Six years ago this week, the Yankees and Red Sox played a four-game series at Yankee Stadium with first place on the line. The Yankees swept that series and went on to win the AL East and World Series. That was the last time the teams played a late-season meaningful series.
On Monday night at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees played and beat the Red Sox. And by beat, I mean dominated and embarrassed in a 13-3 rout that included a nine-run seventh inning. It might as well have been a Yankees-Rays game from 1998-2007 because that’s what it felt like. That’s what Yankees-Red Sox has become: Yankees-Rays from 1998-2007.
In 2004, I expected the Yankees and Red Sox to meet in the ALCS every year forever. They were the two best teams in baseball with never-ending financial resources to ensure competitive rosters for years to come. But since Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, the teams haven’t met in the playoffs, and in the 10 postseasons since then, they have only been in the playoffs at the same time three years (2005, 2007 and 2009). With the Red Sox going nowhere this season, it will be 11 straight postseasons without them meeting in the playoffs heading into 2016.
The rivalry still exists, it’s just dormant. A sleeping giant waiting to wake up from the sort of deep sleep it went through for most of the ’80s and ’90s. It can be rejuvenated and a new chapter of the rivalry can be created and probably will be at some point, but it’s mainly the Red Sox’ fault it’s in a bad place.
The Red Sox suck. They’re on their way to their third last-place finish in four seasons and sandwiched in the middle is the most miraculous, fluky, unfathomable championship in the history of sports. When I think about 2013, I start to feel the same way I do when I don’t eat for 12 hours or when an Amtrak train is delayed for multiple hours or when my girlfriend wants to watch House Hunters or House Hunters: Renovations or House Hunters: Where Are They Now or House Hunters International or House Hunters: Million Dollar Homes when the Yankees are about to be on. Outside of 2013, the Red Sox have been a bad team for a long time and it’s almost as if the Baseball Gods gave them 2013 for the heartache of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS and the 1978 one-game playoff and the 1986 World Series.
The rivalry really started its decline in 2012 and it’s been falling fast ever since. The 2011 Red Sox, known as “The Best Team Ever”, collapsed in September and the 2012 Red Sox followed up their chicken and beer season by hiring Bobby Valentine and losing 93 games. The 2013 Yankees missed out on the playoffs, and in 2014, for the first time since 1993, neither team made the playoffs. Now here we are with the Yankees trying to win the AL East for the first time in three years and the Red Sox are playing out the string and waiting to go home for the winter.
Fans who grew tired of the five-hour long games between the Yankees and Red Sox would complain if the teams met in early April or if they had already played a couple series before the first of May. But now, those series are the only ones that mean anything because when the schedule rolls around to the second half, one of their seasons is usually over. Before 2012, any Yankees-Red Sox meant something and a weekend series meant clearing your schedule. It meant watching Friday night’s game from 7 until midnight. It meant watching Saturday’s game from 4 to 9 and Sunday night’s game from 8 to 1. It meant being worried about how horrible a series loss would feel and how satisfying a series win would be. It meant being petrified of getting swept and making sure to contact every Red Sox fan I know if the Yankees did the sweeping. This week has served as a reminder of how the importance of these games has disappeared since the result only matters for one team.
I never want the Red Sox to be good and they can’t lose enough. But part of me wants them to suck less than they do. I don’t need them beating the Yankees in a postseason series or winning the World Series, I just want them to not be the 1997-2008 Rays. I guess I kind of/sort of miss the Red Sox being good because I miss everything that comes with both teams being good at the same time.
I miss the buzz in either city with the other team in town. I miss the hatred in the crowd. I miss the fights and verbal abuse in the right field bleachers at Yankee Stadium. I miss going to Fenway Park and wondering if I would make it out alive. I miss the punches and beers thrown in the Stadium and the explicit chants that would increase as everyone’s blood alcohol level did. I miss scouring the Internet for hours to avoid paying $100 for standing room and obstructed view seats at Fenway. I miss how enjoyable the wins were and how devastating the losses were.
I miss what Yankees-Red Sox was and hate what it is.