Steve Berthiaume thinks so:
The Red Sox/Yankees rivalry is dead and baseball has helped kill it: Eighteen meetings a year at four hours each has watered down the product to the point of overkill and taken the starch out of things. These games have become overdone and overblown, almost meaningless. Worst of all, baseball has handed the Boston/New York hatred over to the NFL. The angst, spite, resentment and, most of all, the do-or-die stakes that used to symbolize the Red Sox/Yankees feud now thrives as the exclusive property of the Patriots and Jets. Baseball has to get that back and restore the rivalry that came to define the game in the previous decade. When Red Sox and Yankees fans get sick of the Red Sox and Yankees, there's a problem.
I'm not sure Sox and Yanks fans actually are sick of Red Sox-Yankees games. Are we?
For myself, I agree the rivalry is languishing (it will never be dead, but I'm treating that phrasing as poetic license). The Red Sox are perennially successful, have proven twice they can win the World Series, and they even beat the Yankees to do it the first time. The Yankees are … perennially successful, have proven they, also can win the World Series, and they too beat the Red Sox to do it, though a little longer ago. Yawn, right?
In the meantime, the clubs play each other 18 times, and despite occasional seasons from the Rays are more likely than not to both make the playoffs (they did it in 1995, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009), thus removing any practical incentive to go all out in the regular season. Eighteen times can feel like a heavyweight battle in the heady days of 2003-05, when every game felt like the weight of a century was bearing on it. But now, they just feel… heavy.
[And I'm not referring to the times of the games. Everyone likes to complain about the games' length, and maybe if I weren't a fan of one of the teams, I would, too. But if you don't like long games, don't watch them, then ESPN will stop showing them in primetime, which would make those of us who endure the blackouts and later start times happy, too. Besides which, preliminary studies indicate game times lengthen proportionally to the combined winning percentage of the two teams and the number of people in the stands (a proxy for importance of the game); these are consistently the two best teams in the game, who sell out every game they play. Add in their shared philosophy of grinding out at bats. Long games will happen. Deal with it.]
In the end, this was bound to happen, wasn't it? We all suspected the passion with which Red Sox fans hated the Yankees would dissipate once the Sox got the monkey off their backs. The manner of disposing of the monkey in 2004 pretty much ensures it will never return in our lifetimes.
The tension from the 2004 ALCS lingered into 2005, but ultimately the world had changed. We can reduce the number of regular-season appearances and try to reduce the comfortability of the wild card qualifier (as Berthiaume suggests), and I think these are both good ideas. But, in the end, the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry might never again reach the heights we saw in the late 1970s and mid 2000s. Is that such a bad thing?