The Fan doesn't buy all the talk in the press of the Red Sox and Yankees competing against each other for headlines this off season. What you are seeing are two very good general managers who have the luxury of larger payrolls trying to better their teams. Both are after pitching first and will shore up their lineups next. But these two teams aren't the only ones working hard to improve their teams. The Phillies are also having an active off season.
The Red Sox did the expected and hired Terry Francona as the team's new manager. Francona was strongly plugged by Curt Schilling and it isn't beyond the realm of possibility that hiring Francona was part of the deal. Francona brings a lot of energy to the team and is a young former player who was a smart player. He didn't fare that well with the Phillies but a manager can't always help the deal he was dealt. Look how unsuccessful Joe Torre was before he came to the Yankees. Francona's stint with the Phillies probably taught him a lot that will now be the benefit of the Red Sox.
The other nice thing about the Francona selection is that a non-Caucasian is coming to a club with a spurious history of fighting enlightenment. His signing has to give hope that we are making slow progress in this country towards going beyond our cave man past.
In a blockbuster trade, the Montreal Expos traded their best pitcher, Javier Vazquez, to the Yankees for Juan Rivera, Randy Choate and Nick Johnson. The jury is still out on Rivera's potential and Choate was basically a throw in to the deal. The real prize for the Expos is Nick Johnson. The 25 year old first baseman was coming into his own with the Yankees and had the potential to be one of their better players for a long time.
Although injury prone so far in his career, Johnson has shown real discipline at the plate and his loss in the lineup will really hurt the Yankees who strike out too much. I really feel that Johnson had a brighter future with the Yankees than Soriano. But that's baseball and the fans can only sit back and see what happens. Vazquez is a horse and will really help the Yankees. But even with the addition of Gary Sheffield in the lineup, how many 3-2 games will the Yankees continue to lose?
The Phillies quietly continued their quest for excellence. They acquired Eric Milton from the Twins for basically nothing and have really strengthened their staff. Milton can be a big winner if he stays healthy. Although he isn't a flame thrower, he's a pitcher with a proven ability to win and can win 15 to 20 games with the Phillies. Will this be the year the Braves run ends?