Friday, August 21, 2009

Role Reversal

Before the 2008 season, this blog wrote that the season was going to be a "correction year." Which basically was a nice way of saying it's the last year of contracts given to aging, broken-down stars and the Yankees will be slow, creaky and have no depth or defensive range.

Now, that distinction belongs to the Red Sox.

Heading into this weekend series, it seems remarkable how the Red Sox and Yankees' roles seemed to have flip-flopped rather quickly. When the Yankees swept the Red Sox earlier this month, the word commentors calling the game kept using to describe the Red Sox was "old," something the Yankees were called often last year. And whereas last year, the Red Sox starters were for the most part (ignoring Tim Wakefield), were young and aggressive, this year, during the recent series, with Wakefield injured, Dice-K injured, John Smoltz—well, now cut—but looking a shell of himself, and Brad Penny pitching like Brad Penney, the Red Sox looked exactly like the Yankees did last season when they tried to patch together a staff using Sidney Ponson, Darrell Rasner and Dan Giese.

To be sure, the similarities go a little deeper than that. Both teams, the 2008 Yankees and the 2009 Red Sox have some good pitchers, but have serious depth issues due to injury and age. Both have some younger players who are talented at CF and 2B, who aren't doing as well as anticipated. And both have aging power hitters who have finally broken down from steroid use and have lost bat speed and defensive ability.

Tell me the aging of Jason Varitek and David Ortiz doesn't bring to mind Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu? And Jed Lowrie's slumping remind you of maybe Melky's and Cano's issues last year?

This offseason, the Yankees focused on getting younger and more versatile. Mark Teixiera, in for Jason Giambi, adds bat speed at the plate as well as range and a sticky glove at first base. And instead of Kyle Fanrsworth and LaTroy Hawkins in the pen, young, hard-throwers Phil Coke and Phil Hughes are now setting up the 7th and 8th for the Yankees. The Red Sox on the other hand, aside from Penney and trading for Ramon Ramirez , didn't make many other major moves. And it shows. For the most part, the team is a year older. Mike Lowell, not playing poorly, looks a tic slow at times. Varitek and Ortiz, look positively Jurassic. And has anyone ever seen J.D. Drew look young?

All of this is not to say that the Red Sox are done. By no means; they are still a very good, very dangerous team—on pace to win about 89 games. Same as the Yankees did last year.

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