Friday, May 21, 2010

This Is Not a Subway Series

The Yankees closed out their two-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays, losing the games 10-6 and 8-6 -- having entered the bottom of the 9th inning of these games down 10-2 and 8-4, respectively. Neither A.J. Burnett on Wednesday, nor Andy Pettitte last night, nor the bullpen either night got the job done. We are now 5 games behind the Devil Dogs.

On the other hand, as bad as the Yankee pitching was against Tampa, we still scored 6 runs off them each night, including 6 runs in the two 9th innings. If we can do that to the Rays' staff, with several of our players hurt, what can we do to the Mets in the series that starts tonight? Just remember: We proved last year that we can hit home runs at Citi Field!


Let's clear a couple of things up. First, a really good blog called Yankeeist states that the Yankees' all-time record against the Mets is 42-30. That's a winning percentage of .583, meaning that, over 162 games, the Yankees' record if they only played the Mets would be 94-68. Pretty strong, possibly enough to make the Playoffs.

This, of course, does not count spring training games or those mid-season Mayor's Trophy games that Met fans loved to crow about, back when the Flushing Heathen dared to crow about anything. As Billy Martin taught us, "It's an exhibition game, George! It doesn't mean anything!"

However, the 42-30 record cited by the author of Yankeeist also does not count the 2000 World Series, by far the most important games ever played between the Mets and... well, anybody. Counting the Yanks' 5-game win, it's 46-31. That's a winning percentage of .597, and a 162-game pace of 97-65. That's frequently enough to win the American League East, or the National League East, and almost always enough to at least make the Wild Card.

The Mets have been the Yankees' bitches. Historically speaking. Just one reason why the Mets' brass didn't exactly celebrate the Mets' history at the newly-opened Citi Field last season. Now they have a small museum, including a Mets Hall of Fame, in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. (Did Jackie ever even set foot in Shea Stadium? I know Joe DiMaggio, Pearl Bailey, and Jacqueline Kennedy and her kids, did so during the 1969 World Series.)

We must never let Met fans forget that in the one and only chance they will ever get to face us in a World Series, we beat them and clinched at their dump of a stadium, with 25,000 people chanting, "Let's Go Yankees!" and "Thank You George!"

From that day forward, the Mets have had no reason to exist. Interleague play exists for the sake of money, which overlooks the fact that holding Kansas City Royals vs. Florida Marlins is no way to increase attendance.

Finally, since we have long since had a World Series between the Yankees and the Other Team, let's stop calling these regular-season series "Subway Series." At the very least, take the capital letters off.

To the Mets and their pathetic, delusional fans, the Yankees are the team against which they will always be measured, and the comparison will do them no favors. To the Yankees and their fans, the Mets will always be an annoyance. A mosquito at the picnic, if you prefer. Our arch-enemies are the Red Sox; theirs, the Phillies.


As Yankee Fan Lisa Swan puts it in today's Subway Squawkers blog:

<< Today's Joel Sherman column in the New York Post reminds me of two of the dopiest ideas pushed by the New York sportswriters over the past few years - that David Wright is better than Alex Rodriguez, and Jose Reyes is better than Derek Jeter.

And this wasn't pushed by one writer or two - this idea was pretty common in the New York papers from about 2006 on. You would have thought that Jeter and A-Rod were as worn out as Emmitt Smith in the Just For Men commerical, the way certain writers in this town insisted that the Mets stars were on the rise. As Doctor Phil would say, how's that working out for you? >>


<< Wright was going to be the Mets' Jeter; the homegrown kid who mixed skill, intangibles and charisma to become prince of the city. Instead, he has finally passed Rodriguez in the worst of all categories: Wright is now the most dissected athlete in New York. We break down his swing and psychoanalyze his mind. What is up with the wild arm, the lack of clutch play and, yes, all of those strikeouts?

You see, this is why you don't make somebody an "untouchable" before they've really proven themselves. Jeter got that type of treatment after 4 rings. Wright got it before the Mets even won a Playoff series. Now that Wright is finally getting scrutinized, and it's got to hurt, after the years of the media telling him how great he is...

Reyes and Wright have dwindled from cornerstones to puzzles. The Mets went all in during the 2006 season, signing both to multi-year contracts, believing they had erected a long-term foundation. Now the Mets will have to decide on Reyes’ $11 million option for 2011 and whether a champion really can be built around the left side of their infield.

As a new Subway Series begins, the question now is not whether Reyes and Wright have passed Jeter and Rodriguez, but if the best days for Reyes and Wright already have passed and, if so, how do the Mets survive that? >>

Look, the media have turned hotshot rookies into future Hall-of-Famers before. The Yankees have gone through this. Just in my memory, from 1977 onward:

* Steve Balboni, nicknamed "Bye-Bye" for his home runs, but he couldn't get on base any other way so he kept going "bye-bye" onto the New York/Columbus shuttle.

* Dan Pasqua, whose lefthanded power stroke seemed tailor-made for Yankee Stadium, but he turned out to be a lefty version of Balboni (with better hair, no mustache and a reasonable diet).

