The Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry Is Missing Its Summer Significance

New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

A Yankees-Red Sox series at the end of June used to feel like a summer playoff series. But here we are on June 27 and the Yankees are 40-37 and three games out of first place and the Red Sox are 36-43 and eight games out of first place. Sure, we have Masahiro Tanaka against Jon Lester on national TV on Saturday at the Stadium, but we also have Vidal Nuno against Brandon Workman on Friday night.

With the Yankees and Red Sox both battling to make up ground on the Blue Jays and get back to the top of the AL East, I emailed Mike Hurley of CBS Boston because that’s what I do whenever the Yankees and Red Sox play each other.

Keefe: The last time we talked was April 22. That was 65 days ago. But there’s nothing like Major League Baseball scheduling two Yankees-Red Sox series in the freezing cold before April 22 and then not having the two teams play for more than nine weeks. Why is it so hard for baseball to get their scheduling right? But I guess if we’re going to sit here and trade emails about what’s wrong with the way Major League Baseball operates, the problems with their scheduling would likely be item No. 297 on the list and that might even be high.

Since we last talked, the AL East has been filled with mediocrity between the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles (we won’t mention the Rays because they are already counting down the days until Game 162 and a six-month vacation). The Yankees won that three-game series that started in Boston on April 22, but since then they have gone 27-28. The Red Sox have gone 26-30. There’s nothing quite like the Yankees and Red Sox both playing under-.500 baseball for two months and being featured on Sunday Night Baseball this weekend!

When the Red Sox won the division and then the American League and then the World Series last year after the one-year Bobby Valentine era, I was infuriated. The Dodgers had let them off the hook from their financial crisis that would have ruined them for at least six or seven years and then every player they picked up in the offseason performed exactly how a Red Sox fan would have hoped in an ideal world. What the Red Sox experienced last season and in the postseason would be like you correctly picking every NFL game against the spread for the first five weeks of the season. That’s how insane their success was. And what infuriates me more is that this year we are seeing what the Red Sox should have been in 2013. The 2013 Red Sox should have been the 2014 Red Sox! They are the same team! Doesn’t anyone notice this? Or is it just Mugatu and me?

Hurley: You’re not taking crazy pills. Well, you might be taking crazy pills, but you’re right about this.

You look at the 2014 Red Sox and ask yourself what are the differences from the 2013 Red Sox?

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is now A.J. Pierzysnki. A downgrade, but Saltalmacchia was not Saltalmaggio.

Will Middlebrooks is now Xander Bogaerts. That’s a minor upgrade or a wash.

Jacoby Ellsbury is now Jackie Bradley Jr. Huge downgrade.

Shane Victorino is now The Ghost of Shane Victorino. He’s currently on the disabled list due to having a sore body. I feel like he spent the offseason the Mike Hurley diet, aka eating Burger King for lunch and Wendy’s for dinner. He was on the road to recovery this year at the same time that Louis C.K. and Robert Kelly introduced the idea of a “bang-bang” on Louie, and then boom, Victorino took a step back in his rehab. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

You also see guys like Daniel Nava go from .303/.385/.445 to .227/.317/.313. Mike Carp’s .885 OPS from 2013 is now .603 in 2014. Jonny Gomes, the guy want to go to war with, is crushing it with a .232 batting average and .693 OPS.

Even David Ortiz is doing poorly. You wouldn’t know it just by looking at his 18 homers and 49 RBIs, but he’s hitting just .256 with an .841 OPS. Just once since his Minnesota days has he posted an OPS lower than that. For some perspective, Brock Holt has three more doubles than Ortiz in 95 fewer at-bats. Brock Holt.

And Dustin Pedroia has a .715 OPS. His worst-ever OPS in a full season was .787 last year. His second-worst OPS was .797 … in 2012. Dustin’s trending the wrong way.

All of that is to say yes, it’s mostly the same team. The difference is last year, you saw everyone performing at their highest possible level. This year it’s the complete opposite.

Keefe: Thank you for agreeing with me. That is the first time ever. I will be recording the date and time. But you agreeing me only makes me sadder that the 2013 Red Sox should have won 72 games and been a laughingstock for the second straight year and Ben Cherington wouldn’t be viewed in the same light as Theo Epstein in Boston and John Henry and his hated ownership group would have probably sold the team. If I didn’t have a degree in journalism, maybe I would have enough money to fund a start-up to build a time machine and go back in time to August 2012 and tell the MLB front office not to allow the Red Sox-Dodgers trade. That way Josh Beckett would still be fat, lazy and on the disabled list playing golf in Boston, Adrian Gonzalez would be striking out against position player pitchers in extra innings and getting his empty calorie stat, Carl Crawford would be writing blogs about how unfairly he is treated despite getting $142 million to play baseball at a below-average rate and Nick Punto … well , who effing cares about what Nick Punto would be doing.

