The blogs in Boston are filled with the usual teeth-gnashing now that the Yankees have snatched another free agent out from under the Red Sox. Once again, Theo Epstein and John Henry, the team's general manager and principal owner, are the Harry Truman and Dean Acheson of the drama, the ones who, to Boston's faithful fans, "lost China" -- or, in this instance, the first baseman Mark Teixeira. The Cold War imagery is apt, of course, because another of the Red Sox brain trust, Larry Lucchino, famously described the Yankees once as the "Evil Empire."
Everyone is asking: Who could have let this happen? How can the Red Sox stand pat as the Yankees fortify themselves? There is great unhappiness in -- I'm hate the hackneyed phrase, which the Boston Globe and everyone else invokes to death -- Red Sox Nation.
Not me, though. I couldn't be happier.
First of all, let's face it: without the Yankees to hate, baseball is a bore. And unless the Yankees are throwing around their weight, spending wildly and buying themselves pennants, they're dangerously less loathsome. The trends in this regard have been ominous these past few years. The villainous Steinbrenner Sr. is fading from the scene. The team has actually developed a few of its own players, like Joba Chamberlain, rather than going out and buying ringers. Most alarmingly, they've become inept, missing the playoffs last year for the first time in ages. It's not the same without them.
To Yankee haters, particularly Red Sox fans, this cannot stand. What better way to restore the Yankees' traditional repulsiveness than to spend more than all of the other teams combined this off-season -- a half a billion dollars -- on three new players -- Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett? How much more odious can a team be than one that has baseball's four top earners on its payroll? What more could we hope for than the spectacle of watching them all flounder next year, of choking in the clutch, of failing to cohere, of clashing in the clubhouse? For a mere $500 million, the Yankees have restored their traditional obnoxious. To me, that's money well spent.
For Red Sox fans -- the real ones, not the ones who jumped on the bandwagon when they went to college "in Cambridge" or began rooting for them the last few happy years -- there is another dimension to all this. It's hard to say so, but pulling for the Sox has simply not been the same since they starting winning World Series. Their games, even those against the Yankees, just aren't consequential anymore. They've become -- well, only games. Even when they blow a big lead in the late innings, it's no big deal. Secretly, most of us miss getting disgusted with them the way we used to. Throwing up our hands, turning off our televisions exasperatedly, anticipating calamities and then watching them unfold -- these were all part of their charm. Here, too, it's just not the same.
We'll never go back to their old ineptitude; the team is simply too rich, its payroll exceeded only by the Yankees. Even the greatest Cassandras on the Boston blogs can't predict terrible things for the Sox next season. But as long as they keep losing free agents to the Yankees -- and by failing to fork over a measly million or two more out of their huge exchequer -- we can once more muster some of that old-fashioned, all-knowing anger at them. It feels good. A few more signing fiascos, and we can relive our childhoods. Tom Yawkey and Pinky Higgins and Pumpsie Green will no longer seem so remote.
The Sox need a catcher, and another starting pitcher, and help in their bullpen. All the money they'd earmarked for Teixeira will be deployed on other, lesser mercenaries. But with but two months until pitchers and catcher show up for spring training, only one thing can make this off-season complete, and it's entirely out of their hands. Only one thing can make next year's endless number of Red Sox-Yankees games come to life, can fully restore the Evil Empire -- can make it, if it's possible, even evil-er.
Please, please, please, can the Yankees now sign Manny Ramirez?