By: Donny Porcaro
It started in 1918. We all know the story. Greedy and money obsessed Red Sox owner Harry Freeze has a problem with star player Babe Ruth’s constant drinking, smoking and fighting. So he trades him to the New York Yankees, and the rest is history. Ruth finishes his career with 714 home runs and goes down as one of the greatest players ever to play the game. The Red Sox end up being $100,000 richer but in return are cursed for 86 years.
Of course everyone knows the legends who played in this rivalry throughout the years. Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, the DiMaggio brothers (Dom on the Red Sox, Joe on the Yankees). Some even had nicknames historic to the rivalry. The Great Bambino for Babe, the Splendid Splinter for Ted, “Murderer’s Row” made up of the 1927 Yankees lineup and of course my personal favorite “Bucky Frickin’ Dent”.This rivalry was one of the best in sports for over 80 years, but it reached it’s peak as baseball turned into the 21st century.
Let’s start in 2003. The Yankees and Sox were the two best teams in the American League. Fighting for a spot in the World Series, they went head to head in a 7 game series. This series featured Pedro Martinez throwing 70 year old Yankee coach Don Zimmer to the ground after Manny Ramirez faced a high inside fastball from Roger Clemens forcing the benches to clear. Manager Grady Little’s decision to leave Pedro Martinez in for the 8th inning let the Yankees tie the game to force extras in game 7. It took 7 games and 11 innings before Tim Wakefield gave up a home run to Aaron “Frickin” Boone (no relation to Bucky).
Then of course there was 2004. The two once again squared off in the ALCS for a second consecutive year. The Yankees found themselves up 3-0 in the series, but just about any casual baseball fan knows what happens next. The Dave Roberts steal in the ninth, followed by the David Ortiz walk-off home run in the 12th happened in game 4. Another Ortiz walk-off in game 5 in the 14th this time. A Curt Schilling dominate performance in a bloody sock for game 6, and then a game 7 ass-whopping broke the curse for Boston. A week later, the Red Sox were World Series Champions.
So we have a short history of the peak of the rivalry, but we need to understand why it was so great. First, both teams had very similar star players. Derek Jeter “The Captain” from the New York Yankees, was easily the star of the team. A winner, fighter and someone who played the game the correct way. He respected the game and gave his all every day. A player who was hard to hate, but Red Sox fans were forced to. The Same could be said about David Ortiz. Someone who loved the game and gave his all overtime he stepped on the field. One of the greatest clutch hitters to ever play the game, if it wasn't for his constant walk-offs, it would be hard for Yankee fans to find reasons to hate him.
With each team’s lovable player, it came with a villain as well. For the Yankees team, this was Alex Rodriguez. Your typical smug, cocky player who was never well liked around baseball. Linked with the steroid era, A-Rod is also labeled a cheater by a majority of baseball fans who aren't from New York. Slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove in game 6 and then acting like he did nothing was the exact image Red Sox fans have ingrained in their minds when they see the name “A-Rod”. But as much as Sox fans hate A-Rod, Yankees fans have felt the same about Manny Ramirez. A player who can be described as a new-era baseball player, many was never well liked either. The constant bat flips, in-between inning antics and instigations led to Yankee fans getting sick of him pretty quickly. Just about anything of “Manny being Manny” aggravated all of New York.
Roger Clemens became one of the first to start the trend of voluntarily switching jerseys between the rivals. Once a Red Sox fan favorite, Clemens decided to sign with the evil empire in New York and that did not go over well with the fans of Boston. Instigating the 2003 fight in the ALCS, Clemens proved his Red Sox days were in the past. Joined by the likes of Johnny Damon and Jacoby Ellsbury who headline the mix, there are many players who have switched over sides. The Red Sox and Yankees rivalry is nothing without one or two traitors in the mix.
Finally, there was the players who both sides straight up disliked for numerous reasons. The famous “who’s your daddy” chants from Yankee fans to Pedro Martinez, the Red Sox fans hatred of Jason Giambi and of course the crowd jumping on Mariano Rivera in the ninth. This rivalry seemed to build off of random hatred.
So who will be the new guys that are going to get this rivalry back to where it used to be? Lets start with Boston.
Mookie Betts- Your typical star of the team. Over last season, Mookie developed into the new face of the franchise. Winning a gold glove, a silver slugger and finishing as a runner up in MVP voting, Betts proved he has the talent to have an impact in this rivalry. Similar to Jeter, Mookie has shown early signs of growth and leadership to be one of the top talents in the league. A player who seems to play well regardless of where he is, Betts will be the player Yankees fans are forced to hate. Young enough to be around for a real long time, he could be the key to this rivalry in the long run just as Ortiz and Jeter were.
Andrew Benintendi- The rookie who is already proving to be a major bat in a potent Red Sox lineup, “Benny Biceps” can be a key piece in renewing the rivalry. A young kid from the south, who fangirls from all over Boston are drooling over. I can see the labels already of “pretty boy” given by the Yankee fanbase. This kid will be getting hate from all over New York. Benintendi will have a field day in the Bronx with the short porch in right field, and Yankees fans will instantly become annoyed.
