The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have arguably the greatest rivalry in all of sports. Dating back to the days of Babe Ruth and now featuring Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz, there has never been a shortage of memorable moments between the two East Coast foes.
But as time has gone on, the matchups between these two AL East powerhouses have grown dull. Why exactly have Yankees-Red Sox games become such a drag, and what has happened to the days of yore, jam-packed with bench-clearing brawls and bad blood off of the field?
Now, I must preface all of this by saying that I still believe that Yankees-Red Sox is the best rivalry in baseball. Granted, as a Yankee fan, I tend to be biased. Still, there is no way that one cannot see these games as some of the greatest draws in all of Major League Baseball. However, time has frozen what was once the highest-profile rivalry in all of sports.
Thanks to drastically different (and markedly milder) rosters, the shortcomings of the individual teams, and the constant pressure and history tossed upon these games, the Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry has become watered down.
Reason 1: Roster Turnover
Think back to the time between 2000-2013. The Yankees had just come off of a run of 3 straight World Series titles and the Red Sox were soon to be purchased by a new owner. This time may have been the golden age of Yankees-Red Sox battles.
In the Bronx, there were leaders like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte, expensive acquisitions such as Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, and Hideki Matsui, and young guns including Robinson Cano.
Meanwhile in Beantown, the period was marked by in-your-face characters like Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Kevin Millar, and Johnny Damon (who spent the latter part of this time period as a Yankee), as well as stoic leaders like Jason Varitek, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis.
One of the big reasons why the rivalry is less hateful now is that there are less big personalities on the rosters. Aside from Alex Rodriguez, who do Red Sox fans really hate on the Yankees? They strongly dislike Jacoby Ellsbury, Andrew Miller, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia, but they don’t really hate them.
The same can be said on the other side. Excluding David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, Yankee fans’ animosity towards the BoSox is more of the hate that you have for Brussels Sprouts rather than the hate that you have for your archnemesis.
And this is because the players themselves don’t do much to fuel the rivalry anymore. Back in the early 2000s, there was constant verbal fire from both sides. Now, the rivalry is more respectful than ever, which has in turn toned down the emotions from the games.
Reason 2: Shortcomings of Both Teams
The Yankees and Red Sox combined to appear in 10 out of 18 World Series from 1996-2013. Since then, there hasn’t been the same level of success from either club.
The Yankees missed the playoffs in 2008, 2013, and 2014, while the Red Sox have only made it to the ALCS once since 2007 and have finished in last place 3 times in the last 4 years.
While both clubs have remained relevant in the offseason and mostly stayed in contention, the absence of pennants has turned Yankees-Red Sox games into a matchup of above-average teams rather than a potential ALCS preview.
Reason 3: Lofty Expectations
The Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry has been so fantastic over the years that we as fans have come to expect too much out of the games. The Yankees and Red Sox play each other about 20 times a year, so not every game can be a classic.
The history that is so prevalent in this rivalry has some fans yearning for the good old days that featured the Curse of the Bambino, the rivalries between Joe Dimaggio and Ted Williams of the 1940s and Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk of the 1970s, Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone homers, and memorable playoff series.
The expectations often lead to national broadcasts, which only further the drama. However, watching a Yankees-Red Sox game on FOX or ESPN nowadays is much like watching a duel between middle-of-the-pack foes.
While the above reasons have limited the memorability of recent Yankees-Red Sox games, I do believe that the rivalry is still baseball’s best. However, there’s no denying that the rivalry has lessened. A playoff series between these two teams, a brash youngster, or a Championship would go a long way in rekindling the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, and turning it back into the finest display in all of sports.