It’s back: The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is renewed
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox and Yankees each won 100 or more games in 2018 and Vegas established them as the teams with the best chance of winning this year’s World Series. The ancient rivals will play one another in London in June and expect to meet again in the 2019 playoffs. There’s always a chance of a couple of bench-clearing dust-ups along the way.
The 119th edition of Boston vs. New York kick-started Saturday at Fenway South with an 8-5 Red Sox victory in front of 9,884 hardball snowbirds.
This wasn’t like 2004 when fans camped out on the sidewalks of City of Palms Park at 5:30 a.m. for a 1:05 p.m. exhibition game featuring the Sox and Yanks. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez made the 2½-hour bus ride from Tampa for that one.
Saturday we got Aaron Hicks, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, and Greg Bird, but no Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. Yankee buses parked outside JetBlue Park drew no attention. Back in ’04 those carriages would have been stoned like Richard Nixon’s motorcade when the vice president visited Venezuela in 1958.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone knows all about this rivalry. He had his very own Bucky Dent moment when he blasted the Yankees past the Red Sox and into the World Series in 2003.
Do these days remind him a little of those days?
“A little bit,’’ he said. “When I was here in ’03, that was one of the peaks of the rivalry. Those two teams were monsters. I feel like in a lot of ways, us and them are two great teams.’’
After losing to the Sox in four games in the 2018 American League Division Series, the Yankees threw more barrels of money into their team over the winter. Does Boone think that will close the eight-game gap that separated the Yankees from the Sox last season?
“I have no idea,’’ said the manager. “We’ll hopefully have a good spring and build up our guys and then get to find out. Winning 100 games doesn’t happen that much. I don’t necessarily look at it in view of, ‘Have we made up the eight games?’ We know they’re a great team and obviously they are a team we’ve got to go through to get to where we want to go. But we’re a long way from seeing that.’’
The Sox and Yankees were the showcase of baseball for much of 2018. There was the infamous Joe Kelly Fight Club night, a lot of blowouts, and the Sox’ four-game sweep of the Bombers that effectively ended the AL East race in early August. When they met in the ALDS, it was the first playoff matchup of Boston and New York since the biblical 2004 ALCS, when the Red Sox came back from a three-games-to-none deficit to pull off the greatest comeback in the history of American team sports.
It looked like we might be in for another October classic when the Sox and Yankees split the first two playoff games in Boston. New York figured to do damage at home and some feared the 108-win Red Sox might be in danger of another early elimination.
“Any time you win a game in a short series on the road at Fenway, sure you always feel good about that,’’ acknowledged Boone. “You hope those kinds of things produce confidence, but you always understand that the next day is entirely different. That crystallized for me in 2003. Every time I’d think we’d have a good day and grab momentum, they’d come and beat the heck out of us the next day. That’s how it is when these two teams are great.’’
Moments after the Yankees’ series-squaring Saturday night playoff win at Fenway last year, the mighty Judge strolled past the Sox clubhouse as his John Cusack boom box blared “New York, New York.’’
There was no game the next day and the Sox had plenty of time to hear about Judge’s apparent taunt while Sox Nation worried about an October collapse. Then came the turning point of the Sox’ championship ride: They responded to the doubters and Judge’s playlist with a 16-1 beatdown of the Yankees in the Bronx. One night after that, the Sox eliminated the Yankees, 4-3. It was on to Houston and LA.
Boone was not bothered by Judge’s Frank Sinatra wake-up call.
“I think was a little more coincidental and less intentional than people might think,’’ said the manager. “These two teams, between the lines is where it’s happening, and neither team needs any egging on or motivation. I don’t really think that plays one way or the other.’’
Boone took a lot of heat for staying too long with starter Luis Severino in Game 3. Brock Holt hit for the cycle and the relentless Red Sox poured it on with six runs in the last three innings.
“That was a gut punch, but I had a lot of faith in our guys and who we were and our ability to turn the page,’’ said the Yankees manager.
The Yankees almost pulled out Game 4, but a late rally against nervous Craig Kimbrel fell short. The Red Sox sprayed champagne and played “New York, New York’’ in the visitors’ clubhouse at Yankee Stadium.
Boone has no hard feelings for Red Sox manager Alex Cora. The two were teammates with the Indians, and later at ESPN where they were often on the set together and would lunch in the Bristol campus cafeteria.
“We both understand all that comes with being a manager of one of these two franchises,’’ said Boone. “He’s somebody I respect a ton. I feel like we’ll always have a strong relationship. Even last year when we went through some things where we have a bench clearing and the rivalry gets heated, I always love the guy and I respect and appreciate our relationship. We probably talk a little less and are less specific about things, but the relationship is real strong.’’
Right up until Chris Sale hits Judge with a high hard one in London.