Sizzling In Winter

The Red Sox and Yankees combined to pull off the seemingly impossible in October, when the Red Sox surged back from a three games to none deficit in the ALCS to stun the Yankees on their way to winning the franchise's first World Series in 86 years.<br>

Now, as a result of the Sox' unprecedented comeback and the Yankees' unimaginable collapse, the two teams have combined to pull off something else heretofore thought impossible: They've managed to raise the temperature in their century-old rivalry.

What's hotter than scorching? Whatever it is, the Sox and Yankees are at that temperature right now. The last two winters of can-you-top-this gamesmanship—from the Yankees outbidding the Sox for Jose Contreras on Christmas Eve 2002 to the Sox swooping in and acquiring Curt Schilling during Thanksgiving weekend 2003 to the Yankees stunning the world by acquiring Alex Rodriguez on Valentine's Day 2004—were mighty impressive, but a mere warmup act to what's transpired since the Sox gave George Steinbrenner his worst case yet of championship envy.

First the Yankees jumped into the Pedro Martinez bidding, if only to drive up his asking price. The Yankees never made a bid, but rest assured their inclusion in the Martinez derby further inflamed the bad blood between Martinez and the Red Sox.

The Sox tweaked the Yankees at the winter meetings, when they signed ex-Yankee and Steinbrenner favorite David Wells to a two-year deal. Wells, an admirer of Babe Ruth who seems determined to match Ruth in terms of off-field buffoonery, once said he wanted to push the button to blow up Fenway Park, but the dollars—a guaranteed $8 million over two years, with incentives in the deal which could net him an additional $10 million—turned him into the Sox' latest idiot.

With Schilling likely to miss the first month of the season as he recovers from ankle surgery and Martinez gone to the Mets, guess who is in line to start the season opener for the Sox at Yankee Stadium? That's right: Wells.

The Yankees quickly trumped the Sox when they won the race for free agent Carl Pavano, the former Sox farmhand who was dealt to the Expos in 1997 for Martinez. The Sox seemed to have the inside track on Pavano, who grew up in Connecticut and idolized Schilling, but even a home visit with Schilling couldn't sway Pavano, who ended up following his mom's heart (she's a lifelong Yankee fan) and signing a four-year deal with the Yankees just before Christmas.

The Yankees continued to win the headline battle throughout December as they inked Jaret Wright and Tony Womack to multi-year deals and continued lurking in the shadows of the Carlos Beltran derby. As the month ended, the Yankees appeared to finally wrest Randy Johnson—Schilling's one-time co-ace in Arizona—away from the Diamondbacks, ending a five-month pursuit which featured numerous stops and starts.

How's this for tasty: The idea of Johnson, who is said to dislike Schilling and the amount of attention he got in Arizona, squaring off against Schilling in October for all the marbles. Just when you thought the Sox and Yankees couldn't get any hotter…

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