Most of the time, the American League East is enjoyable. Often, the amount of love for the Red Sox and Yankees is nauseating, but as someone who gets 99% of their baseball information fix from the internet rather than the television or newspaper, I find myself often avoiding the full onslaught. Of course, the amount of money the two teams spend is nauseating by comparison as well, but then again, if they can make that much money, then why not allow them to also spend it?
Fenway Park is essentially the Mecca of baseball stadiums. The seats are ridiculously outdated and cramped and the ushers may as well go by the names Nostalgia and History. Ted Williams once played on that grass - well, that grass' grandfather - and that big wall in left is the closest thing baseball has to the Kaaba. The new Yankee Stadium is nothing if not a symbol of the Steinbrenner's unrelenting pursuit of deeper satisfaction and cultural symbolism. This trait also seems prevalent in Jerry Jones.
Downsides are common too, but I'm thankful there's a more poetic side to these rivalries. The Marlins are the cross-town rivals and frankly I see it as no big deal when the two clubs play. Even if they were in the same division I'm not sure there's much allure there. With the Yankees and Sox it's always been about beating the best. The shift in atmosphere is pretty resounding. No longer is there a foreign vibe of "The champs are here!" but rather, "Hey, this is a big divisional game." I'm not ready for that to shift back anytime soon.
Which means today is one of those days where the division sucks. Actually, the entire off-season. Not just because these two teams acquire players like Curtis Granderson. Nope, again, that's their business (even if it is an inconvenience), but because their fans always get into a pissing match about everything. If the Red Sox do sign John Lackey today, every Red Sox and Yankee blog, radio station, and watering hole is going to spend the rest of the off-season arguing over which rotation is better. Try as a I may to avoid it, somewhere it will pop up. Probably the FanGraphs comments section because they hate me.
While they do their bickering, they'll ignore one of the bigger impacts this potential signing will bring. For the second year in a row a division rival will not only add a Blue Jays Type-A free agent, but add him at the expense of a pick beyond the first round. Remember when the Yankees signed A.J. Burnett then signed other free agents and Toronto didn't get a pick until the third? Well, Boston would push Toronto's pick back until at least the second, and further if they also grab Matt Holliday.
Lackey is pretty good. Over the last three years his highest xFIP is 3.99 and his lowest is 3.88. He's basically an older version of James Shields with more wear and tear. He's also like a younger version of Medusa because those who stare him in the face usually turn into stone. A lot of these folk will mention his spotty record against the Yankees (5-7, 4.66 ERA) or his troubles at Fenway (5.75 ERA) but don't buy into it. Small sample size and park factors make those numbers even more meaningless than they already are.
Lackey's fastball is pretty mediocre. He throws it (and everything else) for strikes though, which keeps batters off balance. His breaking pitches are about the only pitches worth their weight in whiffs - with the slider being especially tough. I suppose the Rays' version of the upside is that Lackey is more of a health risk than the average pitcher. He's missed parts of the last two years with injuries and joins not-so-reliable-arms like Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Pitcher injuries are pretty unpredictable though.
Regardless, A) he shouldn't be paid as much as Burnett was last off-season and B) I think the over/under for his 2010 xFIP should be set at 4.00 no matter where he winds up.