The Red Sox and Yankees meet Tuesday night at JetBlue Park. Anyone excited?
Remember back in the day when even a Sox spring training game against The Evil Empire was front page news? Those days are long gone.
The fierce rivalry between the two teams is just not there anymore. The big reason for that is that in the past few years both teams were just not very good. In a rivalry, you need two strong teams playing important games against each other. I can’t remember the last time these two teams played a real, meaningful game against one another.
Going into the 2016 season, both the Red Sox and the Yankees have bloated payrolls and over-sized expectations from their respective fan bases. So which team is better? Time will tell, but in the meantime, here’s a position-by-position rundown.
Hanley Ramirez vs. Mark Teixeira. Edge: Yankees. Even at 35 years old, Texeira is a much better fielder than Ramirez ever hopes to be. And don’t forget he hit 31 home runs last year before getting hurt. If Texeira stays healthy, big advantage Yankees.
Dustin Pedroia vs. Starlin Castro. Edge: Red Sox. The recently acquired Castro is making the conversion from shortstop to second base. He is only 25 and very athletic, but the edge goes to Pedroia who is still an elite fielder. The key for Pedroia is health. He needs to stay off the DL and play 150 games.
Xander Bogaerts vs Didi Gregorius. Big edge to the Red Sox. Bogaerts is one of the best young players in the game. He had a breakout season last year hitting .320 and improving his defense. Gregorius had an average season replacing Yankee legend Derek Jeter and should be better this year, but he is still not in the same league as Bogaerts.
Pablo Sandoval vs. Chase Headley. Edge: Yankees. Frankly both players are just OK but I give the edge to Headley because at least he is in shape and looks like a professional athlete.
Rusney Castillo vs. Brett Gardner. Edge: Yankees. The Sox still have no idea what they have in Castillo. When Boston signed him to that 7-year, $72.5 million monster contract, they talked about him being a five-tool player. Well, most of those tools have remained in the tool box as Castillo has been either hurt or mediocre. Gardner is a career .264 hitter with not much pop for a corner outfielder. He has exceptional speed and uses it well in the big left field of Yankee Stadium.
Jackie Bradley Jr. vs. Jacoby Ellsbury. Edge: Yankees. This is a close one. And what makes it close is whether Ellsbury stays healthy. Bradley is a better defensive outfielder than Ellsbury, but Jacoby is a much better offensive player than JBJ. Bradley has to prove he can consistently hit major league pitching or he will be nothing more than a late inning defensive replacement in his career.
Mookie Betts vs. Carlos Beltran. Edge: Red Sox. Betts is poised for a breakout season and has a chance to be one of the games best players. The 38-year-old Beltran is a liability in the field. Beltran still hit pretty well last season with an .845 OPS, but at his age how many games can you realistically expect him to play?
David Ortiz vs. Alex Rodriguez. Edge: Red Sox. In a battle of two aging sluggers, the edge goes to Ortiz. A-Rod had a strong comeback season last year, belting 33 home runs. He is only 27 bombs away from tying Babe Ruth’s mark of 714. Ortiz is a 30 home run, 100 RBI machine. Look for him to be focused and wanting to go out in style.
Blake Swihart/Christian Vazquez vs. Brian McCann. Edge: Yankees. This is a position of strength for the Red Sox in the future but right now the Yankees have the edge with McCann. The Yankee catcher had 26 home runs and 94 RBIs last year, production the Red Sox can only dream about from their young catchers. McCann also did a nice job handling the Yankee pitching staff.
Edge: Red Sox. The Sox get the check-mark because out of the two rotations, Boston has the only sure thing in David Price. Masahiro Tanaka is the Yankees ace, but health is a big concern for him as he has only started 44 games over his two-year MLB career. Behind both Price and Tanaka there are a lot of mediocrity and question marks on both teams, but you have to give the edge to the Sox because of Price.
Edge: Yankees. The Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman will miss the first month of the season due to his domestic violence suspension. When he gets back, New York will have a three-headed monster at the end of games with Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Delin Betances firing away in the high-90’s. All three are hard throwers who get swings and misses. They will take a tremendous amount of pressure off the Yankees starters. The Red Sox bullpen is better than last year with new closer Craig Kimbrel joining Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and Carson Smith. But Tazawa and Uehara are question marks due to age and overuse so the edge goes to the Yankees.
Big edge to the Red Sox. Brock Holt, Travis Shaw, and Chris Young gives the Red Sox great depth in both the infield and outfield. Throw in David Murphy — if he makes the team — and the Red Sox may have one of the best benches in baseball.
Big edge to the Yankees. Joe Girardi does not get enough credit for the job he has done in New York. It truly is a Bronx Zoo down there and Girardi has done a great job of keeping the focus on baseball. And he is also a very good in-game manager. John Farrell is on the hot seat for a number of reasons and last place finishes. A slow start by his team will cost him his job. The Jessica Moran incident has proven to be a distraction for the organization and Farrel’s in-game decision making is not very good. Big edge to the Yankees here.