Red Sox – Yankees used to be the clear-cut best rivalry not just in baseball, but sports. However, the last 10 years have seen the rivalry lose much of its luster. Can it be saved?
One of the aspects that makes sports great has to be rivalries, as it can help not only the team, but the fans feel like they are part of the action. For fans, this helps make them feel like they are a part of the history between the two teams. Being a part of a rivalry can keep you interested, especially if your team is out of contention. The loss is a little easier to swallow if your rival doesn’t win either. In the sport of baseball there are some great rivalries given the history of the game, but for the longest time one was the clear cut best rivalry in all of sports.
Over the past 15 years, no rivalry in baseball has been better than the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Some of the players on these teams hated each other, and the rest of the league knew that when the postseason ended, they would have to sit back and watch these two juggernauts throw money at free agents like there was no tomorrow. While this didn’t guarantee that the best players would end up in Boston or New York, if either one of these teams really wanted a player, they usually got that player no matter what the cost.
Over the course of this rivalry, there have been a number of fights, hot tempers and, most importantly, some great games. Whether it was Bucky Dent or Aaron Boone, the Yankees would always come out on top. Even in the fights as Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee missed the end of a season when he fought Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles. Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez was made a villain for pushing Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground in the 2003 ALCS. No matter what the Red Sox did, they couldn’t win and that was part of what made the rivalry great.
What went wrong in the rivalry was that the Red Sox won. The Red Sox gained appeal because they were the loveable losers and the Yankees were seen as the bully who wouldn’t let up. New York fans often embraced this role of a villain, but since the Red Sox won in 2004, the dynamic has changed. Couple that with the fact since 2004, Boston has won two more championships and New York has only won one. It seems as though the Yankees are trying to hard and spending too much money after the Red Sox win.
It seems every time Boston wins the World Series, New York opens the checkbook. After 2004, the Yankees signed Carl Pavano and traded for Randy Johnson to solidify their pitching. In 2008, New York spent a lot of money to re-sign Alex Rodriguez (10 years, $250 million), Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada. Finally in 2014, New York brought in former Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, as well as starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, catcher Brian McCann, and outfielder Carlos Beltran. These big deals though haven’t paid off for New York and could actually be the reason for the rivalries loss of luster.
When looking at the makeup of these two teams, the Yankees are an older team that is filled with expensive contracts that are handicapping their financial flexibility. The Red Sox seem to be caught in an identity crisis as they want to get younger, but aren’t afraid to go out and spend a lot of money. It may take a year or two for both the Red Sox and the Yankees to get to the point where they are both considered playoff contenders. Coming into this season, the Red Sox were seen as a potential playoff team, but the consensus is the Yankees are destined to finish in the bottom half of a division with no clear cut favorite. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
So how does the best rivalry in the history of the league get back to being on top? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer as the Yankees need to get out from some of their bad contracts. Between Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia, the Yankees have $179 million guaranteed to these players over the next three years. Since the Yankees can’t give out huge contracts, they are starting to lack the star power they had as their stars are old and starting to break down. As for Boston, they are also lacking some star player and are very erratic in their spending habits. It wouldn’t also hurt and for there to be some more animosity between the two teams. Fans want to feel the hate and right now there is just indifference. Even when they go 19 innings, they play good baseball, but it could be better with a little more passion.
If baseball as a sport is going to pass football and some of the other sports, they are going to need better TV ratings. While baseball is currently loving the parity it has with smaller market teams getting not only into the playoffs, but to the World Series, they need the big names. Baseball is better when the Red Sox and the Yankees are at the top and especially when they meet in the playoffs. These two storied franchises need to improve, because while the league may be sick of these two teams being the class of the American League, the sport is simply better when the Sox and Yankees are battling.