A great sports rivalry is decided by a history of exciting, meaningful games and true disdain between the teams. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have always qualified under those terms, but last month they went for extra credit.
After a dramatic series last weekend in Boston, there came some trash talk from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and then a game of can-you-top-this? as the non-waiver trade deadline arrived.
Boston won two of three from first-place New York at Fenway Park to close within 1 1/2 games in the AL East. The next day, Steinbrenner issued a statement to the media: “We didn't play well in Boston, but I'm not getting down on anyone. It's a long season and a long way to go. They haven't won anything yet.”
Asked by the Boston Herald for a response, Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said: “I think it was an unusual thing for him to issue a statement. But I'll have no comment, other than to say that we will keep our perspective about where we are in the season and I like where we are with 58 games to play. So, that's all I have to say about what Chairman George said.”
Boston continued to tweak “Chairman George” on Tuesday, acquiring Cincinnati closer Scott Williamson. The Yankees — which have bullpen problems in common with the Sox — had been hot on Williamson and Scott Sauerbeck, who went from Pittsburgh to Boston the week before.
Steinbrenner's next move was to summon the Yankees’ hierarchy — general manager Brian Cashman, team president Randy Levine and key adviser Gene Michael — to Tampa, Fla., where Steinbrenner is headquartered. The Chairman demanded a blockbuster trade.
So at Thursday's deadline, while the Red Sox went back to the Pirates for starter Jeff Suppan, the Yankees took their turn plundering the Reds, snagging third baseman Aaron Boone. New York gave up formerly untouchable left-hander Brandon Claussen in that deal, then dealt Robin Ventura to Los Angeles.
The Yankees threw their monetary weight around in the process, sending the Reds at least $1 million in the Boone deal and the Diamondbacks about $2 million in the Raul Mondesi trade.
“It's a flaw in our industry,” Philadelphia general manager Ed Wade said. “It's not the Yankees' fault that they generate revenues other teams don't. I don't see the luxury tax implications being profound enough to slow the Yankees from doing what they think is right.”
The Red Sox and Yankees have two head-to-head series left, Aug. 29-31 in Boston and Sept. 5-7 at New York.
NO BOARD GAME
Milton Bradley's talent is outweighed only by his anger.
Cleveland's center fielder — who has already this season been benched for not hustling and gone overboard talking trash to opponents — had his latest run-in Tuesday with umpire Bruce Froemming.
After being called out on strikes, Bradley went ballistic. He briefly got away from the restraint of manager Eric Wedge to throw his bat and helmet toward Froemming.
“Froemming called two pitches in a row that were balls,” Bradley said. “I think I've earned the right to dispute a call. I'm hitting (.437) against left-handers. I think I know what a ball and strike is.”
“He already had taken my bat away from me. I told him he could take my bat and helmet.”
Wedge hinted he is getting tired of Bradley's act.
“I think it can get to be a distraction at times to his teammates,” Wedge said. “Not to be redundant, but I think Milton has a big heart. I think his teammates realize that, but he's so competitive that at times it gets the best of him.”
Seattle scored nine first-inning runs Wednesday off Detroit's Nate Cornejo, the first time the Tigers had allowed that many runs in the first inning since May 16, 1916 — to the Washington Senators at old Navin Field in Detroit.
Actually, Detroit allowed nine runs in the first inning last Sept. 19 against Minnesota. But the game was rained out after two innings, so the statistics do not count.
The Tigers’ starter that day: Nate Cornejo.