Red Sox-Yankees Continue Intense Rivalry
By Joe McDonald
It’s the way it should be. The season begins anew this Sunday as the Yankees will be in Fenway Park to continue their age-old rivalry with the Boston Red Sox. As the World Series flag flies for the first time since the Wilson Administration at the Fens, the teams may look the same, but many of the names have changed. After the season ended in a tragic collapse for the New York Yankees, the team looked forward and revamped their suspect pitching staff.
Gone are “El Duque” Hernandez, Jon Lieber and Game Seven goat Javier Vasquez. And the bullpen was cleansed of Scott Proctor, Bret Prinz, C.J. Nitkowski and Felix Heredia, who was so bad; Yankee fans called him the “Run Fairy.”
The Bombers went bold and big this off-season and no acquisition was bigger that getting the larger than life Unit. Randy Johnson will make his Pinstripe debut on Sunday. His arrival fills the hole at the top of the Yankee rotation, since neither Mike Mussina nor Kevin Brown could take the number one spot, which was vacated by both Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, when they moved back home to Houston last season. It was the Yankees’ Achilles’ heel which was sliced into by the Red Sox during last year’s ALCS. But New York didn’t stop there. For good measure, they signed righties Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright, both of whom won 15 or more games last season.
Oh the Bomber rotation is formidable, probably the best they fielded since 1998, but as the last few seasons proved, championships are win in the bullpen. They may finally have a real ‘pen built around Mariano Rivera. The Bombers brought in fireballing righty Felix Rodriguez and welcomed back old friend Mike Stanton, who will help setup Rivera with holdovers Tom Gordon, Paul Quantrill, Tanyon Sturtze and a healthy Steve Karsay. It’s a talented and versatile bullpen, whose health will be the only thing that hold them back.
The Yankees need to have top flight pitching. The Red Sox will still be a tough opponent even though, like the Bombers; there will be new faces on the mound. To replace Pedro Martinez (gone to the Mets) and Derek Lowe (now with the Dodgers), the Sox signed former Yankee David Wells and Matt Clement, who towed the rubber last year for the Cubs. Curt Schilling should be his old self later in the season, but will begin it on the disabled list.
That means Wells will be facing his former team on Sunday night. Wells will become the Red Sox new lightning rod and already had some choice words for his former employer earlier in Spring Training. Even at 41, the lefty can still get out opponents and if his back holds up, could be a thorn in the Yankees side. It will add to the intensity to this game and make it like Game Eight of the ALCS, instead of the first game of the new season. It’s the rivalry that won’t go away.