Happy Valentines Day to All… and Back to Baseball

Lots of news from around the league to start off the day. First of all, Varitek says there are no hard feelings between he and the Sox for the dragged out contract negotiations. It is all a part of the business and I don’t think Varitek minds taking a pay cut since he is guaranteed that he can stay in Boston for two more years if he wishes to do so. He has expressed before his desire to retire in a Red Sox uniform (the uniform he has worn his entire professional career). The “C” will remain on his chest as he will once again captain the 2009 Red Sox. So what is different about this year’s Red Sox from other years? I say depth. The Yankees are overloaded with superstars, but their depth is nowhere near where the Red Sox depth lies. If one Yankees pitcher goes down (and more than likely, more than one will) you have a 5th spot headed up by Phil Hughes, who has had his major league struggles. Last year he came into camp supposedly throwing harder than ever and he ended up having a very rough year. So bad in fact, that he didn’t win a game. If Beckett goes down again (which he won’t before May/June when Smoltz is ready most likely), you have a rotation that still looks like this:

1) Daisuke Matsuzaka

2) Jon Lester

3) John Smoltz

4) Brad Penny

5) Tim Wakefield/Clay Bucholz/Michael Bowden/

For me the question is, come June and the premier of John Smoltz, where does Timmy Wakefield stand if all the Boston rotation stays healthy? Do we see he and/or Smoltz come out of the pen? Do we trade a starter? Do we give our pitchers more rest and have a 6 man rotation?

This is not a bad problem to have, especially in an AL East that in the past few years has become packed with power hitters.

I’m expecting big things from Brad Penny this year. I am going to take last years stats and call them a fluke in an otherwise very solid career. I think we can get 15 wins out of Brad this year. I also think if he starts, Smoltz can give us 10 wins to finish off the season very strongly. Why is John Smoltz’s numbers not going to be effected by the league change? He has done it vs the Yankees before. Brad Penny I just don’t know how the change will effect him. One way he could get very fired up and find his dominant self again. He’s got great movement on his pitches and he throws the ball very hard. On the other side he could find himself going from the worst hitting division in baseball to the best, and crumble. There is going to be a lot of pressure on him to perform with guys like Clay Bucholz just sitting in wait for a call up to show their stuff. However, as I said before, once June rolls around its no longer a problem. Even if he is awful, we put him in the bullpen and Smoltz takes his place in the rotation.

Justin Masterson is another rotation option if all else fails. Keep in mind he proved last season he can hold that spot down. The reason he is in the pen is for depth. But with the addition of Saito to complement Lopez, Delcarmen, Okajima and Papelbon, there may not be much work for him there this year. As I said before the depth that they have at pitching is unbelievable. They don’t need their starters to really go past 5-6 innings if they don’t have their best stuff or their pitch count is high.

For My Yankees Fans Readers: CC and Burnett threw their first pen sessions yesterday and Posada has been the first one to express how excited he is to have these two dominant power pitchers to work with. Both looked very sharp and Yankees fans have much to get excited about. If these two and Wang can stay healthy, they easily are in the top 5 for best 1-2-3 punch in baseball.

Others I’d name: Tampa Bay (Kazmir/Shields/Sonnanstine)

Boston (Beckett/Dice-K/Lester)

Angels: (Lackey/Weaver/Santana)

Giants (Lindscum/Cain/Johnson)

People talk about the Yankees as overspending this year (and they did no doubt about it, with a little less aggression, they could have gotten these 3 $100MM cheaper combined, however one might have slipped away). I think they did overspend, but for necessary fillers. They needed a first baseman after the departure of Giambi. They have needed a top of the rotation guy since Clemens left (Sabathia). The only spending I can’t account for is Burnett. I think instead of a huge contract for Burnett, they could have taken a guy for a 1 year $5MM deal. His purpose is to relieve Phil Hughes of being forced into the rotation early in the year. Jon Garland or even a reuniting with Randy Johnson could have gotten the job done. But as is usual with the Yankees, they went a little above and beyond. In order to compete against teams as good as the Sox and Rays, I think it was necessary for them to land Burnett as well. It also relieves them from having to pitch Joba deep into games because their bullpen should be well rested with Sabathia/Burnett/Wang. Here’s a question for all you Yankees fans: Who is the number 2? Burnett or Wang? Power or precision. Go.


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