There’s that word again

That word is back.

Idiot.

Remember, that was the phrase popularized by Johnny Damon and Kevin Millar in 2004 when the Red Sox ended their 86-year championship drought and won the World Series. The Boston players referred to themselves as “idiots.”

So what to make of Mike Napoli’s use of the word Saturday night when he was caught on FOX microphones in the dugout saying “What an idiot!” in reference to Masahiro Tanaka for throwing him a fastball on a 1-2 count that the first baseman hit over the right field fence for what proved a game-winning home run.

Clearly, it was one of those heat-of-the-moment things that can often get blown up, particularly in a rivalry as historically volatile as Yankees-Red Sox.

Tanaka shook off catcher Brian McCann twice before throwing the fateful heater that Napoli tagged to give the Red Sox a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth that held up. Tanaka had made Napolo look foolish swinging at two split-fingered fastballs during the at-bat. On 1-2, McCann called for another splitter. Tanaka shook his head. McCann put down fingers for a slider, which was a very effective pitch for Tanaka. Again, a head shake. Tanaka wanted to come upstairs with gas, and Napoli was delighted to get a pitch he could handle.

Managers Joe Girardi of the Yankees and John Farrell of the Red Sox downplayed the situation before Sunday night’s game, which was also nationally televised, this time on ESPN. I agreed with Girardi’s assessment, that Napoli did not mean to insult Tanaka and that he was just happy not to have gotten another splitter or one of those devastating sliders.

“I haven’t seen anything in Mike Napoli that he is a guy that shows people up or he is a guy that degrades people,” Girardi said. “I don’t make too much of it. I think we might be making too much out of one pitch. If you score three runs, it really doesn’t matter. If you win 3-2, you are going to say, ‘Man, he pitched another great game.’ Since we lost it, 2-1, the focus is on that one pitch.”

“I know we have the utmost respect for Tanaka,” Farrell added, “and I know Mike Napoli does.”

Some columnists were writing before the series that the rivalry may be losing some of its juice now with a new cast of characters that have not yet made the same impact. Major League Baseball would only have itself to blame if things get ugly between the clubs over this. MLB allows FOX to put mikes in the dugout, supposedly to “enhance” the viewers’ enjoyment of the game.

It could have been worse. Napoli at least did not use the players’ favorite adjective, which cannot be printed here.

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