5 Reasons Yankees vs. Red Sox Rivalry Ain't What It Used to Be
The Yankees and Red Sox rivalry used to be the best in sports. But in the last few years, it just has not been what it used to be.
The two teams used to legitimately hate each other. Now, the games take on a more casual approach.
What happened to this storied rivalry? Why did it fall from being one of the best to just a mediocre one?
I'll give you five reasons as to why the Yankees versus Red Sox rivalry just ain't what it used to be.
"Nine-teen, eight-teen!" The chants would bellow down from the bleachers, as Yankees fans would taunt the Red Sox on their years of woe.
The chant was simple—the Red Sox hadn't won a World Series since 1918, the year the team sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. Call it the Curse of the Bambino. Call it bad luck. Call it coincidence. Whatever it was, the Red Sox couldn't win, and the Yankees won everything in sight.
Games between the two teams would work in opposite ways—the Red Sox trying to change the narrative, the Yankees trying to keep it.
That was the motivation for both sides. Then 2004 happened.
The Red Sox, down three games to none in the 2004 American League Championship Series, mounted a historic comeback and ended up not only winning the series, but winning the World Series.
Somehow, "two-thousand-fo-ur" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
The Sox won again in 2007 and ever since, the luster is just missing. The narrative is broken and the intensity just isn't the same. They're not competing for the curse. Rather, it's just another lazy summer afternoon between two division foes.
The Damon Effect
Johnny Damon helped the Red Sox win a World Series in 2004. Then, he traded in his beard and long locks for the Yankees in 2004.
For Red Sox fans, it was the equivalent of treason. How could someone who embodied the Red Sox culture like Damon bolt for the Evil Empire?
And Yankees fans couldn't quite embrace the idea of loving a former rival.
But eventually, Yankees fans gave in and grew to love Damon, who helped them win a World Series in 2009.
In the old days, if someone switched sides like that, there would be hell to pay. Now? Not so much. Damon was accepted as a part of the Yankees and the Red Sox began to not care, especially after winning a title in 2007 without him.
Now, Kevin Youkilis is the latest Red Sox to join the Yankees. Yankees fans will embrace him as one of their own. Red Sox fans probably won't care too much.
It's a sure sign that the rivalry is on the downswing.
The Red Sox and Yankees forged their hatred through some epic playoff matchups. Whether it was 1979, 2003 or 2004, these brutal, intense series gave fans heartburn and made the teams into real rivals.
But since that last series in 2004, the two teams haven't met. Part of it is due to scheduling, part of it is due to the recent struggles of the Red Sox.
Since they haven't met in the playoffs, and since many of their games haven't had playoff implications, the games don't have the same intensity. It's hard to get up for a meaningless game in early April.
So as the two teams haven't met, they haven't had the time to really renew their rivalry.
Red Sox Struggles
The Red Sox haven't been the same in the last few years.
In 2011, they had an epic September collapse that resulted in them missing the playoffs. In 2012, they were one of the worst teams in baseball, sporting a 69-93 record.
With the Red Sox so bad, and the Yankees winning the AL East, the games in August in September had no meaning. Gone were the days of every game having playoff implication. The rivalry just wasn't the same.
While there's no doubt that the Red Sox will return to their former prominence eventually, until they do, the games won't have the same meaning.
Rise of the Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays used to be the league's doormat. For years, they were awful and the Red Sox and Yankees would beat up on them
Then, suddenly, in 2008, the Rays came out of nowhere to win the AL East. For the first time in 13 years, the Yankees didn't make the playoffs.
With the Rays consistently being a good team, it makes the AL East a three-team fight. It used to be that the Yankees and Red Sox would battle it out for AL East. The Rays have now inserted themselves into that debate.
Because of this, it's become a three-team race, not a two team heavyweight fight. The Red Sox and Yankees have to save some of their energy for the Rays, and play many meaningful games against Tampa Bay.
It's not just the Yankees and Red Sox anymore. The Rays have made this rivalry just a little bit weaker.