Rich Rivalry Gets Modern Twist

The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have baseball’s most storied, rich rivalry. Triggered by the infamous sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919, it’s potentially the best rivalry in sports history. The rivalry has long been defined by superstar veterans, like Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, and everyone in between.

Rich Rivalry Gets Modern Twist

But this April, when the rivalry was renewed, the rosters looked a bit different. Two notable absences were David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez, who both retired after last season. Ortiz enjoyed a farewell season for the ages, hitting 38 home runs and driving in 127. Meanwhile, Rodriguez retired in the middle of the season as animosity grew between the embattled slugger and Yankee management. Say what you will about either man, but some of the rivalry’s most iconic moments ran through them.

Speaking of iconic moments, 2004 was the first year Rodriguez suited up in pinstripes, just a year after Ortiz first wore red. In game four of that year’s ALCS, Ortiz famously drilled a walk off home run off Mariano Rivera. The shot elevated Ortiz’s status in Boston from above-average player to Beantown legend. Later in that same series, A-Rod slapped the ball out of Sox hurler Bronson Arroyo’s hand. He was ruled out, and the Yankees suffered defeat after getting ahead 3-0 in their best-of-seven series with the Sox. Boston went on to beat the Cardinals a few weeks later, ending their curse. Their feuds lived on for more than a decade until the two called it quits.

So, who’s most likely to inherit the throne and become the next faces of the rivalry? The complexion of both rosters lacks anyone that appears poised to become a villain. We could be entering a whole new era of how this rivalry is played, an era headlined by respect instead of violence. The top players on both teams are examples.

Fresh Sox

Boston’s brightest star is undoubtedly center fielder Mookie Betts. Last year, he finished second in the AL MVP voting and earned his first career Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards. However, Betts has a pretty humble personality. That may be why he’s still considered very underrated. Ortiz has applauded Betts’ swagger: “He’s got that swag. He’s got what the game needs right now…” (Ortiz on Betts). Unlike Ortiz, however, it appears Betts has been able to stay in control of his swagger, as he’s avoided using it in negative ways. Mookie’s known for orchestrating the ‘Win. Dance. Repeat.’ routine with his fellow Red Sox outfielders after each Boston victory.

Baby Bomber

Aaron Judge is poised to become the next face of the franchise. He’s an imposing figure at 6’ 7”, 275 lbs., the heaviest position player in baseball history. Judge has burst into the scene early in 2017, cranking nine home runs. His most recent blast went off the bat at over 119 MPH, the hardest-hit homer ever recorded.

Like Betts, Judge is a homegrown player. The Yankees player development team has a large focus on humility. Says Player Development head Gary Dembo, “What we are teaching is respect for the game, respect for your opponents, respect for your teammates, respect for all the people around you that have an effect on your ability to get to the highest level of play. I feel like that baseball in general has kind of gotten away from talking about respect for the game “ (Dembo). This philosophy has certainly rubbed off on Judge. When asked about the injuries the Yankees were faced with during April, Judge delivered a veteran response: “It’s about 25 guys pulling the same rope and getting the job done…” Somewhere, Dembo was certainly smiling from ear to ear.

A New Era

The violent era of Yankees/Red Sox baseball is over. Look for young stars to reinvent the rivalry, with a heightened focus on doing it the right way. These guys will wow with their diving defensive stops and moonshots. That’s much better than beating up elderly men and holding fellow players in a headlock. Welcome to a new golden age.

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