More fuel for the Yankees-Red Sox fire

Posted by Alex Belth

I was talking to a friend last week after the David Ortiz news dropped and he took comfort that, at the very least, it would give this weekend's series between the Red Sox and the Yankees some added juice, pardon the expression. My pal is an avid fan and follows both teams closely but feels the rivalry has lost some oomph in recent years.

He believes that the steroids revelations have more than something to do with it. And it's not just the players who have been exposed. It is the uncertainty that surrounds all of the players. It's the loss of faith, not knowing what is real and what is not.

There was a palpable sense of disillusionment for many Red Sox fans last week. Manny Ramirez was old news. But Ortiz, the lovable Big Papi, the organization's greatest clutch hitter since Yaz, was something else. If Ortiz used PEDs, is nothing sacred?

The answer is: of course not. If Red Sox fans actually believed that the 2004 and 2007 championships were somehow "pure," they were fooling themselves. How can you cherry pick a "clean" team from the last twenty some odd years with a straight face? I understand why they wouldn't want to believe that Ortiz had used PEDs, but if anyone has a stat line that merits suspicion, it is Ortiz.

So the fate of the so-called "clean" players is that their virtue will be unrecognized; the legacy of the steroids era is a great ambiguity. We'll never know who did what when and who didn't.

Does this ruin the game? For some, perhaps it does. It may change our feelings about statistics or about the players themselves. Others don't care much at all. Fans haven't stopped coming to the parks. This isn't as crippling as a work stoppage.

So we don't trust players and we know everyone is in cahoots in the name of one thing: money. Our cynicism is confirmed. Now pass the peanuts and let's play ball.

One thing is for sure: the people that run the game can't destroy it. They've tried repeatedly and yet the game is thriving.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying I'm excited about the Yanks-Sox series, just like I have been for every series I've ever seen since the late 1970s. It is baseball's best drama, and it's most overhyped one.

Ah, how the rest of the country must roll their eyes when they hear about the greatness of this rivalry. How it features two teams with a long history, pompous owners, celebrity general managers, star players, huge payrolls, and the most self-possessed and self-satisfied fans in the country.

The Yankee dynasty teams of the 1990s helped create the modern Red Sox. It forced Boston to be smarter and better -- and they responded. Now, the Yankees are chasing the Red Sox.

Both teams have helped make the American League dominant. No trading deadline is complete without them playing high stake games of chicken.

The games are occasionally terrific since both teams are good. More often than not they are turgid, interminable affairs. What they don't lack is drama. So this weekend gives us another round of baseball WWE-style. The Yanks are 0-8 against the Sox this year. Are they spooked or do the Sox have a beating coming to them? The new Yankee Stadium is not as loud as the old one. The arrival of Ortiz gives the boo birds their first real chance to empty their lungs. Ortiz might even get booed more by the New York fans than Alex Rodriguez.

First place is at stake. It will be loud -- with Sox fans making up close to a third of the crowd -- and emotional. Maybe there will even be some good baseball.

Alex Belth is the founder of Bronx Banter (www.bronxbanterblog.com), now in its seventh season.