Your point about Dustin Pedroia is interesting because if you told me right now the Yankees could have any position player from any team right now, I would pick Mike Trout first because he’s Mike Trout then I would pick Troy Tulowitzki because the Yankees don’t know who their 2015 shortstop is going to be and then I would pick Dustin Pedroia. He is everything that baseball and baseball players should be about, he’s impossible to get out (though if he’s hitting .265/.338/.377 someone is gettimg him out) and he’s best friends with Derek Jeter (or at least I like to pretend they are best friends every since the 2009 World Baseball Classic). I hate Dustin Pedroia, but I don’t. It’s the Tom Brady conundrum all over again.

But back to your point that he’s trending downward … that’s eye opening because he’s only 30. He has a team-friendly contract, so it’s not like the Red Sox will be screwed if he turns into Jason Bay, but are Dustin Pedroia’s best days really truly behind him? Is he going to become Kevin Youkilis 2012-13 and end up playing in Japan at some point? Please tell me this is going to happen.

Hurley: I do not believe his best days are behind him. Honestly, he’s kind of a psycho, so the more people start talking about how bad his numbers are, and the more people start publicly asking questions like that, the more likely it is that his psycho genes kick in and inspire him to go on some sort of tear, hit .480 with a 1.080 OPS in the month of July, and then tell him to start swearing at the media for ever questioning him.

At the very least, he’s a Gold Glove second baseman. I’m not entirely too concerned that he’s in full decline. He is a guy who tore a ligament in his thumb on opening day in the Bronx last year but still played all season and won the World Series, so if I were to be concerned about anything, it’s that his style of play lends itself to getting hurt more often. Banged-up wrists, busted fingers and the like make it hard to hit, and I think that’s something he’s always going to be dealing with, based on the way he plays the game.

If you could take any position player from the Red Sox though, please take Xander Bogaerts. I feel bad for the kid. His swing looks like that of a young Manny Ramirez, and he’s going to mash in this league. And you could solve your shortsop problem, too. Granted, Bogaerts isn’t an elite defensive shortstop, but he’d be replacing Old Man Jeter, who is essentially playing shortstop at the level of a trash can with a Rawlings duct-taped to its side. Bogaerts would look exceptional by comparison.

Keefe: I will pretend like you didn’t just say those things about Derek Jeter, who turned 40 yesterday. 40! Forty! F-O-R-T-Y! Is this real life? He was the Opening Day shortstop for the Yankees when we were in fourth grade! I was in Miss Ryan’s class playing freeze tag in Mr. Fonicello’s gym class. You were somewhere in Massachusetts probably visiting the nurse after pulling your hamstring in gym class. But Derek Jeter is 40, we graduated high school 10 years ago and your first child is on the way. Now I’m going to put on some 90s alternative rock and cry.

I’m still not convinced that Derek Jeter won’t be the Yankees shortstop next season, but then again, I’m still waiting for Don Mattingly to start at first base and hit third in the Yankees lineup and it’s been 19 years since his last played. The baseball season always feels long, and it is, but when you think that there’s only half a season and three months of Derek Jeter left, it’s devastating. But I’m also aware that I’m more upset and distraught about this than he is, and I shouldn’t be since I got to watch him play for nearly two decades and the Yankees won’t have a shortshop slugging .327 next season (let’s hope) and he is going to go live his life and spend the $265,159,364 he has made in his career and travel the world and have children with super models half his age. I think he will be fine once he has played his last game.

On the flip side, David Ortiz, who will be 39 years old this November and is still crying about official scorer’s and will soon be crying about his contract, has ho-hummed his way to 18 home runs in 77 games this year. Sure, he’s hitting just .256, but Ortiz having 18 home runs before the end of June after hitting .997 in the World Series last year at the age of 38? Is Ortiz on the Barry Bonds  workout regimen and diet? Actually, I already know he is. I’m just looking for you to agree with me about something else.

