HOUSTON – “It should be an offensive streak,” Dusty Baker told Minute Maid Park on Thursday, so apparently the Houston manager has considerable mind-reading skills among his talents.
After all, could anything be more offensive, more nightmarish, to the Yankees and their fans than a series of Astros-Red Sox AL championships? Does winner qualify for his third World Series since the Yankees won it all in 2009?
The two clubs involved in sign theft scandals, both back on top of the industry?
Yes, as the news broke that the Yankees had started their offseason in earnest by sacking three coaches, two of their top rivals were preparing to go head-to-head in what should be a fun semi-final featuring plenty of personalities and, all. as Dusty said, bats in the spotlight. Friday night’s opener will pit Houston’s Framber Valdez against Boston’s Chris Sale, the latter being a controversial choice (over former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi) given the ace’s recent struggles in recovery.
Nonetheless, a debate like Sale vs. Eovaldi won’t touch the casual viewer, as will the reality that these two teams will face off in an October setting for the first time since the world learned of their past transgressions.
The 2017 Astros illegally slipped opponents’ signs on their way to the championship, which included an ALCS victory over the Yankees. Their bench coach Alex Cora, seen as a mastermind of the team’s trash plan, left to manage the 2018 Red Sox, who were convicted of lesser violations of sign theft en route to their title, which included a AL division series. defeat the Yankees.
Cora is back at the helm of Bosox after serving a one-year suspension in 2020. The Astros still have the same infield as their 2017 squad. While they’re not all back and better than ever, they are certainly back as the Yankees know they will miss the Fall Classic for a 12th straight season.
“I appreciate that… I honestly think that as a team we click at the right time, and as a group we click at the right time,” Cora said. “It doesn’t matter how you get here. It’s just a matter of what you do from here on out, and we’re prepared for it.
“After what these guys have been through, you are still aware of the mental and spiritual state of the club,” said Baker, who replaced suspended and fired AJ Hinch last year. “But it’s an extremely strong, tight-knit group of guys, and they lean on each other for support.”
The Astros worked Thursday without announcing whether they would have Lance McCullers Jr., who left his Game 4 of the AL Division Series with a tightness to his right forearm. In a brief scrum talking about the team’s thinking on McCullers, general manager James Click said, “You don’t go to ALCS very often. I realize I said that, we are here for the fifth time in a row, but these opportunities are rare.
Yes, the Astros continue to win thanks to the sackings of Hinch and president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow as well as the departures of big names like Gerrit Cole (at the Yankees) and George Springer (at the Blue Jays).
The Red Sox, meanwhile, followed their 2018 success by missing the playoffs in 2019 and finishing in the AL East cellar last year. And even just a few weeks ago, when they suffered a three-game sweep at Fenway Park at the hands of the Yankees and lost two of three to Baltimore, they hardly looked like championship material. Still, they’re here after ousting the Yankees in the generic AL card game and the division-winning Rays in the ALDS.
“I think it’s just baseball, honestly,” said Boston Designated Championship hitter JD Martinez. “For some reason I don’t know, every time it comes to the thread, the last game, [the Bosox] always find a way to progress. I mean, you know, we got swept up early in the year by Baltimore. Then we turn around and sweep Tampa, so it’s just the ball. We never know.”
Maybe it’s the silver lining here for the Yankees? It’s just ball. We never know. They keep making the playoffs, like they’ve done nine times since 2009, they’ll win them eventually, right?
Hope you don’t find this feeling offensive. You suffer enough like that.