The past few years, the New York Yankees historic rivalry with the Boston Red Sox has been bereft of life. In 2016, however, they both seem like contenders and could re-spark one of the greatest rivalries in American sports.
By Christian Kouroupakis
When you think of the New York Yankees and Boston Red rivalry, a lot can come to mind. Perhaps you think of when the legendary “Curse of the Bambino” started after Boston infamously dealt baseball’s icon, Babe Ruth, to the Yankees for $25,000 creating the storied rivalry.
No Yankee fan can dismiss Aaron Boone’s walk-off shot in game seven of the 2003 American League Championship series from their minds, but Sox fans shortly forgot about it when their team made a historic comeback down 3-0 the following year.
Please tell me you didn’t you forget about the brawls?
Ranging from the fights in the ‘70’s, Pedro Martinez throwing Don Zimmer to the ground, and Alex Rodriguez receiving a solid catcher’s glove sandwich from Jason Varitek, you could always foresee an episode of fight club to go down any time these teams square off.
Ah, those were the good old days. Today, the only thing you could predict about a Red Sox/Yankee game is the remarkably expensive ticket and a game that takes four years to complete.
Though we have seen some memorable moments like A-Rod getting hit by a Ryan Dempster fastball during his suspension appeal, Jacoby Ellsbury’s steal of home, and Rodriguez’s walk-off home run in the 15th inning of a ballgame in 2009, but the vibe just isn’t the same.
The hype of a Red Sox/Yankee game seems to have dimmed since 2004. For all intents and purposes, it’s good as dead. But why? Why is there a dearth of intensity when these two teams square off?
One reason is that both franchises lack the iconic faces that made the rivalry such a classic showdown during its latest peak.
When Derek Jeter walked away from baseball in 2014, the legend of the Core Four, which also featured Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettite, went with him. The members of the core four were the most dominant when the rivalry was the most predominant in around 2003.
Without the classy Captain, the best closer in the world, the most competitive starter, and the fierce back-stop, the Yankees lack significant characters that have the ability to spark a rivalry.
Who has the guts like the ones who came before them? Besides Alex Rodriguez, no one has the intensity to carry the torch. And let’s be real, I don’t think the new humble A-Rod has the intensity of the old arrogant version of himself that entered the rivalry 12 years ago.
How about Masahiro Tanaka? Sure he is built to compete but he has failed to come through under the spotlight and neither he nor anyone on this team has shown that they’re ready to be key figures in the rivalry.
When Red Sox outfielder and postseason hero Johnny Damon signed with New York in 2006, it added to the heat of the rivalry as fans saw him as the baseball version the traiter Judas. Fast forward to 2014, Jacoby Ellsbury hung up his red socks for navy pinstripes and it was just considered “the buisness side of baseball.”
It’s really difficult to hate a guy who got $153 million and is now hitting .264 in his short Yankee career, but he was never even booed at Fenway Park upon his return or even considered to be a “traitor.”
The intense emotions from the athletes who participate in the “rivalry” are very well dictated by the leverage of the contests. There is no relevancy in games between the Yankees and Red Sox, and the hype dims, even more, when they play 18 meaningless games a year.
Do you know what rivalry is relevant, though? The Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants.
These two teams have finished first and second in the NL West in three of the past four seasons. Over the past six years, the Dodgers have three division rings, while San Francisco has two division titles and three World Series rings.
Even though the Giants have had the best of the Dodgers in the 21st Century, the Madison Bumgarner vs. Clayton Kershaw match-ups and the down-to-the-wire division races make it one of the most special division rivalries in sports.
The Chicago Cubs/St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers/Houston Astros, and even the New York Mets/Washington Nationals rivalry have a ton more to offer than the Red Sox-Yankees which is merely a shadow of what it used to be.
Boston finished last in the American League East in three of the past four seasons and the Yankees only have one playoff appearance in the last four years. This, thankfully, could change very soon as both teams seem as though have built a core group to build on for the future.
The Red Sox are seeing promising young players such as Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Blake Swihart, Jackie Bradley Jr and Rusney Castillo making contributions for the Red Sox this season, while Dellin Betances, Luis Severino, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez are young stars coming from the Yankees farm system.
These young players will be clashing for years to come just like the good old days and hopefully, these groups won’t be too fond of each other. The rivalry is currently on life support, but could be saved with two feisty, competitive teams with a pinch of some up and in chin music or maybe even a take out slide.
The fans want it, the players want it (after all, this rivalry is what brought A-Rod to the Yankees), the media eats it up regardless, and baseball is better when the Yankees and Red Sox take center stage.