Red Sox- Yankees: A rivalry in rehab

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Red Sox- Yankees: A rivalry in rehab

Here we go, everybody. All together now:

Red Sox vs. Yankees . . . Can you feel it?!?

Wait a second. Is this thing on?

OK, lets try it again: Red SoxYankees, yall . . . CAN. YOU. FEEEEL IT!?!?

Damn it. Still nothing.

And you know what? I dont blame you. As the Yankees make their way to Fenway this weekend to cap off the first half of the 2012 season, theres no question that one of the most storied rivalries in sports has seen better days. And you dont need to dig too deep for reasons why:

First of all, it was (and is) much harder for Boston to hate the Yankees and I mean REALLY, with every ounce of your soul, HATE the Yankees after the Sox exorcised the demons in 2004. It's been equally difficult to regenerate that hatred when the two teams haven't played in the postseason since 2004, and instead have given us 135 regular season games that have lasted roughly 17 million hours, 16 million of which were spent waiting on pitching changes and watching batters adjust their junk with one foot out of the batter's box.

More recently, the rivalry's suffered because the Sox have too much crap going in their own house to care about the Yankees. Who's got time to hate anyone else when you're so busy hating yourself? Not to mention, whether we like it or not, the times, the names and the faces have changed. And while Red SoxYankees has always been more about the uniforms than the men wearing them, it's the players and personalities that have consistently taken things to that next level of awesomeness.

But here's the reality of this weekend's series: Mariano Riveras done for the season. Dustin Pedroia's finally (and all things considered, thankfully) headed to the DL. Sabathia's hurt. Pettitte's hurt. Ellsbury's hurt. Crawford's hurt. Instead of inciting riots out of the bullpen, Joba Chamberlain's rehabbing from a trampoline accident, and his biggest antagonizer (Kevin Youkilis) is now the most popular man in Chicago. Instead of Johnny Damon signing with the Yankees and returning home as a traitor, we have Darnell McDonald getting picked up off waivers and returning home to tepid applause. Alex Rodriguez is a few weeks from his 37th birthday, and looks every bit the part. Derek Jeter's 38 and beyond drawing the genuine ire of Sox fans. At this point, Jeter doesn't make you mad. More than anything, he makes you nostalgic.

Speaking of which, David Ortiz, one of the Red SoxYankees giants, is now a professional Debbie Downer, and he's literally the only guy in the Sox line-up with a connection to the rivalry. If tonight's batting order is the same as Wednesday's, then every Sox position player will be in either his first or second year with the team. How that's for history?

And pitching? You want pitching? You want ClemensMartinez? SchillingMussina?

How's Beckett vs. Kuroda, Morales vs. Hughes, Doubront vs. Garcia and Lester vs. Nova?

OK, you get it. And you feel it. Or more, you don't feel it. There's an enormous weekend on the horizon but it doesn't feel like Red SoxYankees. Maybe it's for all the reasons I just listed. Maybe it's because we're now 82 games into the season and these two teams have only played twice. Not two series, but two games. Maybe in this case, absence has made the heart grow indifferent and after this weekend, the rivalry will be renewed and this column will be a joke. We'll see. But either way, I'm not sure it matters.

If there was anything positive to come from last year's collapse, it's that it reminded us of just how long the season is, and how much can change in August and September. That if a team can just tread water for the first few months and get healthy down the stretch, anything is possible. And at this point, that's the only thing keeping hope alive for the 2012 Red Sox.

So on that note, take the jerseys out of the equation for a second, and consider the opportunity at hand. The Sox are hosting the AL East's first place team on the last weekend before the All-Star break. They can go in down four and a half games, they can go in down 10.5 games. In terms of treading water, the Sox have a chance to either scrape their way into the kiddie pool or cast themselves into the deep blue sea.

Bottom line: The Sox don't need a rivalry right now. They need a few wins.

Sure, if those wins come against the Yankees it will be a little bit sweeter. But with all this team has gone through, and the rivalry's currently somber state, who they beat takes a back seat to just winning in the first place, and heading into the break with "first place" within reach.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

White Sox suspend Chris Sale over uniform flap

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White Sox suspend Chris Sale over uniform flap

CHICAGO - The Chicago White Sox were set to wear throwback uniforms. Chris Sale had other ideas.

