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September 1, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

There are a lot of Yankees fans who excel in being obnoxious. They are loud, in your face, and arrogant. They are not the majority, but they are the loudest ones, the only ones you hear. The rest of us are there to watch a game, but no matter, we get painted with the same brush as the obnoxious fans, who know less about baseball than George Bush knows about the early seventies.

Of course, every team has those types of fans, and so do the Red Sox. They're the ones who chant "Yankees Suck!" when the Red Sox are leading, tied, trailing by 15, or home during the offseason while the Patriots celebrate a Super Bowl Victory. They are losers, but just like the Bleacher Creatures at Yankee Stadium, they're fun, and often times the entire stadium gets into whatever chant they've begun.

But yesterday, in the seventh inning, the real Red Sox fans made more noise than the obnoxious ones. As Roger Clemens walked off the mound at Fenway for possibly the last time, the crowd rose to its feet and applauded perhaps the greatest pitcher in Red Sox history. They're upset that he left, and bitter that he went to the Yankees, but they also knew that this was perhaps their last chance to show how grateful they were for 13 spectacular seasons, and they took advantage of the opportunity. Clemens came back out of the dugout to acknowledge the fans, and say thank you. And I do the same, I tip my cap to the Red Sox fans who, either at the park or at home, gave a warm farewell to The Rocket. It was, perhaps, the classiest thing I've seen a crowd do this season.

Of course, yesterday's game was important for reasons other than Clemens' farewell and 100th Fenway win. By defeating the Red Sox 8-4, the Yankees have the AL East title firmly in their grasp, and only a Boston sweep at the Stadium next weekend is likely to keep them in the race. The loss also put Boston 1½ out of the Wild Card, making their postseason chances extremely precarious. I do expect Boston to win the Wild Card, but they have a tough road ahead of them.

What this weekend showed is that the Yankees' top starting pitchers are fine, that Boston is a very strong team, but just as deeply flawed, if not more so, than the Yankees, and they can be beaten at their own game. It boosted APNY's Jorge Posada for MVP campaign, as well as elevating Nick Johnson to the level of Red Sox Killer. Jeff Nelson continued to suck, Aaron Boone showed glimpses of not sucking, and Gabe White gave Joe Torre a good reason to stop keeping Nelson out there so long.

The Yankees won Saturday because Pedro Martinez was ill, they won today because they were able to get to Tim Wakefield early. They put 3 runs on the board in the first inning, and were in a position to score more before Juan Rivera was inexplicably picked off first base with the bases loaded. I don't know a lot about Juan Rivera, but I do know this:

1) Juan Rivera is an outfielder.
2) Juan Rivera grounds into double plays ALL the time.
3) The purpose of Juan Rivera is ground out and kill rallies.

And that's what I call REAL Ultimate Power!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sorry, it needed to be done...

Wakefield was able to hold the Yankees down until the Red Sox got back in the game, but gave up another two runs in the fifth thanks to some bad plays by the outfield (a dropped catch in center field and an off line throw home from Trot Nixon). Three more runs in the seventh, thanks to poor pitching by Scott Sauerbeck put the game out of reach for Boston, and probably the division.

All in all, it was an enormously successful weekend for the Yankees, the only bad things coming from Jose Contreras's lousy start on Friday, Jeff Nelson's hideous performances, and Derek Jeter's injury yesterday, which appears minor, and considering the position the Yankees are now in, they will likely be able to give him enough rest to let it heal fully for the postseason.