General Red Sox General Yankees

Is the Rivalry Dead?

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?

59 replies on “Is the Rivalry Dead?”

Interesting questions posed here. I will posit something, and it may be unpopular – I think the rivalry is currently boring because the Yankees are boring. And I don’t mean that the Yankees aren’t GOOD. They are really good. But it’s boring to watch Jeter. It’s boring to watch Posada. It’s boring to watch Rivera (though I LOVE Rivera). Thank goodness Pettitte retired. It’s painful (and boring) to watch the soap opera that is A-Rod. I honestly believe that the rivalry suffers from the fact that these big name guys are still around and playing regularly (or somewhat regularly in Posada’s case). There isn’t enough elite new blood, like the Sox have had (luckily, for me as a fan) in recent years.
While Sabathia and Teixeira (and this year Granderson) made a newish star system, the Sox can boast, since 2004, guys like Pedroia, Youkilis, Lester, Papelbon, Buchholz, Ellsbury, and this year Gonzo and Crawford (and, to me at least, Salty). The only guys really hanging around are Wake (who pitches every fifth day only due to a rotation’s catastrophe), Tek (playing 40% of the time) and Papi (still performing, but a DH so limited in appearance). I don’t mean this as any kind of proclamation of superiority, or a comment on the farm systems – surely the Yanks and their 2009 championship prove that there’s not much place for criticism for their lack of success. I only mean this in terms of pure entertainment value and in terms of the compelling nature of the rivalry to me. I find the games dull, relegated to Sunday nights WAY too often, I am tired of seeing all the same guys on one side of the field and all the boring, repetitive commentary from the ESPNheads that provide play-by-play and analysis of the two teams late on a weekend night.
The best thing that could happen to this rivalry, at least entertainment-wise, would be a lot of new blood for the Yankees and the core guys going away. And more Sunday afternoon games.

Do you mean their brand of baseball? I am confused. I guess scoring a bazillion runs is boring then ;)
I think saying they have lacked elite blood is a little unfair SF. The Yankees have “new blood”…Martin, Nova, Nunez, most of the bullpen, Garcia (to the rivalry), Colon…To some extent Gardner and Granderson.
Who is the Sox new elite blood other than A-Gonz? Reddick? Salty? I am not ready to call Reddick or Salty elite. The rest of these guys (Youk, Pedroia, Beckett, Wakefield, Lester, Papelbon) have all been here and part of the rivalry for years.
Think about what you are saying:
C: Martin/Salty and Posada/Tek
1B: Tex and Adrian
2B: Cano and Pedroia
3B: Nunez and Youk (and A-Rod)
SS: Jeter and Scutaro (and Lowrie)
LF: Gardner and Crawford
CF: Granderson and Ellsbury
RF: Swisher and Reddick
DH: Chavez and Papi (and Posada)
The Yankees have 2 new additions to the 2011 rivalry in Nunez and Martin. The Sox have 3. The Yankees have just 2 everyday players (currently) that have been involved in this rivalry 5 or more years. (Cano and Jeter). The Sox have 3 (Youk, Pedroia and Ellsbury). If you count Posada (who is no longer the DH) and A-Rod (who isn’t the current 3B) and add in Papi and Drew, it’s again in favor of the Yankees having more “new blood”…
Not to mention your team won on a walk off hit against the greatest closer of all of time…Yawn ;)
Montero will be up in a week, once Girardi gets tired of the Chavez experiment, there’s your “elite new blood”…
By the way I’ll sign the Yankees up for adding elite talent like A-Gonz, just tell me how we can fleece a team as badly as the Sox fleeced the Padres and I’m all for it. Kelly continues to be average (4.34 ERA and 90 K’s in 124 innings) and Rizzo failed miserably when given a shot to play in SD, just showing that the PCL is a never a true sign of how good a player will be in the bigs. The Sox infused their new blood by adding a top 5, maybe top 3 hitter in the game for prospects that will never come close to being what Gonzalez was, expiring contract or not the deal was completely one sided.

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the players are all best buddies…
I wish I could have seen the games in the late 70’s.

I think the core of the rivalry is overpaid, has aged, and needs to be replaced.
Also, sites such as YFSF have helped to kill the rivalry by promoting too much civility.
We should have a rumble at the Housatonic to counteract this baleful trend. We can sponsor a variety of altercation categories between SFs and YFs, which can include:
Slapping the enemy with white batting gloves
Attacking them in full catcher’s attire
Tossing them on the field with imprecations
Performing off-color Graig Nettles and Curt Schilling impressions, as appropriate.
And of course, hair pulling.
Since I live in Sudbury MA, home of Babe Ruth’s underwater piano, I volunteer to accompany the proceedings (since I am a SF) with a perpetually repeating rendition of “Tessie” set to ragtime.
This will be in honor of the fact that back when baseball really meant something, the Sox won all the time and the Yankees were called the Highlanders and stunk perpetually.
Nuff sed.

