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And Say Children, What Does it all Mean?
2004-11-01 13:14
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

It's sunk in. The season is over. The winter is coming. Soon it will be very cold in New York. While part of me is depressed, another part is relieved. But I'm also excited to let my mind wander and delve into whatever part of baseball history that interests me. I've got at least a dozen good baseball books on my shelf waiting to be read, and a bunch more that I'm apt to peruse at any moment just for the hell of it. Which is what I did with The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers yesterday. It's one of my favorite--if not my favorite--book by James. One bit that caught my attention was about the 1962 National League pennant race:


The Dodgers got ahead, and then they lost. In the mind of the typical sportswriter, when you get ahead you’re supposed to win. This is particularly true if you represent a media center, New York or Los Angeles, because to a large segment of the media, the story of any season is either going to be the story of how the Dodgers won, or the story of how the Dodgers lost…Nobody should have to apologize for losing a split decision to Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali. And nobody should have to apologize for finishing one game behind the 1962 Giants.

I think this applies to the 2004 Yankees to a degree. As badly as it may sting, there is no shame in losing to the Red Sox. Of course the Sox winning means that there is a significant story in 2004 other than the Yankees losing. All the same, the quote has some merit and I know it made me feel better coming across it. Perspective, mmm-mmm good. Another thing that I thought might help cure my blues would be to run a little post-script to the 2004 Yankee season. So I asked a bunch of bright baseball guys what they thought about how it ended. Group A appears today and I'll have Group B later up later in the week.

Cast of Characters: (In almost alphabetical order)

Mike Carminati (Mike's Baseball Rants)

Cliff Corcoran (Cliff’s Big Red Blog)

Jay Jaffe (The Futility Infielder)

Derek Jacques (The Weblog that Derek Built)

King Kaufman (Salon.com)

Rob Neyer (ESPN)

Patrick Sullivan (The House that Dewey Built)

Bronx Banter: There has been a lot of talk in New York that the 2004 team lacked the integrity and the character of the 1996-2001 teams and that is why they found a way to lose the ALCS. The reasoning behind most of the criticism is that the Yankees have strayed from the formula that made them so successful during those years. I'm not sure how I feel about this. On one hand it's hard for me to imagine the Paul O'Neill-David Cone teams blowing a 3-0 lead, but then again I don't think they faced a team as persistent and good as the 2004 Red Sox. In addition, I think the fact that the Yankees developed some players from within during those years stands as an anomaly in Steinbrenner's reign as Yankee owner. After all, the first run of success that they enjoyed from 1976-81 seemed to have as much in common with the 2002-2004 Yankees as they do with the 96-01 version.

The Yankees were a flawed team this year who managed to comeback time and time again during the regular season, which must account for some kind of character.

Is it fair to say that they suddenly lost their character in the final four games of the ALCS? Was it a lack of character that lost this series or did the teams’ flaws finally rear its ugly head? (As Tom Verducci noted last week: "Hard to find someone who hurt the Yankees more than Tom Gordon and Kevin Brown in the ALCS. The Red Sox batted .500 against Gordon in the eighth innings of the series (7-for-14), with a double, a triple and two homers. His ERA in the eighth inning was 19.29. Brown is a broken down pitcher who has no clue how to pitch without dominating stuff and alienates himself from the rest of the team.")

Mike Carminati: No, they didn't lose their character, whatever that is, just the series. What was the stat that Tim McCarver shoved down our throats, that the Yankees had come from behind 61 times this season. That is a double-edged sword that cuts both ways—why were they behind in that many games anyway—but it certainly shows that this team had desire or character or whatever other squishy names are used for those sorts of intangibles.


