The Red Sox/Yankees rivalry is a classic that all baseball fans can enjoy. However, in the peak of this rivalry (late 1990s/early 2000s), there was always a rivalry within the rivalry. Both teams were home to two of my generation’s best shortstops (Alex Rodriguez was better than both) in Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra.
Nomar vs. Jeter
To give the average baseball fan some background on this rivalry, Nomar and Jeter was a closer face-off than their accolades tell. Both being first round draft picks, it seemed that Jeter and Nomar always had something to prove to one another right out of the gate. It didn’t take long, as both won the Rookie of the Year awards in their respective rookie seasons (Jeter in 1996, Nomar in 1997). What followed was another chapter in the storied rivalry.
Both shortstops went on to battle one another throughout many seasons. Nomar had the better stats in an eight year stretch (1996 – 2004). But overall, Jeter was the better player. Maybe Nomar would have taken the bragging rights away from Jeter if he wasn’t plagued by injuries after the 2004 season. However, the latter’s consistency and burning passion to win five World Series would ultimately lead to the victory in the competition. Jeter achieved 14 All-Star appearances, five Gold Gloves, five Silver Sluggers, and a World Series MVP. But fans of the game will never forget how Nomar was, for a moment in time, the better player.
Bogaerts vs. Gregorius
Fast forward to 2013, Xander Bogaerts debuted for the Red Sox in a championship year. Didi Gregorius exceeded his rookie status in the same season with Arizona. After the 2014 season concluded, Derek Jeter decided to walk away from baseball as a player, and the Yankees searched for his replacement. Alex Rodriguez was clearly way past his time to man the position, and Brian Cashman decided to take a shot on the Arizona short stop from the Netherlands.
Gregorius was known for his fielding prowess, but became a gamble when it came to his offensive abilities. Initially, the plan was to platoon with Brendan Ryan and see if Gregorius could distance himself for a consistent spot on the roster. Didi’s numbers weren’t all that great, but over time he has grown into a top five shortstop, and shows no signs of slowing down. Every season, he has improved in every asset of his offensive abilities while maintaining a steady rate defensively. To start off the 2018 season, Didi has been by far and away one of the best players in the majors with a 1.156 OPS, ten homers and 30 RBIs.
Xander Bogaerts, however, has had an arguably better career as of now, but it’s insanely close. Born in Oranjestad, Aruba, Bogaerts took the minor leagues by storm in 2009. He ascended through the ranks of the Red Sox farm system and eventually earned his call-up in 2013. He won a World Series ring in the same season, and never really looked back since. Albeit, he had a dip in performance in 2017 that many attribute to an injury that he never recovered fully from. But Xander is on track in 2018 after smashing two grand slams, a slash of .412/.426/.725 with an OPS of 1.171, all in the month of April.
Rivalry Within the Rivalry
Let the record show that I am not comparing Xander and Didi to two of the best short stops I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. However, it’s interesting that Xander and Didi started breaking out in their own way right around the time of a renewed rivalry. One cannot help but to think back to a time when this sort of battle has been prevalent for the position’s sake. With the surplus of talent at the position, these two players can really be compared with the likes of Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, Manny Machado, and Carlos Correa. This fantastic battle is bound to give fans of the game reason to keep close watch on their careers.