Yankee first baseman Mark Teixeira expects “lots of boos” when he’s introduced to the crowd at Fenway tonight in the first of a three-game series.
“Hopefully it’ll be a good game,” said Teixeira, who spurned the Red Sox to sign an eight-year, $180 million deal with the Yankees this offseason. “Hopefully the fans get their money’s worth.”
Teixeira met with the media in a press conference setting this afternoon. He spoke a lot about the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, but seemed less antagonistic toward Red Sox ownership, whom he criticized after their Dallas meeting last winter because John Henry commented publicly that the Red Sox were out of the negotiations.
“This is probably the best rivalry in sports,” Teixeira said. “My dad is a Navy man so Army-Navy is up there so it’s about national pride. But when you talk about professional sports . . . Lakers-Celtics is up there and Red Sox-Yankees are one of the best.”
Asked if he thought Red Sox booing him is kind of a joke, he said, “It’s not a joke. It’s passionate fans. These people in Boston are great baseball fans. They’re knowledgeable. They love the Red Sox. They live and die with every pitch. When a Yankee comes to town — especially a Yankee that could have been a Red Sox — they’re going to boo. They’re going to be in the game.”
Questioned about whether he used teams like the Red Sox to drive up the price to the Yankees, Teixeira said, “I don’t. I hope they don’t feel any ill will towards me. I thought the entire process went very smoothly with everybody. We were very honest with everybody and I hope they don’t feel that way.
“The No. 1 issue for me was my family. I’ve put my family through a lot. My wife grew up in Georgia. I brought them out to Texas at a very young age. Went from Texas and luckily back to Atlanta for a year. But [to] spring trainings in Arizona. Spring trainings in Florida. Then traded to LA — the opposite coast, so my family was No. 1. So I envisioned where my wife and kids were going to be happy so they can see their grandparents and aunts and uncles. So once I signed with the Yankees I said, ‘Oh yeah, the Red Sox and Yankees are a pretty big rivalry.’ ”
If things got a little contentious, it probably wasn’t as bad as 1998, when the Sox drafted Teixeira and couldn’t sign him. At the time Teixeira charged that the Sox put out word he was going to go to Georgia Tech so other teams wouldn’t draft him in the first round. Teixeira thought, based on his conversations with the Sox brass at that time, that he would go in the first round. The Sox were unable to sign Teixeira. His agent, Scott Boras wanted first-round money.
“Not at all, a completely different situation,” said Teixeira who was asked whether his first experience with the Sox seeped into his second experience. “The baseball draft is messed up and I’m sure that’s what you’re alluding to — the ’98 draft. It’s unfortunate the way that it works. Kids are not drafted where they’re supposed to be. They have to go to junior college or independent ball. It’s a tough process. It didn’t go down the way I would have liked it. But this group of Red Sox management is completely different.”
Teixeira said he walked about the city, at one point going to workout. He said he didn’t hear anything bad.
“I went out to work out today and probably saw 15-20 Red Sox hats and shirts. Some people kind of smiled and looked at me. Saw a couple of Yankee hats. These people are great people. They just want the Red Sox to beat the Yankees. I would hope they don’t want any physical harm for me and my family. They just want me to go 0 for 4 with four strikeouts.”
He doesn’t anticipate any lessening of boos over time.
“Every Red Sox-Yankees series is going to be so watched and so anticipated,” he said. “As a player, if we’re thinking Yankees-Red Sox the next eight years I’m not worrying about the Orioles, Rays or anyone else in our division. Every time we play the Red Sox there’s going to be a lot of eyes on me. Boston fans will be all over me. But I’ll cross those bridges when I get to them.”
If he could speak to the Boston masses, what would he say?
“I would say thanks for coming out,” he said. “Thanks for supporting the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. I am much more concerned with going to ballparks and not seeing anybody there. I hope this economy turns around. I hope there’s thousands of people at every single game. You want to boo me, great, just show up and support your team., support baseball and hopefully they’ll be nice to me after the game and when all is said and done.”