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Tuesday, November 25, 2003
Updated: April 16, 12:36 PM ET
Facing Off: Sox Fans vs. Yankee Fans

SportsNation

To eavesdrop on what one corner of SportsNation is talking about, we went looking for the smartest, most passionate Red Sox and Yankees fans we could find. We ended up at two fan sites (SonsOfSamHorn.com and NYYFans.com), where the denizens respond to news and rumors faster than you can say Don Zimmer.

We invited these two sets of fans to conduct an email exchange as the cataclysmic events of the week unfolded. Here is a moment in time:

ESPN: Let's get this party started. So, is there anyone on the Sox side who's fantasizing about seeing Curt Schilling striking out Derek Jeter to end Game 7 of the ALCS, and Steinbrenner firing Torre on the spot?

Sox-ual fantasy
Andy W: Fantasizing about Schilling striking out Jeter, with Steinbrenner firing Torre is all very fine. But seeing Steinbrenner then pop a blood vessel, go into critical condition, recover, and be all the more voracious in his appetite for signing players to the age of 40 with back-loaded contracts, gutting the farm system, and dooming the Yankees to market-busting mediocrity for a decade in the manner that would make Angelos blush, that would be cool.

Meanwhile, Jeter and Williams and Matsui and Giambi and Sheffield (with a nifty four-year contract) acting like pinball bumpers while the baseball goes bouncing variously about the field, inflating the ERA of any staff assembled, and wondering why they can't win it anymore. Seeing Tim McCarver bash the Yankees for being a bunch of underachievers. Watching George insist on moving his team to NJ after beginning to lose his shirt on salaries and lesser attendance, to lose forever the "storied connection" the franchise has had since 1921.

Seeing the Red Sox repeat the success of the early 20th century in the early 21st century, and watching smug Yankee fans rail at their bad lot and follow the Mets as their only recourse. Steinbrenner learning the secret of immortality, and insist on controlling Yankee player decisions until the end of the world, around 10,567 A.D.

I could go on, but my passion is by no means constrained to one stupid little playoff game.

Babysitter needed
Jim: Am I afraid of seeing Curt Schilling on the mound in game 7 of the ALCS? No. I think overall Pedro Martinez is a better pitcher, and we beat him last year -- or, shall I say, took advantage of the Red Sox beating themselves.

When I'm more afraid of Schilling is down the stretch when the Sox typically fade away into their perennial bridesmaid spot (AKA wild card team), that Schilling will be the force that leads the Sox to an AL East championship, causing the Yankees to be left out of the postseason all together.

Now, ask me if I would have been upset losing in Game 7 of the '03 ALCS to the Red Sox on our field, and you'd get a loud and resounding "you bet."

Ask me if I'd like to see Pedro Martinez charged with elder abuse for physically assaulting a senior citizen, and again you'd get a "yup."

Ask me if I think the Red Sox should hire babysitters for their grounds crew, and yet again I'd say yes.

After all, it wasn't too long ago when Theo Epstein needed a babysitter, so perhaps he could make a recommendation? :-)

Bullpen rednecks
Peter: Then you might ask said senior citizen not to throw himself, arms flailing, at said pitcher. And while you're at it, you could have a talk with the rednecks in your bullpen about not beating the crap out of ballpark employees.

Bring it on!
hobokenfish: If you want to know the truth, I am a little miffed about the Sox getting Schilling. But not for the Yanks' lack of trying. Good ol' Colangelo asks for Johnson and Soriano from the Yanks, but basically takes a pile of garbage from the Sox. Casey Fossum as the headliner? C'mon.

I can't believe that the D'Backs would make a bad deal based on Colangelo's personal relationship (or lack thereof) with Big Stein, but it seems like they lowered the bar for Boston. I'm betting the Yanks would have given up either Soriano or Johnson for Schilling, but my understanding is that they never got the chance.

And remember -- the Yanks already were two outs away from beating a younger Schilling in a Game 7. So bring it on!

Crack!
Paul M: Some points: If Pettitte goes to Houston, the Yankees starting pitching will go from an asset to a question mark.

Who had December 8th in the pool for when Sheffield would stop speaking to Steinbrenner?

Schilling only has to provide good innings; we have a savior already in Pedro Martinez.

Bottom line is the house that Ruth built might show its first cracks in 10 years if Pettitte leaves.

Theo
Saxman: With Schilling added, the Sox are perfectly placed to take advantage of what passes for "rebuilding" with the Yankees in 2004, before Red Sox free agents start to depart. I think Epstein is smart by trying to build a bridge across that offseason by exploring trading Garciaparra.

