Red Sox weekend sweep of Yankees a hint of drama to come for the Bronx Bombers
The Boston Red Sox reached .500 for the first time this season last night, and did so in style, coming back to beat the Yankees and complete a dominant, impressive three game sweep in the House That Ageing Expensive Free Agents Built. The Red Sox can now relax and ‘kick away’ into the middle portion of the MLB season, released from the turmoil of that ugly early season start. The Yankees? They may still be slightly ahead of Boston in the standings, for now, but ironically it is the Bronx Bombers that are the team surrounded by question marks.
They are a team in an alarming slide, losers of 9 of their last 12 games. They can’t hit with runners in scoring position. Their pitchers are getting beaten around the park and their bullpen, apart from their magnificent closer, is a complete mess. Perhaps most worryingly of all for Yankee fans, they are a team full of ageing free agent ‘Superstars’ whose enormous contracts are going to soon be hanging around the Yankees necks like massive, heavy but ultimately useless concrete blocks.
Consider the Jorge Posada dilemma first. Posada is in the final year of a $53 million deal that sees him paid $13 million this season. Posada can barely get the ball out of the infield at this stage, and has simply not taken to his new roll as designated hitter. Posada withdrew himself from the lineup on Saturday night, and has caused a massive stir in New York with his selfish, immature actions. Compare that with Red Sox veteran catcher Jason Varitek. The Red Sox captain is facing similar hitting issues to Posada, has his playing time butchered to a few games here and there, and yet is approaching the situation completely differently. Varitek is mentoring the player that has taken his playing time and is being an absolute ‘team first’ player.
The Red Sox are also paying him $8 million less than Posada.
Posada is really only the tip of the iceberg. New York has been stocking up on thirty-something free agents to surround their stable of ageing veterans with for several seasons now. The next couple of seasons are going to be a constant day time TV drama in the Bronx, as several players go into decline, and yet still pull in enormous contracts annually. This will be exacerbated by the situation in Boston, where the Red Sox are a team with the potential to have its entire core either playing at or approaching their peak for the next five years.
Looking at the Yankees first, how about their team ace, CC Sabathia, who has been pitching like anything but lately. Sabathia is a talented pitcher, with the heart of a lion, but honestly, if you were a MLB GM would you be happy to be stuck to the portly left hander for $23 million a year to 2015?
Should we even get into the short stop situation in New York? ‘By the diving Jeter…’ used to be a funny comment, now it’s kind of depressing and a bit of a cheap shot, along the lines of shooting fish in a barrel. What does New York do if Jeter continues to be a light bat in the order, and a sloth in the infield?
Then there is A-Rod, the player soon to be the poster child for the slow dying death of the current Yankee Empire. A-Rod is under contract for $24 million a year until he is 42 years old. His $275 million contract is going to be literally suffocating the Yankees and their ability to bring in any new, fresh players for years to come. As other fans in the AL East get to enjoy the All Star caliber defence and offence of Evan Longoria and Kevin Youkilis over the coming years, Yankee fans will more frequently face situations like last night, where their ageing third baseman let a ball roll through his legs, a tired mental mistake that let the Sox take the lead in the 7th inning.
A-Rod firing on all cylinders is barely worth that suffocating, restrictive contract. A-Rod aged 42, dropping the baseball and striking out on 91 mph ‘fastballs’ while earning $24 million? Painful. To say the least.
While the Yankees face these questions born of having such an ageing squad of highly paid players, their most bitter of rivals are flourishing in that department. The high priced free agents Boston brought in are relatively young and approaching their peak (Crawford and Gonzalez). Boston’s rotation will be anchored by the immensely talented and very young Lester and Bucholz for years to come, and Josh Beckett, who is showing serious signs of a revival after a down year, is only 31. As Mariano Rivera continues his retirement tour, Boston has 100mph inferno-baller Daniel Bard being groomed to close Sox wins for years to come. Pedroia, Lowry, Ellsbury and now Iglesias, Boston has a young squad the Yankees can only dream about.
Way too much fuss was made of Boston’s poor start to the season. As they look to kick on from .500, maybe attention will now turn to the much more deeply embedded and potentially damaging issues in New York.