Who were the big-time controversial players of the rivalry in 2003-05?
A-Rod and Varitek (the fight, A-Rod’s contract and slap)
Pedro (Zimmer, “daddy,” etc.)
Schilling (making Yankee fans “shut up.”)
Sheffield (fighting Fenway fans)
Damon (duh)
I’m sure I’m forgetting people.
I do think the characters are more boring now. A-Rod tries his best (usually failing) to deflect controversy, and the controversy he does generate is not rivalry related. Varitek’s was really just the one incident. Pedro, Schilling and Sheffield are retired. Damon is now playing for a team we can all agree to hate.
So I guess my conclusions are the opposite of SF’s: We have a largely new generation of players on both sides, outside the two or three big names on each team (Ortiz, Wakefield, Jeter, A-Rod). Both sets of newbies have won the Series without needing to go through their rivals. Both teams have arguably had bigger rivalries with the Rays because the Rays have been the team standing in the way (Sox in ’08, ’10; Yanks in ’08) more often.
The only real thing to me that is reminiscent of the rivalry from the early 2000s is the Pedroia-Cano comparisons, which remind me of the Jeter-Nomar debates that formed a big part of the rivalry through the first half of 2004.

I think Posada, Jeter, Rivera, and A-Rod absolutely dominate any Yankee discussions, or at least end up part of any and all Yankee discussions. They suck all the oxygen out of the room, in my opinion.
As for the Sox, the “new blood” is new, all within the last five+ years, they aren’t “core four” material and still feel fresh, at least to me. In five years, should they all hang around, we may be saying the same things about them. I honestly feel that the Yankees would be more interesting (not better, or more succesful – we’re discussing the allure of the rivalry here) if Jeter and Posada were no longer part of the discussion. Mo I can handle – I love Mo.

More to my point: there’s no reason that CC Sabathia and Curtis Granderson (especially Grandy – is there a guy more likeable than him anywhere in baseball?) don’t own NYC. I live here, but these guys are invisible.
Actually, there are four reasons, four guys, in my opinion.

Excellent post.
I will note however that the “rivalry” is largely a modern creation and in the wild card era. Anyone want to guess how many times the Sox finished second to the Yanks, or vice versa, in the 75 years of baseball from 1920 to 1995? Sure, the 78 race was classic, but pre-2004 that was the only real instance cited for the “rivalry”. Otherwise, it’s Ruth and a whole lot of nothing. The Yankees had more of a rivalry with the Tigers and Orioles than with the Sox. We forget that now.
It’s time to go back to a balanced schedule.

To be fair, the Sox have their own stinky farts. The difference is the Sox just toss them out of the car (see Damon, Pedro, Manny, Clemens, Boggs). Ortiz and Papelbon will likely go down the same way. You guys haven’t written about the most recent Ortiz controversy (arguing for a single RBI in front of reporters), but it’s clear in Boston he wants his extension and the fans/media are already turning on him for it.
That said, the Sox are my favorites to win it all. They’re an excellent team, even better than the Phillies.

That isn’t entirely true. There’s ’46, ’49 (especially ’49), ’50.
The rivalry is lopsided, but it didn’t start in ’78, hardly.

To be fair, the Sox have their own stinky farts
To those curious about this term, I used it and edited my comment, but it must have appeared and disappeared quickly – so James is responding to my terminology. Just want that out there in fairness.

I think the rivalry really only means something, and is still awesome, to us. Everyone else hates us. It goes back to the stuff we have all argued in the past and that is that, to the rest of baseball, the Sox and the Yankees are the same. Big money teams that have an “unfair” advantage and dominate both the games and the media. I don’t blame other fans of the game to hate us but the rivalry isn’t for them. It’s for us. And I would bet that there are more YF’s and SF’s than fans of all the other teams combined. It is what it is.
Of course, the way ESPN covers it is nauseating. But then again, ESPN as a whole has become nauseating over the last decade. I wish they would just show highlights again. Sigh.

Anyone want to guess how many times the Sox finished second to the Yanks, or vice versa, in the 75 years of baseball from 1920 to 1995?
This is easy enough to figure out.
The Red Sox finished second to the Yankees in 1938, 1939, 1941, 1942, 1949, 1977, 1978, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2009.
Many of those weren’t particularly close, but the 1949 season famously came down to the final weekend, and the Sox finished in third in 1950, but just five games out. The word “rivalry” may have been coined later, but the history of close finishes and player comparisons started with Ted vs. Joe D in the early 1940s, culminated with the 1949 pennant race, then resurfaced nearly 30 years later, took a two-decade break and ramped up to the 2003-05 crescendo.

I stand corrected. The word “rivalry” is used to describe the Sox and Yanks’ players battling for spots atop the leaderboards during the 1936 pennant race.
“That the Sox, nestling in second place, might do something about that deficit in the standings adds to the general interest, but even beyond this is the individual rivalry for batting and pitching leadership, bringing on something close kin to man-to-man combat.”

And at least one book I found pegs the beginning of the rivalry as we know it with a beanball war in May 1938 that ended with Joe Cronin and Jake Powell exchanging punches in the runway leading to the clubhouses after both had been ejected for escalating the on-field fracas. That’s all I got for now. :-)
This thing’s been going on for a long time. Nearly 75 years now. I don’t think it’s dead, as I said, but K is right, everyone outside the two fanbases is tired of it, and it’s clear the current generation of players have a lot of respect and appreciation for each other. Both teams are too good, and the system offers too many opportunities to reach the ultimate goal without going through each other that we’re probably seeing another 10 or 20 years of dormancy before a new generation, and another flukey two- to three-year series of collisions reawakens the passions of the rivalry.

The Yanks and Sox last played an elimination game each other in 2004. To me, this is the single biggest reason why the rivalry has suffered in recent years. The peak of the rivalry, in my view, were the Pedro years during which time the Yanks and Sox played a few postseason series against each other. I am convinced all it will take for the passion to return, for our metaphoric sweatpants boners to rise, is for both teams to face each other in a postseason series.

I tend to agree with Nick, a 7 game ALCS this year will do wonders to revive the “rivalry” the teams enjoyed 7 years ago (7 years, has it been that long, yikes). Especially if some of the series “heros” turn out to be Reddick, Pedoria, Gardner, Nunez, Gonzo, Lester, Huges, etc. That could give the rivalry the kick it needs. Of course Fox will want to see Jeter, Posada, A-Rod, Beckett, Drew, Mo so they can play the whole “one last time angle”

The Red Sox finished second to the Yankees in 1938, 1939, 1941, 1942, 1949, 1977, 1978, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2009.
Again, I was saying it’s a product of the Wild Card (ESPN) Era. So remove 1998 on because I agree on that point. In fact, I’d argue that 2003-2004 truly created the “rivalry”.
Otherwise, it’s really only 1949 and 1978. That’s two years out of the 75 between 1920 and 1995. I’d venture to guess there was much more of a rivalry with the Orioles and Tigers in terms of actual results. That’s crazy to consider given how the last decade plus has gone. But I have a mentor who’s a huge Tigers fan and laments the loss of rivalry with the Yankees.
Of course there was player rivalries, and I’m of the view that Teddy is the greatest player of all-time.
As for this post-season, I want no part of the Sox. I’d rather take my chances with Verlander pitching three times in a seven game series with the much worse offense. That’s also why I’m fine with the Yankees *only* getting the wild card.

Crazy that during the 1980’s the Yankees and Sox only finished 1-2 in one year – 1986, with the Yanks five games out.
Sure, Boggs and Mattingly were rivals, but did they ever play a truly meaningful game against each other?

Wow, without Roger Clemens circa 1986, the Yankees are easily the better team.
Speaking of Clemens, anyone else know he had a 139 ERA+ (and 9.5 K/9) when Duquette said he was in the twilight of his career? In the four years prior, he bounced from a 110 ERA+ to a 170 ERA+. In his first year Toronto, he busts out with a 222 ERA+.
Can anyone refresh for me how Clemens was run out of town? I don’t recall SFs being upset they let him go. Why?

One team beating the stuffing out of another team year after year doesn’t preclude said match-up from being a rivalry. There is nothing in the main definition of “rivalry” or “rivals” that says teams must be equal, only that one team is attempting to equal another and that these teams are in competition. The second definition spells teams as equal, but it’s the second definition. The primary is accurate and doesn’t mandate that successful results be split equally between two competitors.
The history, perhaps revised a bit over the past ten heated years, is that these teams are entwined regionally, divisionally, and historically, and this makes it a rivalry. Regardless of one team’s greater success.

As for Boggs/Mattingly, this was a major, MAJOR topic of discussion when the players were in their prime, the idea that since both teams weren’t hot on each other’s heels doesn’t alter their competition. If you were a teenager at the time they were in their prime (and I was) it was one of the absolute top subjects of baseball, and they were 100%, certain rivals. Perhaps not in their own minds and more in the minds of the fans, but that matchup was Jeter/Nomar before Jeter/Nomar, and that should not be revised just because of a retroactive view of the standings in those years.

So by your definition of rivals, the Yankees and Indians were also rivals? Hell, you could say the same about any old East division teams. To your point, the hammer is a rival of the nail? That makes no sense. My contention is that the “rivalry” is a modern creation, born of the wild card and ESPN. Given that the “Curse” only had two data points before 2003 – Ruth and 1978 – that outs that nonsense as well. 1949 was never cited as proof of such hokum.
I was also a teenager in the 80s. Let’s be clear though. It was much more about the players themselves than the teams. Boggs was soon reviled in Boston (Margo Adams says hello – how quaint) while Donnie Baseball is still loved in the Bronx. Can you explain that difference to me?
I barely remember the 1986 and I don’t remember any special significance apart from the obvious. There was no talk of bad blood between Gedman and Hassey, to use a lame example.
I guess that’s my point. Even in the heady days of 1978, it was much more about Pinella and Fisk and Munson than the teams. It’s easy to forget that now when everything in hindsight looks like a rivalry. But then we’re dealing with a media-driven beast that’s very convenient for their ratings.

Let’s come back to this question, because I think it goes to the point of the post:
Sure, Boggs and Mattingly were rivals, but did they ever play a truly meaningful game against each other?
The answer seems to be “no” whereas I expect our memories would be very different had there been a Wild Card (and ESPN!1!!) then.

but did they ever play a truly meaningful game against each other?
Why is this the defining question? I can only assume it is the defining question for you because it satisfies your own definition of a “rivalry”.
The fact is that yes, “ESPN” (as an avatar for the media) has hyped this matchup into oblivion, but that doesn’t mean the matchup is as insignificant as you seem to believe. Tell my Mom, 71 years old and a lifelong Sox fan, that the Yanks aren’t the Sox’ rivals. Tell that to countless other fans who lived through years when the teams weren’t competitive.
This isn’t a recent historical construct, you can try to make that the case by formulating convenient reasons for sure, but this rivalry is not a fabrication. And that’s not mutually exclusive from the idea that the rivalry has been overly touted by the media.

“Why is this the defining question?”
Because it goes to the heart of your perspective. If the Yankees and Sox weren’t rivals in 1986, then I’m arguing they never really were, not in the contemporary bloated sense. I for instance remember the 1985 race being much more meaningful but then it was that much closer. I also don’t think the Sox got any special mention in 1986 because they beat the Yankees by five games.
You’re expressing a perspective – from your Mom – in which the only logical outcome is that almost most every classic AL East team was a rival of the Yankees. I know my mentor – in his 70’s too – laments the loss of rivalry with the Yankees. I’m sure there are Orioles fans out there that think the same. I get the fact the Yankees’ place in history means that almost every town that saw them arrive also saw a spike in attendance. But that doesn’t make the Yankees rivals in any real sense. The Yankees were much more rivals of the Dodgers and Giants, but we forget that now too.
So sure, I’ll call it a rivalry with the Sox so long as you assent that “rivalry” was equaled by many other teams and surpassed by more than a handful. I understand it was much more meaningful to Sox fans, but I assume a rivalry needs to be bi-directional to truly matter. With only two years where that was the case, between 1920 and 1995, you’re arguing something with little evidence for today’s overhyped contests.

You can argue semantically all you want, but the fact remains that media were using the word “rivalry” to describe these teams as early as 1936.
Like SF says, the team’s histories have been intertwined since 1904, when the Highlanders collapsed down the stretch, giving the Americans the pennant. They played the first game in Fenway Park in 1912, were involved in the series of trades in 1919-20 that sent Babe Ruth over, and picked back up when the Red Sox began ascending in the late 1930s.
It’s been a constant refrain from Yankee fans to scoff at the idea of a rivalry and invoke the hammer-nail analogy, though not as much since 2004. Yet national baseball media, from The Sporting News to the newspaper wires to ESPN, have persisted in describing the teams’ relationship as such for 70 years. If you object, I suggest finding a time machine. That ship sailed long ago.

We can simply rank rivalries since 1920 for the Yankees. The Sox are not near the top of that list before the Wild Card (ESPN) Era. Ahead of them are certainly the Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals, A’s, Tigers, Indians, Orioles, and probably the Royals too if we’re counting the early 80s. In all of those rivalries, we can point to many, many meaningful games. The Red Sox are more like the Braves than like any of those teams.
I’m not scoffing at anything. I’m just pointing out that in the historical record, the notion of bi-directional rivalry with the Red Sox is largely a modern fiction. Without Bucky Dent, there would be almost nothing. That’s also not to discount the last 10 years. But it’s important to note that the Sox changed owners in that time. The new owners hyped the rivalry to also boost ratings. Lucchino’s Evil Empire moniker was exactly the point. Now you’re trying to see the whole history through that lens and it’s simply not true.

In fact, I’d argue that the Sox were more rivals with the Cardinals than the Yankees, given the two Series losses and in Game 7s.
It’s convenient to try to re-imagine the past given the present. But I’d suggest you take that same time machine and really learn your history rather than by pulling random quotes from Lexis Nexis.

Why does a rivalry or rival need to be someone or something that has had equal success or near equal success? So prior to 2004 it wasn’t a rivalry? That’s a joke. When Aaron Boone hit that HR the Sox still hadn’t won a WS yet the stadium nearly collapsed in celebration. I don’t think it would have been nearly the same level of celebration if it wasn’t a rival. I would actually argue the opposite, I think the rivalry was better when the Sox were still chasing a title. I hate the Sox far less than I did 7-10 years ago. Jet and Patriots are rivals and what have the Jets won? That’s one of the hottest rivalries in the game right now.

Jet and Patriots are rivals and what have the Jets won? That’s one of the hottest rivalries in the game right now.
That’s exactly my point. To call that matchup a rivalry is to strip the term of its meaning. It’s exactly where ESPN is doing their job.
As for 2003, I named my dog Boone because I got him the day after. Still, even as that was a great ALCS, it didn’t rise to the eruptions of the 2001 Series. There was no rivalry there with D’backs. It was just simply great baseball when we needed it.
It’s also not binary. I can say the Yankees and Sox have a history without pretending it rose to more significance than the history they have with at least 7 other teams.

By the way James, it’s easy to point to ERA+ now that it’s more accepted, but back in 1996 it wasn’t. Wins and Losses are a horrible way to judge a pitcher, but back then that’s what analysts did, and in 1996 Clemens’ record was 10-13. It doesn’t make Duquette correct, but given the context of the time period it makes sense.

Who cares what the literal meaning of rivalry is…To me a rivalry is two teams and two fan bases that dislike one another that usually produce hard fought, entertaining games. I’m a Giants fan, but I’d pay to see the Jets play the Patriots in HORSE right now. James you need to realize people are allowed to have opinions, you are not the end all be all of what people can or cannot think or what is right and what is wrong. You can have your opinion, let the rest of us have ours. That’s the beauty of this forum.

That was my implicit point, Atheose, on Clemens. Today no GM could get away with that clear mistake.
The problem I have with even the playoffs argument is 1999. I don’t recall being particularly amped that we faced the Sox and then trounced them. If anything, 2003-2004 start the rivalry in my mind. Going back to 1978 then 1949 then 1920 shows how stretched the historical claims are. Yeah, I get it. Bucky F’in Dent. But the lost titles to the Cardinals are lost in that narrative. CHB doesn’t get the book deal if they win either of those Series.

“To me a rivalry is two teams and two fan bases that dislike one another that usually produce hard fought, entertaining games. I’m a Giants fan, but I’d pay to see the Jets play the Patriots in HORSE right now.”
Ravens/Steelers, Cardinals/Reds, Yankees/Red Sox, Eagles/Giants, Celtics/Knicks, Pats/Jets…each of these rivalries have varying amounts of success for each team yet I’d pay to see each of them play a game right now. Not because ESPN tells me so, I do have a mind of my own. Beyond all the stats is the actual game and there’s nothing better than two teams that can’t stand each other once they step on the field of play. Who cares what the definition of the word is to me a rivalry does not need to have dual success in order to be a rivalry.

James, your whole argument rests on the fact that you “don’t recall being particularly amped that we faced the Sox and then trounced them.” Lots of other people had a different experience of that series.
Here’s a Harvey Araton column from the New York Times’s coverage of that ’99 series:
The whole premise of the piece is that it is *taken for granted* that “people rhapsodize Yankees-Red Sox as the best rivalry in sports,” even in ’99. Araton tries to cast some doubt on that by describing the rivalry as a rout, but he can only do that because the conventional wisdom is the contrary. Bernie Williams is quoted in the article saying that “the rivalry” is one reason why he couldn’t sign with the Red Sox. From the other side, Jimy Williams says, “You learn about the Yankees and the Red Sox the first time you come in here.”
So I agree with John – YF. You can have your own definition of rivalry, but the rest of the world is also entitled to have ours.

Go ask an Eagles fan if he gets “amped” about beating the Giants 6 consecutive times? They’ve straight up owned us, but I bet you a $1 Philly fans can’t wait for that first Giants/Eagles home game.

Look, James is entitled to his opinion. If it’s not a rivalry to him then fine. But the idea that Yankees/Sox is a fabrication of either ESPN or Red Sox fans (and not bilateral and rooted in a deeper-seated rivalry between the cities themselves) is actually ludicrous.
For decades the Canadiens owned the Bruins, but that was as intense a rivalry as anything, and one-sided. For DECADES. Same with the Patriots-Dolphins, which was also intense (and one-sided, for many, many years). Jets-Pats is newer, but I imagine it will last a long time, through coaching regimes and player turnover. And it’s been pretty one-sided and is most certainly NOT a fabrication of the media. You can thank Bill Parcells and Curtis Martin and Rex Ryan and Bob Kraft for that.
Much of the Boston-New York rivalry comes out of the differing attitudes of the cities as a collectives, as entities. The rivalries of our sports teams are, in fact, extensions of the way the two cities view each other in general. I grew up in one for 20 years and have lived in the other for 17, and it’s real, sports-wise and urbanistically.

I read that Rhoden piece when it was published! Great find! He’s such a good writer I’m not surprised if he’s still in my head even now.
Honestly, that piece reads to me more like a reaction to the media sentiment than some overall perspective. Recall, it’s still ESPN in 1999 and with Peter Gammons as a fixture. Can you imagine the outcry if Michael Kay were pimping the Yankees night after night?
Where was the bad blood in 1999? You had Pedro. You had Clemens. You had Jeter-Nomar. Varitek was there. But where were the fireworks if it was truly a rivalry even then? The Sox were another speedbump on the way to #25.
No, 2003-2004 established the rivalry. It also helped that before 2003, the Yankees had a new moniker for the ESPN/NESN branding.
John, it’s less about the success and more about the meaning in the games. From 1920 to 1995, the Sox and Yankees played many fewer games that mattered than even the Yankees and Royals. So fine, so long as we’re calling Yankees-Royals a “rivalry” the same is true of Yankees-Sox.

Oh, and I lived in St. Louis for the other 3+ years of my life and can without hesitation say that Boston could not be further from their minds in terms of rivalries, it isn’t on the radar in the slightest. Really, the idea that Boston and St. Louis are more rivals than Boston and New York should instantly void the credibility of the poster.

You keep changing the goal posts. First it was about history. Then it was about the fans. Now it’s about the cities?
You do realize that same line of thought applies just as well to Yankees-Dodgers, Yankees-Giants, Yankees-Cardinals, Yankees-Tigers, Yankees-A’s, Yankees-Indians, Yankees-Orioles, and even Yankees-Royals. The history is more intense in all of those matchups, the fans are just as driven to beat the Yankees, and the cities offer resounding contrasts, even when it was the same city!
Please point to how the Sox-Yankees are somehow special as apart from those rivalries. Because you keep trying and flailing to do so.

“Really, the idea that Boston and St. Louis are more rivals than Boston and New York should instantly void the credibility of the poster.”
That shows the myopia of your opinion. Had the Sox beat the Cardinals in either Series, there is no Curse. That was a media driven fantasy if there ever was one. The Sox lost four Series between 1918 and 1986. The Yankees weren’t even supporting players in the storylines of those years.

James, come on. 2003-2004 established the rivalry? Maybe if you were born in 1990. Otherwise, you’re really just trolling this post.
I’m not sure how closely you read the article that I posted since you got the author wrong, but the quotes in it were clearly about how *players and managers* experienced the “rivalry,” a word they all used. Are you really suggesting that Bernie Williams and Jimy Williams were just brainwashed by ESPN hype?
Here’s another New York Times article from the day before (by Buster Olney, this time):
Note again the use of the phrase “hated rivals.” Note David Cone referring to the rivalry as “intense.” Note Scott Brosius saying that a series between such storied rivals could lead to “two weeks of sheer nut house.” And, most importantly, note Don Zimmer saying that the rivalry used to be even more personalized and hate-filled, suggesting its long and bitter history.
Were Cone, Brosius, and Zimmer just repeating something they’d heard on ESPN?
Let’s just pick another random year and search the news archive to see evidence of people talking about the widely-acknowledged Yankees/Red Sox rivalry. 1991 was before the Wild Card and, look, here’s George Vecsey saying that “The best rivalry since expansion was the one between the Red Sox and the Yankees in the ’70’s, Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk” (
Not far back enough? Here’s a random capsule from 1983 referring to the teams’s “traditional rivalry”:
If anyone is moving the goalposts, James, it’s you – arbitrarily changing the definition of words from their common usage because you can’t admit that you’re wrong.

First it was about history. Then it was about the fans. Now it’s about the cities?
All of the above, and the players too.
And the rivalries are not mutually exclusive, not sure that there has been any proclamation that the Sox and Yanks enjoy a relationship that is at the exclusion of the Yanks having another team of intense competition. God knows the Patriots enjoy battles with both the Jets and Colts.
The cities themselves are big factors – this is something that wasn’t in the original post but I realize is integral. Sox-Yanks is about more than the teams, it is also about the two metropolitan areas, the regions, and sentiments about New England/New York weigh heavily, emotionally.

I think LA and SF enjoy a similar urbano-athletic competition. LA as the stereotypical superficial, dilettantish front-runners with a city that has a manufactured culture, while SF views itself as the more sophisticated and urbane metropolis. Boston and New York have always had a similar dynamic – Bostonians view New Yorkers as crass, cocky, hyperbolic, while Bostonians view themselves (accurately or not) as more educated, cosmopolitan, intellectual. New Yorkers just look at everyone else as inferior. A lot of this has to do with the cities and is inextricable: it has to do with the glut of universities and colleges, the historical origin of our country being in the smaller, more intimate town of Boston, while New York gets the big stuff, the tallest stuff, the richest stuff.
It’s stereotyping, doubtless. But these broad generalizations of city character have always, for as long as I have watched sports, been part of the narrative. That’s not ESPN. That’s the history. It sounds silly but it almost in the DNA of all locals – I experience it when I get together with my NY-born cousins and their in-laws, we have these characteristics ingrained in us through personal histories. It’s not a media concoction, though the media surely knows how to exploit this dynamic.

Stuck –
That view is driven by Zimmer. It reflects a one or two-year period in the last one hundred years. It was driven by players and managers then. But it quickly disappeared and then became mythologized in a way that doesn’t do 2003-2004 proper service. You’re simply pointing to the aftermath of 1978. It became a media meme before the term had meaning. Where are all the stories from 1986 when the hated rivals were 1-2 in the East and one year after the Yankees lost a playoff berth by two games?
If you think 1999 was just another in a long line, find me the same commentary in the 80s or 60s. Lord knows Paul has looked. He had to cite something off-topic from the 30s to buttress his point. Pulling non-random articles proves my point. This rivalry really wasn’t a big deal and certainly not compared to the true rivalries of yore.
Good see though that now we’re talking about something that has nothing to do with baseball any longer. The Yankees have had many more rivals in the sport that transcend the Sox. The converse isn’t true so that leads many here to pretend as if I’m making some grand statement. I’m simply summarizing the history, and for the Yankees-Sox there’s very little that was shared between 1920 and 1995.

All I can say is that this thread of comments reinforces my perception that your fandom of baseball is one lacking any sense of joy, everything is distilled into a binary reality of your own making, bolstered by isolated events ignorant of a greater and more complex environment. Emotionless yet entirely selfish and self-contained.
I honestly don’t get what you like about baseball, other than finding narratives about the sport to which you can assert ultimate authority that you know to be right and the truth, that all others have missed the reality of things, regardless of the facts and experiences of others. This is armchair psychology, but it really comes off as serious narcissism.

James, searching the New York Times archives for 1986 turns up seven articles referring to the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, with several commenting on the irony of the Red Sox meeting the Mets in the World Series rather than their “traditional rival.” A similar search of the Boston Globe archives turns up a dozen such articles, including a Dan Shaughnessy regular-season-in-review piece much concerned with “gloating” about beating the Yankees for the division. Were these articles also just driven by Zimmer?
I’m not going to present any further evidence in favor of the view that the Yankees and Red Sox have a long and historic rivalry. My time would be better spent arguing that the earth is a sphere (though I recognize, James, that it looks flat from your perspective).

Again that’s the aftermath of 1978 and a singular game but loaded season.
There’s little to suggest it goes back beyond that – not in the results or the mythmaking.
Consider that the whole notion of the Curse is tied to Babe Ruth then a whole lot of nothing until Bucky Dent then a whole lot of nothing to Aaron Boone. Where the Sox lost it was to other teams in tough Series.
You can pretend otherwise all you want. The Sox were as much Yankee rivals as the Royals were.

That anything Don Zimmer says could be described as reflecting only a “one or two-year period” is kind of funny to me. The guy is like the modern oracle of baseball after Lasorda. Nothing he says reflects anything less than decades of creaky, dusty, wonderful baseball history.
Actually, my main take-away from having just read (most) of thie thread:
The Sox, too, have stinky farts.

From 1979 to 1999 is over 20 years. Where’s the actual evidence of any bad blood? Clemens and Pedro were on opposite sides then. If they couldn’t ferret out anything, then how can any of you claim it was there? Moreover, where’s the actual evidence from 1920 to 1978?
By the same definition, the Yankees had a rivalry with the Pirates.

Although my previous post in this thread summarizes my feeling about the “rivalry” as a topic for intellectual investigation, I DO think that the rivalry exists. So here’s my 2 cents (more seriously).
Two points here have particular saliency for me:
1) Nick’s point that the rivalry is most noticeable when the NYYs and RS actually meet in the ALCS (or, as in 78, in a 1 game playoff).
2) SFs point that the rivalry does indeed seem to be a metaphor for regional one-upsmanship.
I add a third, which is simply the perceived resentment of NYY fans as the most extreme sort of front runners, and snotty about it to boot (this is how I saw it at 13, and it never entirely left, even after the discovery that some NYY fans are nice people).
1) seems simply self evident – an actual conflict produces instant rivalry.
If no conflict is in the offing, a trade in which one side gets beat clearly by the other (Texeira, Damon, Aceves, and of course Ruth). will do. I don’t count ARod or Clemens because of the ambiguities involved, but we love to hate on both of them here in Boston partly because they went to the Yankees.
The regional resentment may sharpen this a bit, but it doesn’t FEEL like a rivalry to me unless something is actually at stake. It does particularize it to the Red Sox, however.
Resentment of Yankeedom itself provides the rest of the sharpening that most of us felt in 2003-2004, IMHO.
I think this resentment (of the face of the Yankees to the world, that preposterous top hat in the logo and the perceived frontrunning of the fans) is key to the RS side of the “rivalry” at least, even though it is shared to some degree with other fanbases.
I am from Westchester originally and rooted for the Mets as a kid (69 is still great to see again (occasionally).
The key thread of fandom was always hating the Yankees and their fans (even in the 60s, when the Yanks were losers, the kids who rooted for them swaggered unreasonably). However, I really disliked the players on the Mets in ’86, which kind of killed my interest in them as a fan but I felt neutral about Boston at that time, and didn’t root for the RS until some years after I came to live here in ’89.
Being a transplanted Tri Stater, I never took on the regional resentment that sharpens RS fandom toward the Yanks, but I see it in some of the locals. (I admit that any place that calls itself “Hub of the Universe”, however ironically, has an intrinsically weak argument).

For the record, I only looked at the 1930s in my search because I wanted to see how far back they were described as being in rivalry.
So how’s this:
1. March 23, 1954:
“Twice in the next two days, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will renew their ancient rivalry.
The rivalry was considered “ancient” in 1954!
2. Here’s a report from later that summer:
“The first game of a three-game series in New York’s Yankee Stadium will be piped back to local viewers via WBZ-TV, Channel 4, as the Red Sox and Yankees resume their age-old baseball rivalry.”
3. There’s an AP story from 1955 with the headline, “Red Sox and Yankees resume rivalry tonight.” Another one, nearly identical, in 1959.
4. There’s the Norman Rockwell painting from 1957 showing Yogi Berra being heckled by Boston fans.

Let’s look back further:
5. The Hartford Courant, March 22, 1940, discussing comparisons between Ted Williams and Charlie Keller: “The somewhat steamy rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox doesn’t stop at the two ball clubs. It has moved along to the matter of crowning the king of the 1940 sophomore crop.”
How about the early 1960s, when the Sox were dreadful?
6. Meriden Journal, July 17, 1962: “The game offers the first of 14 remaining chances for the Red Sox to take charge of the New York rivalry.”
7. Finally, there’s a Boston Globe headline from 1964, when the Red Sox finished 27 games behind the first-place Yankees: “Red Sox-Yankees Rivalry Among Biggest In Sports.”
Seven examples from between 1940 and 1964, more than a decade before the late 1970s. This has been a rivalry by any objective sense of the word for at least 70 years. James might not think it is, and that’s fine, but the rest of the sports world begs to differ.

You do realize that finding random stories out of the press is the epitome of cherry picking, right? Where’s the comparison to Yankees- Dodgers, Yankees-A’s, Yankees-Tigers, etc. Worse, the examples you cite call it rivalry but with no evidence to support the term.
Hell, we could say the Yankees-Mets had a rivalry even though they never played a meaningful game before 1997. In fact, I’m sure you could find newspaper articles to say exactly that.
Moreover, when have newspaper articles ever been an accurate reflection of anything. Prior to 1978:
a) Give me five examples of actual events that fueled said rivalry
b) Show me that said events are as pronounced for Yankees-Sox as for the Yankees’ many other rivals.
See, I get why SFs feel better about themselves to think there was a rivalry from 1920-1978 and from 1979 to 1999, but if the best you’ve got is one article every four years, I’ve already won this argument. The “rivalry” is a media driven fiction with little evidence for on the field episodes. 1999 furthers this point. For all of Zimmer’s quotes, what happened on the field? Nothing different than every other team the Yankees dispatched during that time.
To me, 2003-2004 was exactly a rivalry. Before that? It’s piddling compared to what the Yankees had with many other teams. Rockwell is a great example, but he was born in NYC and moved to Massachusetts. Had he stayed in NY, the painting could just as easily been of Brooklyn fans jeering Berra. There was nothing special about the Sox. They were always one team among many, except they lost much more than they won, sort of like the Royals.

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