Tuesday, February 18, 2014


We've been ensnarled in dragon-slaying and other prickly pastimes of late, but the specter of spring training is here, wafting through the air like one of those odor-eating sprays kept near the toilet in case of "unfortunate emissions"--and so now we inaugurate the 2014 season with that familiar hissing sound...

And what better way to do so than to return to our oldest, boldest "friends," the two teams so full of themselves that they remain gloriously, grotesquely overstuffed--you know, the Yankees and the Red Sox! (Or should that be the Red Sox and the Yankees--after all, the bearded wonders from Boston are basking in the afterglow of the World Series.)

Many of us will still have to wait for that summum bonum when both of these franchises do a swan dive and do what we'll deftly call a "double down"--a year in which they both miss the post-season. Right now, the chances of 2014 being that devoutly wished consummation are hovering around 35%.

The Yankees decided to spend money after at long last having the type of year that their detractors have been predicting for more than half a decade. The Red Sox, as is so often the case with teams who have a fluky rise to glory, have basically stood pat after jettisoning a good bit of their Yankee-like encumbrances in late 2012.

A series of new (but mostly old) faces will populate the Bronx in 2014; while the Boston crew will be virtually unaltered (and quite possibly too familiar, and you know what familiarity can lead to...).

Oops! Sorry...wrong Tanaka. No faded cherry blossom
here--at least not yet...
The Yankees will hope that Carlos Beltran stays healthy, and that they can coax a decent final season from Derek Jeter. They will be the first team (if our occasionally challenged memory is correct) to have two Japanese pitchers in their starting rotation--one young, untried and expensive (Masahiro Tanaka) and the other old, relatively cheap and cunning (Hiroki Kuroda). And there's also the faded cherry blossom of Ichiro! to contemplate with raised eyebrows whenever the Yankees deploy his 40-year old shell of a former self. (Hey, it beats Vernon Wells...or does it?)

The Red Sox will hope that all of the players who pulled that miraculously collective uptick in 2013 will stay up in Year +1, and that two young players--shortstop Xander Bogaerts and center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr.--are ready for prime time. If we hadn't been so distracted by other events, we would have quantified the extent of the Red Sox' good fortune in its "semi-on-the-cheap remodel" last year and placed it into historical context, but perhaps that's something better tackled a bit later on, so that the discussion will not be tainted by any perceived tone of "sour grapes." The taste of same, however, might well be the result in Boston this year, particularly if anything should happen to David Ortiz.

Oddly, the Sox might benefit from the sudden semi-retirement of Ryan Dempster. With extra cash in hand, they just may do something in the off-season yet. And what might that something be? Hold on to your barf bags, kiddies: they might just sign Ervin (Tater Tot) Santana.

It's an intriguing move, but it has a certain shaky logic to it, particularly since the Sox' division rivals in Baltimore have just snapped up Ubaldo Jimenez. Boston's starting staff is not nearly as strong as it seemed to be in 2013, and while Santana is in no way an apostle of consistency, he's actually pitched surprisingly well in Fenway Park over his career (3.76 ERA). While the same can't be said for his work in other AL East ballparks, the Sox can afford to spot him in those locations--a sixth starter, particularly in these "fraught with theory" latter days, gives the kind of flexibility that is both welcome and wanton (though rarely at the same time).

OK, so it's not really John Lackey here with Ervin Santana. You get the
idea, right? We can't help it they've never been photographed together, can we???
We think the Sox should take a flyer on the Tator Tot, particularly given that he's coming from Bill James's old, leaky love, those ever-lovin' KC Royals. There is the piquant aroma of poetry in such a move, an aroma that we already referenced at the top of this essay. And should Ervin and John Lackey (former Angels bad boys with a penchant for serving up the long ball) turn back into pumpkins, we'll witness one of baseball's most enduring rites of passage--the fall from grace. Hell, we might even grow our beard back if that should happen.

But we really will do it if the Yankees find that their spending spree in the 2013-14 offseason is ineffectual. Tanaka, Beltran, and Brian (Kick the) McCann would make a tremendous troika of tankers for a surly audience in the Bronx. Could the O's, Rays and (even the) Jays pass the two AL East gold bricks in 2014? Would the earth's axis shift a few delirious degrees if it were to be so?

In the immortal words of Tim Marchman: fuck, yes.

And we now return you to those five hundred channels of nothingness...