When I went to Yankee Stadium for the sixth game of the season and Sunday Night Baseball, it felt like I was going to an important game. It felt like a must-win game. I understand it sounds outrageous to call the sixth game of a 162-game season a “must-win ” game, but at 1-4 with a game still to go against the Red Sox and then a 10-game road trip to Baltimore, where the Yankees were dominated last season, Tampa Bay (where the Yankees have had trouble winning in recent years) and Detroit (home to the best team in baseball before this past week), things weren’t going to get any easier.
I started to think about what if the Yankees just kept on not scoring and making errors and baserunning mistakes? What if they dug themselves the kind of hole the Brewers have dug for themselves at 3-13 and eight games back just 16 games into the season? What if the season was ruined and over before the end of April?
Thankfully, the Yankees opened that Sunday night game against the Red Sox with an A-Rod three-run double, back-to-back home runs from Chase Headley and Stephen Drew and a seven-run first inning to save their season. And thankfully when they left Baltimore after back-to-back losses they went on to sweep the Rays last weekend and then came within a Jacoby Ellsbury double play of potentially sweeping a four-game series from the Tigers in Detroit. Thankfully, there is still a season.
Nothing has come easy for the Yankees over the last two years and that has continued into 2015. Their first four series were against the rest of the AL East and their fifth series came against the Tigers, who have won the NL Central four seasons in a row, and entered the series with the best record in the majors. And even though they’re returning to the Bronx for a six-game homestand, they’re returning home for the first half of the Subway Series to face the Mets, the latest hottest team in baseball.
I have always liked interleague play and I have always enjoyed the Subway Series. When both teams were competitive, it gave us a playoff-like series in the middle of a season that can feel monotonous at times. And when the Mets were bad like they have been for several years, it meant a few extra wins for the Yankees. Outside of the Mets’ 2013 four-game sweep that changed the Yankees’ season, the Subway Series has always been good to me and Yankees fans.
Things are different in 2015. Most people thought the Mets would be competitive this season and if everything broke right, they could compete for a wild-card spot and could come close to the 90-win plateau for the first time since 2008 when they finished 89-73 and missed the playoffs by one game. But the Mets have exceeded expectations over the first 16 games of the seasons and are 13-3 and riding an 11-game winning streak into the Bronx. An 11-game winning streak … for the Mets. It’s a number that seems unfathomable for an organization that has become the laughingstock of the league since the September 2007 collapse and a number they haven’t seen since 1990.
While this winning streak has continued, Mets fans have started to boast the way they were in 2006 when the Yankees lost in four games to the Tigers in the ALDS as the Mets advanced to the 2006 NLCS only to lose Game 7 at home to the eventual champion Cardinals. Mets fans have talked about taking over the city the way they did nine years ago and the way Jets fans did in 2009 and 2010 and the way Islanders fans did earlier this season. Each time the little brother has lost the battle being put back in their place by the big brother in what is a never-ending cycle. And that’s what each of those organizations are in the city: the little brother.
The Mets have longed to be the Yankees (and apparently the Brooklyn Dodgers too with the layout of Citi Field) and Mets fans have longed to be Yankees fans, stooping as low as trying to make Roll Call a Mets thing. But something like that is expected from a fan base looking for anything to get excited about after eight postseason-less seasons and six losing years in Queens. So it’s not surprising that Mets fans are treating their early-season success like something that will be sustained or trying to steal Yankee Stadium traditions or that they are expected to pack the Stadium this weekend in an effort to take over the Bronx and in turn take over the city.
I’m not sure where the “Best Team in New York” title or the idea that the one team can own or take over the city in any of the major sports came from or how it started, but it’s ridiculous. Not ridiculous in the sense that it doesn’t exist, but ridiculous in the sense that the little brother will ever take down the big brother.
In the past, the Yankees had nothing to gain from the Subway Series. If they won, they were supposed to win, and if they lost, it would be treated as the end of the world by the media and Mets fans. But now the Yankees have something to gain from the Subway Series. They can make sure the Mets and their fans remember that they’re still the little brother.