CC Sabathia’s whining, for lack of a better word, is exactly what the doctor ordered.
The historic rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees has experienced a revival this season thanks to the infusion of good, young talent, the competitiveness of their head-to-head matchups and, above all, the presence of both teams atop the American League East standings. The Sox and Yanks have had one thing (the same thing) in mind — a division crown — all season, and as a result, one of the best rivalries in sports has returned to the forefront of Major League Baseball.
Yet, despite all signs pointing toward the next chapter of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry being both entertaining and prolonged, there still was something missing. Enter Sabathia.
Sabathia was ticked off a couple of weeks ago about the Red Sox bunting against him. The 37-year-old pitcher missed time in August while on the disabled list with inflammation in his surgically repaired right knee, and he really didn’t appreciate the Red Sox testing his mobility by forcing him to come off the mound and field his position. Sabathia thus made the world aware of his displeasure.
The Red Sox’s response? They did it again Thursday night with Sabathia on the bump for the opener of a crucial four-game series in the Bronx. This time, Eduardo Nunez dropped down a bunt in the first inning that forced Sabathia to commit a throwing error. And the big left-hander, obviously still not a fan of Boston’s strategy, again responded by discouraging the practice after the game, insisting the Red Sox were “weak” by resorting to the bunt tactics rather than swinging the bat.
All the while, Sabathia has been brilliant against the Red Sox this season, going 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA in four starts spanning 26 innings. It’s not like he’s been rattled on the mound despite his postgame moaning and groaning. But the Red Sox’s bunting clearly has irritated Sabathia, and the best part — at least as it relates to creating compelling theatre — is that Boston simply doesn’t care.
Nunez made it clear he has no plans to change his game, and Red Sox manager John Farrell even said before Friday’s game that the team will bunt again when it faces Sabathia in the future. Even former Red Sox slugger/Hall of Famer Jim Rice had some interesting things to say about Sabathia’s grumbling Thursday night on NESN’s postgame coverage.
Sure, on one hand, we could downplay the situation as nothing more than both teams’ competitive juices flowing as the calendar flips to September and the stakes are raised with the MLB postseason in sight. But on the other, shouldn’t we embrace this hint of tension between the longtime rivals? It’s there, it’s organic and it’s actually somewhat fascinating, as trivial as the whole thing might be.
Of course, this isn’t to say that Sabathia’s angst and the Red Sox’s refusal to relent is going to reignite the rivalry to the point of the brawl-filled early 2000s, when every matchup seemed like life or death for both organizations. But it’s certainly a step toward creating some bad blood that the rivalry seemed to have lost.
In fact, it’s really funny when you think about it. As impressive as both rosters are in terms of up-and-coming stars, it’s an elder statesman who has provided the missing ingredient the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry needs to truly take off again.
Thumbnail photo via Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports Images
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