Cliff Corcoran: The character issue, to me, is only relevant if you want to discuss the offensive choke, but then one of the main offenders was Alex Rodriguez, who had enough "character" to create the winning run of the ALDS on his own, so I'd just as soon write that off altogether.
What cost the Yankees the ALCS were the team's on-the-field flaws. The starting rotation had been a mess all year and although it straightened up somewhat in September, it wasn't enough to save the extra strain put on the Big Three in the bullpen, which was in turn exacerbated by a poor middle relief situation, that was in turn exacerbated by the struggles of the rotation. Add in the fact that those Big Three aren't getting any younger and you get two blown saves in situations that could have sent the Yankees to the World Series, Mo being wild and practically handing the Red Sox the tying run in Game 4, Quantrill then gift-wrapping the game in the twelfth, Gordon having nothing in general in Game 5 and Mo unable to get a K when he most needed it (not that it was fair to ask that of him), and the Yankees' World Series hopes riding on the arm of a pitcher who I didn't even think should have been on the roster (Esteban Loaiza), not once, but twice (Games 5 and 7). As for Kevin Brown, he had been giving up 3 runs in 6 IP or 4 runs in 7 IP before he broke his hand. Would that sort of performance been enough to win Game 7? It just might have been. But the fact that the Yankees had to turn to him exposed not Kevin Brown's character weaknesses (which are glaring and were already plain to even casual fans), but the fact that the team's hopes had been riding on El Duque's aching shoulder and Javy Vazquez's fouled-up mechanics for far too long. Those are on-the-field flaws. Mix in an offense that virtually shut down after Rodriguez's homer in the third inning of Game 4 and you've got a Yankee team that's watching the World Series on television.

Jay Jaffe: This was a seriously flawed team going into the playoffs, one built on a thin pitching staff and the shaky premise that 35- and 39-year-olds are as able-bodied and capable as they were in their primes. Still good enough to put up the best record in the AL, of course, but the reason they came from behind 61 times, the most in major league history, was because of shoddy starting pitching which put them in a hole early and a great lineup of hitters who were consistently able to bail them out. At least until Game Seven.

Derek Jacques: It's dangerous to attribute the Yanks' come-from-behind quality this season to "character". The 2004 Yankees had a great offense, mediocre starting pitching and a good bullpen. With this mix of elements, it's only logical that some of the time, the other team will get the lead against the mediocre starters, the good bullpen will hold the game close enough to give the Yanks the chance for a comeback, and the great offense will score enough in the late innings to produce the win. "Character" could reasonably mean that the comeback wins showed that the Yanks didn't quit in those games. That's true. But I think most major league teams don't quit when they're down. Those other teams have character, too. They just don't have the amount of ability the Yankees did in the bullpen and up and down the lineup. The Red Sox showed a lot of character coming back from a 3-0 hole, but if they hadn't been able to patch up Schilling's ankle, or if David Ortiz had gone into a slump, it's likely that character wouldn't have taken them to a World Championship.

As for the flaws, if Verducci wants to talk about Gordon and Brown, he has to realize he's talking about a pair of old, injury-prone pitchers. Gordon was ridden as hard as any reliever in baseball this season, at the age of 36. He had a great regular season, but you saw less and less of that amazing12-6 curveball of his as the season went on. Does the fact that Joe Torre called on Gordon 80+ times this season mean that Gordon lacks character? Brown was rightly labeled an idiot for the broken hand incident, but he pitched in pain the whole year --even before he learned that walls are hard. Heck, he showed a fair bit of guts fighting his way onto the postseason roster after he had the pins removed from his hand in late September. If Brown had anything left in the tank for Game 7, the press might be talking about how Brown's a "big game pitcher" rather than a "soulless mercenary"; how he injured his hand due to his "intensity and competitiveness" rather than the fact that it "alienated" him from the rest of the team.

King Kaufman: I don't think that's fair to say. I don't think character wins games. Hitting and pitching and fielding win games. The Yanks lost four straight because they got beat four straight nights by a team playing better baseball. There might -- might -- be something to the idea that a harmonious clubhouse and a team with some kind of sturdy character, however you define that, can help a potentially successful team achieve success over the course of a season. But even teams oozing character from their pores can have four bad days, and teams with none whatsoever can have four good ones. Think of places you've worked. A harmonious workforce might lead to higher production--might--but there's probably some bad weeks too.

Rob Neyer: Nobody lost (or gained) their character. These were two evenly matched teams, and it just so happened that instead of alternating wins, they bunched them at the beginning and end of the series. As for Tom Gordon, back in August people were suggesting that both he and Quantrill were overworked, and that the Yankees would suffer in October. So maybe there was something to that.

Patrick Sullivan: If Bill Mueller hits pulls that 9th inning pitch 12 feet further to the right, Cairo makes the play and none of this is even discussed. Think about it. If you accept the premise that the Yanks and Sox were pretty close to evenly matched, don't you then have to accept that it is equally likely that the Red Sox could reel off three or four straight against New York. It's not a choke. It's another data point that baseball is a quirky sport. Character did not cost the Yanks at all - a lack of timely hitting, bad breaks and baseball's inherent nature cost them.


