Saturday, April 12, 2014

Is this a rivalry or a stomping?

Six years ago, Grady Sizemore and Brian Roberts were future possible Hall of Famers. The fates intervened, their bodies fell apart, and each spent the last year riding stationary bikes on the junk pile. Last night, they joined the famous Yankee-Redsock "rivalry," as seen on TV. Once again, as it has been pretty much throughout this godforsaken new millennium, Boston seems to have made the better choice.

OK, you're right: It's early, far too early to sound this dramatic, far too early to worry this much. But I'm not sure the Yankees even qualify as Boston's main rival anymore. I suspect that distinction belongs to Tampa, where games between the two teams last year nearly descended into brawls. Tampa has a young and hungry roster, and the one club it most needs to beat is no longer the cross-town grapefruit league rival Yankees. Look at the entirety of today's Boston-New York "feud," and it's a massacre - in pro football, in the NBA, in hockey and - now, yes - in baseball. If it were a fight, they would stop it. And if this weekend is indeed being promoted as a big series, it's because the Yankees desperately need to beat Boston to gain legitimacy.

Thursday brought one of the saddest moments in this old rivalry, as the Redsocks patronized us, pooh-poohing Michael Pineda's apparent use of pine tar. (For obvious reasons: Their pitchers use it all the time.) There they were, acting as judge and jury on Pineda - overlooking the respect he deserves for coming back after a career-threatening shoulder injury - as the Gammonites of the press - (another Boston heritage) - made pine tar the main story. Amazing. Boston didn't have to lift a finger to discredit the Yankees. It was all done for them on Twitter. And they so kindly forgave Pineda... grrrrrrrr...

Well, we lost last night because, along with building a farm system that actually produces players, the Redsocks also scour the scrap heap pretty well. They picked up Sizemore - who always killed us in Cleveland, and who could be the comeback player of the year. (Until he gets hurt.) We grabbed Roberts, who is practically 0 for April, and who was pulled for a pinch-hitter on the last at bat of the game. Right now, nobody knows what he's got left in the tank. (And like Sizemore, he'll soon get hurt.)

This has been a strange first two weeks of the season. The Yankees have run hard, played hard, swung hard - and gotten nowhere, unable to climb above .500. The fans wildly cheer somebody named Yangervis Solarte, in part because they suspect he won't be here in June. We have a fine rotation, but we're learning that a quality start isn't always enough. Three runs can beat us. When a team scores two, you can feel the uncertainty building like a train off in the distance: And here's a question I never thought to ask all winter: What if this team simply doesn't hit?

Everyone can see the huge crater in the lineup that was Mark Teixeira. But what if Carlos Beltran plays his age? What if the over shifts on Brian McCann knock 30 points off his batting average - dropping him to .220? Who in this lineup hits 30 home runs? Yangervis? We have two games left with Boston this weekend, seven more between them and the Rays this month. An ice cold start to 2014 is not an option. Yes, it's far too early to be this worried. But we are what we see - senior citizens and reclamation projects. There is nobody coming from Scranton, or Trenton, or anywhere. Boston has Grady Sizemore. We have the guy now known for pine tar.

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