BOSTON — Jacoby Ellsbury’s return to Fenway Park demonstrated to us why he is the ideal poster boy for this next phase of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.
Sanitized. Indifferent. Without much rowdiness or rancor. Ellsbury generated some boos when he first stepped to the plate — it’s true Derek Jeter was applauded — but the crowd’s response on Tuesday night lacked conviction.
We got the sense those fans booed Ellsbury because they felt that had to.
In truth, they could have cheered him. Ellsbury was a homegrown star in Boston. He helped lead the Red Sox to World Series titles in 2007 and 2013. Ellsbury didn’t possess the charisma of a David Ortiz or Jonny Gomes, but he blended in well enough.
So Ellsbury took $153 million from the Yankees — after the Red Sox didn’t even bother to get involved in the discussion. Is that even a crime anymore in these parts? The Fenway Faithful got worked up for Johnny Damon’s homecoming in 2005 after he bolted Yawkey Way for River Avenue, but that was two rings ago.
With Ellsbury, what is there to hate? Nothing, really. By and large, players sign with teams that offer them the most money. It’s an economic reality of the game, and the Red Sox made a conscious financial decision not to go down that road with Ellsbury. Wasn’t his fault.
“I’m not going to get into that,” said Ellsbury, who then laughed a bit uncomfortably. “I appreciated my time here.”
No sarcasm, no innuendo. Ellsbury was reminding us once again that it’s just business with him — nothing personal. And we can say the same about the way the Yankees and Red Sox approach each other on the field these days. We’re old enough to remember the animosity between Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk. Pedro Martinez dumping Don Zimmer on his head. Ryan Dempster drilling Alex Rodriguez.
The Yankees not only swiped Ellsbury from the Red Sox last winter, they reloaded with others that had no emotional ties to this rivalry — Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka. If anyone figured to provide the necessary spark, it should be Ellsbury. But he doesn’t make for a good anti-hero. Not like Damon and Roger Clemens did back in the day.