.
    After I posted this, I also noticed this Newsday column on our Google News feed that echoes my point.

    Paul SF September 20, 2007, 5:08 pm
  • I don’t care about comparisons to other collapses (they are pertinent, if only for relativity). But what bothers me is that there will (most likely) be rejuvenation of the meme that the Yanks somehow “own” the Sox, that the Sox always choke, that there is a new “curse”. Which would/will be a farcical and ludicrous claim.

    SF September 20, 2007, 5:12 pm
  • I understand that winning the division isn’t the be-all-end-all, but I’m having a hard time adjusting to the mind-state that these games are as meaningless as Spring Training games. And if winning isn’t everything, why isn’t Papi resting his balky knees and shoulder?

    Tyrel SF September 20, 2007, 5:13 pm
  • I think he’s said in the past that he doesn’t want rest leading up to the playoffs because it’ll break up his rhythm.
    Unfortunately, SF, the meme has already been rejuvenated, at least as best I can tell, despite my vigilance to avoid ESPN and the like the past several days.

    Paul SF September 20, 2007, 5:16 pm
  • It is being mentioned because this was the Red Sox division to lose. They were up so big and the yanks were having to rely on old pitchers and rookies, not to mention being under .500. It was said Boston couldn’t give up this big of a lead because the pitching was too good. Even though the wild card exists now, it is still pretty amazing a team can win the division that many years in a row.

    Seth September 20, 2007, 5:24 pm
  • I agree in principle with this strategy, but that doesn’t take the sting out of a season that could (should?) have broken the string of non-first place finishes for the Sox.
    I have to admit to not paying intimate attention to the Sox the last couple of days (for instance on Tuesday, all it took was hearing the Sox lost and I turned off the radio). So here’s my question for people who may have studied the issue more:
    ARE the Sox resting everybody? Is this why we haven’t seen Youkilis and Ramirez? Because they could be ready but aren’t taking the chance? I have no idea.
    And the Sox didn’t exactly put out a mop-up person in last night’s game. Five pitchers had a go at it – does that mean most of them aren’t figuring in the postseason? Delcarmen? Timlin? And if everyone is resting, what was Papelbon doing out there?
    I’m not trying to take a dig at anyone, I’m legitimately confused on this issue. The rational(ization) we’re all trying to settle into is that the Sox are essentially in the playoffs, so they’re aligning their stars. But are they? Is there evidence of that?

    FenSheaParkway September 20, 2007, 5:29 pm
  • This is all spin. Come on guys are you really trying to tell me that this skid means nothing? If the roles were reversed, Sox Nation would be having a field day with the sudden and shocking change of circumstance. I’m not trying to stir the pot or start trouble but let’s be honest, if the Yankees come back and win this division, I can’t see the Sox turning it around. On one hand, you may be able to rest some players for the postseason, but are said players going to come back in the playoffs having nursed their injuries and not played and all of the sudden flip a switch and be dominant??? It seems to me the season has taken it’s toll on the Sox. While the Yankees had their injury problems early, the Sox have had their’s late…

    krueg September 20, 2007, 5:29 pm
  • “Home-field advantage and a better schedule are worthless if your team is exhausted from a final-week battle ”
    Yes, Baseball is so physically hard. That last week battle is really going to kill them.
    I’d rather have a team that Kicks Down the Door to the Playoffs instead of crawling through the dog flap.

    Westboro - YF September 20, 2007, 5:30 pm
  • I’d rather have a team that Kicks Down the Door to the Playoffs instead of crawling through the dog flap.
    Like the 2004-2006 Yankees? How’s that worked out?

    Paul SF September 20, 2007, 5:33 pm
  • Paul, don’t forget about 2001-2003 either.

    Tyrel SF September 20, 2007, 5:38 pm
  • If the Sox lose the division and win the World Series, no one is going to give a crap about what happened in September, and everyone will be calling the Red Sox management geniuses.
    But I do care as of right now, and while I see that they are resting anyone who has even hinted at injury (except Ortiz), and I understand the possible benefits, it still hurts. And not just because the media are morons and will blow it out of proportion.
    Plus if the Sox get bounced in the first round, it will hurt even more that they didn’t take the division and had about a million chances to do so.

    Devine September 20, 2007, 5:40 pm
  • No doubt, Devine.
    And, seriously, I don’t begrudge YFs the opportunity to gloat. I’m sure I’d be gloating, too, were the situations reversed. I’m not going to pretend the division means nothing to me personally. But don’t pretend the division title has much more significance than as abragging right.
    Basically: Rationally I can understand what’s going on, even if I don’t like it emotionally.

    Paul SF September 20, 2007, 5:45 pm
  • in 2004-2006 Postseason the yanks have hit the ball very well. Granted this did not directly lead to wins but over the long run I would much prefer they way they have hit in the postseason than say the way the Cards hit the ball last year. To me the Cards example is the anomaly.

    Seth September 20, 2007, 5:45 pm
  • I think this discussion brings up a really interesting question: Should there be a larger punishment for going in to the playoffs as a wild card team?
    My answer to this question is a VEHEMENT “yes.” Before I get into that, I do want to say that I am a big fan of the wild card and what it has done for the game of baseball. The wildcard should stay, but perhaps there should be changes.
    Baseball has the longest regular season of all the major sports. Historically, it has also been the must meaningful regular season. Some of the game’s greatest stories, the 1967 Red Sox, the 1969 Mets, 1978 Yanks-Red Sox, 1951 Giants-Dodgers, have come out of the regular season.
    This year’s Yankees–Red Sox regular season story, whether the Sox hang on or the Yankees do overtake them, had the potential to be one of those great, unforgettable regular season battles. It is sad that one of the teams involved in this struggle has publicly admitted that they don’t care about winning this battle. What’s tragic is that they are RIGHT.
    Winning the division, which requires being better than everyone else over a much larger sample size than winning a playoff series, means nothing. There is next to no penalty for going in as a wild card. So why care about winning the battle that was 162 games in the making (one which included 18 games between the two main rivals, BTW)? A team is much better of making sure they have their rotation lined up than securing home field advantage.
    So what does this mean? This means that the last 13 games of this season, which could be absolutely special (It would be more “unique” if the Yankees came back, but it would be “special” no matter what the outcome), will instead be absolutely MEANINGLESS.
    We must save the importance of winning the division. If for no other reason than to elevate September baseball back to the status deserves. That is why I am a big proponent of an idea that has been out there for a while:
    Three division winners are in. The top two finishers in the wild card race have to play a “play in” game. (Who ever finished first in the wildcard race gets homefield advantage for that game). The winner of the play-in game then has to fly to the division winner’s city to play the next day. They will have likely burned their number one starter to get into the playoffs, will not have any rest, and will be on the road.
    In a system like that, maybe Francona would have to think twice about “seeing what he has got” with Gagne. But in this current system, he was absolutely right.

    Damien September 20, 2007, 5:45 pm
  • I’m with FenSheaParkway on this one. The strategy makes some sense, but that doesn’t explain it.
    The Sox definitely moved the starting rotation around to give Schilling and DiceK extra rest, hence putting Clay in last night after they had already decreed that he’d only be a reliever for the rest of the season. So that might explain the pitching.
    But the Sox offense is on the ropes, and it’s not because guys are resting. Manny’s out because he’s hurt. Ortiz is playing, but he’s lousy because he’s a little hurt too. And the Sox can’t rest him, because the offense is already breaking apart.
    Looking at the last four games, LF has been switched around because Manny’s out. But the first five batters in the line-up remained the same for each game. Veritek got a day off, but only because Wakefield pitched. And Lugo got a day off.
    So the only guy who got what appears to be just a day off was Lugo.
    I don’t think the Red Sox got swept just because they’re resting players. The Boston batters have hit only .174 over the last four games, and the aforementioned front five hit only .160. Small sample size, sure, but those four games are the reason we’re talking about this at all.
    The Red Sox just seem to have bigger problems than resting guys. I think it’s certainly valuable to give your players time to rest and get ready for October, and that might be what Francona is doing with some of his pitching staff. But the batters aren’t getting much rest, and they’re arguably the bigger problem.

    KurticusMaximus- YF September 20, 2007, 5:55 pm
  • The only thing I am concerned about is Game 5 or 7 having home field in that last game is important in my mind. And I want that last game in my house. Think about a West Coast trip that you would may have to take for the possible last game of your season. That is the kind of thing and peace of mind that comes with having the best record and winning the division. Winning the division keeps the others rival on airplane and you at home.

