The New York Yankees head into the final two months stronger than a week ago.
They added outfielder Xavier Nady and catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who replaces injured Jorge Posada.
And the Yanks are stronger today because the Boston Red Sox are not as good.
Boston rid itself of Manny Ramirez at the non-waiver trade deadline yesterday, shipping him to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-way deal that will see Pittsburgh Pirates' Canadian outfielder Jason Bay heading to Fenway Park. The Pirates get the four prospects they were looking for -- infielder Andy LaRoche and right-hander Bryan Morris from the Dodgers and outfielder Brandon Moss and right-hander Craig Hansen from Boston.
"When a player like Manny becomes available, I don't think there's a manager in baseball who wouldn't say they're interested," said Dodgers skipper Joe Torre, whose Yankees teams went toe-to-toe with Ramirez for years. "It was something that happened very quickly, obviously."
In Boston, the Red Sox replace Ramirez -- who gave them as many headaches as he did homers -- with the 29-year-old native of Trail, B.C. How much of a downgrade will that represent?
Bay's 2008 numbers are comparable. But the right-handed hitter now gets to plunk chip shots off the Green Monster and, batting alongside David Ortiz, should become a more productive hitter. Bay also is a better fielder and, as he is under contract for 2009 at $7.5 million US, is a lot cheaper.
Will Bay be able to deliver in late September to get the Sox to the post-season? And if he does, how will he deliver on the October stage?
We do know that there will be fewer off-field distractions with Bay. He will not punch Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick to the ground in an argument over his ticket allotment, as Ramirez did earlier this year in Houston.
How much more relaxing will the Sox be and will they perform better without Ramirez? The left fielder never met a relay man he couldn't overthrow, often did not run out ground balls and jogged after fly balls.
The Boston deal was the kind of public contract squabble usually reserved for the off-season. The Bosox paid Ramirez $153 million on an eight-year, $160-million deal with the Dodgers now taking on the remaining $7 million.
The Sox held a $20-million option for 2009 and 2010, but Ramirez wanted none of that. He waived his no-trade clause to report to the Dodgers, providing they, too, do not pick up his option. He wants the big payday and, now likely will get a three- or four-year deal as a free agent.
Ramirez was becoming disruptive. Boston general manager Theo Epstein said enough of "Manny being Manny" and got the best possible deal.
Epstein also struck while the anti-Ramirez sentiment was growing. A Boston Globe poll asked if Esptein should acquire Bay and send Manny to the Florida Marlins -- when that club appeared to be the frontrunner in the Manny sweepstakes as late as yesterday morning -- and it received 77% approval.
As for Bay, he had best start quickly when the Bosox open a series against the visiting Oakland A's tonight. Fenway fans will give him about two pitches to get accustomed to the American League.
And Torre probably will be calling Boston manager Terry Francona, asking: "Uh, any ideas on how to handle this piece of work?"
Torre already has been juggling four outfielders in Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre and does not have the designated hitter's spot.
So, the AL West-leading Angels bolster their offence by adding Mark Teixeira.
The AL Central-leading White Sox added outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., from Cincinnati, in yesterday's only other significant deal.
In the East, the Bosox are worse than they were a week ago and the first-place Tampa Bay Rays did nothing.
And suddenly, the Yankees look as if they may be hosting a post-season game or two in the final season at the big stadium in the Bronx.
Age 29 36
Average .282 .299
Home runs 22 20
RBIs 64 68
On base pct. .375 .398
Slugging pct. .515 .590
Average .281 .312
Home runs 141 510
RBIs 454 1672
On base pct. .375 .409
Slugging pct. .515 .590