Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry: When New York and Boston Meet Gollum

Jeff PencekCorrespondent IIAugust 7, 2011

Hey Watch the 3K Special, Jeter Has A Poker Table
Hey Watch the 3K Special, Jeter Has A Poker TableAl Bello/Getty Images

This weekend saw another heavily hyped battle between the Yankees and the Red Sox because they are rivals and have the two best records in the American League.

It's not like they never play each other 18 times every year. This series was a big battle to see which team could take control of the very important American League East lead, if the Wild Card didn't exist, which it does.

If I sound a bit put out by the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, it is because I believe the inflation of this battle has done more harm than good for the league.

In 2003 and 2004, the Yankees vs. Red Sox deserved all of the attention it got. The Red Sox fighting to finally win a championship, losing a 5-2 lead in Game 7 in 2003, coming back from 3-0 in the series in 2004.

The series made for fantastic theater seemingly intensifying already one of the biggest feuds in sports.

Yet 2004 was the high point. In 2005, the Yankees and the Red Sox tied for the division. Without the Wild Card, the one-game play-in would have been incredible.

Instead, the Red Sox got the Wild Card and both teams lost in the divisional round. In 2007, the Yankees finished two games behind the Red Sox in a close pennant battle which one again barely mattered since the Yankees got the Wild Card.

Fly Like An Eagle
Fly Like An EagleJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

They haven't met in the playoffs since 2004, and baseball has decided to ensure this rivalry for the pennant gets even more intense as they...

Add a second Wild Card team. Well, at least they may have more opportunities to meet in the playoffs. Gotta create a system where both the Yankees and Red Sox both make it almost every year.

I do realize that without the Wild Card, 2003 and 2004 wouldn't have happened. That was the exception and not the rule. Maybe change the rule to where the Wild Card team plays the best record in Round 1.

What made 2003 and 2004 so great was that it was easy to choose sides. A lot of people follow the Yankees and were on their side. A lot of desperate Red Sox fans finally wanted to see a championship.

The rest of the country jumped towards the Red Sox because they had that underdog mentality, and they were trying to conquer the incredibly high payroll of the Yankees. It felt like a David vs. Goliath series.

Now, the Red Sox spend as crazily as the Yankees, and Red Sox Nation has become just as hateable as Yankees fans to those outside of the two fanbases. Goliath vs Goliath isn't nearly as much fun to watch, especially if it's on a lot.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 29: Jorge Posada #20 of the New York Yankees hits a single in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles on July 29, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

All three games of the Yankees-Red Sox series were nationally broadcast because once again they never play and it's special.

Being on the West Coast, I was lucky enough to have Fox show the Giants-Phillies game, which had the added bonus of sparing my ears of the Buck-McCarver team until the Phillies won and they joined the other game in progress, in the seventh inning.

For me, as a baseball fan it makes perfect sense to show the Yankees-Red Sox all three days and show the defending World Series champions against the team with the best record once.

(Note: I believe MLB did show them on Thursday night, but the Jersey Shore was on. J-Woww in Italy yo).

This weekend once again shows the short-sightedness of Major League Baseball and its television partners. MLB, Fox and ESPN show the Yankees-Red Sox seeking bigger ratings, at the expense of every other team out there.

TBS showed the Braves versus the Mets on Sunday. Is West Coast baseball that hated? While it might provide a temporary uptick of ratings, not showing other teams eventually kicks TBS and Fox in the behind come playoff time when the Yankees and Red Sox are eliminated early.

The ratings for last year's World Series were bad because most people hadn't seen the Giants or Rangers all year. Only Fox showed West Coast baseball until around September of last year, and this year the Giants are a bit more visible (if they are playing on the East Coast), and the Rangers are still almost never on broadcast games, despite being in first place and being the AL Champions.

With technology allowing for Internet streaming of games, satellite radio, MLB Extra Innings, the MLB Network, one would think the 2011 version of MLB would have more nationally followed teams, like the NFL.

Instead, only six teams are averaging over 80 percent attendance combined, the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Cubs, Giants and Twins.

The Giants and Twins get most of their bump because they sell out every game at home. With the Dodgers and Mets being financial wrecks, the numbers are skewed just a bit, but for the most part, the national teams are either the Cubs that have WGN or the three teams MLB, ESPN and Fox show the most.

Now if the rivalry was at the intensity it was at during 2003-2004, watching three games of the Yankees vs the Red Sox would be thrilling.

What the modern version of the rivalry has morphed into is an annual 18-game Lord of the Rings: Return of the King marathon, and for the most part just as bad.

The 2004 Game 4 and Game 5 were like the Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, still insanely long but filled with intrigue and twists and turns.

Just as I watched Return of the King and wondered, "How did this mess win Best Picture?" I watch the Yankees-Red Sox wondering how this is considered compelling sport.

After this weekend, 12 of the 18 games have been played for the year, and it's taken almost as long to play them. The two hour, 58 minute game they played earlier this year should be enshrined in Cooperstown for its miraculous pace.

Not counting Sunday's game, the average time of a Yankees-Red Sox game this year was three hours, 22 minutes. If you start The Return of the King one minute after the baseball game starts, you can play a game to see which one ends first, if you're still awake.

Some of this time is accounted for by the patience of both sets of hitters, and some for added commercial time because they are almost always on national TV, but in the end, the pitchers set the pace and Boston and New York pitchers despise pace. Mark Buehrle could never be a Yankee.

Four of the 11 games the teams have played so far this year have been two runs or less. There have been five games where the margin has been five runs or more.

Some of the games have been decent but with 18 games in the mix there are going to be some stinkers, and this year there have been plenty.

I get that the Yankees-Red Sox can be viewed as a series that is special, with fanbases that generally don't like each other, but with so much exposure that feeling is lost and replaced with a sense of apathy.

The Yankees and The Red Sox may drive ratings some, mostly because no other team is given a chance. The game they played Friday night was better than the Giants-Phillies 9-2 game, but those teams had a huge brawl and still ended the game 24 minutes sooner.

I could have watched the Louie episode with Dane Cook on DVR and seen a fight and been just as satisfied compared to what is basically a meaningless game because of the Wild Card.

If the World Series this year has the Brewers versus the Tigers, and pundits and sports experts throw out that people don't care about baseball if the Yankees or Red Sox aren't involved, just know they probably work for a network based out of New York or Boston or in between.

As I finished this, the Rangers-Indians game that started at the same time as the Yankees-Red Sox ended.

The Yankees-Red Sox game was in the top of the seventh. Looks like Return of the King has won tonight.

(Footnote: The Red Sox had a comeback in the 9th and ESPN reported the highest ratings of the year for a Sunday Night baseball game. Return of the King won Best Picture. America loves drawn out drama)


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