Yankees and Red Sox Meet Again in ALCS

10/11/2004

It has been a year since Pedro Martinez threw Don Zimmerís fat face into the first base line at Fenway Park. Ever since, the anticipation of meeting once again in the American League Championship Series continued to heighten to an insurmountable fervor.

The rivalry, that began nearly a century ago and was rekindled in last yearís playoffs, grew even more intense in the offseason. The A-Rod to the Red Sox, then not to the Red Sox, then finally to the Yankees saga didnít just light a match. It was like pouring gasoline on an already uncontrolled forest fire.

Throughout the generations of the Frickiní Yankee fraternity, from Babe to Bucky to Boone, the Red Sox have found very little to boast about to the Yankees. Itís the rivalry of swagger versus envy. One has plenty to boast about. The other wishes he did. The Yankees are like the big neighborhood bully who always beat you up. The Red Sox are like the little whiney brother who wonít shut up until the bully makes him. And then the whiney little brother still wonít shut up. He just gets louder and more obnoxious.

Heading into the season we couldnít get away from how many days it would be until the two teams played each other in the regular season. The head-to-head match up seemed old and tired before they even played a game.

Few of the regular season games truly had any bearing on either teamís season-ending outcome. It was more about ego than outcome. It was more about Jason Varitek kindly offering A-Rod to feel the texture of his palm than it being about having a division title on the line.

But now is what weíve all been anticipating since Tim Wakefield walked off the mound last year after watching Aaron Boone ďCowboy Up.Ē Itís Red Sox versus Yankees. Itís envy versus swagger.

The Red Sox actually match up quite well with the Yankees. The two best pitchers in the series are Red Sox. Itís arguable that the better group of hitters is under ďBostonĒ on the lineup card. But the Yankees have proven time and again that they are clutch. Does the swagger provide the clutch? Or does the clutch provide the swagger?

How will Boston respond this time? Will they finally get over on the Yankees? Or will they carry the ghosts that have lingered since 1918 with them? They may be guilty for not having won a World Series in 86 years. But donít accuse them for lack of envy. Does the losing lead to envy? Or does the envy lead to losing?

The Yankees are not as strong as they have been in recent years. And the Red Sox may be stronger than they have ever been. But can they translate their envy into swagger? Is it even possible to do so? Are the Red Sox beaten before they even play the games?

In truth, they will not be easily beaten, at least not this year. But it doesnít mean they will necessarily win. The Yankees have a roster stacked full of guys who know how to come through when it matters. If they continue to showcase their ability to do so, it wonít matter how good Boston is. New York will find a way to be better.

Weíre all anticipating the fireworks this series will produce. The bats at the plate will be mashing. The arms on the mound will be firing. The crowds in the stands will be rocking. It would be a tremendous disappointment if this series fails to go at least six games. The friction will be intense. This will go down as one of the most memorable playoff series ever.

Itís swagger vs. envy. Enjoy.