BOSTON (CBS) — While this past weekend’s Red Sox-Yankees series lacked some of the hype and excitement that usually surrounds any meeting between the two teams, mostly because neither team appears to be contending for a championship at the moment, there was a minor incident on Saturday evening in the Bronx that may have really upped the intensity of the rivalry had it happened at another time.
It came Saturday night, in the top of the ninth inning, with Mike Napoli at the plate with nobody on base and two outs in the inning. To that point, Masahiro Tanaka had allowed just one run on a solo homer by David Ross. The score was tied 1-1, and Tanaka was one devastating splitter away from retiring Napoli and moving the game to the bottom of the ninth.
Yet Tanaka opted instead to try to blow a fastball past Napoli, and Napoli made him pay. The Sox first baseman extended his arms and drove the ball just over the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium to give Boston a 2-1 lead.
Fox cameras followed Napoli to the dugout, where he greeted his teammates by twice shouting, “What an idiot!”
Napoli didn’t know that the TV microphones were picking up his voice, but in an instant, some dugout trash talk had just gone national.
While the language was no doubt a little rough, Tanaka didn’t seem to entirely disagree after the game.
“It was the worst thing I could’ve possibly done,” Tanaka said through a translator, adding that he shook off catcher Brian McCann’s calls for a slider and a splitter before throwing the heater.
And while it would have been easy to miss the whole situation, much was made of Napoli’s comments late Saturday night and into Sunday. It prompted Red Sox manager John Farrell to explain that despite a player yelling “What an idiot!” there was no disrespect intended.
“The one thing we don’t ever want our players to be is non-emotional,” Farrell said. “I’m aware of the comment made last night. I didn’t hear it at the time. But I know this — we’ve got the utmost respect for Tanaka, and I know Mike Napoli does. If his comment was based on emotion, in that moment, that wasn’t directed to be derogatory towards him. It was a reaction.”
And, in all honesty, it was a pretty great one.
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