"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

The Bitter and the Sweet


During my freshman year of college there was a girl down the hall who happened to be dating one of our RAs. The RA’s birthday was coming up, and the girl — we’ll call her Caroline — had a brilliant idea for the perfect birthday gift. Since the RA — we’ll call him Neil — loved to sing, Caroline decided to make a donation to one of the campus a cappella groups, which would then allow Neil to sing a song with them. Ah, but here’s the beautiful part. Caroline chose a love song, knowing that Neil would end up serenading her in front of the entire dorm. Needless to say, it worked like a charm. So Caroline got a gift for Neil that was actually a gift for herself.

All of this came flooding back to me as I watched the Red Sox fumble their way through the pre-game ceremony meant to honor Mariano Rivera. Mo’s been getting gifts at every stop this season, so I knew there’d have to be something special at Fenway, but I had no idea the Sox could screw it up so badly. (I should’ve been paying attention; the Sox can’t do ceremony. Exhibit A: Pedro Martínez and Kevin Millar completely butcher Fenway’s 100th birthday celebration; exhibit B: Big Papi’s F-bomb during the Boston Strong ceremony.)

As the festivities began, Master of Ceremonies Dave O’Brien directed the crowd’s attention to the video board where they showed a clip of the sarcastic cheers Mariano received on opening day at Fenway Park in 2005 after blowing those two saves in the 2004 ALCS. I have to say that I’m curious to know how long it took them to come up with that angle.

“Okay, so we have to plan something for the Rivera ceremony. Any ideas?”
“Sure, why don’t we just give him something cool and talk about how great he is?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Okay, well why don’t we tie it into the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry?”
“That sounds better, what do you have in mind? Maybe Rivera’s greatest moment?”
“Yeah, I was thinking about that three-inning relief stint in the ’03 ALCS. That was wicked awesome.”
“No, that won’t do. Why don’t we tie it into one of our greatest moments? Like ’04?”
“You want to honor him by reminding him of one of his greatest failures?”
“No, I want to honor the Red Sox while we give him a cheap painting!”

I wish I could say that I’m making that up, but they really did choose that moment as the one that said the most about Rivera. To his credit, he simply smiled and played along.

But things got worse. As Dustin Pedroia presented Rivera with the #42 placard which was slid into the Fenway scoreboard each time he took the mound, O’Brien couldn’t just introduce little Pedroia, he had to sing his virtues. “Presenting that gift is another Red Sox player who, like Big Papi, might join you one day in Cooperstown, our brilliant second baseman, Dustin Pedroia.” Who was the ceremony for again?

The next gift was presented by Koji Uehara, whose brilliant 2013 season stands as a reminder of how great Rivera has been for so many years. He really said that.

The ceremony closed with a video montage. I’m not sure if it was produced by the Red Sox and shown in the park, or if it was something that ESPN put together for the viewers at home, but it was more of the same. The first clip — the very first clip of the video meant to honor Rivera — showed Dave Roberts stealing second base in that ’04 ALCS, and the next highlight was the line drive going back through the middle past Rivera, bringing home Roberts. The rest of the video focused on the Rivalry and included Pedro throwing Don Zimmer to the ground and Jason Varitek punching A-Rod in the face. You know, all the touching, emotional stuff you’d expect to see when an organization is honoring a retiring athlete.

Stay classy, Boston. Stay classy.

If you think I sound bitter about that, imagine how I felt once the game got started. When I wrote the recap for last Sunday’s game against the Red Sox, I referenced the Boston Massacre. What happened in Boston this weekend could hardly be called a massacre. It was nothing so dramatic as that. This was a slow death, a syringe in the arm, the victim left to bleed out over the course of several hours — or in this case, three days.

It wasn’t long ago that I believed the Yankees were actually better than the Red Sox. I can’t imagine how I ever thought that.

The Yankees picked up an early run in the first inning after Granderson walked, went to third on an errant pickoff attempt, and scored on Alex Rodríguez’s ground out. It was meek, but it was a run.

