New York Yankees vs Boston Red Sox: Aaron Judge, the long ball and MLB’s masterplan to charm London

What took you so long?

MLB finally arrives in London this week with the Boston Red Sox facing the New York Yankees, finally following the NFL and NBA by taking their show on the road to the UK. More than 130,000 fans will cram into West Ham’s London Stadium for two regular season matches inside 24 hours. 

“We are coming with all we have,” remarked Yankees legend Alex Rodriguez. 

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

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The menu on offer is in stark contrast to the tentative strategy from rival leagues and their foray to London, who banked on the brand being enough to spark interest. Initially that may have been the case, but sport fans are increasingly intelligent and MLB is playing catch-up, with the NFL rolling out regular season games 12 years ago. Their initial aggressive strategy appears here to stay too, with two more storied franchises, the St Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs , set to follow next year.

The Green Bay Packers continue to be left off the NFL’s schedule for London due to the extraordinary revenue teams would surrender by forfeiting a home game against the travelling Cheeseheads. This is one aspect where MLB can turn a negative into a positive with their 162-game regular season watering down the product somewhat until the post-season approaches. 


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The league’s presence appears to have caused a stir, no mean feat considering the ongoing Cricket World Cup, as well as the start of Wimbledon next week. ”I’ve never been here, but you see that baseball does have a universal language. It connects people,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. 

“To see people out here, whatever level of experience they have in the game, they share a passion for it. It’s connecting with a younger generation in a different place.”

A storied rivalry

The Red Sox and Yankees’ rivalry, just like America’s Game, is dripping with history. 

The fabled origin of the bitter hatred between the sides stems from the notorious trade of Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920, fuelled by former Red Sox owner Harry Frazee’s desire to fund a Broadway musical.

And so began ‘The Curse of the Bambino’: An 86-year title drought for Boston, cruelly running parallel with the relentless success of the Bronx Bombers in the shape of 26 World Series championships.

The form

The novelty of the games may be enough to the vast majority on Saturday and Sunday, yet there is plenty at stake as both sides battle to emerge from the American League East for the play-offs.

The Yankees (9-1 in their last 10) currently lead both the American League and the East division, 6.5 games ahead of the Tamp Bay Rays and a further 2.5 games ahead of the Red Sox – aiming to rebound after squandering a ninth-inning lead to fall to the Chicago White Sox 8-7 on Wednesday.

As well as possessing the superior record, the Yankees are high on star power too, even without injured heavyweight slugger Giancarlo Stanton (tied to a 13-year, £255 million contract), who is one half of the ‘Super Smash Brothers’ with Aaron Judge.

Judge, Luke Voit, Gio Urshela and Gleyber Torres narrowly missed out as All-Star starters this week, with the Midsummer Classic taking place on July 9 in Cleveland. But DJ LeMahieu, second base, and Gary Sánchez, catcher, made the cut. 

The same honour could not be bestowed on any Red Sox player for the first time since 2005, as Mookie Betts and JD Martinez missed the cut.

Welcome to the long ball

Those more accustomed to baseball may appreciate the tactical aspect of the sport: notably the recent rise of small ball, which essentially chips away at pitchers to force sides to pull their starter and turn to the bullpen for relief against stolen bases and clever sacrifice bunts.  

But fans could be set for a treat this weekend with the brawn of Judge, an upward trend in power hitting this season and the friendly dimensions of the London Stadium – with center field only 385 feet away, the shortest of any park in baseball – able to offer the prospect of home runs. 

“You’re going to see balls hit over 550ft,” Rodriguez remarked. “The fans are going to think: ‘those are golf balls.’ They’ve never heard a sound… it sounds like it came out of a cannon. It’s the most incredible sound.”

The Yankees homered for the 29th straight game on Wednesday – a new MLB record. Another may tumble this season with current estimates putting the league on track for 6,614 homeruns, 509 more than the previous record set in 2017, which broke the 17-year record from 2000 by 412. 

“When I was playing, I would have people saying, ‘I couldn’t see you hit, but I can hear you hit.’ And that’s Aaron Judge. 

“You can be outside the stadium, when it hits the wood, you’ll recognise it. That’s Aaron Judge hitting. It’s magical: something you will never forget.”

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