BB: Were the Red Sox simply the better team all along?

Mike Carminati: I think that the Yankees and Red Sox were probably the best two teams in baseball. Were the Red Sox better, maybe, well probably. The Yankees won the division by three games. However, the Red Sox "led" the division by 9 games (98-64 to 89-73) in expected winning percentage base on the Pythagorean Formula. Some of that distance can be made up by eliminating extremely lopsided games, but still the Sox held a healthy margin in expected wins for most of the season. They Yankees led 23-16 to 16-17 in one-run games. The Red Sox beat the Yanks in the season series, 11-8. But then again the Orioles (10-9), Rangers (5-4), Indians (4-3), and Twins (4-2) all won their season series against the Red Sox.
One has to keep in mind that the Red Sox did trail the Yankees from the beginning of June until the end of the season and that they trailed from 10.5 games at one point. At lot of that can be viewed as favorable for one side or the other depending on one's point of view. The odd thing is that the Yankees outscored the Red Sox 45-41 in the ALCS, which translates into a .542 expected winning percentage. That is, one would expect NY to win the series 4-3 (actually 3.797 to 3.203). Therefore, the Yankees won the expected record race but lost the actual race, a complete reverse of the regular season.
So who was the better team? I submit that it's academic. Who was the better team in the second half and at the beginning of the playoffs? The Red Sox were 50-26 in the second half. The Yanks were 46-30. They were first and second in the AL according to this criterion. As far as glaring holes on the teams, the Yankees had far more issues as they entered the postseason than did the Red Sox. The Yankees had an issue at second base ever since they traded away Alfonso Soriano. Anyone would have pointed to second as their biggest issue for much of the season until pitching became a larger. Miguel Cairo was about average, which was a tremendous overachievement, and was able to keep it up throughout the playoffs.
The problem with scoring runs early in the season steamed, to some degree, from Derek Jeter's poor performance in the leadoff spot. In the last four games Jeter did bat just .211 (4-for-19) and never got more than one hit per game. However, he batted only .182 in the first three games (2-for-11). So why did the Yankees lose? The Yankees were three outs away from a sweep with arguably the best postseason relief pitcher on baseball history on the mound. One could blame their old and fragile starting rotation and a bullpen lacking in depth. That does have some worth since they allowed over six runs per game in the last four. However, one has to recall that the offense went from scoring an average of over 10 runs per games in the first three games to scoring just over three runs a game in the last four.
I submit that the Yankees 19-8 win at the start of as five-day stretch without a break (due to a postponement of game three), wore the Yankee offense out. It was what our illustrious president would term a catastrophic victory. All of the starters staid in for the odyssey, except for John Olerud, who was injured, and Gary Sheffield, who was pinch-ran for after his last at-bat. The Yankees seemed tired for the rest of the series. The Olerud injury became a bigger factor than the Schilling injury because the Yankees were down to the third-string first baseman. Their lack of depth in the pitching staff became more of an issue as the series wore on. The Red Sox had a deeper pen and a deeper bench.

Cliff Corcoran: Difficult to say. I mean the ALCS came down to a seventh game and the Yankees had the Sox down to their final three outs at one point and then down to their final six the next night. This was about as close as it gets barring the sort of extra-innings in Game 7 scenario we had last year. Yes, I do think the Red Sox were the better team, but I don't think it was by a margin that would make anyone comfortable enough to say that they should have beaten the Yankees.

Jay Jaffe: All in all, these two teams were very, very evenly matched. Throughout the season, they seemed to take turns on various weekends making the other squad their whipping boys sending an entire region worth of sportswriters -- pro and amateur -- sputtering for explanation in the process. That the Sox ended up with the hotter streak at the end was ultimately as likely as that happening to the Yanks. But give the Boston credit, as it happened for them, and as such, they get to call themselves the better team this year. For all of the Curse-ending stuff, I do think there's solace to be had that the Yanks put up a helluva fight against the eventual World Champions while the NL competition couldn't even make a series of it.

Derek Jacques: Yes. Their offense was just as good as the Yankees', and their starting pitching was much better all year long. Still, it took some really unexpected happenings -- Dr. Morgan inventing a surgical procedure for Schilling, Derek Lowe suddenly snapping back to 2002 form -- for the Sox to win the ALCS.

