By Bill Simmons
Page 2

Earlier this week, my buddy Gus sent me an extended e-mail asking me a series of questions about the Sox-Yanks series. Since I took the time to answer them, I thought we could post the results on my site. Here's the transcript:

GUS: I polled 10 non-Boston or New York fans in the ESPN newsroom and asked them two questions. Which is the better team, Boston or New York? And if you are betting your next six months of pay on the ALCS, who do you take? 7 of 10 said Boston was a better team. 9 of 10 said they'd bet on New York. What do you make of that?

SG: I think Boston has a better team on paper, but you can't bet against the Yankees simply because a smart gambler never bets against a streak. And eight decades of dominance counts as a streak.

GUS: Since this series is on Fox and qualifies as "reality," what would you call this Yanks-Sox series as a reality show?

SG: "Fear Factor."

GUS: What concerns you most about your team?

SG: The manager and the set-up guys. In that order.

GUS: What should concern a Yankee fan the most about their team?

SG: Vazquez and every reliever except for Gordon and Rivera. I wouldn't have a ton of confidence in Lieber either, even though he's looked good lately. He's still Jon Lieber. And Mussina can always crap the bed when you least expect it -- I don't think Yankee fans totally trust him. I would also be terrified of rain on Friday or Saturday, which allows Schilling to start three times and Pedro to pitch Game 5 at home. That reminds me, we should organize an African Rain Dance in Boston on Friday afternoon. I'm dead serious. Somebody needs to do this.

GUS: You guys have the tying or winning run on 2nd base in late innings ... what's your confidence on a scale of 1-10 to get that run home?

SG: Pretty good, actually. Every guy on the team has come up big, to varying degrees, all season. There isn't an albatross in the lineup like Nomar last October. Although you never know with long series -- someone can always go into a Goose/Maverick-level tailspin at the strangest times.

GUS: Timlin?

SG: Reliable in big spots, prone to giving up homers if you use him too much (which is what happened in the Vlad Game).

GUS: Myers?

SG: Surprisingly potent against lefties. You don't want him pitching against a righty under ANY circumstances -- not even in an old-timers game. You will only see him pitching against Matsui this series. That's it. Unless Terry Francona screws up.

GUS: Embree?

SG: Came up huge last October ... makes me nervous this year.

GUS: Foulke?

SG: I'm a fan. I think he's streaky -- he'll have bad stretches where his changeup becomes exceedingly hittable, and he'll have other stretches where he looks awesome. His work against Anderson and Glaus in the ninth inning of Game 3 was bigger than Papi's game-winning homer -- that had all the makings of a four-run inning and he slammed the door. Inspiring job by him. The one that scares me is that he'll give up homers to righty power guys from time to time, which makes me nervous with Sheff and A-Rod in this series. The more I'm thinking about it ... let's just move on.

GUS: Lowe?

SG: A possible X-factor. I could see them using him in this series more than people think, especially in the 3-4-5 games over Embree at home. Maybe we could get him some Botox to neutralize the Derek Lowe Face.

GUS: On a scale of 1-10, how terrified are you when Jeter is up in a big spot?

SG: 11.

GUS: Matsui?

SG: Probably an 8 ... 3 against Myers or Embree, 12 against Pedro.

GUS: Posada?

SG: 6 ... and only because he's the Master of the Dink Hit.

GUS: Bernie?

SG: 8. I don't care if he's washed up ... he's done it too many times.

GUS: Sheffield?

SG: 17.

GUS: Cairo?

SG: 8. I can't explain it. Every year, there's a random Latin infielder on the Yanks who gives us trouble, harkening back to the 1800s.

GUS: Sierra?

SG: 4. That number would be higher if he wasn't 50 years old.

GUS: A-Rod?

SG: Depends ... I don't have a feel for him yet. Right now I'd say 6. I could see him trying too hard in this series. But that could easily move to a 10 by Game 3.

GUS: On a scale of 1-10, your confidence in Damon at the plate in a big spot?

SG: Easily a 9. He's been fantastic this year. Possible MVP of the team. The severe concussion from the Damien Jackson collision has made him unflappable in big spots (so what if he's color-blind and has severe migraines?).

GUS: Varitek?

SG: Depends on the game. You can always tell when he's in a groove. I'd say between 4 and 8 depending on his previous ABs. Sometimes he's a 4-6-3 waiting to happen.

GUS: Nixon?

SG: A solid 7. Moves to 9 at the Stadium.

GUS: Manny?

SG: 8 at Fenway, 10 at the Stadium. He thrives there for some reason.

GUS: Ortiz?

SG: 10 at Fenway, 9 at the Stadium. He's the guy I want up over anyone else.

GUS: Bellhorn?

SG: 5. Usually he strikes out or walks in big spots. It's very odd. I haven't figured him out. How can a guy with a .400 OBP strike out over 170 times? Those seem to be two mutually incompatible things.

GUS: Cabrera?

SG: Depends on the pitcher. Good righties can get him out -- guys that can work him low and away. Against anyone else, he'll keep fighting until he gets his pitch. I'd say this goes between 4 and 9 depending on the pitcher. He's surprisingly good in big spots. I'd certainly rather have him than Nomar.

GUS: Most important Yankee?

SG: Rivera. No question.

GUS: Most important Red Sox?

SG: Schilling. No question. Even Yankee fans are afraid of him.

GUS: How do you feel about Pedro pitching in Yankee Stadium after the "they're my daddy" comments?

SG: Physically ill.

GUS: As a manager, if Joe Torre is Rocky, who is Terry Francona?

SG: The guy who gets punched over the ropes in the beginning of Rocky 3.

GUS: Can any current Boston hairdo compete with Oscar Gamble's Afro?

SG: Of course not. I mean, I used to have a laminated copy of the baseball card with Gamble's Afro in my car, for God's sake.

GUS: If you are driving and you see someone with a flat tire on the side of the road in a rain storm flagging you down, but they are wearing a Yankee hat, would you help them?

SG: No.

GUS: In my rooting lifetime, my MLB, NFL and NBA teams have won four championships and lost in the championship game or series nine times. Since 1975 your teams are 5-6, so what possible reason would I have to want to see your Red Sox win a World Series title?

SG: Let's see ... you hate the Yankees ... I'm the godfather of your first son ... I rooted for your Broncos during both Super Bowls wins ... and you would never have to hear Red Sox fans bitching and moaning ever again. Look at what happened to NY Rangers fans in '94 -- it was like they were cryogenically frozen.

GUS: I won't ask the "if they lose" question since you don't want to consider it, but if you allow yourself a moment to consider a win over the Yankees, what do imagine that will be like? What is your father capable of doing?

SG: See, it's a two-part odyssey to me. If we beat the Yankees, we still have to win the World Series, or else everyone would say, "Yeah, but you still didn't win the whole thing." We need both. I think Yankee fans have more at stake at this point -- everyone expects us to lose, nobody expects them to lose. If they lose to the Sox, that's a "He's cut, the Russian is cut!" moment for them and they will never carry that same aura of invincibility. Just look at the way the players and fans reacted after Boone's homer last year.

GUS: In your heart-of-hearts, deep in the most honest, sincere portion of your body, who wins the series?

SG: There's no way the Yankees can lose. Too much history. It's impossible. They're a mortal lock. Rivera is completely unbeatable. No way they're losing a deciding game at home. We might as well not even play the series.

(How else can I reverse jinx this?)

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday.




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