Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Top 10 Reasons Why The Red Sox Are Their Own Evil Empire

The Yankees no longer corner the market on ill will

By Christopher Heun

Regardless of how he plays this year, newest Oriole Jay Payton won over our hearts on his first day in town. After signing his contract Monday, he drew a connection between the two perennial titans of the A.L. East that we’ve been thinking about ourselves this off-season.

"I love trying to battle ... the two Evil Empires, I call them, between Boston and New York, and knock those teams off," Payton said.

The Red Sox used to be everyone’s favorite underdog to the original Evil Empire, the Yankees. Then Boston won the 2004 World Series and their players, their management and -- most of all -- their fans became just as obnoxious as anyone rooting for that team in pinstripes from the Bronx.

So, while this might not be exactly what Payton had in mind, here are our Top 10 Reasons Why The Red Sox Are An Evil Empire In Their Own Right:

10. It Takes Evil to Know Evil.
"The evil empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America." That's what Red Sox team president Larry Lucchino had to say in Dec. 2002 after losing out to the Yankees in the bidding for Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras, thus setting in motion countless Star Wars references by bored baseball fans everywhere. Boston general manager Theo Epstein added: "We went to the limit of fiscal sanity with our offer and would not go beyond." Fours years later, the Red Sox bid $51.1 million for exclusive negotiating rights to Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, surpassing all other competitors by roughly $20 million.

9. Manny Ramirez Might Be Traded, Take 5.
This has got to be tiresome for the reporters who have to cover it: every winter, the Sox say they're thinking of trading Manny Ramirez, but only if they can get fair value in return, by which they mean a package including at least a two-time All Star, three major-league ready prospects, and the ghost of Babe Ruth. Of course, Manny never leaves.

8. Does Curt Schilling Ever Shut Up?
Even George Steinbrenner, at the height of his manic obsession with dominating the back pages of the New York tabloids, never thought anybody cared to hear his opinions on anything other than baseball. Schilling, meanwhile, cannot resist the temptation of a reporter's microphone. They say the most dangerous place in Washington, D.C., is between Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and a microphone. Seems the same applies in Boston with Curt Schilling.

7. If You Can't Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em.
Yes, the Yankees payroll routinely hovers around the $200 million mark, and for their extravagance the team must also pay a hefty tax. Only one other franchise in major league baseball is required to pay the luxury tax: the Red Sox.

6. Rules Are Made to Be Broken.
The Dodgers contemplated filing tampering charges against the Red Sox after Boston signed J.D. Drew to a five-year, $70 million contract earlier this month. On Nov. 10, Drew decided to forego the remaining three years and $33 million on his contract with the Dodgers. The possibility of tampering is bad enough, but what about the wisdom (or lack thereof) in giving $70 million to a 31-year-old outfielder who's never played more than 109 games in any two successive seasons?

5. Cheapest seat at Fenway Park not in the bleachers:

4. When In Doubt, Blame Divine Intervention.
Red Sox Nation’s rabid insistence that all those decades without a championship was the work of a higher power. Funny how the fans of a team like the Royals, who haven't won anything since the days of "The Cosby Show," don’t whine about a curse. It’s like the T-shirt for sale in a shop across from Yankee Stadium says: “Hey Boston, there was no curse. Your team just sucked.”

3. “Red Sox Nation” is really just another way of
saying, “I live in or around the Greater Massachusetts Metropolitan Area.”

2. I Hate Him, But I Love Him Too!
Theo Epstein, the boy genius general manager who built the Sox into World Series champs, failed to see eye-to-eye with his mentor and boss, Lucchino, after the 2005 season. Epstein walked away from the team (in a gorilla suit, to evade the encamped media), which immediately ignited nonstop speculation about when he would return, which turned out to be just 10 weeks later. The whole saga had the makings of a Greek tragedy performed by a fifth grade drama troupe. Epstein, by the way, got his start in baseball when Lucchino hired him as an intern with the Orioles.

1. It's Just A Game, People. Really.
When the Yankees lose, the players and their fans trash the team's best player. When the Sox lose, it's like a preternatural force has ripped out the hearts of every man, woman and child who has ever heard the name Jason Varitek. Get over yourselves! And cheer up: the Yankees always lose in the playoffs, anyway.