Yankees-Red Sox Means Something in August Once Again

It’s been almost a month since the Yankees and Red Sox met in the first series after the All-Star break. The Yankees opened the “second half” by going 6-12, but 5-2 since. The Red Sox started the “second half” strong, going 11-7 , but they have dropped four of their last six.

Here are the AL East standings entering the series:

And here are the AL Wild Card standings entering the series:

The Yankees can’t afford to a lose a series the rest of the way unless they plan on going on a Dodgers-like run to end the season. And as we stand now, it’s probably going to take a Dodgers-like run anyway for this team to make the postseason. Hopefully we look back at the end of the season and say that run started last weekend against the Tigers, which means it would have continued this weekend in Boston.

With the Yankees and Red Sox playing meaningful games in August for the first time since 2011, it means a mandatory email exchange with Mike Hurley from CBS Boston.

Keefe: Hey Michael F. Hurley, I’m writing to you for the first time since July 19 because the Yankees are back in Boston this weekend for a three-game series. I’m not sure if you’re still at the candlelight vigil you held last night for Tom Brady in the Boston Common, or if you’re sleeping because you got back from the vigil late, but don’t worry Tom Brady is going to make it. He might even play in a meaningless preseason game on Friday because that’s a really good idea. Before we get into it, I have one question for you: That was you offering the shocked and stunning, “OH NO!” in the Brady practice video, wasn’t it?

Right now the Yankees actually look like the Yankees. The Makeshift Yankees have slowly dwindled away and now real, actual baseball players are playing for the most storied franchise in major sports. Alfonso Soriano, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez have replaced the likes of Thomas Neal, Luis Cruz, Alberto Gonzalez, Corban Joseph and David Adams and thankfully Lyle Overbay is hitting eighth in a lineup that he used to hit cleanup in and for some reason the Yankees have won five of their last seven games. It’s really weird how you can win games when household names are playing for your team and not a handful of guys who are going to have to get 9-5 jobs in the very near future. The problem is you can’t have the future 9-5 players in the lineup for the first 113 games of the season and think you’re going to make the playoffs unless you plan on going on Dodgers-like run over the last six weeks of the season.

So with a team that very closely resembles the 95-win Yankees of a year ago and not the Makeshift Yankees of the first 113 games of the season, are you at all nervous about this series, the nine games the two teams have left against each other or the final six weeks of the season?

Hurley: If I had been within 15 feet of that video of Brady going down, it would not have been usable for the local news programs, because the words that would have come out of my mouth would have been much worse than “Oh no.” The bleep man in the edit bay would have had to work overtime to get that thing on TV.

I am personally glad that the Yankees are the Yankees again, because I’m telling you, Corban Joseph is the best pizza delivery man I’ve ever had. Always on time, pizza’s always hot. Love it.

To answer your question, no, I’m not nervous. I never get nervous. I’m not a psychopath like you, for one, and second, no season has ever been decided by a Fenway series in August. Well, except the 2006 season. But that never happened as far as I’m concerned.

As far as the Yankees go, I feel comfortable saying the division is out of reach for them, but thanks to Bud Selig’s Big Top Circus rules, the wild card is absolutely in play. Do I think the Yankees can outplay the Royals, Indians and Orioles from now until Sept. 29? Absolutely. The Yankees have some soft opponents on the schedule, and they’re destined by a higher power to always split their season series with the Red Sox, so it won’t take an otherworldly effort for them to gain 5 1/2 games in a month and a half.

Pretty bold, by the way, to brazenly joke around with Tom Brady’s career like that, while your captain is still hobbling around on one leg. You’re pretty much daring the karma gods with talk like that.

Keefe: I’m not joking around with Tom Brady. I want Tom Brady to be healthy and playing football because football is better when Tom Brady is playing, which is also why you should want Derek Jeter to be healthy because baseball is better when he is playing. If Tom Brady doesn’t play then which team am I stupidly going to put into my parlays and teasers to ruin my Sunday if I don’t pick the Patriots?

