Oct 30, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Koji Uehara (left) is lifted by designated hitter David Ortiz after game six of the MLB baseball World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park. The Red Sox won 6-1 to win the series four games to two. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Yanks vs. Sox Rivalry Has Become Spenders vs. Planners


In the words of Yankees’ great Yogi Berra “It’s like deja-vu, all over again.” Just when you thought that the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry was reaching a lull, the ancient enemies are finding new and exciting ways to duke it out. As I’m sure you know, the Red Sox won the World Series last season and they did it by selling off some problematic and overpriced players in Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford and bringing in more economical players like Mike Napoli, David Ross, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, and Ryan Dempster. The Yankees, however, failed to reach the playoffs for just the second time in 19 years and it was a general agreement in the Bronx that something needed to be done.

In classic Yankees’ style, they worked fast and worked silently. What was expected to be yet another quiet off-season was actually loud and momentous. The first blow was catcher Brian McCann (5-years $85 million), then superstar outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury (7-years $153 million) and Carlos Beltran (3-years $45 million) signed aboard and were soon joined by pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (7-years $155 million) after the Yankees won the all-out bidding war for his services. Losing star second baseman Robinson Cano must have opened some executive’s eyes because they killed their long standing “No extension clause”  and extended left fielder Brett Gardner (4-years $52 million). So the Yankees took a totally different rout in building a championship-caliber team than their arch rival Red Sox and Boston’s feelings on it have not been a secret.

“We’re very different animals. I’m proud of that difference.” Red Sox President Larry Lucchino said earlier this off season. “I always cringe when people lump us together. Other baseball teams sometimes do that. They are still, this year at least, relying heavily on their inimitable old-fashioned Yankees style of high-priced, long-term free agents. And … I can’t say that I wish them well, but I think that we’ve taken a different approach.”

So the Yankees are paying and the Red Sox are planning. The Sox have got big money prospects and the Yanks have a big money bank account. While the Yankees are paying a luxury tax, the Red Sox are living it up on World Series luxuries. That’s great for the Red Sox, but they shouldn’t get up on a pedestal just yet. After all, the Red Sox only just removed themselves from their free spending ways and they’re top prospects, while impressive, haven’t proven to be the stars they’re billed as. So it’s a little too early to say that the Red Sox and Yankees are totally different animals.

What we have here is a turning point and a crucial one at that. Since free agency was established in the ’70s, the Yankees and Red Sox have been engaged in a brutal dog fight with the team’s check books. What wasn’t discovered until the late 90s was that the Red Sox could not beat the Yankees in free agency and a new method was needed. The Red Sox won it all in 2004 and 2007 using almost the same theory as they did in 2013 but in years like 2011 and 2012. the Red Sox veered away and followed their rivals, the Yankees, with big, high-priced spending. Could this officially be the Red Sox separating themselves from the Yankees in business matters? Who knows? But if the Red Sox are truly going to be a different animal, it could be the start of a new and very entertaining rivalry. It potentially could turn into a Prime Time fight between the sabermetric planners (Red Sox) and the old school classic “win at all cost” spenders (Yankees). We don’t know if this pattern will continue but maybe Larry Lucchino recently watched “Moneyball” and something clicked when Brad Pitt said “If we try to play like the Yankees in here… We will lose to the Yankees out there!” So when October baseball arrives after a long season who will come out on top? The Planners or the Spenders?

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  • roylevine

    Matt, both teams are very sabremetric. I think that win at all costs is not a fair description. If so, you would see Omar Infante at 2B and Juan Uribe or Stephen Drew at 3B. The Yankees passed on Rickey Nolasco, as well. More to the point of your discussion, the Yankees’ hardly have anyone ready to break into MLB. Maybe they have some decent prospects in Trenton. Boston’s minor league system is better. It was helped when they dumped a lot of their talent in the midst of a horrendous 2012 season. Maybe – repeat maybe – in 2015, the likes of Juan Ramirez and Manny Banuelos are ready for the majors. Maybe Gary Sanchez comes in as back up catcher for a year or two, before challenging Brian McCann. Maybe one of the touted outfielders lives up to the hype. Not saying that any of this will happen, but my conclusion is that the Yankees do not have the raw material to do what Boston is doing right now. After a very bad 2013 season (on the field and business-wise), the Yankees decided not to punt but bring in high-end talent. I believe that Cashman wants to develop the team from within. It is now up to them to develop some players. The situation in the MILB infield is a real problem right now.

    • artie999

      Absolutely correct on all points. If anything, it’s even more extreme, as the Yanks did NOT spend a measly 2M more for slugging Reynolds who is DESPERATELY needed now, let alone not sign Balfour. Thst would have made them favorites to make the post season, and NOT raised the payroll from last season. Coupled with the Steinbrenners’ divestiture from YES, it makes me wonder what’s REALLY going on. What do you think?

      • roylevine

        Artie, I think that the Dodgers have woken the Yankees up. Everyone is spending more with revenue sharing, so the Steinbrenner plan of staying under $189 ceased to be workable. They are begrudgingly spending more. Their friends at Fox Sports (who acquired majority interest in YES) certainly want to see a competitive team for its ratings, as well. I have not read any good analysis as to why the Steinbrenners let majority control of YES go to Fox. My guess is that the YES Network is only worthwhile for the 140+/- games that are broadcast live. The rest of the time is filler crap like Michael Kay or David Justice playing with kids. How many times can one sit through John Sterling tell the life story of Bernie Williams. YES has also relinquished its ties to the Nets and Devils, so its ability to compete with giants like Cablevision, ESPN or Comcast/NBC for programming is limited. Yankees took the money and Fox Sports has the capital and global broadcasting expertise to become a year-round competitor with the other big boys.

        In 2012, there was a lot of talk on blogs like this that the Yankees had a better than average minor league. Then in 2013, suddenly all the kids we were watching were injured or just failed to progress. I think that the Steinbrenners were counting on one or two minor leaguers breaking through. Instead, they had nothing so they had to draw in free agency in Ellsbury, and Tanaka. As for Beltran, that is the kind of move the Yankees always make. But Ellsbury? That is kind of a panic move. One thing I can say for Tanaka is that he is one of the youngest free agent signings ever. 25 years old!! Most pitcher peak at 28-29.