The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees are the most storied rivalry in all sports and nobody will deny that. In recent seasons however, the Red Sox and the Rays have been making baseball headlines for a rivalry that is getting increasingly heated. The Rays have been a franchise since 1998 and they already have a history bad blood and on-field incidents with the Red Sox.
The most recent incident came last season down in Tampa when Boston’s John Lackey plunked Tampa Bay’s Matt Joyce with a 90 mph fastball in the back. Joyce had choice words for Lackey as he was trotting to first base and that was when both benches cleared and the brawl occurred. No punches were thrown and nobody was ejected, but there were a war of words back and forth between the two clubs.
Back in August of 2000, I will never forget this brawl for a long time. Back when the Rays were known as the “Devil Rays,” Pedro Martinez drilled Gerald Williams on his fourth pitch of the night resulting in Williams charging the mound at Martinez. It was an ugly scene as five players and three managers were ejected after the chaos. The funny part about that game was that Martinez went on to retire 24 straight batters (including 13 strikeouts) since the fight and the Red Sox went on to win the game 8-0.
In September of 2000, the Rays made their way to Fenway Park with a chance to play spoiler to a potential playoff-bound Red Sox team. The “Devil Rays” were just 67-91 entering the game and held onto a 8-4 lead into the ninth inning. After the Red Sox pulled in a pair of runs, Tampa Bay brought out closer Roberto Hernandez to stop the rally and officially eliminated the Red Sox from the 2000 postseason. After knowing that the Red Sox were eliminated, Roberto Hernandez walked over to the Red Sox dugout and waved goodbye in the form of taunting them before celebrating the victory with the rest of his teammates.
On May 5, 2002, Rays pitcher Ryan Rupe hit Nomar Garciaparra and Shea Hillenbrand consecutively in the first inning. When Trot Nixon came up to the plate for the Red Sox, the bat “slipped” out of his hand when he took his swing and the bat went at the direction of Ryan Rupe. Red Sox Frank Castillo threw a retaliation pitch for Garciaparra and Hillenbrand getting drilled in the same game. Nixon received a 4-game suspension for throwing the bat, Castillo received a 5-game suspension for throwing a retaliation pitch and Rupe only got away with a fine.
Back in April of 2005, Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo hit Rays hitter Aubrey Huff in the first inning. When the Red Sox came to bat, Rays pitcher Lance Carter threw a pitch behind Manny Ramirez. Both benches were warned by the umpires and Manny hit a home run on the next pitch off of Carter. Carter apparently didn’t get the umpires warning and drilled David Ortiz in the head because of frustration. After yet another brawl, six players were ejected and both Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and Rays manager Lou Pinella had a war of words with each other through the media.
If this particular incident doesn’t strike anybody as two teams that simply don’t like each other, they must live under a rock. This fight occurred in a spring training camp in 2006 when Red Sox pitcher Julian Tavarez punched Tampa Bay’s Joey Gathright in the left jaw on a close play at the plate for no reason whatsoever.
This rivalry that is showing no signs of cooling down and these two clubs have quickly become as bitter of rivals as any in baseball today. It may not be as storied at the Cubs-Cardinals, the Giants-Dodgers or Yankees-Red Sox, but there seems to be more bad blood between the Red Sox and the Rays that any of the storied rivalries.