Hairy Red Sox have look of winner

September 19, 2004|By LAURA VECSEY

NOW THEY'RE EVEN, sort of, if you take away the 21 world championship differential.

The Red Sox beat Mariano Rivera on Friday night. Boston gained a fleeting psychic edge by overcoming one of the Yankees' most important weapons.

Yesterday, the Yankees returned serve - with no punches thrown by Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek. The Yankees trounced the Sox, 14-4.

In the epic series, these are wildly entertaining, but, in the end - even after Manny Ramirez made the most improbable defensive play in the history of the universe - small chapters.

We're waiting for big. We're waiting for the plot in this never-ending series to really turn - and it can't be today, when Pedro Martinez and Mike Mussina resume the love match.

This feels like the year for the Red Sox.

Time to make hotel reservations the weekend of Oct. 22 at Copley Square or The Wharf or over in Cambridge. It's a very stirring walk across the bridge, over the Charles River, down to Fenway. There's a little Chinese noodle shop along the way.

Some of us are already thinking about just these kinds of World Series arrangements.

Of course, every year feels like the year for the Red Sox. Then umpires blow calls, taking away Red Sox base runners and giving the Yankees extra outs, like in 1999, when Chuck Knoblauch got lucky and Jose Offerman got jobbed.

Or, there was last year, when the Red Sox were within a fistful of outs of their first World Series since 1986.

That's when Grady Little, apparently reciting the famous work of New England poet Robert Frost, saw two paths diverge at the pitching mound. Little chose Martinez over the Red Sox bullpen - then watched the Yankees drop in hits, score runs and Boston burn - metaphorically speaking.

Now the Red Sox are exactly where we hoped they'd be, which is amazing, considering they were 10 1/2 games behind the Yankees in late August. They were almost out of wild-card contention. Now they seem hell-bent on taking the division right out of the Yankees' mitts.

In other words: Once again, the Red Sox are making suckers out of some of us baseball fans. The Red Sox are painting themselves as the great unwashed, the fun-loving bunch that doesn't give a rat's tail about the precious Yankees.

We'll see.

If the Red Sox win the World Series this year, here's hoping they celebrate with the Flowbee Haircut System instead of champagne.

What an image: All that unsightly hair bubbling with bubbly.

It shouldn't matter that Johnny Damon resembles something out of the Museum of Natural History's "The Evolution of Man" exhibit - somewhere between biped and Paleolithic, we're not exactly sure.

Nor should it matter that Martinez's pompadour is starting to resemble that of Little Richard, or that pitcher Bronson Arroyo's bleached braids make him look like the incarnation of Christina Aguilera.

That thing growing out of Kevin Millar's chin? A selection, no doubt, from the good people at the Fuller Brush Company.

And soon, the Red Sox will have to issue a public service announcement disavowing rumors that a litter of unidentified small mammals have taken up residence in Ramirez's lopsided nest of unformed dreadlocks.

Not since The House of David has a baseball team displayed a more gruesome array of bad hair days.

But that, we think, continues to be the point: In order to overcome the Yankees, the Red Sox have willfully branded themselves the Anti-Yankees.

Too bad Derek Jeter and Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui are completely immune to such antics in the Red Sox dugout and clubhouse.

Too bad John Olerud is a terrific pick-up for the Yankees, stabilizing first base and lending a veteran bat to a lineup that can feature Jeter and Rodriguez at the top of the order when Kenny Lofton can't get it done.

Still, we all know what time it is.

It's almost autumn. It's almost October, too. There's no other sporting quest on Earth right now more compelling than the Red Sox's determination to get over on the Yankees.

Phil and Tiger? Go back to those Titleist clubs, Lefty. Go back to instructor Butch Harmon, Eldrick. See you guys in Augusta, where the stage is yours.

Barry Bonds and No. 700? Tell us when the Giant hits No. 715 - or No. 756, for that matter.

Ichiro Suzuki's single-season singles record and his quest to break George Sisler's record for most hits in a season? Tell us when the Mariners are contenders again, when Ichiro's bat magic means something for the greater good of a division win.

In the National League wild-card race, the Cubs are stalking the Giants, who are stalking the Dodgers for the NL West title? Tell us when Sammy Sosa and Nomar Garciaparra and Derrek Lee punch their ticket to the postseason, then we'll get fixated on the star-crossed Cubbies. It's too early yet.

It's too early in the NFL season, too, even if the Ravens don't want to go down 0-2 in the AFC North.

And it's too confusing in the BCS season to call any of these contests "must-wins," even if the Terrapins just gave West Virginia hope of running the table in the depleted Big East.

The NHL's in a lockout? Wake us up when the ice melts - or when hockey finds a style of play and some stars that makes it as interesting as college or Olympic hockey.

No, these are the days of the Red Sox.

Bad karma and worse hair must be Flowbee-ed.

Now.

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