Next Stop: 161st Street – Yankee Stadium
On June 16, 1997 a New York summer tradition evolved as the New York Yankees and the New York Mets faced off for the first time in a meaningful baseball game. In that game, Dave Mlicki pitched the Mets to a 6-0 shutout, giving the orange and blue faithful a night to rejoice. Since that first night, I think it’s safe to say the Yankees have enjoyed the better part of the rivalry. In the 89 games the teams have played, the Yankees own a record of 49-35. Also, the series that counted the most, the 2000 Subway World Series was won by the Yankees in 5 games. The Mets won the last meeting between the two teams last July 3rd, so they are hoping that starting tonight they can even the records out a bit and go on a nice little winning streak.
Both teams have had surprising seasons thus far, for extremely different reasons. The Yankees have been hit hard with the injury bug. Before the season started they lost their supposed #2 starter for the year, Michael Pineda. Three of their top four bullpen pieces, Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson have also been injured, and only Robertson is expected to pitch again this year. On top of that, two weeks into the season their starting left fielder, Brett Gardner went down with a bad wrist and has yet to come back. Add in the fact that A-Rod, Cano, Texeira, Russell Martin and even Granderson and Swisher at times have underperformed, along with a rotation that has been extremely inconsistent, and you would imagine the Yankees would be buried in the American League East.
However, going into tonight’s game the Yanks are a meager .5 games out of first place behind both Baltimore and Tamp Bay. Derek Jeter has played like he’s 25 instead of 37, batting .319 and providing solid defense at the SS position. Raul Ibanez was signed last off-season and there were many people like myself who were questioning whether adding a 39-year-old to an aging team was the correct move. Ibanez has outperformed my early expectations, totaling 9 HRs and 29 RBIs through the first two months. Though Granderson has struggled with his batting average and strike outs, his pop from last year is still with him, and it appears that Cano, Texeira and some of the other perennial all-stars are rounding back into form. Rafael Soriano has filled in for David Robertson and Mariano Rivera as the closer, and has been perfect thus far on the season. Also, the emergence of Andy Pettitte out of retirement has provided the Yankees with a quality start every 5th game and great veteran presence. The Yankees have held on and are right where they need to be at this point in the season.
The Mets offseason troubles were well documented by all media outlets. First, their owners were involved in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi Scheme, in which is was unclear if they had “made off” or were victims by Bernie. All Mets fans knew for sure was that the team had to cut payroll, hence re-signing franchise player Jose Reyes was not an option. Of the three players the Mets had the most money invested in, only David Wright was actually reliable coming into the year. Johan Santana hadn’t pitched a meaningful game in over a year, and the Mets were hopeful but not expecting him to give them all that much coming into the season. Also, Jason Bay’s woeful Mets career has been well documented, and although the Mets thought moving the fences in might help his power numbers out, there was not a fan Met alive who would have bet on his reemergence as a top Major Leaguer.
With all that said, the Mets have proved all their doubter wrong. Manager Terry Collins has gathered a young group of players who are scrappy and basically playing for major league contracts. David Wright is hitting the ball like a man possessed, and his .362 batting average is made more impressive because of the relative lack of protection around him. Johan Santana has pitched unbelievable, exemplified by his no-hitter a week ago tonight. R.A. Dickey, a veteran pitcher who bounced around the league before finding a home in NY, has been incredible. The knuckleballer is leading the league in wins, quality starts while pitching to a top 10 WHIP and ERA. Jonathan Niese and Dillon Gee have been solid in all their starts, providing the Mets with a starting rotation that can match with any in the league. As for Jason Bay, he’s been hurt all year but the young, hungry talent on this team has stepped up. Kirk Nieuwenhuis has been a great find for the Mets outfield, Daniel Murphy has been solid offensively as usual, and Lucas Duda has supplied the Mets with some pop, though he needs to raise his batting average. The Mets were looking to get more production out of Ike Davis at first, and if he can turn it around, David Wright would have a lot more support. Couple the Mets good play with a rocky start by the Phillies and the Mets are sitting only 1.5 games out of the division, behind Washington and Atlanta.
This series should be terrific this weekend. Both the Yankees and Mets are in a position where a winning streak could give them a lead of their division, and a losing streak could drop them into last. The AL and NL East are probably the two best divisions in baseball, as only one team, the Phillies, has a losing record out of all ten clubs. It’ll be a beautiful night for some baseball in New York and I can’t wait! Sports Debaters are split when it comes to this rivalry, so I will leave my prediction out of the article as to not offend anybody (matthewtodderich). However, I do hope tomorrow’s paper looks similar to this classic from a few years ago. Thanks Luis Castillo!