Red Sox, Yanks set for immediate playoff dash -- thanks to the Rays
BOSTON -- While seeking the player parking lot more than four hours before the game's first pitch, new Red Sox centerfielder
"It looked like a block party," Cameron said.
The players may be somewhat interchangeable, but the Red Sox-Yankees machine relentlessly pushes onward. Boston's victory song,
This rivalry has retained its marketing luster -- hence its opening night, national-television placement -- even if Sunday game didn't become Fenway Park's 551st consecutive sellout until late March. But the establishment of the Rays as an annual contender (for at least the few years as they can keep their current young core together) has pushed the makeup of the Red Sox and Yankees.
As Rays general manager
The low-budget Rays, for instance, were willing to gamble on a high-priced reliever, $7.25-million
On Sunday night, there were five offseason acquisitions in the starting lineups -- designated hitter
Those changes will become more apparent later in the week, when Boston's
Bringing home the contrast were some of the rivalry's recent notables in non-participatory roles. It was familiar to see
The cracks are getting larger in the totalitarian control Boston and New York have on the American League East. These two clubs have combined for 23 out of a possible 30 playoff berths in the 15 years of the wild-card era, but Tampa Bay's surge, complete with 2008 AL pennant, has put a scare in everyone. Red Sox general manager
(To a lesser extent, the growth of the Orioles' nucleus has gotten notice, too. After getting beaten around by Baltimore in two straight outings last season, Boston starter and future Hall of Famer
"The competition is a lot stiffer and deeper in this division," Cashman said of the AL East. "If teams in the Central and West are being honest, they'd say the same thing."
Little, of course, can be learned from just one game, except perhaps, that neither team's pre-ninth inning bullpen should be trusted. New York's relievers allowed four runs in 2 2/3 innings, while striking out only one; Boston's
Otherwise, the season series will likely even out. The Yankees, after all, started 0-8 against the Red Sox last season before going on to win the World Series; overall in the reignited rivalry era (2003 and onward) the Yankees lead by a slim 67-64 margin, with neither team winning any single season series by more than 11-8.
It's a different culture for the new players. Upon leaving the Blue Jays and signing with the Red Sox, Scutaro admitted that in Toronto, "if we played .500 ball, we were kind of happy." But having come to Boston, his vantage point has changed considerably. "Now, I'm on the winning side," he said. "Everything looks better."
Since donning a Boston uniform, Cameron's answer to many questions, whether they've been about bumping
There's no let-up in this rivalry or in this division, so it's time, as Cameron said, to "open the gate up and let's start the journey."
Only 161 more steps to take.