Clash of the Titans

Is it possible the Yankees are finally the underdog? Granted, we're talking about the richest team in baseball being dogs to the second richest, so it's not exactly David versus Goliath, but it's news nevertheless.
The Red Sox have a stronger lineup 1-9. The Yankees have some great batters, but then they also have Ruben Sierra, John Olerud, and Miguel Cairo. Sierra is about 73 years old, Olerud was cut this season by the 63-99 Mariners, and Miguel Cairo was once a Cub utility player. The Red Sox lineup is ridiculous. They scored 949 runs this year. It's the type of patient and powerful lineup the Moneyball philosophy would produce if you actually had money. The Yankees ranked second in MLB with 897 runs scored and have also been marked by solid plate discipline over their championship years. These teams don't let mediocre pitching off the hook. The bench for Boston is also stronger. You can hide your lack of pitching depth in the playoffs by stretching out the number of innings your best starters and relievers throw, but you have to start a lineup of nine batters, and the Red Sox have an edge there. I haven't heard if Giambi is healthy, but last time I saw him he looked sickly.
The Red Sox have an ace in Schilling. I've always loved Schilling for the way he goes after people with his fastball (or these days his fastball/spliter combo). He's a gamer, and he's a gamer: he plays Everquest. Cool dude. Twilight years Pedro called the Yankees his daddy (maybe he's mellowing out in his old age), but he's a solid #2 guy. Arroyo looks good, and Wakefield has not, but knuckleball pitchers are wildcards. On any given day the knuckler could be dancing. The Yankees would have a great starting staff if all their starters were healthy, but no one really is except for Jon Lieber. For some reason, Lieber was pitching at every Cub game I attended for a two, three year stretch. He's a solid throw-strikes-and-let-defense-do-the-work guy, an inning-muncher during the regular season, but he doesn't scare anyone with his. Left-handers have always hit him hard, even after he added a changeup to his sinker-slider repertoire. Mussina, Brown, and Vazquez/Hernandez are all top-notch when healthy, but only Vazquez is whole, and for some reason he never took that next step into stardom this year. Mussina is the de facto ace, though a healthy Kevin Brown with his 10 pound power sinker would usually play that role. If Brown is healthy, he can be the Yankees' Schilling. As it stands now, though, not a sub-4.00 ERA among the bunch, though. Amazing what a crappy pitching staff nearly $200 million will buy you.
The bullpens are top heavy. Gordon and Rivera, and Foulke, Timlin, and Embree, and if anyone else is in the game it's a bad sign. Lowe might be a pleasant surprise out of the bullpen for the Sox. Those guys may need surgery to re-attach their arms by the end of the series, and Francona and Torre will be the ones applying the sutures. Just thinking about seeing guys like Tanyon Sturtze, Felix Heredia, Esteban Loaiza, Mike Myers, or Curtis Leskanic in the ALCS is sickening. Oh, this Cubs fan is in mourning.
[The one thing this series lacks is a rookie, late-season call-up, or young stud who steps up with no fear and lights up the game's brightest stage in his first post-season appearance, like Andruw Jones, or Josh Beckett and Miguel Cabrera, or Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod). When you've got money to spend, you can buy older, known commodities.]
Francona doesn't inspire much confidence in Red Sox nation, but it's AL baseball, so managing consists of making sure to bring in the right pitchers at the right time and knowing when to make the proper defensive substitution. I'm fairly certain he won't leave Pedro in too long this year.
In the end, the Red Sox should prevail. Tom Gordon's vision is blurry from being hit by a champagne cork during the Yankees' ALDS celebration. Kevin Brown hurt his hand punching a wall in anger. They have the highest payroll in baseball history. These are omens straight out of a Greek tragedy, one with $186 million of hubris. And of course, there's the Ex-Cub Factor, which says that the team with the most ex-Cubs is doomed to lose. The Yankees have five ex-Cubs: Cairo, Lieber, Lofton, Gordon, and Heredia. The Red Sox have just two--Bill Mueller, Mark Bellhorn--and they traded one of their former stars, Nomar, to the Cubs, which should have the effect of working in reverse.
Alan and I are going to catch game two tomorrow, and though I'm still depressed over the Cubs' collapse, I'm fired up to be a witness to baseball's fiercest rivalry. Red Sox in five.