Esposito: Subway Series Now A Showcase Not a Showdown – NY Sports Day


NY Sports Day
Andy Esposito

Esposito: Subway Series Now A Showcase Not a Showdown

Joe Amaturo/Sportsday Wire

Remember when the Subway Series was a big deal?

Oh, how time flies. This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the year Interleague games began, and the Subway Series is still a big deal…to the fans.

The media has long since given up on the juice of such a series. You’ll hear the radio shows whine about how it’s just not the same anymore, or you’ll read newspaper and internet articles reminiscing of the days when Roger Clemens clocked Mike Piazza in the head, or Doc Gooden came back to defeat his former team, and so on.

But it’s still a Civil War in this town, no matter which team is up and which team is down. It’s still brother vs. brother, husband vs. wife, father vs. son and so on in many families, and it’s always a fascinating sidebar to see a couple enjoying the games wearing opposing jerseys as they’re holding hands.

It’s surely not 1997 anymore, when Mets starter Dave Mlicki shocked the Yankees with a brilliant performance up in the Bronx, and left George Steinbrenner fuming in his office. Okay, the Yankees rebounded and took the next two games to win the weekend to soothe George’s ego, but the sword had been thrown down, and the intracity rivalry was renewed with vigor.

This time, they counted.

Next week, the Mets and Yankees meet up again in a four-game set, first with two up at Yankee Stadium Monday and Tuesday, and then two more at Citi Field on Wednesday and Thursday. And it still will be fun, and still will be unique with the two clubs that bear the NY on their caps going head to head. But the stakes are far different now, arguably at polar opposites for each club, and the results will now mean different things to both sides.

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The Mets, at 50-60 five days before the matchups, are now the spoilers, their season trashed by injuries and overall subpar performances, with players out of position and some checking reports daily if they’ve been traded.

The Yankees, at 59-52 and on track to at least be a Wild Card participant, are hanging onto that ledge while chasing the Red Sox for the top spot in the division to avoid the one-game sudden death event. They’ve loaded up for October, having acquired Sonny Gray and Jaime Garcia for the rotation, and Todd Frazier to fill that third base gap. They’ve got their eye on the prize and are no longer just building a future with a new core.

After shipping out Lucas Duda and Addison Reed, the Mets still have players who have cleared waivers and may be headed elsewhere for somebody else’s stretch run. Neil Walker is being showcased at third base and at first, promoting a versatility in an effort to increase his trade value. The longtime second baseman, however, is batting just .129 (4-31) since returning from the DL on July 28 after recovering from a partial tear in his left hamstring. Teams are not beating down the door for his services, but you never know when one of the top clubs aiming at October suffer an injury to one of their own and need a capable fill-in.

Walker, a free agent at the end of the year, is still owed about $3 mil for the balance of the season as well, and that is also a factor, but not a major hurdle. It’s a good guess that some other GM may have asked Mets GM Sandy Alderson, “Can Walker play third?”

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Sandy already has stated that first base prospect Dom Smith will be with the big club in the very near future, but in order for that to happen, one of the infielders already jostling between first, second and third – Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jose Reyes – has to go bye-bye to make room.

Reyes likely isn’t going anywhere, as he is Amed Rosario’s mentor and friend, and an inexpensive insurance policy at various positions.

Cabby still is the most likely candidate to bid adieu, batting .277 since the All-Star break. He’s a good guy in the clubhouse, also a free agent at the end of the year, and does come through in the clutch from time to time. Five of his nine home runs this year have tied the game or gave the Mets the lead. He’s having a crummy homestand against the Dodgers and Rangers, however (1-16, .063).

Jay Bruce remains a candidate to be moved, and has literally been the Mets’ best hitter this year (.258, 29 HR, 75 RBI), arguably their MVP albeit in a disappointing campaign. Mets fans, who clamored for his release last year at this time are now hoping the Mets retain his services, and perhaps they will. They’re just as likely to pitch him a qualifying offer in the offseason as they are to deal him now. And he has also shown a willingness to learn a new position, first base.

The Yankees will meet the Mets with a hold on their postseason pole position slip-sliding away unless they can right the ship by this weekend. Their loss last night in Toronto was their sixth in their last ten games, and they’re just 2-5 for the month of August. Their record since the All-Star break is a healthy 14-11, but their slip is showing.

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Their first-half phenom and HR Derby Champ Aaron Judge is batting just .179 in his last 14 games, and has struck out at least once in his last 25 games. Yeesh!

Frazier – the infielder, not the outfielder – is batting just .207 since joining his boyhood favorites (12-58, 2 HR, 5 RBI), and Garcia didn’t have an impressive Yankee debut (4.2 innings, five earned runs). Oh, well.

Still, they’re in the driver’s seat headed toward October, and if Judge goes back to wrecking the ball on a daily basis, Chapman and Betances go back to being one of the best 1-2 bullpen combos, and the other cogs fall in place as they did in the first half, they might keep Ol’ George smiling in Yankee heaven by November.

Overall, the Yankees-Mets Interleague series for the past 20 years rings up in the Yankees’ favor, 62-46. Last year’s quartet of games was a split. At new Yankee Stadium (meaning since 2009), the Yankees retain an edge, 12-9. And they’re also ahead in Citi Field contests, 13-8.

The last team to sweep a four-game season series was the Mets, in 2013. The only time the Mets were swept was a decade earlier, in 2003, when the Bronx Bombers took all six affairs.

Tune in next week, folks, for the next exciting chapter in the continuing saga of Mets vs. Yankees. One way or another, it really never gets old.



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