How long ago was it when the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees were the true beasts of the American League East? Both teams are on a losing march to see who will capture the worst spot in the division. This is as exciting as the Chairman's Cup in spring training.
The Yankees have had a wretched season, and the most notable highlight was getting to the .500 level recently. That places them within reach of the staggering Red Sox. The final result may be this late-season showdown of baseball incompetence as they square off in a four-game set at Fenway Park.
The Yankees were shaky from the start, and when 2022 MVP and home run specialist Aaron Judge went down with an injury, the offensive malaise just got deeper. As of Sept. 11, the Yankees are 10th in the AL in hitting, and one item of interest is the traditional calling card of the Bombers -- the long ball.
New York has hammered 203, yet the team has produced 602 runs. The Tampa Bay Rays have 206 dingers and 766 runs. Boston has 718 runs and 169 home runs—no Earl Weaver three-run shots for the Yankees.
Remember when the Red Sox-Yankees battle would be for first place?
New York has done well, at least on paper or internet ink, with their ERA ranking seventh in the AL, and Boston at 11th reflects just how troubling that mound is for them. Both teams have suffered from injuries - especially pitching - and underperformance issues. Defensively, neither team shows a playoff-caliber defense, and with the Red Sox, it is defense one would find in the instructional films on what not to do.
This season, the bragging rights for the rivalry are somewhat limited, with Boston holding an 8-1 edge against their bitter rivals. Boston's chances for the playoff picture are 1.2%, and New York's are 0.1%. The series has all the shine of a rusted bumper. Both fan bases delight in having one team whomp the other despite the miserable status and disappointing season - similar to Army versus Navy, with both teams going nowhere.
The future could be on display for both, especially the Red Sox. The core of young players for Boston is deeper than that of New York, and MLB gives Boston a clear edge in the mystical world of evaluating farm systems. More roster slots than 28 should be allowed in September, as the Red Sox would give a nice look to several who are the potential future.
Individual honors are still a possibility, and Gerrit Cole may be the 2023 Cy Young Award winner. Cole could get a start in the series, but it may scuttle his CYA hopes if it is like his other two starts against Boston (0-2, 7.20).
On the Red Sox side, a Rookie of the Year battle could be a yawn-inducing highlight as Triston Casas and Masataka Yoshida go for that honor. Neither will win, but they will get participation trophies. Nothing else for personal accomplishments jumps out with either dreadful team.
La Voiture Noire by Bugotti is a magnificent and expensive auto. Buying one and watching it spend mountains of time on a repair lift -- enough time for it to collect airmiles -- is how Hal Steinbrenner must feel about his bloated payroll. The Yanks are second in MLB when it comes to paying the hired help, and it is now a tune that plays to a $30 M Luxury Tax kiss.
The restlessness in Yankee land is apparent as a sudden return to the wasteland of CBS ownership and lousy teams is on the minds of veteran Yankee fans. The finger-pointing at long-time GM Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone is intensifying, and the betting odds may favor one or both to be former employees of the pinstripes.
The Red Sox have a similar situation, although not as pronounced. The budget is $22 million under the LT, but the employment life expectancy of Chaim Bloom and manager Alex Cora has been a topic in RSN. A Red Sox sweep could be the killing field for Yankee brass. Could a visa versa be in play?
The late season can also vault both teams into a spoiler role where playing either becomes similar to a trap game in the NFL. The only spoil I see is the rosters of both squads. The fright index of facing Boston or New York is about nill compared to the past.
Is this current drought just a pause? The Yankees can undoubtedly spend their way to respectability. So could Boston. Neither organization is teetering on bankruptcy. Both teams have suffered from unusual roster decay this season with injuries and performance failures. That is just a blip, and a bad one at that, as teams have a curse factor that occasionally surfaces.
The current condition of both teams will be interesting to follow this offseason to see how much of a tweak is necessary to reach respectability. Boston has an advantage with payroll flexibility, a core of players not ready to be put out to pasture, and a farm system with an edge on New York.
The series will, at least for me, elicit memories of what could have been or what once was. Just as recently as 2003-2004, we saw how the series could flip between despair and joy, and both teams experienced it in those two seasons. I would welcome that back.