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Standings aside, Yanks-BoSox is still huge

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Bob Klapisch

Bob Klapisch covers baseball for The Record in New Jersey and worked at the New York Post and New York Daily News. The author of five books, he was recently voted a top-five columnist in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors.

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So you're thinking the race in the AL East is practically vapor, with the Yankees hurtling toward 100 wins and the Red Sox otherwise distracted by the Rangers' hot breath on their necks in the wild-card battle.
Three games at Fenway? How critical could they be if the Bombers lead by seven with 40 games to go? You could think that way — and you'd be entirely wrong. So says Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who insists, "no matter what, this is a huge series." Probably more so for the Sox — though it seems after being pounded by the Yanks on Friday night the AL East race is indeed over — but the standings aside, the Yankees-Red Sox always matter, always have, always will. There's too much history to ignore, too much chemistry to suddenly treat this like any other weekend. Why should we pay attention? For a million or so reasons: Because the Sox still will never forgive Mark Teixeira for the way he blew them off at the 11th hour last winter. Because Teixeira is probably going to win the American League's MVP award. Because that will drive John Henry crazy. Because Cashman is young and smart. Because Theo Epstein is young and smart. Because the two rarely speak to each other. Because the Yankees still haven't won a game at Fenway this year. Because CC Sabathia couldn't hold a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning the last time he pitched in Boston. Because A.J. Burnett has a 12.91 ERA at Fenway this season. Because Derek Jeter is still Public Enemy No. 1 in New England. Because Alex Rodriguez is closing in. Because Mariano Rivera has 12 career blown saves against the Sox. Because Rivera is nevertheless having a better year than Jonathan Papelbon. Because Dustin Pedroia and Jeter actually like each other. Because A-Rod and Jason Varitek do not. Because the Red Sox are sick of the Yankees' money. Because the Yankees are sick of the Red Sox's intelligence. Because the Red Sox are beginning a critical 10-game homestand tonight. Because the Red Sox have three games with the Angels in the middle of September. Because the Red Sox have three more games with the Yankees in September at the Stadium. Because everyone thinks the Stadium is a joke of a hitter's park. Because the Yankees say if that's true, why have they hit only one less HR than the Sox on the road? Because everyone respects Tim Wakefield. Because everyone respects Rivera. Because the union bailed out David Ortiz. Because the union hung A-Rod out to dry. Because Joba Chamberlain, on his way to becoming one of the most disliked Yankees, isn't pitching this weekend because of his innings-limit. Because Hall of Famer Tom Seaver thinks Joba's innings-limit is a mistake on the Yankees' part. Because the Yankees ended John Smoltz's comeback with the Sox, much as they hated doing that to one of the greats. Because the Yankees privately hate seeing their players in the WBC and say Daisuke Matsuzaka's bad arm is the reason why. Because the Red Sox have won two world championships since the Yankees' last one. Because the Yankees still haven't forgotten 2003. Because the Red Sox still haven't forgotten 2004. Because Aaron Boone will forever be known as A.F. Boone in Boston. Just like B.F. Dent. Because neither team wants anything to do with Roger Clemens anymore. Because the Avis commercial captures this rivalry to perfection. Because Yankee president Randy Levine once cited Fenway's "lawlessness" Because John Henry got under Teixeira's skin with his Tweets.
Because Teixeira is otherwise a super-straight, likeable, boring guy. Because Teixeira is nevertheless headed for an appearance on David Letterman on Monday night. Because Cashman says Theo has done a "phenomenal job" this year, although Red Sox fans aren't quite as convinced. Because Cashman says the Yankees' success is proof that, "our organization is stronger than people gave us credit for." Because Joe Girardi is managing with a gun to his head — no playoffs, no job in 2010. Because Terry Francona's job is safe through 2011. Because A-Rod is in the midst of another slump: since beating the Red Sox with a 15th-inning HR on August 7, he's batting .214 with one HR in his last 28 at-bats. Because Pedro Martinez will be pitching against the Mets on Sunday, and that game will be dwarfed by the Yankees-Red Sox. Because Pedro will always be a Red Sox when it's time to remember the greatest right-handers of this generation. Because Pedro in his prime was better than Smoltz, Maddux and Clemens when a game (or season) was on the line. Because Goose Gossage once called Manny Ramirez "a punk." Because most of the Red Sox now agree. Because the Yankees remember how a young, arrogant pitcher named Josh Beckett shut them out on short rest in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series. Because the Yankees have always secretly admired Beckett for being able to back up his attitude. Because no second baseman swings harder than Pedroia. Because no second baseman looks smoother than Robinson Cano. Because Johnny Damon is enjoying a last laugh on the Sox. Because the Sox figure they're better off with Jacoby Ellsbury in the long run, anyway. Because the Rangers and Rays will live and die with every update from Fenway this weekend. Because, somehow, it might come down the Yankees and Red Sox in October. Same as it ever was.
Tagged: Red Sox, Angels, Yankees, Rangers, Astros, Dodgers, Mets, Phillies, Cardinals, Rays, Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek, CC Sabathia, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Johnny Damon, Alex Rodriguez, A.J. Burnett, Josh Beckett, Mark Teixeira, Dustin Pedroia, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Joba Chamberlain

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