I needed to get this out there before the interleague bloodbath that is Mets versus Yanks begins tonight. It’s time to put a stop to this gimmicky nonsense. And I swear this isn’t some Roberto Duran-esque “no mas” utterance from a beleaguered Mets fan, but rather a legitimate request to whoever it is that runs baseball these days (that guy Bud who ignored steroids all those years is gone now, isn’t he? Did he have a replacement?). And my plea is only in part driven by the fact that the Mets are now 20 games below .500 in this travesty over the past 22 years (has it really been that long?).
And yeah, if I’m a betting man (and you’ve all seen up close that I am not, at least, a skilled one), I’d have to take a guess that it will be 23 games under for my Metropolitans by this Sunday night. Then again, as Chris Berman always used to tell us “that’s why they play the games!” But this is more about an idea who’s time has come and gone. More than stale, this interleague stuff now has that nasty blue-green mold all over it, like the loaf of bread in the crisper you forgot about months back.
This is also certainly not just a Mets-Yankees issue either, as theirs is one of the few interleague battles that is actually a legit grudge match and matters at least a little bit. I mean, if you are chomping at the bit for the Rays and Padres to square off, I will nod and stand down accordingly, but somehow I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of you out there.
Taking a step back in an attempt to insert logic and context into this seemingly emotion-fueled argument, I am admittedly a traditionalist when it comes to our National Pastime. I don’t like the DH. I abhor what the steroid era did to the sanctity of the record books and numerical milestones I grew up memorizing (fact check — how many of you immediately know what 714 and 755 refer to, but couldn’t come up with Barry Bonds’s final HR total without the help of Google?).
I want a World Series where the combatants haven’t faced each other, or even common opponents, over the course of a 162 game season. It adds mystery and intrigue to the Fall Classic. It also makes for a better All Star game. Want to spice that one up, stop interviewing Bryce Harper in between fly balls and letting some idiot pose for a selfie with the home plate ump, and try putting a little distance and enmity between the two sides. Again, get rid of the gimmicks.
Quick All Star Game aside and props to my pal Night Man down somewhere outside of Dallas for predicting that sometime soon we’ll witness an All Star Game where Jose Altuve is manning second base while riding a unicycle. Don’t laugh too hard — it could be on a white board at the league office as we speak…
So enough already. Interleague play has run it’s course. No one cares or sees the novelty anymore. I caught an Indians-Reds game year before last in Cleveland and there was no one, repeat no one, who was approaching the Reds with the hatred I used to routinely witness when I would make my annual pilgrimage to either the Bronx or Queens for a Subway Series game. I’ve never seen the Dodgers take on the Angels, but I doubt those L.A. fans show up with anger in their hearts either.
Sure, I was on board big time when this idea first rolled out. As much of a traditionalist as I am, I’m also a huge sucker for a big sporting event. And the subway series, even today, is a big event in the NY tri-state area.
In fact, just last night I read an awesome article, superbly researched and written by the NY Post’s Mark Davidoff, recounting one of the greatest moments in subway series history, when Korean lefty Dae-Sung Koo (in his second MLB at bat, no less) doubled off Randy Johnson and came around to score on a Jose Reyes bunt. It was freaking amazing and somehow I had totally forgotten about it. If I was better technologically, this is where I’d provide a link to Davidoff’s story, but you’ll have to find it yourself. It’s worth looking up if you are a NY baseball fan.
There have been many more priceless moments. Lots of them. Even for those of us on the short end of this 66-46 Yankees romp.
Perhaps no moment is greater than that night in May of 1997 when Dave Mlicki (yup, the Dave Mlicki, he of the lifetime 66-80 record that included a stellar 8-12 for the Mets in ’97) shut out the Yankees 7-0. Indelible in my personal panorama of all time great sporting moments is me, along with about 5000 of my closest Met-fan friends, chanting “LET’S GO METS” at the top of our lungs for the final two innings or so at the old Yankee Stadium. The home crowd had en masse skulked off into the night, pennant waving tails between their retreating legs, and for that one delicious moment we owned the House That Ruth Built.
And an oh by the way moment — the fact that Dave Mlicki is the first name that comes to mind when I think of Subway Series celebrations of years past says all you really ever need to know about what it’s like being a Mets fan.
This series always was for the fans, though. What was so cool about those environments was seeing Yankee and Met fans arriving together, ruthless and coarse in their trash talk to one another, but always over a lot of laughs and even more beer.
And the fights. Every year. In the parking lot and in the stands. Pre-game and post-game.
