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Dan Shaughnessy

Sudden status as favorites is richly deserved

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By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / December 10, 2010

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Adrian Gonzalez on Monday. Carl Crawford on Wednesday. In between those acquisitions, we had Bill Belichick and Tom Brady (best record in the conference) blistering the Blowhard Jets on “Monday Night Football’’ and a Celtic edition (best record in the conference) with four or five Hall of Famers dismissing the Denver Nuggets on ESPN.

This is New England professional sports in December 2010, and it is downright ridiculous. It’s a glut of talent, success, and celebrity, and no American city has seen anything like it.

The original colonies went through something similar when Ben Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Alex Hamilton quaffed lagers and swapped ideas about government and commerce. Imagine having all those talented guys at the top of their game at the same moment in history.

Now we have the Red Sox, Celtics, and Patriots, collecting superstars, winning games, and sniffing world championships.

It is the High Renaissance of sports, with Theo Epstein, Bill Belichick, and Danny Ainge wielding chisels and paintbrushes. Somebody tell Hizzoner to check the tread on the Duck Boat tires.

OK, I’m getting a little carried away. But did anyone around here really think the Red Sox were going to get Crawford after they bagged Gonzalez?

Almost three decades ago, when George Steinbrenner was throwing money at every outfielder in the majors, Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams (Larry Lucchino’s mentor) equated Yankee spending with the US-Soviet arms race. In those days, our nation was exploring a “dense pack’’ strategy of clustering MX missiles. When Steinbrenner signed free agent Steve Kemp, giving New York 10 outfielders, Williams said, “George is collecting outfielders like nuclear warheads. What’s he building — Dense Pack?’’

Welcome to 2010 and the ramping up of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. It is 2003-04 all over again, and the Red Sox just made themselves front-runners to win the next World Series.

Anybody mention Victor Martinez lately?

This assures that the rest of sporting America is going to hate us more than ever. The Sox-Yankees rivalry dominated the first half of this decade, and baseball fans outside of Boston and New York got sick of our quest to overthrow the Evil Empire. Now the Boston-New York war is back with a vengeance, and the Red Sox have become the Yankees.

Boston just committed almost $300 million to two players. Shocked and chagrined, Yankees GM Brian Cashman (he had dinner with Crawford and his agent Tuesday) said the Sox are “significantly reloading.’’ The New York Daily News wrapped up its week in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with the headline, “Winter Beatings.’’

I take back everything I was thinking about John Henry losing interest and commitment after buying a soccer team. I hereby purge “run prevention’’ and “bridge’’ from my laptop. I shall mock NESN no more. The Red Sox once again are hotter than Jonathan Kraft’s temper and might get ratings for PFP (pitcher’s fielding practice) come late February. Truck Day can’t come soon enough.

The Red Sox are good. In an ESPN poll yesterday, 49 percent of respondents said the Sox are front-runners to win the World Series. The Yankees got 30 percent of the vote.

Boston has as much starting pitching as any team in the league. Josh Beckett and John Lackey almost have to be better than they were last year. The Sox lineup should be as good as any team’s in baseball. There is significant speed at the top (thank the Lord we won’t have to see Crawford stealing any more bases against the Sox) and a great lefty-righty split.

This is also a team built to last. All the significant pieces — Crawford, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Gonzalez (we think), Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Beckett, Lackey, and Daniel Bard — are locked up for a long time. Theo’s coveted farm system took a hit with the Gonzo trade, but Ryan Kalish and Jose Iglesias are not far from being everyday players in the majors.

Finally, can we agree that Sox fans must never again cry about the Yankees buying world championships? For too long, the Sox owners and their fans have painted themselves as middle-market wannabes, competing against a savage beast with no conscience and no limit on spending.

While it’s true that the Sox don’t have revenue to match the Yankees, Boston is much more financially comparable with New York than Pittsburgh, Oakland, or Tampa. The Sox for years have gotten players because they can pay what other teams cannot pay. It was true about Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Keith Foulke, and Curt Schilling, and now it’s true about Gonzalez and Crawford.

No more crying about the Yankees. Your team has become the Yankees. Sit back and enjoy it while you wait for the Patriots in Super Bowl XLV and the Celtics and Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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