Yanks, Mets making things interesting
Could a Subway Series be on the horizon in 2015?
NEW YORK -- The only time the Mets and Yankees played each other in the World Series, Joe Girardi was still an active catcher, Terry Collins was in between managerial jobs, Brendan Ryan was attending a Los Angeles-area high school, and Matt Harvey was an 11-year-old, growing up in New London, Conn.
That was 2000, and the Yankees defeated the Mets in five games. It has been the only Subway Series since the Yanks defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956, and that one was the seventh involving the three New York teams in a decade. A year later, the Dodgers and the New York Giants left.
The Mets came into existence in 1962, and since then, the New York teams have only been in the same postseason three times: 1999, 2000 and '06. And that brings us to the point of this column. The local clubs came home this week in first place in their respective division, a rarity for mid-June.
"Well, I think it's great for the city of New York," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "Obviously, the hope is that come Oct. 4, the last day of the season, that we're both still there. That would be outstanding for the city of New York. I wish them well except when they're playing us, and we'll see what happens."
Even more rare was an oddity in the schedule that had the Yanks playing the Nationals on Wednesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium while the Mets played the San Francisco Giants the same night at Citi Field, giving New York fans the unexpected treat of seeing both division-leading teams play live on the same day.
The Yankees dropped a 5-4 decision in 11 innings in front of 38,487, but they still lead the Rays by a game-and-a-half in the American League East. And some of those fans rode the No. 6 train from 161st Street in the Bronx, connecting with the No. 7 at Grand Central Station, arriving in plenty of time to see Harvey take on a team that has won the World Series three times in the past five years.
Unfortunately for the 24,436 in attendance, Harvey pitched only six innings, allowing seven runs as the Mets lost, 8-5, to drop a half-game behind the Nationals in the National League East. This came a night after the Mets were no-hit by Giants rookie Chris Heston.
While the results of the day were obviously disappointing in the Big Apple, it's better to look at the big picture. Both teams had so many question marks heading into Spring Training that it would have been a stretch to believe they'd each be leading their respective division nearly two-and-a-half months into the season.
"It's better than the alternative," Girardi said with a chuckle.
And it's taken so much work just to get here, the point is not to squander it.
"We can't let down," Collins said. "Like I've said before and I've told them, there are expectations here. When you have that Mets uniform on, I don't care where you've spent the last year-and-a-half, you're a big leaguer now. We expect to win."
The Mets have only made the playoffs once since the 2000 World Series, losing the '06 NL Championship Series to the Cardinals in seven games. That same year, the Yanks, in the midst of 13 postseason appearances in a row, lost to the Tigers in a four-game AL Division Series.
The Yankees have won the World Series five times since the Mets last did it in 1986, but not since 2009. They haven't been to the playoffs the past two years. The Mets haven't even had a .500 season since 2008, their last at Shea Stadium.
Pitching is always the key, and the Mets are sixth overall in the Majors with a 3.56 ERA and the Yanks are not far behind in 10th at 3.70.
"I think it's awesome. The city has to be stoked about that. I think that makes it fun," said Ryan, activated off the disabled list for the first time all season in time for the afternoon game at Yankee Stadium. "I'm not saying there's going to be a Subway Series like it happened before. But if it did happen, that would be great. I think we'd all be happy about that."
Really, 1999 and 2000 were the apex of the Yankees-Mets rivalry. In 1999, the Yanks under Joe Torre were in the middle of winning the World Series three times in a row and four times in five years. The Mets, under the feisty Bobby Valentine, began to accelerate.
In 1999, both teams went as far as the LCS for the first time in history, and after the Yankees dispatched the Red Sox in five games, all the Mets had to do was defeat the Braves. It didn't happen. Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th of Game 6 at Turner Field, forcing in the series-deciding run.
The Yanks went on to sweep the Braves in the World Series, going an incredible 11-1 that postseason. But that all set the stage for 2000.
The most memorable date of that regular season was July 8. Because of a rain out in their Interleague series, the teams had to play a day-night doubleheader. The afternoon game was at Shea Stadium and the night game across 161st at the old Yankee Stadium, which met its fate and the wrecking ball after the 2008 season.
The Yankees won both games by the identical score of 4-2. And after the first game, a police escort aided both team busses in their quick trip traversing the 9.7 miles from the old yard in Queens to the one in the Bronx.
Perhaps the most famous incident between the two teams occurred in the top of the second inning of the nightcap. Roger Clemens, pitching for the Yanks, hit Mets catcher Mike Piazza with a fastball square on the helmet, knocking him out of the game and onto the DL because of a concussion.
That beanball fueled a feud between the two players that carried into Game 2 of the World Series back at the Stadium. When Pizza shattered his bat hitting against Clemens, part of the barrel wound up next to the mound. For some still-inexplicable reason, Clemens fired the bat fragment at Piazza as he trotted down to first.
Whether Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud and a Yankees pitcher, say he-of-the-pine-tar Michael Pineda, have the same kind of drama in store this season, only time will tell. The two teams are slated to meet again on Sept. 18-20 at Citi Field. Could another World Series confrontation follow?
It's OK to dream, but right now it's only mid-June, and the Yanks and Mets are hanging around first place. If they can remain there, the stage is set for all kinds of fun and mischief.