BOSTON -- Another night in the AL Championship Series, another to-the-death struggle between the Yankees and Red Sox. Is there any doubt these two teams are headed for Game 7?
If the apocalypse does occur Thursday night in the Bronx, the entire baseball world will be watching -- including two ex-Yankees who are openly rooting for the demise of Red Sox Nation.
To Goose Gossage and Graig Nettles, hating the Sox is just as easy today as it was in 1978.
"I was watching (Game 3) lying in my bed, and when (Manny) Ramirez starts walking to the mound with a bat in his hand, I jumped up and started screaming at the TV set, 'Kill that (expletive),' " Gossage said.
The former closer was practically shouting into his cell phone Monday afternoon, driving near his home in Colorado Springs. He was shouting not because of the long-distance connection, but because he equates Ramirez with Carlton Fisk, and considers Pedro Martinez a latter-day Bill Lee.
In other words, they are the enemy. Still.
Watching Martinez's fourth-inning fastball sail near Karim Garcia's head and seeing Ramirez threaten Roger Clemens with a bat was, for Gossage and Nettles, an invitation to a '70s time tunnel. Just mention Ramirez and Martinez, and you're back to an era when on-the-record quotes were unfiltered, and the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry wasn't just real; it was its own Northeast-corridor religion.
"Manny Ramirez is a (coward). I hope he reads that," Gossage said Monday. "If he pulled that stuff in the old days, he would've gotten back in the box and I guarantee you he would've had the next pitch in his earlobe. The guy is a one-dimensional player. He can hit -- a little. But he can't even hit when it counts."
Nettles' opinion of Ramirez is just as bleak.
"He's a dog," the former third baseman said by telephone from Knoxville, Tenn. "He does nothing but loaf. Ramirez loafs on the bases, in the field. He loafs all the time. For all the money he makes, he should buy a book about how the game is played.
"To be honest, I hope the Yankees kill the Red Sox, embarrass them, 18-0. I hope I never have to watch Ramirez play again. That's what a dog he is."
Gossage and Nettles have plenty of venom for Martinez, who they're convinced deliberately tried to bean Garcia. When Martinez went one step further -- taunting the Yankees dugout, pointing at his temple while apparently threatening Jorge Posada -- Gossage lost whatever respect he says he once had for Martinez.
"That skinny little (expletive)," the Goose said loudly. "There's no question he threw right at Garcia's head. That's totally gutless. It's too bad he doesn't have to hit, because I guarantee you he wouldn't be throwing at hitters like that."
Even more outrageous, the two elder Yankees said, was the fact that Martinez went unpunished during the ensuing bench-clearing incident. Although Nettles excused Martinez for flinging Don Zimmer to the ground -- "I don't blame him for that, it was like, 'Get away from me,' " he said -- both men were disappointed the Yankees didn't seek out the Red Sox ace during the brawl.
"We would've chased Pedro right into the stands," Nettles said. "There's no way we would've been milling around like that. Garcia should've been the first one to go after Pedro. That's how you know the game has changed today. There's no way you let a 72-year-old man do your dirty work for you."
"I can't believe no one in the bullpen went after Martinez," Gossage said, agreeing with Nettles. "If it was me, I would've gone right for him. We would've finished it right there."
Goose took particular issue with Ramirez's behavior after a high fastball from Clemens. Indeed, the Rocket said in a postgame interview, "Somewhere Goose and Gator (Ron Guidry) must be smiling," because after all the pushing and shoving, the Yankees exacted their revenge by winning the game.
But Gossage noted that, in his era, the Bombers' score-settling would've been far more direct, if not violent
"You want to bring a bat to the mound? Let him try," Gossage said. "Ramirez might've gotten one of us (pitchers), but he wouldn't have gotten all 10. You wouldn't have seen him the rest of the series, I promise you, because we would've put him in the hospital.
"I saw what he did (in Game 5 of the ALDS against Oakland), pointing into the dugout after he hit a home run. Someone should've put him right on his butt for that. That made me sick. He hardly ever hits when it counts, and he has the (guts) to do that? Give me a break."
In fairness to the Red Sox, Gossage praised Jason Varitek, whom he called, "a real hard-nosed ballplayer, someone who could've played on our teams, for sure." But his benevolence didn't go much further than that.
In Goose's eyes, Ramirez -- and even Sammy Sosa -- represent all that is wrong about today's hitter: vain and hyper-sensitive, overreacting to the slightest provocation, real or imagined.
With obvious scorn, Gossage said the pitch Ramirez reacted to "would've been a strike if it was a little lower. He got mad over nothing. (Hitters) want it all their way, and they're getting it because it's the pitchers who are afraid. They're all the same: Ramirez, Sosa. They're all (cowards)."
Gossage went for another five minutes, casting a wide net over the modern-day player. Still, he returned to the core issue -- the Yankees-Red Sox war. Fenway will be loud and hostile for tonight's Game 5, but Gossage insists there are facts of life that never change, even after a quarter-century.
"They think they can intimidate the Yankees?" Gossage said. "(Bleep) them. No one can do that."
Bob Klapisch of The Record (Bergen County, N.J.) covers baseball for ESPN.com.