Much was made this past week about the decline of general interest in baseball. The slow pace of the game is one issue, another issue is that the sport just doesn’t have any recognizable stars anymore. In May, ESPN put out a piece on the top 100 most famous athletes in the world and not a single current MLB player made the cut.
MLB execs surely hope that changes in the coming years, and if it does change it will likely be due to key members of the No. 1 rivalry in North American sports – the Red Sox and Yankees.
The Sox and Yanks will renew their rivalry this weekend at Fenway in a four-game series that could make or break each team’s second half.
Chicago is a big market for sure, but Chris Sale’s star has never shined like it did this week in Miami when he was the American League starter in the MLB All-Star game as a member of one of the premier franchises in all of baseball in the Red Sox.
Sale did not allow a run to the National League’s best in two innings of work Tuesday night. He allowed three hits and struck out two batters on 28 pitches.
Sale is slated to start for the Red Sox on Saturday (4:05 p.m., FS1) in what will be the biggest game he’s played in a Boston uniform since opening day. The lanky lefty has faced the Yankees once so far this season and he turned in a very strong effort despite a Sox loss. Sale went eight innings on April 27, giving up two earned runs on eight hits while striking out 10 Yankees batters. Sale received literally zero run support as the Sox lost, 3-0.
Yankees fans have been insufferable with the Aaron Judge puns this season. The Yankee Stadium “bleacher creatures” dress in old-timey wigs with judge’s robes and hold up signs like, “All Rise!” whenever the newest Yankee hero comes to the plate.
As tough as it is to take for Red Sox fans, however, the attention is well-deserved. Judge leads the entire Major Leagues in home runs with 30 on the year. The presumed rookie of the year also has 66 RBIs on the season, good for second in MLB behind Seattle’s Nelson Cruz.
Judge is the new face of the Yankees, if not the face of baseball, so Boston fans now have a new villain to boo.
It’s Mookie time
It would be nice if some “Mook-ie’s Bet-ter!” chants broke out this weekend when Judge is at the plate (ala the old “Nomar’s better” days), but this rivalry is in its infancy. It will come with time.
Truth be told, Betts hasn’t been nearly as good as Judge this season. He’s been good, but he’s not really in the MVP conversation right now. With a .272 batting average, 16 home runs and 53 RBIs at the break, Sox fans should be counting on a monster second half from the right fielder. He’s shown signs that he’s ready to go on a tear recently as he belted two home runs and had eight RBIs total in Toronto on July 2. Against the Rays in the final game of the first half, he smashed another home run as well.
The time is now
The Red Sox have an opportunity to bury the Yankees this weekend. New York sits 3.5 games behind Boston in the AL East standings and a four-game sweep would likely do the trick. It’ll be easier said than done, of course, especially considering the Sox are just 1-4 against the Bronx Bombers so far this season.
The Sox will have Drew Pomeranz (9-4, 3.60 ERA) throwing on Friday night, Sale (11-4, 2.75 ERA) going on Saturday afternoon, Rick Porcello (4-11, 4.75 ERA) going in Game 1 of the Sunday double-header and David Price (4-2, 3.91 ERA) toeing the rubber in the nationally televised Sunday night game.