- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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Have you heard enough about the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry yet?
So much has been written and said about The Greatest Rivalry in Sports this year that you would think Jessica Simpson and Donald Trump were in the starting rotations. So many reporters crowded the pressbox for The Greatest Rivalry in Sports that it looked like All-U-Can-Eat night at The Sizzler -- and that was just for the first spring training game. There was so much attention on the first regular-season game of The Greatest Rivalry in Sports last weekend that Fox broadcast it nationally in prime time (though I'm not sure it was an official Fox prime-time broadcast because the cameras didn't zoom in on anyone from the cast of "The O.C.").
How out of control has the Yankees-Red Sox hype gotten? Pedro Martinez is on the cover of the latest Business Week. Yes, Business Week. What's next? Vanity Fair? People? Women's Wear Daily? "New fashion trend: Are pinstripes out and red sox in?"
The funny thing is that by exploring the Internet and examining the sports pages back behind the tire and Viagra ads, you will find that other major league teams still stubbornly persist in playing games outside Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium. I know, I know. I didn't realize there still were other baseball teams, either. Like you, I thought they had all been turned into farm clubs to feed The Greatest Rivalry in Sports but apparently, that is not the case.
There not only are other teams in baseball, some have better records than the Red Sox or the Yankees. And some of those teams just might be better than the Red Sox or the Yankees. And some of those teams just might play in the World Series instead of the Red Sox or the Yankees.
Teams like Oakland and Anaheim.
While The Greatest Rivalry in Sports seized control of every media outlet west of Interstate 5 last weekend, Oakland and Anaheim matched their 1-2-3 starters against each other and unlike the Red Sox and Yankees, when their three-game series was over one of the teams was actually in first place and the other was in second. They meet again this weekend. No, it's not The Greatest Rivalry in Sports but you might want to peek in anyway when you're through reading Business Week. "Growth fund tip: 'Yankees suck' T-shirts."
"Oh, I think there's a rivalry. You don't have to have guys wanting to kill each other for it to be a rivalry," Oakland's Scott Hatteberg said. "We cherish those wins against the Angels. We know they're a team we're going to have to beat. We finish the season with three games against each other and we know each win is precious.
"There's no animosity but there is a certain level of intensity when we play each other. It's a great group of guys involved and we've played a lot of great games against each other so there is definitely a high feeling there for us when we play."
Oakland lost its second MVP in three years, shortstop Miguel Tejada, yet the Athletics once again seem unfazed. They still have the league's best starting rotation fronted by Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito. Third baseman Eric Chavez is newly signed to a long-term extension while right fielder Jermaine Dye (.319, seven home runs, 18 RBI) appears to have finally recovered his stroke. They appeared headed for their fifth consecutive postseason despite a payroll that would barely cover the monthly cable fee for the YES network.
Anaheim added right fielder Vlad Guerrero and ace Bartolo Colon to what is pretty much the same roster that won the World Series two years ago. Guerrero is slumping and the Angels struggled against the Rangers, but they're still a strong favorite to reach the postseason. "They've got some offense over there," Oakland catcher Damian Miller said. "They've got some bigger name players but we've got guys who can do the job, too."
And while Oakland and Anaheim play in the Bay Area, down in Los Angeles the Dodgers and Giants renew what may actually be the best baseball rivalry and what is certainly the most even. True, the Dodgers' recent struggles have sapped some venom from the rivalry but that was true of The Greatest Rivalry in Sports when the Yankees were such a delightful mess in the early '90s. And the Giants-Dodgers feud will revive just as The Greatest Rivalry in Sports did.
Perhaps it already has. The Dodgers are in first place and the two teams played three one-run games last weekend in San Francisco. Each game was a sellout and Barry Bonds hit four home runs, including one off Eric Gagne that Patrick Hayashi and Alex Popov are still searching for so they can auction it off for a loss.
While everyone back east is focusing on Alex Rodriguez and his struggle to reach the Mendoza Line, Bonds is hitting home runs so often and so far that the collectors have moved from McCovey Cove to Monterey Bay. He made an out the other day, dropping his average to .500 and he hasn't passed a Hall of Famer or a family member on the all-time home run list in more than a week. He's swung and missed seven times this season. He's swung and hit a home run nine times.
"It's like Barry Bonds is playing Little League," Seattle second baseman Bret Boone said. "I mean, take a check swing every once in awhile, will you?"
Will anyone notice when these four teams play again this weekend? Probably not. After all, the Greatest Rivalry in Sports is going on at Yankee Stadium. New York stores have been out of stock on face paint for weeks.
But that's all right. Let the Greatest Rivalry in Sports have its 15 decades of fame. Come October, everyone will be paying attention to West Coast baseball.
Hmmm. Maybe if the Rally Monkey charged out of the dugout and attacked Barry Zito ...
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
This weekend has Angels-Athletics and Dodgers-Giants, two series with more juice than another Bronx affair.