Baseball is back and deserves a little bit of reverence

It is a frightening question. But it must be asked:

Are the Pink Hats taking over?

In case you are uninitiated with the term: "Pink Hats" originally referred to the Jenny-Come-Lately Red Sox fans who may or may not have known the "Green Monster" was a piece of the ballpark and not the international symbol for envy. But they began showing up en masse at Fenway nonetheless to make goo goo eyes at Johnny Damon and sing "Sweet Caroline."

"Pink Hats," though, has morphed into a pejorative for fair-weathers of either gender who know none of the suffering but all of the glory that comes with rooting for a team.

We ask because of the insipid grumblings recently from what must be burgeoning Pink Hats affiliated with the Yankees and Red Sox. Do you know what you people sound like? One columnist in Boston even declared the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry "dead" the other day.

I know spring is a time of renewal. But have all of you people emerged from your underground troll caverns all at once?

Here it is, another late March and baseball has been gone too long again. It returns in earnest next Monday in the Bronx, a Holy Day of Obligation after a Holy Day of Obligation. From Easter to Lester. And still, it's complain, complain, complain.

The Red Sox have a lineup full of people that will elicit a "who?" in place of the erstwhile "Youk."

The Yankees have "Youk" now, but are all hurt and older than the Book of Genesis.

Question: Why is this a bad thing?

Question: Must each team have an all-star at every position? It might be what the Pink Hats have come to expect. But the Yanks and Sox have always been more fun to root for when they're flawed.

It's why 1967 remains sacrosanct in Boston.

It's why the greatest Yankees summer ever was 1996. Mariano Duncan was the everyday second baseman. Joe Girardi caught, while the fan base pined for the departed Mike Stanley. The immortal Wally Whitehurst started a key pennant-race game in late August.

And somehow, it was just more fun. Now we're awash in ticket prices that must be justified through star power and fan bases that are more spoiled than week old sushi.

Let me just say this: If the Yankees and Red Sox are fighting for the American League East in September, yours truly will battle Rush Limbaugh that month for the most I-told-you-sos. Honestly. Is either team that helpless?

I remember helpless: When Alvaro Espinosa was the everyday shortstop and the top three pitchers were Andy Hawkins, Dave LaPointe and Chuck Cary.

And what if Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz pitch to the back of their baseball cards? The bullpen is very good and the lineup has scored runs consistently since Nixon's last "let me make this perfectly clear."

To the Yankee haters: You better hope Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte and Mo Rivera get hurt a lot. Because if they don't and the regulars in the lineup return - and who cares if Jeter is back April 6 or May 12, really - the "too old Yankees" win north of 90 again.

I'm not convinced Tampa will score enough runs, Baltimore can duplicate last summer or this collection of Blue Jays that hasn't won a blessed thing will be nearly as good as the experts say.

And as for the rivalry being dead: If you think it's dead, go cover lacrosse. No, really. If Sabathia vs. Lester at Yankee Stadium after baseball has been gone four months doesn't intrigue you, summon the valet for the bandwagon and get lost.

Sorry if I don't have my sunny disposition today. But I can't stand it any longer. Baseball is back next week with the Yankees and Red Sox. I am excited. And why not?

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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