    BklynYank September 20, 2007, 5:57 pm
  • Damien –
    I get what you’re saying, and I agree that some of the drama has been sapped out of September by the WC. But I have to point out that the AL East this year is exactly why the WC was established (or the ostensible one, with the real one being money for Fox).
    It seems likely the Sox and Yankees will have the two best records in the AL. Pre-1995, one would have been locked out of the playoffs, hence the WC. Under your proposal, both would still get in, but one would be penalized in favor of the lesser (record-wise) Indians or Angels. Is that more fair?
    I’m splitting hairs here because there is no “perfect” system, as any design will allow some scenario to be perceived as unfair. But all things considered, I’ve come to accept and appreciate the WC in its current format, even if it saps some of the drama out of the pennant race (which I barely remember anyway).

    FenSheaParkway September 20, 2007, 6:02 pm
  • FenSheaParkway- Um, Cleveland and Anaheim are currently tied for the best record in the AL, and neither are looking to slow down.

    KurticusMaximus- YF September 20, 2007, 6:08 pm
  • FenSheaParkway,
    The Indians and the Angels actually have better records than both the Yankees and the Red Sox. (Though the Sox are just .5 games behind them).
    But even if both teams in the AL East had better records than the other two division winners, wouldn’t it still be better if those teams had some strong incentive to try and win the division? Wouldn’t that be better than having the two best teams in the league mail in the end of their season in preparation for the playoffs? If the All-Star game should “count,” shouldn’t MLB set up the playoff system in a manner that maximizes the chances that last few games of the season will count for the largest number of teams?
    Finally, as I stated in my first comment, I actually agree with you, FenSheaParkway, that the wild card is a good thing. I just think that it could be a BETTER thing.

    Damien September 20, 2007, 6:12 pm
  • Kurt and Damien –
    And I’ve just proved how much my attention towards Baseball has dropped off in the past few days!

    FenSheaParkway September 20, 2007, 6:15 pm
  • The Red Sox just seem to have bigger problems than resting guys.
    100% agreed. This is the bigger picture. I’ve been saying this for literally three months, into something of a vacuum.
    Like I said at the top of the thread, I dread more what many people will do with the collapse than the collapse itself. I’m well past the “the Sox alway choke against the Yankees” BS, but I am going to have to suffer through too many others re-believing it or re-touting it recklessly, regardless of the actuality. Marginalizing the brilliant and cathartic accomplishments of the 2004 team will be the worst outcome of this season, should the Sox fade to second. I won’t allow it to happen, at least at this site.

    SF September 20, 2007, 6:17 pm
  • Win the Division for the FANS! Sure, we fans want to be the ultimage WS Champions, but we also want to win the division! I’m as level headed as any saber/stat head, but I’m a FAN first. We want to win. We want to win the division. We want to win the WS. And what about the fans showing up to the games? Do they not matter as well? Come on Red Sox, either start trying to win or at least admit it bothers that you aren’t.

    John September 20, 2007, 6:33 pm
  • I for one, don’t think the Sox are choking. They got off to a tremendously hot start, then settled down into a +/- .600 pace from June on. Every team goes through streaks; the Sox just happen to be hitting a rough patch right now. Plus, they’ve got guys that are tired (Oki), not performing as expected (Gagne and Paps), injured (Manny, et al).
    The Yankees have been playing at a .653 clip from June forward, but they had to dig out of a hole created in April/May.
    So, if you chart out in Excel (which I have geekily done) the wins and losses and corresponding rises and falls in win pct., the Sox line starts out high, then settles into a glide path hovering around the .600 mark. The Yankees don’t achieve the .500 mark for good until just after the All-Star Break and show a steady climb from then on, to the point where they’ve almost arrived at the level the Sox have been at for most of the season.
    So, the Sox have been steady, the Yanks mercurial. Hopefully, they’ll continue their hot streak through October. But as we all know, you can pretty much throw what happens during the regular season out the window once the playoffs begin.

    nettles-yf September 20, 2007, 7:04 pm
  • The fact that some are presenting the Sox’ options as a) Rest everyone with even a hint of injury or b) kill yourself trying to win the division indicates to me what the real problems are for teh Sox. They and their fans feel like they’d have to burn through their few (only?) reliable bullpen arm and their top starters just to hold off the Yankees. The Yankees, meanwhile are rolling, but they are not at all having to “kill themselves” to do it. Giambi out one night with a bad foot, Joba rules in effect, Shelley Duncan started, Edwar Ramirez run out, a 6-man rotation put in place, etc. etc. and they are continuing to roll.
    Don’t get me wrong, this is not a taunt to Sox fans. I am simply making the point that the Sox are reeling badly enough that they seem to feel that they only have the two options articulated above, and not the third option, which is continue to play hard while resting guys as you need to be and you STILL feel confident about holding off the Yankees. That more than any talk of momentum is more reflective of what the (deeper) problems are than anything else.
    The Sox right now are in the worst shape of their season as well as the worst shape of any of the 4 AL playoff contenders. If, for instance, Manny storms back, Ortiz heals, Youkilis returns, and (MOST importantly) someone – anyone (Bucholz?) – solidifies the bridge to Papelbon, then yes, the slide is all moot. But they don’t have a huge amount of time left for all these pieces to come back together.
    And if they REALLY didn’t care at all about the division and just wanted to rest up their stars, the FIRST person they’d be resting right now is Ortiz, not the last. If he is playing tomorrow night and from here on in very reguarly, then I will not fully buy the “all part of the master plan” explanation of what is going on with them.

    IronHorse (yf) September 20, 2007, 7:12 pm
  • Divisions are wierd.
    In some ways winning your division is a symbol of dominance. It means that over 162 games, you’ve shown to be the better team. It means, in essence, that you’ve won the season.
    But thats meaningless, ins’t it? What matter is winning the World Series. That makes you World Champions.
    2006 Cardinals weren’t the best team of 2006, but they won the world series. And then they got blasted against the back wall with death, injuries and bad luck. And now people are retroactively dimming the glow of their championship last year.
    Why? Because maybe winning the World Series isn’t as long-lasting or impressive as what the Braves did or what the Yankees are doing. The Red Sox won quite possibly the biggest moment of the 21st century. They not only beat the Yankees finally, but they beat them after beind down 0-3, then swept the NL team in an almost prefunctory process. But now its all about “whats wrong with the Red Sox?!”
    But, win your division several years in a role. Smack down your rival in the season series year after year and people think differently.
    Maybe thats why the Colts and Patriots, teams that for the last five years were perfect candidates for “Superbowl win or bust” status prided themselves on taking care of “the small things” first: Win your division. Because success builds on success.
    I agree that my point of view (which might as well have been written on a cocktail napkin it came to be so quickly) isn’t logical, but in the conception of the public, letting your rival destroy your lead in the final month of the season because you had your eyes on the bigger prize is crazy! Sports is too fanatical of a space for things like logic or common sense to factor in.

    Carlos (YF) September 20, 2007, 7:23 pm
  • Carlos – you are the Ernest Hemingway of YF-SF. Anyone who uses “retroactively” and “perfunctory” in the same note as “smack down” deserves props.
    Oh, and I largely agree with everything you said – indubitably.

    IronHorse (yf) September 20, 2007, 7:32 pm
  • Well stated, Carlos, even if I don’t agree with everything. The thing about winning a division is that you can’t equate one sport with another. Seeding in the NFL is a MASSIVE advantage; that team that comes out of a conference with the best record has a gargantuan advantage, and the Super Bowl is so much closer for them, one fewer game and home field advantage, which in football can be a balance-shifter. With baseball, it’s nothing like that. Longer series, changing personnel, etc.
    Regardless, I understand much of what you are saying, specifically in reference to reputation, for lack of a better word.

    SF September 20, 2007, 7:40 pm
  • Again, Ortiz has said he does NOT want to rest immediately before the playoffs, so I don’t think that really counts as proof one way or the other.
    I agree that saying, “Well, we didn’t really want the division anyway” sounds like a convenient excuse for a team with far larger problems. On the other hand, it makes sense. I don’t know that you can outright dismiss it. I also don’t know that you can buy it 100 percent. I called it an “apparent strategy” in my original post because it’s the only one that fits the bill for the ridiculous moves Francona’s been making.
    Gagne for a full inning as he melts down with Paps in the pen and Delcarmen underworked the inning before?
    Papelbon not in to preserve the lead, but in when the Sox are down?
    Buchholz out after 68 pitches?
    I know there’s always a fair amount of frustration with the way Francona uses his starters and bullpen, but let’s use some logic here. He’s acting bizarrely out of character, the only rationale for which that I can see is tinkering with the pitchers to make sure he has everyone rested and healthy and ready to go come Oct. 1 or 2 or whenever Game 1 is.
    If that is the strategy — and I think it is, at least on the pitching side — then I agree. As the Newsday column points out, the 2005 Yankees kept rolling to the finish and won the division, but the players said the effort it cost them to do that in September led to the quick exit in October. The fact that the Yankees of 2007 are rolling in similar fashion without needing to rest players doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in better shape for the playoffs. But it sure looks like they are, I agree. I’m really just consoling myself with the possibility that history could repeat itself.
    The offense is different. It appears to be a combination of the pitching strategy and just plain ol’ crappy timing for a collective slump. Crisp appears to have been given more rest than he otherwise would need. Youkilis had bad luck with being hit against the Yanks, but it seems they’re being extra cautious with him. Manny we’ve discussed. The nature of his injury and the sensitive timing are fueling the ultraconservative approach, I think. Otherwise, yeah, the Sox’ offense isn’t doing too much.
    But we’re only talking about a three-game series, in which the Sox faced two of the better starting pitchers in the league (McGowan and Burnett) — and in BOTH games scored enough to win. We’re not discussing offensive woes if the bullpen holds up, and the bullpen seems to be affected by this strategy. So I’m not completely sold that the entire team is collapsing at once. (For the record, though, Mike Lowell is the only regular hitting above .300 over the Yankees and Blue Jays series — but how well do you expect to hit against Wang, Pettitte, Clemens, Burnett and McGowan? Am I flip-flopping enough yet?)
    So I think Francona’s tinkering with the staff wouldn’t be nearly as noticeable if the Sox a. Won one of the two games in New York, or b. Hadn’t been stymied offensively in Toronto in even just one game. But they didn’t, and here we are.

