The respectful Fenway sendoff for Derek Jeter made me wonder: If New York and Boston fans had to collaborate on picking an all-star team from the Sox–Yanks rivalry, who would make the cut?
Before I list my roster, I’ll briefly explain the criteria I used:
• I used only players from the rivalry’s modern era, starting with the 2002 season, when the Sox’ current ownership group took over.
• I kept players in their natural positions. No using Jonathan Papelbon as a setup man or a late-in-his-career Bernie Williams in right.
• I limited my picks to players who performed at their peak while wearing either the Boston or New York uniforms, rather than fading stars who joined the rivalry late in their careers. That eliminated, among many others, Ichiro, Randy Johnson, and John Smoltz.
• Players had to have enough “standability” (to steal a phrase from Andy Rooney) to be acceptable to the opposing fan base. So: No A-Rod, who doesn’t appeal to either fan base.
Here’s the 25-man roster I came up with:
• Johnny Damon, CF
• Derek Jeter, SS
• Manny Ramirez, LF
• David Ortiz, DH
• Kevin Youkilis, 1B
• Dustin Pedroia, 2B
• Jorge Posada, C
• Mike Lowell, 3B
• Nick Swisher, RF
Starting Rotation• Pedro Martinez
• Curt Schilling
• Jon Lester
• Andy Pettitte
• Mike Mussina
• Tim Wakefield, long relief/spot starter
• Mike Timlin, middle relief
• Hideki Okajima, middle relief
• Mike Myers, lefty specialist
• David Robertson, setup man
• Mariano Rivera, closer
• Jason Varitek, C
• Jacoby Ellsbury, OF
• Mark Bellhorn, utility infielder
• Kevin Millar, right-handed pinch-hitter
• Hideki Matsui, left-handed pinch-hitter
A few explanations:
• Manny Ramirez is probably the most controversial pick. But despite his stormy departure from Boston and multiple PED violations, he remains a beloved figure among a certain segment of Red Sox fans, not to mention some Yankees fans who secretly wished Ramirez could have played in New York, where he’d gone to high school.
• The toughest call was Jorge Posada over Jason Varitek. Sox fans loved Varitek for the mitt in A-Rod’s mug (a gesture Yankees fans can appreciate retroactively) and his handling of the pitching staff, but Posada put up better numbers longer.
• Nick Swisher in right? Seriously? Yes. Every other prospective candidate had an asterisk of some kind. Shane Victorino would be the perfect “character” guy, but he just hasn’t played enough to qualify. Trot Nixon had some good years but was hurt too much. Ditto J.D. Drew. Bobby Abreu? Meh. In four full seasons in New York the-switch-hitting Swisher never played fewer than 148 games and averaged 26 homers. In this lineup, that’s all you need from your No. 9 hitter. And his frat-boy personality would make him a better fit than glowering Gary Sheffield, whose big numbers carried a Mitchell Report asterisk.
• Damon, Youkillis, Myers, Ellsbury (who edged out Curtis Granderson), and Bellhorn all got points for playing on both sides of the rivalry. So did Lowell for being a former Yankees prospect.