Sox won this one in win­ter

New York Daily News - - SPORTS - BILL MAD­DEN

In per­form­ing the post-mortems on Amer­i­can League Divi­sion Se­ries – specif­i­cally what went wrong for the Yan­kees and what went right for the Red Sox — it is now fair to say these teams were de­fined by what they did last win­ter.

The Yan­kees went into the off­sea­son with a fo­cus on ac­quir­ing start­ing pitch­ing, but when Derek Jeter an­nounced he was ac­tively shop­ping his MVP slug­ger, Gian­carlo Stan­ton, the prospect of adding an es­tab­lished megas­tar to com­ple­ment Aaron Judge with­out hav­ing to part with any prize prospects was ir­re­sistible – no mat­ter how much they re­ally didn’t need Stan­ton and how thrilled they were to fi­nally be out from un­der Alex Ro­driguez’s oner­ous, pay­roll-sti­fling con­tract. They never did get that de­sired start­ing pitcher un­til the July 31 trad­ing dead­line, re­fus­ing what they termed the Pi­rates’ ex­ces­sive prospects de­mands for Ger­rit Cole.

At the same time, the Red Sox, whose No. 1 need was a mid­dle-of-the-or­der hit­ter, pa­tiently waited out agent Scott Bo­ras’ ex­or­bi­tant con­tract de­mands for J.D. Mar­tinez un­til fi­nally land­ing him with a fiveyear $110 mil­lion deal, Fe­bru­ary 26. We will never know if the Red Sox pri­vately would have pre­ferred Stan­ton had they been in­cluded on his list of teams to whom he’d ap­prove a trade and had the Yan­kees not pounced so quickly to ac­quire him. What we do know is Mar­tinez is a vastly dif­fer­ent player and – at least this year – a vastly bet­ter hit­ter.

All sea­son long, the Yan­kees were per­ceived as a home run-or-bust team (90-41 when they home­red, 10-21 when they did not) that struck out way too much — as op­posed to the Red Sox, who led the ma­jors in runs, hits, dou­bles, on-base PCT., OPS and to­tal bases, as a team that put the ball in play and used the whole game, sac­ri­fic­ing, steal­ing bases, mov­ing run­ners along etc. etc. In­deed, the Red Sox fin­ished third in the ma­jors with 125 stolen bases (to the Yan­kees’ 63) and had the 26th fewest strike­outs (1,253) to the Yan­kees’ ninth most 1,421.

All of this was most per­son­i­fied in the head-to-head stats of Stan­ton and Mar­tinez (see chart).

The key stats here are the strike­outs to hits. Mar­tinez had 42 more hits than strike­outs while Stan­ton had 47 FEWER hits than strike­outs. More­over, ac­cord­ing to the Elias Sports Bureau, of 154 bat­ters who had at least 100 at-bats with run­ners in scor­ing po­si­tion, Mar­tinez hit a third­high­est .386 in those sit­u­a­tions while Stan­ton hit .241, (114th).

Which brings us to the ALDS and Stan­ton’s two rally-killing $25 mil­lion strike­outs – in the sev­enth in­ning of Game 1 with the bases loaded, and in the Yan­kees’ fate­ful ninth in­ning of Game 4, when strug­gling Red Sox closer Craig Kim­brell fanned him on a pitch a good five inches out­side af­ter the first two Yan­kee bat­ters, Aaron Judge and Didi Gre­go­ri­ous, had reached on a walk and a sin­gle. For the se­ries, Mar­tinez hit .357 with a homer, six RBI and no strike­outs to Stan­ton’s .222, no HR or RBI and six strike­outs.

This is what the Yan­kees bought when they rushed to take Stan­ton and the $295 mil­lion re­main­ing on his con­tract off Jeter’s hands, re­plac­ing A-Rod’s pact with a po­ten­tially even worse one long term. It is not go­ing to get bet­ter as they con­tinue to pay him up­wards of $25 mil­lion per year up to age 37, with the in­evitabil­ity of in­juries and the slow­ing of the re­flexes. In fair­ness to Stan­ton, he’s been a good team­mate and there was a stretch in late Ju­lyearly Au­gust where he car­ried the team in Judge’s ab­sence (9 HR, 20 RBI in 30 games), and we’ll also never know how much he was ham­pered by that sore ham­string late in the sea­son.

Amaz­ing how a short five-game se­ries can ex­pose so many flaws in a team that won 100 games in the reg­u­lar sea­son. As demon­strated against the Red Sox, the Yan­kees still have ma­jor start­ing pitch­ing is­sues that were not ad­dressed last win­ter, and now they find them­selves need­ing to find a way

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