In what has managed to be one of the more bizarre regular seasons in recent memory, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees will meet for the final time this weekend to polish off a quick three-game series in the Bronx. Boston has been extremely successful when traveling to New York this year, winning all six match-ups. The Yankees have only managed a 4-11 record against their rivals this season.
New York should be chomping at the bit to prove to themselves and the rest of baseball that they're perfectly capable of competing with the Red Sox. But the anticipation for this series is lacking.
The Yankees have already sewn up the American League East title and will be playing at home when the playoffs begin on September 30th. Boston seems a bit indecisive on whether or not they want to play baseball that day or take a team trip to the driving range somewhere in Florida. They're fighting for their collective playoff lives and everything is at stake for them this weekend. You best believe that Boston is going to bring the heat.
With Russell Martin saying yesterday that he would like to do everything he can to knock the Red Sox out of the playoffs, I can't help but agree. While Boston making or missing the playoffs isn't the most dire issue the Yankees have, it could potentially save them a headache if they advance into the American League Championship Series for the third consecutive year.
Make no mistake, the Boston Red Sox are a fabulous baseball team. Their lineup has depth equal to that of New York's and their bullpen can be considered a strong asset as well. Let's not forget Josh Beckett or Jon Lester, either. As long as they make the playoffs, they have a serious shot at an eighth world championship. The fact that they started the season 2-10 and have tripped down the stretch, managing a 5-16 September record, is rather stunning. Take out their two terrible stretches and they've compiled a 81-42 record (.659).
Not to overlook the Tampa Bay Rays or Texas Rangers, but the Boston Red Sox are a better team.
In the end, the road to a championship will never be easy. To be the best, you have to beat the toughest or hottest teams in baseball. If the Yankees happen to see Boston in the ALCS, that's exciting and it will certainly be a challenge. If they see Tampa Bay or Detroit, those will both serve as excellent competition as well (assuming they play Texas in the American League Divisional Series).
Either way, New York shouldn't take Boston lightly this weekend. They should play the games the right way and win them to clinch home field advantage throughout the American League playoffs, if not for the sake of defeating the Red Sox and defending their own stadium for once in 2011.
Follow me on twitter @csm5206