BY RYAN BYRNES
Maybe it’s because the faces have changed. Maybe it’s because I view the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays as the most significant impediments standing in the way of the New York Yankees winning their next American League pennant. Maybe it’s because, during my law school era, Philadelphia has become my most reviled sports city (given Richmond’s already well-documented penchant for pink, those fair weather Sox Beantown hats fit in so well when my undergrad experience started in the fall of 2004) . But at some point during the past few years, I forgot just how much I hate the Boston Red Sox.
Then, on Friday afternoon, I remembered why.
As a genuine fan of the game of baseball, I was disappointed that my work schedule was not going to allow me to watch Friday’s tribute celebrating 100 years of Fenway Park. Though you might question why a Yankee fan would care about such an event, baseball remains our national past time and the histories and traditions of each franchise make the sport richer as a whole. After all, most of the former players introduced during what was by all accounts a fine pre-game ceremony played well before I became a fan of the game. In the world of sports, it’s silly to attribute such animosity to individuals you never actually witnessed playing for the team that forms the basis of such hostility. So it was unfortunate that I was going to miss out on a ceremony dedicated to the great history of Fenway Park and the legendary franchise that has inhabited the stadium for the past century.
At least that’s what I thought the celebration was going to be about, and for the most part, it was. But then the Sox put 100 years of tradition and two microphones into the hands of Kevin Millar and Pedro Martinez, two former players who dubbed themselves “idiots” because the monikers others would bestow upon them would not have been so kind. This would roughly be equivalent of the Yankees letting Nick Swisher and Roger Clemens represent the history of the entire franchise, if Swisher was drunk and rocking frosted tips and Clemens was Dominican. Not surprisingly, the two former players wasted little time doing what the 25 active ones would do for the rest of the weekend: embarrass the franchise and remind the baseball world who the little brother is in the sport’s most over-hyped sibling rivalry.
“Drink,” Millar told a sold-out Fenway crowd as he and Martinez stood on the dugout (video here). “Let’s go,” he added, before Martinez spit out some barely audible commentary. A boozy toast to the Boston stadium was by no means out of place, but the event quickly turned into a train wreck, with Millar spending a little too much time on the mic.
“Karim Garcia who?” Millar bumbled, leading Martinez to follow with his infamous “Who is Karim Garcia?” (twice to be exact).
(For those actually wondering, Garcia was a platoon outfielder for the Yankees during the 2003 season. He had a 111 OPS+ in 161 at-bats that year and drove in three runs in the ALCS. He was also the No. 8 hitter during Game 3 of that series and the player Martinez chose to throw at, partially leading to a few epic brawls breaking out later that afternoon. Oh, and the Yankees won that game. And that series.)
And so Boston was not able to make it through a ceremony about its own franchise without dragging the Yankees into it, hitting the Bronx Bombers where it really hurt by calling out their backup outfielder from nine years ago. This did not offend me because I am a Karim Garcia apologist; rather, it continued a trend that has been systemic in Sox – and fair weather fans of other cities – for some time: rooting against the opponent rather than for yourself.
The two idiots continued this at a press conference later that day. “We were the best team,” Millar said of the 2004 Sox, who – as you may have heard – had quite a legendary comeback against the Yankees in that year’s ALCS. “Look back at our team, from Pedro to David Roberts, from Curt Leskanic to Manny Ramirez, everybody contributed.
“You can’t replace what we had. You can’t buy it. The Yankees have tried to do that for years, but you can’t do it.”
I don’t even know what Millar is trying to say here. If he’s implying that the 2004 Red Sox were the first team to win a world championship by having everyone contribute, then he is delusional. Specifically, he should start by checking out these guys. If he’s implying that the Sox didn’t “buy” their 2004 title, than I guess the front office just donated this $125,208,542 to a charity of Bronson Arroyo’s choosing. If he is still clinging to the notion that the Yankees can’t spend and win, I guess he slept through the fall of 2009 (when his pal Pedro was really having some fun).
This isn’t about which franchise was better than the other in any given season. Friday was supposed to be a day about the Red Sox and their unique stadium’s history. The field was filled with Hall of Fame talent and players who have made New England fans smile for generations. The achievements of those in attendance spoke for itself. But like a “fan” who just purchased their first Sox jersey along with a “Yankees Suck” t-shirt at a 2-for-1 sale on Yawkey way, taking cheap shots at the rival was seen as part of being prideful in the home team. This is not how it should be. Michael Strahan called out the Patriots at the Giants’ Super Bowl celebration in 2008. This Phillies called out Jose Reyes later that year, after they won the World Series. These all disturbed me too – it’s a classless way to celebrate one’s achievements.
I thought the Sox were over that. I’ve always been told how 2004 ended “the curse” – hell, Boston won the World Series again just three years later. These victories did not make the Sox superior, but it perhaps at least made them equal. But Friday’s behavior by Millar and Martinez suggested that nothing has changed. The Yankees are the team that has gone to three straight postseasons, that went into Fenway and tore the Sox hearts out on consecutive afternoons. The Sox are the team that has not won a playoff game since 2008 and seems to be falling farther behind the pack in the American League each week. The Yankees compete with their rivals on the field; the Sox – whether it be their former first basemen who hit .274 for his career or their manager who has yet to win a career World Series – take weak jabs on the microphone.
I thought we were over that period in this great rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox. But as this weekend indicated, Boston just still doesn’t get it.