Baseball rivalries are tough. We get it. Selecting a “winner” in a hatred-measuring contest between the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox can be difficult for fans of the New York Yankees, the clear third banana in a multi-team rivalry right about now (Fourth banana? Toronto?).
Over the past five years, the Rays have created a winning model, punking the Yankees repeatedly with their collection of anonymous relievers to the point where it’s become an obsession within the front office to dispatch of them.
But don’t forget the Sox! When the Yankees burst their own title window wide open, Boston leveled up under the management of Alex Cora in 2018, rendering New York’s 100 wins utterly feckless in the face of 108 victories. Then, they retooled, reloaded, finished last, and have lapped the Yankees again.
Meanwhile, in the Bronx, they’re just going to bring Aaron Boone back. Lovely.
In essence, after 2020, you could see an argument for the Rays having leapt the turnstile and vaulted over the Sox as New York’s chief rivals … but not in 2021. The Red Sox have re-hired Cora, who they’d previously fired for cheating. They’ve come out of the woodwork again to contend, running laps around the Yanks’ braintrust by hiring a team-building genius from the Rays and giving him a higher budget to work his magic. They’ve blended masterful motivation with the type of savviness the Yankees covet.
And besides, Yankees-Red Sox will always be Yankees-Red Sox.
Apparently, that’s not how the Yanks’ front office saw things, though. They were “pleased” with the “underdog” Red Sox waltzing into the ALCS. And that … that sucks!
Yankees rooting for the Red Sox over the Rays is embarrassing.
Honestly, what is going on here?
In recent years, the Yankees have become obsessed with how the Rays operate, borrowing only the worst parts of their philosophy. Instead of blending new-school ethos with a field general capable of improvising and maximizing his players’ talents, they’ve been inspired by Tampa’s ability to plug-and-play a bunch of faceless entities instead of paying their superstars. They’ve grown fond of the Rays’ ruthlessness and ability to cycle stars in and out while still contending on a shoestring budget.
Meanwhile, Boston has (Mookie Betts gibberish excluded) figured out how to adapt the Rays’ model to a bigger city. And yet the Yankees find themselves satisfied with that, rooting for the pesky, small-budget Rays to be shoved aside? Why? Because they ultimately see themselves becoming the Red Sox? The big-budget behemoth version of what’s going on in Tampa?
Sad to say, but they’re currently far from it. It’s a cute ambition, but it’s a dream that’s currently being lived out by your chief historical rival. Pop that champagne, Yankees braintrust!
Both the Red Sox and Rays have powerhouse offenses. The Sox don’t have the pitching Tampa does (in theory), but also … the Rays went to the rookie well in nearly every game of this series. Their most experienced starter was Collin McHugh. Clearly, that doesn’t exactly work in a high-pressure situation at Fenway Park, either.
Shockingly, Boston was better. And yet the Yankees rooted against the less fortunate club in favor of their No. 1 enemy, who might as well shed payroll, reload, and beat up on the Yanks with an entirely different core next year, just because they can.
That’s what the Bombers seem to prefer. Sickeningly misguided.