King Kaufman: I don't know about all along, but they seemed to be better late in the season, and they seemed better constructed for the postseason, with two top-notch starters and a deep bullpen, plus the sluggers. The Yanks just had the sluggers. I thought it was a toss-up series, but I picked the Sox in seven. And hey, that's what happened. What's everybody so worked up about? I saw it all the way!

Rob Neyer: Yes, I think the Red Sox were the better team all along. The difference in their records doesn’t come close to balancing the difference in their run differentials. I thought, entering the season that the Yankees were somewhat better. But that was before Giambi went down, and before Javier Vazquez and Kevin Brown were both big disappointments.

Patrick Sullivan: Yes. I have argued this point ad nausea before. However, with the way the Yanks began to pitch in September and into the playoffs, the gap was narrowed considerably. But the Red Sox had a far more impressive run differential and simply pooh-poohing this by noting the multitude of Yanks blowout losses ignores the fact that truly great teams do not get blown out with any sort of regularity. Their records in one-run games and further, their records against the Baltimore Orioles both more than accounted for their win differential. I think these two items are not the barometer that runs scored and runs against are or even the barometer that BP's W3% is.

BB: What was more surprising to you, the fact that the Yankees had a 3-0 lead to begin with or the fact that the Sox won the last four?

Mike Carminati: The latter, but both were surprising. It's always harder to win four in a row with your backs against the wall, than two games at home to open a series and then a third on the road. It had never been done. There were 25 times that a series started 3 games to none for one side. The Yankees had the good fortune of facing an injured Curt Schilling and an ever-mediocre Bronson Arroyo in the first three games. The Red Sox won three close ballgames to even the series. If anyone said at the start of the series that the Red Sox would win 4-3, I would not have been surprised. It was the way that it happened. I think there was a lot of luck involved. These are two very strong teams. I guess luck can make a big difference.

Cliff Corcoran: Honestly, I think the 3-0 lead was more surprising. I was afraid of this Red Sox team and to get three outs away from sweeping them, that was just crazy. In retrospect, considering the fact that AL West Champion Angels and the 105-win Cardinals were a combined 0-7 against the Sox with Boston having the lead in all but one ALDS inning of those seven games, what the Yankees were able to do to the Sox for the first 35 innings of the ALCS (during which the Sox held the lead for just one inning), really over the first 52 innings of the ALCS, was extremely impressive.

Jay Jaffe: The Sox winning was more surprising. Three games and eight innings in, we had a narrative that fit in comfortably with everything else we know about the rivalry; many of us could have written that column/blog entry/article in our sleep. For the Sox to come back as they did was historically unprecedented and surprising on that note. But we could have seen it coming, at least in part. Fenway Park is an incredibly volatile environment for offensive fireworks, and no lead is ever safe there. A team such as the Sox which is built on patience and power is never too far out of a ballgame; the series opener, in which an 8-0 lead quickly became 8-7, showed that as well. The Yankee bullpen was incredibly vulnerable, especially once Tom Gordon's yips started getting the better of him. Their lack of a credible spot lefty (no, not you, Felix Heredia) prevented some matchups, which might have neutralized David Ortiz at key moments late in the game -- the eighth inning of Game Five comes to mind. As surprising as 3-0 was, the Yanks had holes you could drive a tank through, and once the Sox started doing exactly that, the Yanks seemed to press a bit.

Derek Jacques: The entire year of the Yankees-Sox match up was surprising. From the Red Sox butchering the Yanks in April, to the Yanks putting the Sox 10 games in the rear view mirror in July, straight on through September, it was utterly unpredictable. Only their last regular season meeting was an anticlimax. So after Game 3 of the ALCS, the big question wasn't "what got into the Yankees?" but rather, "what on earth happened to the Red Sox?" It was incomprehensible that a team that'd given the Yankees such a strong fight in the regular season would just fold like that. Similarly, throughout Games 4, 5, and 6, I just kept waiting for the Bucky Dent Moment, when some Yankee would break things open, and it never arrived.

King Kaufman: The latter, just because it's never happened before, while it's happened plenty of times that even a vastly superior team has fallen behind 3-0.

Rob Neyer: That’s an easy one. Lots of teams have won the first three games of a best-of-seven series, but nobody’s ever won the last four after being down that big.

