Massarotti: How The Yankees Caught — And Maybe Passed — The Red Sox

BOSTON (CBS) — The American League playoffs now completed, the Red Sox will have to wait, according to reports, to announce their manager. But whether Alex Cora is a success or a failure, the Red Sox cannot escape the following.

The New York Yankees are at least the Red Sox’ equal – and are probably better.

We know, we know. You’re trolling. Only we aren’t. Independent of whether New York qualified for the World Series – and they didn’t – the Yankees proved this summer and fall that they should be regarded among the very top teams in baseball. As a result, an AL East Division that seemed firmly in the Red Sox grasp (for years to come) now belongs every bit as much – or more – to New York.

Here’s why.

1. Aaron Judge

Fact: the Red Sox do not have an answer for him. While having arguably the greatest rookie season in baseball history, Judge finished the year ranked second in the majors in OPS – behind only Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout, otherwise known as TBPIB. (The Best Player In Baseball.) This season, when Judge homered, the Yankees were 31-14. (Including postseason, they were 34-15.) Sure, Judge had a big slump after the All-Star break. But he came out of it.

He’s a force, folks. And the Red Sox have to account for it, even if he is just 11-for-73 against them (.a 151 average) with 30 strikeouts and a .556 OPS.

2. Gary Sanchez

Fine, so it’s too early to put Judge and Sanchez even remotely in the same class as David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. But you get the idea. And while Sanchez doesn’t have Judge’s raw power – who does? – he is probably a more skilled hitter. Judge and Sanchez combined for 85 home runs this year, more than any teammates in the American League. And they did it while playing home games at Yankee Stadium – as right-handed batters.

In 2017, the Red Sox needed four batters to account for at least 85 home runs – Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland. Combined, they hit 89.

Oh, the Red Sox might have been effective against Judge so far, but Sanchez has owned them. He has a career .905 OPS against them with 10 home runs in 26 games.

3. Didi Gregorius and Xander Bogaerts

Is he a great player? No. But shortstop was a position the Red Sox were supposed to own over the Yankees for the next several years. And now they’ve lost it. Gregorius has been a better player for the Yankees than Xander Bogaerts has been for the Red Sox, and it really isn’t even that close anymore. This year, Gregorius ranked third among AL shortstops in OPS. Bogaerts was seventh. And Gregorious is better defensively.

Quickly, before you label Gregorious a product of Yankee Stadium, two things. First, so what? Second, he actually had more home runs and a better OPS on the road.

Oh, have we mentioned that Gregorious has had a fabulous postseason and that his career postseason OPS entering last night was .902? Meanwhile, Bogaerts sits at .654.

4. Bullpen

Yes, the Red Sox had one of the best bullpens in baseball in 2017. The question is whether people like Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly can repeat it. Meanwhile, the Yankees have a collection of arms that rivals the game’s best collection of late-inning power pitchers, from Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson to Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman.

Is that Yankees group perfect? No. But the Yankees bullpen isn’t just talented. It’s deep. In 52 postseason innings – most in baseball – New York posted a 2.94 relief ERA and 64 strikeouts in 52 innings. Opponents batted just .187 against them.

And basically, they’re all back.

5. Their future

Remember when the Yankees were the ones who mortgaged their future while the Red Sox build something sustainable from within? Well now that Dave Dombrowski is running the Red Sox, the worm has turned. New York already has an exceptional young core built around Judge and Sanchez – and the Yankees have more coming. Gleyber Torres. Clint Frazier. The list goes on.

After the trade deadline, admittedly, New York’s prospect ranking dropped some … to seventh.

Meanwhile, under Dombrowski, the Red Sox have traded away a truckload of young players for the here and now. Some of the moves (Chris Sale) have been worth the price. But the Red Sox seemingly have a much shorter window of opportunity than the Yankees do, and Boston appeared to have a clear and decisive edge over New York in the short term.

Is there any doubt now that the Red Sox do not?

More from Tony Massarotti
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