Red Sox President Larry Lucchino was asked about the Sox-Yankees series that kicks off tonight. Specifically, whether or not there’s anything special about it given that both teams are more or less assured of a playoff spot at this point:
“Absolutely,” Lucchino said when asked if he’s still amped. “We want to win, we want home-field advantage. And by the way, if we were playing them in a Tiddlywinks match, or a checkers game, we’d get amped up. At least I would.”
1. When was the last time anyone actually played a game of Tiddlywinks? The 50s? Maybe the 60s? Definitely a long time ago. I used to think the reference was dated even when I was a kid. Which is fine — I’ll make 1970s and 80s references for the rest of my days because that’s just how people tend to be — but I do notice that kind of thing.
2. You feelin’ the same way, Sox and Yankees fans? I was on a radio show last week and the topic of Red Sox and Yankees came up. The consensus was that it’s been a long time since it seemed like something more than any other normal series. There’s hype, sure, but it’s just not a hot rivalry right now. And no, I can’t measure it. Just a feeling.
A feeling based on a lot of things, really. The fact that each team will, as noted above, make the playoffs. The fact that it may, tactically speaking, be better to win the wild card this year because I think Detroit will be dangerous in a short series (assuming Detroit finishes behind Texas overall). The fact that there hasn’t been much in the way of personal animosity between the players in several years (I mean, look how old that pic I used is). The fact that, since the Sox have won two World Series and the Yankees returned to championship status in 2009, there is less urgency for each team to demonstrate its bonafides.
And of course the unbalanced schedule and the reality of the TV rankings which give us so, so many Yankees-Red Sox games contributes. It’s hard to keep up the intensity for so long. There are too many baseball games for most rivalries to remain hot both on the field and in the public consciousness, and it really does require both. I like temporary rivalries the sprout up due to a couple of years of close races or a particularly memorable series and then fade away.
Mets-Braves were like that a few years ago. They’re by no means natural rivals — they didn’t share a division until the mid-90s — but both teams being good and playing some really memorable games ten years or so ago was cool. Same with Reds-Cardinals last year. Giants-Phillies. Those have come and they will go fairly quickly, and they’re pretty hot when they happen. And I think they’re more enjoyable because of it.
But the Red Sox-Yankees? It takes more than history, I think, to really sustain this sort of thing.