Chris Sale- This is the spark the rivalry needed. An absolute psycho on the mound who isn't afraid to pitch inside to anyone. Constantly getting inside fastballs near the chin can be the instigation this rivalry needs to start another famous bench clearing brawl. Being the mad man that he is, if anyone was to ever come after Sale, he would have no problem retaliating. Sale will be the guy who starts the big games, but could also be guy he aims a 97 mph fastball at the head of Gary Sanchez., but we will get to him later.
Dustin Pedroia- How could anyone forget the leader of this team? Now that Ortiz has left, Pedroia has taken the reigns of the unofficially captain of this team. Dustin is as feisty as they come and already has a taste of what their rivalry once was. Especially with the bad blood with former Red Sox and current Yankee Jacoby Ellsbury. Pedroia could fill the spot of someone like a Jason Varitek as the team leader at the end of his career. He may not be the offensive force he was in the prime of his career, but he could play a big role in getting this rivalry jumpstarted again.
David Price- There could not be a more perfect guy in the MLB for Yankees to jump on. With a combination of his weak mentality, lack of playoff success and constant excuses, Yankee fans will go crazy while he's pitching in the Bronx. Thinking of Price pitching a playoff game in New York brings back memories of the “Who’s your daddy” chants directed at Pedro back in 04’. The only difference is Price might actually melt down enough for even Red Sox fans to turn on him. However on a positive side, Sale and Price could end up being the two aces that the Sox haven't had since Curt Schilling and Pedro. Either way, Price will be huge for this rivalry.
Alright so we have the Red Sox players that could be major factors. Obviously they'll always be the role players as well who have their shining moments in the rivalry. Matt Barnes could easily be the guy to come out of the bullpen specifically to drill someone in the back. Xander Bogaerts has enough superstar potential to be a huge influence in the series. Who knows who else could play a role over the next couple years. Either way, the Red Sox are primed to be in contention for a while. Now, its the Yankees turn.
Gary Sanchez- Plain and simple, he’s going to be a stud. Sanchez can launch a ball 400 feet on any given day, and also has a canon from behind the plate as a catcher. I can easily picture this guy launching bombs over the green monster against someone like a David Price. If healthy, he has a chance to be the leader of this team especially being behind the plate. As well as being the leader, he may be the best player on this New York team in the coming years.
Aaron Judge- The 6’7” monster will be the second pairing of the new Bronx Bombers. If Sanchez can launch one 450 ft, expect this guy to hit 470. An enormous power hitter, Judge can be the guy behind Sanchez to create a deadly combination in the middle of the order. Now imagine this. You have 6’6” Chris Sale throwing at 6’ 7” Aaron Judge and the two meeting in the middle of the mound and home creating a bench clearing brawl. We all know Sale is crazy enough to do it, we can only hope Judge is up for the fight at least once in his Yankee career. It only takes one game for the benches to clear and the rivalry to get juiced up again.
Jacoby Ellsbury- Most commonly referred to as traitor, or “rich bitch” by David Ortiz, Ellsbury was the latest high profile player to switch uniforms. If there’s one thing Boston sports fans hate is disloyalty. Jacoby showed that disloyalty in the 2014 off-season just months after he won a World Series with the Red Sox. Ever since then, Boston fans have gave Ellsbury the worst of their taunts during his returns to Fenway. He definitely has not played up to his contract, and his struggles will only have Red Sox fans get on him more.
Clint Frazier- Get ready Red Sox fans, you're gunna hate this guy. You may not have heard of him yet, but you will soon. He might be the Yankees second overall prospect, but he is by far the most major league ready. Fitting the part of a typical Yankee, Frazier looks as cocky and as arrogant as they come. Whether its the flaming long red hair or the way-too-tight shirts he likes to show off during prospect showcases, Frazier will be hated by all of Sox nation very shortly. However, it will not be strictly based on looks. He is a top 35 overall prospect in baseball and has the potential to be a real good player in the league. He could add to a Yankee lineup that seems to be increasing in depth and power by the season.
Michael Pineda- A hard throwing righty who can be dominate at any point of the season. Most memorable for putting blatantly obvious pine tar on the back of his neck and getting thrown out of the game at Fenway Park. Pineda is a guy Sox fans already don't like for trying to cheat his way into a win at Fenway Park. With this already in mind, fans sure won’t like it when a 95 mph fastball goes inside on a top bat in the Boston order. If this guy is on the mound, fans might see a pitching duel, but they also might see an ejection for more than one reason.
So there’s your guide to the renewal of the Red Sox vs Yankees rivalry. It might take another season or two before these two premier franchises are both back fighting fore a title again, but when it does happen it'll be something special to watch. Although the rivalry seems to be slow right now, if these pieces work out then this will be another couple of years in the history books.
Photo: (New York Daily)