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June 1, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Okay, I'm not going to be like the Red Sox fans, who are obsessed with keeping Clemens away from 300 as long as possible. Today was a win, and that's all that matters. It doesn't matter that Clemens didn't get 300, it doesn't matter that they blew a 6-run lead, it doesn't matter that their infield defense played so hideously that only Rob Moses is myopic enough to think that they don't suck, or that Joe Torre employed the "take Jason Giambi out of the game for a pinch runner in a tied game so we won't have his bat in the not-unlikely event that we don't score or win it before his spot in the order comes up again" strategy yet again, it doesn't matter that it took almost two games to get the win. It's a win.

I don't really know about the Yanks after this weekend. On one hand, they look to be somewhat out of their slump, on the other, they did almost lose 2 of 3 to the Tigers. They really should have gotten a sweep out of this weekend series, but then the Red Sox probably should have won at least one game in Toronto, so it evens out.

Speaking of Boston, they've really blown a huge opportunity in the last two weeks. Two weeks ago, they were tied for first with the Yankees, and the Yankees were ice cold. Perhaps the Yankees' best hitter was out with a broken hand, and one of their best players was made ineffective by an injured knee, which would eventually knock him out of the lineup. Boston got to face the Yankees six times in those two weeks, with Cleveland sandwiched between those two series. Add to that the fact that the Yankees would get swept at home by the Blue Jays in a four game series, and the Red Sox had an opportunity to open up a four or five game lead in the division. Instead, two weeks later, they're 1½ games out of first. The only important injury that's happened to Boston these past two weeks has been Pedro, but then they won both games he would likely have started against the Yankees, so if they had won with him today, it would still be a ½ game lead for NY.

Of course, the perfect cure for the six-game losing streak is back-to-back series at Pittsburgh and Milwaukee--two teams the Yankees don't get to play. Boston might be back in first in a week. Might.

As for Toronto, they're only 2 back and red hot right now, but I'm not worried about them. They don't have enough pitching to keep up with Boston and New York all year, the willingness to part with prospects at this point to accquire pitching, or the financial resources to get someone in a salary dump. They'll finish around or above .500, and be a force in the AL East for years, but this year they'll fade. I'm so certain of this statement, that if they don't, I'll go back and edit the archives to delete this statement, so no one can ever prove I made it. I'm that sure.

Clemens goes for 300 for a third time next Saturday against Kerry Wood at Wrigley, another appropriate setting. Memorial Day versus his old team, in front of Ernie Harwell, against the team who he struck out 20 against for the second time, and against the only other man to strike out 20 in a nine-inning game. If he misses there, he could do it in Tino's return to The Stadium, and if that fails, he'll do it for sure against the Devil Rays, in a game with no apparent significance. But at least it will be at The Stadium. Maybe the Yanks could hold him back if it comes to that point and try to get him to do it at Shea. That would be pretty funny.

And, of course, I have to thank Aaron Gleeman for plugging me this afternoon in the Game Chatter--not that he singled me out or anything, but it was really cool.