Yankees. Red Sox. Fenway Park's 100th anniversary. Bobby Valentine.
What more do you need? How about some matchups to get you ready for the big weekend series!
The "which second baseman is better" debate -- Robinson Cano of the Yankees or Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox -- could go on forever. Both are pretty good. Adrian Gonzalez is the only Boston player in this category who has a clear edge over his Yankees counterpart (Mark Teixeira). Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are a potential Hall of Fame left side while the Red Sox have journeyman Mike Aviles at short and Valentine target Kevin Youkilis at third. Russell Martin is off to a slow start, but Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia goes into the weekend batting .080.
David Ortiz continues to be a force with a .383 average going into the weekend. Raul Ibañez has been a pleasant surprise as the Yankees' lefthanded DH after a slow spring. The Yankees, with Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher, have a big edge in the outfield even after Brett Gardner went on the DL on Wednesday. The Red Sox are without the injured Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury. They are playing Cody Ross, Ryan Sweeney, Darnell McDonald and Jason Repko. Sweeney is hitting .424.
The Yankees will not face Boston's top two starters in Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. Clay Buchholz has a 9.82 ERA and lefthander Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard are converted relievers, so it is hard to imagine the Yankees not scoring some runs in this series. The Yankees are still searching for consistency in the rotation behind CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova but have both going this weekend. Freddy Garcia has not had his splitter so far and has not looked like a pitcher who is going to be able to hold off Andy Pettitte and Micheal Pineda when both are ready.
The Yankees' biggest edge. The Yankees have three relievers who would be the Boston closer in Mariano Rivera, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano. The Red Sox are using former Yankee Alfredo Aceves as the closer after Andrew Bailey was injured and Mark Melancon, another former Yankee, flamed out and was sent to the minors. Vicente Padilla has been the Red Sox's second most reliable reliever.
The Red Sox are playing most of their reserves as their starting outfield, leaving Valentine with little quality depth. Using Nick Punto as a pinch hitter as Valentine did on Wednesday is not a recipe for success. The Yankees will see their depth tested with Gardner on the disabled list. Ibañez, Andruw Jones and even Eduardo Nuñez could see some time in leftfield.
Valentine has certainly managed to bring attention onto himself, which might be what the Red Sox wanted after last season's September collapse and ugly departure of Terry Francona. At least the conversation has been changed in Boston from 2011's mess to a new mess. The Youkilis episode, in which Valentine disparaged the popular third baseman in an interview and then apologized, didn't win him any points with the players. Joe Girardi couldn't be more unlike Valentine in that he doesn't want attention for himself and will never be called glib. Wonder if Valentine will try to get under Girardi's skin in some way this weekend.