To say the New York Yankees rivalry with the Boston Red Sox has lost some its luster would be an understatement; baseball’s best rivalry needs a spark.
By Gregg Cambareri
Look at the image at the top of the page. Now think about the current New York Yankees rivalry with the Boston Red Sox. Does it have the same passion, run with the same hatred, and burn with the same fire that it did a decade ago?
It’s not even close.
Today, the new Yankee Stadium is quieter and much less populated than the house that Ruth built–even during Red Sox games. Last season the Yankees drew around 3.1 million people, their lowest attendance record since 2000.
The Yankees new ticket policy is only going to have an adverse effect on tickets sales, which you can read more about in the link above. Stubhub is now almost useless, and fans will have a more difficult time coming to the park to create a once hostile atmosphere for the storied rivalry games against their New England counterparts.
The Yankees on field product is mediocre, playing just one playoff game over the past three years. Gone are the days of Jeter, Posada, Rivera, Pettite, etc. It’s nearly impossible to replace the legends that dominated in the Bronx for so long, but it’s taken a bigger toll on the rivalry with Boston. The lack of competition is painful.
The old Yankee Stadium used to rock; it would physically sway in the big moments. The upper deck would rattle in a way few other ballparks could.
Today, it seems that the common fan is not just priced out, but told to stay away from expensive seats. Baseball is a business, we know that, but when you post your worst attendance record in 15 years, you would think keeping the common fan away from the park would be unwise, no?
The only thing quieter than the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry is the stadium in the Bronx. Things aren’t too much better on the other side, though.
The Sox won the World Series in 2013. Outside of that, they’ve finished in the division’s cellar for 3 of the last 4 seasons. Their lack of competitiveness over that span has hurt the rivalry. Tickets are expensive enough, and fans aren’t going to see two bad teams go to battle, rivalry or not.
The days of Ramirez, Garciaparra, Varitek, Pedro, and others are also long gone. The only true member of the once great Yankee-Sox rivalry left is Big Papi, whose entering his final season. There have been zero playoff games between the two foes since 2004, and we all know how that ended.
Not only has the level of competitiveness dropped over the past few years, but the hate for another is nonexistent–at least between the players.
Think back to the Arod-Varitek brawl in July of 2004 (video above). It was the FOX Saturday afternoon game of the week–a national audience witnessed one of the most entertaining regular season games in Yankee-Red Sox history.
Boston’s heart and soul captain (Varitek) got right in the face of the most talented player in the world (PED’s or not). Benches clear. Fenway erupts.
Remember how the game played out after the fight? The Yankees erupted for 6 runs in the sixth inning to take a 9-4 lead. Boston cut it to 9-8 before Ruben Sierra‘s solo homer made it 10-8. In the bottom of the ninth, Bill Mueller sent a Mariano Rivera cutter into the Boston bleachers, giving the Sox an 11-10 victory.
Why am I brining up this painful memory for Yankee fans? It wasn’t about one team or the other–it was about one of the best games between the two teams–one of the games that made the rivalry what it was.
That mid afternoon game in July of 2004 was one of the many classic games that typified what the rivalry was about. The current players on both sides don’t have the same level of dislike for each other; it’s a combination of money dominating a player’s decision, and not seeing each other in October for an extended period of time.
When Johnny Damon bolted from Boston to New York prior to the 2006 season, the rivalry gained another important figure; someone played Judas. Yet, when Jacoby Ellsbury exchanged red lettering for pinstripes a few years ago, no one seemed to bat an eye; it was just “business.” See the problem here?
And it’s the fans that have to pay the price–a once fierce rivalry now diminished.
As the 2016 season quickly approaches, we can only hope that both clubs are competitive and meet in October sometime soon. That, and a good scuffle or two wouldn’t hurt either.
The Yankee-Red Sox rivalry is one that is nearly dead but can easily be resurrected with two competitive clubs and one high and tight fastball.
The fans want it, the media would love it, and it’s beneficial for business.
Most of all, baseball needs it back.