Sometimes when life gets boring, it’s good to break up old habits. Tired of doing the same thing over and over? Try something new! Even going back to your old ways may create a spark for you.
Look no further than the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. For the past decade or so, one of the most historic rivalries in sports seemed to have lost its spark. But with the beginning of this season, they turned back the clock — just like an old married couple trying to create some romance — and got back to what they do best: hating each other with all their might. All it took was a little bench-clearing brawl.
Two weeks ago, the Red Sox and the Yankees met for their first matchup of the season. Without even meeting, tensions were already pretty high for both teams; the Yankees, considered the favorite to win the AL East, were off to a mediocre 5-5 start. And most importantly, newly acquired superstar outfielder Giancarlo Stanton was struggling offensively, striking out five times on two separate occasions in a week (which has never been done before).
Meanwhile, the Red Sox were coming in hot, taking a chip-on-their-shoulder attitude (despite having the highest payroll in baseball), and winning seven of their first eight games. With their loaded starting rotation featuring aces Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello, the Red Sox quickly showed they were serious about contending for the AL Pennant.
This brought us to April 10 at Fenway Park, where Chris Sale faced Luis Severino. In what should have been a marquee prime-time matchup, it wasn’t even close. Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Hanley Ramirez practically beat the cover off the ball, combining for eight hits and nine RBI. Betts’ grand slam was the cherry-on-top of an eight-run sixth inning that gave Sox fans bragging rights to start the year.
The Yankees clearly took it personally.
In the game the next day, with runners on first and second in the third inning, Yankees second baseman Tyler Wade laid a sacrifice bunt down the third base line. Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers threw to Brock Holt at second. DH Tyler Austin, looking to break up the double play, slid hard and late into second base, lifted his lead leg high and away from the direction of the base, and clipped Brock Holt’s foot, even though it was clearly off the base.
That’s where things got chippy. Benches cleared and greeted at second base, where pleasantries were exchanged.
In Austin’s next at-bat, in the words of Ron Burgundy, “things escalated pretty quickly.”
In the second pitch of the at-bat, Joe Kelly threw a 98 mph slider inside, almost hitting Austin. Two pitches later, Kelly went back with the same pitch, and this time connected and hit Austin in the side.
From there it was on. Austin slammed his bat down and took a few steps toward the mound before charging. Benches cleared, hands were thrown, players were ejected and suspended in the following days.
You’ve seen it all before: A-Rod getting in Varitek’s face, Pedro Martinez throwing down Don Zimmer; I’ve even watched the all-out brawl between Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk on YouTube. History will forever link these two clubs.
I’m not going to lie — the fight was entertaining content. I’m not even a Yankees or a Red Sox fan, but I can’t help but get a little excited when I see benches clear in a Yankees-Red Sox game.
No one enjoys watching battles between the rivals just to see the two parties amicably go along with their season. Fans want to see passion and intensity; it creates entertaining content, and can push athletes to their best level.
Thus, this rejuvenation of one of the league’s best rivalries is exactly what the MLB needs. Leagues get more interest when their biggest rivalries are heating up; loyal fans will always stick to their teams, but bring back a stapled rivalry and the average casual fan will be more likely turn on his or her television on a Wednesday night.