Yes, what was once one of the greatest rivalries in the history of sports (and probably still is) has cooled off a little since Boston won championships in 2004 and 2007. There's no doubt that those two rings stole some ammunition from Yankees fans. Suddenly, they could no longer chant "1918" or "Who's your daddy?" when Pedro Martinez was on the mound at Yankee Stadium.
Some have suggested Red Sox fans got too complacent after the two championships, and conversely, Yankees fans stopped caring.
Not anymore, after the way the 2009 season ended.
The fans are a large part of what has kept this rivalry alive. And when the Red Sox suddenly proved that they could win hardware, the fans — on both sides of the equation — found themselves in a bit of an identity crisis.
The rivalry may have cooled off a little after Boston won its second championship in four years in 2007, but you can bet that it heated right back up when Joe Girardi led the pinstripes to the MLB promised land in 2009. Not only did the Red Sox get swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the Angels, but they paled in comparison to New York down the stretch.
If being unable to measure up to your fiercest rival doesn't get your juices flowing, nothing will.
Fortunately for Red Sox fans, watching the Yankees pummel the Phillies in last year's World Series didn't sit too well for anyone on the roster, or for GM Theo Epstein, either.
After relying on discount deals that didn't really pan out in 2009, Epstein paid big bucks for this offseason's marquee free agent, John Lackey, in order to give Boston a pitching rotation that could compete with New York's, one of the best — if not the best — in baseball. Epstein reverted to the defense-first tactic that earned the Red Sox their first championship in 86 years in 2004, and while that didn't seem to work out in April, it's too early to say Boston's defense won't improve considerably.
Maybe the Yankees winning it all in 2009 was exactly what the Red Sox needed to jump back into gear.
This team looks a lot different than the ones that used to brawl with Yankees bench coaches, or charge the mound when Roger Clemens headhunted, or incur suspensions for tackling relievers out near the bullpen during melees. Many of the Red Sox players Yankees fans loved to hate are gone — Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Kevin Millar.
But just as Yankees fans have turned their ire on Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia in recent years, Red Sox fans will always be able to find someone new to become the target of their efforts. And if not, they always have Alex Rodriguez.
You never know when the rivalry could return to that what it once was, and given recent history, that day could be today.
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