The Red Sox and the Yankees have a legendary history, individually and combined. Both franchises have had proud moments at the expense of the other, which has only intensified the rivalry - even if it has somewhat lost its edge in recent years.
But even as brazen insults between the teams have given way to measured discourse emphasizing "mutual respect," there is one thing that seemingly never changes about the Red Sox and the Yankees: they can claim the longest running games in the league.
In today's spring training game, regulation play took up just 2 hours and seventeen minutes - veritable hyper speed when it comes to these two teams. Of course, there are a variety of different reasons for the marathon contests during the regular season, starting with the fact that (this year excepted) the Red Sox and Yankees are featured on national television more often than any other combination. Games on Fox and ESPN, aside from suffering terrible commentators, have extremely long commercial breaks, which leads to longer overall run time.
But even when the games are aired on NESN and YES respectively, they seem to take forever - and that's a testament to team strategy and skill. In September of 2011 (just before the Red Sox's epic collapse) baseball-reference.com ran a blog post about this very phenomenon. It turns out that not only were the Red Sox and Yankees ranked #1 and #2 in the American League in terms of plate appearances per game, but they were also #1 and #2 in pitches seen per plate appearance, which obviously eats up a chunk of game time.
But even in the past year or so, as fans, bloggers, and media types have opined the Sox getting away from the fundamental skill of patience at the plate, the games have still dragged on rather longer than average. Well, it's time to shift attention from hitters to pitchers, and Red Sox pitchers are often atop the list of those who take the longest time between pitches.
That's something that the staff is working on this spring training, so perhaps the four-hour (yet only nine inning) Red Sox/Yankees games are destined to be a thing of the past. If the edge can be taken off the enmity, perhaps an hour or so can be shaved off the game times - we can only hope.