One year my pal James’s buddy Leo (a Yankee fan, of course) broke out the magic word (“dickhead” if you are wondering) in inciting a small Yankee stadium near-riot against some unfortunate Mets fan who happened to be sitting in Leo’s seat (the unsuspecting guy was only off by a row, and with his girlfriend, no less). In Leo’s defense, the discussion over who belonged where had caused Leo to miss the game’s first pitch (any baseball fan understands the enormity of the first pitch, but c’mon Leo, in front of his girlfriend?).
Or the year my buddy Patrick had enough of the drunken, anti-Mets chants (to the tune of Camptown Races) — “Darryl takes it ** *** ***, DOO-DAH, DOO-DAH” — following a particularly brutal beatdown of our Mets by the soon to be 1998 World Champion, record-setting Yankees in The Bronx.
In a classic “hold my beer” moment, Patrick looks at me and says “that’s enough, I know how to shut these guys up (only he used a different term than “guys”).”
We were somewhat haphazardly making our way through the always dark and disgusting Yankee Stadium parking lot in search of our car (an annual challenge following Subway Series contests that typically involved consuming dozens of beers in a five hour or so time period). I knew what was coming and looked around to see if there were any police in the vicinity to protect us. Or at least a path for me to turn tail and run when the inevitable reaction followed. So he began.
“You know what the three greatest moments of my life were?” he shouted to everyone, but no one in particular, as heads turned our way, with volume escalating with his every word. I did know, of course, having witnessed this bit before, but wasn’t joining in on this one.
“The day I got MARRIED. The DAY MY DAUGHTER WAS BORN. AND THE DAY MUNSON’S PLANE WENT DOWN!!”
That was the night I learned how challenging it is to sprint across a parking lot, hurdling unspeakable puddles of god-knows-what, as beer bottles whistled by my head, all the while being cursed out by a bunch of irate, equally inebriated Yankees fans. Couldn’t Patrick have just said there was no doubt in his mind that Carlton Fisk was the superior catcher? Would have had the same result, but that is Mets-Yankees parking lot life in the late-’90’s for you. Uncensored and no holds barred.
But really, it’s run it’s course. Kind of like astroturf did and Finlay’s mustache idea. Cool initially, even fun for awhile, but ultimately less interesting and eventually counter-productive to what the game is about.
So let’s do away with it.
For Mets and Yankees fans in search of in-season bragging rights I do offer a solution. How about bringing back the Mayor’s Trophy Game? You could replicate it in those cities where a real rivalry exists. Dodgers-Angels. O’s-Expos (I mean, Nationals — congrats, Caps fans, by the way — and you are still welcome). Cubs-White Sox, maybe a couple of others I’m forgetting at the moment?
Remember those Mayor’s Trophy games? I sure do. Went once as a kid, and I still remember Ralph Houk coming out to argue — vehemently — a bad call at first. Way to go Ralphie — there was no such thing as an exhibition game to the excitable Yankees skipper. He was pissed and playing to win, as it should be. And I remember his beet red face to this day. Just like I remember that the Yankees won that night and Charlie Spikes homered for the Bombers. And even though my Mets ended up on the wrong end of the final score, it was simply an awesome night.
In another aside, I concluded that Charlie Spikes was destined to be the next great Yankee outfielder after witnessing his power display that night. I was wrong, but he still contributed greatly to the powerhouse Yankees teams of the second half of the ’70s. Remember how? Yup, he was part of the trade following the ’72 season that brought Graig Nettles to the Bronx.
So if you want to maintain the rivalry, ditch interleague play altogether, add another night to the All Star break and put in place a “next gen” rivalry series like those old Mayor’s Trophy games, across MLB.
Have it feature the top prospects of these teams taking on one another and create some excitement for the future. Let the ticket sales and concessions go to some chosen charity important to the local community, and at the same time preserve the identities of the respective leagues and the desired unfamiliarity that will add to the allure of both the All Star Game and World Series.
And then us Mets and Yankees fans can go back to rooting for the day when our teams meet in the real Subway Series. The only one that should matter. Only next time Benitez strikes out Paul O’Neil and we win Game 1, leading to a four game sweep, rather than that horrific outcome that rewarded all you over-indulged Yankees fans back in 2000, and further twisted the torture knife for us Mets fans (run it out Timo Perez, for chrissakes, run it out!!). Not that it still bothers me, or anything.
Who knows, maybe deGrom pitches a gem tonight, Judge and Stanton set a record for most strikeouts combined by teammates in a MLB tilt, and the chant of “Let’s Go Mets” will echo into the night. I hope so, and ya gotta believe, right? And then let’s call it off for good.