Despite their lack of 21st-century titles, the Yankees still get us all riled up whenever the Sox play ’em, reminding us that the classic battle between good and evil never truly ends. Even if, these days, evil isn’t so much the 600-pound pinstriped gorilla it used to be, but is more like a slightly tougher version of “Jughead” from the Archie comics.
So with the concepts of “good” and “evil” floating in our heads, and with bellies filled to bursting with cheap beer, Denton and I got all introspective and shit, debating about those Yankee players who inspired the most anger within us. The ones we’d most like to see peeled apart by wild emus. The most hated.
And it goes like this:
Denton: For me, picking the biggest d-bag ever to wear a Yankees uni is like trying to pick the hottest Victoria’s Secret model: there are too many choices, each with their own distinct qualities. Not to mention, there’s just too much history of hate-able Yankees. It’s like trying to compare the Celtics teams of the Russell era against the Bird era. You just can’t. So I’ve gone the route Dickens would have, and identified the most-hated Yankees of the past, present and future.
Red: For me, the “past” would only go back as far as the early ’80s, as I can only generate pure, unbridled distaste for those Yankees who I actually watched. That means, sadly, I have to discount the great Yankees villains of the ’70s like Ron Guidry, Bucky Dent, Reggie Jackson and the late Thurman Munson, who played Darth Vader to Fisk’s Luke Skywalker. My hatred is more rooted in those Yanks teams of the mid-to-late ’90s that gave us fits–with guys like Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, Chuck Knoblauch, Scott Brosius and Mo Rivera.
Denton: Well, if we start there, I’d say Paul O’Neill was the face of everything you could want to hate about the Yankees. His cocky stride to the plate, his whining about every called strike or out call at first, and his oh-so-punchable face. Looking back, his career .305 average against the Sox probably fueled the ire. Put a gun to my head, and I might give him the edge overall.
Red: From the late ’90s/early 2000s teams, I’d go with Jeff Nelson. Talk about a punchable face–he looked as if he was ripped right from half the “wanted” posters you see in the post office. And even though he was only with the Yankees for a brief span of time, his impact on the 2003 ALCS against the Sox was enormous, most notably his brawl with a Fenway groundskeeper in the visitor’s bullpen during game three. During game four, the Fenway crowd was literally chanting “we want Nelson” late in the game as the Sox threatened. And the f@#ker ambled out of the ‘pen, looking as smug, cool and deranged as a guy who just beat a child molestation rap on a technicality, and promptly induced a Nomar double play. I still feel my hands curling into a fist when I think of that whole series.
Denton: As for today’s Yankees, it’s a toss-up between A-Rod and Giambi. A-Rod is a great baseball player, but he’s proven too many times that he carries the douchebag gene. The slap of Arroyo, the “mine” call against Toronto, and the incident that ultimately led to Tek serving him a mitt sammich–those things can’t be ignored. But Giambi gets the edge because not only is he a douchebag and a greaseball, he’s also a cheater. The fact that he admitted it and still gets to go out and cash checks for millions of dollars is wrong. And he looks like a monkey trying to hump a football when he dives for a ball at first. That said, when they finally catch A-Rod for being a juicer, the scales tip in his favor.
Red: You know where I stand as far as current Yankees. If not, please allow Charles Nelson Reilly to refresh your memory:
Denton: And as for future Yankees, it’s a no-brainer: Joba. If for no other reason, his obsession with trying to take Youk’s head off with a 97 mph heater gets him the nod. Phil Hughes would have been a contender for the award, but he’s such a nobody that it would be like giving the “Yankees Past” award to Karim Garcia. Too many people would respond with blank looks and rush to their computers to Google the name.
Red: I try to muster the hate for Joba, but then I go and read something like his comments on Clay Buchholz in last Sunday’s Globe:
“I spoke to Justin [Masterson] the other day about it. It’s a shame for Clay and I know he must be disappointed, but all you have to do is look at his stuff to know that this is only a temporary setback for him. He’s got nasty, great stuff, and he’s going to figure it out because here’s a guy who’s pitched a no-hitter in the majors already.”
After that, I just can’t turn the anger up. So I’ll just double up here and say Giambi again. That is, unless the Yanks ever sign Shea Hillenbrand.