|Bobby V. surely won't hurt the excitement surrounding the best rivalry in baseball. (US Presswire)|
TAMPA -- Like the title of the movie says, It Might Get Loud. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have played more than 2,000 times during the regular season, 19 times in the postseason and once in the 1978 Bucky Dent Invitational, er, one-game playoff.
But these two titans have never played with Bobby Valentine managing.
"I don't think different managers change anything," says David Ortiz, the Boston designated hitter who came into the eye of this hurricane in 2003 when Grady Little's Red Sox were battling Joe Torre's Yankees.
Yeah? As if earplugs weren't already required when these two clubs meet, here's a prediction that both clubs (and the rest of us) had better special order those state-of-the-art Bose Noise Canceling Headphones in time for this season's first clash, in Boston on April 20.
"It has nothing to do with the managers," says Mariano Rivera, the legendary Yankees closer who first pitched in this rivalry in 1995 when Buck Showalter was piloting the Yankees and Kevin Kennedy was pulling the levers in Boston. "It's just two teams competing head to head.
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"The faces might change but, overall, it's the same thing."
Veterans on both sides this spring said baseball's biggest blockbuster rivalry is bigger than any one manager, and there is no disputing that. As Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson always reminded, the game is bigger than any one man.
But one man's mouth sometimes can trip the wires and get the electrical currents going.
Valentine has yet to manage the Red Sox in a regular-season game, he was hired less than four months ago, and already he's declared "I hate the Yankees", noted that Jason Varitek was able to "beat up" Alex Rodriguez back in 2004 and said that Derek Jeter was out of position during that famous flip play against Oakland in 2001 (he later backpedaled).
He left the Yankees grumbling a couple of weeks ago when ordering a suicide squeeze in the ninth inning that tied a Grapefruit League game between the two clubs. Already facing a two-hour bus ride back to Tampa following the night game, the Yankees begged out of extra innings, claiming they were out of pitchers.
Valentine, who had reliever Clayten Mortenson warming to pitch the 10th inning, called the Yankees discourteous for bailing.
"I guess that could add fuel to the fire to a certain degree," Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte allows. "My perspective is you get down here, you try and get your work in, the last thing you're worried about is what's going on."
That's all part of the beauty/charm/dynamite -- pick one -- Bobby V. brings with him into what already is one of sport's most explosive rivalries: Maybe the last thing you're worried about is what's going on, but whether you're A-Rod or the last man on the roster, pretty soon the cymbal-clashing of Bobby V.'s words jar you into worrying about what's going on.
"Bobby wants to make sure he's in every little thing that happens in the game -- pitching, hitting -- every single aspect of the game," Ortiz says. "But if you go through the years, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, all those guys who have played for the Red Sox and the Yankees in this rivalry, they stopped playing and the rivalry still got bigger and bigger and bigger.
"It's not like when we stop, it stops."
It steamed forward when Little surrendered his job to Terry Francona, with the Red Sox came storming back from a 3-0 hole to historically beat the Yankees in the '04 AL Championship Series.
It bulldozed ahead when Torre left and Joe Girardi took charge of the Yankees in 2008, notably choosing the No. 27 to wear because the Yanks were gunning for their 27th World Series title. And when they got it a year later, Girardi changed his number to 28 in 2010.
That would be Exhibit A against the old theory that though the faces might change, the uniforms stay the same.
"Managers can change the identity of a team a little bit," says Yankees catcher Russell Martin, the rare man who played under both Grady Little and Joe Torre (with the Dodgers from 2006-2010) before parachuting into the New York-Boston rivalry last summer. "A manager can impact the players with the attitude he has, psychologically.
"A manager definitely has a big impact on a team. Now, is it going to change a rivalry, change the way the fans and a city feel? No."
Turn the page, start a new chapter and the scenery often does look different. And "psychologically", a lot of folks are going to feel as if they're sitting on Bobby V.'s couch this summer as the Red Sox and Yanks wade into their next chapter.
"Bobby might add a little more color because he has more personality," Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis says. "He might be out there more because of his energy and enthusiasm. The Yankees might see him different than Tito [Francona]. But you don't play against the manager, you play against the team."
No matter. As history slow cooks in the background, Valentine excels at keeping things on simmer.
"You could take anybody and put them in a Red Sox uniform, take anybody and put them in a Yankees uniform, and sparks are going to fly," Martin says. "That's just the way it is."
Like when Don Zimmer, then Torre's bench coach in New York, charged Pedro Martinez during the 2003 ALCS.
"You might miss players, coaches or managers," after they move on, Ortiz says. "But the rivalry only gets better and better and better. I don't get tired of it.
"Oh man, once those games show up, you want to make things happen."