The Subway Series Makes Its Stop at Citi Field

New York Yankees vs. New York Mets

So far the Subway Series hasn’t gone as I had hoped. The Yankees scored 14 runs in the Yankee Stadium portion of the series, but gave up 21 as the bullpen couldn’t keep it close on Monday and then Vidal Nuno and the bullpen ruined everything on Tuesday. The Yankees have now lost six straight to the Mets and the last time the Yankees beat the Mets was June 24, 2012. Boone Logan won that game for the Yankees and Rafael Soriano saved it.

With the Yankees and Mets continuing the Subway Series at Citi Field, Matt Callan of Amazin’ Avenue joined me to talk about the growing positivity for Mets fans, how Curtis Granderson is fitting in on the other side of town and what Matt Harvey means to the Mets both on and off the field.

Keefe: The Yankees came into the Subway Series on a two-game losing streak thanks to some bad starting pitching in Milwaukee. With the Mets losing eight of nine entering the series, I thought this four-game set came at the right time and would put the Yankees back on track. So much for that.

After the Yankee Stadium portion of the Subway Series, the Yankees have now lost four straight and are back to .500 for the first time since April 12 when they were 6-6. Fortunately for them, no one in the AL East really wants to run away with the division and the Yankees are just 1.5 games back of the Orioles for first.

There is usually a negative attitude and aura around the Mets from their fans and over the last six or so years I guess there has been a reason. But this year, even with Matt Harvey out after undergoing Tommy John surgery, there seems to be a rare sense of positivity around the Mets, even for their most pessimistic fans. Do you feel like that’s true?

Callan: I think beating the Yankees helps for positivity. As much as you want to pretend that that’s not a big deal, it’s always kind of a big deal. I think there is a certain amount of positivity right now due to that, and due to the call-ups of some hyped young arms like Rafael Montero and Jake de Grom.

However, I also think that the mood around any team (not just the Mets) shifts so quickly now, in the age of Twitter, etc., when a team’s outlook is judged almost on an at-bat-to-at-bat basis. If you asked a Mets fans how they felt about the team on Sunday afternoon, when they were in danger of being swept for the second straight series and losing nine of their last 10 games, they probably would’ve said “lousy.” And if the Mets drop the next two to the Yankees at home, they’ll very quickly forget the two wins in the Bronx. That’s not a Mets fan thing so much as a fan thing.

More than anything, I think Mets fans have accepted that the team is still not ready contend, and so any sign of life is greeted as a treat rather than taken as an entitlement. Not sure that translates into positivity, but it’ll do.

Keefe: Curtis Granderson was a good Yankee. He was brought in to be a quick-fix for the Yankees’ outfield depth and that resulted in trading Austin Jackson. He hit 84 home runs between 2011 and 2012 and averaged 29 per 162 games during his four years in the Bronx. Had the Yankees successfully traded for Cliff Lee in July 2010, Granderson would have gotten the ring he is still looking for and had he helped out offensively in the playoffs in 2011 or 2012, maybe he could have gotten another one.

Granderson was brought to the Mets to give the team power and some middle-of-the-order presence as well as experience and leadership. However, he was made for new Yankee Stadium, as we just saw once again on both Monday and Tuesday. But Citi Field isn’t the Stadium and Granderson has just one home run in 71 at-bats there this year. He has been struggling to provide consistent offense through the first month and a half of the season, but what are your early feelings on Granderson as a Met?

Callan: I’ve always liked Granderson for simple “seems like a nice guy” reasons. I personally didn’t have enormous expectations from him for many of the same reasons you mention. He is what he is at this point in his career: an aging outfielder who strikes out a lot but can still hit home runs under favorable circumstances.

There are fans who expected more of him, of course, and he’s gotten some rough treatment already from fans who’ve dubbed him Jason Bay 2.0. The big difference between Granderson and Bay is that Bay completely fell off a cliff, whereas Granderson is still exactly the same player he was, possessing skills that don’t translate well to Citi Field.

The Mets’ front office still hasn’t figured out how to build a lineup that can win at Citi Field. I doubt Sandy Alderson thought he’d solved that puzzle when signing Granderson, and I doubt Granderson thought he was the answer either. They both know he’s a bridge to some hypothetical right fielder of the future. Whoever that is, hopefully he has a better idea how to score runs in that ballpark.

