Battle royale brewing
For those who thought the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry reached peak intensity last season, think again.
If you believe Aaron Boone settled anything between the Yankees and Red Sox last October, we offer this advice free of charge: keep a safe distance from the northeast corridor in 2004. It'll be a long, hot summer in the AL East, where the ever-morphing Bronx-Fenway rivalry figures to be even more combustible than ever.
Impossible, you protest? Nothing could match the heat generated in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series? There's no second act after Boone's 11th-inning home run off Tim Wakefield? Sir/madam -- that wasn't the end of the millennium war. It was only the beginning.
Here's why the Sox and Yankees are already the best one-on-one in baseball, just a day into April:
Because Grady Little lost his job over those last five outs Pedro Martinez never got.
Because the Red Sox went after Alex Rodriguez in November -- and failed.
Because the Yankees went after Alex Rodriguez in February -- and succeeded.
Because Schilling didn't want to pitch against AL East teams this spring training, hoping to keep his splitter a mystery as long as possible.
Because Schilling goes by the name "Gehrig38" on the Son of Sam Horn Web site.
Because Larry Lucchino likened the Yankees the "the evil empire" two winters ago, knowing it would enrage George Steinbrenner, and still jokes about it today.
Because the very first game the Yankees and Sox play this season -- April 16, a Friday night at Fenway -- will be nationally televised.
Because the starting time for that game was pushed back to 8 p.m., so more fans could watch.
Because the Yankees and Red Sox will be sharing Boston with the Democratic convention in July. Try finding a hotel room, let alone a ticket to any of the games.
Because tickets for the Yankees-Red Sox exhibition game in Fort Myers last month were being hawked on eBay for $500 each.
Because someone actually shelled out the money.
Because Sox fans hate Derek Jeter.
Because Sox fans will soon hate A-Rod.
Because a Sox fan in Fort Myers wore a T-shirt with the Sports Illustrated photo of A-Rod and his wife -- replacing her head with Jeter's.
Because Aaron Boone will forever be known as AF Boone in Boston. Just like BF Dent.
Because Steinbrenner's YES Network just trumped Cablevision in arbitration. Cablevision must now include Yankee broadcasts as part of its basic, not premium, package and must also pay YES $58 million this year, a $20 million increase from 2003. Now you know why the Yankee payroll is large enough to feed a third-world nation.
Because it's perfectly obvious Steinbrenner will commit that $20 million directly toward a pursuit of Nomar Garciaparra as a free agent next winter.
Because it still burns Steinbrenner that Lucchino was able to trade for Schilling, when the Yankees couldn't.
Because it still burns Lucchino that Steinbrenner snatched Jose Contreras as a free agent two years ago, when the Red Sox couldn't.
Because it worries Steinbrenner that the Red Sox might have a better starting rotation than the Yankees this year.
Because, Pedro Martinez, the most-hated man in the Bronx, will still find a way to deal with the Yankees' offense, even if he really is losing his fastball.
Because Pedro Martinez sent Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano to the hospital last year, after hitting them both.
Because Pedro didn't even pretend to be sorry.
Because Pedro body-slammed Don Zimmer.
Because Pedro didn't say he was sorry about that, either.
Because Red Sox fans gave Roger Clemens a standing ovation after his last regular-season start at Fenway last September, moving him to tears.
Because Joe Torre is treated with respect everywhere he goes in Boston.
Because Manny Ramirez is a New Yorker.
Because Manny is the best pure hitter in baseball when he's in the mood -- and a "punk" when he's not, according to Goose Gossage.
Because the former Yankee reliever shouted at the TV, "kill that (expletive)" when he saw Manny approach the mound with a bat in his hands after an up-and-in fastball from Roger Clemens.
Because Garcia, no longer with the Yankees, still bad-mouths Pedro. Told that, Martinez said he'd better respect the pitcher, Garcia stated, "who said I ever respected him?"
Because Yankee president Randy Levine cited Fenway's "lawlessness" during the playoffs.
Because the Yankees' PR director was involved in a verbal altercation with a Sox employee during spring training.
Because Yankees' GM Brian Cashman is young and smart.
Because Red Sox' GM Theo Epstein is young and smart.
Because the two rarely speak to each other.
Because the Yankees just might sign Boone later this summer if his knee heals quickly -- just in time for the three-game series at Fenway on Sept. 24, the final weekend of the regular season.
Because Torre might pencil in his new second baseman as "A.F. Boone."
Because that's his name in Boston, now and forever.
Bob Klapisch of The Record (Bergen County, N.J.) covers baseball for ESPN.com.