5 Questions with Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant


The 5 Questions series continues with a different geographic take on the upcoming 2010 season. I asked Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant about the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry and the AL East. Being entrenched in the middle of the Evil Empire and Red Sox Nation gives Dom a unique perspective on the two teams. Enjoy!

"Dom Amore, a lifelong resident of Connecticut, has been covering sports for Connecticut readers since 1982. He has worked for the Shore Line Newspapers, the New Haven Register, Milford Citizen and, since 1989, The Courant, where he has covered the Giants and Yankees fulltime and nearly every other team and sport at one time or another. Since joining The Courant, Dom has won 12 regional or national journalism awards, four in the last five years for his coverage of major league baseball. A graduate of Southern Connecticut State University, Dom teaches journalism as an adjunct professor at his alma mater. (Courant.com)"

Q: Being in the middle of the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry, who do you think had the better off-season and why?

A: I think the Yankees had the better off-season, though not by any big margin. They may regret letting Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Melky Cabrera go, because all were clutch hitters and a unique part of a winning combination. It’s always dicey when you break up a championship team. But the players they got, though, make sense. Granderson is a huge up grade for the Yankees defensively, Nick Johnson with his OBP should thrive in the Yankee lineup and Vazquez gives them the reliable fourth starter, one of the few things they lacked in ’09. The Red Sox loaded their pitching and defense, at the expense of hitting, which is not a bad way to go. But they had to “close the gap” on the Yankees, and I don’t think they’ve closed it all that much.

Q: The Red Sox placed a strong emphasis on defense and pitching this off-season. Do you believe a defensive focus will allow the Red Sox to be successful in the AL East or will they have to acquire a power bat at the trade deadline to compete?

A: I learned a lot of my baseball from Leo Durocher’s book, Nice Guys Finish Last. He tells the story of the late 1940s Giants, who set NL records for home runs but finished near the bottom. When he came  in, he insisted on  getting rid of all the big, slow sluggers and going with pitching, speed and defense – especially Willie Mays, to cover CF. The Giants became big winners. So I think the Red Sox are doing the right thing, with “run prevention.” However, they may have de-emphasized hitting a little too much, and because of the age of some of the players and the smaller outfield at Fenway, may not reap as much benefit from the defense as they hope. So I think they will eventually need to acquire a big bat; the key now will be to get one who can fit into their lineup without disrupting the defense.

Q: It has been an interesting off-season for Johnny Damon as he found a new home in Detroit. How successful do you think he will be in the Tigers lineup? Do you think he will have the same type of power as 2009 (24 HR’s)?

A: Johnny Damon may not hit 24 homers again, at least not by Aug. 1, like he did in ’09 before dropping off, but don’t expect his power to disappear. He has evolved into more of a power hitter, less a leadoff hitter, as he has gotten older, and the abilty to “hook” outside pitches he perfected at Yankee Stadium will help some in Detroit, too. Plus, he has a chip on his shoulder. I’d bet he hits more homers than many people think.

Q: There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the best starting rotations in baseball. Most agree the Red Sox and Yankees have the two best rotations in baseball. Besides the Red Sox and Yankees, which two teams have the best starting rotation entering the 2010 season?

A: The Mariners might not agree with the premise at all. Is any team better at 1-2 than they are with King Felix and Cliff Lee? The White Sox, with Peavy all year, are also strong, and the Tigers can pitch. Any of these teams would be very dangerous in a short series, if their starters are healthy. The Red Sox, though, are the best 1-through-4 or 1 through 5. The Yankees can compete in this area, 1 through 4, and with their other strengths, their starting pitching should be good enough.

Q: After all is said and done, who will win the AL East and why?

A: Well, for many of the reasons mentioned earlier, I’d pick the Yankees to win the AL East. The champ gets the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. Unlike some past Yankee teams, this one is not terribly aged, a lot of their key players are in their prime, so I see no reason they can’t win 100 again. The Red Sox should get to 95, and we could see that epic ALCS we missed last year. I think expectations for Tampa Bay may be too high.