Is the historic intensity of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry on the wane?

Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin and Red Sox relief pitcher Joe Kelly are in a fight on April 11, 2018, at Fenway Park in Boston.
Charles Krupa/AP

Table of Contents

Once considered the most intense and storied tale in baseball, the current Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry is likely to miss its historical baggage.

Ever since the year 1919, when the Red Sox traded a promising young slugger named Babe Ruth to the Yankees to raise money, these two monumental franchises have been closely and dramatically linked together in a bitter tussle for dominance in MLB.

Throughout their existence, the Yankees and the Red Sox have fiercely competed for championships and personal honor. Their history is filled with gripping playoff battles, legendary marathon games, and intense fights that left players with split lips. There was even an instance where a renowned pitcher took down a septuagenarian to the ground. In the early 2000s, specifically during the Manny-Pedro-Ortiz-Jeter-A-Rod era, the mere presence of the Yankees and Red Sox in the same city would often ignite physical altercations between them.

Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry losing the historical sheen

However, while their passionate fans still experience intense emotions over their teams, the on-field rivalry has undeniably simmered in recent years. The last physical confrontation between the clubs occurred back in the initial month of 2018 when Tyler Austin charged the mound against Joe Kelly. Out of the players involved in that game, only four individuals — Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Domingo German, and Rafael Devers — continue to represent their respective teams.

Due to the revised MLB schedule, the number of games between the Red Sox and the Yankees has been reduced to just 14 per season, which is five fewer than before. This weekend’s series in the Bronx is particularly significant as it marks their first meeting in 2023. While many players recognize that Red Sox-Yankees games still carry a heightened intensity and an unmatched atmosphere, they openly admit that the intense animosity witnessed 20 years ago has now transformed into mutual respect, if not a sense of indifference.

According to Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortes, the current relationship between the Yankees and the Red Sox doesn’t resemble the intense rivalry his team currently have with teams like Tampa or Toronto. Cortes further suggested that the Red Sox haven’t been performing up to their usual standards in the past few years.

In Boston, there is a sense of frustration and determination, while in New York, there is a feeling of confidence and optimism. It is important to acknowledge that despite the Yankees’ current 13-season championship drought, they have maintained a consistent level of performance, finishing with a winning record every season since 1992. 

The Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry is often marked by brawls.
CBS

A shift in rivalry is visible

Although the Red Sox have won four titles since 2004, their performance in the past decade has been more unpredictable, swinging between being a strong contender for the World Series and struggling at the bottom of the AL East. However, this argument loses some weight when considering the almost century-long history of imbalance between the two teams, which nevertheless resulted in a fiercely competitive and contentious rivalry.

Cortes’ observation regarding Tampa and Toronto holds true. Some members of the Yankees team, including players and coaches, genuinely harbor animosity toward their counterparts in Tampa and Toronto. The Yankees have already experienced heated confrontations with both the Rays and the Blue Jays earlier this season. Specifically, the Tampa Bay team has become a consistent source of trouble for New York, with the two teams frequently engaging in retaliatory pitches, verbal disputes, and on-field altercations over the past five years.

Yankees star pitcher Gerrit Cole, who had a short appearance of only two innings in the wild-card game against Boston at Fenway Park in 2021, also dismissed any lasting animosity between the two teams that, not too long ago, used to have intense rivalries year after year.

Cole commented that he was unable to speak about the level of animosity that existed between the Yankees and the Red Sox 15 or 20 years ago. However, he stated that at present, there was not much of that animosity during his time. He mentioned that their desire to defeat the Red Sox was just as strong as their desire to defeat teams like Baltimore. While recognizing the unique historical significance of the rivalry, he questioned how much of that historical baggage they still carry with them.

Social media keeps it alive

One possible reason for the decrease in overt hostilities between teams like the Yankees and the Red Sox could be attributed to the emergence of social media and the increased frequency of player transfers in the past decade. Due to players regularly working out together and frequently changing teams, deeper relationships are formed between opponents rather than just among teammates.

