The Rivalry Is Now Irrelevant

Jacoby Ellsbury

The last time the Yankees and Red Sox met was 30 days ago at Fenway Park when the Yankees overcame two three-run deficits on Sunday Night Baseball and looked like they might be ready to go on an August and September run after back-to-back come-from-behind wins in Boston. They went on to win three of four against the Tigers at the Stadium and my wish of a run down the stretch from the Yankees was coming true. But that run has been put on hold as the Yankees are just 9-11 over their last 20 games and are 4 games out of the second wild card with 28 games to play. Fortunately, the Red Sox are in the Bronx this week and if the Yankees want to keep their postseason dreams alive, there isn’t a better opponent to begin what will need to be a memorable September.

With the Yankees still somewhat alive in the wild-card race and the Red Sox just counting down the days until their miserable season is finally over, I emailed Mike Hurley of CBS Boston because that’s what I do when the Yankees and Red Sox play each other.

Keefe: The start of second grade. For both of us, that’s the last time both the Yankees and Red Sox missed the postseason. The fall of 1993, 21 years ago, was the last time September was basically meaningless for the two superpowers that have spent two decades at or near the top of baseball. That’s remarkable and astonishing and also sad and depressing.

The Red Sox suck and are the team they were in 2012 and the team they should have been in 2013, while the Yankees are 4 games out of the second wild card, the same wild card I was adamantly against with you when instituted two seasons ago. And at this point it’s going to take a 20-8 September from the Yankees to possibly have a shot at the one-game playoff or a one-game playoff to get to the one-game playoff.

The Red Sox aren’t going to the playoffs. The Yankees are most likely not going to the playoffs. The Orioles and Royals most likely are and the Indians or Mariners could be. Is this a world you want to live in?

Hurley: I have distinct memories of being in second grade, sitting at my desk. I drew a hockey net on the front side of the box, and I wrote “MOOG 35” on the back of a little troll toy I had. Remember those? Those were messed up. Anyway, as you might imagine, I was a genius and I didn’t need to pay attention in school, so I kept myself busy by using a pencil to fire slappers at my troll Andy Moog.

Now for you to tell me that the last time the Red Sox and Yankees didn’t make the playoffs was when I was going top shelf in Mrs. Castiglione’s class, that’s pretty messed up. Though admittedly, it’s kind of misleading. I mean, that’s much more about the Yankees, who have made the postseason in 17 of the last 19 years, than it is about the Red Sox, who kind of pop in and out of the playoffs when they’re feeling good and then occasionally drop to last place.

I’ll tell you, and you’ll probably agree, that it’s easy to root for the Indians. Any time Terry Francona can make Red Sox ownership look bad for firing him for no reason, it’s going to be pretty funny.

But to answer your question, is this a world I want to live in? I believe Michael Scott said it best.

Keefe: I do like Terry Francona even if he was the man responsible for ruining the year 2004 for me. If only he hadn’t been so calm and composed and had been freaking out and going wild in the dugout and throwing things and skipping press conferences with the media, the Red Sox wouldn’t have come back. I hate you, Terry Francona. (But I also don’t.)

I was in Mrs. Lazar’s class, Don Mattingly was still playing first base for the Yankees, Mike Gallego was wearing No. 2 and splitting time at shortstop with Spike Owen (no wonder the Yankees didn’t make the playoffs) and I didn’t understand that the Whalers sucked and would finish 25th out of 26 in attendance that season. (The Islanders, Jets and Panthers outdrew the Whalers in 1993-94.) It’s been a long, long time since both teams were home in October. The problem is that this is going to become a frequent event thanks to teams locking up their players and ruining their chances at becoming free agents for the Yankees and Red Sox to fight over signing.

In New York, Yankees fans are upset that the Yankees don’t have young, homegrown talent, while also being upset that the team isn’t competitive right now. These fans likely forget that the dynasty that began in the mid-90s was made possible because of a long period of losing in the Bronx. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada didn’t magically appear in the Bronx one day on the 4 train. It’s somewhat impossible to build through the draft and also sign big-name free agents in 2014 and while Brian Cashman continues to try and plug both old and new holes on a sinking boat, it seems inevitable that at some point you just need a new boat.

