Bosox Groan As Yanks Go Shopping

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - December 24, 2008
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That low-pitched rumbling sound you hear coming from the direction of the rising sun is the collective groans of Boston Red Sox fans as the New York Yankees have once again trumped the Sox on the free-agent market, further ensuring the Bombers’ place in the history of evil empires along with the Tamerlane, Mao Tse-tung and the cast of The O.C.

With the acquisitions of A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia, the market’s most-sought after David Wells impersonator, the Yankees have made a bold move to take over baseball’s top spot - a position Boston has grown accustomed to even with Tampa’s single season playoff assault. Add to this the Sox pulling out of the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes and Boston fans will soon have to be talked off the ledge - especially if the Yankees’$243 million spending spree continues.

The New York Daily News reported the Yankees offered Manny Ramirez a three-year, $22 million deal which, if successful, would give Sox fans even more reason to petition the league in an effort to charge New York with unfair business practices. An offer to Teixeira - a real possibility as Yankees boss Hank Steinbrenner makes his father, the original Big Stein, seem conservative in his expectations - would cause even the most-stable Sox ticket-holder to cough up their lobster roll on their $160 Green Monster seats.

But even with the Yankees’signings and with the Tampa Bay Rays as defending divisional champs, Boston remains the best team in the A.L. East. The fact they can remain so without coughing up $150 million or more for a talented 26-year-old first baseman whose price has been artificially inflated in a limited market says even more about their chances to regain the throne.

New York has helped itself with its new acquisitions, but still lags behind Boston in starting pitching, therefore leaving the Bosox a serious threat to win their third World Series title in six years.

With Mike Mussina’s retirement, the Yanks’rotation suddenly became woefully short on experience, making it imperative they go shopping. Joba Chamberlain is unproven as a starter, as is projected No. 5 Phil Hughes, who posted a 6.62 ERA in eight starts a year ago. Chien-Ming Wang is a solid second-day pitcher who won 19 games in back-to-back years before dipping to eight in 15 starts and a career high 4.07 ERA, after missing the middle part of the season with a foot injury, which Baby Stein blamed on the NL’s refusal to institute the DH rule. Sabathia is a legit power pitcher who has averaged just 47 walks, 210 strikeouts and a 3.03 ERA in his last three seasons. Burnett, on the other hand, is an injury-prone 31-year-old right-hander on the downside of his career. Since coming to the AL in 2006, Burnett has averaged 12.6 wins and a 3.95 ERA.

Boston retains the division’s best pitching staff. Matsuzaka and Beckett are in their prime. Jon Lester is 24 and coming off a 16-win season while producing the lowest ERAin his three-year career. The bullpen is stellar with Okajima and Papelbon.

Boston’s main concern is hitting. MVP Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis (No. 3 in the voting) are solid sticks, but Boston has not added any protection for David Ortiz since Manny was traded to Los Angeles. J.D. Drew’s health remains an issue, as does Big Papi’s, and outside of Jason Bay (combined 31 home runs, 101 RBI in Pittsburgh and Boston) no one else has a proven ability to consistently drive in a high number of base runners. Still, they spread the wealth very well and it should be enough for another post-season appointment.

The Yankees’ spending spree will not only cause angst in Boston, but among all small-market supporters further disgusted by the Yankees’ unchecked financial manipulation. In the face of such unified hatred, a Red Sox victory means celebrations far beyond 4 Yawkey Way and the joy of watching Baby Stein completely lose it.

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