David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
Just what this comatose rivalry desperately needed. Another infusion of bad blood.
If not for the real hatred between these two -- and no, that's not hyperbole -- we'd have been stuck with a relative yawner last night at the Stadium.
Pretty standard stuff, baseballwise, until the eighth, which is when Bobby Valentine called on Padilla to protect a 6-4 lead with Teixeira -- his pitcher's nemesis -- lurking four spots down in the lineup. A clean 1-2-3 inning would have allowed Padilla to avoid any drama.
Fortunately for the 49,573 paying customers -- the largest Bronx crowd this season -- it didn't follow that script. Pinch hitter Raul Ibañez led off with a single and raised the possibility of another Padilla-Teixeira showdown.
That's exactly what they got. The alleged head-hunting, name-calling, race-baiting Red Sox reliever in Padilla against the preferred target of both his fastballs and insults, Teixeira, who had been drilled in three previous meetings.
But there was time for some dramatic buildup first. After Derek Jeter was caught looking on a questionable fastball that appeared outside, up came Curtis Granderson, who launched two deep drives down the rightfield line -- both were foul. The second one didn't miss by much, only a few feet wide of the pole, but Granderson also went down on strikes. Next was Teixeira, only this time, Padilla kept his distance, staying away from him as the count went to 2-and-0.
Padilla then lofted a perfect eephus pitch that locked up Teixeira for strike one. The floater almost served as comic relief, cutting the tension, before Padilla threw a 96-mph fastball that probably was supposed to catch Teixeira off guard.
It didn't. Teixeira hammered the pitch for a long home run -- and made sure to take some extra time to admire the ball's flight. So much extra time, in fact, that Teixeira walked from the batter's box and didn't break into a jog until he was four or five steps up the first-base line.
There was no doubt that Teixeira, who too often had been Padilla's piñata, savored the moment, just like he had earlier this month with his game-turning triple off the Red Sox reliever at Fenway Park.
Despite all the history, Teixeira denied it. Or attempted to. "He's not going to want to mess around there," Teixeira said. "So it was just try to get a good pitch to hit and do damage."
Really? A few weeks ago, in Boston, Padilla went as far as to say that Teixeira should be competing in a "women's sport" and that he was prejudiced against Latin players.
"So I think, maybe, [Teixeira] picked the wrong profession," Padilla told NESN.com earlier this month. "I think he'd be better off playing a women's sport."
This was in no way related to that diss?
"Absolutely not," Teixeira said, without a trace of sarcasm. He also insisted that he stood at the plate, eyeballing the night sky, to check if his blast would stay fair. (It landed three whole sections to the left of the foul pole.) This was such a ridiculous suggestion that not even Joe Girardi, Mr. Poker Face himself, refused to deny the significance.
"There's some bad blood," Girardi said. "Tex doesn't usually show a lot of emotion, but it's a big home run . . . in a big series. That could have something to do with it, too."
Sure. That played a part. But in a rivalry that had provided all the sizzle lately of a business luncheon, this was personal for Teixeira. These repeated clashes between Padilla and Teixeira don't rate on the same Richter scale as Pedro-Zimmer, A-Rod-Varitek or Munson-Fisk, but they've become an entertaining sideshow, to say the least.
And reminded us that this still is Yankees-Red Sox, after all.