The Red Sox and Yankees don't play a game that counts until April 11, but the rivalry is already in midseason form in the upper levels of team management.
On the heels of Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner ridiculing Red Sox Nation -- saying "It is was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled with Red Sox fans" -- Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry couldn't help but have a little fun in his rebuttal.
In an e-mail to multiple media entities, including the Hartford Courant and the Boston Herald, Henry pledged to make Steinbrenner an honorary member of "The Nation."
"I'm a big Hank fan," Henry said on Saturday. "Just to ensure he knows how cool Red Sox Nation is, today we officially inducted him as a member of Red Sox Nation and we are sending him his membership card, giving him access to an array of options, including our newsletter, bumper stickers, pins, Green Monster seats and a hat personally autographed by David Ortiz."
Tracked down by a Boston Globe reporter in Tampa, Fla., Steinbrenner made it clear he won't be taking Henry up on his generous offer.
"I'm not gonna join Red Sox Nation -- honorary or not. I'll respond to that later. Trust me, I'm never gonna join Red Sox Nation," Steinbrenner told the Globe.
As a former limited partner of the Yankees, Henry has history with the Steinbrenner family. In fact, he has generally enjoyed a good relationship with the Steinbrenners, which Hank Steinbrenner alluded to in his conversation with the Globe.
"John used to be an owner of the Yankees and he's a great guy. My dad always loved the guy," Steinbrenner said. "I love him. Hal loves him. And he's done a tremendous job with the Red Sox. My only point was simple and that is that the Yankees brand is the biggest in the country. And everybody knows that. Obviously it's Yankees Nation. That's not meant as a cut to the Red Sox. In truth. I'm just not saying that to be nice -- but John Henry has done an unbelievable job with the Red Sox brand."
Steinbrenner made his original comments about Red Sox Nation to the New York Times Play Magazine.
"Go anywhere in America and you won't see Red Sox hats and jackets, you'll see Yankee hats and jackets," Steinbrenner said. "This is a Yankee country. We're going to put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order." Before coming up with the idea to put Hank in Red Sox Nation, Henry wrote another e-mail to reporters that said, "A wise man once said, 'Don't poke the bear.'"
The Red Sox and Yankees play a Grapefruit League contest on March 17 in Tampa. You can be sure Steinbrenner will not have his Red Sox Nation card in his wallet that day.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.