    Paul SF September 20, 2007, 8:01 pm
  • Gagne gets one more out and we’re also in a much different place. Me, I look at the the ways the Yankees have won the division the last few years to know that the division is essentially meaningless for post-season success. At the same time, I’m not sure how much the tinkering means either. Each post-season games plays itself out in weird, unpredictable ways. We only have to look back to 2003 and 2004 to see that. Last year it looked like the Yankees were rolling with the only question of how to fit Sheffield into the lineup. Then their bats went silent against the Tigers. Baseball is a beautiful sport like that :) I would be no more shocked to see the Indians win the series than to see the Cub reverse their curse. That’s what makes it Actober! On Fox!

    Pete September 20, 2007, 8:13 pm
  • Sorry, Paul. I understand the need to “line people up” for the playoffs. And I do think that sacrificing the team for the playoffs for the sake of the division is shortsighted. But I don’t buy the reverse-engineered “I meant to do that” kind of spin we are getting from the Sox. Tito could have made plenty of moves on Friday and on Tuesday, conceivably preserving two games in the standings without compromising the team for the post-season. Skipping Matsuzaka and Schill had no bearing on those two pieces of diastrous managing. So nothing else matters, frankly. Those two games, both blown in the last six outs due in large part to Francona’s inability to prepare, have everything to do with why we are having this discussion. Not last night’s loss, not anything else. Not the juggled lineups, not the sorely lacking (and hurt) offense. If Terry had done his job, he could be preparing for the playoffs as we speak, but with the division well in hand.

    SF September 20, 2007, 8:17 pm
  • Yeah, that is something that has become unclear. It does seem to be a “reversed engineered answer.”
    I mean, if the division doesn’t matter, what is Papelbon doing in the eight of a game where you are down a run? You already know what Papelbon is capable of, you know that he’s ready for big guys, you know everything there is to know about Papelbon, why bring him into a pressure situation if the next 8 games are essentially meaningless.
    Closers need to pitch regularly in order to keep their rhythm. Well, then bring in Delcarmen or someone else to finish the eighth and let papelbon pitch the ninth “just to get some work in.”
    Why is Ortiz playing at all? The man looks like he’d might keel over on the plate, he can’t get the bat around on anything inside and his running looks…well its too sad to say. Ortiz needs a day off, but won’t get him because the offense is worthless without him…yet none of the next 9 games matter?
    I smell alot more than dissonance right here. I’m not trying to be a complete Yankee-lover, but it smells like the Sox, like every other team in the history of baseball, would love to win games and walk away with the division wire-to-wire, but are slumping in all areas and are trying to cover it up by downplaying the losses.
    I’d think it’d be an embarassment to the players (and definitely to the fans) to be up 14.5 games and lose the division, and then shrug your shoulders and say its no big deal.
    Not to mention have to deal with the Yankees and their fans crowing about “having your number” or “10 straight AL East champs” or “1978.” It may be illogical, insensible and otherwise insane, but when you smell your opponent coming up behind you, you turn around and knock them out. I’m not talking about wanting to knock your opponent out of the playoffs out of spite, or settling a score, or even meeting your goals step by step.
    Its about having a winning mentality. Because as the Yankees of the last 6 years have proven, you can not turn it off and on at will. You give up big leads, you lose close games; that shit carries over.

    Carlos September 20, 2007, 9:08 pm
  • Its about having a winning mentality. Because as the Yankees of the last 6 years have proven, you can not turn it off and on at will.
    Nah, the Yankees have a “winning mentality” no more than the Sox do. These guys are pros. The Sox, at the moment, are playing poorly and being managed even more poorly. It’s silly to accuse the Sox’ players of not having a desire to win which is smaller than the Yankees’, or that the Sox’ management isn’t trying to win as much as the Yankees’. If this is, as it seems, something of a reverse-engineered excuse, that makes the charge of “not trying to win” even weaker. Did the Yankees have a loser’s mentality in April and May, or did they just have a lesser team back then? I know what I think.
    Fact is, the Sox are playing bad baseball. Fact is, their manager isn’t a good strategist, hasn’t ever really been a good one, and didn’t become a bad one last week, no matter the results. Fact is, they may just not be a great, championship caliber team. But I don’t doubt the players’ desire to win, and win now.

    SF September 20, 2007, 9:18 pm
  • Carlos –
    That dissonance you speak of is what prompted my first post on this thread. It didn’t make any sense to me either (Papelbon’s appearance, Ortiz playing, etc.), hence my skepticism.
    However, if I can defend the Sox FO for just a moment, their current justification is similar to what they’ve always tried to espouse – that is, “we build a team to win X number of games which we figure we need to get to the playoffs”. So, if you apply that to this week – once the Tigers got swept by the Indians, their preseason “goal” seemed at hand, which triggered the dialing down of expectations. Piling up that big win total early, even if it doesn’t deliver a division, is what will eventually fend off the other 10 teams in the league. “Mission Accomplished” and all that.
    I just wish they’d actually commit to it and maybe, I don’t know, put their bench in the starting lineup or something for two nights (on the road of course), just to show that it is rationale and not rationalization after all.

    FenSheaParkway September 20, 2007, 9:25 pm
  • Carlos –
    It’s great having your inspired writing around here.
    And SF, I agree completely. Those two wins and the Sox are up 4.5 and things are looking very good down the stretch.

    Pete September 20, 2007, 9:34 pm
  • “So, my question remains: If you’re already discounting the role of momentum, why, other than the short-term pain of losing ballgames, should the Red Sox kill themselves to win the division when in fact the division matters not at all in determining who is the World Champion?”
    I understand that argument but believe you are discounting the value of winning. Yea, history has shown us that final month losers can completely change their tune in the playoffs, but I still have to believe that going in strong and confident lends a serious advantage.

    BostonRAW September 20, 2007, 10:07 pm
  • “I agree completely, SF. I’m already sick of the fraudulent comparisons to 1978”
    In 1978 the SOX won their last 8 straight, and this year the only Dent around plays in their farm system.
    I’ll take ’78. Who’s offering?

    BostonRAW September 20, 2007, 10:13 pm
  • “The Red Sox just seem to have bigger problems than resting guys”
    They sure do but why wouldn’t they if Manny and Youk are missing, and Papi and Lowell are simultaneously slumping.
    Realistically, All that could change tomorrow so it’s no where near as large an issue as the bullpen is.

    BostonRAW September 20, 2007, 10:26 pm
  • Aww, shucks, thanks Pete. I’ve been a fan of this blog for a while, but hadn’t had a chance to contribute. Work has this wierd thing going; they want me to like, work. Its an ongoing battle between the things I care about and the things that make money.
    The argument is obviously old. Does momentum matter? Does perception matter? We obviously are comfortable with teams with huge leads resting players and taking it easy, setting up rotations and otherwise coasting towards the next stage of the yearly war.
    That makes sense.
    I think what distinguishes this situation from others is that the division is not settled. There is still something left to be won. We can argue the relative worth of the division crown, but if the Red Sox give it away over the next 10 games, then thats a big loss. In stature, in reputation, and nothing else. The story would be that the Yanks came back, smacked the Red Sox in the second half of the season and reinforced the choker myth that every one seems ready to place on the Sox.
    Is it bogus? It would be if sports weren’t so dependent on perception and guesswork. The non-emotional answer though remains, you don’t give up before the season ends. You don’t give up ground. The Sox are battered, they are tired, and their manager may have misused Okajima over the season (all previous japanese players have issues adjusting with the mlb workload, so why let okajima work nearly every other game?), and they definitely have other excuses (letting Manny be Manny), but perception would indicate that the Red Sox are creating excuses for playing bad baseball.
    The Yankees were bad during the first half. We couldn’t put together a rotation and our bullpen fell apart. We came out of the All-Star game with a plan; we gambled on youth and we didn’t panic. We set a goal and here we are, 1.5 games out of first place and smelling like the behemoth we all expected them to be. As for the Red Sox in the last few weeks? I don’t want to be argumentative, but where exactly is Manny Ramirez? How hard did Lugo run to first this week? If they were up 10 games, I might call this slump irrelevant, but they are being pushed by the Yankees and not stepping up to meet the challenge (as ephemeral as it seems.)
    I agree with others that although I am too young to remember it, i kind of miss the old pennant days. Where the end of the regular season mattered beyond perception and guesswork. MLB should investigate additional ways to make the division crowns more worthwhile, because managers should not be encouraged to shrug off division-deciding games as unimportant in the long run.
    Also, another concern: if the Red Sox had beaten the Yankees last weekend, the Yankees may not even be in the playoffs. Obviously the Sox see the Yankees as a threat in the playoffs. Isn’t it taking care of business to eliminate competition?

