For someone who never played for the Red Sox, Alex Rodriguez occupies a significant place in their lore.
He was nearly traded to the Red Sox after the 2003 season, only to end up a Yankee. He was force-fed Jason Varitek’s mitt during what is remembered as a pivotal we’re-not-going-to-take-it-anymore moment during the 2004 regular season. And he was complicit — and occasionally slap-happy — during the 2004 American League Championship Series, when the Red Sox exorcised every ancient apparition by rallying from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in seven games.
Rodriguez has only occasionally talked about the fight with Varitek and the Yankees’ playoff collapse through the years. But Sunday night, the topic came up while he was in the ESPN broadcast booth for another decent comeback, the Red Sox’ 5-4 win over the Yankees. Play-by-play voice Matt Vasgersian brought up Rodriguez’s history with the Red Sox. Rodriguez’s reply included the suggestion that the current Yankees could learn from the ’04 Red Sox. Here is how the conversation went:
Vasgersian: Be honest, when you were in the Red Sox clubhouse today, did you feel like captain [Jason] Varitek was lurking around a locker to jump you?
Rodriguez: I was! That’s why I had Moses my bodyguard [laughing]. Look, there’s no hard feelings. In the heat of the moment, you’re trying to win. I have the utmost respect for a guy like Varitek. The best game-caller I’ve ever played against and I thought he made his pitchers a lot better.
[ESPN plays a clip of the brawl, which began when Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo hit Rodriguez with a pitch. Rodriguez barked at Arroyo, Varitek stepped in, and chaos ensued.]
Vasgersian: Bronson Arroyo gets you in the elbow.
Rodriguez: [That was] a younger, more aggressive, dumber A-Rod. Look, this, if you talk to a lot of Red Sox, players don’t go out to incite brawls.
Jessica Mendoza, ESPN color analyst: Can we just talk about the frosted tips right there?
Rodriguez: Let’s not, let’s not. My daughters are watching so . . . [laughing]. What’s interesting is if you talk to a lot of the Red Sox Nation folks, the fans here, they took that as a pivotal moment on winning a championship. And I’m not saying the Yankees need to start a fight by any means, but I’d love to see more fight, more action, more Paul O’Neill attitude and sometimes you want a guy in the room to stand up and not necessarily throw a chair, but get in somebody’s face and show some emotion, some passion. Because right now I would want to shake somebody and it starts with yourself, being accountable.