By Chris Lengua
The 21st century New York Mets have been close before; in fact, very close. Three wins, to be exact, was what stood between the 2000 New York Mets and their first World Series title in 15 years. After winning 94 games in the regular season and rolling through the first two rounds of the postseason, the Mets were one step away from the World Series. Their opponent? The two-time defending champion New York Yankees. Despite an incredible run, the 2000 Mets came up short. In games one, two, and four, in which they lost by a combined total of three runs. In game two of the series, trailing by six runs in the ninth, the Mets staged an incredible rally and scored five runs to cut the lead to one. However, the rally came up short. And even in the clinching game five, Mike Piazza’s deep fly ball was not deep enough, landing in Bernie Williams’ glove to seal the three-peat. Piazza, and the Mets, came up short.
Since that moment, the theme of coming up short has been a common one for these New York Mets. Since the 2000 season, they have topped 90 wins just once, in 2006. They have also only played in the postseason once since the 2000 season. The unmitigated losing and coming up short has, justifiably so, worn on even the most loyal Mets fan—so much so that even a seemingly insurmountable lead in the NL east over a Washington Nationals team that has completely self-destructed in the past two months doesn’t make Mets fans feel safe. Deep down, they still feel that no matter what they do, they will inevitably fall short yet again.
The years subsequent to the 2000 World Series have been much different for the team across the bridge. In fact, the Yankees have finished with a better record than the Mets in 12 of the last 13 seasons. During these 13 seasons, they have won more than 90 games 10 times and in 4 of those seasons, their win total exceeded 100. The Yankees have also made the playoffs a remarkable 10 times since the turn of the 21st century. This success has given Yankee fans swagger that few fan bases in sports can match. When Yankees fans gaze around majestic Yankee stadium and see the 27 champions banners, Monument Park, etc, they are reminded that even in difficult times, they still root for the most successful franchise in the history of sports.
In just a week’s time, the Yankees and Mets will resume the Subway series. In reality, there is not nearly as much at stake in this version of the rivalry as there was in the 2000 World Series. Both teams play in different leagues and are wrapped up in their own completely separate pennant races. Even if both teams continue their success, the only time they can play in the postseason is in the World Series. Translation: The last thing Yankee fans should be fretting over is the Mets, and vice versa. In the city that never sleeps, however, the lines of reality are blurred with the relentless passion of its sports fans. Deep down, Mets fans never want to see the Yankees succeed, and vice versa. It’s not an opinion. It’s a fact.
All Mets fans have heard over the last 10 plus years is that they are “second fiddle” to the Yankees. Not second to a team in their division or league, but second to the Yankees. The Yankees own New York City, and for that reason, Mets fans are resentful. Every Met fan wants what the Yankee fans have, and what they have is power, the power of dominating the headlines in New York year after year after year. So, Mets fans, think long and hard: do you really want to see the Yankees be successful?
Yankees fans, on the other hand, never want to relinquish the grip they and their team have over New York. They see the budding young talent of Harvey, Degrom, Syndergaard, Matz, Conforto, D’Arnaud, etc. compared to their aging roster and it makes them jealous. They see the almost double digit lead in the NL east and the control the Mets have over the headlines and feel their power being threatened. Yankees fans love the idea of the Mets being “second fiddle” to them and would love to keep it that way. So Yankees fans think long and hard, do you really want the Mets to be successful?
The Subway Series will always have a special buzz. Having “bragging rights” over a cross-town rival is something both the Mets and Yankees will strive to achieve every year. And yet, this version of the Subway Series will have something extra. For the first time in years, both the Mets and Yankees will look up at the standings before their showdown and see themselves in contention. The venue, Citi Field, will provide a world series like atmosphere with a crazed fan base that has waited 8 arduous years to wear their team colors with pride. This isn’t just your run-of-the-mill Subway Series. It is the return of a rivalry that has waited over a decade to return to relevancy.
Regardless of which New York team emerges victorious this weekend, fans should appreciate the fact that New York baseball is once again relevant. However, it is seldom that New Yorkers see the silver lining in anything, especially their beloved sports teams. Mets fans are tired of being in the shadow of the Yankee Empire, and Yankee fans never want to let go of the glory days of their dominance. One thing is for sure: this weekend’s showdown between the MLB’s pair of New York franchises will be special. The only question is, which side are you on—Yankees or Mets.