I was pretty down on the Yankees, and rightfully so, after their three-game sweep at the hands of the last-place White Sox and their 2-6 road trip that left looking at a mathematical impossibility to make the playoffs. But with this recent four-game winning streak and you sending me links to 1999 ALCS games, it has me longing for postseason baseball and I can’t be without it again the way I was in 2008.

You mentioned Bud Selig’s great invention of the second wild card, which I was strongly against and the only person more against it than me was you. But if the Yankees can sneak in the playoffs thanks to Major League Baseball’s ridiculous postseason format after this disastrous and injury-plagued season then I’m all for a second wild card! Maybe in 2014 we will see a third and fourth wild card since it looks like we are going to get a challenge system in baseball. Where do you think Joe Girardi is going to keep his challenge flags?

Hurley: I’m hoping that MLB does expand to three and four wild-card teams, but instead of a one-game playoff, they all fly to Omaha and play three-inning high stakes games at Rosenblatt Stadium. If they’re tied after three innings, the pitchers have to sumo wrestle on the mound before the second basemen have to compete in a two-pitch home run derby. If it’s still tied, the managers compete to see how much dip they can fit in their mouths. First one to puke loses. Winner moves on to face the regular wild-card winner. Does Bud read your site? If so, I expect this to be put in place in time for October.

Don’t get me wrong, I watch the one-game playoff, and it’ll be “exciting!” and all of that, but it just completely destroys the regular season. A team plays for 162 games and might have the second-best record in the American League, but because it’s not based in California, it has to put its entire season on the line in a nine-inning showdown with a team that might be nine games worse. It’s absolutely ridiculous. This year, the two NL wild cards could come out of the Central, and both could end up with better records than the eventual NL East-champion Braves. But hey, just win your division!

I won’t crush the proposed replay changes like everyone else seems to be, though. As you know, my dream job in life is to work in NHL headquarters, eating a dozen donuts and fielding calls from NHL arenas, with referees asking me, “Hey, Mikey, how’zitgoin up there, eh? Yeah well ahh, look it dere ahh, is that a goal?” Then I’d say, “Ahh, Billy that’s no goal.” And then the ref would say “Allllrighty, Mikey, thanks a lot dere have a good night.” And then I’ll say “OK dere, Billy, will do now.” Then I’d wolf down three glazed donuts and a cruller.

Well, if MLB institutes the same concept, that doubles my chances of one day landing my dream job, albeit one without the great Canadian accents and Tim Horton’s. But hey, beggars can’t be choosers. Bring on the replay system.

Keefe: My favorite thing about the new replay system is that managers get one challenge in the first six innings and then two from the seventh inning on because as you know, the first six innings of the game aren’t as important as the last three innings, just like MLB games in April don’t count the same as games in September.

But as we embark on a stretch run in which the Yankees will have to make a serious push to avoid missing the postseason for the first time since 2008 and the Red Sox will have to hold their ground to reach the postseason for the first time since 2009, our previous discussions about the 1999 ALCS made me think: Is the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry dead or just in a coma? Sure, I hate the Red Sox as much as I did 14 years ago and I’m sure you don’t like the Yankees anymore than you did when Roger Clemens became one, but it just feels so blah lately when it comes to the overall perception of the rivalry.

Obviously the difference in records of the teams over the last four years and their lack of a postseason series in nine years is also part of it, but I think the main thing is the difference in the rosters. Once Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and David Ortiz retire, what are we supposed to do? Should we just pretend that Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia hate each other? Johnny Gomes and Mike Napoli have no history in the rivalry other than their disgusting beards and overall lack of hygiene and being slobs, I don’t fear John Lackey or Ryan Dempster and actually enjoy when they pitch against the Yankees and Jon Lester hasn’t been good since 2011 and hasn’t been really good since 2010. Who am I supposed to get angry about?!?! I guess I can manufacture some anger toward Stephen Drew for being related to J.D. Drew the same way I have for Jered Weaver, but that’s all I got. Any suggestions?