    Carlos September 20, 2007, 10:37 pm
  • My reaction to the ‘well the division doesn’t matter anyway so you can’t make fun of the Red Sox for engineering one of the largest divisional race collapses in baseball history so there’ people is that, while true, it’s a convenient excuse for how awfully the Sox have blown their lead. Say all you want about teams ‘trying to win’ in their last couple of games, but let me tell you that waltzing into the postseason doesn’t do much for the team either. I remember well the Yankees last year, when they had an absolutely stress-free September, suddenly have to play urgent baseball come October. It didn’t happen, because they hadn’t been playing urgent baseball for a frigging month.
    I have heard arguments that say the blowing of the division lead is actually good for the Red Sox, so they’ll actually feel some pressure and start to play baseball. And then I hear the excuses and the lamentations of actually playing urgent baseball down the stretch.
    If the Red Sox end up losing the division to the Yankees, their fans and NESPN should be embarrassed. No, really. All the fracking hubris and “the Yankees are done talk” us Yankee fans had to deal even back in early August, well, we deserve our pound of flesh if what everyone says couldn’t, no, wouldn’t happen, happens. Come on, don’t start excusing the team for performing one of the biggest choke jobs in baseball history. You’re better than that.

    AndrewYF September 20, 2007, 10:42 pm
  • I think we can dispense with the term “choke” and still face the reality that there’s a great deal of silly rationalization going on here. The Sox were not resting anything last weekend. Yes, the goal of the season is to win the WS, but there’s still a great deal to be said for winning your division and having the best record. To the extent that the playoffs are basically a crap shoot, the regular season and division titles are even more significant, not less.

    YF September 20, 2007, 11:02 pm
  • If the Sox do ch-….er, lose the division, can we finally dispense of the word altogether? I’m tired of hearing about 2004 like it’s some mythical baseball Mount Olympus, towering over the rest of the sport where none but Red Sox fans can enter and bask in its glory. Yankees choked in ’04, the Sox choked the year before in a similar sample size, and the two (maybe three) years after, in a much, much larger sample size. I’m rambling. I’d just like to see an ounce of humility, here. No stupid excuses.

    AndrewYF September 20, 2007, 11:25 pm
  • Sorry? Both teams will be playing meaningful baseball in two weeks. Who’s “embarassed?” “Choke?” Doesn’t that term apply to teams that had an opportunity and failed to seize it? At present both teams played well enough to get into the post season. That means that they played better baseball than the other teams in their division and the teams in other divisions with whom they may be competing for a spot in that post season. A rather large part of this discussion is really about fan perception, not baseball “reality.” Henry is a hedge fund man and Theo is a stat head; this strikes me as a calculated risk. One thing that Tito talked about in his interview regarding Gagne’s meltdown was “playing the percentages.” That’s not even a code word for “hedging.” I’m an SF and, if I may be blunt, I’m thoroughly enjoying watching Torre burn his ‘pen to attain a meaningless title. The Yankees are in the post season picture. Why not rest Mo and Viz? Well…it seems that Yankee brass can’t stomach the perception of being #2. Based upon Mo’s recent struggles, that strikes me as very short-sighted. But, if the Yankees want to burn their ‘pen for the AL East banner, they’re free to do so. Once Anaheim has eaten them whole, I’ll salute their overwhelming effort in pursuit of the worthless statistic. If we are going to talk about this, however, let’s be frank: talk of 1978 has been rendered obsolete in the face of the wild card. For those of us who have to endure such taunting from YFs, it’s worth asking ourselves if we want a healthy Manny crushing balls at the Jake or a Manny who is injured because he was forced to play in order to “defend” a title which isn’t meaningful. For SFs, this is a golden opportunity to work on Gagne getting his sh*t together. If he finds his mojo, he will be deadly. Ditto with Oki. So, the Sox brass is taking a calculated risk on these guys. I’m cool with that. Let Torre run Viz out tomorrow to put more innings on his arm. When he implodes in two weeks due to fatigue, I’m okay with that.

    DW-sf September 20, 2007, 11:41 pm
  • “I’m thoroughly enjoying watching Torre burn his ‘pen to attain a meaningless title.”
    Really? When has Torre ‘burned his pen’ recently? Did you forget that Terry Francona put Okajima in a 5-run lead not even a week ago, and then used Papelbon who ended up blowing it? Did Francona not use Papelbon after Eric Gagne screwed the pooch? How exactly is that saving the Boston bullpen?
    “For SFs, this is a golden opportunity to work on Gagne getting his sh*t together. If he finds his mojo, he will be deadly. Ditto with Oki. So, the Sox brass is taking a calculated risk on these guys.”
    What, by not using them? When WILL they use them? 2 days before postseason baseball, after not pitching for more than a week?
    Why can’t Sox fans see that the ‘we don’t care about the division’ is just a huge smokescreen for ‘our players are hurt, and we are playing horrible baseball’. The front office is the origination of the ‘division doesn’t matter’ talk, and their intended targets are eating it up with a somewhat disturbing glee. Somehow, Manny being injured, Okajima and Gagne being horrifically ineffective, and the entire team slumping is an indication that the Sox are somehow being smarter than the Yankees by not ‘going for it’. What complete, utter bullshit. It actually makes me angry that people believe this.

    AndrewYF September 21, 2007, 12:01 am
  • A couple of comments on things I’ve read above:
    The history of the past couple of Septembers for the Yankees has me concerned about this September. (What’s momentum done for the Yanks lately? This discussion of the meaningfulness of the regular season is deep, and fascinating!) In ’05, the Yanks fought n’ fought as the Sox lagged, then ran out of gas in a hurry in October. In ’06, the Yanks sashayed through September as Torre tinkered and engineered until he believed he’d reached perfection. When he arrived at perfection, the Yanks arrived back into reality, having forgot what October baseball was like, on the ground, and the house fell down. So now, in ’07, the Yanks are (so far) having another hot September, and I’m avoiding bullishness. It resembles ’05 the most. But I have this to make me feel better: the Yanks have a better bench than ’05. It’s keeping key players – Posada, Jeter, A-Rod, Matsui, Damon – rested. I only wish Andy Phillips were healthy so 1st base could be sorted. I’m happy, or at least mollified, about other factors as well, but this deep bench is big upgrade over ’05. As far as the urgency that was lacking in ’06 – well, that’s a non-issue. Since the postseason does such weird things to teams, I guess it’s a non-issue anyway.
    I think the choice that the Red Sox FO believes it has is stark: the ’07 Red Sox do not have the heart/energy/chutzpah to wrap up the division handily as a ringing declaration of their worth, AND put in a championship-calibre October run. Optimally, the team could do both – the fans would appreciate it. The FO however believes that the team is incapable of pulling off both, and therefore must choose one or the other. And they’ve chosen to make the October run. Fans may not like it now, but, oh boy, if the gamble pays off, the fans will LOVE it! …If the FO’s reasoning doesn’t resemble this, then the Red Sox organization deserves the ire of the Nation, at this time. I.e., this is the only thing that can explain the team’s level of play over the past few days.

    jwright40-yf September 21, 2007, 12:09 am
  • What’s galling to me Andrew is this spin is atop other spin throughout the whole last year – from Abreu to Drew and Lugo to Clemens to Gagne and Pena to the misuse of Oki. The Sox FO continues to make dumb decisions and the media doesn’t call them on it. If we don’t see Buchholz in the bullpen over the next two weeks and into the post-season because of his innings limit my head just may explode.