Hurley: I don’t know. Do you look at David Ortiz and go, “Yeah, there’s a guy who’s unnaturally muscular”? I think he’s just a huge dude who’s an exceptional hitter. I’m not naive enough to think he’s not taking something, I just don’t think that something is the same kind of something that leads Melky Cabrera to become a webmaster or Manny Ramirez to start growing C cups.

Ortiz is just an exceptional power hitter. I don’t like most of the things about him — he may have outdone himself with the hissy fit he threw at the official scorer — but he’s really been something to watch. He’s a big dude with a lot of power, and naturally people are going to assume he’s cheating when he succeeds into his late 30s. But I don’t think he’s on the Ryan Braun workout regimen.

I know this is your website and all, but can we talk about John Lackey? Please? The guy signed a contract that specifically said, “If you miss significant time due to your right elbow, we will tack on one more year that major league minimum salary.” He signed on the dotted line. And now that he doesn’t suck at pitching, he’s running to Ken Rosenthal — Ken Rosenthal!! — to not-so-slyly leak out the news that he’ll retire before ever playing for $500,000. This is the same guy who happily collected $15.25 million in 2012 to lightly jog in the morning and then double-fist Bud Lights at night. Now that his contract is coming around, he’s ready to stomp his feet, take his ball and go home. Baseball players never cease to amaze me.

Keefe: Is there time to talk about John Lackey? Is that a serious question? There is ALWAYS time talk about John Lackey! ALWAYS!

John Lackey is the worst, and if Josh Beckett didn’t exist, Lackey would be the easy choice for my annual All-Animosity Team. He is pure scum on top of scum and I’m not sure how he has a single fan. He signed a five-year, $82.5 million A.J. Burnett deal before 2010 and in the first two years he went 26-23 with a 5.26 ERA. Then he missed the entire 2012 season. Last year he went 10-13 with a 3.52 on a division-winning and World Series-winning team and now he’s 8-5 with a 3.45. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that he is upset that he would only make $500,000 next year, but it’s a little ironic that he didn’t think he should only be making $500,000 when he had a 1.619 WHIP in 2011.

You’re right about baseball players and they never cease to amaze me either. The other day the Mets’ Josh Thole was on with Mike Francesa, and I didn’t listen to it, but after I saw someone tweet that Thole sounds like the nicest guy in the world. And after reading that I thought, yeah maybe he is, but chances are he isn’t because he’s a baseball player. Give me an NHL player any day.

And since I was able to seamlessly throw the NHL into the mix, how depressed are you that there isn’t hockey to watch every night right now?

Hurley: It sucks hockey ended. People around here are talking about Bruins draft prospects for No. 25. Oh my God. Is there anything less exciting than talking about who the hockey team is going to draft with the 25th pick? Holy smokes. It’s just that, and then Jarome Iginla speculation. That’s hockey life here in Boston. What a thrill.

How depressed are you knowing that the Rangers’ making the Cup Final is a complete random fluke, like the Devils two years ago, and they’ll probably stink for a while and waste more years of the game’s best goalie?

Keefe:  Speculating about the 25th overall draft pick is impressive because that not only means you are worried about which 18-year-old kid the Bruins are going to draft, who likely will never have an impact on the franchise, but it also means you have to speculate about the 24 picks before the Bruins’ pick to figure out who is going to be available. And if you’re taking time to do that, go outside, it’s June. Or find a hobby. Or go meet some actual people and interact with other humans. Do something.

The Rangers’ run to the Cup was a product of a lot of luck and bounces (that ran out in the Final) and having the path to the Cup cleared for them by the Canadiens. It was reminiscent of the Giants’ runs in 2011 when they beat the Packers and then the 49ers beat the Saints, preventing the Giants from having to play in New Orleans, which would have resulted in a 63-17 loss. Then the Saints would have played the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and if that happens, maybe the Patriots aren’t Super Bowl-less for what will now be a decade this year. But yes, I’m upset that this one Final appearance might be all Henrik Lundqvist gets because he has Dan Girardi preventing scoring opportunities for more than one-third of every Rangers game.

Now that you have made me sad, when I was getting happy about the Red Sox’ awful season, the decline of Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz being a bad person and John Lackey being scum, it’s time to end this email exchange. The next time we talk will be in August when the Yankees go to Fenway for a three-game weekend series. Maybe then we can finally have our fistfight on Lansdowne Street?

Hurley: As you’ve already mentioned, we’re getting older, and as I get older, my rage cools considerably. Let’s just have 100 beers and call it even.