The long rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox and the hostility between fanbases has been well documented, analyzed, and publicized.
About 95 years ago it all started with the Curse of the Bambino leading to the first Yankees dynasty. That paved the way for Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams’ rivalry in the 1940’s. The 50’s and 60’s were dominated by the Yankees but then there was Bucky fuckin Dent in game 163 and the bad-blooded brawls in the 70’s and 80’s. Of course there was Jeter vs Nomar, Pedro vs Posada, and Pedro vs Zimmer — actually, Pedro vs anyone. Thing’s got nutty in the 2000’s and the battles moved into the offseason and the Yankees got ARod and the Red Sox Schilling. Big Papi reigned but then the Yankees resurged. Recently it’s been quiet, though.
That could change this weekend.
Tonight, the Yankees kick-off a 4 game series at Fenway Park. It’s huge for both squads; the Red Sox are trying to secure a division crown and the Yankees trying to overcome all the odds and doubters.
It’s been a long time since a series of this magnitude has been played between the two teams this late in the season. Looking back:
2015: The Yankees cruised for most of the season and the Red Sox struggled. There was one series in mid-July that peaked my interest: Leading into the All Star break the Sox won 4 in a row and opened a 3-game set with the first place Yankees, only to lay an egg and go on to lose 8 in a row that officially put the nail in their season’s coffin.
2014: Neither team was good, but Boston was especially bad winning just 71 games. All the energy on field came from the Sox’s nauseating love fest for Derek Jeter.
2013: The Red Sox were good (they won the World Series, somehow) but the Yankees weren’t (they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008).
2012: The Bobby Valentine-led Red Sox won 69 games and finished TWENTY SIX games out. (We still need answers, dammit!)
2011: Ah, I found one! A season in which both teams were good for the whole year. On August 30, the teams played a series that concluded with them separated by a half-game in the standings. Undoubtedly, it was a huge series at the time but I don’t recall one thing that happened. Everything that year was overshadowed by the eventual chicken ‘n beer scandal that drove Terry Francona to Cleveland.
2010: The Yankees were really good, like World Series-favorites good, but the Red Sox were mediocre. Nothing to see here.
2009: In 18 games the two teams went 9-9 against each other, but when you dig into the numbers you see the Yankees outclassed the Red Sox by winning 8 of the last 9 match-ups. Despite both making the post season, they didn’t meet in October.
In fact, the teams have not met in the playoffs since 2004. From 1999 to ’04 they played three times in the Championship Series, which is the reason those years were so heated. While it is still unlikely the Yankees and Red Sox will meet in this year’s postseason, this weekend should feel like October.
The AL East division race is uncommonly competitive. Four teams are all separated by 4 games, something we haven’t seen in the Wild Card era. If you look around the league you’ll see that every division is already decided, with the exception of the NL West where LA holds a 5-game lead over San Fran. The Cubs have had the NL Central decided since June, and the Nationals, Indians, and Rangers have all but locked-up their divisions.
MLB has to be on their knees thanking all these AL teams for being competitive. pic.twitter.com/O4WFNDoaHD
Sure the NL Wild Card race is fun, but MLB should thank their lucky stars the AL East and Wild Card is so competitive. This weekend, 8 American League teams will be playing meaningful games (that’s more than half of the league!) and Yankees fans will have a close eye on all of them.
There will be no Alex Rodriguez storylines or farewell gifts given. It will just be intense September baseball between two teams that should hate each other. If that kind of action doesn’t get your blood boiling, I don’t know what will.