Bobby V brings Rex effect to rivalry

TAMPA, Fla. -- On their Super Bowl run, there were New York Giants players and fans who couldn't help but point to the silenced Rex Ryan. Most notably, Brandon Jacobs felt compelled to stomp on Ryan's words with some of his own on Christmas Eve.

Ryan's quote-a-minute style resulted in New York football being viewed through the prism of his loud voice. Ryan's repeated declarations led to a little extra satisfaction for the Giants when they defeated the Jets on the way to winning football's greatest prize.

The Rex Ryanization of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry could be felt at George Steinbrenner Field as Bobby Valentine arrived for Tuesday's spring training game. Valentine is the now ringleader of the rivalry, a man who will make victories and losses either sweeter or more bitter for fans.

Boston's new manager knows what he is getting himself into with his words.

"I have found that if you try to annoy people with great talent, they usually have the last laugh," Valentine said, almost predicting a Ryan-like conclusion.

The Ryan comparison is imperfect. Valentine is not boasting about potential championships or owning cities or repeating unfulfilled claims. But Bobby V, just by being Bobby V, is an expert at needling. It is Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez one day and his latest foil, Ozzie Guillen, the next.

On Monday, Valentine waved goodbye to a tossed Guillen during an exhibition. This inspired the Marlins' manager to say Valentine could go "[expletive] himself."

"Isn't that his standard comment on everything?" a grinning Valentine said in the road dugout at The Boss. "Has he ever not said that about anything?"

Prior to the game, Valentine had an audience of more than 30 media members hanging on each of his syllables for 20 minutes, wondering who he would ding. He had his entertaining moments, but declined to produce any headlines outside of the Guillen laughter.

The session went so long that a Yankees PR person had to retrieve some New York media members to see if they wanted to talk to Joe Girardi in the home dugout.

Only 15 media members listened to Girardi's much more mundane and shorter session. If anyone misses Terry Francona, it may be the Yankees' manager, who has a new chore.

"It is part of my job to answer those questions," the always workmanlike Girardi said of Valentine queries. "I'm sure he is going to be a different flavor because he is a different manager."

But there is something about Valentine's smile, his words and his persona that agitate. For years, it was said that Bobby Cox's hatred of Valentine fueled him to manage harder against the Mets.

It is partly because Valentine will go places others won't. Most managers would never refer to how a counterpart complained about anything, even the rivalry.

"I remember Joe [Torre] complaining about it. [That's] Joe 1," Valentine said about what he might expect in the rivalry.

"Joe 2," Valentine said of Girardi, "I've also heard him complain, so it is probably something that wears on you."

Valentine has always been paradox as a person. He said it is not his rivalry, but he clearly loves being in the spotlight.

"The players who play in this rivalry are going to be remembered by fandoms on both sides and historians of baseball across the world," Valentine said. "This is their rivalry."

You don't think this is your rivalry?

"They allowed me to be part of it," Valentine said.

Yes, the Red Sox have put Valentine in the middle of the rivalry. Yankees GM Brian Cashman has already called the Valentine era the "next chapter."
Depending on where you are sitting in the stands, Valentine is the protagonist or the antagonist now of the most compelling soap opera in sports.

On Christmas Eve, Ryan had to deal with Jacobs. Valentine imagined a scenario when his words could come back at him.

"You annoy [talented players] and then someone runs around the bases and points into your dugout and your whole team feels embarrassed for you," Valentine said.

On April 20, the Yankees and Valentine's Red Sox will meet for the first time. On that Friday night at Fenway, the finger pointing will begin in earnest. All eyes -- and ears -- will be on No. 25 in the home dugout.