Red Sox infielder Christian Arroyo stated that he considers Franchy Cordero and Jake Bauers to be his close acquaintances. Arroyo emphasized that he wouldn’t suddenly develop animosity toward them simply because they formed part of the Yankees.

There are rumors suggesting a close relationship between Yankees manager Aaron Boone and Red Sox manager Alex Cora. The two had previously worked together as on-camera analysts at ESPN for a considerable period and have a remarkable rapport. This strong connection between them may play a role in proactively preventing any potential explosive situations from occurring on the field.

Boone recently told FOX Sports about his close friendship with Alex Cora and how they had a great deal of mutual respect. Regarding the rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox, Boone mentioned that it may fluctuate over time, but currently, there was a more positive and respectful dynamic between the two teams.

Volpe has a different take

The Yankees’ rookie shortstop, Anthony Volpe, who has been a passionate fan of the team since childhood, has not yet had the opportunity to play in a regular-season game against the Red Sox. Volpe was only 2 years old when his current manager, Aaron Boone, hit one of the most renowned home runs in baseball history. He learned about the rivalry’s glory days through his parents. The fact that Volpe’s father was present during Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series has certainly contributed to his understanding and appreciation of the rivalry.

Volpe reflected on his experience growing up and shared that when he was younger, the rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox was significant within his family. However, as he grew older, he noticed a shift in dynamics. Volpe mentioned that his mother, who used to harbor strong negative feelings toward the Red Sox, found it difficult to maintain that sentiment as time passed. The reason was that the Red Sox no longer had players that were easy to dislike, such as Mookie Betts.

Despite the noticeable decrease in hostility between the players on the field, the relationship between the players and the fans remains highly contentious. If you venture into the bleachers of Yankee Stadium on Friday when the Red Sox visit, you will sense the intense animosity emanating from the vocal outbursts of numerous passionate Yankees fans, who may have consumed a few beers, expressing their unwavering support for the team.

The Yankees claim that Fenway Park, the home stadium of the Red Sox, is equally similar in terms of fan intensity and atmosphere. Cole even said that when he goes to Fenway Park and takes the mound, he encounters a hostile environment.

Boone, who was known for hitting one of the most unforgettable home runs in the history of the rivalry, reminisced about a conversation he had with a Reds coach when he joined the Yankees in 2003 via a trade. The coach warned Boone about the passionate nature of Boston fans.

Boone recalled a conversation he had with a Reds coach who came to wish him luck when he joined the Yankees. The coach warned Boone about the intensity of the Boston fans, but Boone initially didn’t take it seriously. However, during their first trip to Boston, Boone encountered an incident where the key to his hotel room didn’t work. The person who came to fix it was wearing a Red Sox hat and intentionally took a long time to fix the lock. It was then that Boone realized the significance of the warning and understood what the coach had meant.

Volpe, a youthful and enthusiastic 22-year-old, expressed a broad smile when questioned about his anticipations regarding his role in the rivalry.

Volpe shared his excitement about the prospect of going to Fenway Park and being part of the rivalry. He mentioned that he anticipates facing some negativity from the fans, but he sees it as a testament to his performance and the impact he can make as a player.

The young shortstop, belonging to the Gen Z generation, is absolutely right. While the players themselves may not have strong feelings towards their opponents on the field, the fans ensure that Yankees-Red Sox games remain significant and exciting.

The passionate Yankees fans in the Bronx, who have expressed their loyalty through colorful language and gestures, have been dedicated to the team for generations. Their devotion will continue even after players like Judge retire. The fans’ deep care, lingering resentment, and knowledge of the rivalry’s history make every Yankees-Red Sox matchup special. Despite the recent decrease in animosity, the rivalry will always retain its unique character.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join the Pinstripes Nation!

Your Daily Dose of Yankees Magic Delivered to Your Inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Don't Miss Any of the Latest Yankees News, Rumors, and Exclusive Offers!