Patrick Sullivan: Both equally surprising. Maybe because of the history of the clubs, the Red Sox's comeback was more surprising. Neither was particularly likely, however.

BB: Is it fair to lay the brunt of criticism on stars like Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield (although I haven't heard Sheffield ripped directly) when Yankee veterans Jorge Posada (.259--7-27--with 1 double, no homer and 2 RBI) and Derek Jeter (.200--6-30--with 1 double, no homers and 5 RBI) played poorly as well? Bernie Williams had a good series and I realize why Posada and Jeter get a pass--they've already won so much--but is it fair?

Mike Carminati: There's plenty of blame to go around. I think that the brunt should be laid at the feet of Joe Torre. He overworked Jorge Posada (again) so that he had nothing left for the playoffs. He continually went to Joe Gordon and Paul Quantrill. He decided to use Kevin Brown in game seven.

Cliff Corcoran: The distinction between Jeter and Posada and Sheffield and Rodriguez, to me, is that Sheff and Rodriguez were hitting like mad and then suddenly stopped. Jeter and Posada were never really hitting much this postseason, so there was no choke there. They just weren't hot. Sheff and Rodriguez were hot and then choked and thus the criticism is, I think rightfully, aimed toward them. It worth noting that other than a pair of solo homers by Bernie, Jeter was the only Yankee to drive in a run in Games 5 and 6 and the only one to drive in a run against someone other than Pedro in Game 7. Here are some stats (before=ALCS Games 1-3, after=Games 4-7):


Rodriguez before: 6 for 14, 2 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 7 R, 1 BB, 2 K
Rodriguez after: 2 for 17, HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 3 BB, 4 K
(after hitting a 2-run homer in the third inning of Game 4, Rodriguez went 1 for 15 with no RBIs or runs scored)

Sheffield before: 9 for 13, 2 2B, HR, 5 RBI, 7 R, 1 BB, 2 K
Sheffield after: 1 for 17, 4 BB, 6 K

Jeter before: 2 for 11, 4 R, 5 BB
Jeter after: 4 for 19, 2B, 5 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K

Posada before: 3 for 10, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R, 3 BB
Posada after: 4 for 17, 2 R, 4 BB, 1 K

The huge drop-off (aka "choke") suffered by Rodriguez and Sheffield simply did not happen to Jeter and Posada. Jeter was actually better in Games 4-7, something that can only be said of him and Miguel Cairo among the seven Yankees to play every game.

Jay Jaffe: Certainly Sheffield and A-Rod seemed to disappear as the series went on, with the latter's sissy slap in Game Six turning into a morality play that added fuel to the fire. But Jeter, who didn't get on base for the sluggers and who gave away outs with ill-timed sacrifice bunts, deserves plenty of blame. Posada never seemed to get a hit that mattered, certainly never broke a game open when he easily could have. But I don't think it's fair to break down the blame into those who've won versus those who haven't. The offense looked great in the first four games -- A-Rod and Sheff and Matsui, the guys who haven't won here leading the way -- and dismal in the last three. Jeter's bunt in the eighth inning of Game Five after Cairo's leadoff double started a trend, which saw eight Yankee hitters see a total of 20 pitches at a time when they could have dealt a mortal blow to the Sox. That is a system wide failure that should be hung on the whole offense (well, except for Cairo in that instance) no matter how well they swung the bat in the first three games.


Derek Jacques: It's not fair. Jeter, Posada, and Mariano Rivera all reside in the glow of the 1996-2000 dynasty, while A-Rod might never escape the stigma of being the highest paid player in the sport. The Jeter/A-Rod comparison tends to come down to style points. Jeter looks good when he makes plays, he looks the part of a winning player. There's something "uncool" about the way Rodriguez carries himself on the field, typified by the "sissy slap" incident in Game 6. In Alex's place, Jeter would've tried to do the same thing, but he would have looked better doing it. Another factor in the current blame game is that Jeter and Posada are extremely quotable Yankees, while Bernie Williams (not getting killed right now, but the source of some serious criticism in 2001-2003), Kevin Brown and Alex Rodriguez seem to be awful interview subjects. This could also explain why Sheffield -- always good for an entertaining quote -- hasn't been ripped for his slump during the last 4 games of the ALCS.

King Kaufman: No. I thought it was a team losing effort.

