- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003


The rain that fell in Boston yesterday led to the cancellation of Game4 of the American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, but it did nothing to cool off the tensions between the two teams — at least among the big bosses.

The battle ignited in Game3 by Pedro Martinez’s beanball at Karim Garcia included both dugouts emptying, Yankees coach Don Zimmer being thrown to the ground by Martinez and a fight between the Yankees and a Fenway Park grounds crew worker. By yesterday, the brawl had shifted from the field to the front offices.

The Red Sox, losers of their dignity and Game3 by a 4-3 score, are down 2-1 in the series and should have been content to let the furor die down, hoping the country forgets what happened at Fenway Park on Saturday night.

But the Boston brass struck back after the game by calling for a investigation into the ninth inning fracas that involved Garcia, Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson and a Boston grounds crew worker posted in the bullpen.

The worker had to be taken to a hospital for injuries he suffered in the fight, and late Saturday night Red Sox spokesman Charles Steinberg said, “The Red Sox are terribly concerned and distressed about the attack on our employee tonight. … [Team] president Larry Lucchino has called for an investigation by Major League Baseball on the attack.”

The investigation has gone beyond Major League Baseball, though. Now the Boston police department is conducting its own probe, seeking out witnesses to determine whether assault charges should be filed against the Yankees players.

Nelson claimed the employee was waving a towel and rooting long and loud for the Red Sox in the Yankees bullpen.

“The guy had been walking up and down [in the bullpen],” Nelson said. “I said, ‘If you’re going to wave that rally rag, go over [to the Boston bullpen] and wave it.’ I asked him nice, and he got in my face a little bit, and I wasn’t having it.”

Now, Nelson is a world-class jerk, and given his temper, he probably did nail the guy for doing nothing more than cheering for his team. But after the fourth-inning fireworks that took place and the volatility of the players and the Boston fans after that — the team cut off beer sales after the fourth inning — what was a groundskeeper doing rooting in the bullpen in the ninth inning? If you’re the Red Sox, there are police in the bullpen at that point.

And if you really want to get at the root of the problem, what about a police investigation into attempted assault charges against Martinez for throwing at Garcia’s head? What about the terroristic threats he made toward the Yankees dugout that he would throw at the heads of more New York batters?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees pressed for that kind of investigation as each side tries to one-up the other in the front-office war. Late Saturday night, Yankees team president Randy Levine demanded an apology from the Red Sox.

“The events of the entire day were disgraceful and shameful, and if it happened at our ballpark, we would apologize, and that’s what the Red Sox should do here.”

But there was no apology coming. Instead, a trio of Red Sox owners — Lucchino (former Washington lawyer and Orioles president), John Henry (former Yankees minority owner) and Tom Werner (Katie Couric’s boyfriend) — held a news conference late yesterday afternoon and defended their organization from the beating they took in the media after Saturday’s debacle.

“In the rush to write after last night’s game — and we are fully aware of deadline pressures — perhaps the full scope of what happened last night did not emerge but will emerge over time,” Lucchino said. “We simply ask that you look at what happened on the field and the attack on the bullpen and examine the facts over time. Some characterizations may have misled the public.”

When asked whether they thought an apology may be in order, Henry, a former partner of Boss Steinbrenner’s, said sarcastically, “I spoke with Randy this afternoon. I didn’t feel it was necessary for him to apologize for his remarks.”

But later Henry said he did ask Levine to retract his statements.

“We take exception to his remarks,” Henry said. “I thought they were irresponsible. He declined to do so.”

This Yankees-Red Sox front-office battle escalated last spring in the competition for free agent Jose Contreras, then when Lucchino came out and said the Yankees were the “Evil Empire.”

Someone asked the Boston owners whether any of them had spoken to Boss Steinbrenner since Saturday night’s melee.

“Who?” Lucchino replied and then followed up by saying, “You can bet I haven’t.”

The way to resolve this dispute would be for Boss Steinbrenner and Lucchino to put on the gloves and duke it out before tonight’s game in a ring on the field at Fenway Park. The loser has to apologize. So does the winner and everyone else who turned a classic into a circus.

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