People talk a lot about the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, but it hasn’t truly been a rivalry in many years. It’s been a decade since they finished within less than six games of each other in the standings. Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek, Pedro Martinez, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez and everyone else who made this Boston-New York games interesting are retired. Heck, David Ortiz held up a “RE2PECT” sign when Derek Jeter retired. There’s no bad blood here anymore. To the extent people talk about this allegedly “bitter rivalry,” they’re engaging in early 21st century nostalgia.
But the trade Brian Cashman made for Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle last night makes things a bit more interesting than it has been for some time.
On one level it changes things because it’s a signal that the Yankees, who have struggled of late after a surprisingly good first half, are truly going for it this year. That they would be wasn’t a given. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year of sorts, with young players like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Clint Frazier getting used to the grind of a full season while New York’s well-stocked farm system matures. The idea: whatever happened this year was gravy, but true, sustained contention for the Yankees would be in the coming years, not in 2017.
While it may have been disappointing for fans, it would’ve been completely reasonable for the Yankees to smile at what they’ve done this year but to stand pat at the deadline, realizing that they’ll have better chances in the future. With Masahiro Tanaka eligible to opt out after this year and with CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda in walk years (and in Pineda’s case, injured) they need to address their rotation for the coming seasons. Those are long-term concerns, not immediate competitive ones, not necessarily amenable to a big splash. By making this trade, however, New York is signaling that it is, without question, shooting to make up the 3.5 games separating them and their rivals from Boston in 2017.
On another level, something about this trade gives us that 2003-2004 feeling in that, as the Yankees improved themselves, they also closed off a potential avenue for the Red Sox to do the same.
Boston has made no secret of its desire to fix its dreadful third base situation and over the weekend there were reports that they were interested in acquiring Frazier to do so. And, like almost every other team, they could stand to add relievers. By taking the best third baseman and arguably the best available bullpen arm in Frazier and Robertson, the Yankees made a bold, ready-for-storyline-based-columns move in the zero-sum competition with Boston.
I don’t expect all of this to translate into Varitek-Rodriguez-style face-shoving or Pedro Martinez-style bulletin board material, but it certainly makes the Red Sox-Yankees a a bit more interesting than it’s been of late. At the very least it should help tighten things up between the east coast rivals in the AL East and give those of us who remember the Boston-New York rivalry of the early 2000s something to talk about.
At least as long as the second place Rays don’t win 18 of 20 and bury them both. That would be a major bummer for us old guys and all the storyline writers, eh?