Sunday, July 21, 2013


Note here that the title distinguishes (or attempts to do same) from "The Rivalry" as it has been written about for lo these many years.

We are here concerned with the results of the games played between the Yankees and Red Sox since 1901 (when they weren't even called by those names). We're going to include all of the games from that birthyear of the American League, however, because--frankly--the Red Sox need 'em.

Historically, the Yankees' level of domination is (as you would expect) unparalleled by any other franchise. They have a winning record in the regular season against every franchise they've played except one--and that one team is not the Red Sox. (It's the Cincinnati Reds, whom the Bombers have played exactly a dozen times and are 5-7 thus far against them.)

The Yanks are so far ahead on the historical level that there is only one team in the American League with a winning record against them--and that is only when the Yankees are the visitors. (Actually, this is a bit of a trick question, since the Milwaukee Brewers--no longer in the AL--also have the Yanks' number on their home turf, 110 games to 88.) But the team still in the American League with home field advantage is also not the Red Sox (though, as we'll soon see, they are tantalizingly close). It's the Detroit Tigers, who are 518-477 against the Yankees at home. The Yanks' overall .529 WPCT against the Tigers is their lowest overall WPCT against an AL opponent.

Yes,'s THIS homer, in THAT game, that has
the Yankees ahead in the head-to-head at Fenway.
How's that for a kick in the ol' head??
But the Red Sox are third best (Yankees are .544 against them; they are .542 against the Angels). And, as they play the rubber game of the first post-ASG series against each other tonight, they are just one game under .500 against the Yankees at home.

That record stands at 531-530...and now that you know about it, it might just wind up as one of those relatively inconsequential records that gets elevated into a kind of grinding, ongoing prominence, particularly in Beantown. Odd that this doesn't seem to have come up as part of the "conversation" between the two franchises in all this time...

We may get back to tracking the Fenway Park seesaw a bit later on--in fact, we might compile (against all odds...) a chart about it one of these days. This time, however, we'll focus on the overall chart and how the Yankees have fashioned their 182-game lead in the head-to-head competition.

As the chart (at right below) indicates, the historical advantage stems from two protracted time periods in which the Yankees were generally riding high in the standings.

The first one starts in 1920--and we know who moved from the Sox to the Yanks that year. (No, not Carl Mays--that happened the previous year!)

From 1920--when their head-to-head record against the Red Sox was .455 (180-216)--until 1937, the Yankees won 266 out of 395 decisions from the Sox, a .673 WPCT. (We didn't display that in the chart--we chose to feature running five-year Yankee WPCTs, which peak in the early 30s, right at .800. Ouch!)

From 1938-48 the Yankees' success subsides a good bit--but they still won just under 54% of their games with the Sox (128-111). A notable exception: 1946, when the Sox won 14 of 22 games (they also did this in 1948).

Starting in 1949, however, the Yanks would go on another pennant spree and another skein of playing impressively well against the Red Sox (200-135, .597). It pales in comparison to the domination of the 1920-37 time frame--you have to understand that during that period, the Yankees had a .616 WPCT in Boston. (Double ouch!)

This success was fueled by the Yanks' domination of the Sox in Yankee Stadium (113-55, .673). They were much closer in Fenway (87-80, .521).

The Yankees' slide in 1965-75 gave the Sox a chance to extract some temporary revenge (they played .571 ball against the Bombers over that eleven year span). And they held their own through 1992, clustering some short-term success in the 1988-92 time frame.

But neither Dan Duquette nor Theo Epstein were able to create any turnaround in the regular season results during their reigns as the Red Sox GM. Theo did better than Dan, bolstered by the 2004 miracle in the playoffs, but he didn't quite get the Sox into the plus column in regular season showdowns. He just missed breaking even (Yankees 84, Sox 82).

Last year, needless to say, was a freakin' disaster, as the Bombers won 13 of 18.

This year, the Sox have propped up a lot of areas on their squad that turned toxic in '12, and the Yankees are finally having the type of year that post-neo sabertoothed soothsayers have been predicting for the better part of the last decade--many of their old players have been shedding body parts (in some cases, right on the field of play!).

AS--all of the range, depth and empathy
as embodied in the vacant stare
found between the letters N and Y...
This is, in fact, the year where there is abundant opportunity available to them to rebound, given that the Yankees' offense is flailing around the ring at a level of spastic, glassy-eyed disbelief greater than any of that displayed by Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love.

Oops! WRONG Maude cast member!!
Damn it, we HATE it when that happens...
but that is a nice "historical arc," all right.
And it's the chance for them to get over .500 at home against these bone-breakin', gift-basket-givin', putrefyin', 'mogrifyin', Evil Empirin', better-battin'-Bea-Arthur-cleanup-anti-testifyin' mofos--at least once, if not for all time.

And you know that know that Beantown knows about it, Beantown wants it, they need it, and if anyone was actually counting in that place where bean-counting was born, they'd be smellin' it right now. Braggin' rights at home--for all time--achievable!

Something desperately needed now--before that patented September collapse kicks in again, the one that will put them into a late-season death race for Wild Card #2 in an amped-up rerun of 2011.

(You know, last time we checked, we could have sworn Bea Arthur was batting cleanup for the Yanks...)

[UPDATE: Think these teams don't know what the stakes are? Mike Napoli's second homer of the game in the bottom of the 11th sent the Sox home as winners in tonight's rubber match, 8-7. The Sox had previously blown a 7-3 lead and had squandered a scoring chance in the eighth when Napoli hit into an inning-ending DP.

The Sox thus pulled back into a 531-531 tie vs. the Yanks at Fenway. They'll have a chance to grab the  lead when the Bombers come back to Boston on August 16. Meanwhile, the red-hot Rays come to town tomorrow night for a very big four-game series.]