It had to be this way. You knew it. I knew it. We all knew it. And if game one of the Yankees- Red Sox series is anything to go by, this year is going to be every bit as exciting as last year.You remember last year, don’t you? Of course you do – seven games, Aaron Boone, and the ghosts of Yankee legends past. It had to be this way.
But these aren’t the same Yankees. Gone are Clemens, Pettitte and Wells, while Giambi has been sidelined by an illness-plagued season. Gone too is Aaron Boone. Of course the Yankees simply went out and replaced him with the best player in baseball not named Barry Bonds.
It only added to the drama that A-Rod was supposed to be in a Red Sox uniform. Can you say Evil Empire? Tom Hicks certainly could, and did, despite the fact that the Red Sox have the second highest payroll in the baseball. The drama only served to accentuate an already heated rivalry.
Which brings us to the matter at the hand: the ALCS. On paper Boston has the better pitching rotation, but Schilling is hurt, and may not pitch again in the series. If Schilling is done, then Boston is going to struggle to beat the Yankees. Schilling was brought to Boston for the sole purpose of being their Yankee killer. Without him, their rotation is just as unpredictable as the Yankees.
On the other hand the Yankees still have a man by the name of Mariano Rivera. Rivera has been otherworldly for the Yankees in the post season. His performance in game one, after attending a family funeral, has only served to enhance his legend. Throw in Jeter, Bernie, Sheffield, A-Rod and Matsui, and the Yankees still look hard to beat. If the Yankees end up going to the World Series, Matsui could well be the ALCS MVP. There’s no question he’s been Godzilla so far in the playoffs, putting Schilling to bed for the night with a three-run double in the third.
None of this means we should discount the Red Sox completely though. In last week’s column I suggested this may be Boston’s best shot at a World Series since 1986. The Red Sox are a great hitting team, as evidenced by their almost comeback from an 8-0 deficit Tuesday night.
Mussina was perfect through six innings. Then Boston got a hit. Then it was 8-5 at the end of the inning. Then it was 8-7 going into the bottom of the eighth, before Bernie’s two-run double gave them a three-run cushion. The Yankee starters need to contain the Red Sox hitters if the Yankees are going to progress.
But without Schilling, the edge the Red Sox have over the Yankees disappears. Let the games begin.