Take a look at the back pages of the tabloids this morning, and you won’t see Bartolo Colon, who got lit up last night in the Yankees’$2 15-8 loss to Tampa Bay. The loss itself isn’t a big deal: The Yankees have already clinched the Eastern Division crown, and losses yesterday by Texas and Detroit meant that they also inched closer to clinching home-field advantage throughout the American League playoffs. But Colon, who so exceeded expectations earlier in the season, is falling back to earth faster than that NASA satellite. Colon’s ERA on July 2, after his first game back from the disabled list, was 2.88. Now it’s 4.02. The back end of the rotation is a big concern with the playoffs set to begin a week from today, but still, it’s not Colon on the back pages. It’s Russell Martin, and the reason is simple: He said he hated the Red Sox.
Most fans have made peace with the fact that the players they cheer for often don’t share their hatred for rival teams. (Sample headline from last season: “Derek Jeter likes the way Red Sox infielder Dustin Pedroia plays the game.”) So it’s at least minor news when a player provides a soundbite like the one Martin did yesterday. In case you missed it, here it is, via ESPN:
“Anything to get the Red Sox out would be awesome for me,” said Martin, who has been involved in the rivalry for one season.
When asked why, Martin sounded like the truest Bleacher Creature.
“Because I hate the Red Sox,” Martin said.
The timing, of course, is what lands this on the back page. The Yankees’ remaining regular season games, after all, don’t mean very much. (In the race for the league’s best record, they’ve got a five-game lead over Detroit and Texas with six games to go.) But Yankees fans — many of whom share Martin’s point of view — are well aware of Boston’s situation, and especially considering a certain playoff choke-job from 2004, would get a kick out of the Yankees playing a part in the collapse of the much-hyped 2011 Red Sox. (Of course, there’s the question of whether the Rays would be a more dangerous opponent than Boston right now, should they advance past the first round, but that’s another story.)
Yes, Boston will still likely win the Wild Card, but last night’s Rays victory pulled them to within two games of the Sox. For what it’s worth, Boston’s Baseball Prospectus playoff odds dropped to 89 percent. And an eleven percent chance of Boston blowing this is enough to keep this weekend’s Yankees-Red Sox series interesting, at least at the outset.
Over the last three days, Red Sox fans were in the uncomfortable-for-them/amusing-to-us position of having to root for the Yankees, and the Yanks did them a favor by taking three out of four from Tampa Bay. But now they can go back to hating the Yankees, just as much as Martin says he hates the Red Sox. We wouldn’t have it any other way.