Five reasons why the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry is dead (for now)

  • David Whitlock
The Yankees and Sox frequently got rough in the "good old days" Credit: AP/Winslow Townson

The Yankees and Sox frequently got rough in the “good old days”
Credit: AP/Winslow Townson

For most of the 1990s and 2000s, there was no greater rivalry in baseball than the New York Yankees vs. the Boston Red Sox.  From 1996 through 2013, the teams represented the American League in 10 of the 18 World Series, winning 8 titles along the way.  And the American League East rivals met 3 times head-to-head (sure seems like more) in the postseason.  However, things seem a little bit simmered down this year.  As the two teams squared off for their first three games (out of 19) on the Opening Weekend, there just isn’t the hatred we are used to.  As usual, all three games will be on national TV (MLB Channel, Fox Sports 1, and ESPN), but no longer is this THE SERIES everyone is talking about.  Why is this?  Here are five contributing factors:

1) Both teams have been below expectation lately

Joe Girardi has missed two straight postseasons Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Girardi and the Yankees have missed two straight postseasons
Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Both teams finished 12 games or more out of first place and neither made the playoffs.  The Red Sox went from 2013 World Series Champions to the American League East cellar.  The Yankees hung around as a postseason contender, but their season was more defined by the retirement of Derek Jeter than anything else.  The Yankees have not make the playoffs since 2012 while the Red Sox have made the postseason once in the past five seasons (to go with two last place finishes).  There was a time you could pencil these two teams in for half the American League playoff representatives.  That is not the case anymore.

2) High roster turnover with no team personality

When Alex Rodriguez stepped on the field in 2015 (having missed all of 2014), there were only three regular players still in pinstripes from the last time he was active:  Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, and Brett Gardner.  The rest of the 2013 Yankees are all gone.  The Red Sox have likewise been shuffling their personnel with only a handful of regular contributors from their 2013 World Series team still active (Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Clay Buchholz and Shane Victorino).  In fact, two of the Red Sox 2013 starters now play for the Yankees (Stephen Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury).  These teams don’t have the same personality as the “Core Four” vs. the “Dirt Dogs” of the 2000s.

3) The most exciting young players are on other teams

Everyone can't stop talking about Puig Credit: AP Photo/Matt York

Everyone can’t stop talking about Yasiel Puig
Credit: AP Photo/Matt York

There are a lot of big name superstars that simply play for other teams.  Yasiel Puig and Mike Trout out in Los Angeles.  Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez down in Miami.  Jose Altuve winning a betting title for the upstart Houston Astros.  Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz toiling for a rebuilt Seattle Mariners team.  There are still a handful of big names on these two stalwart teams, but most are past their prime and no longer the ones that fans are as interested in.

4) Payroll taxes have hampered the free agent frenzy that resulted in strong teams

There was a time where all the big free agents would have the Yankees and Red Sox on their short list.  And why not, the teams were always in the postseason and seemed to have money to burn.  But as payrolls rose across the league, suddenly the Yankees found themselves being taxed and giving money back to smaller markets.  This did not sit well with Hal Steinbrenner.  Both teams started to get more frugal while others like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, or Los Angeles Angels.  Suddenly, players like Robinson Cano or Jon Lester or Max Scherzer were signing with other markets.  Teams equally stacked to make postseason runs.

5) The American League East is no longer a two-team show

The Baltimore Orioles are stealing the stage  (Credit: SportsLogos.net

The Baltimore Orioles are stealing the stage
Credit: SportsLogos.net

For years, the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles were simply schedule fillers for the Yankees and Red Sox.  Just a couple of teams to fill out the bottom of the standings while the big boys (along with the Tampa Bay Ray, who despite their payroll would compete) battled for the playoffs.  No more.  The Baltimore Orioles are now the only team in the East to make the playoffs two of the past three seasons.  The Blue Jays seem to be stacked with offense and pitching.  When these two teams play, it’s not a foregone conclusion that the East is at stake.  In fact, they both might be also-rans.

Things are cyclical in baseball and I would bet that it won’t be long before we’re back to seeing the Yankees and Red Sox battle in September for a crown.  I think it will have to wait until big contracts like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira move on.  I think Big Papi will have retired by then.  A new generation of players, with team personality, built outside of free agency (like the 1990s Yankees) will help restore this rivalry.  But for now, it’s just a little bit stale.

– David Whitlock

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David Whitlock

David Whitlock - manager

David (a.k.a. Longhorndave or lhd_on_sports) joined the staff late in the 2012 season and moved to Site Manager in early 2013. A lifelong Houston Astros fan (and mini-season ticket holder for 9 years) he attends 20+ games per year. A statistics freak, David still keeps score the "old fashioned way" on occasion (and has kept manual score of World Series games since 1986 and retains the sheets). He was a featured guest weekly on the Phil Naessens Show. He is also a Texas Longhorns alumnus and huge football and baseball fan of his alma mater. When he isn't watching or writing about baseball, he works as a contractor at NASA Johnson Space Center. He lives by the mantra "a bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day anywhere else."

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