There is always the same, mythical, two-team division in baseball. Call it the "New York Division," one that only includes the Yankees and the Mets. It means, especially in a year like this one when the two teams have the two best records in baseball, that they are always fighting for the mythical city championship.
For now, the Yankees look to be running away with it. But it is fair to wonder, even at this point in the season, what the respective records of the two teams would be if, say, Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes, the Yankees’ two best starters, had combined for just eight starts the way Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer have. And how things might look between the two teams, and not just when they get around to playing each other, when deGrom and Scherzer are back at the top of Buck Showalter’s rotation.
The Mets have had to overcome a lot this season, more than the Yankees, at least so far -- not just because deGrom still hasn’t started and Scherzer had to be shut down with that oblique injury after eight starts; they also lost catcher James McCann, who is about to have a rehab start along with Scherzer. It doesn’t change that the Yankees are seven games better in the loss column, and got to 50 wins on Monday night.
But here is a fun question to ponder, in this mythical division:
And, by the way, I ask the question knowing that come September, as we’re coming down the stretch, Francisco Lindor (who came out of the weekend with more RBIs than Judge) might want a word.
All Rise or the Polar Bear?
If you had to vote right now, it would probably be Judge, just because he is baseball’s leader in home runs, at the same time Alonso is the one leading the world in RBIs. For the first three months of the season, without much question, Judge has looked like the best player in the whole sport, and the face of the game because of the way the Yankees keep winning. Everybody knows the stakes for him, and what he might cost the Yankees (or somebody else) when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season, after he turned down the contract extension the Yankees offered him before Opening Day.
No. 99 essentially doubled down on himself and, coming out of the weekend, it is not just that he has hit all these homers already. According to Elias Sports Bureau, there have been three other players who came out of the first 67 games of the season with a .300 batting average, 25 homers, 50 RBIs. The other three were Mickey Mantle in 1956, Roger Maris in ’61 and Alex Rodriguez in 2007. They all ended up winning the MVP Award. And, of course, Judge is on pace to finally put up a home run number that starts with a 6, which the Yankees know something about.
Alonso? All he’s done is hit 19 of the Mets 64 homers this season (29.7 percent). Only José Ramírez of the Guardians has hit a higher percentage of his team’s homers. Alonso also has 64 RBIs in the Mets' first 69 games. The only player in Mets history to do better was Mike Piazza in 2000, who had 71. Alonso is on pace to hit 45 homers and 150 RBIs. The only players to ever have a season like that in a New York uniform were Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Rodriguez.
So who ends up being more valuable by the end of the regular season, Alonso or Judge? I really do think it is a great baseball question. I’ve always believed that Alonso should have gotten more MVP love than he did when he hit 53 homers in 2019 and broke the rookie homer record that Judge had already set on the other side of town. That was a year when the Mets surprised everybody and finished 86-76.
But before that, Judge had already hit his 52, and finished second in the American League MVP voting to Jose Altuve. Two New York City guys. Two sluggers. One setting a rookie record and the other guy breaking it. And now here the two of them are, maybe not on track to surpass their personal bests in home runs -- though Judge sure looks like he has some chance to do that -- but maybe do something that would be much more dramatic, which means slug their teams into another Subway Series.
Who ends up having the better all-around season? Who means more to his team, in what already looks like a magical season in Baseball New York? Even longer ago than that, there was the Willie, Mickey and The Duke conversations, one of the best of them all, one that Terry Cashman eventually, and brilliantly, would put to music. Now you can have a legit debate about All Rise and the Bear.
Who do you think ends up being the biggest guy in the big city?