By Neil Keefe
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When I got off the train at South Station in Boston at 8 a.m. on Friday and a guy was playing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” on the saxophone, I knew it was the day of the Red Sox’ home opener. But really I knew it was the start of a Yankees-Red Sox series. There’s just a different feel in Boston when the Yankees are in town.
Being back in Boston is always a good time. After going to college here it’s always enjoyable to see old friends and go to Fenway to see the Yankees play and see where the Red Sox ownership group tried to add a new batch of seats and where they tried to wring a few more pennies out of a park that is trying to stop Father Time and pretend like modern amenities don’t exist.
Before the end of the 2009, when it came to Fenway Park, I felt like Fortune talking to Rudy about Notre Dame Stadium: “Hell, I’ve seen too many games in this stadium!” Prior to the end of the 2009 regular season, I never had much luck seeing the Yankees play at Fenway. Actually, I didn’t have any luck at all. I saw brutal loss after brutal loss with Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS leading the way. Last season, I made a list on WFAN.com of the terrible Yankees-Red Sox games I had seen over the years at Fenway:
May 18, 1999 – Joe Torre returns to the Yankees after missing the beginning of the season to battle prostate cancer. David Cone and Pedro Martinez go toe-to-toe, but trailing 3-2 late, Jason Grimsley can’t keep it close as he gives up three runs in the bottom of the eighth.
Oct 18, 2004 – Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS, which also happens to be the third-worst night of my life. The second being Game 6 and the first being Game 7.
April 14, 2005 – Randy Johnson gets lit up for five runs and Tom Gordon turns a 5-5 tie into an 8-5 loss with an embarrassing eighth inning. And to top it all off, Gary Sheffield brawls with some fans in right field.
May 1, 2006 – Johnny Damon returns to Boston as Friendly Fenway’s center field gets littered with money. Tied 3-3 in the eighth, Tanyon Sturtze gives up the go-ahead run. With two men on and David Ortiz due up, Joe Torre calls for the Mike Myers, the lefty specialist and the man the Yankees acquired for the sole purpose of facing Ortiz. Ortiz cranks a three-run home run into the New England night.
April 22, 2007 – After losing the first two games of the series, the Yankees take a 3-0 lead in the rubber match on Sunday Night Baseball. But after holding the Red Sox scoreless for the first two innings, rookie Chase Wright allows Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek to go back-to-back-to-back-to-back on him to take a 4-3 lead. The Yankees would take the lead back in the sixth only to have Scott Proctor give up a three-run home run to Lowell in the seventh.
April 24, 2009 – The Yankees lead 4-2 in the ninth with two outs and Mariano Rivera on the mound and Kevin Youkilis on first base. Jason Bay hits a 1-0 pitch over the wall in center to tie the game. In the 11th, Damaso Marte gives up a home run to Youkilis that landed just yesterday.
April 26, 2009 – Hoping to salvage the final game of the series, Andy Pettitte falls apart in the fifth. Tied 1-1, Pettitte wakes David Ortiz up by allowing Ortiz to double home the go-ahead run. With Jacoby Ellsbury on third and Ortiz on second following the double, Ellsbury steals home on Pettitte and Jorge Posada and steals Pettitte’s pride, dignity and self esteem in the process.
I saw the Yankees lose again on June 10, 2009 when Chien-Ming Wang continued the worst season ever and Phil Hughes came out of the bullpen in what would eventually be the thing needed to jumpstart his young career. I went to one more game at Fenway in 2009 on August 21 when the Yankees won 20-11, and since that win the Yankees are 4-1 in games that I attend at Fenway. The only loss coming in the final regular season game last season when neither team had anything to play for. That was during the weekend when Red Sox fans and the Red Sox organization were pretending like they cared about sending Mike Lowell off the right way after they tried to trade him 49 times and actually did once to Texas. All the guy ever did was win games for them and a World Series MVP, and they didn’t want him from the day got him as a throw-in for a deal that landed them Josh Beckett.
Going to Fenway brings a new experience every time I go there. I’ll always miss the “1918″ chants, and I’ll miss a tough and scary Fenway crowd that has been replaced by pink hats, “Sweet Caroline” fans and people that attend games just to drink the Sam Adams Summer Ale. The crowd at Fenway has become as much of a joke as the Red Sox partnering with LeBron James on a soccer business venture. Maybe A-Rod and Peyton Manning weren’t interested?
Being back in Boston for the first Yankees-Red Sox series of the season means there will be a lot of hatred and animosity in the air at Fenway Park this weekend and I love it. Last year at this time I created an All-Animosity Team, which featured a handful of Red Sox, so I decided to update the team with another year of baseball having been played. But before we get to the updated version of the All-Animosity Team, I wanted to take a minute to let off some steam on a terrible injustice from Thursday night.
I hadn’t watched American Idol since the second season in 2003 when Ruben Studdard won. I wanted Ruben to win and then he made “Sorry For 2004″ (which was actually kind of catchy) and no one has heard from him since. It’s probably not a good career move to put a specific year in your first single, but OK.
On Thursday night, Pia Toscano was voted off the show. Aside from being a smokeshow and representing New York City, Pia was easily the most talented person on the entire season. She dominated week after week, and when it was announced that she was in the bottom three on Thursday night, the entire audience booed the way the Stadium did when Rafael Soriano left the mound on Tuesday night. It was shocking, but I thought FOX did it to add suspense and keep viewers until the final minutes of the program. I was wrong.
