Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, May 9, 2018, 10:19 a.m.
The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are tied for first place in the American League East. They have played each other four times, and each team has won two. Last night the Yankees won, 3-2, and that is why they are tied for the first time since March 30.
Compared to the Red Sox, or most any other team, the Yankees look like a football team. They are brawny. They are burly. They hit a lot of home runs. They strike out a lot. The Red Sox also hit a lot of home runs. The player who has hit more home runs than anyone in the major leagues seems little more than half the size of Aaron Judge.
Due to my age and a propensity for comparisons that accompanies it, Mookie Betts is Willie Mays, and Mike Trout is Mickey Mantle. Fortunately, Trout doesn’t play for the Yankees. The Yankees have Giancarlo Stanton, who hit two homers last night, and Judge, who, because he wears pinstripes, reminds me of Lurch in The Addams Family. He’s a fine player, though. All the Yankees are.
The famous last words said of many a player in my lifetime is that he is “the next Willie Mays.” Mays was the greatest. In my mind, he likely always will be. Mays could do everything a baseball player can do better than 90 percent of all the players who ever tried.
Leo Durocher, who managed the young Mays, once claimed a Houston center fielder named Cesar Cedeno was “the next Willie Mays.” Cedeno had an estimable career. He never reminded me of Mays, though. The only two who have ever reminded me of Mays were Andruw Jones, in center field, and Betts, who plays right most of the time.
Betts is similarly exciting. Mays was a machine of many moving parts. His cap flew off rounding first. Baseball would have hooked me if all I’d ever seen was Mays run. Betts is that way. Mays slipping out of his prime when I first saw him, but he hit a home run at the first big-league game (Atlanta, 1966) I ever saw, and there has never been any doubt in my mind that he is the greatest who ever lived. I’ve read several books about him. I’ve studied up. I can make the case, but it’s resolved in my soul.
I expect the Red Sox and Yankees will go back and forth for the rest of the season. New York is red-hot at the moment. Boston began the season that way. Both teams score many runs, and their pitchers allow relatively few.
Luis Severino was excellent for the Bombers last night, and so was Drew Pomeranz for Carmines. Tonight Boston sends Rick Porcello out against Masahiro Tanaka, and Thursday pits Eduardo Rodriguez against C.C. Sabathia.
Most of the season still stretches out to the horizon. Jackie Bradley Jr., who has spent his entire professional career hitting .100 for a while and then .400 for a while, couldn’t buy a hit right now with a chest of gold doubloons. Dustin Pedroia will be back soon. He hasn’t played a game yet at second base.
The Yankees are more frightening. The Red Sox are more threatening. They only play each other 15 more times.
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