    Pete September 21, 2007, 12:13 am
  • I should clarify. What makes me angry is that people are actually excusing the Red Sox for losing, while FAULTING the Yankees for winning!
    My view is that the Yankees are winning because they CAN. If A-Rod had an oblique injury, no way do they push him. If Rivera were having arm troubles, he’d be shut down just like Okajima.
    The difference between the Yankees and the Red Sox, right now, is that the Yankees are capable of playing good baseball. The Red Sox, clearly, are not. And yet somehow the Sox still come out on top, because they are ‘resting their regulars.’ No, their regulars are hurt, and they are begging the baseball gods that they get better. The Yankees are playing exactly the way they’ve played since June. Why mess with success? If players are showing fatigue, or injury, they’ll sit. Look at Jason Giambi, he’s getting all the rest he needs. The only difference is that Mientkiewicz is more than a capable replacement. Look at the Yankee rotation, it has 6 people in it. Everyone is getting an extra day of rest, Torre is putting rookies in to see who deserves a postseason spot.
    The Red Sox plan for preparing for the postseason: mail in games, don’t run out plays, skip starts, rest the injured, and pray like hell that they get better.
    How is that smarter than common sense? And seriously, if the Red Sox were actually in danger of losing their playoff spot, what would have gone differently in their last four games?

    AndrewYF September 21, 2007, 12:16 am
  • Andrew, what seems to bother you is the lack of angst. That’s psychological. That has nothing to do with baseball.

    DW-sf September 21, 2007, 12:20 am
  • Pete, the Sox are going to be playing in October. What did you want in April? The World Series by June? Seriously…you’re boxing your shadow.

    DW-sf September 21, 2007, 12:22 am
  • “The difference between the Yankees and the Red Sox, right now, is that the Yankees are capable of playing good baseball. The Red Sox, clearly, are not.”
    You’ll get no arguments from me, Andrew, but if the Yankees go 3 and out and the Sox go to the W.S. who cares?

    DW-sf September 21, 2007, 12:24 am
  • “You’ll get no arguments from me, Andrew, but if the Yankees go 3 and out and the Sox go to the W.S. who cares?”
    Can we conjecture about the rest of baseball’s future? So what if the Yankees don’t win in 2007, if they win in 2008, who cares?
    My frustration is with the present, the here-and-now. The baseball analysis/excuses revolving around the Red Sox sudden collapse is pitiful. The Red Sox are resting their regulars? Really? Who are they resting that can play? Manny is hurt, Youkilis is hurt, Coco is hurt. Every single other player is playing in the lineup every day. The Red Sox lost the past 4 games with the best team they could possibly put on the field. I really can’t stand the excuses.

    AndrewYF September 21, 2007, 12:29 am
  • But you’re looking for what, precisely? An admission that the Yanks are fielding a better team at the moment? I’ll be happy to concede that point but I don’t see how that helps us in two weeks.

    DW-sf September 21, 2007, 12:32 am
  • Red Sox Fans Are full of it. Most of them should be checked for mental stability.
    If Tito did not care about the division then why is your famed closer in a game that you are losing 2-1 with the bases loaded? Is he setting Papelbon up for failure to go into the postseason with? It just doesn’t make sense with what he is saying.
    Also, The Sox have about a 100 point differential of winning percentages with the Angels and Indians.
    Let me break it down for some of you non-baseball knowledge fans in Boston.
    Against the Angels Boston has:
    6 wins and 4 losses .600
    Against the Indians they are:
    5 wins and 2 losses .714
    Against the Angels The Yankees have:
    3 wins and 6 losses with a sorry .333
    Against the Indians they have:
    6 wins and 0 losses with a large 1.000
    That’s right folks the red sox are going to give the easier schedule to the Yankees and give themselves a harder schedule on purpose so they can rest.
    I had Red Sox Fans jamming the 14 1/2 game lead down my throat and claiming a Division title. Now, they don’t care huh?
    Listen, There is no Curse and never was. It was just our little way of getting under the Sox fans skin.
    The Sox Fans are the curse and the turning point of the Yankees 2007 season began with the stupid blonde mask wearing “bostondirtdog” Red Sox nation fans who decided to wake up a dead horse. As the Sox fans go south on their team, so do the players on the team. You all just won’t learn.
    And how about this, the Mets fans are just as bad. Maybe you should all meet at Cheers and sulk in your beers. Maybe you should try a different sport such as Rugby or Polo.
    If you believe in your team good things will happen.
    By the way, a message to Kevin Hench:
    You are correct sir, this isn’t 1978 its 2007. And we are ready for another sound bite and extended MLB films of another colossal collapse of the most overrated team of MLB.
    Kevin, you’re a bonehead and 3 months after your silly article about it not being 1978, you write that the Yankees are storming into the playoffs. What a jerk.
    We Yankee fans do not forget. Try not to walk the streets of the Bronx little man. You have a big red target on chest.
    See you in October!

    Craig B September 21, 2007, 2:01 am
  • I’m not buying it. How many WS winners in the last decade finished the regular season playing highly competitive baseball? I’d wager on the vast majority. Seems to me the Sox are trying to spin their situation into looking like the rule, not the exception.
    Maybe I’m wrong. But, I strongly feel that those who claim this division title means nothing should forfeit their right to use it in their arguments, should their team win it.

    nyara September 21, 2007, 2:01 am
  • If the Red Sox end up losing the division to the Yankees, their fans and NESPN should be embarrassed.
    A minor quibble, but is this some kind of ridiculous effort to attempt to say the Sox are favored and the Yankees are ignored/constantly ridiculed by ESPN?
    For those who care about ESPN at all, let’s go ahead and agree that teams like the: Padres, Angels, D-Backs, Indians, etc., are the teams that get the short end from the “Worldwide Leader of BS.” Cripes. When discussing the Cy Young race last week, it took an e-mailer from Ohio to bring up C.C. Sabathia’s name, for crissakes.
    P.S. As to the actual topic of the overall discussion, losing the division would/is going to make me very angry. I don’t care what the rationale is, though I simultaneously agree with resting Oki (that “dead arm” has been a condition for a coupla weeks now), pushing Daisuke back, and keeping Manny, Youks, and Crisp on the bench (anyone really think he’d be giving us more O from CF than Ellsbury right now anyway?).
    On the LF situation right now: After Friday night, all Brandon Moss, all the time.

    QuoSF September 21, 2007, 2:51 am
  • Wow, Andrew, you have one serious chip on your shoulder. Particularly for a fan of a really successful team.
    2004 hurt that much, eh?

    SF September 21, 2007, 6:00 am
  • It’s the complete mismanagement that absolutely kills me:
    1. Acquiring WMP (leaving aside the trade of Arroyo) and watching him put up a line of :
    .301 .349 .489 in limited playing time (276 ABs)
    2. Claiming they couldn’t afford Abreu last year (for the price of 24 million and scrubs) as a reinforcement to last year’s team).
    3. Going out and signing Drew for 70 million (who we all knew would be a complete disaster) and Lugo for another 36 million (who we all hoped wouldn’t be even as his time with the Dodgers was awful)
    4. Which meant WMP wouldn’t get regular playing time, so they go out and trade him for a kid that’s an offensive and defensive downgrade but who isn’t even ready to contribute this year. Meanwhile, with regular playing time in Washington, WMP puts up a line of:
    .290 .339 .542 (107 ABs with 8 HRs)
    Not only would that help now (you know, instead of playing Moss and Kielty), it’s better numbers across the board than Drew.
    5. Okajima is completely mismanaged this year, pitching 30% of the time in games where they lead by 4 runs or more.
    6. That leads them to go out and trade more pitching depth (Gabbard) and a legit prospect (Beltre) for Gagne, a guy with diminished velocity, even as the rest of their bullpen was looking solid yet not given the chance in more important situations (so Okajima could pitch in games with a lead of 4 runs or more).
    7. Previously, deciding they don’t want to pay Clemens (as insurance for the rest of the old (Wake and Schilling) and brittle (Mats and Beckett) staff and as a historical bookend) the equivalent of 15 million and offering him a low-ball contract (less than he made last year in Houston) while spinning it as a fair deal. Meanwhile, they continue to throw Tavarez (and later Buchholz) out there as the fifth starter (who could have eaten up some of those innings in the pen). The one guy they were going to depend on otherwise was just coming back from cancer.
    8. The one outstanding prospect they have (Buchholz) they start in almost meaningless games (even as the no-hitter was amazing) but fail to realize he’d have more of an impact shoring up the bullpen.
    9. Not recognizing what everyone already knew and shutting Okajima and Matsuzaka down in August with a significant division lead exactly so they’d be strong for the last part of September.
    10. Pretending like this is all part of some master plan. If they really had a plan
    they could have done so many things differently and starting in July and August. Now we’re looking at a team that is at it’s weakest point in the entire season. Oki was shut down way too late. They’ve burned through Buck’s innings. Their OF replacements include Moss and Kielty.
    That’s fantastic!

