I hate the Yankees. As a native New Englander it’s in my blood.
As a child in this region, you’re taught to despise the Bombers with such vigor and venom that you start to think you might actually loath the entire state, its inhabitants, and all of the other teams that, consciously, you otherwise couldn’t care less about. My dad did that for me and my brother, and I’ll do it for my son.
What’s interesting, though, is that with the hatred comes a certain respect. As long as your team is doing well, for instance, there’s a part of you – maybe bigger than you realize – that wants to see your club’s rival succeed as well, just up until that point where your beloved squad squashes that nemesis like the insignificant bug the rest of you believes it to be.
When the 2013 baseball season began just a couple short months ago, the public debate over the Red Sox and Yankees was a different one than in years past. The argument concerned which club would finish last in the division, Boston expected to enter a bridge year and New York simply too old and too hurt.
If we listened to the supposed experts – or games actually were played on paper – the Blue Jays would be sitting atop the East, followed by either the Orioles or Rays, and then the teams of yesteryear.
But here we are. It’s May 31 and the Sox pace the Yanks by two games in the East to rank second in the American League standings and in the top six in the majors. After last year’s misery, you may have to read that last sentence a few more times before actually believing it.
On the diamond, Boston and New York is widely considered the best rivalry in sports. However, let’s be realistic. This “rivalry” is one that exists far greater in the minds of fans than that of the players, and that’s been true for years. Long gone are the days where a player in any sport hates his opponent because of the laundry. There are exceptions, sure, but they are just that. The rule today is one of camaraderie, super-teams and trying to manufacture dynasties with financial creativity. In a salary cap-less baseball, deep pockets are vital.
In the case of the Red Sox and Yankees, there’s a reason why it’s been so easy over the years for men like Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Johnny Damon, Mike Stanley, David Wells, Kevin Youkilis, Ramiro Mendoza, David Cone or Tom Gordon – to name a small sample – to change sides. Do you really think Pedro Martinez or Nomar Garciapparra, among other recent Sox greats, wouldn’t have gone to the Bronx if the price was right? Jonathan Papelbon said this week that he’d pitch there.
That’s just the business side of the game. What about on the field?
Yes, the teams are fairly even all-time in the regular season with the men in pinstripes boasting a 1,145-960-14 record and, yes, at least one of the two teams has made the playoffs every year since 1995, but I don’t need to remind you the Yankees won a major league record 26 World Series during that nasty “cursed” period? When the world championship scoreboard reads 26-0 for almost 90 years, you don’t have a rivalry, you have memories, and we have a million between these two organizations that date back over a century.
Some, better termed nightmares, we’ve only read about, like the $125,000 sale of a man called Babe.
Another, it’s hard not to be embarrassed by, featuring a jovial, lanky righthander with the stuff of fables using his flame-throwing strength to toss an old man on the ground. No, he didn't start the fight, but maybe there was another way to finish it.
Obnoxious chants of “1918” and a series so bad it received the nickname, “Boston Massacre,” never mind the tragic transaction losses – at least at the time – of superstars Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.
But, surely, they haven’t all been bad.
We can’t forget Pedro’s one-hit, 17-strikeout gem in September of 1999 in the midst of a pennant race, a game still occasionally replayed on TV almost 15 years later.
Of course, there was history, when the Red Sox became the first team in baseball to rally from three defeats to win a seven-game series against the Evil Empire in the 2004 championship round. It happened at the hands of the greatest closer ever to play the sport, and spurred eight straight victories, countless books, movies, “do you remember when’s,” Derek Jeter’s golf schedule, and one unforgettable tale. Just striking up a conversation about Dave Roberts’ steal or Curt Schilling’s bloody sock might get you a free drink in some bars around Kenmore.
Most if not all of the above occurred at a time when both the Red Sox and Yankees were prospering simultaneously, regardless of the result at season’s end. When one team is good, it benefits the other to be playing well, too. It adds interest, drama, and context to an arena rarely lacking in any of the three. Plus, there’s no minimizing the satisfaction of eventually squaring off with a rival for a chance at superiority; just look at the Celtics and Lakers, Patriots and Colts and, starting this weekend, the Bruins and Penguins. It counts the same, but means so much more.
Admittedly, the theater between the Sox and Yanks has been stale in recent years. The clubs haven’t faced off in the postseason since the “Idiots” showed their smarts nearly a decade ago, and almost 20 regular season tilts a year certainly waters down the excitement to the point where more fun teams to watch or others infrequently seen arguably become more compelling.
That said, tonight starts yet another chapter after Boston grabbed two-of-three contests to begin the year. With Teixeira and Youkilis expected back in the lineup, New York – still without superstars Jeter, Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, and Andy Pettitte – is getting healthier. Unsung castaways like Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner and Lyle Overbay have carried them to his point, but that probably won’t last forever.
To this point, though, I’m glad it has. It’ll make those seven meetings in September a lot more interesting.
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About this blog
Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.
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