FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Bobby Valentine has only been wearing a Boston Red Sox uniform for about two weeks and he’s already taking a few jabs at the archrival New York Yankees.
Many thought that the outspoken manager’s arrival in Boston could add even more spice to one of the most heated rivalries in professional sports, and it hasn’t taken long for that to hold true.
In one fell swoop on Tuesday, Valentine said Derek Jeter didn’t need to make the flip-to-home relay that stands as one of the most celebrated plays in Yankees lore and fondly recalled when retired Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek “beat up Alex” Rodriguez in 2004.
The Red Sox were working on relay throws at spring training on Tuesday and Valentine was asked about one of the most famous relay plays in all of baseball in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS between the Yankees and Athletics.
Down 2-0 in the series and with a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning, Yankees right fielder Shane Spencer missed the cutoff man on a double by Terrence Long. That’s when Derek Jeter seemingly came out of nowhere to grab the overthrow in foul territory near the first baseline and flipped the ball home to get Jeremy Giambi at the plate.
The Yankees hung on in the game, and rallied to win the series.
“We’ll never practice that,” Valentine said. “And I think (Jeter) was out of position and I think the ball gets (Giambi) out if he doesn’t touch it, personally.”
Most observers credit Jeter’s hustle and instincts with turning around the series in the Yankees’ favor. And several Yankees have said that Jeter would practice that play in spring training, which drew a scoff from Valentine.
“That was amazing that he was there,” Valentine said. “Then it was more amazing to say they practiced it. I don’t believe it.”
But Valentine wasn’t finished there.
Even though he is just starting to put his finger prints on the organization, Valentine was asked to comment on Varitek’s 15 seasons in Boston and what he meant to the organization. Like many others, Valentine used Varitek’s confrontation with Rodriguez in a July 2004 game to sum up his mentality and his demeanor.
Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo drew Rodriguez’s ire when he plunked A-Rod in the game. After Rodriguez started cursing at Arroyo, Varitek came to his pitcher’s defense by shoving his catcher’s mitt into the third baseman’s face, sparking the benches to clear. The Sox came back and won the game 11-10 and went on to win the World Series that season.
Valentine was nowhere near Fenway Park that day, but that didn’t stop him from giving the decision to Varitek.
“He is a man’s man,” Valentine said of Varitek. “He was a big hitter when needed. He was a leader of the pitching staff. He was able to beat up Alex. All that stuff is good stuff. He was exactly what he was supposed to be.”
The rivalry will be renewed when the two teams meet in spring training on March 13. Their first series of the regular season will begin April 20 at Fenway.
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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.