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Bring on the Boston Red Sox! There was a time not that long ago (last year even) that those words would be fueled with bravado and a bit of nervousness. This year? Not so much. Don’t get me wrong, I still want the Yankees to win this weekend’s series against the Sox, but the rivalry has become a tad ho-hum and certainly through no fault of the Bombers.
New York is in its usual spot atop the AL East, but instead of having the dreaded Sawx breathing down their pinstriped necks, it’s Tampa Bay and Baltimore (yes, Baltimore; it continues to shock me) who are in the hunt. Boston isn’t even a .500 team, although technically they are still in contention for a wild card berth. However, they are six-and-a-half games back with the Orioles, Rays, Tigers, A’s and Angels bunched up above them, separated by a mere game-and-a-half at most.
Both teams have had to deal with their share of injuries this year, but the Red Sox have also generated a lot of bad PR ignited by alleged clubhouse turmoil and discontentment with new manager Bobby Valentine. Yawkey Way has become Boston’s best running soap opera, with all sorts of he-said, he-said, no-I-really-didn’t-say-that drama. I mean, did anyone actually think Bobby Valentine would be the answer to what ails the Red Sox? It’s pretty clear at this point the manager wasn’t the cause of last season’s late collapse, but even so, I watched enough of the Valentine-managed Mets to know his style was not going to fly at Fenway.
I can’t even derive a little schadenfreude watching Boston suffer at this point. What was once a formidable opponent in baseball’s most storied rivalry (sorry, St. Louis and Chicago) has become a laughingstock. No matter, the gods at MLB Network, Fox and ESPN will still broadcast all three games nationally, even though most of the action won’t be on the playing field.
Take the Sunday Night Baseball game. It is supposed to be a marquee matchup of top pitchers, with New York’s Hiroki Kuroda and Boston’s Josh Beckett taking the mound. Sadly, Beckett’s ERA is more bloated than his beer belly. He has a 5-10 record with a 5.19 ERA for the season. Over his last three starts he has been even worse: 0-1 with a 10.38 ERA. By contrast, Kuroda is 11-8 with a 3.08 ERA and is 1-1 with a 1.66 ERA over his last three starts. Of course, the Yankees haven’t been scoring a ton of runs for Kuroda so Josh may yet have a win waiting for him in the Bronx. That and some Kennedy Fried Chicken.
Even if the Sox manage to sweep the Yanks, it’s not going to make this year’s version of the rivalry any more interesting. This won’t be a series where we Yankees fans worry about Big Papi blasts and snicker at Kevin Youkilis whining about being grazed by a pitch. David Ortiz remains on the DL, unwilling to test his balky Achilles with free agency impending, and Youk’s whining ways now entertain the South Side of Chicago. Heck, if a fight were to break out, it would probably be between Valentine and Jon Lester.
I know, it’s Yankees/Red Sox so anything can happen. The Yankees could score 11 runs in one inning or Carl Crawford’s throwing arm could fall off when he tries to cut down a runner. It’s just that I’m not feeling it this time. Maybe I’ll tune into the Mets/Nationals series instead. Oh, who am I kidding? A boring rivalry is still better than none at all.