OPINION: The Kelly-Austin Fight Brought the Sox-Yanks to a New Level

The rivalry is back. Except it always was. Even when the Red Sox didn’t have a cleanup hitter, the games were grudge matches that lasted at least four hours a piece.

When the Yankees put their chips in the middle for Giancarlo Stanton, it became clear that Red Sox-Yankees reached a level unforseen since the past decade. For all that Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox fidgeted with J.D. Martinez, it was also clear that no team was outbidding the Red Sox for Martinez.

The offseason arms race between New York and Boston upped the stakes for the AL East, but the rivalry was one-dimensional until the Joe Kelly-Tyler Austin scrum, as stupid as that sounds. The Yankees were nothing more than that other team challenging you for the division. Now I feel like the two teams hate each other’s guts and it’s awesome.

I don’t care who won the fight. Really, it doesn’t matter. I think the premise of the fight was dumb and unnecessary, but it made the matchup between two of the best teams in the American League that much more exciting. What does matter is that there really is bad blood between the Red Sox and Yankees? It should sting a little more every time the Yankees win and feel even better to beat that team.

These games could be the difference in winning the division and likely secure home-field advantage for the playoffs. It’s May, but it’s never too early to build a lead in the division.

The players can’t hate each other as much as the fans do, but if they did, they’d go balls-to-the-wall every single game and it’d be awesome to watch.

I think fighting in baseball and the Unwritten Rule Wars are ridiculous, but this time’s different.

I mean, Joe Kelly just got a huge chip on his shoulder for every time he sets foot in Yankee Stadium from now until the playoffs.

Beautiful. That’s going in my Moments page.

When Joe Kelly came to try to save the day with bases loaded in the 7th, I got goosebumps. Not only was this a big moment in the game on Tuesday night, it was the guy Yankees fans wanted to see the most.

Just so they could boo the pants off the guy. They really like to boo.

I’m sitting at home watching and thinking, ‘wow, I really hate this team and I want Kelly to come in and shut all 40,000 Yankees fans up and keep this a 2-2 game’. Yankees fans got the last laugh after Aaron Judge singled Neil Walker home, but that was a cool moment.

The Yankees and Red Sox should beat the bag out of the rest of the American League this season, and that’s why I’ll appreciate Yankees-Red Sox that much more. The way the rest of the division and AL are headed, the Sox and Yankees should make the playoffs either way.

These are the real tests. Not against the White Sox, or the Orioles, or the Rays: it’s between these two right here. The Red Sox are a great team, New York is a great team, and they each have until October to figure each other out.

Losing to the Yankees won’t hurt Boston all that much in the division race. But for no other reason than to beat that team from New York, the fight should only give the Red Sox an extra edge and remind them of what they’re playing for.

And that may or may not include more fistfights. Away we go.


Photo: Joe Kelly exits the bullpen and heads toward the mound to the sound of boos in Yankee Stadium on May 8th. (CBS Sports Boston)

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