Are Tampa Bay Rays New Rival Of Boston Red Sox?

By Steve Buchanan
Jonny Gomes
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When you think of baseball rivalries, the first one that will come into the minds of fans is the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees — a rivalry that has spanned over 100 years. It’s a rivalry that has the trade of one of the most celebrated players in baseball history in Babe Ruth, a curse the Red Sox finally got rid of in 2004 and many brawls and spats throughout the years.

However, since that historic curse was broken in 2004, the Red Sox and Yankee rivalry has seemed to lose all its appeal. No longer do we have the days of Pedro Martinez tossing down Don Zimmer. We don’t have Roger Clemens coming back to Fenway to take on his former team in a do or die game. We don’t have Alex Rodriguez slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo‘s hand as he tried to run down first base. If anything, we have two teams that are figuring their teams out and vying to make the playoffs. You don’t see much fireworks going off during these games.

You do see these fireworks going off with the Tampa Bay Rays. During the seventh inning of today’s game, Yunel Escobar took third base on a fielder’s indifference, a very typical play. For some reason unknown to viewers, players on the Red Sox bench seem to take offense to such a play. Now as we take a look at the situation, the Rays had just tacked on five runs in the inning to take an 8-3 lead. A lead that, just prior, was tied by Jonny Gomes with a pinch-hit two-run home run.

Frustration is clearly mounting in the Red Sox clubhouse. So when Escobar took third base, words were exchanged and Escobar approached the Red Sox dugout. Gomes charged Escobar from right field and a bench-clearing incident ensued. Gomes, Escobar and Sean Rodriguez were all ejected after the scrum was under control.

These teams are no strangers to controversy. During the playoffs last year, the Rays took exception to Jacoby Ellsbury stealing a base in the eighth inning while the Red Sox were up 8-2. In 2008, Red Sox outfielder Coco Crisp charged the mound after James Shields tried to bean him with a pitch. Coincidentally, Gomes was on the Rays at the time and got involved, landing a few punches on Crisp.

As the Red Sox lost their tenth game in a row, I at least had interest in watching this series with the Rays because of the fact that these two teams seem to always butt heads and give the fans entertaining games. If it’s not walk-off wins, it’s tempers flaring or words being exchanged. Even though fighting doesn’t have its place in baseball, it does add an extra element of excitement to a series. Nothing would beat a late September series against the Yankees, and the Rays are quickly becoming that team to see a game against. The Rays, even as recently as this series, refuse to play music for the Red Sox while they take batting practice, a tradition I’ve never even heard of. But it’s little things like this that peak my interest as a fan of the game.

It’s only the end of May and the Red Sox and Rays will meet up 14 more times. Those are 14 dates I’ll have circled on my calendar. I love nothing more than seeing rivals go at it vying for that elusive playoff spot. Oh, and three of those games are a late September series. Who needs the Yankees when you got Red Sox and Rays?

Steve Buchanan is a Boston Red Sox writer. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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