Updated: Aug 19
If recent contests between the Yankees and their archival Red Sox have likely taught fans one thing, it’s that there really can’t be a rivalry between a bug and a windshield.
This is the specter of a development that has been lurking now since, well, pretty much since Chris Sale struck out Manny Machado on a slider low-and-in that dropped him to one knee and won the Red Sox their ninth World Series and their fourth this century.
It should be safe to assume that while most Yankee fans saw that end result coming, it was not one that any were particularly elated with, for reasons that are, well, rather obvious. The ensuing offseason, the team resigned a group of free-agents and made some new acquisitions—most notably DJ LeMahieu and James Paxton. While Paxton has been solid and DJ has played out of his mind both at the plate and in the field, the moves were viewed in a largely negative light at the time, with the fans expecting one or more huge splash acquisition to finally top the division after falling short for too many years prior.
Even though the Yankees had previously lost the division race to the Orioles and Blue Jays in relatively recent years, the 2018-19 offseason felt way more significant, because improving the team and winning the division after getting stomped on the Red Sox was way more important than doing the same thing after getting beat by another AL East team.
Going into 2019, The Rivalry was supposed to be as strong as ever, primed to continue well into the next decade. The Red Sox were defending champs, and even though they had glaring holes—their bullpen—they were supposed to be competitors. But they never really got it going in 2019, finishing third in the AL East well behind Tampa.
Yankees fans delightfully watched the franchise crumble, because that’s what we do, and we enjoy it. And until pigs start to fly in the United States of America, clobbering Boston is a type of schadenfreude that Yankees fans will relish like sauerkraut hot dogs from their favorite street food cart. Death, taxes, and Sweep Caroline.
But everyone and their grandma knows it’s really not that much fun when you have a Rivalry game coming up, and you can sit back on your couch, yawn, and turn on your TV knowing there’s a ~pretty~ high chance the Yankees are going to win. Handily.
Yes, they are unambiguously atrocious in 2020 after at least being slightly above average in 2019—but there is really a lack of words in the English language appropriate to describe the Sox’s struggles against the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees pummeled them in 2019, going 14-5, and have started off 7-0 against them this season with a season sweep a very possible outcome. The Yankees have won fourteen of their last fifteen games against Boston, including the last ten straight.
That’s not very competitive.
Part of what makes sports—especially ones with ingrained long-standing rivalries—attractive is the back-and-forth, punch-for-punch nature of the competition that keeps fans on the edge of their seats, both in the micro-scale of one game and in the macro-scale of the entire season. It tells a good story. And more often than not, that’s what sport is.
It’s a story. A proxy to communicate more than just what’s going on between the foul lines. And a rivalry without any competition is as good as a story without Act 3.
On an objective level of analysis, no one will complain about picking up free wins against a team that is unquestionably sweeter to beat than the other 28 (except maybe the Astros, considering the current landscape of Major League Baseball). But for the sake of some half-decent games, this is an open letter from Yankees fans to the Boston Red Sox:
Git gud, scrubs.
(P.S. This article may serve as a reverse jinx, in which case, I admit all responsibility and welcome hate mail. F*ck, I just screwed myself.)