, Newburyport, MA

September 24, 2007

Sox should focus on beating Yankees

On Pro Baseball , Bill Burt

Don't settle for the one you can live with, wait for the one you can't live without. - Anonymous

The Sox' motto should be: Don't settle, beat the Yankees.

The Red Sox made the playoffs.

Who cares.

OK, maybe that's a little strong and sending the wrong message, but is that really such a big deal? I say no, and I have about 143 million reasons why.

Just in case anybody out there in Red Sox Nation has decided to settle for the playoffs and spend the next week waiting and/or preparing, you should lose your voting privileges in the upcoming election - for president of Red Sox Nation, of course.

Losing to the New York Yankees is unacceptable.

Call me crazy, but the Red Sox need to win the American League East Division. They've been going at this for too long with too big of a lead with too much at stake to start looking for excuses to coast the last week of September.

Should the Red Sox do everything, at all costs, to beat the Yankees for the division crown? If it means wasting Josh Beckett or playing a gimpy David Ortiz in the final weekend of the regular season, let them have it.

But everything short of Beckett and Ortiz is fair game.

Of course, if the Red Sox win the division the guess is that they will get home-field advantage, which does count for something - especially at Fenway Park.

It really would say something if the Red Sox held off the Yankees this last week. You've got to give the Bronx Bombers a lot of credit. Despite many obituary notices, they aren't dead yet. Worse, they appear to be getting better.

That makes a regular season victory that much more meaningful.

You have to admit, right now the Yankees are the team to beat. They're not a lot better, but they are better.

The Yankees pitching has caught the Sox, and maybe surpassed them. Joba Chamberlain is the hottest pitcher on both teams and Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina are better than Beckett, Curt Schilling, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield (or Jon Lester).

As for the hitting? It's not even worth discussing. As good as Ortiz and a healthy Manny Ramirez are, the Yankees don't have holes the size of J.D. Drew, Julio Lugo and Coco Crisp.

That being said, the Red Sox, despite some trying experiences (see: Eric Gagne) have not caved in.

The Yankees walkoff win on Saturday was trumped by a Red Sox ninth-inning comeback two hours later in Tampa.

While the Yankees picked up a game yesterday, the Sox are still ahead by 11/2 games. That might not seem like a lot, but with only a week left, it's more than you think.

A few weeks ago, even longer, the goal was on winning, not the Yankees. The Red Sox followed suit and had a nice run to answer the Yankees post-All-Star break explosion.

Now things have changed. The Red Sox need a pre-playoff boost.

The bottom line is by beating out the Yankees, all of the other things will fall into place - including best record, home-field advantage and a division title.

Lest I forget feeling good, which is always a by-product of beating the Yankees at anything.

Bill Burt is executive sports editor of Eagle-Tribune Publishing. E-mail him at