By Mark Paulette
Description: Upstanding, respected organization looking for a rival of equal caliber to spice up life.
Requirements: Must contend and be of relevancy in the American League’s Eastern Division. Knowledgeable and passionate fans needed to add to rival atmosphere. Strong dislike of Boston Red Sox preferred, though not necessary, as it’s something we can foster as the season continues.
Contact: Will accept applications during upcoming 10-game home-stand. If interested, inquire at 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, MA, 02215.
This past weekend’s series in Baltimore left a sour taste in my mouth. It wasn’t Manny Machado devouring Dustin Pedroia at second base like a Great White breaching the water’s surface to spear a helpless seal. It wasn’t the Sox misguided and poorly executed revenge attempts on Sunday, in which they failed not once, but twice to plunk Machado. The sour taste was left behind after the realization that this overblown spat was the closest thing Boston has experienced to a rival encounter in recent years.
Remember the good old days of the early 2000’s? When so much as a glance could result in benches clearing between the Red Sox and Yankees? When brawls ended in fisticuffs and bloodied eyebrows. When the opposing team had to be shielded by cops donning riot gear. Okay, maybe that’s a bit far. By no means am I condoning mass violence or anything of that nature, I just miss the days when Varitek shoved his glove down A-Rod’s throat to protect his pitcher. When Pedro grabbed the bull by the horns and tamed the beast, or more accurately when a stumbling Don Zimmer came charging at him like a baby taking its first steps and being weighed down by its own gigantic head, which Pedro sidestepped and sent the shimmering dome of Zimmer straight into dirt.
I miss Manny jawing at Roger Clemens along the first base line with his bat in hand. I miss Curt Schilling proclaiming he wants nothing more than to shut up 50,000 people from New York. Hell, I miss the old Yankee Stadium asking Pedro who his daddy is. The intensity that came with each game was unparalleled in American sports at the time and it gave each victory a heightened sense of satisfaction and screw-you-ed-ness. But with the Sox overcoming the Curse of the Bambino and leaving their role as loveable losers to escape the shadow of the Yankees, they tinkled on the flames of the rivalry and father time salted the charred embers, making it so no new rival could spring in its place.
Though, me thinks it’s time to plant a new seed. The pastures have greened following recent events and in what’s shaping up to be a tight AL East, it may be the perfect time for the rival stork to bring a new foe into the fold. Let’s look at the candidates –
Option 1 – New York Yankees, 11-7, 2nd AL East – America needed Britain, Magic needed Bird, UNC needed Duke, Rocky needed Apollo Creed, or Clubber Lang, or Ivan Drago. Any who, the Sox need their Yankees back. It’s what’s best for the team and what’s best for baseball. The book is closed on the classic rivalry that once was with Papi’s retirement last season and Rodriguez’ removal by Yankees’ brass. But a new rivalry could spawn amongst the vast youth on each side of the field. This playground fight pits the Sox in one dugout, the fifth-grade kings of the sandbox. They’ve proven they belong at the big-league level and can succeed. Meanwhile, in come the Yankees. A group of second and third graders looking to make a name for themselves by taking down the titans of the schoolyard. (Don’t fight children, it’s just an analogy). New York showed last year that they could be relevant in spurts, though were much closer to a .500 team than a serious threat to Boston. For a rekindling of yesteryear, the Yankees will need sustained success throughout the course of the year and both clubs will need to prove they have a pride for the name on the front of their jerseys and the history it represents.
Option 2 – Baltimore Orioles, 13-5, 1st AL East – The Birds are off to the best start in baseball and already had one high-profile scuffle with the Sox. The aforementioned Pedroia-Machado incident has led to strained relations with a team whose manager was already taking every chance he could to get a jab in at the Sox. Buck Showalter, for no rhyme or reason, called out Boston before the team’s opening series this year for what he believed to be the Sox spreading to the media the news of their flu bug which ravaged the clubhouse. There’s a solid foundation in place, both on the field with other incidents such as David Ortiz charging the O’s goggle-wearing reliever, Kevin Gregg, at Fenway Park in 2011. Off the field, this year isn’t the first-time Buck has displayed ill will towards Boston, having been quoted in the past as saying, “That’s why I like whipping their asses: It’s great, knowing these guys with the $205 million payroll are saying, ‘How the hell are they beating us?’”
With their curmudgeonly leader and tempers already flaring in 2017, the Orioles may be the prime candidate for which Boston can fill its need for a rival. Baltimore meets the criteria, having made the postseason in three of the last five years and Showalter will continue to needle Farrell and the Sox at every turn. For the good of the Red Sox, let’s hope Baltimore carries some bad feelings into town next week. We just want someone to hate, and I think the O’s might just be up to the task.
Mark Paulette is the senior producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.