When David Ortiz takes to the
field plate later tonight, it will mark his 101st regular season game as a member of the Red Sox facing the Yankees. Since 2003, no one on Boston has faced the Yankees more often than Ortiz has, and he knows the rivalry quite well.
Lately, though, Ortiz has been a shell of the player who killed the Yankees in 2003 and 2004. As Alan Schwarz detailed yesterday, Ortiz is an out-of-shape DH-only player, and those do not age gracefully. While his bat has shown signs of life over the last few games, he is hitting .220/.294/.322 with no home runs in the early going. He’s either primed for a breakout or has entered what we’ll diplomatically call the “decline” phase of his career.
Yesterday, in preparation for this weekend’s big series against the Yankees, the Red Sox vet offered up some unsolicited advice to the Yankees. Particularly, Ortiz decided to warn Joba Chamberlain about his past headhunting. “None of that, man — just play the game the way it’s supposed to be, and that’s about it,” Ortiz said “This is a guy, as good as he is, the next step for him will be to earn respect from everybody in the league. He’s not a bad guy, but when things like that happen, people get the wrong idea.”
Apparently, Kevin Youkilis can’t speak up for himself.
Anyway, when Joba takes the mound tonight, he’ll get the hero’s welcome in Boston, but he has a game to win. He has to keep his emotions — and his fastball — under control, and he will have to go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox ace. Last year, he outdueled Josh Beckett in Boston to announce his arrival as a Major League starter. This year, he’ll have to go toe-to-toe with Jon Lester, arguably a better pitcher than Beckett. It is no small task, and with boos raining down, it won’t be the easiest environment in which Joba must pitch.
But Chamberlain isn’t the only player due for some Boston scorn. While A-Rod, the object of New England’s collective affection, won’t be there, Mark Teixeira will, and you know what they say about a lover scorned. As the Yanks’ first baseman said to The Star-Ledger, he expects a hostile crowd tonight. “I’m sure they’ll be heavy boos,” Teixeira said. “I would expect nothing less from those fans. I would expect nothing less than tons of boos and tons of energy in the stadium. This is a great rivalry. It’s going to be a fun weekend.”
The Red Sox will be booing at Teixeira because he had the audacity to take a better offer in New York when the team’s owner refused to up his deal by another $10 million. Teixeira reminded anyone listening of that fact yesterday. “I enjoyed talking with the Red Sox all offseason,” he said. “There’s no question why the Red Sox are in the position they are. Because he’s an incredible GM and they have a great organization. There were opportunities for every team that I dealt with. Every team had a chance. Every team was given an opportunity to make their best offer. In the end, the Yankees made the best and it was a great fit for me.”
And so it goes. It’s the same game with new faces, and those new faces are fitting in off the field quite nicely. Welcome to the Red Sox/Yankees Rivalry 2009.