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Passion Back in Sox-Yanks Rivalry

October 7, 2018

BOSTON --There’s reason to believe the fire that used to make it the most compelling rivalry in sports is on its way back for the long haul.

It’s no secret that the undeniable intrigue we were once accustomed to in Yankees-Red Sox games had been chilling on ice for a while. Of course, that’s mainly because the two storied franchises hadn’t met in the postseason since that epic seven-game series in 2004 when the Sox battled back from a 3-0 series deficit to advance to the World Series and go on to finally snap their curse and win the World Series.

But now these two baseball giants are finally meeting again in October in the American League Division Series, as Game 2 was played Saturday night at Fenway Park. Both teams have rosters loaded with young talent ripe to reunite these bitter rivals as perennial postseason foes.

It’s the youngsters who have the power to make Boston-New York a must-witness experience once again, even though they themselves might not think about it that way.

“I guess I don’t really technically look at it to the whole Red Sox-Yankees rivalry,” said Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston’s 28-year-old outfielder. “I know some people do, but I guess my perspective is a little bit different. I just focus on we’re playing against another great team. You wouldn’t be in the playoffs if you weren’t.”

Man, the times really have changed since Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek ignited a brawl, and Pedro Martinez tossed poor Don Zimmer to the ground by his bald head, and the mere mention of the name Karim Garcia put a scowl on the faces of Sox fans everywhere.

For now, the hate is missing, but hopefully it’s not far away.

At 28, Bradley Jr. is significantly older than some of the real key players who will be the heartbeat of the rivalry’s renewal.

Boston studs like Mookie Betts (25), Andrew Benintendi (24) and Xander Bogaerts (26) are just getting started. Same goes for New York phenoms Aaron Judge (26), Gary Sanchez (22), Miguel Andujar (22) and Gleyber Torres (21). Then, you can throw in Sox slugger J.D. Martinez (31) and Yanks’ bopper Giancarlo Stanton (28).

“It’s very exciting to have an opportunity like this, especially my first year, and have a chance to go to the playoffs and be part of that,” said Torres, who started at second base and batted eighth for New York on Saturday night. “It’s super exciting. At the same time, I want to help. I want to enjoy the experience, but at the same time I want to help my team.”

Yankees’ first-year manager Aaron Boone knows the rivalry al too well. He earned the middle name of “bleeping” around these parts back in 2003 when his walkoff home run off Boston’s Tim Wakefield in the bottom of the 11th of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS sent the Yanks to the World Series.

Boone says understanding the true meaning of Boston-New York takes time.

“I think you look back on it and it all gets logged in as experience,” said Boone. “You take good things and bad things from it, and hopefully grow from it. In looking back, you know, you can’t ask for much more as a professional athlete to be playing on this kind of stage in this kind of environment, whether it’s at home in front of our fans or coming on the road in a hostile environment against your rival. I mean, this is what it’s all about in a lot of ways.”

Counting the postseason, Boone only played 71 games for the Yankees, but he’ll always be a hero in New York. That’s what this rivalry does when it’s at its best.

Back in those unforgettable years of 2003 and 2004, the star power of the Sox-Yankees saga was aided by players who largely weren’t home-grown. Names like Curt Schilling Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Mike Mussina, Javier Vazquez and, of course, Rodriguez.

One thing that makes the current state of the rivalry so enticing is the fact that so many of the key players have come up through these systems. In a way, it feels more organic.

The seeds have been planted, now we just need this rivalry to bloom again.

A seven-game ALCS would’ve been better than a best-of-five. But we’ll get there. Baby steps.

Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone

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