Fifteen minutes later, the game was over. It seems pretty clear that Ivan Nova isn’t healthy, but that’s not the way Orel Hershiser sees it. The Ol’ Bulldog believes that Nova simply isn’t trying hard enough, isn’t bearing down, isn’t emotional enough. I don’t want to stir things up, but comments like that sound an awful lot like the criticisms Latino players have been hearing for the past fifty years. But perhaps Hershiser knows better than I do. Maybe Nova simply stopped caring after being the best pitcher in the league in August.

Either way, Nova isn’t right. He was hit hard in the first inning, giving up a double to Daniel Nava, a single to Ortiz, and a homer to Mike Napoli. The score was only 3-1 and there were eight innings left to play, but the hole felt a lot deeper than it might’ve a few weeks ago.

The Yankees couldn’t do a thing against Clay Buccholz after that gifted run in the first. Buccholz was having serious trouble with his control, but the Yankees could never take advantage. The Red Sox, meanwhile, kept adding to their lead in quirky ways, one run at a time.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia was credited with a steal of home in the fourth when Brendan Ryan, the defensive specialist, dropped a throw to second on the double steal, then kicked it around long enough to allow Saltalamacchia to score. In the fifth, Nova plunked Mike Carp with the bases loaded, making it 5-1, then they scored two more in the 6th and two more in the 7th to stretch the lead to 9-1.

The Yankees scraped together a run in the ninth, but it hardly mattered. The game and the series were over. Red Sox 9, Yankees 2.

Of all the games I’ve watched this season, there is no question that this one was the most difficult. The backhanded ceremony, the irritating ESPN announcers, the dominance of the Red Sox, and the increasing possibility of a postseason without the Yankees was simply too much to take. Monday’s off-day couldn’t come at a better time, and not just for the Yankees. I could use a break, too.

Oh, and that song that Neil sang for my friend? Wouldn’t it have been fitting if he had sung “Sweet Caroline”? Thankfully, that wasn’t it. “Only You,” by Yaz. It was absolutely adorable.

[Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images]

Categories:  1: Featured  Game Recap  Hank Waddles  Yankees

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1 JeremyM   ~  Sep 16, 2013 6:42 am

Thanks for capturing how I felt about that ceremony. On the surface, it was fine - and the fans were great. But for the Red Sox organization, it really was all about them. And don't even get me started on that highlight video. I got the impression Boston played that in the park, but I kind of think (hope?) ESPN only made it seem that way...

The player introductions definitely took the cake. “Presenting that gift is another Red Sox player who, like Big Papi, might join you one day in Cooperstown, our brilliant second baseman, Dustin Pedroia.” Wow!

2 Chyll Will   ~  Sep 16, 2013 6:43 am

Upsetting, but nothing to get hyper about. The Yanks are what they are this year, unpredictable. The Red Sox are what they've always been, predictable. I don't understand the long-standing realm of insecurity that permeates that organization, but it's not anyone's problem but theirs. Sad that Mo had to endure what amounts to drunk party crushers despoiling what should have been a gracious send-off to a gracious adversary by being cheap, bitter and little. But whatever, it's good. I've said all season I could take the Yanks not making the playoffs, not doing well for a season or two if I knew what they really intended to do. And as I stated before, they are simply unpredictable.

3 Chyll Will   ~  Sep 16, 2013 6:53 am

[2] Okay, maybe I'm being harsh and reading Hank's words as incendiary "get your bayonets ready" when it wasn't intended, but dammit it's Monday morning and my four o'clock courage alarm went off so I was ready for the front line if need be. Sorry, Defcon 1 standing down zzzzz...

4 The Mick536   ~  Sep 16, 2013 7:15 am

[0] How about singing the "Carl Yastremski" song?

Living in NE with these Sox Schlubs can be challenging. They know little about the game and care less. Wins make them smile. Losses make them violent and gloomy. They approach me: "You must be really upset that your team is losing... Ha. Ha. Ha." No. I'm a fan! But watching them gives me pause.

