As the final out was recorded the other night in Minnesota, eliminating the Twins from post-season contention, another chapter in the book written by the baseball gods ended. Then, the page was turned to discover a chapter that seemed just like the one that began around the same time last October. To the surprise of no one who has followed the drama of another storied season, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees will square off, beginning Tuesday night, in a seven-game series that will determine who will raise the championship pennant and represent the American League in the World Series. This stage is ready, the house lights have been dimmed, the orchestra has taken its cue, and two baseball titans are ready to clash; in the end, one will emerge bloodied but victorious, having disposed of a hated rival in a battle that may even surpass what was witnessed only a season ago.
Last year, it was New York third baseman Aaron Boone, a third-generation ball player, who strolled to the plate in the bottom of the eleventh at Yankee Stadium and, with one swing of the bat, launched a pitch from Tim Wakefield deep into the night. That one moment sent the storied House That Ruth Built into a frenzy, Yankee fan and ballplayer alike, while the sullen Boston nine slowly made their way back into the clubhouse, realizing just how close they came to crowning a dream season. Only three innings before, they had the game cinched with a 5-2 lead and five outs to go; all of that changed when ex-skipper Grady Little, in a moment that will vilify him through the end of his days, allowed Pedro Martinez to stay out on that pitcher’s mound when he was clearly out of gas and surrender the lead in the blink of an eye.
Since that fateful day nearly 51 weeks ago, much has been written in regards to the respect and the hatred that these two teams demonstrate for each other. There has been plenty to fill up the notepad of every beat writer and to converse about on the sports radio and television shows. Whether it was key trades made to bolster what were already powerful lineups, angry exchanges between the front offices, or on-field action that rode like a roller coaster at Six Flags, there was enough drama and excitement created by the teams and the media that fans couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement. It seemed that, no matter how the chapters unfolded during the season, it was as if these two teams were meant from the beginning to be where they stand today, ready to take on the other in a climatic battle.
Now, those nineteen meetings in the regular season are but a distant memory. Regardless whether one team bettered the other, all of that gets thrown out the window and the season begins anew. In comparison, the divisional series were a cakewalk that needed to be made in order to reach this point, with no disrespect meant towards the Twins and the Anaheim Angels, who must now watch from the sidelines like every other AL team. The play on the field now rises to a different level, as both teams know that tomorrow only comes with continued success. A single play might mean the difference on the scoreboard. Every managerial decision, right or wrong, will come under intense scrutiny. All the want, the desire, and the aspirations of a championship must now be decided in the confines of two storied stadiums that house two storied franchises; this has all the makings of a classic saga that was destined by the fates.