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Are you “amped” for the Red Sox-Yankees series?

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Red Sox President Larry Lucchino was asked about the Sox-Yankees series that kicks off tonight. Specifically, whether or not there’s anything special about it given that both teams are more or less assured of a playoff spot at this point:

“Absolutely,” Lucchino said when asked if he’s still amped. “We want to win, we want home-field advantage. And by the way, if we were playing them in a Tiddlywinks match, or a checkers game, we’d get amped up. At least I would.”

Two questions:

1. When was the last time anyone actually played a game of Tiddlywinks? The 50s? Maybe the 60s?  Definitely a long time ago. I used to think the reference was dated even when I was a kid. Which is fine — I’ll make 1970s and 80s references for the rest of my days because that’s just how people tend to be — but I do notice that kind of thing.

2. You feelin’ the same way, Sox and Yankees fans?  I was on a radio show last week and the topic of Red Sox and Yankees came up. The consensus was that it’s been a long time since it seemed like something more than any other normal series. There’s hype, sure, but it’s just not a hot rivalry right now.  And no, I can’t measure it. Just a feeling.

A feeling based on a lot of things, really.  The fact that each team will, as noted above, make the playoffs.  The fact that it may, tactically speaking, be better to win the wild card this year because I think Detroit will be dangerous in a short series (assuming Detroit finishes behind Texas overall).  The fact that there hasn’t been much in the way of personal animosity between the players in several years (I mean, look how old that pic I used is).  The fact that, since the Sox have won two World Series and the Yankees returned to championship status in 2009, there is less urgency for each team to demonstrate its bonafides.

And of course the unbalanced schedule and the reality of the TV rankings which give us so, so many Yankees-Red Sox games contributes. It’s hard to keep up the intensity for so long. There are too many baseball games for most rivalries to remain hot both on the field and in the public consciousness, and it really does require both.  I like temporary rivalries the sprout up due to a couple of years of close races or a particularly memorable series and then fade away.

Mets-Braves were like that a few years ago. They’re by no means natural rivals — they didn’t share a division until the mid-90s — but both teams being good and playing some really memorable games ten years or so ago was cool.  Same with Reds-Cardinals last year. Giants-Phillies.  Those have come and they will go fairly quickly, and they’re pretty hot when they happen.  And I think they’re more enjoyable because of it.

But the Red Sox-Yankees?  It takes more than history, I think, to really sustain this sort of thing.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.

Diamondbacks sign Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million deal

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 21:  Fernando Rodney #56 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 21, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.

Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.

Hazen issued a statement following the signing:

With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.