What were you doing ten years ago today? Hopefully you were watching the Yankees-Red Sox series, as 2004 was the rivalry’s peak in recent history. These were the good old days – The Yankees were in first place, 8.5 games ahead of the second place Sox, there was a team in Tampa called the Devil Rays that was not very good, and the Yankees had just been to the World Series the previous October after Aaron Boone hit the series clinching home run in Game 7 of the ALCS against Boston.
2004 was also Alex Rodriguez’s first season in the Bronx. Coming off of his MVP season while in Texas, Rodriguez needed to show Yankee fans that he was a real Yankee and he was ready to jump PED head first into the greatest rivalry in sports.
After being hit by a pitch, Rodriguez yelled his way to first base until Sox catch Jason Varitek got in his way. Then Varitek pulled the not at all cowardly move of shoving Rodriguez in the face while keeping his catcher’s mask on. The fight was short lived, but the message was clear. A-Rod wanted in on this rivalry, and was fully ready to stir the pot himself if he had to.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox took the Yankees out in the 2004 ALCS after being down three games to none. They went on to win their first World Series in 86 years, and fully removed the curse of the Bambino. Fans, and players, credit that ruckus with kick starting their season into high gear. Yankee fans appreciated the fight at the time, as embarrassing as it looked.
Fast forward back to present time – Rodriguez is still on the Yankees, and is probably hated in New York more than he is in Boston. The Sox have won the World Series three times in the last ten years, while the Yankees secured on title in 2009. It is difficult to keep up with the intensity of the rivalry in the early 2000s, but today it is all but dead. Players exchange pleasantries before the game, joke during the game, and then praise each other after the game. What was once a 9 inning, edge of your seat, cannot miss a pitch rivalry is now a step above a friendly golf game. Alex Rodriguez may have been an idiot, but he kept the game, and the rivalry, interesting.