    Pete September 21, 2007, 6:22 am
  • “I had Red Sox Fans jamming the 14 1/2 game lead down my throat and claiming a Division title. Now, they don’t care huh?”
    That’s the crux of the issue. It wasn’t so bad here, but we still had the various “The Division Race Is Over” people back in July. Or the “Yankees were seriously overrated this year” people. And now, that every single point has been completely demolished, you get to say that it doesn’t matter? That it’s all part of some master plan, that the Sox are being smart? For LOSING?
    2004 has nothing to do with this. It’s about earlier in the year, when Yankee fans were (deservedly, I admit) taking an absolute BEATING over the division lead. Every single day. Now we don’t get to say anything, because this is all part of some Red Sox master plan? Bullshit. As of this moment, the Red Sox are a Bad Baseball Team. As of this moment, the Red Sox don’t have a chance in hell in the playoffs. This whole “the division race doesn’t matter” crap from the Sox FO is just a smokescreen for “god, I really hope Manny and Youkilis and Okajima are healthy come playoff time”. It just pisses me off that so many Sox fans, even here, are lapping it up gleefully.

    AndrewYF September 21, 2007, 8:08 am
  • fine, Andrew, but you are bitching about this at the exact wrong site, with respect to Soxfans.

    SF September 21, 2007, 9:00 am
  • “”This whole “the division race doesn’t matter” crap from the Sox FO is just a smokescreen for “god, I really hope Manny and Youkilis and Okajima are healthy come playoff time”
    What the hell is wrong with that?
    The SOX lose 2 core offensive threats, so get stuck starting a lineup of too many punch and judy hitters. They get screwed because an expected core player (Gagne) shows up in a dress, which was highly unexpected by everyone. Lose their number 2 starter and reliever, and have most of that occur just prior to two series against two very good teams in NY and Toronto.
    Meanwhile the Yanks are as healthy as they have been at any point in the season.
    To all you whiners and boasters; that’s called baseball. Sometimes you get the breaks, and sometimes the breaks get you.
    Shit happens. If the SOX get those guys back in time, they win because all year they have shown who the better team is. If they don’t, they probably won’t. But nobody gets to blame nobody because to do so ignores the outstanding job done all year by the remaining team.

    BostonRAW September 21, 2007, 9:29 am
  • “If the SOX get those guys back in time, they win because all year they have shown who the better team is”
    Clownboy was sounding almost rational until that statement. Head-to-head record in their past 12 meetings with the Yankees: 3-9.
    Actually, based on this, you are right that they have been showing who the better team is. Since the All-Star break it has been the Yankees.
    No one should discount Boston right now. If they get a bullpen shot in the arm from Okajima/Gagne/MDC/Buccholz/Timlin plus another of those five simply stabilizing, and if they get Manny and Youkilis back and hitting, they are still dangerous. My view is that, even with all that, the Yankees are better right now, but it’ll make for an interesting October regardless.

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 9:36 am
  • By the way Sox fans, it is getting hard to believe that there is not some dog in what is happening with Manny right now. The guy is on his 10th straight day of taking live batting practice. From the start I was the one, even more than some SFs here, saying that the oblique is such a tricky thing that he shouldn’t rush back and that it is not comparable to his September vacation last year. But bp is not sitting in a whirlpool. The guy is swinging at baseballs. If it were 3 days of light work that’s one thing, but this smells funny to me and I have to wonder what his teammates are starting to think.

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 9:40 am
  • To the point of “enjoying Torre burn his bullpen for a meaningless title” and to back up my man Andrew:
    Yankees “key” bullpen guys innings pitched:
    L Vizcaino 71.2
    M Rivera 67.1
    K Farnsworth 55.2 (OK, maybe not key…)
    J Chamberlain 18.1
    E Ramirez 18.1
    Sox “key” bullpen guys innings pitched:
    H Okajima 67.0
    J Papelbon 55.0
    M Timlin 51.2
    K Snyder 53.1
    E Gagne 47.1
    While Mo and Luis have more innings individualy, otherwise total innings pitched is pretty similar. I’ll take an extra 20 innings out of the bullpen for that “meaningless title” Sox fans were so psyched about a month ago…

    krueg September 21, 2007, 9:49 am
  • I said baseball, IH. As far as games between NY and Boston; Boston got the better of them in the first half while NY has been proven better in the second half. The third half has yet to be decided but I like the SOX chances with Manny and Youk back, Dice and Oki rested.

    BostonRAW September 21, 2007, 9:50 am
  • You don’t think an infusion of Bucholz in the bullpen has become necessary? In other words, you think resting Okajima and bringing him back for a coulpe spot starts in the last week of the season will do it?
    It might – he was lights out for a lot of the season. But unless the max-innings issue is a true red-line with Bucholz, I would be at least trying him this week into next in the 7th/8th innings, just in case Okajima can’t totally find it again (and eve if he does, since you still need another solid guy in the pen and Gagne is clearly not it).

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 9:54 am
  • Delcarmen and Timlin are easily comparable to two rookies.
    The only reason you boys think you don’t have the same lack of depth in the bullpen is because it hasn’t blown up yet. But I would not put too much faith in rookies before their first playoff game.

    BostonRAW September 21, 2007, 10:01 am
  • How soon they forget. I don’t mean ’78, I mean that baseball is not hockey, and that winning the division and getting the best record is supposed to mean something in this sport.
    The playoffs need to be changed so that the team that successfully grinds it out has more of an advantage.
    And everyone who points out that Paps gave up a grand slam in the eighth because the Sox are NOT taking it easy is right.
    So why are Sox fans acting like the Yankees are in first, instead of 1.5 games out with an inferior schedule?
    By all means, get your rotation set up. Does anyone think the Sox suffer from putting Buchholz in and resting Dice K a day or two?
    The Yanks are doing exactly the same thing with their rotation, and they’re trying to win every game they can.

    A YF September 21, 2007, 10:02 am
  • You’ve just made my point, krueg. Joe has three arms he trusts. Two of them have a lot of innings on them and the third is a greenhorn with great stuff but no playoff experience. [Ramirez needs a third pitch and Farny is a crap shoot.] If he rides these three for the division, he could hamper their effectiveness in the post season. For what? Bragging rights? The last time I checked, you don’t get an extra game’s lead in the ALDS on the basis of “bragging rights.” As a Sox fan, I’m happy to see him do it but I don’t think it makes much sense.

    DW-sf September 21, 2007, 10:05 am
  • A voice of sanity:
    “I think there’s a level of pride in here,” Jason Varitek said. “We still want a chance to win that division. We want to be able to do that, along with ultimately getting into the postseason. But ultimately, even before that, we want to play good baseball.”
    Luckily for Sox fans, Sox players are not bat shit.*
    * See today’s Soxaholix.

    A YF September 21, 2007, 10:10 am
  • “The playoffs need to be changed so that the team that successfully grinds it out has more of an advantage.”
    This is really the crux of the issue but I would point out that moral outrage really doesn’t have much bearing upon pennant races. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the final week of the season. Your team (and my team) will be playing in October.

    DW-sf September 21, 2007, 10:10 am
  • “So why are Sox fans acting like the Yankees are in first, instead of 1.5 games out with an inferior schedule?”
    I’m not acting that way, as I still believe the SOX take the division. I am concerned about their losing 2 top relievers though, Gagne being one of them. A solution can be had but I want to see it in place, working preferably.

    BostonRAW September 21, 2007, 10:11 am
  • We need to get something straight about why the Yankees did not get far in the playoffs in ’05 and ’06 and whether/how it is relevant to this year, because both SFs and YFs are referencing those years here in ways that I frankly think are absurd.
    In ’05 it did have something to do with scrambling until the last day of the season (when they clinched the division vs. Boston), because it messed up their rotation for the ALDS vs. Anaheim, and in a short-series, a jumbled rotation is death. But don’t forget, they were not just going after the division – they were fightin for a playoff spot. They (and Boston) ended with records fo 95-67. Cleveland ended at 93-69, just missing the WC. Regardless, the rotation-jumbling-impact of ’05 for NY is not relevant to this year because the Yankees rotation is in order and has 6 quality starters in it, giving all extra rest.
    In ’06 it is not because of some ridiculous notion that they “forgot” how to play high-pressure baseball because they coasted in September. If that was a sound argument, then it woudl have applied to 1998 more than practically any team in history given that the Yankees won more games than any team in history that year and truly “glided” into the post-season.
    ’06 debacle was due to the fact that the Tigers’ pitchers had a resurgence that even they could not believe in the ALDS – most notably Kenny Rogers, who pitched the greatest games of his life in those playoffs. If anything, the return of Matsui and Sheffield screwed up a chemistry that was working very well for the Yankees for most of last season and that screw-up came at the worst time for them. You can blame the black hole that was A-Rod, but the fact is that Detroit shut down the entire team with the best pitching they’d had all year.
    But the over-arching reason for failure in those years and in years before, has had a lot more to do with the following, and all Yankee fans who actually follow the team closely know this I believe:
    1. Offensively: The team has not had the youth/speed to be aggressive on the basepads and, as a result of trading youth for aged bombers, has relied too much on the HR, which can desert you against the excellent pitching you face in October. This isn’t the case in ’07 – the team is baserunning (including stealing) as well as any team in the league.
    2. Defensively: The bridge to Mariano has been shaky at best and often non-existent. In ’07 this weakness is now one of the team’s greatest strengths thanks to Vizcaino, Joba, and even Ramirez.
    So please stop chalking up ’05 and ’06 or even previous years to how hard or not they had to play in September.
    The reason the Yankees are looking as good as anyone and certainly better than Boston right now is because they have reversed the two problems above, while Boston is deeply mired itself in one of them (the bullpen issue).

