Decade Debate: 6 Greatest Sports Rivalries

The word rivalry is defined as “competition for the same objective or superiority in the same field.” Rivalries exist in all facets of life, but they are no more apparent than in the world of sport. With the end of the decade looming, here are the six most intense rivalries of the last ten years.

6. Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson

Competition between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson may not produce the mystique that Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus once did, but their rivalry has been exciting nonetheless. Without Tiger Woods, professional golf’s popularity would be a mere morsel of what it is today. The man has won 14 majors, holds his own tournament (the AT&T National), designed two beautiful courses, is the only golfer with his own video game, and garners public intrigue on the same level as world leaders. Still, his status as figurehead of professional golf wouldn’t have any merit without some stiff competition. Enter Phil Mickelson, Tiger’s only adversary with any staying power. When Mickelson won the 2000 Buick Invitational, he also officially ended Tiger’s streak of consecutive tournament wins at six. Over the years, Mickelson would hire Butch Harmon, Tiger’s former coach, and joke about Tiger’s use of “inferior equipment.” Still, their rivalry always remained amicable, even as Phil won his first major in ’04 (The Masters), the PGA Championship in ’05 another Green Jacket in ’06. During this year’s Masters, Tiger and Mickelson were finally paired together in a major event. Trudging down the final back nine at Augusta, the two golfers put on a show that thankfully lived up to the hype. –- Christopher Glotfelty

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Red Sox have eclipsed Yankees as premier team

As Murray Chass on Baseball notes, the Boston Red Sox have supplanted the New York Yankees as the premier team to beat in the AL East.

Jacoby EllsburyThat conclusion isn’t based strictly on the outcome of this year’s division race, though the season is symptomatic of developments in the lives of the Yankees and the Red Sox. In a more general way, the Red Sox have demonstrated that they are smarter and more adept than the Yankees in judging talent, in trading, in scouting, in player development and in strategic planning.

The teams have similarities that are useful in judging the quality of their operations.
The Red Sox went to Japan and signed Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Yankees went to Japan and signed Kei Igawa.

The Red Sox have a young center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, who is instrumental in igniting their offense. The Yankees have a young center fielder, Melky Cabrera, whom they sent to the minor leagues in August.

The Red Sox have a young second baseman, Dustin Pedroia, whose .326 batting average fell two hits short of winning the A.L. batting title and who led the league in runs scored, multi-hit games and doubles, tied for the lead in hits and was fourth in total bases. The Yankees have a young second baseman, Robinson Cano, who needed eight hits in the last three games to get his on-base percentage over .300.

The Red Sox needed a starting pitcher and in mid-August traded for veteran Paul Byrd, who compiled a 4-2 record in eight starts. The Yankees needed a starting pitcher and in June yanked Joba Chamberlain out of the bullpen and put him in the starting rotation, where he suffered a shoulder ailment that cost him a month.

The Red Sox needed to trade their best hitter, Manny Ramirez, and in a three-team deal that included Pittsburgh got Jason Bay, who batted .293 with a series of key hits that fueled critical Boston victories.

The Yankees needed a hitter and, five days before the Bay trade, turned to the same team, the Pirates, and got Xavier Nady, whose batting average for the Yankees was 25 points less than Bay’s was for Boston and whose on-base percentage was 50 points and slugging percentage 53 points less.

This is what people continue to miss about the Yankees and their spending. Just because they can spend more, doesn’t mean that they’re better off. Yes, there should be a cap in place so that all of the spending is even. But the Yankees continue to shoot themselves in the foot with all of their freewheeling contracts and trading, because they’re not developing young, marquee talent anymore like they once did with Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Bearnie Williams. They thought players like Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano and Phillip Hughes would develop like the aforementioned names, but those three haven’t panned out yet, at least not how the club thought they would.

The article is right – the Red Sox have been better at judging talent and making trades over the past couple years and it’s exactly why they’re playing in October right now while the Yankees are at home plodding ways to get CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Manny Ramirez.

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