Two comments from local sports talk radio that were uttered this week absolutely need to be addressed:
First, on Monday, Michael Kay, reveling in the Yankees’ sweep of the Red Sox, commented on his afternoon show that the Red Sox — and I paraphrase here — “finally misplayed their hand at the trade deadline by not getting Roy Halladay. They made the move for Victor Martinez, who doesn’t have a position. They tried to get Felix Hernandez from the Mariners. They should have given Toronto whatever it wanted to get Roy Halladay. They’re holding on to Clay Buchholz, who’s 25 years old. Getting Halladay would have put them in position to make a run this year and next year. The Red Sox finally misplayed their hand.”
To my former colleague, I say, “Huh? Did they really?” I don’t know about you but when I saw the news that the Sox got Victor Martinez and the Yankees’ big move was Jerry Hairston, Jr., the fan in me was sulking for a few hours. Then I got to thinking, “This puts Terry Francona in a bind as far as maneuvering Martinez, Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell. But that’s a decent problem to have.” Plus, who’s to say that the Red Sox didn’t offer everything the Blue Jays wanted? It’s entirely possible that Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi had no intention of trading Halladay to a division rival at this stage of the season.
(My guess, and this is just a hunch with no inside information at all: Halladay goes to some team flush with money like the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Phillies or Dodgers, in a deal similar to the one struck between the Sox and Marlins that sent Hanley Ramirez to Florida and brought Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston. Halladay would obviously be the centerpiece, and I imagine Vernon Wells and his bloated contract would be an add-on, much like Lowell was in the aforementioned deal, in exchange for a name major leaguer and some major-league ready prospects.)
Back to Theo Epstein and the Red Sox “misplaying their hand” … Kay went on to say that having Beckett, Lester and Halladay 1-2-3, with Matsuzaka and Wakefield bringing up the back of the rotation when they come off the DL was a risk the Red Sox had to take, and they didn’t. I still believe they’re a playoff team without Halladay, provided their bullpen can hold up and Francona pushes the right lineup buttons.
Moreover, and Kay of all people knows this from being around the Yankees and Red Sox for so long, it would have been inconsistent with Epstein’s pattern to make a deal for someone like Halladay at the deadline. He’s more apt to jump on it in the offseason, like he did with Curt Schilling, arrange the trade and sign Halladay to an extension right away.
Your thoughts on this are welcome.
The second bit that needs a look is Craig Carton’s Tuesday morning missive on WFAN that the AL East race is over. I know, I know, I know. “Consider the source,” you’ll tell me. “Why are you listening to Carton anyway,” you’ll ask. “Carton is a clown,” you’ll say. All are valid points. However, when something so outlandish gets uttered over public airwaves, it deserves a rebuttal.
I choose to give Carton the benefit of the doubt, because despite his schtick, he does drop in a salient point once in a while. There is some historical data to back up his point. The Yankees have never squandered a six-game lead in August to lose the American League or the Division. So history is on their side. “It’s not like the Yankees will suddenly start playing badly and forget how to win,” he said.
Carton is right on that point, and the resolve they’ve shown in their late-inning comebacks is proof of their commitment to winning. But in the big picture, he hooked a line drive way foul.
We all know that with a 5 1/2 game lead and 49 games remaining, there’s still plenty of room for the Yankees to stumble. We also know the following: 1) The Yankees have two West Coast trips over the last six weeks of the season. On the heels of the first one, they get to face the Red Sox, and in the last one, they get to face the Angels again in Anaheim, where they were swept in the last series prior to the All-Star break. 2) The Yankees have six games remaining with the Red Sox. If the Red Sox sweep those games, the gap is a half-game in the Red Sox’s favor. 3) The Tampa Bay Rays are lurking. The Yankees have seven games remaining with the defending American League champs, including a season-ending series at Tropicana Field that — who knows — may determine the Eastern Division and AL wild card titleists.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, have six games remaining with Tampa and the farthest west they have to travel is Kansas City. The Rays are completing their last West Coast swing of the season, a stretch that has seen them lose four of five, tonight. They also have a brutal 10-game road trip in mid-September through Boston, New York and Baltimore that could make or break their season.
What does all this mean? The current run that the Yankees are on has been great to watch and has inspired a level of confidence, watchability, and likeability of a team that’s been lacking those qualities for at least five years. But to get complacent and arrogant and discount the competition, even from a fan and media level, is foolish.