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Monday, May 27, 2002

  Memorial Day Status Check

It's Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, and already certain naysayers are declaring the Red Sox season over. The Sox have just suffered their worst defeat this season. Having been trounced 14-5 by the rival New York Yankees, Boston finishes the 4-game series with a split, an even record in their last 10 games, and just 1 game over .500 for the just completed 13-game homestand. It sure looks like there is cause for concern.

On the other hand, in spite of the slump Boston remains in first place and still owns the best record in baseball. Their first three starters are among the most effective in the league, and their closer is on a hot streak. All of which bodes well for an imminent rebound.

So which is it - gloom and doom, or blue skies ahead? The answer might be found not so much in the last couple games but in the reactions of the teams involved.

By definition, a .500 record is mediocre. Top teams consider a series split to be a failure, which is why the Red Sox aren't grinning about their "success" in taking two games. Yet the Yankees and their fans, at least the ones who frequent the online message boards, are elated to have done just that.

New York came into the series as winners of 13 of their last 15 games, and had they been able to ride that momentum to a 3-1 series win, they would have overtaken the Sox in the standings. Instead they remain in second place - and are thrilled. They seem to have taken the attitude of former Cleveland Indian Oscar Gamble who described a good night against pitcher Nolan Ryan as "0 for 4 and don't get hit in the head."

The Red Sox are understandably displeased with a mere .500 against the Yankees. But the Yankees apparently think they're lucky not to have done worse. After all, when you face the top team and avoid getting beaten by them, you consider it a success.

What most baseball people like to say, usually without thinking much about it, is that the Yankees are the team to beat. But those same people - and the Yankees along with them - now act as if Boston is the team to beat. If they think so, we should too.

Just my opinion.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

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