Shortly after Shaq Fu was traded to Phoenix a few months ago, the Suns were playing a nationally televised game against the Spurs. At one point, Shaq was lying on the ground and Tim Duncan offered him a hand. Shaq ignored him. Hey, just like the olden days, I thought. Which brought to mind a story that Jeff Pearlman wrote for SI on the changing nature of the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry back in 2002:
Like many notable encounters, this one was accidentala simple, unexpected meeting of...well, rear ends. Really, it was perfect. How many times over the years had they crossed paths and thought of growling, Kiss my ass? And here they were, Dwight Evans and Willie Randolph, posterior to posterior on one of their old battlegrounds, Yankee Stadium.
This took place last Friday, roughly two hours before the first-place Boston Red Sox and the second-place New York Yankees, baseball's greatest rivals, were to meet for the ninth of the 19 games that their fans are being blessed with this season. Randolph, the Yankees' third base coach and their former six-time All-Star second baseman, was standing on the pitcher's mound, gathering the balls left scattered from his team's batting practice session. Evans, the Red Sox hitting coach and their former three-time All-Star rightfielder, was strolling toward the hill to begin tossing BP to his club. As he was chatting with Red Sox infielder Carlos Baerga, Evans accidentally backed into Randolph, who was bent over at the waist. The two men turned around, and for an instant their eyes met. Then they spoke.
Evans: "Hey, Willie, how's it going?"
Randolph: "Pretty good...pretty good."
And that was that. As Randolph jogged toward the home clubhouse, he was stopped by a reporter who had witnessed the scene. Randolph shook his head and sighed. "Man," he said, embarrassed that there'd been a witness to the friendly exchange. "You saw that?"
From 1976 through '88, when Evans and Randolph were principals in the great rivalry at the same time, the two teams detested each other. It wasn't just that the clubs were routinely clawing for American League East supremacy. (Over those 13 seasons, the two combined for six division titles and five World Series appearances.) No, members of each team had a genuine dislike for the other. "It was hatred, no question," says Randolph. "I'm sure they thought we all had attitudes, and we felt the same way about them. There was no talking before games, no hanging out by the batting cage. Just snarling."
As Randolph was speaking, a familiar scene unfolded nearby that curdled his old-school blood. Two Yankees jogged alongside a couple of Red Sox, chatting like long-lost brothers. And in the outfield a gaggle of Boston pitchers exchanged pleasantries with their New York counterparts. There was laughter with backslaps andegads!handshakes, the byproducts of free agency run amok. "I guess it's O.K. for me to say 'Hi' to Dwight because he's a coach now," says Randolph. "But as a player I wouldn't even look at him. Nowadays you see Red Sox and Yankees running in the outfield, hugging each other. That bothers me, but what can I do? Nothing's the same anymore. Everything's changed."
True enough. But that doesn't mean you have to like it. Just ask Joel Sherman:
If you do not read my friend Ken Davidoff's work in Newsday, you really should. He splendidly combines excellent reporting instincts and deep thought on subjects. In his column today, he talks about how Joba Chamberlain has formed bonds with many young stars around the game, including Boston's Clay Buchholz. Ken reports in the column that Chamberlain wished Buchholz good luck in a text message before a start last September, and then Buchholz went out and pitched a no-hitter. Now call me old-fashioned, but I hate that stuff.
I know these are new times, where so many players move around to different teams or share agents or have common interests that bond them beyond the game. But this is Yankees-Red Sox. I don't think Yankee players should be wishing good luck to the Red Sox.
I will share a story that details this more clearly my thoughts. This occurred last year at Fenway Park. I noticed that several Yankees had met up with David Ortiz behind the batting cage during batting practice, and they were hugging and joking. This was a quite common occurrence. One you could see if not every day, then nearly every Yankee-Red Sox series. So I asked a group of Yankee players (who will go nameless here) this: "Let me ask you a question, what the (bleep) does that guy have to do to your team to get someone here to stand up and tell those who would joke around with him, 'hey that guy has caused this organization more anguish and robbed more glory and money from us than maybe any player in history. So why don't you stop (bleeping) around with him?'"
The players in the group, while acknowledging that the fraternization had gone a little too far, said that in this era you can't tell teammates that or you will cause more problems than you think you may be solving.