Cases have been made in recent years for the Tampa Bay Rays being the Boston Red Sox‘ biggest rival, mainly because of a few dustups, a couple of postseason meetings and a massive inferiority complex from the Tampa Bay franchise. That to go along with a seeming lack of luster in the rivalry with the New York Yankees — Boston’s chief rival for the past century — as Arthur Dowell wrote Friday.
Because the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry — which resumes Friday night in the Bronx — doesn’t have the spark it had a decade ago, an argument has been made by some that the Yankees are no longer the Red Sox’ biggest rival.
An argument that couldn’t be more flawed.
Here’s a good way of putting it in perspective by making an analogy to high school football. Your biggest rival is the school from the other side of town you play every Thanksgiving. Regardless of the circumstances, they are the chief rival.
The Yankees are that team from the other side of town that the Red Sox play on Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, the Rays are the team you may have faced a few times in the state tournament in recent years. The team you face every year earlier in the season. Both teams are good at the same time. Neither team really cares for each other.
Like a good Thanksgiving Day rivalry between two high schools, Red Sox-Yankees rivalry goes back years. The summer of ’49. The summer of ’78. The summers of 2003-04. Books have been written about the clashing of the storied ball clubs. Red Sox-Yankees triggers thoughts of the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle on one side, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice and Carlton Fisk on the other, Ted Williams vs. Joe DiMaggio. Graig Nettles vs. Bill Lee. Roger Clemens vs. Pedro Martinez. Nomar Garciaparra vs. Derek Jeter. All-time great players facing off against each other over the course of decades.
Who do the Rays boast? Rocco Baldelli? Carl Crawford before he got too expensive?
Well, I guess there was that one year when they had Wade Boggs.
Sure, there have been dustups like we’ve seen with Tampa. Dustups like Don Zimmer (God rest his soul) going after Pedro, Jason Varitek going after Alex Rodriguez, and Ryan Dempster going after Rodriguez.
But more often than not, it’s been about two great franchises meeting up and playing the game they represent so well, at the highest of levels.
Sure, the series has been devoid of drama of late. But the buzz that comes with seeing ‘NYY’ on the schedule is something unlike the other 28 possible opponents that may pop up on the schedule over the course of the 162-game MLB season.
Nothing means more to the game of baseball than the Red Sox or Yankees brand. When the two franchises come together for three or four days, it means that much more. It’s why the latter two games of this weekend’s series will be broadcast before a national audience.
It is the best rivalry in baseball. And it’s not changing anytime soon.