Flame Fading in Historical Rivalry: The Yankees-Red Sox Story

Source: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Source: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

By Joe Commesso

There was once a time when sports rivalries couldn’t be discussed without the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox headlining the conversation. The famous “Curse of the Bambino” provided the foundation upon which the historic rivalry was built. The Red Sox sold George Herman Ruth to the Yankees in 1920 for $125,000, a sum that could be considered petty cash in the baseball world today. The acquisition helped the Yankees emerge as one of baseball’s most powerful and successful organizations, while doing quite the opposite for the boys from Boston. The Red Sox endured an 86 year-long World Series drought after shipping the Hall of Fame slugger to New York. The 1990s and 2000s only added fuel to the fire between the ball clubs, further solidifying their status as the biggest rivalry in baseball. But even with the bench clearing brawls and tight pennant races, is it possible that the rivalry has died down over the past few years?

Once upon a time, the two teams couldn’t play each other without exchanging words or fastballs up and in. The tension between the two clubs was only exacerbated by the pure hatred they had for one another. The Yankees have always been infamous for their immense payroll and frivolous spending, often doing whatever it takes in order to assemble the best ball club possible. For most of history, The front office in Boston couldn’t compete financially with New York for coveted free agents. New York was the place to play for the players and everyone wanted to wear those famous pinstripes. Admittedly, the Yankees’ success and the Red Sox’s inadequacy was heavily attributed to the disproportionate payrolls. However, the argument that the Yankees “bought” all of their championships is erroneous, for the players still have perform and stay healthy no matter how much money they receive. Regardless of where you stand in this argument, the past can’t be altered, and Tom Hanks said it best; “There is no crying in baseball”.

There will always be a little animosity in the air when the Sox and Yanks play each other, but it pales in comparison to how it once was. The main reason the bad blood between the two teams is thinning, is simply because they are different teams than they have been throughout history. The Yankees are no longer winning 100 games a year and the Red Sox have enjoyed quite the success since “reversing the curse” in 2004. The eras of Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neil, Roger Clemens, and other Yankees greats is over. Instead, fans of the New York club have recently had the luxury of watching players like Stephen Drew and Chris Capuano. In case the satire wasn’t detected, Drew finished this year hitting .201 and Capuano owned a 7.97 ERA in 2015. These guys wouldn’t have even sniffed the field in the Yankee’s heyday, but like previously stated; times have changed. Luckily, Brian Cashman (Yankees GM) has acquired Starlin Castro to play second base and fix the Stephen Drew situation. Likewise, it is very unlikely that Chris Capuano will be in pinstripes next year. The Bombers can no longer outspend every team in the league, necessitating them to find new ways to win and form a legitimate farm system.

Having won World Series titles in 2004, 2007 and as recent as 2013, the Boston Red Sox have emerged as a major AL East threat and playoff contender. They have come a long way since being slapped around by the Yankees year after year. Down three games to none against New York in the ALCS in 2004, it appeared to be the same old story for the “cursed” Boston club. Of course, the Sox completed one of the greatest comebacks in sports history by winning the next four games and advancing to (and eventually winning) the World Series. The curse was reversed and a whole new era of Red Sox baseball was upon us. The Yankees almost always had a better team, but the unity and camaraderie of the Sox was the main reason for their success. Throughout history, the Yankees have felt entitled and superior to Boston, which created deeper and more personal hatred from the Red Sox. Boston’s front office constantly lost free agent biddings to the Yankees, so they always felt like they had something to prove when playing them. New York, the “all-business” ball club, didn’t care for Boston’s thick bearded, long haired, rugged image and style of play. Competing in the same division allowed the ball clubs to make their statements against each other plenty of times during the year.

The hatred between these two teams has significantly died down partly due to the fact that the Red Sox are not as threatened by the Yankees anymore. The once dominant Bombers missed the playoffs two years a row in 2013 and 2014. Their triumphant return to the playoffs this year was a quick one as they were eliminated by the Houston Astros in the AL Wild Card game (where they only mustered three hits). Not only are the teams different, but the players are as well. There are no more superstars on the Yankees, meaning there aren’t any superstar attitudes or egos at the moment. The Yankees no more have the mindset to dominate, rather than to just compete at this point. The Red Sox’s success has vastly decreased the superiority feeling the Yankees once had. Both teams are doing their best to attain younger, more controllable players to build for the future. Many of these players are focused on making a positive impression and helping the team succeed, rather than keeping a rivalry alive that doesn’t necessarily have any benefits. However, due to the rich and colorful history between the two ball clubs, there will always be that special feeling when The Yankees and Red Sox play each other. Even though the historic rivalry has currently cooled off, baseball is unpredictable; and one pitch can bring this thing back to ’04.

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