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The Boston Red Sox (4-5) and the New York Yankees (4-5), commonly referred to as the greatest rivalry in baseball, will meet tonight in New York for the first time in the 2014 season. The Red Sox are coming off a big comeback win against the Texas Rangers and the Yankees are looking to stop a 2 game skid. Last year held very different stories for these two historic franchises. The Red Sox, of course, went from the worst team in 2012 to World Series champions in 2013. The Yankees, on the other hand, are coming off a poor season missing the playoffs for only the second time in nineteen years.
Last season the Yankees were plagued by injuries on an already uncharacteristically underwhelming roster. The most hated man in baseball, Alex Rodriguez, spent most of the season on the DL while the captain, Derek Jeter, never quite made it back to his full form after his ankle injury. On top of this CC Sabathia, the Yankee’s ace, had the worst season of his career. In the off-season, the Yankees went out and did what the Yankees do and spent a boatload of money on big names. The addition of catcher Brian McCann, former Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, outfielder Carlos Beltran and Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka are the most notable of their off-season transactions. The Yankees will be looking to ride these new players back to their winning ways. Meanwhile, the Sox are looking to capitalize on the energy of a 3 run, go ahead home run by David Ortiz in the 8th inning of Wednesday night’s game against Texas to some wins in New York.
In case you missed it, Jacoby Ellsbury, former Red Sox center fielder, signed with the Yankees as a free agent to the tune of 7 years for $153 million. He was raised in the Boston farm system and went on to play his first seven major league seasons with the Sox. Although he was often plagued by injury, when he made it on the field he was electrifying. A Gold Glove award winner, three time stolen base champion and two time World Series champion with the Sox, his loss was hard for the Sox but with solid outfield depth and an up-and-coming star in Jackie Bradley Jr., he was no longer worth the money he was going to receive somewhere else.
Before we go calling him a traitor for joining the ranks of the Evil Empire, it needs to be said that nobody really expected him to come back to the Red Sox after his contract expired. With Scott Boras as his agent, infamous for sending his players where the money is, it was obvious that Ellsbury was going to end up with whoever was going to pay him the most. The Red Sox offered him the qualifying offer, $14.1 million for 1 year, but Ellsbury rejected the offer, to no one’s surprise. The Yankees offered him a deal that he simply couldn’t refuse and you can’t blame him for that.
This will be the first time Ellsbury will appear in pin stripes against his former team. He has been doing well for himself so far this season batting .365 with 4 stolen bases. The speedster will be trying to continue his early success, but it’s going to be strange for a little while seeing him in a Yankee’s uniform.
The first game’s pitching matchup features two pitchers both with a tremendous amount of potential.
Michael Pineda, of the Yankees (25-years-old), showed signs of brilliance his rookie year when he pitched for the Seattle Mariners in 2011. Since then, he simply hasn’t been healthy. He was traded to the Yankees in 2012 and injured his shoulder during spring training. During his rehab he reaggravated the shoulder injury and went season ending surgery to repair the damage. He started the 2013 campaign on the 60-day DL and when he finally recovered, spent the remainder of 2013 with the Yankees AAA club. He finally won a spot as the Yankee’s fifth starter in the rotation and had an impressive first appearance only allowing one run in six innings.
Clay Buchholz has a similar story. Last year Clay started 16 games and had a stifling 1.74 era and a 12-1 record. The problem is that those totals were mostly gained in the first half of the season. He started the season 6-0 in six appearances and was 9-0 before succumbing to a mysterious neck strain in mid-June. He came back in September to make a few guest appearances but his “stuff” wasn’t quite the same. In his first start of 2014 he has his worst start in two years allowing six runs in only 4.1 innings.
This pitching matchup is the story of two potential stars that can’t seem to decide whether to shine bright or burn up and disappear.
This is Derek Jeter’s final season in the captain’s chair of the New York Yankees before he retires. He has been a mainstay in the Yankees lineup for 19 years and he is one of the best shortstops to ever play the game. Jeter is a player, even as a Red Sox fan, you just have to enjoy watching. He has always played the game with heart and respect. He suffered an ankle injury last year that kept him sidelined for most of the second half. He returned but only to pull a hamstring, which ended his season. If he can stay healthy he will receive a standing ovation in every stadium he plays, much like Mariano Rivera did last year.
In the opposing dugout, the Red Sox have one of the most anticipated young players in recent team history. Xander Bogaerts has all the tools to be the next big thing. He has the patience at the plate of a Daniel Nava, the contact of a Dustin Pedroia and the power of a young Nomar Garciaparra. He has done a good job of living up to the hype so far this season hitting .290 and looking very comfortable for a 21-year-old when he steps up to the plate. Red Sox fans can only hope that he lives up to his promise and will be mentioned among players like Jeter later in his career.
It is early in the season but series like this can put a team on the right track. Both of these teams are looking for big wins and even though the season is still young, these high profile games still carry a lot of weight. A weight that can help put a team over the hump and back to their winning ways.