The best rivalry in all of sports hasn't been as intense these past several seasons. Ever since the Red Sox infamously sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919, their rivalry has been the most storied and intense in sports. There's the "Curse of the Bambino," Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, the "Boston Massacre," the Bucky Dent game, the Aaron Boone game, the 2004 ALCS (puke), and countless brawls ranging from the '70s fights, to Pedro Martinez throwing Don Zimmer to the ground. Just thinking of all these classic moments has made me want to spend my entire day watching "Yankee-Red Sox rivalry" videos on YouTube.
Recently though, the rivalry has simmered down. While their games do always have added hype, are usually well played, and take roughly nine hours, something about the rivalry just hasn't been the same. While we've had some memorable moments over the past decade like the Joba Chamberlain-Kevin Youkilis beef, the A-Rod and Ryan Dempster game in August of 2013, and A-Rod's 15th inning, walk-off home run in 2009, the rivalry just hasn't had the same sizzle since 2004.
For Yankee fans, 2004 is a nightmare season, but it was a great season for the rivalry. There was A-Rod fighting Jason Varitek, leading to a big brawl in which Tanyon Sturtze memorably had blood dripping from his ear, Derek Jeter's diving play into the stands, and of course the ALCS, when Boston came back from a 3-0 series deficit en route to winning their first World Series in 86 seasons.
Since then though, it just hasn't been the same with the exception of those aforementioned moments. A big reason is that they haven't met in the playoffs since 2004. Ten of the past eleven postseasons have featured one or both teams, but their paths just haven't crossed. Another reason is the players don't have the same hatred for each other that they used to. It could be that some guys have been teammates in the World Baseball Classic, or social media makes it easier for everyone to connect to each other, or that the great characters like Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, and Roger Clemens are all gone.
However, this could be the year that all changes. Everything is in place for the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry to be reignited not only for this season, but for years beyond it. The most important thing is that both teams should be contenders this season. The Yankees were a playoff team last season that won 87 games, and they've only gotten better this offseason. They'll have to fend off father time and injuries with some of their bats, and the rotation has question marks, but overall, they're in good position for 2016. The Bronx Bombers scored the second most runs last season, and the offense has only improved. Starlin Castro is a huge upgrade over Stephen Drew. Aaron Hicks is younger and more promising than Chris Young. Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Brett Gardner are candidates for bounce back seasons after they all struggled mightily in the second half. So while, A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, and Carlos Beltran could all regress or get injured this season, there's no guarantee they will, and the Yankees have viable backup options in Greg Bird, Dustin Ackley, and Hicks anyway.
In the rotation, there are a ton of question marks and no true ace, but a lot of potential. Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, and Nathan Eovaldi have all looked like frontline starters at times, and there's hope for CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova to bounce back. Then, of course, the backend of the bullpen is historic and won't be blowing many leads.
In Boston, the Red Sox greatly improved this offseason. The offense was really good last season, scoring the fourth most runs in baseball, and they may be even better in 2016. Exciting young players like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Blake Swihart seem positioned to further improve, and David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia are always reliable bats. It would be surprising to see Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval play as poorly as they did last year, too. The problem for Boston last season was the pitching; they allowed the sixth most runs in baseball. However, adding ace David Price to the rotation and Craig Kimbrel as closer will vastly improve the pitching staff.
Overall, both teams seem like they'll be very competitive this season, vying for the division crown and the pennant. FanGraphs' projected 2016 standings rank the Red Sox and Yankees as the two best teams not only in their division, but the entire American League. They have the Red Sox going 91-71, and the Yanks at 86-76. If they perform up to expectations, not only will all the regular season games have added meaning, but there's a chance they could meet in the postseason for the first time in 12 years.
The great part is the rivalry isn't just set up well for this season, but years to come. Both organizations have a lot of young talent breaking into the majors that may be around for awhile. If their first Yankee-Red Sox experiences are as intense as they may be this season, it could create a new generation of rivals.
So while both teams are more focused on winning games this season than hating each other, there's no denying that baseball is better when the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is at center stage. If all goes as planned, we're going to get back there this season. In the meantime, I'll be waiting over here.