Esposito: The “Who Cares?” Subway Series, 2016 Style

You might say today began the “Who Cares” Subway Series, always one of the most anticipated series of the year, but that wouldn’t necessarily be true.

Yes, the media has given it short shrift, practically just another day on the schedule, what with the more exciting news of the day being all of the bodies flying every which way due to today’s non-waivers trading deadline. And with the both the Yankees and Mets being players in the market, sending and getting players like kids flipping baseball cards on the playgrounds of yesteryear, the bigger headlines are decidedly who got what and who went where.

The Mets picked up Jay Bruce from the Reds for prospects Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell. And then they brought back old friend Jonathon Niese for a guy who wasn’t doing the job in the bullpen, Antonio Bastardo. It wasn’t quite acquiring Harry Chiti for a player to be named later, and that player to be named turned out to be Harry Chiti (vintage Mets fans will know what we’re talking about), but it was close, exchanging lefthanders, with Niese coming back to the Mets, and Bastardo headed back to the club where he pitched last year, Pittsburgh.

The Yankees have spent the last week reinventing the old Henny Youngman line, “Take my team, please,” dealing away Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova for a boatload of prospects. You can now easily recognize a Yankee. They’re the players with little stickers on their jerseys that say, “Hello, My name Is…”

So here we are, in the midst of what used to be a big deal, Yankees vs. Mets. And it still is…to the fans. Walking into the ballpark tonight, you could still see hundreds of examples of friends vs. friends, brother vs. brother, father vs. son, husband vs. wife, all happily entering Citi Field with each wearing the colors of opposing teams. To them, it’s still an intracity rivalry, a chance for bragging rights in the household or wherever they hold their sports debates.

For the Mets and Yankees, they are just games on the schedule, but here’s a reversal of sorts. For the Mets, these four games against the other team with NY on their caps are a very big deal, a chance to gain some ground on the two teams ahead of them in the standings, the Marlins and Nationals. They won’t feel sorry for the Yankees as they catch them at a very vulnerable time, when the Bronx Bummers are struggling with the thought that management has given up on the season and are playing out the string until next year, when the prospects hopefully become something other than prospects.

The again, the Mets have been struggling fiercely of late, and made the deal for Bruce as a hopeful injection of energy and his .360 batting average with runners in scoring position, a category in which they have been failing miserably at this season. Collectively, the Metsies are batting .2016 under RISP, not a pretty picture.

The Yankees, as a team, are batting .220 under the same circumstances. And those 14 extra points equal 26 more hits, (179 to 153) and46 more RBIs (263-217). And from a team who’s having fun reluctantly playing Let’s Make a Deal in the last week.

As they say, it’s all about perspective. Ironically, both the Mets and Yankees are head to head in their 105th game of the season with surprisingly similar records. They Yanks are at .500, 52-52. The Mets have just two more wins, 54-50. Yet, one is vying for at least a Wild Card spot, and the other is trying to younger, fast.

In the past, it was the Yankees who held the high card, and sometimes tossed off the Mets as also-rans on their way to another playoff and World Series appearance. But the roles are reversed now. The Mets are the reigning NL Champs and despite losing players to the DL on almost literally a daily basis, are still in the hunt for a return to October.

This year’s Subway Series does have a different look. For the first time, they cut back from the standard home and home three-game exchange, where one weekend was up at Yankee Stadium, and on a different weekend at Citi Field. This year, it’s back to back, just four games, two here in Flushing, then two games up in the Bronx from today through Thursday.

From a personal standpoint, I don’t like it. No matter what, the fans like it, and they will continue to virtually sell out every game these two neighbors play. Somewhere, some Met or Yankee fan was unable to get tickets or enjoy the festivities perhaps due to the notion they only attend on weekends or were shut out of tickets due to the demand or premium prices for such a matchup.

But it is what it is. And here they go. If the Mets can take advantage of the Yankees at what might be their weakest moment, and with Bruce on the way, this might springboard their stretch run much like acquiring Yoenis Cespedes did last summer.

Last year, the Mets lost four out of six games to their city mates. In the history of Interleague, the Yankees still hold a decided advantage, 60-44. (Hmm, here’s a useless tidbit. Tonight marks the 105th game between the two in both of their 105th games of the season.)

So the Mets have a bit of catching up to do. It might start tonight.

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