With Opening Day quickly approaching, baseball fans are rejoicing. So please, let’s all cement our World Series predictions, cast our premature ballots for MVP and still hold onto hope that Wandy Rodriguez will finally become the Cy Young candidate the Houston Astros front office promised.
Okay, okay. I know am the only one wishing Wandy can pitch—for both my rooting interest in the Astros and my fantasy team.
But as Major League Baseball approaches Opening Night in Philadelphia, the best six months of the year is about to begin.
Because let’s face it. For us baseball enthusiasts in the Northeast—a.k.a. Yankee-Red Sox nations—the winter is cold, gloomy and filled with annoying 24-hour coverage of the NFL, which just ended and is six month away from starting, and highlight clips of NBA players dunking, which is an amazing achievement for a 6'8"-inch athletic freak of nature.
None of these offseason topics interest baseball fanatics. After the Super Bowl, it’s a constant count down.
“Oh, baby. It’s (X amount of days) until the pitchers and catchers report!”
“Man, I can’t wait (X amount of days) to watch Manny Ramirez hit a 500-foot home run against a Single-A pitcher!”
“Phew. Done! Glad, I just finished breaking down the Nationals’ second-string minor league bullpen catcher for my fantasy draft which is in (X amount of days)!”
“Wow, I can’t believe it’s only (X amount of days) until the Philadelphia Phillies play the Atlanta Braves.”
It’s truly an exciting time. Well, for most baseball fanatics.
For baseball fans who live in the Yankee-Red Sox battleground states and have no rooting interest in either team, the day after Opening Day begins a six-month war of words.
This is a battle has few rules. However, through casual observation a person can easily interpret the commandments.
Rule one, if you see a fan of the “Team We Hate” (because of the contractual agreement of 1908) we shall immediately assume they’re (insert a homophobic insult).
Thus, if you are introduced to a TWH fan make sure you assume they’re a (insert a homophobic insult) and call them a (insert a homophobic insult) every time you see them at a sports bar, sporting event or party, which involves large amounts of alcohol.
Note: This rule was established so everyone, who does not root for “Our Team” or the TWH, knows which fans are (insert a homophobic insult) and which ones are not (insert a homophobic insult).
Rule two, if an argument should arise a Yankee-Red Sox fan should follow these steps:
First, mention how many championships your team has won, this includes championships of the past 100-years when you were not alive (if you’re a Yankee fan) or championships won in the past five season when you just became a fan (if you’re a Red Sox fan).
Second, become drunker.
Third, become louder.
Fourth, mention the TWH’s payroll (if you’re a Red Sox fan) or repeat the number 26, over-and-over for the next hour (if you’re a Yankees fan).
Fifth, call the TWH fan a (insert a homophobic insult).
Each year it’s the same play book used by the same buffoons. But too be honest, even though the Yankee-Red Sox fan can be the most dislikable in all of sports, you need to respect their passion.
I was also going to say, “passion and knowledge” but couldn’t because every time someone wears a Brooklyn Dodgers’ hat into place of social gathering. Sox’s fans almost always react with, “Hey, there’s another Boston guy!”
However, a funny thing happens each season. Fans in the red and navy blue states get sucked into what’s happening between the rivals. And we actually, somewhat always, enjoy it.
So, for those baseball fans who are non Yankee-Red Sox supporters, but enjoy listening to bar room arguments which involve the Bloods and the Crips; here is a list of five topics you will hear debated throughout the 2009 season.
Alex Rodriguez steroid jokes vs. Jason Varitek letter “C” jokes.
In 2009, A-Roid wins this contest hands down. However, in the past Varitek’s “C” has been made fun of more than Damon’s rocket arm.
After hitting .220 in 2008, the captain- with a “C”-earned a one-year deal to return to Boston. But did the Red Sox’s loyalty go too far?
Heck, even the Astros had to cut Brad Ausmus, who spend eight-years in Houston, after hitting below .240 for the past three seasons. And the 'Stros are in the National League, where hitting is an option.
