|Bruins Sign Jimmy Hayes, Brett Connolly||Connelly’s Top Ten: USA Women, Red Sox Bore Astros into Submission||Preparing for Another Year of Rebuilding for the Celtics||Red Sox Bullpen Sleeper: Matt Barnes|
Well it’s finally here, Opening Day. Major League Baseball is getting it started the perfect way by having the Yankees and Red Sox square off in the first matchup of the season. Two storied franchises are beginning a new chapter in their historic rival.
We’ve previewed the Sox extensively, but now it’s time to see how offseason moves will come to fruition on the field.
Boston has added two new infielders to the team with Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro, but it is Cameron to keep an eye on. The Red Sox were content on letting highly regarded free agent Jason Bay leave for The Mets, by first grabbing Cameron. He has been consistent the past four seasons, hitting above 20 home runs and 70 RBI annually. Although his bat won’t replace Bay, his glove will.
Cameron is an exceptional fielder, who will allow Jacoby Ellsbury to move to left field, which is a better fit. Last season, Ellsbury and Cameron combined for only six errors, a feat which could be reached again this season. The Red Sox have become a defense-first team, which could be the difference against a power driven Yankees squad. Should Cameron get off to a quick start, both defensively and at the bat, it will be a great sign of things to come for Boston.
Lost in all of the talk of Yankees offseason moves was the acquisition of Johnson. The infield is the same and the outfield got better with the swap of Curtis Granderson for Johnny Damon, but it’s Johnson who has the biggest shoes to fill. He was brought in to replace Hideki Matsui as the team’s DH. Godzilla had a history of injuries, playing in less the 100 games in 2006 and 2008, but had a decent 2009 campaign. His 28 home runs, 90 RBI, and a .274 average were nice, but playing in 142 games was more impressive. He then capped it off by winning the World Series MVP Award. His plus-.500 average and three-HR performance was only accomplished by two other players in Major League history: Babe Ruth and Lou Gerig.
Now bring in Johnson, a former wearer of pinstripes. He is two years removed from a season ending injury of his own, a ligament tear in his wrist. Last season, with the Nationals and Marlins, Johnson only hit eight home runs, but he walked 99 times (nearly 18 percent of his at bats). He was also second in the NL in on-base percentage. However, the Yankees will need him to be a powerhouse. He has never had an 80-RBI season, or more then 23 home runs. There is a lot of pressure on him, playing in one of the most stacked lineups in the majors.
Both squads boast some big time pitchers. The Yankees rotation of Sabathia (19-8), Burnett (13-9), and Pettitte (14-8) are winners all the way through and can completely take over games as needed. Their bullpen will see increased roles for Damason Marte, and with Joba Chamberlain being used as a setup man and occasional closer. The regular go-to guy, Mariano Rivera, is returning after recording his most saves since 2004. Early reports have the Yankees closer having a better season than his last.
With the Red Sox, it’s not often you can bring in the former ace for a playoff team to be your third starter. That’s what they did with John Lackey. Lackey (11-8), will be behind Josh Beckett (17-6) and Jon Lester (15-8). It is Lester to keep a eye on as many baseball experts and predicting him to be a potential Cy Young candidate. The Sox bullpen will see a rotation of Manny Delcarmen, Daniel Bard, Hideki Okajima, Scott Atchinson, Ramon Ramirez, and Scott Schoeneweis. Sadly, there will be no Alan Embree, at least not for now. With Bard being groomed as the closer for the future, the current job still goes to Jonathan Papelbon,who is expected to do even better than last season’s 38 saves.
The Yankees have a right to be ticked off. They won the World Series last year and have earned the right to open the 2010 season. However, instead of a large celebration in Yankee Stadium with their rivals forced to be there as they receive their 27th rings, they have to play in Boston. They are the first team to be overwhelming favorites to repeat as champions since their 2001 squad. Remember, the Diamondbacks ruined New York’s bid for a four-peat.
The Yankees do not even get a home game until April 13. Yikes. It is easy to see why some Yankee fans believe they are getting, as Rodney Dangerfield would put it, no respect. The Red Sox on the other hand, open in Fenway, before playing in Kansas City and the new Target Field in Minnesota. They then return to Fenway for a ten-game homestand. Despite winning the whole thing last season, it appears the Yankees are getting the short end of the stick right now.
Last season, the Red Sox seemed to own the Yankees. They won the first eight games against New York and seemed poised to run away with the AL East. However, the Yanks turned things around and won nine of the last ten, splitting the season series 9-9. Everything seemed to indicate that another ALCS would pit the Red Sox against the Yankees again, but John Lackey and the Angles pulled the sweep against Boston, spoiling the guaranteed historic series.
Currently, both teams are vastly improved. These match ups will mean more than anything with the Rays and Orioles improving. The new additions will be thrown into the rivalry immediately and all seem ready for the opportunity.
“You have the whole world watching, kind of like playoffs”, said rivalry newcomer Mike Cameron. “I’m sure the expectations of this team, and the energy that’s in that park everyday, will create a different felling.”
It’s a new season and one that will be fun from the start.
Pedroia vs Cano: Two second basemen with power and speed will steal the show in the first three games.
Tags: A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, Boston Red Sox, CC Sabathia, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Joba Chamberlain, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Josh Beckett, Mariano Rivera, Mike Cameron, New York Yankees, Nick Johnson, Robinson Cano