For years, hell, for decades, the heavyweight boxing match between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox was a one-up, anything you can do, I can do better, whomever you buy, we’ll buy someone better mentality dominated this rivalry like no other teams in professional sports. Not Lakers/Celtics…not Cowboys/Redskins, nothing. This is big boy rivalry. The Curse of the Bambino, the Boston Massacre, the Bloody Sock, the Collapse. This rivalry isn’t and hasn’t been for the feint of heart. It’s for the true fans of baseball. For those who love and respect the history of the game. As these two heavyweights get ready for the second of their four-game salve, let’s see how this almost century-old sparring match has changed for the 2014 season:
1. How did the Yankees respond to missing the postseason for only the second time since 1995? They went out and bought just about every player that could make an impact on their aging and injured roster from last season. Half a billion dollars to be exact. In are Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Masahiro Tanaka. Out are Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Robinson Cano. Pluses and losses, but most importantly, big money was spent…again.
The Red Sox, in comparison, instead of trying to go toe-to-toe with the Bronx Bombers, allowed free agents such as the aforementioned Ellsbury, along with Stephen Drew, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to walk away. The BoSox are depending on youth and 1-year contracts to take them back to the Word Series with the likes of Jackie Bradley, Jr., Grady Sizemore (yes, that Grady Sizemore), Xander Bogaerts, and the elderly A.J. Pierzynski. We’ll see which approach works in 2014.
2. For the first time in the Yankees’ recent dynasty era (1995-present), the Red Sox have a better bullpen top to bottom than the Yankees. Koji Uehara became a cult hero for his postseason dramatics on the mound for Red Sox Nation last year. For the Yankees, Mariano Rivera is gone, his successor, David Robertson, is already hurt and on the disabled list, and his replacement, Shawn Kelley, has already choked away a save opportunity. For the first time in a couple of decades, the Yankees ‘pen is completely in flux with no established studs to take the baton from the Sandman.
3. Both teams are depending on recycled and dumpster diving options to remain competitive. For the Yankees, it’s Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson, and to a certain extent, Michael Pineda, who is finally living up to expectations. Roberts and Johnson will attempt to fill in the gaping hole left behind by the departure of Robinson Cano. For the Red Sox…you are replacing Ellsbury with Grady Sizemore. If his 68-year-old knees weren’t bad enough, he hasn’t played a big league game in over two years. While he impressed during the spring, how long can his broken legs hold up during the grind of a long season? The same goes for Roberts on the Yankees’ side of the coin.
4. Unlike the dumpster fire on defense in the Bronx with Yangervis Solarte/Kelly Johnson, Derek Jeter, Brian Roberts, and Mark Teixeira/Kelly Johnson, the Red Sox have one of the stronger infield defensive units in all of baseball. With Will Middlebrook, Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia, and Mike Napoli, not much is going to get through on the ground. With the Yankees, limited range, injury and age concerns, and a last of positional experience could rear it’s ugly head multiple times throughout the season.
5. The underrated factor of clubhouse chemistry. The new-age “Idiots” in Boston have proven that the growth of a beard, and playing solid baseball when nobody expects you to, can lead to one of the feel good stories of 2013, especially on the heels of the Patriot Day Boston Marathon Bombing. For the Yankees, A-Rod is out of the picture, and Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran bring immediate clubhouse leadership to a group that has been missing something for awhile. The urgency and hunger should be there with Captain Derek Jeter calling it a career at the end of this season. We’ll see if a defending champion has the guts to rise up yet again and defend their title, or if a combination of sentiment and money can bring a long-awaited 28th World Series title to the Bronx!