First Pitch: Rivalry missing A-Rod

NEW YORK -- You may hate Alex Rodriguez. In fact, most of you seem to. But you have to miss him a little this weekend.

A-Rod is the biggest figure in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry since George Herman Ruth.

Without him some intensity is lost from the rivalry. There is a little less intrigue and a lot less hate.

The tug-of-war between love and hate is what really makes rivalries special.

It is difficult to have much angst when everyone is making nice. The Red Sox, following basically every other player ever, all love Derek Jeter. Before Thursday's game, David Ortiz asked to meet Yangervis Solarte, and gave the kid some advice on how to have a long big league career.

Even when there is an apparent incident, the managers and players basically just ignore it, even if fans and media don't.

Kevin Millar told the New York Post the Yanks-Red Sox rivalry has become a little softer, saying:

The rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees got a little softer, a little friendlier. I think you see more of a rivalry with the Rays (and Red Sox). The one with the Yankees seems to be a little marshmallow-ish. You saw that kind of with (Mariano) Rivera last year, and now you’ve got (Derek) Jeter’s going-away tour. When’s the last time we’ve seen a good squabble between the Red Sox and Yankees?"

Well, last year actually. Ryan Dempster drilled Rodriguez on purpose for being, among other things, A-Rod. Rodriguez answered Dempster's deed later in the game with a towering homer, complete with a fist-pumping trot around the bases set to a soundtrack of Fenway boos. It was classic Yanks-Red Sox, love-hate stuff.

Now, Rodriguez is gone from the rivalry -- maybe forever. But he was the villain who stirred up both sides.

Ruth's last game as a Yankee and Rodriguez's first were seven decades apart. It may be another 70 years until there is another character as large as Ruth or Rodriguez in this rivalry. And for that reason, A-Rod is sorely missed.

On deck: On ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, Ivan Nova (1-1, 8.68) vs. Felix Doubront (1-1, 9.00 ERA). The Yankees are off on Monday.

Got you covered: Kieran Darcy, Gordon Edes and I will be there.

Question: Do you miss not having A-Rod in the rivalry?