Captain or not, Varitek is a liability to the Red Sox’s lineup. Don’t be shocked if Boston makes a move at the trading deadline for a catcher who can at least be more productive than a letter in the alphabet.
In the case of A-Rod, it’s interesting to listen to Yankee fans talk about him. It’s much like having an alcoholic family member who everybody roots for and just when he seems he’s become a likable guy, he finds a way to screw it up.
Here are Rodriguez’s accomplishments over the past year in a half after his 2007 MVP season:
He convinced Hank Steinbrenner to talk with baseball salary terrorist, Scott Boras, after Steinbrenner insisted he wanted nothing to do with Alex (nice job).
He signed a $270 million deal (money in the bank).
He compiled another .300 BA, 35 HR, 100 RBI, 100 R, season (what else is new?).
He slept with a stripper (that’s not much to brag about).
He slept with an Elliot Spitzer’s escort(s) (getting better).
He dates Madonna (oh man, this is fun!).
He divorces his wife (classy move).
He gets caught with steroids (shame on you).
Now, he has a bad hip (should have listened to those steroid commercials).
What’s next? We find out his a bisexual with a French guy named Antoine.
I just answered the first argument with A-Rod joke No. 1,532!
Brett Gardner vs. Jacoby Ellsbury or Melky Cabrera vs. Ellsbury?
This issue doesn’t seem like a big topic. But it is a huge question, which needs to be answered by both teams.
The Yanks just announced days ago Gardner, for now, is their center fielder.
Gardner, who hit above .350 with three home runs, had a tremendous spring. According to many scouts and TV analysts, Gardner won the job because of his speed, which plays favorably to Yanks’ manager Joe Girardi's style.
Hitting above .330 in Spring Training, Cabrera, made a strong (but not good enough) push to try and keep his starting job. Last season, Cabrera hit just .249 in 129 games-a huge drop from his 2007 season which he hit .273 and collected 73 RBI.
Cabrera isn’t Bernie Williams. But either is Gardner. So, how are New York fans going to react when they realize Gardner-Cabrera should be batting lead-off for the San Diego Padres?
Well, they may feel better when Sox’s fans realize Ellsbury’s isn’t the second coming of Jesus Christ. Yes, Ellsbury has tremendous speed, which allowed him to collect 50 stolen bases last year.
Yes, Ellsbury can hit and get on base a bit, which he showed with his .280 BA and .336 OBP from 2008.
Yes, Ellsbury can flash the leather.
But Boston fans will admit he wasn’t the stud they thought he would be-as shown by the Boston front office keeping Coco Crisp around for the playoffs.
Crip is gone and Rocco “I-Don’t-Know-When-My-Next-DL-Stint-Will-Be” Baldelli is backing him up.
The answer: Yankee fans will try their best to defend it, but it’s a no brainier. Ellsbury, because he’s still has a lot of room to improve, the ladies love him and if Gardner or Cabrera plan does not work. The Yanks will be “Money Balling” it with Nick Swisher or girlie arming it with Johnny Damon in center.
Mark Teixeira or Kevin Youkilis?
For some reason the last name Youkilis makes Yankee fans vomit in their mouth just a little bit.
Youkilis, who in 2008 compiled a career-best season batting .312 with 29 HR, 115 RBI and 91 R, drives Yankee fans crazy because his not an outstanding athlete but is an outstanding baseball player.
“That guy is a (insert homophobic insult),” boasts most Yankee followers. “He has no athletic ability. He has a terrible goatee and is just terrible.”
This is outstanding, expert analysts from baseball’s most knowledgeable fans.
The truth is, Youkilis is not a great athlete but year-in and year-out he’s a steady, solid corner infielder who gets the job done.
He can work the a count, draw walks and collects meaningful RBI when needed. How can you not like this guy?
Oh wait. How could I forget?
New York spent half of President Obama’s bailout money to bring Teixeira to the Big Apple. Teixeira is a Gold Glove winner and a switch-hitter who can put up 30 HR and knock-in over 100 RBI with his eyes closed.
