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While the Red Sox played the Indians to start the week, fans and media alike were really looking ahead to the three-game series with the Yankees beginning Friday. In typical fashion, the Sox find themselves in a close race for the AL East, with their hated rivals. The rivalry should be more heated than ever, but yet something seems to be lacking. As hard as it may be to believe, it’s possible that America’s greatest rivalry has run its course.
In recent years, Red Sox/Yankees series have played out the same way time and again. The games last four and a half hours long, Kevin Youkilis gets hit by a pitch, and FOX shows a highlight reel of the 2004 brawl. Boring. It may not make compelling storyline material, but the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry is dead.
In recent memory, arguably nothing noteworthy has happened between these two teams. The Yankees may have swept the Red Sox in a five-game series in 2006, but they were clearly a superior team. The Sox had back to back to back to back home runs in 2007, but that would have been exciting regardless of who they were playing. Otherwise, the Red Sox and Yankees haven’t seen each other in the playoffs in seven years. Teams sweep each other and hit consecutive home runs enough of the time that it isn’t considered extraordinary. When it’s all said and done, people remember what happened in the playoffs.
When Boston and New York have failed to produce headlines on the field, they can usually can count on creating news off the field. There was the time the Red Sox got outbid on Mike Mussina…and Bernie Williams…and just about everyone else the Yankees ever wanted. Recently, that just hasn’t been the case. Mark Teixeira is the only noteworthy example, but he never had any intention of playing in Boston anyway. If a player leaves one side for the other that usually causes a stir, but since Damon left Boston, it hasn’t happened either. Alfredo Aceves may be having a good year, but I doubt the people of New York compare him to Judas.
It’s hard to hate the Yankees when as a whole; they’re a fairly likable team. Derek Jeter is overrated, but has never done anything in particular to warrant hate. Mariano Rivera is plain awesome. Even A-Rod has chilled out the past few years. Sitting on their bench are guys like Andrew Jones and Eric Chavez, who once upon a time were studs. There’s no reason not to like them.
A.J. Burnett seems like a good target, but how can you hate someone who hurts the Yankees more than he helps them? Sox fans probably direct more anger towards Andrew Miller and J.D. Drew than anyone in pinstripes. Making jokes about CC Sabathia is old. Making jokes about John Lackey is the trendy.
As great as the Red Sox have been this year, the most exciting moment of the season was when David Ortiz charged the mound and took a few swings at Kevin Gregg. It makes you think back to ’03 and ’04 when beating the snot out of each other was second nature for the Red Sox and Yankees. They really didn’t like each other. There was trash talking and fights and everything else that is typically shunned in a little league game.
What about now? It’s always players talking about “respect for the game”. Respect is honorable, but respect is also yawn-inducing. Maybe its become the nature of the game with its fast pace of transactions. A player isn’t going to curb stomp an opponent with spiked cleats anymore–the likelihood that they will be teammates in the next few years is just too high.
The Red Sox and Yankees used to resemble a story straight out of a movie. The jerks from the totally awesome team would always dominate the lovable losers. Then the Red Sox rose above the expectations when all odds were against them in 2004 to finally come out on top. Ok, then what? Uh….In all honesty it can never get better than that. Any sense of the rivalry now is just a neutered shadow of what it used to be.
So what can the future hold for the Red Sox and Yankees? Maybe they’ll finally play each other again in the playoffs. Maybe the Yankees lure Jacoby Ellsbury away with a big money contract when he hits free agency. Maybe Adrian Gonzalez scissor kicks Mark Teixeira.
As for this upcoming series, maybe CC Sabathia mistakes Dustin Pedroia for a chicken nugget and tries to swallow him whole. At least we can hope.