Hurley: Yeah, no, things are bleak in the rivalry department. You make good points about the slobbery of some Red Sox, but gone too are the days of absolute jerks like Gary Sheffield or Raul Mondesi or that psycho Tanyon Sturtze or Roger Clemens in his, um, bigger and stronger days but according to the government not his steroid days. It was just so easy back then. You had old men charging professional athletes and getting tossed aside and bouncing around like a Weeble who has somehow managed to fall down. Those were good days.

Now? Everyone in Boston came around on Jeter probably after 2007, when enough Red Sox fans were satisfied with two championships to finally accept Jeter’s greatness. A-Rod is a stooge but even New York doesn’t like him anymore. Cano hits bombs, drops his bat so that it lands flat without bouncing, and then moonwalks his way to first base. If that upsets you, you’re a strange fellow. Curtis Granderson is baseball’s good guy. Brett Gardner is like a faster, less, um, big, version of Trot Nixon. CC is fading away, Phil Hughes is terrible, and if you’re rooting against Mariano this year, you should be checked into an institution.

So yeah, the rivalry is dormant, but it’s not dead. You must know this about me by now, but when I was a kid, like maybe 8 or 9 years old, I bought a Yankees hat for $5 on the street outside Fenway. I don’t know why. I didn’t like the Yankees. But it was somehow acceptable to not just sell a Yankees hat outside Fenway, but to wear it too, and nobody seemed to care. That would have been unfathomable from 1999-2009. So it’s just a down period. It will be back. I hope. It’s hard to have a real rivalry with Tampa Bay, when half of the Rays’ stadium is full of Red Sox fans.

Keefe: The last time these two teams met the Yankees lost two of three games right after the All-Star break, including the Sunday Night Baseball disaster, which they had plenty of opportunities to win. This is the last time the teams will meet until after Labor Day and on the same day of the first game of the NFL season, which I’m sure you have a countdown calendar or clock somewhere on your desk or in your house. And if I know you, you have spent a good 30-40 hours on fantasy football draft preparation.

Starting on Friday, the Yankees and Red Sox will meet nine more times this season and six of those games will be at Fenway Park. I think it’s going to take at least six wins from the Yankees in those nine games to have a chance at coming back in the division or to make a run at the wild card. And with Phil Hughes having pitched on Sunday in the Bronx, and losing his 12th game of the season in the process, he won’t be starting during the weekend series, so we’re already off to a good start.

I’m going to take the Yankees for two out of three this weekend because they have to if they want to play a 163rd game this season. The next time we do an email exchange it will be September. Let’s hope the games mean something, so the exchange means something.

Hurley: I hate it. It’s the worst. I like real football.

With regard to this series, I won’t pretend to know what’s going to happen. From a Yankees perspective, you have to like getting Doubront, Dempster and Lackey … but do you really? They might all be better than Peavy and Lester this year, so who knows. I do know the Yankees are due to pick up some wins, considering they’re 3-6 vs. Boston this year and, as previously mentioned, they are preternaturally controlled by a higher power to split the season series. So you’re probably right about that.

From a Red Sox perspective, well, it’s a good thing Adrian Gonzalez isn’t around anymore. The Sox and Yankees play on Sunday Night Baseball. Last time that happened, it was midnight at the end of nine innings and it was something like 1:15 a.m. when Napoli hit that walk-off homer (somehow the place was still full, which was incredible), so you know this one’s going late again. Then the Red Sox have to fly all the way to San Francisco to play on Monday. Adrian would be getting cold sweats just thinking about that schedule, but that’s the difference between the Red Sox of old and the Red Sox of this year.

And to your last statement, if you think these exchanges ever mean anything, then you’re crazier than I ever thought.