5 Sliced Bread   ~  Sep 16, 2013 8:21 am

They came not to praise Mo, but to bury him.
Sickening phonies.

6 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Sep 16, 2013 8:31 am

[0] I'm still outraged by the announcing and the production decisions. Segments on the Beards™? Hey, maybe the Sox are winning this year cause they signed good players?

Hershisers comments on Nova were inexcusable, completely offensive to me and many others I am sure. He actually said ON THE AIR 'Nova doesn't exude that passion from every pore, like every member of the Red Sox.'

Losing sucks. Losing while watching a broadcast that fellates the other team is just infuriating.

7 BobbyB   ~  Sep 16, 2013 8:42 am

Not one announcer even mentioned how odd the Rivera tribute was. More reasons to hate the Red Sox.

8 Alex Belth   ~  Sep 16, 2013 8:50 am

7) It was self-serving.

Man, what a nightmare of a weekend.

9 Jon DeRosa   ~  Sep 16, 2013 9:53 am

It was a tough season. But the opportunity for something special was there. 7 games versus the Red Sox, 6 losses - an regular season ass-kicking that will go down in the history books alongside 1978 and 2006.

Oh well. Gotta give the Yanks credit for making some of these late games matter. I think if they had been facing anybody but the Red Sox, they would have emerged from the Wild Card fray.

10 CliffC   ~  Sep 16, 2013 10:03 am

Man, never comment but feel compelled. I thought it was nice. We're rivals, the biggest rivals in all of American sports. What's wrong with a little ball busting? We shouldn't have it any other way. The way they introduced the players was very annoying, but damn, I thought it was a nice ceremony from Enter Sandman, to the ball busting video, to the nice gifts.

The Yankees-Red Sox have a history. Mo and the Red Sox have a history. I don't see the issue with bringing up 2004. The video ended with heartfelt messages from the players.

11 Jon DeRosa   ~  Sep 16, 2013 10:09 am

[10] Mo seems to have felt the same as you. When in doubt, Mo is right.

12 Alex Belth   ~  Sep 16, 2013 10:11 am

10) Biggest rivals in American sports? I don't see it.

13 Jon DeRosa   ~  Sep 16, 2013 10:13 am

Here's Mo on the tribute:


As [10] says, it was ball-busting. The fact is that our hearts may still be broken over something that Mariano moved past long ago.

Mariano isn't the greatest because he's the best winner of all time; he the greatest becaue he's the best loser of all time.

14 CliffC   ~  Sep 16, 2013 10:17 am

12) That was the least of my points. Whatever, they're rivals.

15 Alex Belth   ~  Sep 16, 2013 10:24 am

"Mariano isn't the greatest because he's the best winner of all time; he the greatest becaue he's the best loser of all time." So true. And ironic in that he played for George Steinbrenner's organization.

16 Hank Waddles   ~  Sep 16, 2013 2:33 pm

Hey, folks. I was definitely bitter when I wrote this, but I stand by most of it. The whole ceremony just rubbed me wrong. I agree that part of the greatness of Mariano is that he clearly doesn't define himself by his successes or failures, but they could've just left all that stuff out.

As for the Red Sox, I don't hate them as much as some people here, so this isn't just rooted in that. The Red Sox clearly do most things well. From a baseball standpoint, it's difficult to argue with their results, especially the speed with which they've recovered from last season. They just didn't get it right last night, in my opinion.

17 Alex Belth   ~  Sep 16, 2013 3:07 pm

As a Red Sox fan friend of mine put it, "The Sox were like, yo Mo you're so gracious, we're going to needle you a bunch and let you be gracious again, since you're so good at it. It was shitty."

18 The Mick536   ~  Sep 16, 2013 4:01 pm

[15] Loser or (c)loser?

Hard to imagine what the Yankees will be like without him.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver