The Yankees are coming to Fenway for a weekend series against the Red Sox, and it would be fair to ask: “Other than the networks that carry baseball, does anybody really care?”
Each team seems to be battling its own demons. For the visitors, the discussion has been whether the revitalized Mets are now New York’s favorite team and in Boston, the question is whether the Sox can complete a worst-to-first-to-worst-to-first cycle.
The waning Yankees-Red Sox rivalry feels as valid as the Jay Leno against David Letterman competition.
The rivalry has eased to the point that last July 31, the Sox traded Stephen Drew to the Yankees for Kelly Johnson. It was the first deal between these franchises since 1997 when Tony Armas went to Boston for Mike Stanley.
There have been 224 players over the years that have played for each of these teams running the gamut from A (David Aardsma) to Z (Billy Zuber). The most famous, of course, is Babe Ruth, but you can’t forget Roger Clemens, Luis Tiant, Wade Boggs, Derek Lowe, Butch Hobson, Sparky Lyle, Mike Stanley, David Wells and Jacoby Ellsbury, just to name nine.
No matter where else a player has played in his career, that fact that he wore the uniforms of these fabled franchises brings them attention. For example, when Stephen Drew homered against the Orioles in April, we noted that he joined Johnny Damon, Don Baylor and Babe Ruth as the only grand slam hitters for both the Yankees and the Red Sox.
And yet, despite the fact that last year was the first since 1992 that the postseason went on without the Yankees and/or Sox and that this season, regardless of their current records, could be the first since 1992 that both teams finish under .500, there is still something special about these two teams facing each other.
Take the three games the two teams played against each other at Yankee Stadium in mid-April:
• The first game, a Friday night/Saturday morning affair went 19 innings and took 6 hours, 49 minutes to complete before Boston won.
• The next day, the only Sox player who didn’t appear the night before, Brock Holt, picked up four hits, and Joe Kelly started and pitched seven innings of one-hit ball and Boston won, 8-4.
• In the Sunday night affair, with the Yankees on the ropes, Clay Buchholz showed his stuff and allowed seven 1st inning runs as the Yankees won 14-4.
So the Sox lead the 2015 regular season match-up two games to one
That means in the 2121 regular season games since 1901, the Yankees have won 1151, the Sox have won 956 with 14 ties. But that’s primarily 20th century history.
Since 2000, the Yankees and Red Sox have played 275 regular season games and the Yankees have won 131, while the Sox have won 144. At Fenway, the Sox are 65-71 while in New York, the Sox are 66-73. Just over 15 seasons, less than a game per year separates the two.
It’s even closer than that when you realize that only 38 runs separate the two teams with Boston scoring 1387 runs and the Yankees 1425 runs.
Pretty much throughout the rivalry, and particularly since 2000, the names in the box scores have made this rivalry so special.
Just checkout these leaders since 2000:
• David Ortiz leads the Sox with 223 hits versus New York. Since 2000, if you include his time with the Twins, Ortiz has 234 hits, the most of any player in the majors against the Yanks.
• Derek Jeter leads the Yankees with 290 hits versus Boston, the most of any MLBer.
• The Red Sox have hit 301 HRs against the Yanks since 2000 with Johnny Damon, David Murphy, and Jacoby Ellsbury all hitting homers to lead off games against New York while Mike Napoli, Bill Mueller and Kevin Youkilis have each hit a walkoff homer.
• The Yankees have hit 355 HRs against the Red Sox since 2000 with Johnny Damon (yes, he did it for both teams), Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano all hitting homers to lead off games against Boston while David Justice, Chase Headley, Derek Jeter, Marcus Thames and Alex Rodriguez each have hit a walkoff homer.
• Big Papi leads the Sox with 44 homers vs. New York, and including the one he hit with the Twins, 45 dingers is the most of any player against the Yanks since 2000.
• A-Rod leads the Yanks with 33 homers vs Boston and including the seven he hit with the Mariners and Rangers, 40 homers is the most of any player against the Sox since 2000.
• Jose Bautista of the Jays and Evan Longoria of the Rays each have hit 13 homers in the new Yankee Stadium, the most of any visitor; Papi has 11. Mark Teixeira has hit 15 homers off the Red Sox in the new Stadium.
• Ortiz and Manny Ramirez each have 18 homers off Yankee pitching at Fenway while Jorge Posada hit 15 homers off Sox pitching at Fenway.
• Red Sox pitchers have whiffed 1981 Yankees since 2000, Pedro Martinez recorded 179, Jon Lester whiffed 172. No Yankee went down swinging more than Jorge Posada who walked dejectedly back to the bench 159 times. From 2000-15, Derek Jeter whiffed 147 times against the Sox, 187 times in his career.
• Yankee pitchers have seen 2020 strikeouts against Red Sox batters. Mike Mussina (who had a perfect game against the Sox for 8.2 innings on 9/2/2001) struck out 178 Sox and Andy Pettitte whiffed another 155. David Ortiz whiffed 142 times as a Red Sox against the Yanks since 2000.
The 21st Century Reversed the Curse
It’s ironic that if there is anything that may chilled the great rivalry it has been the success of the Sox.
There is no more Boston jealousy, no more Yankee smugness, no more poor Boston envy, no more huge Yankee dollar dominance and these days there is very little excitement of success from either club.
But that’s just new news.
Since the start of 2000, the Sox have finished:
• First two times
• Second eight times
• Third three times
• Fifth two times
• Have reached the postseason seven times
• Won the World Series three times
Since the start of 2000, the Yankees have finished:
• First 10 times
• Second three times
• Third two times
• Have reached the postseason 12 times
• Won the World Series two times
With both teams looking for starting pitching and hitting consistency, neither team is putting fear into the hearts of their opponents.
And yet this weekend, you’ll stop looking at NFL draft picks, you’ll stop ignoring the NBA and NHL playoffs, you’ll feign interest in the Derby and Pacquiao-Mayweather, and then you’ll check the scores of these baseball games, maybe even watch a few innings or the whole game. I mean, c’mon it’s the Red Sox and the Yankees, and you can’t help but care.