There was this talking point for a long time among non-East Coast baseball fans that everyone was sick, sick, sick of the Yankees and the Red Sox meeting in the playoffs. “Oh, them again?” people moaned.
Even when they did not meet, there was this head-shaking dismissal of even the possibility of it, with disgruntled Midwesterners, Southerners and people from points west believing, at times, the fix was in and that MLB would do anything to give us big time Yankees-Red Sox matchups. That talking point lasted for years and years. Indeed, get some non-East Coast fans talking baseball today and you’ll find that it still exists to some extent. People roll their eyes at Yankees-Red Sox matchups and each October some still think the fix will be in, either literally or cosmically, to get them together.
Which is insane, because they have only met three times in the postseason. Four if you count the 1978 playoff game which gave us Bucky F***in Dent but which, technically speaking, was part of the regular season. Only three regularly scheduled playoff series, though:
- In the 1999 ALCS, when Bernie Williams hit a walk-off homer to win the opener, Pedro Martinez and the Sox bats beat Roger Clemens for the Sox’ only win in the series, but the Yankees won handily and went on to sweep the Braves in the World Series;
- In the 2003 ALCS when Aaron F***in’ Boone hit that 11th inning walkoff homer in Game 7; and
- The 2004 ALCS which, you may have heard, involved the Red Sox coming back from a 3-0 deficit thanks to a Dave Roberts stolen base, a David Ortiz walkoff homer, a bloody sock — probably ketchup — and all manner of other drama on the way to the Curse of the Bambino being broken.
Yes, I will grant, there was enough history in those three series to fill up highlight reels for hours, but it’s still just three series. They were three series, though, that helped launch the already existing Yankees-Red Sox rivalry into something which dominated the baseball discourse, especially during national broadcasts, for years and years.
That’s really what’s at work when my fellow non-East Coasters complain: the ubiquitousness of Yankees-Red Sox chatter as opposed to the games themselves. The promotion of regular season matchups between the Yankees and Red Sox on ESPN and other national outlets as if they were bigger than just 1 of 162, even in April. The talk about their rivalry and the expectation — often made into a reality, I’ll grant — that each of them will dominate the offseason conversation as well as the in-season one. This bugs people a lot. It bugs some people so much that they may imagine, say, their ubiquity in the postseason in a way that does not at all conform with reality.
I think both sides in this — the non-East Coast fans who get sick of the Yankees and Red Sox and the networks and media types who overhype them — can break out of this mess, though, and they can do it by doing the exact same thing: focusing on the here and now, not the past.
The 2018 Yankees and Red Sox are, with a respectful nod to the Astros, the most talented teams in the game. A good deal of that talent is homegrown too, including Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino and many others. Despite the effort to make heroes and villains in baseball rivalries, most of these guys are pretty fun to watch and, as far as we know, pretty decent guys too. Each lineup is relentless. There are a host of electric arms. The crowds will be going crazy. Even if you’re not a Yankees or a Red Sox partisan, you have to admit that this is poised to be a fantastic series that can be enjoyed for its own sake without reference to their comically overanalyzed history.
For fans who may be groaning at a Yankees-Red Sox series, realize this is not, in fact, a common occurrence and that the baseball between these two clubs is fixing to be great. To TBS, which is broadcasting this series, I’d ask that you understand that everyone is really, really tired of seeing highlights from the early 2000s, references to Bucky Dent, the Bloody Sock and that Curse of the Bambino. There is so much to care about here without getting to that, so let’s stay away from excessive nostalgia, could we? I hope we can, even if I’m skeptical TBS will steer clear of that.
If all that fails — if the fans can’t get over their dislike of Boston and New York and if TBS can’t help itself from wallowing in nostalgia — well, it’s only a best-of-five series, so it’ll be over soon enough.