The 2018 Major League Baseball season has arrived and if you thought for a moment that the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry might not be what it once was, you had better think again.
Both teams made headlines in the off season with major acquisitions. The Yankees fired the opening salvo by putting together a package from their rich farm system to obtain slugger and reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins.
The Red Sox responded on February 19 when they signed Julio Daniel, “J.D.” Martinez to a lucrative free agent deal.
Who got the better of the deal won’t be resolved for a few years but one thing we all know is that both teams got considerably better with their new mashers in the middle of their respective lineups.
I can only imagine the atmosphere at Fenway Park on April 10 when Stanton brings his 6’6”, 250 pound frame into the batters box for the first time as a Yankee. It’ll mark the first of 19 meetings between the Sox and Yanks this season. Stanton belted 59 homers and drove in 132 runs in 2017 for Miami. Martinez with the Tigers and Diamondbacks hit 45 home runs and knocked in 104 runs.
Certainly those two stars have grabbed most of the headlines but are they the two most impactful players on their teams?
My answer is “no” and I’ll make the case for the two players I believe “stir the drink” for these AL East rivals: Didi Gregorius of the Yankees and Mookie Betts of the Red Sox.
Didi had the task of replacing Derek Jeter as the New York shortstop. He has accomplished that at the plate but even more so in the field. The left handed batting Gregorius hit .287 in ‘17 with 25 home runs (a franchise record for a SS) and 87 RBI but what truly amazes me is his athleticism. His range and throwing arm at his position are second to none in the game today.
Betts is perhaps the best all around player in the game. Mookie battled injuries most of 2017 and had an “off” season by his standards with 24 homers and 102 RBI. Most players would call that a career year but Betts set the bar extremely high in 2016 when he was robbed of the American League MVP award by the Baseball Writers Association of America who named Mike Trout of the Angels as the MVP. Like Gregorius, Mookie is just as valuable in the field as he is at the plate.
He came up through the Boston organization as a second baseman and has already won two AL Gold Glove Awards for his play in right field. Only Dwight Evans, in my lifetime, has come close to playing the position the way Mookie does and Fenway Park’s right field is the toughest to patrol in all of baseball.
So while Stanton and Martinez may be the focus of the national media, keep your eye on two players who do everything well and promise to be perennial MLB All Stars for years to come in Didi Gregorius and Mookie Betts.
Every Red Sox game is carried live on 107.7 WTPL, The Pulse.