“I hate the Red Sox. They are fun to play against because they have a quality team and they’re gritty and they play hard and stuff. But I’d love to see them lose.’’
— Yankees catcher Russell Martin,
in the Sept. 23 edition of The Boston Globe
In the storied — and, yes, hate-filled — rivalry between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the cast of characters is virtually endless: Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Bucky Dent, Thurman Munson, Bill Lee, Graig Nettles, Carlton Fisk, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Varitek.
Red Sox-Yankees has never lacked for drama. Regardless of where the teams were situated in the standings, every series was gritty, every matchup fell under a microscope, and every play was finely dissected. Up through the turn of the century, New York clearly had the upper hand on Boston. And, honestly, it wasn’t really much of a “rivalry.”
But along came the Idiots and the rest is history.
These days, Red Sox-Yankees games are known more for their interminable length than any clash or confrontation that occurs. A grudging respect has supplanted an outright hatred among players, though, as Rodriguez can attest, getting a glove to the face is never a complete surprise.
But Russell Martin apparently feels the timing is right to throw himself right into the fray. While players like Varitek, David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, and, even Rodriguez are always careful not to fan the flames, Martin is clearly smitten with the lore of the rivalry. Not that he’s played much of a role in it.
In his first season with New York after spending the first five years of his career with the Dodgers, Martin is hitting a robust .236 for the season, with 17 homers and 62 RBIs. Against the Red Sox, Martin is batting .256 with three homers and eight RBIs, with two homers and four RBIs coming in one game, a 9-4 Yankees win on April 9.
In fact, since his outstanding second season with the Dodgers, when he hit .293 with 19 homers and 87 RBIs, Martin’s numbers were in a steady decline until his quasi-rejuvenation this season.
So, Russell, take a tip from your teammates, because I’m sure you’ve already gotten an earful from both them and your manager. Shut up, play the game, and do what’s being asked of you: keeping the seat warm for Jesus Montero.