The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox lay claim to the most intense current rivalry in professional sports.
When the Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918 last fall by sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals, it was almost anti-climactic compared to the comeback from a three-game deficit against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
The teams have met 55 times since the start of the 2003 season, including the postseason, and the Red Sox lead the series, 28-27. The Yankees' 9-2 victory on opening night in the Bronx had nearly the same electricity as Game Seven last October.
I've heard from Red Sox fans who state categorically that they'd never draft a New Yorker for their fantasy team. I've heard the same from Yankees fans regarding the members of the Red Sox.
So, once and for all, which of these storied franchises has produced the best fantasy players during their histories? For purposes of this argument, we'll consider only the years and statistics compiled as members of the Yankees or Red Sox.
Catchers: Boston's Carlton Fisk (1969-80) vs. New York's Yogi Berra (1946-63). Fisk's Hall of Fame career is remembered most for his dramatic 12th-inning home run at Fenway Park that beat Cincinnati in Game Six of the 1975 World Series -- a feat that really only prolonged the Reds' wait for a championship by one night. With the Bosox, Fisk hit about 18 homers per full season and knocked in 100 runs just once (102 in 1977). Berra hit 20 or more homers from 1949 through '58 and topped 100 RBIs five times. Advantage: Yankees.
First base: Boston's Jimmie Foxx (1936-42) vs. New York's Lou Gehrig (1923-39). Much of Foxx's prime was spent with the Philadelphia Athletics but he still managed 222 homers in just six-plus seasons with Boston and had a monster year in 1938 with 50 homers, 175 RBIs and a .349 batting average. His 175 RBIs ties for the fourth-most ever in one season. Unfortunately for him, Gehrig owns three of the top six (184 in 1931, 175 in '27 and 174 in '30) and was named the first baseman on the All-Century team. Advantage Yankees.
Second base: Boston's Bobby Doerr (1937-44, 46-51) vs. New York's Tony Lazzeri (1926-37). Doerr ranks sixth on Boston's all-time homer list with 223 and fifth in RBIs with 1,247. Lazzeri knocked in 100 runs or more seven times but can't match Doerr's overall power with 178 HRs and 1,191 RBIs. Advantage: Red Sox.
Shortstop: Nomar Garciaparra (1996-2004) vs. New York's Derek Jeter (1995-present). Both appear on track for Cooperstown. Garciaparra batted .323 and hit 178 homers with 690 RBIs and 82 steals in Boston. Jeter came into this season hitting .315 as a Yankee with 150 homers, 693 RBIs and 201 steals but has played nearly two full seasons longer in New York than Nomar did in Boston. Advantage: Red Sox, barely.
Third base: Boston's Wade Boggs (1982-92) vs. New York's Red Rolfe (1931, 34-42). Boggs hit .338 with the Red Sox with 422 doubles and 554 extra base hits. Rolfe, with a .289 batting average and 393 extra base hits, doesn't measure up at the weakest position in Yankees history. In a year or two, that will change if Alex Rodriguez sticks around the Big Apple. Advantage: Red Sox.
Boston's Ted Williams (1939-42, 46-60), Tris Speaker (1907-15), Jim Rice (1974-89) and Carl Yastrzemski (1961-83) vs. New York's Babe Ruth (1920-34), Mickey Mantle (1951-68), Joe DiMaggio (1936-42, 46-51) and Reggie Jackson (1977-81).
Good luck finding a group of eight better sluggers from any other two teams. All but Rice are in the Hall of Fame and Williams and Ruth are on the All-Century team. Williams, Yaz and Rice compose the top three in Red Sox history in homers (a combined 1,355) and RBIs (5,134). Ruth, Mantle and DiMaggio combined for 1,556 homers and 5,017 RBIs and are all among the top four in team history because Gehrig is tops in RBIs and third in homers. Speaker hit .337 with Boston and averaged 77 RBIs from 1909-15. Jackson had 144 homers and 461 RBIs in five seasons in pinstripes. Advantage: Yankees, barely.
