“Red Sox-Yankees, that’s as crazy as it gets.”
— Dodgers manager Joe Torre, doing whatever he can to support the thesis of L.A. Time writer Kevin Baxter that the Dodgers-Giants rivalry ain’t what it used to be.
Torre is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t here. West coasters probably aren’t happy with him claiming that an east coast rivalry is the better one, but just imagine what east coasters would say if he didn’t give Red-Sox-Yankees the props they believe it deserves.
Overall, though, I don’t think that any modern rivalry can compare in tone and intensity to the rivalries of the pre-free agency period simply because the players come and go. Back in the day, most of the intensity was driven by the participants in the rivalry. These days, it’s almost completely a media-driven thing.
Remember Manny Banuelos? He was once a top pitching prospect for the Yankees and then, apparently disappeared from the face of the earth. Or at least it felt like it. Now he’s in the news, however, as the Dodgers have signed him to a minor league contract.
OK, Banuelos didn’t disappear. He was traded to the Braves in 2015, had a cup of coffee with them, pitching pretty ineffectively in seven big league games, was released by Atlanta in the middle of 2016 and then latched on with the Angels. This past season he posted a 4.93 ERA over 95 innings while being used mostly as a reliever at Triple-A Salt Lake.
Banuelos pitched in the Future’s Game in 2009 and was a star in the Arizona Fall League in 2010. He was a top-50 prospect heading into 2011 before falling to Tommy John surgery in 2012. With Atlanta he suffered some bone spur problems and then some elbow issues that never resulted in surgery but which never subsided enough for him to fulfill his potential either. He suffered injuries. A lot of pitchers do.
It’s unrealistic to think that Banuelos will fulfill the promise he had six years ago, but he’s worth a minor league deal to see if the 26-year-old can at least be a serviceable reliever.