Red Sox

Drellich: Every move Red Sox, Yankees make has new meaning

Drellich: Every move Red Sox, Yankees make has new meaning

The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry has a newfound sense of urgency. A feeling that every move counts and will count, be it at the trade deadline in a month and a half, or when Alex Cora determines his second baseman on a nightly basis.

It's not because these franchises hate each other, because of their steep history. It's because they actually have to best the other, or suffer an unwelcome consequence.

Unlike the early 2000s, both teams cannot enter the playoffs on equal footing. A second-place finish in the American League East will sting. Participating in the Wild Card game for the right to move on to the five-game Division Series will be a stomach-turning experience for one of these two teams.

The upshot presently: even as the Sox and Yanks play teams that are uninspiring, and there are plenty such clubs, there is reason for fans and players alike to stay intently focused. (In the midst of a 162-game season, there will be lapses for everyone.) There is reason to care, in fact, if the ideal lineup or pinch-hit decision is made by Alex Cora, at every juncture. There is reason to care about whether Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has sufficiently helped rebuild the farm system, because it’s a matter of depth options now and via trade.

The Sox can have the best record in the majors in June, or be one win off the pace-setters, and the smallest of details will still matter. “They’re great,” doesn’t cut it. “Is this move optimal to beat the Yankees, the team that can relegate the Sox to a one-game playoff scenario?” is the question to be answered

As trade season arrives, the concept of the marginal win is out the window for both clubs. Or it should be. In divisions where one team is clearly superior, the need to add by trade isn’t always so clear. What’s the difference between 93 wins and 95 wins if you’re heading to the Division Series either way? Is the slight upgrade worth whatever you’re giving up?

The playoffs are always a crapshoot. But the Sox and Yanks are playing to avoid the biggest crapshoot of all in the Wild Card.

Passion between fan bases in the regular season wasn’t lacking 15 years ago. It was greater, obviously. But for different reasons. Second place in the division was usually a matter of bragging rights, rather than actual reward or worthiness. 

We’ve returned to a world where the Sox and Yanks are clearly better than virtually everyone. Were the rest of the AL stronger this year, the Wild Card could be a blessing for the Sox or the Yanks — a chance to make a postseason run that did not previously exist when there were four playoff teams instead of five. 

But the present landscape shows three powerhouses, and two of them happen to be classic rivals in the East. What they do before October means more now than it used to.

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Who are the best catchers in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

Who are the best catchers in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

For a position so essential to baseball — no player handles the ball more often — the catching ranks in Red Sox history are surprisingly shallow.

Multiple seasons belong to players like Johnny Peacock, Pinch Thomas, Hick Cady, Roxy Walters, and Muddy Ruel, names that sound like they should belong to bouncers before big leaguers.

The dearth of catching talent may partly explain why the Red Sox routinely featured lousy starting rotations, at least until Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, and Co. arrived to give the club perennial Cy Young contenders no matter who squatted behind the plate.

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Had this list extended to 10 instead of five, some of the names would surprise you. Wally Schang, anyone? How about Bill Carrigan? There'd definitely be room for Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Anyway, the overall talent level may be thin, but the top five are legit, with three All-Stars and two Hall of Famers.

Click here for the top five catchers in Red Sox history.

Dave Roberts says former Red Sox Mookie Betts 'loves' being a Dodger

Dave Roberts says former Red Sox Mookie Betts 'loves' being a Dodger

Are Dave Roberts' latest comments about Mookie Betts just wishful thinking or reality?

The Los Angeles Dodgers manager said some interesting things about his new right fielder on ESPN's "The Sedano Show" Monday, including that he knows how Betts feels about being in Dodger blue.

I think him being in spring training with us — the relationship I have with him personally, and I think some players too, and coaches — it feels like he’s already played a season with us, which is strange. … Mookie’s gotta do what’s best for him and his family once that time does present itself, but I know that he loves being a Dodger.

After just eight spring training games, Betts "loves" being a Dodger? It seems like a stretch, but maybe getting out of Boston was that much of a relief for the 27-year-old.

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With the 2020 season on pause due to the coronavirus outbreak, it's possible we never see Betts play a regular-season game for the Dodgers. Major League Baseball and the MLB Players' Association agreed on a settlement that would let all pending free agents hit the open market if the coming season is canceled.

Betts, the 2018 American League MVP and World Series champion, likely will test free agency come 2021, and the Dodgers will have to pay a hefty price to keep him in L.A. 

If Dodgers ownership and team president Andrew Friedman decide to shell out the cash, then Betts will probably "love" being a Dodger even more.