BOSTON — Tuesday marked a snapshot day in The Rivalry.
On Tuesday, hours before the Red Sox tried to extend their American League Championship Series advantage over the Astros, the previously eliminated Yankees re-upped with their manager Aaron Boone, who, in his first contract, went 4-for-4 in getting his club to the playoffs and 0-for-4 reaching the World Series.
The Yankees are the Ferris wheel, models of consistency. The Bosox are the roller coaster, prone to gleeful highs and terrifying lows.
If you’re an angry Yankees fan (is there any other kind nowadays?) wondering whether the Red Sox have solved this baseball thing, rest assured that they don’t view their jarring inconsistency as a feature. It’s a bug. While they’re very happy to be walloping the Yankees on the championship front since former Yankees minority owner John Henry purchased the club in 2002, they would like to make themselves as reliably relevant as their neighbors to the south.
“I’m not just saying this because I’m talking to a New York outlet: We do admire the Yankees in many ways,” Sam Kennedy, the Red Sox’s CEO and president, told The Post on Monday. “I started my career there [as an intern]. John Henry started as an investor. So I learned a lot from my time there. John learned a lot from his time. What Randy [Levine] and Hal [Steinbrenner] and Brian Cashman have done is nothing short of remarkable. They’re consistently competitive, and that’s incredibly impressive.
“It’s why we hate them so much in Boston.”
Yes, yes, Kennedy smiled as he concluded that sentiment. As we talked through this notion, I suggested to him that the Red Sox wouldn’t trade their first 20 years of Henry’s ownership, featuring four titles (the first of which, in 2004, ended an 86-year drought) and a fifth attainable this year as well as four last-place finishes in the AL East, for the Yankees’ 20 winning records and one title.
“No, we wouldn’t trade it,” Kennedy acknowledged, “but we also admire the consistent success that they’ve had.”
If the Red Sox indeed advance to the World Series, their five pennants on Henry’s reign will have been captured through the guidance of four heads of baseball operations (Theo Epstein in 2004 and 2007, Ben Cherington in 2013, Dave Dombrowski in 2018 and currently Chaim Bloom) and three managers (Terry Francona in ’04 and ’07, John Farrell in ’13 and Alex Cora in ’18 and now). And to further underscore the theme of the Red Sox’s fluidity, 1) Cora is on his second term, returning to the gig this season after leaving in January 2020 in the wake of Major League Baseball’s punishment of the 2017 Astros for illegal sign-stealing; and 2) Epstein took what amounted to a three-month break in the 2005-06 offseason, quitting Oct. 31 and returning on Jan. 24. In the interim, a group of executives including Cherington traded for Josh Beckett.
The Yankees have of course employed only Brian Cashman and a trio of managers (Joe Torre, Joe Girardi and Boone) in that same span. Do you know how many home games the Yankees have played in that span in which they were mathematically eliminated from the postseason? Five. One each in 2013 and 2014 and three in 2016.
Is there value to cleaning house every few years, to rebooting, to, say, trading Mookie Betts to replenish the farm system and spread out the payroll? Kennedy said he doesn’t see it that way.
“Part of what Chaim Bloom and his team are doing is, we’re trying to be more consistent, trying to compete for a championship each and every year,” Kennedy said. “We’ve had some success in October over the last 20 years, but we’ve also had some really down years, too. So we’re working to be more consistent.”
It’s a nutty rivalry contrast. No one disputes that championships pay the bills in both immediate revenue and long-term brand building. Yet if those cellar-dwelling years get lost amid the forever-flying flags, they hurt like the devil in the short term.
Not dissimilar to how the Red Sox want to get more consistent while maintaining their rate of championships, the Yankees, with Boone back aboard, want to maintain their consistency while holding more parades. They are mirror images, role models for one another, even as envy surely goes more in one direction (you know which) than the other.