The battle for the back pages of New York newspapers between the Mets and the cross-town Yankees is on. The Yankees have almost always come out on top during these skirmishes. But in 2018, the Mets have put together a team that is destined to give the Bombers a ride for their money, and that’s good for baseball.
If you live in the New York metropolitan area, it is almost a rite of baptism to choose sides between the Mets and Yankees. Although the much-hyped annual Subway Series between the teams consumes all of the sports talk and print in the city for days, it is merely a microcosm of the continuous exchanges among fans that take place in subways, bars, restaurants, and sometimes even churches throughout a baseball season.
This year is no different. Except that the Mets, by their quick start while the Yankees are spinning their wheels, are making a run at stealing the city away from the Yankees. And we’ve only just begun.
New York is a city of immigrants who came here with dreams and the realization that hard work is a necessity to survive and thrive in America. Historically and oddly, it’s the Mets and their fans who reflect the dogged determination of David to slay Goliath, while the Yankees represent the aristocracy in New York.
Geography traces the roots of each team’s fanbase, with Citi Field sitting in suburbia while Yankee Stadium occupies a few blocks in the inner city Bronx. And ne’er the twain shall meet. Or so it’s set out to be.
I, for one, cannot conform to these constraints. Above all else, I am a fan of baseball, and even while I gravitate more to the Yankees since the days of my youth when Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford were my boyhood heroes, I can’t help but feel good for the Mets. It’s the same way I feel good for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the other surprise team of the young 2018 season.
For some, that’s heresy. How can you root for two teams at the same time? To the point though, if you believe that competition brings out the best in anyone and anything, it’s simple. And it’s not something we’ll hear talked about between the Mets and Yankees players, but it’s gonna be there, and in fact, it already is.
It’s rare, too, that both teams are in the mix in the same year. The Mets had their run in the middle Eighties with Darryl Strawberry, Gary Carter, Dwight Gooden, et al. leading the way while the Yankees were slumbering. And the Yankees overwhelmed all of baseball in the late Nineties with Derek Jerek, Mariano Rivera, and the balance of the Core Five (not Four – Bernie Williams is included), even though the Mets and Yankees converged against each other in the 2000 World Series (ouch Mets fans – here’s the video):
The Mets are one of the best teams in baseball right now, and the MLB Power Rankings released today reflect that with the team zooming up to a tie with the Cubs for the number four spot.
Meanwhile, the Yankees are a .500 team, number seven in the Power Rankings (a two-position drop), and playing no better than that at the moment. But just as with the Dodgers, Nationals, Cubs, and Indians who have all gotten off to sub-par starts, the cream always rises to the top.
Put it this way. When it comes to who controls the back pages of the two main sports rags in New York, the New York Post and the New York Daily News, consider this. If the Mets had played an afternoon game yesterday instead of the ESPN marathon night game which saw them sweep the Nationals while the Yankees were dropping another extra-inning debacle to the Orioles – which of these stories do you think would have been featured on their back pages?
Giancarlo Stanton‘s five strikeouts for the third time in a week, as pointed out by the New York Times, and another Yankees bullpen collapse, or the Mets hard-fought sweep of the Nationals? I’m betting the editors at both newspapers would have picked the former and not the latter. But that’s only by reflex and not intelligence for recognizing the real baseball story in New York.
I want to see the Mets continue to accent their new “you’ll be held accountable” approach brought in by Mickey Callaway because it’s working. And if the Yankees continue to give games away in April and it spills over into May, I want to see Aaron Boone hold his players equally accountable.
The facts are the Mets can lose six in a row and still be a .500 team set to challenge with another run. The Yankees, on the other hand, will be 5-11 if they lost six straight and doomed to be the Toronto Blue Jays of 2018, always looking up at the rest for an entire season (2017).
Neither is likely to happen, but the example points to how divergent the two teams are at the moment. The more the two teams push up on each other and the louder it gets for rabid fans of either side, the better it will be for both the Mets and Yankees.
Not to mention for fans like myself, how good it will be for baseball and the city of New York.
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