The White Sox suspended their ace five days without pay for destroying collared throwback uniforms the team was scheduled to wear.

The team announced the punishment on Sunday after Sale was scratched from his scheduled start and sent home the previous night.

The suspension comes to $250,000 of his $9.15 million salary. He was also fined about $12,700 - the cost of the destroyed jerseys - according to a person familiar with the penalty. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.

"Obviously we're all extremely disappointed that we have to deal with this issue at this time both from the standpoint of the club as well as Chris' perspective," general manager Rick Hahn said. "It's unfortunate that it has become this level of an issue and potential distraction taking away from what we're trying to accomplish on the field."

Sale was not expected at the ballpark on Sunday. He is eligible to return Thursday against the crosstown Cubs at Wrigley Field, though Hahn would not say if the left-hander would start that game.

The Major League Baseball Players Association declined comment, spokesman Greg Bouris said. Sale could ask the union to file a grievance.

FanRag Sports first reported Sale was protesting the 1976-style jerseys, which were navy and sported unusual collars on a hot and humid night.

Sale then cut up an unknown number of jerseys before the game and was told to leave the stadium. With not enough usable 1976 jerseys available, the White Sox wore white throwback uniforms from the 1983 season.

The incident comes with the White Sox in a tailspin after a 23-10 start and Sale's name circulating in trade rumors.

"The actions or behaviors of the last 24 hours does not change in any aspect, any respect, our belief that Chris Sale can help this club win a championship and win multiple championships," Hahn said. "It does not move the needle one iota in terms of his value to this club, his value to any other club that may be interested in his services or the likelihood of him being moved or kept whatsoever. None of that stuff is impacted at all by these events."

The incident does raise some questions in general about throwback uniforms, how players feel about them and whether they should be forced to wear jerseys that aren't comfortable - particularly starting pitchers.

"If I'm playing with Chris Sale I want him to pitch," Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez said. "If he wants to play with no shirt, we play with no shirt. I just want him to pitch."

New York Yankees pitcher Chasen Shreve said: "Pitchers like their stuff. Me, it doesn't bother me, but for him, obviously it does. It's crazy. I don't think I'm that bad."

White Sox pitcher James Shields wouldn't comment on whether players should be made to wear throwback jerseys. But he did say: "I don't really mind the throwbacks. I haven't had any issues with that."

Manager Robin Ventura said players occasionally wearing uniforms they don't like comes with the job.

"But you wear it," he said. "If you want to rip it after, you can rip it up after. I've seen guys rip it up after."

Hahn said throwback uniforms the White Sox wore last season were a bit baggy so the team took measurements in spring training so they would fit the players better. He also mentioned the money the uniforms generate.

"Part of the element of being in position to win a championship is the revenue side of the operation and respect for their reasonable requests to increase revenue," Hahn said.

This wasn't the first flare-up involving the 27-year-old Sale, who is known for his competitive streak and strict training regimen.

He was openly critical of team executive Ken Williams during spring training when he said Drake LaRoche, the son of teammate Adam LaRoche, would no longer be allowed in the clubhouse. Adam LaRoche retired as a result, and Sale hung the LaRoches' jerseys in his locker.

He was also suspended five games by Major League Baseball last season for his role in a brawl at Kansas City that started with a flare-up between teammate Adam Eaton and the Royals' Yordano Ventura. Sale went to the Royals clubhouse after he got tossed and was seen pounding on the door.

Hahn said the punishment was unrelated to previous incidents. He also said the two had a "very candid" meeting in his office with Sale after the pitcher had some exchanges with staff members in the clubhouse and that both "expressed remorse." They spoke again on Sunday.

"At that point last night Chris stood by his actions," Hahn said. "Part of what makes Chris great, part of what makes him elite, is his passion and commitment. We've seen that sometimes spill out from between the white lines. Yesterday was one of those instances and it unfortunately led to events that required discipline."