Sure, the Yankees own the better bullpen. But they owned the better bullpen heading into the postseason last October, too.
Combined with all the other talent in The Bronx, is that enough to beat the World Series champion Red Sox this time around?
Are Aroldis Chapman, Zach Britton, Dellin Betances, Adam Ottavino (instead of David Robertson), Chad Green and Jonathan Holder enough to help make up an eight-game difference? Will they keep the Yankees from another postseason wipeout when they were beaten in four games by the Red Sox in October?
The bullpen is locked down, but nothing else is in the AL East, and Alex Cora’s bold comments Thursday night in Boston assured us the rivalry is set for another wild ride in 2019.
Aaron Judge can crank up another round of “New York, New York.’’
At this point, I don’t believe the Yankees have done enough to take down Boston. The Red Sox still own the starting-pitching advantage with Chris Sale and David Price at the top of the rotation, and it was key to keep Nathan Eovaldi in a Red Sox uniform.
What Cora brings to the party is special. He wants to beat you and is not afraid to say it.
He has built one mentally and physically tough team and you cannot underestimate the value of such leadership in this day and age. He challenges his players and you can be sure that is exactly what he did when he said Thursday night, “If you thought last year was special, wait till this year.’’
No team has won back-to-back championships since the Yankees won three in a row from 1998-2000. Keep this in mind. Since 2003, the Yankees have won as many World Series championships as the Marlins — one.
Let that sink in for a second. The Marlins beat the Yankees in 2003. The Yankees beat the Phillies in 2009.
That’s it. Over that span the Red Sox have won four World Series championships, taking home the hardware in 2004, 2007, 2013 and last season. The Yankees have those 27 World Series Championships, but it’s been a while.
The Red Sox don’t have a real closer with Craig Kimbrel still a free agent. So right off the bat, that is a huge advantage for the Yankees, but Cora wasn’t the only one talking Thursday at the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America dinner. Dave Dombrowski addressed some bullpen issues with this comment:
“Everybody wants proven,” Dombrowski said. “Sometimes unproven can do a job, too. They just need the opportunity.’’
This too from Cora: “People get caught up obviously in what New York is doing. We knew that they were going to make moves. They have a great bullpen, obviously. But we have a great rotation. It balances out.”
Dombrowski’s comment was his way of defending Matt Barnes (two career saves) as Boston’s closer for the moment. A poor bullpen is the quickest way to extinction. Just look at the Mets last season and the first move made by Brodie Van Wagenen this year. He traded for Seattle’s Edwin Diaz.
I get it. I get what a great bullpen Brian Cashman and the Yankees have constructed, but it is still not enough to push me over the top to say the Yankees are better than the Red Sox in 2019.
MVP Mookie Betts is beyond rock solid. Same goes for J.D. Martinez, who essentially is the Red Sox hitting coach, in addition to driving in all those big runs. Right now, Martinez is working in Miami with Rafael Devers, who is only 22, trying to make him the best hitter he can be. No less an authority than Alex Bregman told me last October that Martinez is a hitting guru whose tips greatly helped him as well.
The Red Sox get the team thing, and Cora enhanced that in the postseason the way he masterfully constructed a bullpen on the fly using Eovaldi, Sale and Price.
The Yankees have the better bullpen, no doubt.
The Red Sox, though, are the champs, and Cora is pushing the offseason buttons hard to make sure there is no slippage, no taking it easy after a championship season.
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