Blake Snell of the Tampa Bay Rays is the greatest villain in the Yankees’ way.
What makes a great Yankees villain?
Circumstance and the frequency with which they appear in our lives has a lot of bearing on our perception of villainy. 18 battles a year, from a position of strength within the division, certainly changes the weight of things. The Red Sox aren’t our rival because they declared war on us on an overcast day in 1886; they were the best team in close proximity to the Yanks when MLB was in its early days, and they sold all their best players to us — thanks!
Unfortunately, a lot of it is simple aesthetics, too — how’s the villain’s sneer? Does it seem like he’s doing it on purpose?
In every respect, Rays ace Blake Snell fits the bill, and he makes the conversation a lot easier by declaring outright that he’s aiming to be the thorn in our side, and absolutely loves getting the upper hand.
Seeing as he’s been doing that a lot lately, and his insipid Rays are riding high while the Red Sox are digging their own grave, we’re inclined to give him what he wants. Snell wants the Bronx to hate him? His goal is to smash regular-season victories in our face? Fine. You got it, man. We despise you.
Snell’s remarkably poor splits, based on whether he’s facing us at Yankee Stadium or the community center where Tampa plays its home games, have also stoked the flame. This isn’t a one-sided rivalry all the time. He’s a sniveling, braggadocious bully who can be beaten, and often gets emasculated in imperfect weather conditions.
At the Trop, Snell’s swing-and-miss stuff is at its sharpest. In that house of horrors, he has a career 2.46 ERA in over 250 innings. But prior to Tuesday’s start at Yankee Stadium, Snell “boasted” a 5.82 mark, and surrendered some very satisfying homers to Gary Sanchez and Leadoff Luke Voit before he departed on Tuesday.
For now, though, Snell wants nothing more than to be the face the Yankees see when they go to sleep after another drudgery-filled Rays series. He’s made it clear that victory tastes a little sweeter to him when it comes against us — a feeling that he’s manufactured, and not one he was born with. His hometown of Renton, WA isn’t often foiled by the Yankees.
Unfortunately, for as long as the Rays are on top, the sneering Snell is the target of our anger in this very different era. While Boston slumbers, his pencil-thin mustache has risen to the top of the hitlist.
Regrettably, that’s exactly what he wants.