Boston's Roger Clemens (1984-96), Cy Young (1901-08), Joe Wood (1908-15), Lefty Grove (1934-41) and Pedro Martinez (1998-2002) vs. New York's Whitey Ford (1950, 53-64), Allie Reynolds (1947-54), Red Ruffing (1930-42), Lefty Gomez (1930-42) and Ron Guidry (1975-88).
These 10 pitchers combined for incredible statistics with their teams. The Boston quintet was 707-378 (.652) with 7,116 strikeouts and 125 shutouts; New York's group was 957-482 (.665) with 7,695 strikeouts and 166 shutouts. Two of the greatest pitching performances of any era were posted by Wood (34-5 with 1.91 ERA and 10 shutouts in 1912) and Guidry (25-3, 1.74 ERA, nine shutouts in 1978). Even taking into account that Fenway Park is a tougher park to pitch in than Yankee Stadium . . . Advantage: Yankees.
Boston's Dick Radatz (1962-66) vs. New York's Mariano Rivera (1995-present).
Radatz, nicknamed "The Monster," was once called "the greatest relief pitcher I have ever seen," by former Yankees manager Ralph Houk. Radatz, who died in March at age 67 after falling down a flight of stairs, fanned Mantle 12 times in 16 times they matched up. Three of the top five single-season strikeout totals by a reliever were posted by Radatz (181 in 1964, 162 in '63 and 144 in 62), who had 104 saves with Boston. But Houk had never laid eyes on Rivera when he made his comment.
Rivera entered this season eighth in career saves with 336, not including 32 more in the playoffs. Advantage: Yankees.
The Yankees have won 26 world championships, 39 pennants and have 44 playoff appearances. The Red Sox have five world titles, nine pennants and 15 playoff appearances. Nine of the 12 eligible Red Sox mentioned above have been elected to the Hall of Fame as have 10 of the 13 eligible Yankees.
Who's better, who's best? You make that call. Drop me an e-mail telling me which group is better based on the numbers provided above and I'll publish your decision in a few weeks.
The week ahead in fantasy baseball:
Orioles C Javy Lopez was 25 of 73 (.342) with eight doubles and 10 RBIs against the Devil Rays in 2004. Baltimore is at Tampa Bay Tuesday through Thursday.
Cardinals OF Jim Edmonds went 23 of 68 (.338) with eight home runs, 14 RBIs and a .765 slugging percentage against the Reds last season. Cincinnati is at St. Louis Tuesday-Wednesday.
Athletics RP Octavio Dotel had a 1.17 ERA and three saves in as many chances against the Angels last season. Los Angeles is at Oakland Friday-Sunday.
Padres SP Jake Peavy was 1-0 with a 1.71 earned run average against the Dodgers last season with 23 strikeouts and just four walks in 21 innings. San Diego is at Los Angeles Friday-Sunday.
Blue Jays OF Alex Rios was 12 of 30 (.400) against the Rangers last season. Toronto is at Texas Thursday-Sunday.
TAKE YOUR CHANCES
Phillies OF Bobby Abreu is 49 of 197 (.249) against the Braves since 2002 with just one home run and 31 strikeouts. Atlanta is at Philadelphia Friday-Sunday.
Twins OF Torii Hunter was 3 of 18 (.167) with no runs last season at Jacobs Field. Minnesota is at Cleveland Friday-Sunday.
Mets OF Cliff Floyd is 8 of 44 (.182) with 14 strikeouts against the Astros the last three seasons. Houston is at New York Monday-Wednesday.
Tigers 1B Dmitri Young went 1 of 15 (.067) with eight strikeouts inside the Metrodome last season. Detroit is at Minnesota Tuesday-Thursday.
Reds OF Austin Kearns is 7 of 37 (.189) with nine strikeouts at Busch Stadium since 2002. Cincinnati is at St. Louis Tuesday-Wednesday.