Monday, February 21, 2005

Red Sox vs. Yankees (as usual)

An article from today's USA TODAY about the baseball spring training verbal attacks between the Red Sox and the Yankees.

Yankees, Red Sox give their sound bites a workout
By Mike Lopresti (USA TODAY)

In the stormy relationship of the Yankees and Red Sox - a thousand pardons, the current order of merit should read Red Sox and Yankees - there is no off-season. They are either engaged in the hot war of a pennant race or the cold war of free agency, or the manly art of bulletin board fodder. The Israelis and Palestinians talk of peace, but Boston and the Bronx do not.
And so, on this day in February, now that the Red Sox have apparently taken numbers to stand in line to take swipes at poor old Alex Rodriguez, there is only one question.
Whose turn is it today?
Depends, probably, on which locker stall the notebooks, tape recorders and minicams surround. They have returned to training camp, like the swallows to baseball's Capistrano - the Big Two and their media hordes - and what better way to get the season's feet wet than provoke a little Boston-New York trash talk? Mud travels between those two cities much faster than the airlines or Amtrak.
The rest of the baseball world can only stand aside as the superpowers bicker. This must have been what it was like for say, Belgium, watching the U.S. and Soviet Union squabble.
The Red Sox have spent a lively winter as kings of the universe. Waving goodbye to Pedro Martinez, arguing over the fate of the last ball of the World Series, sending Curt Schilling's bloody sock off to Cooperstown.
As for the Yankees, either it's new arrival Randy Johnson apologizing for belligerence against photographers, or Jason Giambi saying he's sorry - sort of - for getting mixed up in the steroid scandal.
But both sides seem most at home when they are assailing each other.
Poor old Alex Rodriguez is currently the flashpoint, having annoyed the Red Sox by practicing tae kwon do on pitcher Bronson Arroyo in Game 6 last October, slapping the ball out of his glove as he ran past.
And last month came comments stressing his rigorous morning workout regimen while others - nee, Red Sox?-were taking their kids to school.
The Red Sox have responded with a fusillade of brickbats, implying that poor old Alex Rodriguez is not a genuine pinstriper, no matter what his salary says. Some men are damned by their personality, others by their paycheck.
There is some basis of fact in this, of course. Real Yankees wear World Series championship rings, and poor old Alex Rodriguez has none.
He arrived at camp over the past weekend amid expectations of a counter-attack, but instead came across with a verbal shrug, saying real Yankees don't indulge in backbiting. Except he referred to Arroyo as Brandon instead of Bronson, which ought to keep the talk shows busy another day.
How much of the current crossfire has been produced by hyperactive media is hard to say. But clearly, there is some burden now on poor old Alex Rodriguez. His first New York season had relatively modest numbers, ending with an unbecoming 2-for-17 during the immortal four-loss collapse against Boston.
Much more of that, and anything Trot Nixon or Schilling says will pale beside the platitudes coming from Yankee Stadium grandstands.
He has become a central part of this eternal tale of two teams, which sometimes burns so brightly, that the rest of baseball serves as a stage setting, to be seen but not heard. All we know, all we always know, is the big spending Red Sox are not supposed to like the bigger spending Yankees. And the old champion Yankees are not supposed to like the new champion Red Sox.
The American League might not be big enough for the both of them. But the headlines always are.

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