Every year, a lot is made of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry playing out between the Trenton Thunder and Portland Sea Dogs at the Double-A level.
It’s good fodder for reporter’s notebooks, can put some passionate fans in the dark green seats of Waterfront Park and is the talk of the front office.
But does anyone else really care? Well…
“Sometimes, I think it’s more for the fans,” said Justin Masterson, who pitched in the last postseason series between Portland and Trenton.
“But you have a little bit of (a rivalry) when you’re playing a team of the Yankees. There’s probably more hype and a sense of ‘we just want to beat these guys,’ just because it’s the Yankees.”
Masterson, who is now in the bullpen for the Boston Red Sox, ended up on the losing end of Game 1 of the Eastern League Division Series against Trenton last year.
“I think even at that point, I think you’re still more of a fan because you’re not to the major leagues yet,” Masterson said.
“Yeah, you’re playing baseball but you’ve still kind of got that fan aspect. So maybe there is a little more of that within the players, where we’re like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re playing the Yankees affiliate, so we’ve got to get these guys.’ As you go up, it’s still there, but there’s still friendships and things like that. I just think that aspect maybe allows it to be a little different, a little heightened sense of urgency when you’re in those games.”
Thunder manager Tony Franklin didn’t seem to think much of the Red Sox-Yankees side of the series either.
“We’re going to play hard against them, just like we play hard against everyone else,” he said.
“We want to beat everybody we play, that’s just the way it is. I don’t think there’s any more incentive to beat them just because they’re the Red Sox. I think that happens a lot more at the Major League level than it does here at the minor league level, it’s a little bit more intense up there.”
In terms of development, players who are facing each other in this series for their respective affiliates could eventually face each other at the big league level.
But according to none other than Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, there’s no big advantage gained in the big leagues from facing someone at the minor league level.
“Well, you don’t come up with all of them,” Ortiz said.
“Sometimes you face them, and it’s a totally different game. It just depends on the way you prepare when you’re there.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com