What’s the mood in Boston when it comes to the Red Sox? Do people even care that they suck this year? I realize they won the World Series last year and their five-year grace period is just starting while the Yankees’ five-year grace period from 2009 is over this season. Now that the Patriots are five days away from beginning their season and the Bruins are a month away from beginning theirs, do people even care about the Red Sox? It pains me that they won last year because if they were still looking at no postseason since 2009 and another miserable finish, I would imagine that John Henry wouldn’t be showing his face on Newbury Street or going out to dinner in the North End.

Hurley: The mood in Boston is kind of ridiculous, to be honest with you. The Red Sox traded away Jon Lester because they were unwilling to even get serious when it came to contract negotiations. Four years and $70 million for a durable lefty who was a badass in winning a World Series last year? What is that?

So they didn’t want to pay him because he’ll be in his 30s, and apparently they believe that no pitcher has ever pitched well in his 30s.

Nevertheless, the Red Sox traded away their homegrown star pitcher and then leaked info that they’re going to go after him hard in the offseason. And so many people bought it. What the hell is that? You don’t let your best players see what life is like on the other side of the fence, and you sure as hell don’t let them go to free agency when you have a chance to lock him up forever. It’s insane. Yet people are like “Oh, well they’re going to sign him in the winter, and they got Cespedes, so that’s OK!”

It’s madness.

As for the Sox now, they’re kind of non-existent. Some no-name on the Rays slid into second base on Saturday night and elbowed Dustin Pedroia in the head, and nobody seems to care. Everyone’s busy talking about Ryan Mallett and Logan Mankins.

But I’ll tell you, it’s not entirely different from last year. It was about a year ago to the date that Mike Cole and I bought tickets for $12 the day of a game and waltzed right in. It was pretty insane that just a few weeks later, they were beating Verlander and Scherzer and then winning the World Series. So even though the Red Sox were good last year and basically owned first place all year, there wasn’t much “Red Sox fever” gripping the region. People might be Sox’d out, which is understandable if you’ve seen how freaking hard everything Sox-related gets pushed on you in Boston.

Keefe: So I’m guessing the Fenway bricks and that sing-along CD from a couple years ago didn’t go over so well? That’s too bad.

In 24 days, Derek Jeter will either be playing three meaningless games in Fenway Park or playing three games that could determine the Yankees’ postseason chances. Right now, Jeter will be playing his final baseball game on Sunday, Sept. 28 in Boston in what could be a game full of September call-ups mirroring more of a March Grapefruit League game rather than a Yankees-Red Sox Game 162. But if the Yankees are eliminated from the playoffs before Game 160 in Boston, maybe Jeter doesn’t play that weekend at all?

Just last year, Mariano Rivera pitched at Yankee Stadium for what would be his final appearance ever in the Bronx and then he went with the Yankees to Houston and made that Stadium appearance his final appearance ever by not pitching in the final three games of the year. It’s obviously different for a position player than a closer and Jeter doesn’t seem like the type of person who would sit out three games he could play in before riding off into the sunset on the back porch of his Tampa mansion, but it would be better if Jeter plays Game 159 at the Stadium against Baltimore and then doesn’t board the plane to Boston if the Yankees are eliminated.

I would prefer if Boston doesn’t get to say goodbye to Jeets and give him four Duck Tour tickets, a burned out bulb from the Citgo sign, an old T token, a $25 gift card to the Bell in Hand and a painting of Haymarket or whatever they were going to give him for his farewell tour.

Hurley: See, in my ideal scenario, the Red Sox sign Pedro Martinez to a one-day contract and let him start on that Sunday. Jeter can bat leadoff and Pedro can go in on the hands with the first pitch, in on the hands again with pitch two, up at the chin with ball three, and then square in the back. Benches will clear, Boston and New York will be enraged, and for one fleeting moment, baseball will feel like it used to feel.

