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Controversial A-Rod Reigniting Dormant Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees Rivalry

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COMMENTARY | In a few short years, Alex Rodriguez has gone from fan-favorite to one of the most hated men in baseball.

When Barry Bonds was first accused of steroids, many were hopeful that a "clean" Rodriguez would eventually have a shot at eclipsing Bonds' 762 home runs, restoring order to the baseball record books.

Now, Rodriguez has his own issues to deal with and has made enemies left and right. Among those have been several members of the Boston Red Sox, who open their latest series against the New York Yankees Friday night at Fenway.

Between the emergence of both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles, the rivalry between the two clubs has died down a bit. It doesn't help that they've largely alternated "off" years, with no postseason matchups since 2004 and few meaningful series in general.

Though this Yankees season appears to be on life support, a strong showing against the AL East-leading Red Sox could bring them right back into the middle of the playoff race.

And the weekend series is arriving in the midst of a war of words.

John Lackey, Saturday's projected starter, is the latest to criticize A-Rod's ability to play during his appeal. "I've got a problem with it. You bet I do," Lackey said on Thursday. "How is he still playing? He obviously did something and he's playing. I'm not sure that's right. ... It's pretty evident he's been doing stuff for a lot of years I've been facing him."

No stranger to speaking his mind, Lackey, ex of the then-Anaheim Angels, has long held a grudge against Rodriguez. "He took me deep the first time I faced him as a rookie, and he admitted to doing stuff back then. There are a lot of things I want back from him."

For the first time in a while, it feels like the intensity is back in the series. Though the Yankees' curious late-inning collapse sealed the Red Sox's 2011 fate, many fans blamed their own team rather than pointing a finger at their rivals.

Since joining New York in 2004, A-Rod has become public enemy No. 1 in Boston. The failed trade to the Red Sox aside, he hasn't exactly endeared himself to their fans over the years. There was the fight with Jason Varitek that summer and the swat of Bronson Arroyo's glove at a crucial moment in Game 6 that fall.

And, of course, there were the chants. Echoes of "You do steroids" have plagued him whenever he's come up to bat since allegations first surfaced a couple of years ago. If he was tired of hearing those chants before, I can only imagine how deafening they will be this weekend.

As fierce as the rivalry can be, fans generally only pick on those who deserve it. In his final season, Mariano Rivera has been shown tremendous respect in every stadium he's appeared in, and Fenway should be no different. But A-Rod is a different animal. He's had a great career himself, but his heel-turn will prevent him from commanding any similar reaction whenever he calls it a career.

For now, Sox fans can take solace in their first-place team while the Yankees are floundering, closer to the bottom than the top of the division. "You do steroids" may have been just an accusation at first, but now it appears to be grounded in reality.

And it's made Johnny Gomes angry. "I hope our dues don't really go to his lawyer fees by any means," he said last week.

If there was ever a time to tune in to a Red Sox-Yankees series, it will be this weekend.

Andrew Luistro has followed the Red Sox for over 20 years. He also writes for the The Hockey Writers and Sunbelt Hockey Journal.

Follow him on Twitter @ndrewL7.

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