By Matt Straub
The world of sports is typically at its lowest point this week. Barring a fluke in the playoff schedules in the winter, the day after baseball’s All-Star game is often the only one of the year without something going on in one or more of the country’s four big sports. Even if it’s a preseason game, there’s something to watch every day except for the gap this week, which was made worse this July by the All-Star break going to four days and Peyton Manning being back on TV for the ESPYs.
By the time the annual void arrives, sports fans are already thirsty for action, as the end of the NBA season leaves us with the early part of the baseball season to satisfy us, and that’s hard to do with 90 games left in the year at that point. Even with this year’s spike in interest for the NBA’s offseason (Summer League games sold out due to an exceptional crop of talents which led to one of the best drafts ever), July doesn’t leave us with a lot to get excited about.
Have no fear, the void is about to be filled. Not only is baseball about to give us a rare bit of entertainment in early summer, two area teams have the chance to help the sport make a resurgence to heights not seen in years.
The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry matters again, and they’re going to help turn baseball from the thing people watch because there’s nothing else going on into something we’ll watch because it captures our attention. We’ve talked quite a bit this year about each team being well-positioned for the future, but now we’re getting an extra bonus: a huge series right now.
Boston comes into this weekend’s four-game set looking to cement its place atop the division and to remind the Baby Bombers that their time has not yet arrived. The Yankees, in desperate need of wins not only for playoff positioning but for the psyche of a young team, will try to prove the 2017 pennant has yet to be decided.
Aaron Judge was the talk of baseball this week, and when a new star emerges in a big city, the sport gets a boost. When the player wears pinstripes, he puts baseball front and center in the minds of sports fans who are usually counting down the days until NFL training camp. As much as it pains me to admit, baseball is better and more noteworthy when the Yankees are good, and now there’s a face to put on the front of the youth movement they have masterfully executed over the last year.
Far from an old man himself, Chris Sale has immediately taken over Boston, claiming the “face of the team” role from young stars like Mookie Betts and veteran stars like Dustin Pedroia. The Red Sox, much like the city’s basketball team, are trying to win now while building for the future themselves, and so far it’s working. There is still much to do, however. This group, including Sale, has yet to accomplish much when it matters, so squashing any hopes of a Yankees’ rally this week would go a long way towards developing the killer instinct which was missing a year ago.
What makes this matchup even more fascinating is how the teams got here. Each team is playing a completely different style than the ones which made Sox-Yanks games so great in past seasons. New York is using youthful energy instead of a parade of big names from days gone by, while Boston is running all over the field on offense and defense, no longer burdened with cumbersome power players who don’t do much else. The baggage they do bring includes four losses in five games against New York in 2017, something they’ll look to rectify starting tonight.
Regardless of how these next four games play out, the deadest week of the year feels big because the best rivalry in all of sports is back. Baseball is heading to the forefront once again because the Red Sox and Yankees are dragging it there.