* Kevin Maas, the flashiest of flashes in the pan, who even made the cover of New York magazine in 1990, and now lives on in the name of another Yankee Fan's blog, NoMaas.

* Gerald Williams, who was supposed to be the better of the Yankees' 2 big outfield prospects named Williams, until they realized he didn't have the goods and Bernie Williams did.

* Ruben Rivera, Mariano's larcenous cousin, who decided, even with MLB's minimum salary being far more than he ever could have made back in Panama, that stealing bases wasn't as good as stealing Derek Jeter's glove, getting him the heave-ho out of The Bronx.

* Shane Spencer, who did help us win a couple of World Series even if he never matched his September 1998 production.

* And, most recently, and the jury is definitely still out on him, Joba Chamberlain.

But none of these had as much made about them as Jose Reyes and David Wright. They were supposed to be the Mets' answer, at long last, to Ruth and Gehrig, to DiMaggio and Henrich, to Mantle and Berra, to Mantle and Maris, to Jackson and Munson, to Derek and Bernie. Or, at the very least, the successors to Darryl and the Camera Kid. And it hasn't happened, and now it may never happen.

Remember when the media said Rey Ordonez was better than Jeter? Remember in 1999, when Sports Illustrated had John Olerud, Edgardo Alfonzo, Or-don't-hit and Robin Ventura on the cover, and called them "The Best Infield Ever?" Took until October for The Dreaded SI Cover Jinx to work, but work it did.

Like Patrick Roy once said to a guy heckling him, Jeter can say to anyone who ever though either Ordonez or Reyes was better, "I can't hear you, I've got my championship rings stuffed in my ears." To which A-Rod can say, "I can still hear out of one ear, so let's go, guys!"


Some people say the Yankees win only because of money, with the payroll now at $206 million.

These people are blithering idiots. The Mets have been the highest-paid, or 2nd-highest-paid, team in the NL since their (ahem) glory days of the Eighties. Sometimes the Dodgers have had a higher payroll, and they haven't won a Pennant since 1988 (Met fans remember what happened that year, right?); while the Phillies now have a higher one, probably due to performance incentives that Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have, unlike their Met counterparts, actually, uh, met.

The Mets' payroll is $136 million. What have they gotten for their money? The choke of 2006, the monumental collapse of 2007, the half-monumental (or maybe just half-mental) collapse of 2008, the misery of 2009, and now they're behind the Washington Nationals. (Who, to be fair, have followed the Tampa Bay Rays' path of being so bad for so long that they got all those draft picks who are now majors-ready, and they're much-improved.)

Still, some people think it's all about the money. When you make it "all about the money," and not all about winning, you get neither money nor winning.

That sounds like something Benjamin Franklin said. Then again, Ben left our actual arch-rivals' city (Boston) for the Mets' actual arch-rivals' city (Philadelphia). Smart guy.


Here's the pitching matchups. Tonight, Javier Vazquez, having pitched considerably better his last 2 times out (he couldn't have pitched considerably worse), goes against Hisanori Takahashi, making his first big-league start after 15 relief appearances. He does so because Jon Niese, previously scheduled for tonight, hurt his hamstring.

Ordinarily, the Yankees do not do well against pitchers they've never seen before. The Mets have taken advantage of this on a few occasions, most notably in the first-ever Yanks-Mets game that counted. I was there: June 16, 1997, the Mets knocked Pettitte out of the box, and Dave Mlicki pitched a shutout, Mets win, 6-0. (The Yanks won the next 2 to take the series, though.)

After the game, while I was thinking, "No, don't jump on the third rail, that manner of suicide will hold up Subway service and inconvenience thousands of people," Mlicki was interviewed on Channel 7 Eyewitness News. He was asked if the atmosphere was like a Playoff game. He said, "Never been there, so I couldn't tell you." An honest Met. He finished with a career record of 66-80, and did make one postseason appearance, pitching reasonably well in the 2001 NLDS for the Houston Astros but taking the loss anyway.

So is this new-to-us pitcher a bad sign for the Yankees? Not necessarily. According to Yankeeist, "Takahashi is not stretched out as a starter and will be limited to roughly 85 pitches Friday night." And Vazquez has shown he can pitch well in NL parks, of which Citi Field is one.

Saturday afternoon, on the Fox Game of the Week, two kids who've pitched superbly thus far, each going a long way to dispel myths about them: Phil Hughes vs. Mike Pelfrey. Pelfrey pitches very well when I'm in the park, so I will be staying on this side of the East River. And the Hudson River. And the Hackensack River. And the Passaic River. And the Elizabeth River. And the Rahway River. And the Raritan River. Hell, I may just cross the Millstone River and the Delaware River, on a train down to Philly. Or get on a bus and head down to Atlantic City, thus crossing the South River, the Toms River, the Mullica River and Egg Harbor.

Sunday night, on the ESPN Game of the Week, the two aces, CC Sabathia and The Great Johan Santana. CC's last couple of outings have been rough, so we need him to step it up. We've known how to beat Johan Santana ever since he was a Minnesota Twin. Remember that 15-run shellacking last June? That was a nice day at the beach for me.

Time to muss up the Mutts.

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