I asked several writers for their thoughts or feelings about the ALCS between the Yanks and Sox. Here is what they had to say:
Allen Barra (author of "Brushbacks and Knockdowns"):
Like many of my colleagues, I feel the Yankees are going to win, though no amount of analysis is going to tell me exactly how. That's because no amount of analysis has given me a satisfactory answer as to how the Yankees came up with the best record in the American League this year and how they are currently just four wins away from the World Series.
After the lost of their best hitter, Giambi, and then the breakdown of the pitching staff, I must have said at least fifteen times during the second half of the season and through the playoffs that "If they don't win this game, that's it." I said it three more times against the Twins, and each time they came back to win. I don't get it, except to say that this team probably had more heart than anyone has given it credit for.
On the practical side, there is no reason why Mussina pitching at home can't cancel out Schilling. Or for that matter, Lieber pitching at home can't beat Pedro -- who most certainly did not pitch the game against the Angels that the TV commentators were saying he pitched. (There were at least four times when a single pitch gone the other way could have knocked him out of the box.) By my count that now gives him five unimpressive starts in a row. The big X factors are El Duque's tired arm and Kevin Brown's sore back in Boston.
Two things. First, it is absolutely ridiculous the way commentators have taken the loss of Nomar and the acquisition of Cabrera and what's-his-name at first base as what turned the Red Sox around. A bunch of other guys simply got hot is what happened. The defensive difference at shortstop is slight, to say the least, and there are two holes in the Sox batting order now that can be exploited. Second, I have no idea how Mariano Rivera's loss will affect his pitching. I suspect not at all. Most professionals tend to hunker down and play better after moments of great tragedy. But that is all rather beside the point. What happened to his family members is of far greater import on any human scale than a baseball game, and I think it's rather vulgar for all of us to speculate, so I'll stop.
Howard Bryant (Boston Herald columnist, author of “Shut Out”):
Sox in five. And no, this is not a joke.
Daniel Habib (baseball writer, Sports Illustrated):
OK, deep breath: Predicting the outcome of this series is an exercise in hubris. Over the past two seasons, they've been so evenly matched it's hard to imagine anything other than seven tight games, and seven between these two would be so fraught with potential for luck, happenstance, etc., that honestly, I might as well toss a coin. That's how closely I feel the Sox and Yanks match up. However: I'm going to hang my hat on Schilling, because he owns the Yankees in October. If he's healthy, my gut tells me he'll pitch in at least three games, impacting each one, and that will be the difference.
Pat Jordan (author of "A Nice Tuesday"):
The Twins were intimidated by Yankee glory. Too bad. Now, perennial losers Red Sox will self-destruct, too.
King Kaufman (columnist salon.com):
My gut feeling is that the Red Sox are going to take them this time. I think they're a much better team with the Twins, especially the way the Twins diluted Johan Santana by using him on short rest. I know Beckett made me look bad for saying it was a mistake to pitch him on short rest in Game 6 last year, but I still think it's generally bad news to take a guy -- particularly a young one -- whose spent the whole year, and probably his whole career, pitching on four days' rest and throw him in on three days' rest in the most important game of the year. But I digress. I think the Big Two are an advantage, Rivera has lost a little of his invincible sheen, and the Sox can just slug and slug. It's going to be a tight one, I think, and a Yankees win wouldn't surprise me -- it never does. But I'm picking the Red Sox by a whisker.
Michael Lewis (author of “Moneyball”):
None, except I'll bet if they [Boston] win the World Series Theo [Epstein] will downplay the role of sabermetrics.
Buster Olney (author of "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty):
I have no credibility with predictions at this point. I chose the Cubs to win the World Series before the season started, and I picked Anaheim to win the ALCS at the start of the post-season. So I will qualify everything:
The Red Sox will win if:
1. Pedro is effective against the Yankees.
2. The Boston starters pitch long enough to limit the responsibility of the Red Sox middle relief, which is weak.
3. Kevin Millar doesn't kill Boston with a series of atrocious screw-ups at first base.
The Yankees will win if:
1. Kevin Brown pitches effectively and doesn't attack any more walls.
2. They drive up the pitch count of Schilling and Pedro and get into the Boston bullpen during the sixth innings.
3. A-Rod continues to thrive in the spotlight of New York (and so far, even cynics like myself have to give him lots of credit).
Dayn Perry (columnist Fox Sports.com/Baseball Prospectus):
The consensus is that Boston is better equipped to win it. That may be true, but I think it's too close to call. I think the fact that both teams will use four-man rotations will benefit the Yankees. Schilling and Pedro > Mussina and Lieber, but I like the back end of the Yanks' rotation, even in disrepair, better than Arroyo and Wakefield. It'll be critical for the Yanks to show up in Fenway when they have the Brown v. Arroyo and Vazquez v. Wakefield matchups (Or Orlando
Hernandez, if the Yankees decide he's healthy enough to start Game 4). I think the series will ride on the Yanks' ability to win Games 3 and 4. If they do that, they'll win the series, I think.
Alan Schwarz (Baseball America/ESPN columnist and author “The Numbers Game”):
I will offer you the same prediction that Clubber Lang had for his first match up with Rocky: "PAIN."
Glenn Stout (author of Red Sox, Yankee and most recently Dodger Century):
Everything is lined up for the Red Sox to win. For once, their pitching staff is rested and the starters they want are all in a line. They also seem to have successfully addressed the weaknesses that have long plagued Red Sox teams--not enough pitching, defense, speed and depth, although I think there are still some holes in the defense--it’s almost a guarantee that Ramirez will botch at least one routine fly ball and that someone will run on Damon and score a run they shouldn’t, but all in all, much improved. On the other hand, the Yankees seem beatable, particularly given the possible loss of Rivera and the unavailability of El Duque. Add it up in any logical fashion and Boston should win, perhaps even easily.
Maybe that’s why I think they won’t. Rivera’s loss give the Yankees that cheesy but nevertheless effective jolt of “us against them,” underdog status, A-Rod and Jeter appear to be playing an internal game of “top this,” and vets like Bernie Williams seem determined to give one last demonstration that he can still play. Meanwhile the Red Sox, for the first time, suffer from the “expectation of victory” premise and for a team that over the year has shown a propensity to blow hot and cold, they’ve had to sit around for a few days – hard for hitters to stay in a groove.
Two more things tip the Yankees way. Torre has a big edge over Francona. The Yankees, not the Red Sox, have won an awful lot of games they should have lost this year and Torre is much the reason. Granted, he probably has more tools at his disposal, but he knows how to use them. And the home field advantage of Yankee Stadium is enormous this time of year. I’ve long held to the “big ballpark theory” in the post season. Historically, over the past decade or so, teams that play in larger ballparks not only tend to reach the post season but to defeat those teams that play in smaller parks. I don’t know why – perhaps random acts of chaos take place more frequently in smaller parks – but it seems to happen nearly every year.
So while I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Red Sox win in about five, a little voice, maybe history, tells me that won’t happen. If NY steals a game pitched by Schilling, it starts to tilt their way. Besides, way too many books are already being written in anticipation of a Boston world championship, and that’s usually the kiss of death. And like last year, I think that whoever wins this Series may be too gassed to win the World Series. So for both the Red Sox and the Yankees, this series may mark the effective end of their season. That’s what everyone is hoping for everywhere else. Because for the rest of the country, there are two “evil empires.”