Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Rivalry had grown musty in recent years, tabloid hype or fodder for the loudest louts in the stands at Yankee Stadium or The Fens. But not much more than that. Not anymore.
Joe Kelly taking selfies with Derek Jeter as the Red Sox feted the Yankee captain in his last game in Boston a few years ago? Party in the Bronx for David Ortiz? Hardly qualifies as bitter. The teams, mostly, have not been juggernauts at the same time, not like the early-to-mid-2000s. The Rivalry super-villains faded from the majors and into Yankee-Red Sox lore. Relative peace settled over an old feud.
But thanks to Wednesday night's brawl in Boston, there's real heat between the Yankees and Red Sox again. The kind stoked by hard feelings and anger, blood and bruises. Maybe this next generation of the Rivalry is going to be as passionate as years past.
We're not advocating violence here, but baseball is better when these teams don't like each other. Yankees-Red Sox is must-see again and we have Tyler Austin and Kelly -- yes, the same guy who counts his selfie with Jeter as a career souvenir -- to thank for helping revive this decades-long contretemps.
Sure, they aren't boldface names like Pedro Martinez or Alex Rodriguez, two stars of Rivalry brawls of the past. But Austin and Kelly still belong on the fight card, along with Don Zimmer, Lou Piniella, Jason Varitek, Thurman Munson, Carlton Fisk and so many others.
Let's recap Wednesday night: Austin slid hard into Boston's Brock Holt in the third inning, catching him with a raised spike. You decide whether it was dirty; opinions from the clubhouses in Boston skewed to whatever jersey you were wearing. Holt didn't like it, said so and the benches cleared but there wasn't further incident. Then, anyway. Media reports said Holt's calf was cut on the play.
Four innings later, Kelly, who can reach 100 miles per hour with his fastball, took aim at Austin. Kelly missed Austin on his second pitch but drilled him in the left elbow with his fourth -- a 97.7-mph fastball.
Austin slammed down his bat and started toward the mound. Kelly encouraged him, gesturing, "Come on." The melee was on and it was riveting.
Austin landed an errant punch on Boston third-base coach Carlos Febles, clearly not his target. There was pushing and shoving. Other punches were thrown.
There were even cooler heads among the enraged. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the biggest guys nearly wherever they roam, tried to play peacemakers and together seemed to herd the scrum of combatants toward the Boston dugout. It was as if the Avengers were called in to quell an angry mob.
There were four ejections, including Kelly and Austin. Boston manager Alex Cora appeared to chirp at Yankee coaches from the Sox dugout.
Afterward, Kelly claimed the pitches "got away" -- the classic pitcher's response when horsehide meets flesh. Har, har. Not surprisingly, the Yankees don't believe him.
Suspensions doubtless are forthcoming. And while the folks at MLB's home office probably didn't like the brawl, the baseball world's attention is again focused on two of the game's signature franchises. And they play 16 more times this year.
The recipe is right for this to get really, really interesting. Like the old days.
Both teams are really, really good. The Yankees got to Game 7 of the AL Championship Series last year and everyone expects them to get at least that far this season, buoyed by a stable of young stars topped by Judge, Stanton, Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez.
But the Red Sox are the defending AL East champs, own the AL's best record and have their own lineup of thrilling talent, led by Chris Sale and Mookie Betts.
Maybe Wednesday night was the end of this chapter. Some tried to say so afterward. Again -- har, har! There have to be grudges simmering. Can't imagine the Yanks liked the camera shots of Cora squawking.
What happens the next time there's a hard slide? Or a real, actual errant pitch, no intent meant, drifts too close to a hitter?
Can't wait to find out.