Now that Masahiro Tanaka is signed, sealed, and delivered to the New York Yankees, an offseason that had the Yankees spend about $500 million seems to be completed. The prognostications have begun about possible an AL East and a 28th World Series title in 2014. However, the team that currently holds the title had plenty of words to say about that this week.
There’s an old cliché in sports that holds true in this instance: To be the champ, you have to beat the champ. The Boston Red Sox were the World Series champions last season and outfielder Jonny Gomes reminded fans of that with his comments on Thursday:
“Boxing rules, we still have the belt. Whoever else, reloads.”
He’s right! Even though a new season brings about new expectations, the Red Sox are still the ones that teams have to chase down. In Gomes’ words, it’s not about the winter. That being said, the Yankees look significantly better on paper in terms of their offensive production.
The interesting nugget to take away from these comments were that they weren’t made after the Yankees signed former Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, but rather the signing of Masahiro Tanaka. The fact that the Yankees made a $155 million signing and outbid teams like the Yankees of old triggered the comments.
In 2009, the Yankees had the same strategy in the signings of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira that led to a World Series title. For Red Sox’ President and CEO Larry Lucchino, it has a similar feeling:
“It’s like ‘Back to the Future,’ is my sense… I’ve seen this movie before.”
Lucchino has seen this movie before. He saw it with his own team back in the winter of 2011. During the offseason before the 2012 season, Lucchino gave out two $100 million contracts to Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Both guys ended up being traded in August 2012 to give the Red Sox a financial reset.
As for this year’s team, while the Boston Red Sox have lost Ellsbury and potentially shortstop Stephen Drew to free agency, they still made signings of their own by bringing in catcher A.J. Pierzynski and now making Xander Bogaerts into a regular everyday shortstop in all likelihood.
It’s great to see this rivalry get rekindled again. For most of last year, it looked like the rivalry had sort of lost its luster. That was until the Ryan Dempster-Alex Rodriguez incident. While A-Rod will miss all of 2014 due to suspension, you can tell that there is still some bad blood between the two teams. Who knows what can happen now that Brian McCann is behind the plate for the Yankees?
Plus, these two teams are going to see a lot of each other early in the season. Out of their scheduled 19 matchups during the season, 7 of them will take place during the month of April. It’s an early chance for the Yankees to make a statement to the defending champs or for the Red Sox to show that there still could be a significant gap despite all the dollars being floated around.
Regardless of what the outcome might be, the game of baseball is at its best when the AL East is up for grabs when both of these teams are good. It’s only fitting that the rivalry gets rekindled when it will be the 10-year anniversary of the historic Red Sox’ comeback in the 2004 ALCS. The rivalry may never reach the level of 1999-2004, there will at least be a guarantee of a lot of exciting baseball. That is, unless these games take double the amount of time to play due to instant replay.