I grew up with a different rivalry. As a kid in Southeast Missouri, I was raised on a rivalry that had me cheering for Tony Pena and against Joe Girardi (and yes, Joe knows). The Cardinals were my childhood team, and where I grew up, Cardinals-Cubs is still a huge deal. Out west, the Giants-Dodgers rivalry has traveled from one coast to the other and remains heated.
But Yankees-Red Sox is something different. Especially today.
Cliff Lee signing in Philadelphia would not have been nearly as big of a deal if not for the fact the Yankees were in pursuit. When Jayson Werth signed his megadeal with Washington, the market for free agent outfielders reached new heights, but the Red Sox still had Carl Crawford under contract within a week.
With the market offering no obvious rotation replacement for Lee, the Yankees shifted focus to sign the market’s best reliever, Rafael Soriano, to a $35-million deal. Knowing they’d have to make up for the loss of both Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre, the Red Sox opened the offseason with a blockbuster trade for Adrian Gonzalez.
These teams are built on those sort of moves, big names and big contracts. It’s what we’ve come to expect from a rivalry that’s almost it’s own global brand. Put a Yankees player next to a Red Sox player on a magazine cover, and it’s going to sell. Give ESPN its choice of Sunday night matchup, and it will choose Yankees-Red Sox every time. Just like Pete wrote this morning, the rivalry has built over time, and it’s huge right now.
Which makes the Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon signings unfamiliar, and based on some of the fan response, unsettling.
These teams are used to big-name players signing big-time contracts, but this winter, the market simply wasn’t there. It provided more of what the Red Sox needed (outfield and bullpen help) than what the Yankees needed (rotation, rotation, rotation). Instead of throwing silly money at a bad free agent market, Brian Cashman has taken on a couple of low-risk contracts with the hope that at least one of them pays some dividends.
It’s not what this rivalry and this fan base is used to, but it’s not uncommon. And bringing two veterans for a six-week tryout certainly isn’t going to hurt anything. Cliff Lee went somewhere else, and the rest of the market simply didn’t allow for the sort of blockbuster the Yankees are used to.