Bitter Rivals, Sweet Results: Yankees take on Red Sox for AL East Supremacy

Phil GardnerContributor IIIJune 8, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 15:  Carl Crawford #13 of the Boston Red Sox in action against the New York Yankees during their game on May 15, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The Yankees and Red Sox opened another series last night, and with it came another installment of baseball’s most important rivalry.

It’s been long, it’s had its ups and downs, and lately it’s been very evenly matched. Most importantly, it’s a rivalry which continually decides the playoff race in the American League east.

In the last 16 seasons of post season baseball, the Yankees and Red Sox have been there an astonishing 23 times combined. Even besides the Yankees and their long running stranglehold on a playoff spot, there is no other team in baseball who can match the Red Sox' nine playoff appearances during that time.

We’re talking about a span of 16 years. Over 16 seasons, most of them have had some semblance of the Yankees and Red Sox battling for the division title.

In that span, only five seasons have not finished with the Yankees and Red Sox as the top two teams in the East. Season after season, it’s been coming down to the battles between these two storied franchises which determine the playoff picture.

After last night, and dating back over the last 10 seasons to 2002, the Yankees have 87 wins against the Red Sox. Against the Yankees, the Red Sox also have 87. Yes, right now the teams are currently deadlocked in a tie. It has been very close!

Over the last 16 years, both teams have been at or near the peak of their existence. The Red Sox have won two World Championships in the last 10 years. You’d need to go back to 1918 and 1916 to find the last time they did that.

As for the Yankees, they won three championships in a row from 1998 to 2000, and four out of five from 1996-2000. They’ve also reached the playoffs every year excluding only 2008. The last time the Yankees had that sort of success was in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.

With the advent of divisional playoffs, the Yankees and Red Sox have also had many memorable meetings in the World Series. Whether it was 2003 when Pedro Martinez sparked a brawl against Karim Garcia, or it was 2004 when Johnny Damon grand slammed the Red Sox to victory, the last decade has not been without drama.

In 2003, the Yankees trailed late in the seventh game of the series, and only after Boston left Pedro Martinez in for too long did they finally manage to tie the game. After three scoreless innings of relief by Mariano Rivera, it was the Aaron Boone homerun off the first pitch he saw from Tim Wakefield which finally put the Yankees into the World Series.

The very next season, it was a stolen base by Dave Roberts which turned the tides for the Red Sox. Having gone from down three games to zero, they battled back on the heroics from Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz to go to the fall classic.

The World Series was almost an after thought following their historic comeback.

Even to the fans, it’s still not decided. Yankees fans can quote 1918, and 27 championships, but they’ll be answered with chants of 2004 and Curt Schilling. Regardless of how you spin the stats, and how you argue that your team is winning the rivalry, you cannot ever convince the other side.

These are two of the largest fan bases in baseball. The Sox have sold out over 600 consecutive ball games while the Yankees continually draw the highest numbers of fans both at home and on the road. When they meet up in a head to head play down, there is no escaping the drama which fills the stadiums.

Now, as they battle for the rest of the series, these two titans of baseball will face off again. They’re currently deadlocked atop the AL East, and they have an identical record over the last 10 seasons. They’ve been waiting for this matchup and they’ve been stacking their rotation for these matchups. These are the two teams which appear to be the class of the AL East, and these head to head matchups will decide the season!

For Major League Baseball, what better way to battle the titans of baseball rivalry than with long drawn out deliberate battles.

The fans win by watching a timeless battle between MLB powerhouse franchises. TV networks win with the automatic ratings from a Yankees and Sox matchup. It also makes Bud Selig’s imbalanced schedule look ingenious by pining these franchises against each other as many times a season as possible.

What better way to spend an evening than watching two of the best teams, two of the biggest rivals and two of the most storied franchises battle it out on the playing field?