Yankee fans will love him because not only can he stroll into any night club and snag any women he chooses. He is also likable character much like Tino Martinez was.
Not to mention he gets better as the season goes along, unlike other corner infielders for the Pinstripers.
The answer: even though I love Youkilis and his rude goatee, Teixeira is better and Yankee fans will love the stuff he brings to their team. This pairing will be fun to compare as the season progresses.
Derek Jeter vs. Dustin Pedroia.
Since 1995 it has been the same town, the same aura, the same guy.
A measure of constancy in New York, Jeter, is nothing but a legend in pinstripes.
But after collecting only 11 HR and 69 RBI in 150 games, Jeter, whose defense range has declined so much the Yankee’s may need to get him Rascal Scooter, is nearing the end of his shortstop career.
With TV analysts, stat junkies and Boston fans knocking every move Jeter makes. People are beginning to criticize Jeter for what he can no longer do, instead of what he still can do.
Remember, he’s still the guy you want up in clutch situations. He’s still the guy you want fielding the ball to close out the game.
He’s still the guy selling over priced tickets in every stadium in the MLB. He’s still the Yankee captain and he doesn’t need to wear a “C’ on his uniform to collect a one-year deal.
For 14 seasons Red Sox’s fans have had no answer for Jeter.
This season will be different as Boston enters the season with the American League MVP Dustin Pedroia.
Much like Youkilis, Pedroia makes New York supporters want to chase squirrels with a weed eater. It’s sad really because minus the good looks, Pedroia is much like a young Jeter.
Just look at Jeter’s second and third year in the Big Leagues compared to Pedroia’s second and third year.
Jeter: .314, 104 R, 10 HR, 78 RBI (’96); .291 BA, 116 R, 10 HR, 70 RBI (’97).
Pedroia: .317 BA, 86 R, 8 HR, 50 RBI (’07); .326 BA, 118 R, 17 HR, 83 RBI (’08).
Each player won the Rookie of the Year award. Each has won Gold Gloves.
Jeter has a couple more Silver Slugger Awards and World Series Championships.
Pedroia answers with the MVP Award.
Yet because one wears Yankee blue and the other red, neither can be liked by each side. Oh, what a harsh divided nation we live in.
The answer: Jeter because...well...he’s Derek Jeter.
Who will win the American League East?
So, you’re at the point of the night where the Yankee-Red Sox argument is at its highest level.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” says the Yankee fan.
“Pleaseeeeee.” Replies the Sox fan. “How did the playoffs look last year? Oh, wait. You didn’t make it!”
“We will see about that this year,” mumbles the Pinstriper.
“(Laugh) Okay, buddy,” mocks the Boston fan.
You finally chime in.
“You know, you guys need to stop this argument because neither of your teams is going to the playoffs.”
“What the hell do you know?,” asks both of them.
“Well, I do know a couple things,” you reply with confidence because you read my article.
“I know the team that won the AL East last season wasn’t Boston or New York. It was the Tampa Bay Rays who return all of its players from last season.
I know they added Pat Burrell, a right-handed bat who can hit 30 HR and knock-in close to 100 RBI. I know they found out its star pitching prospect David Price can throw lasers.
You add him to a rotation with James Shields, Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza, that’s a long series for both your teams. I know Evan Longoria is legit.
I know B.J. Upton has 25-30 HR power with a healthy right-shoulder. I know Carlos Pena isn’t a fraud.
I know Tampa’s defense better then both of yours combined. I know the Yankee’s can’t beat the Los Angeles Angels.
Did I forget about Toronto, who is in your division, and is looking to breakout this year. I know this conversation for the past four hours is annoying.
And I know my Philadelphia Phillies will repeat as World Series Champions. So, put that in your pipe and smoke it!”
You leave with your chin up, a grin from ear-to-ear and an open tab for the whole bar to drink on.
Enjoy the season everybody.
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