Red Sox-Yankees should be intense this year, and other thoughts
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Picked-up pieces from 10 days of grueling investigative reporting in the Fort . . .
■ Red Sox-Yankees is going to be very good this year.
The Sox will play the Yanks at Fenway South Saturday in their major league spring training opener. It starts a renewal of hostilities that will take the ancient rivals to London and back this season.
In 2004, when the Yankees came to Fort Myers for the first time after the Grady Little/Aaron Boone classic, 250 media members covered the meaningless exhibition. Then-Sox manager Terry Francona remembers seeing fans lined up on the sidewalks at 5:30 a.m. for a 1 p.m. start. A-Rod and Derek Jeter both made the 2½-hour bus trip.
We don’t expect to match that craziness Saturday, but Red Sox-Yankees at this hour is hotter than it has been since the white-heat days of 2003-04. We fully expect baseball’s Athens and Sparta to meet again in October, and we are hoping Aaron Judge brings his boom box.
This is the rivalry that never sleeps. Both teams won 100 games last year, and the Yankees have loaded up in the offseason, adding desperately needed starting pitching. Vegas has the Yankees as favorites to win the 2019 World Series. The Red Sox, meanwhile, plan to be the first team since the 1998-2000s Yankees to win back-to-back World Series.
In many ways, the Red Sox have become the Yankees. Boston has won four of the last 15 World Series, while the Yankees have won only one since 2000. Last spring, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the Red Sox had become the Golden State Warriors of baseball. That was almost as good as 2002, when Sox CEO Larry Lucchino famously characterized the Yankees as “the evil empire.’’
Lucchino is not around the Red Sox anymore. He’s officially listed as “president/CEO emeritus” of the ball club, but was stripped of all power in 2015 and is spending his golden years moving the Pawtucket Red Sox to Worcester.
I heard what I believe to be a veiled reference to Lucchino when John Henry and Tom Werner were flexing their smart muscles at Monday’s annual presser (bet the Yankees loved hearing Werner talk about how the Sox “rolled over” everybody in the playoffs).
Henry said, “I think we blew the Jon Lester signing in  spring training,’’ then added, “for reasons that are pretty apparent now, which I won’t go into, but they’re apparent.’’
Call me crazy and suspicious, but that sounded like John Henry code for “Larry Lucchino low-balled Lester and we paid the price, but we have fixed that because Larry is no longer around.’’
■ Two weeks ago, in the moments after Frank Robinson died, the insufferable Bill James tweeted, “By the way, Baseball Reference WAR insists that the most valuable player in the AL in 1966 was not Frank Robinson, but Earl Wilson, a pitcher who was 18-12 with a 3.43 ERA, one point better than the league ERA of 3.44. Look it up. No offense; just thought I would mention it.’’
Dennis Eckersley saw that and tweeted, “Shut up.’’ No offense, of course.
For the record, Robinson in ’66 won the Triple Crown with .316, 49, 122 and led the Orioles to a four-game sweep of the Dodgers in the World Series. This says more about WAR than James.
■ Quiz: Name the Red Sox’ starting shortstop for each of the 21st century World Series championships. Answer below.
■ Here’s Chris Sale on the slow free agent market: “It’s crazy to me. I don’t want to get too far into it with the politics of baseball . . . Obviously with half the league just showing up for checks doesn’t help. Not trying to win. Those kinds of things.’’
■ Henry’s take on free agency this year: “You can see what’s gone on . . . The price of WAR has gone up so rapidly that whether it’s a pitcher or a position player, to enter into a really long-term contract at high dollars . . . and we’ve done better with pitchers perhaps than with hitters in long-term contracts.’’
■ The Blue Jays should be embarrassed about keeping Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the minors when they know he is big-league-ready and would be a treat for their fans. With no concern for competing now or giving fans what they want, Toronto is making an obvious attempt to delay Guerrero’s service-time clock.
The 19-year-old slugger hit .381 in the minors last summer, much of it in (Double A) Manchester, N.H. Hope the kid’s Prince Fielder/Kardashian body holds up when he matures into his 20s.
■ Speaking of oversized body parts, San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy announced he will retire at the end of the year. Bochy’s three World Series wins probably will land him in Cooperstown. He also has one of the biggest domes in the game: hat size 8¼. When Bochy was a player, his teammates were known to ice down an entire six-pack of beer in his batting helmet.
■ As an undergrad at Northeastern, Yankee reliever Adam Ottavino twice pitched against the Red Sox in Fort Myers. According to former Northeastern baseball coach Neil McPhee, Ottavino struck out Manny Ramirez in 2006.
■ Jennifer Lopez needs to consult with boyfriend Alex Rodriguez next time she has a baseball theme in one of her movies. In Lopez’s recently released “Second Act,” actor Milo Ventimiglia plays a baseball coach at Fordham who leads his team to a College World Series win at Omaha. Fordham? Not likely. Not without Frankie Frisch anyway.
■ Yes, Dustin Pedroia is still a fan of the Sacramento Kings and hopes they beat out the Lakers for the Western Conference’s eighth playoff spot.
■ Luis Tiant pitched 225 ninth innings during his career, and in those innings, his ERA was 2.40. Think about that.
■ The Red Sox should get together with the Patriots and go to the White House together. It would give the president the big crowd he loves and minimize the no-shows.
■ Quiz answer: 2004, Orlando Cabrera; 2007, Julio Lugo; 2013, Stephen Drew; 2018, Xander Bogaerts.