DALLAS -- After he delivered his calculated first pitch of the renewed rivaly, Bobby Valentine belted out that familiar laugh and looked up, as though a thought bubble had been placed above his head.
He imagined the big, bold headline.
VALENTINE: I HATE THE YANKEES
Yankees GM Brian Cashman has called Valentine replacing Terry Francona as the manager of the Red Sox a new chapter.
The first words have been written.
It would be foolish to think Valentine didn't know what he was doing when the words "I hate the Yankees" emerged from his mouth on Wednesday in front of reporters. It means the straight-as-an-arrow Joe Girardi and his corporate clubhouse have a new element to deal with in the months and years ahead.
The controversy that has so often swirled around this rivalry will only be stoked further by Valentine, who will use gasoline to make the flames go higher and higher.
The Yankees must be ready for a brass-knuckle fight, on and off the field, with Bobby V around. For all of his good-hearted deeds, Valentine's smile, his personality and mostly his mouth bring out hate in his opponents.
There is a long list of people who've felt Valentine's "I'm smarter than you" vibe made them want to beat him more. From Bobby Cox, to Don Baylor, to Steve Phillips, to Todd Hundley, to player agents and media members -- they have come from all sides to take on Valentine.
On Wednesday, Valentine invited Girardi and the Yankees to join the mob. And this rivarly has suddenly regained the vintage spirit of Fisk and Munson hating each other.
It was last seen when the Red Sox were still cursed. In 2003 and 2004, when Don Zimmer was tossed by Pedro Martinez, and Jason Varitek jabbed a struggling Alex Rodriguez in the face, leading to what A-Rod himself would describe as Wrestlemainia.
"I think it escalated the rivalry, if that's possible," Rodriguez said after his fight with Varitek.
After the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the greatest playoff comeback in the sport's history, the rivalry seemed on the verge of reaching new heights.
But now Valentine is on the scene.
On Wednesday, with each well-thought-out response emanating from his Kermit the Frog-like voice, reporters gobbled up every syllable, not wanting to miss the insight -- or was it the incite? A Major League Baseball official estimated there were more media members around Valentine than any other manager during the annual winter meetings meet-and-greet sitdown sessions. In the far corner of Coronado Ballroom D at the Antelope Hilton, the new skipper of the Red Sox basked in it all -- relishing question after question, knowing exactly what he was doing, feeling back at home, the center of attention.
Valentine took his seat at 3 p.m. CT. By 3:30 -- the time that one Joseph Elliott Girardi was scheduled to start his Q&A with the media -- Valentine was still going strong, forcing the incessantly punctual Girardi to stand by on his tippy toes outside the throng to watch his new rival holding court. The delayed start was a minor nuisance on an otherwise relaxing, cold winter day for Girardi. But the force of Valentine's personality will surely test Girardi's nerves.
Valentine, smiling from ear to ear, is clearly already enjoying his new role, and moments he wasn't entirely sure would ever come again.
You can sense Valentine, 61, feels this will be the crowning achievement of his long baseball life. He was heartbroken as a young man to lose his promising playing career to a deformed leg at the hands of an outfield fence. Previously managing in the majors with the Texas Rangers and New York Mets, he was never handed a team with arguably the most talent in the game.
He is in a fair fight with the Yankees now. And you just know he feels he is the best manager in the packed AL East.
Unlike Valentine, Girardi doesn't seem to enjoy the other stuff that comes along with managing in this rivalry. He is a tightly wound man who can become exasperated by the questions that follow the manager of the Yankees.
Valentine -- not on purpose, of course -- made Girardi wait for his turn to talk on Wednesday. When he finally did, there were no more questions for the Yankees manager after about 20 minutes.
While not as caustic, Girardi did say something that will ring true throughout the whole Valentine chapter of this rivalry. "Bobby is probably going to be a little bit different type of manager than Terry was," Girardi said after he sat down.
He is going to be very different. Valentine is going to change the rivalry. He is bringing the "hate" back. Vintage -- with an emphasis on the V -- Yankees-Red Sox classics are coming soon.