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 10:16 am
  • inferior schedule
    Yankees face Halladay tonight, and McGowan and Burnett later. That looks like a tough series. Who’s better than Burnett lately?

    A YF September 21, 2007, 10:17 am
  • DW-sf: “Joe has three arms he trusts.”
    That’s 2 more than Terry has. I’ll take ours thank you.

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 10:23 am
  • IH is right. One thing to add: John Henry and his numbers geeks have conclusively shown that the best record in baseball has little affect on getting through two rounds of playoffs, especially when the first round is a five game series.
    Henry and the Sox management share my belief that the team with the best record should get more of an advantage in the playoffs.
    Baseball tradition is you grind it out and you get rewarded. As we all know, it used to be one team from each league, no playoffs.
    BTW, in retrospect, this makes the accomplishments of the late 90s Yankees even more remarkable. And yes, they did it with a mix of young and old, with a team put together with early Moneyball principles while the Boss was banned from baseball. Steinbrenner’s baseball bashing teams always had problems.

    A YF September 21, 2007, 10:24 am
  • DW: How can you underestimate Joba at this point? They have been holding the kid back so far, I doubt they will in the playoffs. Vizcaino, pre-shoulder trouble, was pitching great with the break Joba’s success offered. Mo is Mo, so little worry there. I would argue that the Yankees bullpen is in much better shape than the Sox at this point. Torre has trust in three arms, it seems Francona only has trust in Papelbon at this point?
    p.s. last I checked, the Sox savior, Buckholtz, is a rookie as well. How does he get a pass in your analysis?

    krueg September 21, 2007, 10:26 am
  • “because the Yankees rotation is in order and has 6 quality starters in it
    Oh, dude, you’re too funny!

    BostonRAW September 21, 2007, 10:29 am
  • Clownboy, adding value to every conversation. Keep it coming floppy-shoed one!!!
    Hey clownboy, please send in more predictions please. You’re batting average on those is about as good as Eric Hinske’s.

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 10:32 am
  • Kreug, Joba (and Buch) has been very exciting but he has never pitched in the playoffs. He may be lights out; he may have problems. To lean on him hard is a big risk if you don’t have another reliable arm to go to should he spit the bit. Viz hasn’t pitched more than 80 innings in a while. That barking shoulder could be a sign that he’s being overworked. Mo’s last couple of saves were hardly typical affairs. The Halos and the Tribe aren’t the hapless O’s. I honestly think he needs time off. As for the Sox ‘pen, right now you’re spot on. My hope is that they use this time to rectify the problems, give guys rest and see if the rookies deserve a seat at the table. I don’t want to try to find that out in the ALDS.

    DW-sf September 21, 2007, 10:36 am
  • I predict that if NY gets in, their six quality starters get dismantled.
    I mean, come on. Six? really? who might they be?
    Let me try:
    Pettitte. Always liked him
    Wang. Useless outside of Yankee stadium
    Clemens? (is that your 3rd?). Well, apparently, he only matches up well against the SOX
    (I’m trying to reach here. Who else?)
    Joba? Again?

    BostonRAW September 21, 2007, 10:38 am
  • DW-sf: Well we have no choice but to rely on Joba in the playoffs and you’re right, if he stinks, the Yankees will be in trouble. The fact that he has been the best releiver in baseball since he entered the league makes me feel though that this is a risk worth taking. But sure, the first time he goes out there in a playoff game will be significant, especially if the game is on the line. If he performs well, I believe success will breed success. If he has his first implosion of the year on that stage, then sure, the Yankees will be in trouble and will need him to bounce back fast.
    But what’s your argument here? I mean, what team should have a better feeling about their bullpen then the Yankees do right now? LAA? Scott Shields has been as shaky as he ever has been in the past 6 weeks. Boston’s bullpen issues are well-documented here. And Cleveland has the worst closer of any of the AL playoff teams. And the same applies to the NL other than San Diego and Arizona. The only team with a worse bullpen than Boston right now arguably is the Mets. Boston could turn it around, but they need to do it within 10 days.

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 10:48 am
  • DW: I understand your point but I would much rather lean on Joba than Gagne. You are correct that Mo had a bit of trouble with the O’s but bottomline, he got it done. He also got it done against the Jays while Papelbon did not. I guess we can go back and forth all day but we will find out for sure in another week. Here’s to hoping for an ALCS matchup between the Sox and Yanks!

    krueg September 21, 2007, 10:50 am
  • “The only team with a worse bullpen than Boston right now arguably is the Mets. Boston could turn it around, but they need to do it within 10 days”
    That’s your opinion. Mine is they already have the arms to fall back on but they need to find a set rotation and stick with it.
    I can’t blame them for wanting Gagne to be their primary righty. The guys history supports their assumtion. But if/when they decide he is not going to work (I already have) they need to get Timlin and Delcarmen together and explain the new deal.
    Don’t forget how poor Boston’s bullpen was considered before the playoffs started in ’04

    BostonRAW September 21, 2007, 10:55 am
  • Earth to Clownboy: The Yankees will not use 6 starters in the post-season. They are using them to rest everyone in the last 2 weeks of the season. That was the point. Your judgements about Hughes and Kennedy are therefore irrelevant (a shocker to all regulars here I know).
    Re: excluding Mussina, who has given up 0 earned runs and 6 total hits in his last two starts (a total of 12.2 IP). You’re right, I would much rather have had the recent outings of Tim Wakefield and Diced-k.
    Run along now clownboy, your face-paint is starting to crack.

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 10:57 am
  • i have “death of a clown” by the kinks in my head now…

    Yankee Fan In Boston September 21, 2007, 11:05 am
  • My makeup is dry and it clags on my chin
    I’m drowning my sorrows in whisky and gin
    The lion tamer’s whip doesn’t crack anymore
    The lions they won’t fight and the tigers won’t roar
    So let’s all drink to the death of a clown
    Won’t someone help me to break up this crown
    Let’s all drink to the death of a clown
    Let’s all drink to the death of a clown
    The old fortune teller lies dead on the floor
    Nobody needs fortunes told anymore
    The trainer of insects is crouched on his knees
    And frantically looking for runaway fleas
    Let’s all drink to the death of a clown
    So won’t someone help me to break up this crown
    Let’s all drink to the death of a clown
    Let’s all drink to the death of a clown

    Yankee Fan In Boston September 21, 2007, 11:06 am
  • YFiB: Brilliant. lol and loving it.
    This is Clownoy’s new theme song.

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 11:10 am
  • Whatever, dude. I thought you were promoting the use of two rookies in the playoffs in case your top three disintegrated like in years past.
    If you think Wang, Pettitte and Clemens will cut it, all the power to you.

    BostonRAW September 21, 2007, 11:10 am
  • IH, my point regarding bullpen usage is really a part of the larger debate we are having about the Sox apparently not going all-out for the division. My argument is that they don’t need to and that the Yankees may not be doing themselves any favors, if they end up winning it, because of the mileage on their most reliable guys. Joe really needs Farny to step up. Why not use this last week as a way to get him to figure it out? The Yanks also don’t have a decent lefty out there. Use the time to see if you can catch lighting in a bottle with one of the call ups. If they end up playing the full 5 game ALDS, quite frankly, I think they’re in trouble because their 3 reliable guys will be fried. This is not meant to sound like a “Yanks suck” post; right now, the Sox ‘pen is horrid. That is undeniable. Like I said previously, I’m hoping that they can “fix” Gagne, give Oki (and Timlin) plenty of rest and try out guys like Hansack. There is tremendous potential out there if they can harness it. Why Cash and Torre aren’t trying to do the same thing is baffling to me.

    DW-sf September 21, 2007, 11:11 am
  • IH: i did a quick mp3 search. you can download the song here:
    aptly enough, the page hosts clown songs exclusively.

    Yankee Fan In Boston September 21, 2007, 11:14 am
  • Have fun while it lasts, Yank tools, as I do not suspect it will last long.

    BostonRAW September 21, 2007, 11:16 am
  • does that count as a prediction?

