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?