Pia was voted off the show causing chaos from the crowd and the judges. I always thought the voting was rigged on the show, but this disaster proved it isn’t. The entire crowd booed, Randy Jackson got mad, Jennifer Lopez cried and Steven Tyler was stunned. But those three don’t have a reason to be upset since they wasted their only “save” for the season on Casey Abrams a few weeks ago, which is the equivalent of Joe Girardi using Mariano Rivera in the middle innings and then needing him later. So, Pia is no longer on Idol. But Casey Abrams, James Durbin, Scotty McCreery and Paul McDonald still are. I will never watch the show again.
Now back to baseball…
Last April I created my All-Animosity Team with a player for each position, making up a roster of my most hated players in Major League Baseball. There have been some tweaks to it over the last year, so here is the updated version of that team.
Catcher – Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Jason Varitek)
Jason Varitek started in this spot last season and he wasn’t even a starter. I can’t put him here again since he is pretty much just a normal guy wearing a Red Sox uniform at this point and not a real major leaguer. But he’s still the captain! So instead, I’m putting his replacement, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, here. This weekend Yankees fans will get to see Saltalamacchia behind the plate and how he sets up likes he’s Tony Pena by laying down, doing splits, sitting Indian style and just positioning himself oddly and uncomfortably like he’s teaching a Yoga class. It would be one thing if he did this and he was actually good, but he isn’t.
First Base – Adrian Gonzalez (Kevin Youkilis)
I had no choice here. Since the day Gonzalez became a member of the Red Sox I have envisioned him abusing the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium and costing me a BlackBerry or two during the season. He was basically named the King of Boston before ever playing a game for the Red Sox. I want nothing more than for him to fail with the Red Sox and in the American League.
Second Base – Dustin Pedroia (Dustin Pedroia)
Pedroia is like Tom Brady for me. He has that winning instinct that you just don’t see all the time these days, he plays hard and he’s the type of guy you want on your team. But if I didn’t put him here again it would just be weird
Shortstop – Jose Reyes (Jose Reyes)
Do you remember when Mets fans would argue that Jose Reyes was better than Derek Jeter? That was fun. Reyes is now in a contract year trying to revitalize his career while No. 2, a five-time champion, is nearing his 3,000th hit to add to his Hall of Fame resume. So you would have to be stupid to not have wanted Reyes instead of Jeter all these years.
Third Base – Kevin Youkilis (Chone Figgins)
I don’t think I need to explain why Kevin Youkilis is still here. Just focus on him for 30 seconds during a Yankees-Red Sox game and you’ll understand.
Left Field – Delmon Young (Manny Ramirez)
Delmon Young scares me. Not because of his bases-clearing bloop double against the Yankees on Tuesday, but because he will swing at anything like Vladimir Guerrero. Now he doesn’t have anywhere near the offensive ability of Vlad, but he has the same mindset in that you’re going to have to throw balls into the dugout if you want to walk him. Now this should be a good thing for pitchers since you can’t get him to chase, but it’s not because he puts everything in play and against the Yankees all his balls in play seem like they fall in.
Center Field – B.J. Upton (Vernon Wells)
Wells doesn’t play center anymore and isn’t in the AL East, so thankfully the Yankees won’t be seeing him too much anymore. Therefore, I’m giving the nod to Upton. If I were a Rays fan, Upton would drive me nuts. I’m not even a Rays fan and he drives me nuts.
Right Field – (Magglio Ordonez)
Magglio does a lot of damage against the Yankees and even though his hair isn’t as floppy as it used to be, I will always think of him with that hair. And I won’t forgive him for starting to put the dagger in the Yankees in the 2006 ALDS with a home run that got the Tigers offense going that day.
Starting Pitcher – Josh Beckett (Josh Beckett)
There’s no one in sports I root harder against than Beckett. It’s going to be nearly impossible for someone to unseat him from this spot. He is the easiest person in baseball to dislike and he’s also at the top of the Athletes I Hate To Look At list.
Closer – Jonathan Papelbon (Jonathan Papelbon)
I wanted to take Papelbon out of this spot. I tried to talk myself into the annoying antics of K-Rod and Jose Valverde, but not even dance routines following saves could unseat Papelbon. Like with Reyes, do you remember when Red Sox fans would argue that Papelbon was better than No. 42? I remember laughing and having to tell them the truth like when I told my little sister during NSYNC’s peak that boy bands weren’t always going to be popular and she cried. I’m just glad to see Papelbon’s career in a decline and his own fans turning on him and wanting Daniel Bard to close. Well, you know before Bard went out and laid eggs against Texas and Cleveland.
Manager – Mike Scioscia (Joe Maddon)
I’m still mad at my self for not picking Jerry Manuel last year. And now that he’ll probably never manage again, I won’t ever have the chance. It was a missed opportunity. Since the Rays don’t really matter anymore, Maddon’s out. Taking his place is Mike Scioscia. There’s this idea that Mike Scioscia is the best manager in baseball. Not sure how we measure that, but it’s just a theory that gets thrown out all over the place. Like the theory that the Angels go from first to third better than any team in baseball and the Angels play the best fundamental baseball. Scioscia looks like the dad who coaches his kid’s Little League team and has his kid pitch and hit cleanup and when his kid isn’t pitching, he’s playing shortstop, and then when he reaches the age where his dad can’t be his coach anymore, his baseball career is over.
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