I've been very impressed by Epstein since he's come in. I don't think the majority of Yankee fans acknowledge that enough.

Astros arrows
Andy W: The indication I get is that a lot of arrows are pointing toward Houston for Pettitte at the moment: Clemens gone, uncertain managing situation next year and beyond, family pressures. On the other hand, he just looks like a Yankee.

What will Cashman/Georgie do if Pettitte goes? Do you have confidence in them right now?

Andy to Houston
hobokenfish: Crap ... just heard on ESPN radio that Pettitte is now an Astro.

It's over
Jim F.: Well, Sox fans, I'll offer you a preemptive congratulations on winning the AL East in 2004.

Gamer?
Andy W: Losing Pettitte is a real blow, but it's not as if he was as good as y'all made him out to be. I could never figure out why a lot of fans considered Pettitte a gamer and Mussina a wimp last October.

At any rate, I know who the real hero of Game 7 was.

Brown next?
Saxman: I think Pettitte will be missed more because fans will say, when his replacement loses a game 3-2, "Andy would have found a way to win." He's a good pitcher, but not irreplacable. The Yankees' 2004 just became more unpredictable, but I'm not ready to install the Sox as favorites yet.

With the Yankees losing Pettitte, I will be surprised if another move is not coming up -- Brown? Not a lock for anything other than DL time, I suppose, but with Pedro-type upside. Anyway, I don't think we should assume that Pettitte's absence will mean another season of Weaver and Lieber. Or, in fact, Wells.

Trading Pedro
Peter: We presume Theo has a plan. Theo always has a plan. He'd better have a plan. . . .

As for Pedro, he's going to be more of a "boutique" starter this year, I think. High quality, expensive, but not a workhorse. He'll get 180 innings or so. And he'll continue to follow that trend if he knows what's good for him. My sense is that the Sox will not re-sign him after this season -- in fact, I could see them trading him away this summer -- but of course I could be wrong.

It sucks
Saxman: I'm sad to see Pettitte go, obviously. Part of the attraction was that (obviously) he was one of the last remaining links to the 1996 team, and he's a lefty. Many Yankee fans insist upon at least one lefthander in the rotation, assuming that pitching in Yankee Stadium will "make them better." I'm not convinced, but there you go. Anyway, Pettitte's loss is very sad, and (by me) entirely unexpected.

In short: Pettitte leaving sucks. I think the loss will be felt much more keenly than any departed player during the recent dynasty. But I think that will change over time, as Vazquez develops into the ace I think he'll be, and until then I'll put up with the "Andy would have found a way to win" comments. Much of the frustration Yankee fans feel is because:

1) We thought he would re-sign with us almost as a matter of course after he was declared "#1 priority,"

2) We traded away Brandon Claussen, who might have eased the pain of his departure,

3) We haven't won it all "recently," and Pettitte's a reminder of what it was like when we did. Having him leave seems like what good players do to rebuilding teams. The feeling is that Steinbrenner is in denial about the need to rebuild, and that having Pettitte leave gives the front office a feeling of disassociation from reality.

Huge mistake
hobokenfish: I see trouble brewing for the Sox unless certain moves are made. The spat between Nomar and Lucchino seems irreparable, and Boston now better make that A-Rod deal and ship Nomar off to some other team. Otherwise, you have two superstars in Nomar and Manny who will be playing for a team that obviously doesn't want them. And Theo & Co. better decide to do something with Pedro soon. While publicly applauding the Schilling deal, he likely will feel much disrespect if he doesn't get a contract extension offer soon.

As for my own team, huge mistake letting Pettitte go. I don't want to hear about his stats and how he's overrated. This guy is a flat-out winner. It is no coincidence that the Yanks made the playoffs every season since he was a rookie.

Honestly, I'm not even going to analyze this. I don't think it is overstating it too much to say that this is a sad day in Yankees history. Forget the stats. Andy Pettitte is a winner and he will be sorely missed.

Sox fans, I hope you are enjoying the day.

Red Sox Century
Andy W: I am enjoying the day, thank you. But I hold no illusions that 1) Andy Pettitte had some critical "Yankeeness" that contributed karma, and 2) that the Yanks are incapable of looking for other ways to upgrade in response to losing Pettitte.

Thankfully, the 21st century belongs to the Sox, and will be enjoying this kind of thing from here on out until my peaceful, happy death. ;-)

Yankee mystique
Saxman: Abandoning the Yankee "mystique" isn't just a stretch for the front office, it's a stretch for the fans too. While I appreciate that superstition is a significant element of any fan base, the belief in "mystique" goes further than the fact that the Yankees win (or won) a lot. It's the sheer unpredictability of it; the fact that a group of players, none of whom were the best in the game (Mo Rivera excepted) somehow conspired to win just when it was needed most.

