Five Questions for Red Sox-Yankees

BoSox, Bombers beat writers go toe-to-toe to talk about the weekend's big series

Updated: May 13, 2011, 9:13 AM ET
By Gordon Edes and Wallace Matthews | and

With the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees set to battle in the Bronx, ESPN Boston and ESPN New York tackle five burning questions concerning the two ancient rivals.

QUESTION 1: Will the Red Sox overtake the Yankees in the standings -- and, if so, when?

Right now, the Red Sox are shadow boxing with themselves, and managing to lose by TKO every time they've drawn to within a game of .500. Three times since the first day of the season, the Sox have closed to within a game of the break-even mark, and three times they've lost. Terry Francona has said it so many times the Sox media contingent can repeat it verbatim, but it's true: The Sox have no business being worried about the Yankees or anybody else. They just need to start playing good baseball on a daily basis.

If I knew the answer to questions like this, which require looking into the future, I would be making my living in the stock market or betting six-furlong claimers at Belmont. Anything is possible, but for all the preseason hype, the Red Sox don't look appreciably better than the Yankees. In fact, in some areas, they look worse. Plus, they've already dug themselves a hole. Prediction: They ain't getting there.

QUESTION 2: Should the Yankees and Red Sox be more worried about each other -- or the Rays?

In truth, this is fanboy stuff. Yes, the Sox and Yankees keep tabs on each other, but they also know that in the end, winning takes care of itself. If you win more times than the other guy does, you're going to be playing in October. The only time you worry about another team this early in the season is if they got off to an unholy start, like the '84 Detroit Tigers (35-5). Look at the Tampa Bay Rays last season. They were 30-11 on May 20, and didn't win the division until the final weekend of the season, and the Red Sox, even with all of their injuries, were still in the mix in September. At the moment, guys like Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford are more concerned about when they will start playing up to the back of their baseball cards. And yes, no one on either the Yankees or Red Sox is foolish enough to rule out the Rays.

If we didn't learn the essential lessons about the Rays last year -- that Joe Maddon gets them ready to win no matter who the personnel is, and that this team is certainly not intimidated by the Yankees or Red Sox -- the first six weeks of the season have given us another chance to wise up. Despite all the talk about a decimated bullpen and the loss of Crawford -- to the Red Sox, of all teams! -- it is the Rays who are neck-and-neck with the Yankees, not Boston. So the answer is a simple one: They both ought to respect the Rays. And maybe fear them.

QUESTION 3: Whose right side of the infield would you rather have: Yanks (Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano) or Sox (Adrian Gonzalez, Pedroia)?

This is going to be one of the great arguments over the next few years. The first basemen virtually cancel each other out, with Gonzalez maybe having a slight edge because he's a couple years younger. Pedroia is a superior defensive player, Cano hits for more power but is much less patient (four walks so far) than Pedroia. Until Pedroia comes out of his slump, the Yankees have the edge, but no one doubts that Pedroia will be a force to be reckoned with before it's over.

Even in a slump and coming off a beaning, there is no second baseman in baseball I would rather have than Cano. Period. The first base question is a little tougher. Teixeira and Gonzales are comparable offensive players -- both average around 32 HRs and 100 RBIs a year, and their career BA's are one point apart (Tex .285, Gonzo .286) -- although Tex's career OPS is about 40 points higher. So it's a wash at the plate. And both are excellent defensively: Tex has four Gold Gloves, Gonzo three. Impossible to separate the two. So on the strength of Cano's superiority over Pedroia, I'd say the edge goes to the Yankees.

QUESTION 4: Pedroia is in a mighty slump and was hitting just .237 entering Thursday; Derek Jeter is under the microscope and has clearly lost a step. Who finishes the year with a higher average?

Jeter had as many hits (11) in a recent six-game span as Pedroia has had in the past three weeks, and Pedroia would gladly swap the average he's taking into this series with the .271 Jeter is hitting. But Pedroia has outhit Jeter in three of the past four seasons, and considering the relative place they are in their careers, Pedroia entering his prime, Jeter heading into the twilight, form should hold.

Batting average is an outdated stat that has nothing to do with measuring a player's productivity at the plate. Plus, so much of a player's final numbers have to do with health and whether the player happens to hit in unusually good or bad luck, both impossible to predict. So let's go this way: Jeter has the higher career batting average (.313 to Pedroia's .301) and adhering to the old back-of-the-baseball-card method of reading the future, let's say Jeter finishes at .295, Pedroia at .290.

QUESTION 5: What's your prediction for the series?

If my predictions meant anything, I'd be headed to Vegas on the off-day before going to New York. The pitching matchups favor the Red Sox in the series opener (Clay Buchholz vs. Bartolo Colon) and Sunday (Jon Lester vs. Freddy Garcia), but the Red Sox are still at a stage of the season in which they have been collectively outscored by their opponents --155 allowed, 170 scored, a differential of minus 15 runs. Last season, they were plus 74, the year before plus 136. No one at this stage can predict with any confidence how they will play.

Leave the brooms at home. No sweep this weekend. One of the two teams will win two-out-of three. Colon should beat Buchholz on Friday, and Lester should beat Garcia on Sunday. This one comes down to the matchup of aces on Saturday. Josh Beckett and CC Sabathia. As it should.

BONUS QUESTION: Which ballpark is more fun to watch and/or cover a game: Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium?

They're both tremendous. The new Yankee Stadium is a billion-dollar palace with a great press box; Fenway is the last of the great historic ballparks still in play in the American League. The crowds are electric in both places. It's a joy, honestly, to go to both.

Each park is great in one aspect, sorely lacking in the other. Fenway is as quaint, gritty, and authentic as Yankee Stadium 3.0 is sterile and corporate. But when it comes to working conditions, I'll take the Bronx any day. Much better press box -- at Fenway, you can't see the batter from anywhere but the front row -- more room to work in both clubhouses, easy access to the lower levels without having to run a gauntlet of drunk fans after the game. Ideal world: watch the game at Fenway, cover it in the Bronx.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter,
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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