Rob Neyer: Of course it’s not fair. It’s fatuous, and bordering on hysterical, to somehow suggest (as at least one New York writer did) that Alex Rodriguez was the reason the Yankees didn’t beat the Red Sox. Meanwhile, Derek Jeter not only didn’t hit much during the ALCS, he actually had the nerve to hint that yes, the problem is that the new guys don’t know how to win. Preposterous.

Patrick Sullivan: It's entirely unfair and even immoral, if you ask me. Again, see my 1st answer. The discussion isn't even in play if some very tenuous matters break the Yanks way in any of games 4-6.

BB: In spite of the way it ended, the Yankees had another successful season. It only comes up short in the minds of some Yankee fans and of course, the owner. Do you think the team will bounce back and be a force again in 2005 or will they start to fall off?

Mike Carminati: Given their player development issues, it’s just a matter of time. The Yankees appear to be on the same slippery slope to mediocrity that the Blue Jays were on in the mid-Nineties. However, the Yankee coffers may be able to hold that off for some time, though I doubt indefinitely. We'll have to see how the off-season goes in the Bronx.

Cliff Corcoran: I think they'll be right there again in 2005 because most of this offense and bullpen will be back and Cashman and Steinbrenner are sure to bring in more pitching, which should only help. Add in a settled-in Rodriguez, a healthy Sheffield, hopefully better results from Mussina and Vazquez, less strain on the Big Three, and hopefully the return of Jon Lieber, pitching at full strength starting in April, never mind the potential Giambi revival, and I see good things happening for this club in 2005. Better than a 3-0 lead in the ALCS? I won't go that far in late October.

Jay Jaffe: The Yankees will almost certainly be a playoff caliber team, but I think this year showed that without shoring up their starting pitching, they might well find themselves in a Wild Card tossup; you can ask the A's about how those sometimes turn out. But on a deeper level, this team is in trouble. They've got some seriously immovable contracts that will stretch the payroll to its limits in the near term and become embarrassing millstones down the road, particularly as Jeter and Giambi age. Their farm system is barren and they haven't drafted well in a long, long time. The pressure to win now keeps the Yanks from focusing on exactly what built the Torre dynasty, which was a bumper crop of homegrown players, particularly at the key positions where two-way talent is at a premium. There are no Jeters or Bernies coming through the farm system to augment this team, no Pettittes ready to step into the rotation anytime soon, no fireballing Riveras to come out of the pen in the sixth or seventh and groom as eventual closers. They can't improve team from within, and they don't have the blue chip prospects, which would make trading for top-notch talent a realistic strategy anymore.

Derek Jacques: It's doubtful that they'll suddenly fall out of contention in 2005. But barring a major overhaul, they'll probably fall off some, because the Yanks are tied in for big money to a number of players -- particularly Brown, Williams, Giambi and Mussina -- who are only getting older, and are likely to get worse. You can be sure that Steinbrenner wants to make big changes, but it's hard to see how that will happen. On the major league roster, the only players the Yanks could trade for value would be Javier Vazquez, Hideki Matsui, and Tom Gordon. Maybe Rodriguez would be tradable, although the only team willing to take on his salary would probably be Boston. Of those players, the only one likely to be traded is Vazquez. And the Yankees shouldn't trade Vazquez, not unless that MRI last week showed his labrum was about to turn into confetti. Better to retire Mel Stottlemyre and see what another pitching coach can make of him.

King Kaufman: I think every year the Yankees don't win the World Series is another year in which Steinbrenner moves back toward being the pre-Torre George, which is a formula for failure. This might just be wishful thinking on my part, but I've been saying it for a couple of years now, and I think the Yankees are sort of slowly losing ground, though you're right they did have a nice year.

Rob Neyer: Depends on what happens this winter, obviously. But if they’re serious about bringing David Wells back, I have to say I wouldn’t be all that optimistic about them. I can see this team dropping to 90 or 95 wins and just missing the postseason.

Patrick Sullivan: Well they have some matters to address. Is Brown in any way reliable? How about Vazquez? What to do with the dead weight at the bottom of the order? What can you expect from Giambi? What is the budget? Is there one? I expect the bullpen to be good thought they need depth if they do not want their high-leverage guys gassed by the end of the year. Certainly Mussina and Lieber ought to be good in 2005. The lineup will rake and I would be shocked if at least a Jeff Kent were not added. Beltran would be quite a score too but again, what's the budget?

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