A-Rod, of course, returned to the New York Yankees this season after missing all of 2014 due to a performance-enhancing drug suspension. It’s an unsettling reality for many Major League Baseball fans, especially those who reside in Boston, but the polarizing slugger’s comeback isn’t completely terrible.
Consider this: The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry — if you still want to call it that — has hit a major rut. There no longer is the same hype, intensity and hatred surrounding the teams’ head-to-head matchups, largely because new faces keep filtering through both organizations and results within the American League East have been all over the place in recent years.
And you know what? That sucks.
“The rivalry continues,” Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said before Boston and New York battled Friday in the Bronx. “It’s just not going to be at the level that it used to be, when you would see all these on-field fights and all that stuff.”
Ortiz pointed to MLB’s rules as one reason for the decrease in animosity. The league obviously wants to keep its star players on the field, and the result has been a more judicious approach to situations that in the past might have led to brawls, arguments and other interactions that added fuel to the rivalry’s fire.
“We want to beat up each other the professional way,” Ortiz said. “The beast mode is kind of down low.”
That’s cool. No one needs to literally get their butt kicked for a good rivalry to flourish. Solid on-field competition with a dash of hostility will do the trick.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox and Yankees haven’t been able to consistently find the perfect formula for good theater, at least when compared to previous decade, when the teams’ contests were must-see TV.
Perhaps, then, we should embrace A-Rod’s return, even if it makes you puke in your mouth a little bit. He’s long been baseball’s biggest heel. And despite the recent remorse he’s shown, he’s still one of the few active players who can claim he was around for the height of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.
In fact, Rodriguez was a driving force behind much of the genuine disdain that seemingly existed whenever the clubs squared off eight, nine, 10 years ago.
“Guys still go out and compete to the best of their abilities,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Friday while trying to reason that the rivalry’s ferocity hasn’t weakened. “I don’t think this is diminished as much as maybe some others might think.”
Sure, the Red Sox and Yankees haven’t stopped laying it all on the line in recent years. Sometimes, you just need a little infusion of energy to renew a rivalry that, at its peak, is one of the greatest in sports.
Ryan Dempster plunking Rodriguez in 2013 injected some life. Michael Pineda’s 2014 pine tar controversy also provided a tiny boost despite the Red Sox’s subdued response. Perhaps A-Rod’s return in 2015 can restore some more bitterness between the teams, even if it’s minimal.
A-Rod is back. And his existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to many, could save a rivalry.
Thumbnail photo via Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports Images
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