Feb. 18, 2004

Twenty years ago every move, every word, every snarl from either side brought the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry to unimaginable heights. Then Red Sox boss Larry Lucchino dubbed the Bronx Bombers with a moniker too hot ignore:

The Evil Empire.

That nickname has strong legs.

It was born when the Yankees opened the vault for pitcher Jose Contreras, who signed on for the 2003 season and was banished midway through 2004.

When Alex Rodriguez selected New York’s trunk full of gold, which was slightly heftier than Boston’s, before spring training in 2004, every scrap of news concerning him became fodder for Red Sox fans to curse – or applaud. 

On this day, there were chortles. A-Rod met with the New York media and was asked the obvious question: How would he, an all-star shortstop, handle moving to another position since the Yankees already had an all-star shortstop, Derek Jeter?

Former Red Sox shortstop John Valentin had a clue as to what was in store for Rodriguez. Valentin sometimes played third base and sometimes second base upon the arrival of Nomar Garciaparra.

There were many occasions, Valentin said, when he brooded over his new role. “I said to myself, ‘I’m a shortstop playing third base’ and I didn’t want to be there,” he said in a Boston Globe interview.

Valentin left camp for two days as a protest.

Rodriguez seemed to settle into his new job at third base without missing a beat.

Score one for The Empire … though it didn’t help much when the Red Sox rallied from a 3-0 ALCS deficit and ultimately win the World Series.