Do you think that can happen? Oh, and it would all come immediately after an over-the-top standing ovation from the Fenway crowd as Jeter is digging into the box. Tell me that wouldn’t be infinitely more exciting than whatever boring-as-crap reality is more likely to play out.

Keefe: I would sign up for that. Well, if the Yankees signed Roger Clemens and Jorge Posada for the day as well and we made things even more interesting. You can have Gabe Kapler too.

It disgusts me that Fenway Park is going to give Jeter an ovation every time he comes to the plate that series. Have some pride, Boston. This is a player who was the face of everything you hate for the last 19 years. He was a main reason for a lot of heartache and devastation your team and the focal point of many explicit T-shirts being sold outside the Kenmore T stop. Boo him, shout obscenities at him, feel free to bring batteries and golf balls to throw at him.

Let’s use David Ortiz as an example. Let’s say David Ortiz never used steroids and was even 10 percent as respectable of an athlete and person as Derek Jeter. Now let’s say David Ortiz is having a farewell tour and it’s coming to Yankee Stadium. There is no chance people are cheering for David Ortiz and thanking him and saluting him for the 2004 ALCS or any form of RE2PECT for him. And if they are, they should be held without bail in a Bronx jail for no less than a week.

Yankees-Red Sox used to mean something and in September it meant everything. Now not only might it not mean anything for both teams, but the face of the rivalry for the last two decades might be cheered the way Ortiz, Bobby Orr, Larry Bird and Tom Brady are in Boston. What an embarrassment.

Hurley: Yeah, sure thing. I bet if Jeter came and got booed, you’d be ranting and raving about how everyone from Boston is scum. So it’s kind of a lose-lose situation as far as Boston is concerned — well, that’s if anyone in Boston cared what Neil Keefe thinks about them.

Also, it’ll be 90% Yankee fans at Fenway on that Sunday. Ticket prices are absurd right now because my smart Boston brethren are fleecing you fools for a game in which Jeter might not even attend. Man, after saying that, I really hope he doesn’t make the trip. A bunch of jabronis spending $400 per ticket to fill Fenway, only to see Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks play baseball. That’d be classic.

I like how you praise Jeter as a great human too even though he agreed to star in a commercial where literally everyone in the world just tells him he’s the greatest thing to ever happen, and he’s just like, “Yeah, guys, I know it. Looks, Michael Jordan, I know, I’m the best. Thanks for the hat tip.” What a goober.

Nevertheless, you cheer the guy, because he was a good player who was a worthy rival for a long-ass time. People here won’t be cheering for him the way they cheer for Orr and Bird and Brady — people here would cheer when those guys fart. “Wow! Best fart of all time!!” Instead, people here will begrudgingly cheer for Jeter because A) it’s the right thing to do, and B) they’ll never have to see him send a dinky bloop single over the first baseman’s head to drive in another run.

Keefe: That was harsh. You won’t have to worry about those bloops even in September because he isn’t hitting the ball anywhere other than to short at this point. In the ninth inning on Sunday with the tying run on third and two outs, he hit his patented bloop to right and I thought at first it would fall and the Yankees would tie the game. But instead it fell at second base and the game was over. Not even the bloops are blooping anymore.

Since baseball has been over in Boston for a while now and the summer became more about you trying to get tickets for $2 and waiting until Week 1 of the NFL season, we are now there. It’s Week 1!

Even though you didn’t have much of a baseball season, at least you know your football team is going to walk through the regular season once again and end up with a first-round bye because the Jets still suck, the Dolphins somehow haven’t improved and the Bills are the Bills. You have at least five wins from your division before the opening kickoff of the season and then you just have to go .500 against the rest of the schedule and you have January football once again. It’s disgusting. Vegas has the Patriots over/under wins at 11 even though the last time the team won less than 11 games was Brady’s first season back from ACL surgery. Is there anyway the Patriots don’t win at least 12 games barring anything happening to TB12? Let me know so I can get a wager in on since is the last time I plan on talking to you until Sept. 26.

Hurley: 16-0. See you in Glendale, baby.

The Patriots have never played a bad game in Arizona after an undefeated regular season, have they? Didn’t think so! All right, now I’m ready for kickoff.