BOSTON — Mark Teixeira should've worn a navy blue suit, a red power tie and an American flag lapel pin. The Yankees pullover and cap just didn't seem to fit his persona. The look wasn't, well, polished enough for the high-priced first baseman, who answered every question he was asked yesterday afternoon like a third-term congressman.
Be not afraid New Englanders. Teixeira understands your pain.
"They just want to beat the Yankees," he said with a smile. "I would hope they wouldn't want any physical harm for me or my family. They just want me to go 0 for 4 with four strikeouts."
Leave it to the latest villain in baseball's most bitter rivalry, a 29-year-old Maryland native whose hometown of Severna Park is only an hour away from Capitol Hill, to choose the politically correct approach.
"I'd say thanks for coming out, thanks for supporting this rivalry," said Teixeira, when asked what he'd say to Red Sox fans if he ever got the chance. "I am much more concerned with filling the ballparks than there not being anybody there. I hope this economy turns around, I hope there's thousands of people every single game, if they want to boo me, great, but just show up."
The Fenway crowd, at least most of it, booed in unison when Teixeira came to the plate. He didn't exactly put on a power display, but he made the Red Sox pay. His RBI-single in the seventh scored Derek Jeter to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. It was a fitting introductory shot by Teixeira, who is surely going to be the object of Boston fans' disaffection for years to come.
"When a Yankee comes into town, especially a Yankee that could've been a Red Sox player," said Teixeira, who signed an eight-year, $180 million contract in December, "they're going to boo."
Before we go any further, it should be noted that if Teixeira signed with Boston - the Sox offered him $168 million - we'd be calling him "professional" and "classy." That's not a criticism; it's the reality of the situation. It's about the uniform your wearing. That's all. ¬
"He's always been a good kid," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who's known Teixeira since the player's early days in the Texas Rangers organization. "Because guys play for different teams, it doesn't mean all of a sudden you dislike their personality or you lose respect because they got more money or made a different decision. That's part of the game."
It wasn't easy for Francona to watch the Red Sox court Teixeira during the offseason.
"That was a really hard one for me," Francona said. "I know what's going on. But at the same time, and I was trying to be careful about this and I was probably walking a fine line because we had Mikey Lowell here. All the things we talked about, about loyalty and this and that, I don't ever want to lie to a player. But at the same time, I don't want him to think that I don't care about him, either."
Even though Francona complimented him, it was a bit unnerving hearing Teixeira explain why he became a Yankee. ¬
"The number one issue for me was my family," the Scott Boras client said.
Yes, his family. Specifically, supporting his family with mounds of cash. It's OK to say so.¬
As glib as he was at times, his respect for the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry seemed genuine. Teixeira, a career .194 hitter at Fenway Park coming in, explained that his father John, a former Navy pilot, reveres the Army-Navy rivalry. Teixeira's also a big fan of Lakers-Celtics. He's heard a lot from teammates about what it's like to play in Boston, but really, being here is the only way to get used to it.
"You can talk about it all you want," Jeter, a 14-year veteran of Red Sox-Yankees, said from his locker. "But (to understand) I think you have to experience it."
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