Believe it or not, its been almost a decade since the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was in full swing. In 2003 it was Aaron “f-ing” Boone, who out of nowhere hit an ALCS winning walk off home run, seeming to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the curse of the Bambino was more than just superstition. One year and one ball slap later, the Red Sox erased an 86 year championship drought after eliminating the Yankees in arguably the greatest comeback in the history of sports.
Since then, baseball’s biggest rivalry has been on a slow and steady decline. Yes, there was Damon switching sides in ’05 and Hank Steinbrenner criticizing the so called “Red Sox Nation” in ’08, but by the time then Yankee Russell Martin said “I hate the Red Sox” in 2011, his remarks felt a bit contrived, and given the crumbling state of the rivalry, downright hollow. With most of the players from the ’03-’04 days having changed teams or retired, ten years later, baseball’s most storied rivalry seemed to be all but dead.
It wasn’t until a summer night in August, a mere three weeks ago, that this once heated feud showed a legitimate sign it just might return to its former glory. Ryan Dempster, a man who had pitched in all of 25 games for the Sox, decided to play the role of vigilante, hurling fastball after fastball at Alex Rodriguez in an effort to punish him for his alleged, and albeit, very likely, PED abuse.
The response was electric. Both benches were warned, Joe Girardi got himself thrown out of the game, and two innings later, A-Rod got revenge in the best possible way by launching an absolute moon shot over the wall in center. Never one to shy away from attention, he pumped his fists as he rounded the bases, and before stepping on home plate, made sure to appropriate David Ortiz’s classic home run celebration. The boos from the Red Sox faithful were, to say the least, vociferous.
If there’s one thing to take away from that night, it’s this: Dempster’s actions were so despicable, that somehow, the most hated man in baseball became a sympathetic figure. The behavior on both sides of the diamond was reprehensible, immoral, and damn it, extremely entertaining. Dempster’s move was perhaps the dirtiest thing to happen between these two teams since Pedro Martinez famously threw Don Zimmer to the ground during the 2003 ALCS.
With the Dempster incident at the forefront of everyone’s mind, the forthcoming matchup between these once bitter rivals is as intriguing as it’s been in years. Girardi has gone on record saying that the Yankees won’t retaliate, but with the young fireballer Ivan Nova taking the mound tonight, who knows what his emotions might lead him to do. If ever the rivalry was going to be renewed, this four game set in the Bronx would be a pretty good place to start.