By Marc Normandin
Red Sox vs. Yankees is so done. It's overdone, too: the constant nationally televised games, the attempts to recreate the drama from a decade ago that just doesn't exist in the same way anymore, the fact that Red Sox and Yankees players respect each other so much that even their fan bases have started to get along.
It's not over, of course, as there is an ebb and flow to these sorts of things, but as of right now it's not a rivalry that burns with the same kind of passion as some other, newer ones. These rivalries might not have the history of Red Sox-Yankees, but their fan bases are at each other's throats for reasons other than their parents telling them that's how it's always been.
Cardinals vs. Reds
They've both been in the National League for longer than anyone reading this has been alive, but it's only recently that the two clubs have soured on each other. They used to be in different divisions, but the wild card era and the birth of the NL Central allowed for more direct competition between the two teams. The addition of Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker as the Cardinals' and Reds' managers, respectively, helped speed up the rivalry process -- both managers had no trouble speaking their minds, and no one hates that as much as opposing fans -- as did having former Cardinals' general manager Walt Jocketty take the reins in Cincinnati.
Wick Terrell, who writes for the Reds' blog Red Reporter, told us that the "overlap between ownership, front offices, and players catalyzed the discontent, but the real issue between the franchises is built on the fact that they both are good, have been good, and plan on being competitive in the near future."
There is also a far more sinister undercurrent to this rivalry, as our own Will Leitch reminds. "People love to talk about the big brawl from 2010, the one that was started by Brandon Phillips tapping Yadier Molina's pads and Yadi not being all that great with it, but Cardinals fans only remember how it ended: with Johnny Cueto, like a scared kitten, kicking Cardinals as hard as he could with his spikes. He ended up landing on Jason LaRue, kicking him with enough force that it caused a concussion. LaRue would never play again."
It's not quite as intense now that La Russa isn't messing with Baker anymore, but Cueto and Phillips -- who said the night before the aforementioned brawl that he "hates the Cardinals" -- are still Reds, while Molina remains a prominent Cardinal. That gives fans on both sides the target they need, and that's in addition to their near-constant competing near the top of the NL Central these days.
Diamondbacks vs. Dodgers
Rivalries can also start without anyone getting kicked in the head, thankfully. Sometimes, all you need is say, for Diamondbacks' owner Ken Kendrick to demand that Dodgers' fans sitting behind home plate in Arizona -- also known as on camera -- change out of their clothes. Then-Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy would hit Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig with a pitch in the face. There's more, as Dodgers Digest's Mike Petriello explains. "The Dodgers celebrated in the Arizona pool after winning the division title, after which [D'backs general manager] Kevin Towers complained that his pitchers weren't throwing at enough Dodgers. Over the winter, Kirk Gibson -- best known as a Dodger hero, but now Arizona's manager -- complained that the Dodgers had 'only' sent catcher A.J. Ellis on a goodwill tour of Australia to promote their upcoming series. Ellis is not only one of the game's best ambassadors, but most of the other notable Dodgers were either recuperating from surgeries, not well-versed in the English language, or both."
The Dodgers ended up overtaking the Diamondbacks during the 2013 season in order to win the division, and it obviously bled over into the start of 2014. The problem is that the Diamondbacks have been terrible to start the year, failing to hold up their end of the bargain in this budding rivalry. It's still a thing, though, as AZ Snake Pit's Jim McLennan believes the rivalry began even before 2013, when a near beanball toward the head of Gerardo Parra ignited a war of words between benches that resulted in Clayton Kershaw hitting Parra during the next game. Then, there's the D'backs side of the pool controversy. "My personal reaction was really more of a rolling of the eyeballs, having long given up expecting much class from the 2013 Dodgers. If the rumors are true, though, that the Dodgers also peed in it? That's bad, even by those low standards."
Nationals vs. Braves
Not every rivalry needs violence (or urine) to get going. Ask the Nationals, who kicked off a rivalry with the Braves in September of 2011 by taking two of three from them on the last weekend of the season: the Braves would miss the playoffs by a single game. That alone wouldn't have been enough to get a heated rivalry going, but the Nationals ended up winning the division the next year, and then the Braves took it back in 2013. They're both viable contenders this season as well, tied for first place as of Wednesday afternoon.
Patrick Reddington of Federal Baseball believes that "9 out of 10" Braves fans won't admit to a rivalry given their relative success compared to that of the Nationals, who only moved to D.C. in 2005 after 35 years as the Montreal Expos. "The Braves have dominated the rivalry in the last season-plus, reinforcing the belief that the Nationals are not in their league, but with the Phillies, Mets and Marlins in various stages of rebuilding, the last three years have seen the Braves and Nats atop the division, and it's built into something."
One-sided feuds are an actual thing, too. Before the Red Sox finally found some success against the Yankees, many New York fans believed Boston wasn't worth their time. At least some Braves fans are happy to rival the Nats, though, as Hardball Talk's Craig Calcaterra told us. "Braves fans have considered whoever happens to be the biggest threat as their 'rival.' The Mets and the Phillies inspired a lot of that and the Nats do now, but the second they ceased to be a threat, people stopped caring about them that much for the most part. We'll take any rivalry at hand. We're rivalry opportunists."
Like with the Yankees and Red Sox, this could all change if the Nationals remain a threat long enough, as it would finally give the Braves the long-term rival Calcaterra states they've never truly had. The start of something special could be happening right now in Atlanta and D.C.
Rays vs. Red Sox
Of course, teams can have more than one rival. Things with the Yankees might be cooling off, but that could be in part because Red Sox fans are spending their time despising the Rays. It all began in the front offices and with ownership, as R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus and Rays' blog The Process Report remembers it. "Back in 2006, the Red Sox tampered with Julio Lugo -- or, at least, that was the accusation. A few weeks later, Boston tried acquiring Javy Lopez from the Orioles, so they put Adam Stern on waivers in order to complete the deal. Well, either [Rays GM] Andrew Friedman liked Stern or he wanted to stick it to the Red Sox, because he put a claim in. Boston still got Lopez and Baltimore still got Stern, but it was hard to look at Friedman's act as anything but a shot across the Red Sox's bow."
These two are known for beanball wars and the Coco Crisp/James Shields fight. The teams' official Twitter accounts have bickered back-and-forth about attendance and the standings, and both have long memories. Two of the teams' biggest stars, David Ortiz and David Price, have had words for each other through the media. Luke Scott bashed the historic Fenway Park. The Sox and Rays have faced off in the playoffs twice in the last six years, with Tampa Bay taking the initial encounter and the Red Sox the most recent.
"The Rays don't have the same friction with the other teams, even the Yankees, that they do with the Red Sox," claims Anderson. "Maybe it has to do with the ALCS or the general history between the clubs, but you know how people always talk about how certain games feel different? The Tampa Bay-Boston games always have an unmistakable texture, no matter the when, where, or what involved." In this author's opinion, Anderson roots for the wrong team, but he's right about this rivalry.
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Marc Normandin writes and edits for Over the Monster, a Boston Red Sox blog, as well as SB Nation's baseball hub. He's one of many behind the e-book "The Hall of Nearly Great," and has written for BaseballProspectus, ESPN, and others. You can follow him on Twitter at @Marc_Normandin