    Yankee Fan In Boston September 21, 2007, 11:18 am
  • Krueg, right now I’d rather have Joba than Gagne, too! If Gagne can get his sh*t together, however, I’ll take him over Joba when the entire season is on the line.

    DW-sf September 21, 2007, 11:25 am
  • DW-sf: Until 2 games ago the Yankees still had to be concerned with Detroit, so I don’t agree that they’ve been going all out just to catch Boston.
    On no sound lefty, you are absolutely right, but then I don’t know of many sound lefty relievers in the AL right now – are tehre any on the AL contenders? On this point, I am sure that Torre will send Henn and Villone out there (and will likely prioritize Villone) more in the next week and one of them will play in October for sure.
    The only real questions relevant to your point in my view are Rivera and Vizcaino since Joba’s arm has to be fresh from Joba-rule-adherence.
    On Rivera, I really don’t think he is suffering a tired arm. He has worked less this year than his last 3 (since we stunk in the first half of the season and then were winning by touchdowns for much of August). His average IP/year is 81.3 and he is currently at 67.3. Torre rests him whenever he shows the slightest sign of needing it. I am just not worried about him at all. His velocity is not down, his cutter is moving as well as it has all year, and he has not been getting hit hard by anyone so the signs of fatigue just are’t there. It’s kind of strange to look at him loading the bases a couple times as an indicator of anything while these others signs are all strong.
    On Vizcaino, he averages 68 IP/year and he has thrown 71 already. I’ve felt for a while that the Joba Rules were detrimental to Vizcaino and I do think he is the latest in Joe Torre’s one-man-crusade to ruin as many relievers’ careers as possible. Usually the fall-off happens in subsequent years though and not in the first year under Torre, but sure, it could happen in the next month. I’ve been happy in recent games to see Ramirez trotted out there more and more and I would prefer, in the next week, to see more Farnsworth/Ramirez/Henn/Veras/Villone than Vizcaino, but I am not so worried about Vizc based on performance-to-date.
    And by the way, Torre is quickly warming to Veras, so I think we’ll see plenty of him in the next 10 days and possibly October.

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 11:31 am
  • “Have fun while it lasts, Yank tools, as I do not suspect it will last long”
    Clownboy: You are confusing matters. We are not having undo fun re: the Yankees strong play relative to the Sox. On that point, I think most YFs here have been very measured. Most of us predict Boston to keep the ALEast and be dangerous in the playoffs.
    What we are having fun with is what an ignoramous you are. That, I am confident, will last forever.

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 11:36 am
  • i just like good music. and sharing it. i think that is fun.

    Yankee Fan In Boston September 21, 2007, 11:38 am
  • Iron and DW: lost is all this is the Yankee offense. The bats have been silent the last few years in the playoffs which magnified the pitching problems. I don’t think the Yankees need “lights out” pitching like the Sox do to win. If the Yankees offense is clicking, unlike years past, look out. If A-Rod staves off another october flop that will go a long way, not to mention a rested and healthy Damon, Matsui is coming around at the perfect time, Cano, Melky, etc…I’m really more concerned with the offense showing up in the postseason than the pitching.

    krueg September 21, 2007, 11:39 am
  • As we talk about momentum, and getting set for the playoffs we should remember that the post-season really boils don to moctly one thing, luck. Dominant starting pitching would probably carry the day but simply no one has it this year and hasyn,t had it for quite some time. As evidence, lets review the last World Championshipt team of the last Yankees dynasty, the 2000 squad:
    6th in the league in pitching and 6th in runs scored
    Winners of a whopping 87 games
    Run differential of +57
    Lost their last 7 games in a row
    Lost 13 of their last 15
    Dominated the Mutts in the WS (by winning 3 1-un games and 1 2-run game)
    OK, maybe this thing we call Mo has something to do with it.

    Michael T September 21, 2007, 11:45 am
  • Krueg: I just take it as a given that great pitching can shut down anyone, including the best offense in baseball that the Yankees have. For me, it is the ability to scrap for runs in addition to bashing for them that has been lacking in the past in the Yankees offense, and I feel they have more of that abilty this year than thay have had for the past 5. So that even if they are getting shut down, that one walk or dribble single can be turned into a run through smart-baserunning, situational hitting and bunting, and productive outs. They’ve showed a real ability to do this in the past 3 months even against excellent pitching, so I feel pretty good too, even if they aren’t slugging well in October.

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 11:46 am
  • iron: great point, you are specifically taking about my generality of the Yankees offense. This is a different team than the teams of the past 3 years for sure. Let’s hope they keep it up and have some success in this years playoffs!

    krueg September 21, 2007, 12:05 pm
  • Coming from the guy who posted that Pudsada is a shoo-in for the HOF because his numbers compare favorably to some catcher who passed away in the 1800’s, I’ll take that as a compliment.
    The fact of the matter is that when the SOX get their injured back and carry on playing as they have all year, all this nonsense being posted by Yank bandwagon jumpers and SOX defeatists will stop, and fast.
    I can wait.

    BostonRAW September 21, 2007, 12:22 pm
  • Oh clownoby, please show us where I said JP is a shoe in for the HoF. Oh yeah, you can’t, because I never did! Keep lying clownboy!!! Honk-honk!!!!

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 12:27 pm
  • To the administrators of this blog:
    Clownboy informs us that Carlton Fisk and Yogi Berra have both died…and all the way back in the 1800’s no less!
    Please find a tactful way to inform their widows.
    Honk honk!

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 12:34 pm
  • To the Administrators:
    Since Ironhorse continually uses personal attacks to support lame arguments, is it ok to point out that his alias specifically implies he’s as queer as a 3 dollar bill?
    Not that I have anything against homosexuality, per se.

    BostonRAW September 21, 2007, 12:40 pm
  • Clownoby, since you clearly started following baseball in October 2004, I will give you a pass on the IronHorse remark. You might want to google it though before embarassing yourself any further.
    Honk honk!

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 12:43 pm
  • And clownboy, you should not take offense. Whenever anyone on this blog, SF or YF, has suggested you be banned, excommunicated, shut out, etc. I have been your stongest supporter. There is plenty of evidence of this. This place wouldn’t be the same without you. I mean that.

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 12:45 pm
  • Is BostonRAW W.o.o.s.t.aYF’s evil twin?

    yankeemonkey September 21, 2007, 1:42 pm
  • They’re two sides of the same…….clown.

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 1:49 pm
  • I never really understood the three dollar bill thing..
    Why is a three dollar bill queer? Does such a thing even freaking exist?

    Brad September 21, 2007, 2:36 pm
  • Michael T,
    I had starting writing long-winded treatise on fate and luck and looked up and saw that you had already mentioned it.
    I am among those who think that all the revisionist history (resting, rotation-prepping, division is meaningless, blah blah blah) used in trying to explain away this horrible week is a bunch of BS. The Sox just haven’t played well at all lately. In a small sample, they didn’t hit with RISP, didn’t get important third outs, and couldn’t overcome it. In the two weeks prior, they were winning most of their games with most of the same team. “Winning takes care of everything”, especially how you view a team at any given time.
    If you look back at many of the WS winners over the years, and even their post-season runs (although I think it manifests itself most in a single series) it always seems there is a magical “click” moment and that one team suddenly benefits from a seemingly unrelated but ultimately aligned series of fortunate events. At that point, everything that happened in the past becomes totally irrelevant to what happens next.
    You can argue that the best teams make their own luck, and there is truth to that. But if it wasn’t for luck or fate or the “flaw” of averages and the inability to predict the future, we’d never have to play a game. We’d just pull out James numbers and give the divisions and the WS to the team with the best stats.
    So, I guess my point is that all you can ever do is look back at what happened and try to make sense of it (and even that is probably a waste of time without perfect knowlege of every single thing that was occuring during that game). Anyone who thinks they know what will happen tonight, next week, or in the play-offs is just kidding themselves. “Nobody knows nothing.”
    But that said, the Sox are winning the division and rolling in the playoffs. Yeah Baby!

    ADK-SF September 21, 2007, 2:37 pm
  • BRAW: I have been quite rightly slapped on the wrist for calling you “clownboy” these past several days. I am sure you are not really a mutated combination of clown and boy.
    In all seriousness, I do apologize. I hope we can go on disagreeing without the rancor.

    IronHorse (yf) September 21, 2007, 2:46 pm
  • ” Boston got the better of them in the first half while NY has been proven better in the second half. The third half has yet to be decided…”
    “…I guess I’ll have to play Pagliacci,
    and get myself a clown’s disguise,
    And learn to laugh like Pagliacci,
    With tears in my eyes.
    I’m afraid the masquerade is over,
    and so is love,
    and so is love…”
    “They’re two sides of the same…….clown.”

    Andrews September 21, 2007, 4:52 pm

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