When it comes to rooting interests, New Yorkers can be a fickle bunch. “Which team is doing better?” many will ask before picking a favorite. While the Yankees currently rule the New York roost, it wasn’t always this way.
In the mid-to-late 1980s, this town was a Mets town. While the Yankees were unlovable also-rans, the Mets were lovable winners. The 1986 captured the hearts and minds of New Yorkers, and even Yankee fans could cheer over a Bill Buckner error and a Met victory over the Red Sox. Howard Johnson, Mookie Wilson, Darryl and Dwight, Lenny and Keith all ruled the city.
By the time the early 1990s rolled around, both teams were rather directionless. The 1991 Yankees finished in 7th, 71-91, 20 games out of first place. The 1993 Mets were even worse. They finished 59-103, their worst finish since 1965.
As the mid-1990s rolled on, the Yankees turned in one of baseball’s truly historic runs. They captured four World Series in five years, and the last came at the expense of the Mets in the first Queens-Bronx Subway Series. In 1997, the Yankees and Mets started to face each other during the regular season too, and those games have also served as something of a barometer of New York success.
For the first few years of Interleague Play, the Yankees dominated. They took two out of three from the Mets in both 1997 and 1998 before splitting the first six-game set in 1999. The Bombers took four out of six in both 2000 and 2001 before another split in 2002. In 2003, the Yankees swept all six games. In 2004, the Mets finally won the season series. Three straight splits followed that, and then last year, the Mets again won four of the six contests.
This year, though, saw the Yankees totally dominate the Mets. It was the first year that either team won five games, and outside of the 2003 sweep, this season marks the Yanks’ best Subway Series showing. While the Mets and Fernando Nieve managed one victory, the series wasn’t that close.
Offensively, the Yankees crushed a depleted Mets team. The Bombers hit .271/.378/.514 with 44 runs scored an 11 HR. In 249 plate appearances, they drew 34 walks and struck out just 29 times. Teams that walk more often than they strike out don’t lose. The Mets, meanwhile, hit .196/.291/.299 with just 17 runs scored — eight of those in the first game of the series — and just four home runs. They struck out 53 times in 222 plate appearances and walked just 23 times.
The pitching numbers stack up similarly. Yankee pitchers threw to the tune of a 2.83 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP; Mets hurlers allowed 6.84 earned runs a game and sported an ugly 1.74 WHIP. Ironically, Johan Santana’s effort in a game two weeks ago at Yankee Stadium was the worst of the series. His nine earned runs in three innings pretty much set the tone for the series.
I don’t like to gloat too much about baseball games in season. It’s bad karma, and it’s unsportsmanlike. After this weekend, though, Yankee fans are feeling pretty good about their team. In a city with two new stadiums, in a city with baseball fever as one team struggles with injuries and a poorly-constructed roster and the other battles a tough division, in a city in which both teams are within spitting distant of first place, it’s good to be king, even if just for a few months.