Keefe: The Mets had to make a decision when it came to Ike Davis and Lucas Duda at first base and for now and for the future of the position and the Mets chose to trade Davis to Pittsburgh and keep Duda. Since the trade with the Pirates, Davis has hit .273/.368/.394 with one home run and seven RBIs and Duda has hit .262/.360/.369 with one home run and nine RBIs. The production has been as even as possible and it looks like the Mets would have ended up with the same result as of now no matter who they picked. But the decision to go with Duda over Davis won’t be decided for a while.

Were you a fan of the move to trade Davis and keep Duda, or should it have gone the other way?

Callan: It was clear one of them had to go, and it’s probably for the best that Ike Davis was the one who went. His struggles at the plate were almost soul crushing. It might be the most helpless I’ve ever seen a guy look at the plate, at least one who used to tear the cover off the ball.

There were a lot of contributing factors to his decline, like a weird leg injury that knocked him out for a year, and a bout of Valley Fever, which never goes away and can be quite debilitating. (Conor Jackson had to quit baseball altogether after contracting the disease.) The Mets also announced their intention to trade him in the offseason so loudly they might as well have honked AWOOGA horns everywhere they went.  I think everyone involved realized that whatever potential he once had, Ike and the Mets were never meant to be.

Lucas Duda still strikes me as, at best, a DH in a league without that position available. But of the two, I think he’s more likely to succeed in a Mets uniform.

Keefe: Matt Harvey is the future and future face of the Mets. Despite being just 25 and having pitched in 36 games in the majors, he has shown the ability to be a true ace in the league. However, what comes with being an ace and a pitcher and a franchise face in New York is everything that comes with being a celebrity. Because Harvey is the most important Met his off-the-field actions have been closely followed since he isn’t able to give anyone anything to talk about regarding him on the field this year.

What are your feelings about Matt Harvey the pitcher? How big of a deal is it for him to return to the Mets healthy and be the pitcher he was pre-injury? And how sick are you of hearing about his off-the-field life?

Callan: Matt Harvey was the best and worst thing about the 2013 Mets. He was the best because for a few brief, shining months he was among the best pitchers in baseball. The Mets have touted their prospects as their future for the past few seasons, but Harvey was the first one to make it to the bigs and not only contribute, but dominate. His starts became events, and when he pitched, Citi Field came alive for some of the very few times since it opened. There was one awesome night when he outdueled Stephen Strasburg and a very loud crowd chanted the Nationals’ ace off the mound with yells of HAR-VEY’S BET-TER.

His Tommy John surgery was, obviously, the worst thing about 2013 because it robbed him from us not only the rest of last season, but all of this year, too. His injury was also terrible because it provided a smokescreen to the Wilpons. Rather than be forced to put up or shut up and finally make a true accounting of their financial situation, the Mets’ owners could point to Harvey (explicitly or implicitly) as a reason for punting on 2014.

The return of a healthy Harvey would immediately rejuvenate the team and its fanbase, and would also go a long way to forcing the Wilpons to either spend on the team or finally admit that they can’t. Harvey’s status will tell us pretty much everything about the Mets in 2015. So yeah, he’s kind of a big deal.

Being a huge sports star in New York, Harvey has to deal with tabloid nonsense. I don’t worry about it in his case because it all seems to roll off his back. I do wish at times he’d tone things down, just to give the Post less ammunition, but he’s obviously not a tone-it-down kinda guy.

Keefe: This October it will have been eight years since the Mets last made the postseason. Aside from the most optimistic Mets fans, no one pictured them as a team that would contend for the playoffs in 2014 and it was viewed more as a year to give their young players experience and build for the future and create an organization that could sustain success. But just three games back in the NL East and with some roster changes from Sandy Alderson, maybe the Mets can be a surprise story this summer.

What were your expectations for the Mets coming into the season and have they changed with the 19-19 start?

Callan: I expected very little of the Mets going into this season, based on Matt Harvey’s injury and their unwillingness to spend over the winter. My expectations haven’t really changed at all, even though they continue to hover around .500. They have been more fun to watch at times than I expected, and the starting pitching has been better than advertised even without Harvey. But the lineup is still pretty brutal, and the bullpen always teeters on disaster. I’m mostly looking forward to the eventual call up of Noah Syndegaard and a few other pitchers from their farm system. If those guys can contribute this year and get some experience for some hopefully not-too-distant contending future, then I’ll be happy.