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Saturday, January 24, 2004

AL East: Grind'em Up

East Patsies Got Much Tougher This Winter
The Yankees won 101 games last year, the Red Sox 95 - a six game advantage. In AL East Division games, the Yankees went 47-29 while the Sox went 41-35 - ah, er, a six game differential within the division. Can you see where this is going, folks?

If you have been watching the trade and free agent signings, you have seen that apparently the Yankees are weaker (maybe) than last year and the Red Sox are probably stronger with Foulke and Schilling. Agreed.

But, just one minute. The Red Sox play 19 games each against a much improved Blue Jays team (including newly-signed Cy Young Winner Roy Halladay, plus Ted Lilly, Miguel Batista, Pat Hentgen, Justin Speier in the bullpen, and other young players), and a tougher Tampa Bay group with Tino Martinez, Jose Cruz Jr., Rey Sanchez, Danny Baez, Geoff Blum, Todd Jones, and Mike Williams - and Don Zimmer too. Baltimore, now with Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmiero, and Javy Lopez to buttress their payroll and RBI totals, will probably be at least as competitive as last year.
So, if the Red Sox lose one more of those 19 games each to Baltimore, Tampa, and the Jays, then they will win only 92 games.
If the Red Sox only win 92 games, is Terry Francona then a better or worse manager than Grady Little? The Bottom Line is - it doesn't really matter if it is 92 or 95 wins, or 98 - as long as it is enough. What does matter is how well the possibly pitching-challenged Yankees play against this better-hitting AL East lineup, and, whether the Sox can dig in against them and the NL teams they face this year and make a better showing than last year.