Part of what defines Yankee fans is the belief in continuity, tradition, and "mystique." Perhaps that's hobbling them right now, but I don't think they can just cast aside part of their own nature. Although people make much of the current dynasty's basis in concentration on OBP, just as much was a refusal to trade away promising young, homegrown talent.

There's something noble about that, and the front office seems to have remembered the first part and let the second part slip.

Believe in ghosts?
Peter M: Pettitte is the first home-grown star to leave via free agency since, well, ever?

After three years with no World Series title, I think the current dynasty is over.

What I don't get understand and maybe someone can enlighten me, but do people honestly believe in the mystique and aura? Like it's predestination working? I guess we're rather sensitive to the Curse BS and Fox' incessant mentions of it every time the teams play. Do you too believe in ghosts?

Running dry
Saxman: I don't. But, after being a Yankee fan, I feel like I should. Seriously, if you make a little list for yourself (go on, it won't hurt) of times in big games when the Yankees have clawed their way back from near-certain defeat in the last seven years, it's mighty impressive. Once or twice, yeah, that will happen to a team. But the sheer volume seems to mean something. I'm sure I'm in a minority of Yankee fans when I say that I'm not convinced about mystique and aura. But -- and I'm trying to avoid rubbing it in -- it's a wonderful thing to be able to believe in.

I'm not a superstitious man, but if anything were to make me become one, watching the 1996-2001 Yankees would.

The homegrown factor troubles most Yankee fans, I think. Jeter-Bernie-Rivera-Soriano (kinda) isn't shameful, but it would have been nice if that list also included Johnson, Lowell, Claussen, maybe Lilly, even Milton. The fact that no new class appears to be ready to take over is the most troubling -- the well appears to be running dry.

Confidence men
hobokenfish: As far as the aura/mystique/curse stuff goes, I don't necessarily believe in it.

What I do believe is that such things can add to or take away a team's confidence. Many Sox fans are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I can't imagine that none of the players feel that way too -- they're only human.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Yanks never feel like they are out of a game. Even when all looked lost this year, supposedly Jeter told Aaron Boone that the ghosts would come out eventually. And after that game, Wells and Clemens went and poured champagne on Babe's monument.

So whether or not you believe in such things, the players certainly are aware.

Win at all costs
Andy W: The Henry/Epstein appear to be fully committed to the notion of a competitive team every single year. Fortunately, I think they also recognize that a strong farm system is not incompatible with "win at all costs," and I expect that home-growns and trade fodder will be available over the years.

Andy's betrayal
Vito: Losing Pettitte is hard. I won't lie. It's emotionally trying. However an issue here is that Pettitte is all too often remembered for the good rather than the bad. He wasn't always perfect. There were plenty of times where he got lit up like a birthday cake.

Which is why the acquisition of Kevin Brown could in a strange and twisted way make the Yankees a better team. Yeah, Pettitte is tough to replace, but only emotionally. On paper, giving KB a healthy year, he's a better pitcher than Pettitte, hands down, and personality "issues" aside, when he's on his game he's amongst the best in baseball.

Part of me wants Andy to succeed, because he's a good guy, and truth be told, he probably deserves it. The other part of me, however, wants him to struggle in Houston just to show him how good he had it as a Yankee. He had unbelievable fan support, along with unmatched team success, something that's rare. Despite George Steinbrenner's apparent dislike of Pettitte, New York embraced him, and, in a way, was betrayed by him.

But I guess that's baseball.

Selling their soul
Saxman: Vito's summed it up very well. There's a good chance that Brown will be better than Pettitte, at least in the next two years, and if healthy the Yankees' rotation is now scary good. However, there's a feeling among many fans that the Yankees have just sold a little of their soul. Brown's not a popular player. He's never going to have his number retired in New York, as Pettitte might have. He feels, in other words, like a hired gun brought in because we could, not a player loyal to the organisation. There will be little emotional attachment to him.

We've still got Jeter, Rivera, Bernie and Posada, but the list of "core" players from the dynasty seems to shrink every year, without any real indication where the new class will come from. That doesn't mean that the Yankees are about to implode, but I think that to fans it seems as if they are becoming "ordinary" in the sense that they no longer have this core of scrappy, "clutch" players, and that the "mystique" is wearing off.

This is a natural part of fandom, I realize, but the astounding success of this group of players and the tradition they inherited and carried on makes the loss very hard to take.