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In the midst of 2009’s heated playoff race, Major League Baseball released its 2010 schedule on Tuesday, and Red Sox fans are already salivating, as are baseball fans in general. The Twins will be playing home games in an outdoor stadium for the first time since 1981, and several key figures will become free agents for 2010, including Hideki Matsui, Andy Pettitte, Vladamir Guerrero, and our very own Jason Bay. With all this in mind, what can we expect from the Red Sox next year?
For the first time since 1950, the Yanks and Sox start and end a season at Fenway Park. They play April 5th through 8th (with an off day on the 6th) in Boston, May 7th through 9th in Boston, May 17th through 18th in New York, August 6th through 9th in New York, September 24th through 26th in New York, and October 1st through 3rd in Boston. This is an interesting move for a few reasons.
All nine games in New York come in a row, so that will prove to be an appealing dynamic. Sandwiched in between Boston games, this will give the season series a World Series like feel to it (due to how the series distributes home games between teams) and will give both teams some basic practice for the postseason.
Starting off the season against each other will give the heated rivals the chance to seize the opening momentum at the beginning of the season which could be pivotal in the following weeks. The end of the season could easily have playoff implications. So much was on the line at the end of the NBA’s 2008 season and the NFL has flexible scheduling in place to ensure games with playoff implications will end its season, so it is only natural that the Red Sox and Yankees face off in such a way next year.
Also of note is the distribution by time of Sox/Yanks series. Two time intervals place series about a week apart, giving both teams a chance to duel in rapid succession. There is also a point where they don’t face each other for nearly three months. This will be a good test to see if both teams remember how to deal with each other, and whether or not they can concentrate adequately enough on opponents in between (which shouldn’t be much of a problem with three months to spare).
Already, controversy has been mulled over, regarding whether or not the schedule should have been released now. After all, the 2009 season has not yet been finished. Many people have been saying that teams should be allowed to concentrate on one cookie before starting to eat the next one, though it could be quite helpful as long as teams think about the situation correctly.
Taking the season one game at a time is a strategy used in every competition, and allows teams to avoid being distracted by multiple thoughts, opponents, and styles at once. For teams that like to do this, it will give them a competitive edge over teams that don’t. It works for Bill Belichick, and it can work for Terry Francona.
Sure, the Red Sox could lose Jason Bay to free agency. But they could also pick up some good talent as well. Could you imagine Andy Pettitte coming in and shoring up a Red Sox pitching staff that has been shaky at times? Or John Lackey, who had a thrilling pitchers’ duel with Dice-K Tuesday? What about Hideki Matsui or Matt Holiday providing oomph for a Sox offense that has also sporadically struggled throughout the season? We definitely have the pocketbook to make some offers.
Interleague play starts for the Red Sox on May 21-23 in Philadelphia, and resumes on June 11 in Boston against the Phillies. No problem; we’re used to them from this season. This second three game set is immediately followed by three-game home stints against the Diamondbacks and Dodgers and three-game road stints against the Rockies and Giants. The Diamondbacks will likely be easy, we know how to deal with Colorado from the 2007 World Series, and the Giants haven’t been much of a player lately, and have even been fading in the NL Wild Card race in the last month or so (though Tim Lincecum would be fun to face).
Of course, the Dodgers series is the highlight of 2010 Interleague Play. Manny Ramirez will return to Fenway for the first time since his unceremonious departure in 2008. He’ll look to leave a mark against his former team, while Red Sox Nation will look for revenge for the more malevolent “Manny being Manny” attitude prior to leaving. Big Papi and Ramirez in a mini home run derby should provide much entertainment.
The Red Sox have had little to cheer about this year when facing the AL West, including being swept in Texas. With the Red Sox leading the Rangers in the Wild Card comfortably anyway, this trend may not change as much as we would like. Being more aggressive against the West, especially against the weaker teams, would be a nice, easy way to improve performance. Getting Ortiz to elevate his swing and stop swinging under too many pitches would make great strides.
The Rays have been a thorn in our side for years, going back to their Devil Ray days. Dice-K especially has had major issues against them, just as the Red Sox have had major issues at Tropicana Field. After winning two games there in the past two seasons, Boston’s most recent series there resulted in two Sox victories, so we’ll have to see if this means the Sox are ending their losing woes in Tampa that has held back their record.