A resurrection of the biggest rivalry in sports begins Friday night at Fenway Park. The Red Sox – Yankees rivalry has been very quiet over the past few years. In fact, many fans would argue that the rivalry is dead. The rivalry was very strong in the late 1990’s during the Pedro-Clemens years and it reached new levels from 2003 – 2005. During these years, Red Sox – Yankees was the best ticket in sports. Both teams were elite and were top five teams in all of baseball. The teams met in the ALCS in back to back seasons in 2003 and 2004 with both series going seven games and each team winning once. The Red Sox took the rivalry to it’s peak in 2004 after being down 3-0 in the ALCS as they came back to win the series in one of the greatest series comebacks in the history of professional sports. The Red Sox then went on to win the World Series. The rivalry continued through 2009 as the Red Sox won the championship in 2007 and the Yankees won in 2009. Since then, both teams have struggled to be World Series contenders with the exception of the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2013. The teams just haven’t been as relevant as they once were. The rivalry hasn’t been what it once was. You can even sense it at the ballpark. The atmosphere at these games has been different.
There have been many meaningless Red Sox – Yankees series during the second half of the season over the past three years. In fact, you would have to go all the way back to 2011 to find a Red Sox – Yankees game played in July, August, or September in which the teams were playing meaningful games against each other for first place. There has not been a game played in the past three years in which the teams were within 5.5 games of each other in July, August, or September in a meaningful game. In 2012, the Red Sox were out of contention by mid-July and they then cleaned house by trading Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers. In 2013, the Red Sox ran away with the division and the Yankees never got within six games of first place during a Red Sox – Yankees series in the second half of the year. 2014 was very similar to 2012 as the Red Sox again failed to contend and they played out the schedule with meaningless games. Once again, the games against the Yankees weren’t getting a lot of attention.
Before this season started, if someone told any Red Sox fan that the team would be 41-45, in last place, and 5.5 games behind the Yankees for first place on July 9th, the fan would have been very disappointed. There were high, but tempered expectations this year. The feeling was that the team was at least good enough to contend and could win the division given that their offense was projected to be one of the best in baseball. By mid-June, that all changed. The team was as many as 10 games out of first place and it looked like a repeat of 2012 and 2014. The team had no life and players were underachieving across the board. Ironically, if someone told any Red Sox fan on June 21st that the team would be 41-45 and just 5.5 games out of first place on July 9th, the fan would have been thrilled! So that’s where we stand. 41-45 doesn’t look so bad right now considering that the team is 13-6 over their past 19 games and they have picked up 4.5 games in the AL East standings since June 21st. They enter this weekend’s series against the Yankees on a four game winning streak. The Red Sox are in the hunt with an opportunity to continue to gain ground and keep the momentum going.
The Yankees come into this series on top of the AL East with a 46-39 record. They have had a solid season with decent pitching and they have had a lot of their hitters have a resurrection themselves, namely Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Like all of the teams in the AL East, the Yankees are beatable. Many fans feel that the Yankees have overachieved up to this point. A 5.5 game lead at this point in the season is not a big deal considering that all of the teams in the division have holes. Having A-Rod back in there adds to the rivalry for Red Sox fans. He has played well and was getting All Star consideration. He’s still not a likable player after being suspended for the entire 2014 season. Teixeira also is having a good season. He hit his 22nd home run last night and he’s on the All Star Team. Oh yeah, and just to add to the fun, Jacoby Ellsbury just came back from the DL. I can hear the boo birds already! This team is still very easy to dislike. I’m sure that Yankees fans feel the same way about the Red Sox. Perfect! Isn’t this what we enjoyed so much about this rivalry 10 years ago?!
The Red Sox have changed a lot this year. They added Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. 4/5 of their starting rotation is new this year. They have two young potential superstars in Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. And then there’s Big Papi who has been on a recent power surge. He hit his 15th home run on Wednesday night. That home run was to the opposite field which usually means he’s ready to go on a tear. Yankees fans know as well as anyone what he’s capable of in a big series against them. The Red Sox players have been hitting very well recently and have led the team on their way back to contention. The team went from a team that almost unwatchable to a team that is fun to watch with a good mix of veterans and young stars. They have made it interesting. At the very least, they gave us a Yankees series this weekend which fans can get excited about prior to the All Star Break. The rivalry is not back to where it was by any means. However, this is the biggest series between the two teams in the past four years. Hopefully, it’s a start to something bigger in August and September.
Meaningful Red Sox – Yankees games on a weekend in July. Sounds like the summer of baseball could be back to normal this year. Enjoy the games…