It's popular to shrug off the Subway Series between the Mets and Yankees, as people love to label it as a "distraction." However, I like it. I try to deny it, because that's the cool thing to do. But, in the end, when I see those two uniforms on the same field at the same time, I can't lie -- I sit up, lean in and feel the fire to win.
Technically, the four games against the Yankees have less of a direct impact than when facing a team from the NL East. But, it's still a fun time. And for me, that's why I fell in love with and continue to watch baseball.
Frankly, the media attention, the packed crowds, and the general stadium buzz is refreshing for this time in June, especially for a team like the Mets that is bouncing in an out of playoff contention.
I realize it's all a bit manufactured and all aimed directly at the fans, but it's nice to take a fan vs. fan rivalry, inject it in to each ballpark and let the players duke it out by proxy.
So, stop kidding yourself. I know you want to hate it, you may have even convinced yourself that you do hate it, but you can't fool me. Tonight at 7 p.m., when you see the Mets and Yankees standing opposite one another in Yankee Stadium, you'll be in to it because -- more than you want to win -- you really don't want to lose... and that's what draws you in. Have fun. I know I will...
This time each year, writers, hosts and fans list their top Subway Series moments, all of which almost always include Mike Piazza being hit by Roger Clemens, the Luis Castillo dropped pop up, Dave Mlicki's win, the Dae-Sung Koo dash, and so on. However, in honor of the silly, dramatic, over-hyped, but always fun and captivating series, here are my favorite Mets vs. Yankees moments and quotes that are rarely ever mentioned...
6) See ya, Mo
In his last regular season game ever at Citi Field on May 28, 2013, all-time great closer Mariano Rivera was honored with a gift from Mets COO Jeff Wilpon before the game and then threw out the first pitch to former Mets closer John Franco.
Mo is one of the most-influential and greatest baseball players of all time, in my view, but even I was embarrassed by how the Mets put this hated rival on such a lofty pedestal.
Thankfully, Matt Harvey started for the Mets and let up one run in eight innings, while striking out 10 batters. Because the Mets had not scored a run, Rivera then fittingly entered the game in the bottom of the ninth inning in hopes of shutting down the Mets one last time.
The Mets had a different ending in mind, though.
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy led off with a double. Our hero and captain, David Wright, then laced a single to drive in Murphy, tie the game and give Rivera his first blown save of the year. The next batter, Lucas Duda, ripped a game-winning hit and handed Rivera the first blown save of his career where he did not record at least one out.
5) True New York fans
It's not technically a Subway Series moment, but Curtis Granderson certainly stoked the rivalry's flames when addressing reporters after signing with the Mets in late 2013.
"A lot of the people I've met in New York have always said that true New Yorkers are Mets fans," Granderson said during his introductory press conference. "I'm excited to get a chance to see them all out there."
This comment made Mets fans proud and had Yankees fans losing their minds.
Prior to joining the Mets, Granderson spent four seasons with the Yankees, for whom he hit 115 home runs, drove in 307 runs and played in five postseason series. He then crossed town to join the Mets, who gave Granderson a four-year, $60 million contract.
The Yankees and their fans saw and still see themselves as the better destination when choosing between their legacy and the Mets. So, to have one of their own not only leave them for the Mets but also disrespect them by suggesting their fans are not true New Yorkers, was absolutely perfect, hilarious and refreshing to hear...
4) Lo Duca vs. A-Rod
Alex Rodriguez has been a lightning rod since his name was first mentioned in baseball. For Mets fans, he was a strange symbol of missed opportunity, unrequited love and absolute jealousy.
In July, 2006, as the Mets and their fans were growing confident watching the team 'run rough shod over the NL East,' Rodriguez shut us up by hitting homers and driving in seven runs during a 16-7 win in the Subway Series.
Following his second home run, which was a grand slam, A-Rod -- who never misses a moment to be accidentally selfish and aggravate his opponent -- stared into the Yankees dugout, tossed his bat and aggressively clapped his hands at his teammates and then at the field.
This infuriated Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca, who was the heart, soul and attitude of that year's Mets team. So, when Rodriguez made his way slowly around third to home plate, Lo Duca began baiting Rodriguez -- leading the two to be face-to-face in anger.
It didn't end in a fight. But the mere thought of these two teams throwing punches -- and essentially becoming the fight and fury that exists between the two sets of fans -- it's enough to still get me pumped up and wish it might still happen one day.
In other words, it's the thought that counts.
3) You're fired
It's rare that a loss is viewed as a positive. But, the second game of the 1999 Subway Series was just that
The Mets had re-signed Mike Piazza the previous winter, added Robin Ventura and had momentum heading in to 1999. However, while in the midst of a six-game losing streak during June, Bobby Valentine's squad dropped two games to the Yankees, pushing their record to below .500 at 27-28.
Following the second game, Steve Phillips fired most of Valentine's staff, including pitching coach Bob Apodaca, hitting coach Tom Robson and bullpen coach Randy Niemann.
The news was shocking, felt uncomfortable, but also made total sense given the expectations entering the season and given how they had just been embarrassed by their crosstown rivals.
It is almost unheard of that a team dismantles half of their coaching staff and finds instant success. However, after Phillips dropped the axe during the Subway Series, which as you can imagine was like a feeding frenzy for local reporters, Valentine and company went 75-38 to finish the season. In the end, they reached the postseason and -- though they eventually lost to their their top rival, the Braves -- the entire October created an entertaining and memorable final series, according to all Mets fans and most of MLB.
2) David Wright's support
It mattered that David Wright always endorsed and played to the raised energy of the Subway Series. I mean, if David cared, why shouldn't both sets of fans? He got it, he understood the purpose of the rivalry because when playing he lived in Manhattan and he heard direct from Yankee fans.
"Obviously, my situation is different," he told me in late 2011. "But, believe me, they get on me. They're probably nicer about it than they are with you, but it does make you want to win probably more than guys want you to think. We see the pinstripes and it definitely fires you up."
Again, it's easy to blow off the Subway Series as pointless, but when our Captain hints at an underlying desire to knock the Yankees down a peg, it matters. It fires us up. Also, the above quote tells me that he can somewhat relate to how we feel every day having to deal with ring-waving fans from the Bronx.
1) This is now our stadium, kid!
Interleague play started in 1997. However, from 1963 to 1983 the Mets and Yankees faced off in the Mayor's Trophy Game, which was an in-season, exhibition, charity game that rotated annually between Shea and Yankee Stadium. MLB did these sort of things back then, such as when the Mets and Red Sox played in mid-1986 to support the Jimmy Fund.
By way of my grandfather's car dealership connections, my Dad and I were able to attend what would end up being the final Mayor's Trophy Game in late April, 1983, which was held at Shea Stadium.
The Yankees, who would eventually win the game, took a 4-0 lead heading in to the bottom of the third inning. As the Mets were readying to hit, three drunk, arrogant Yankees fans seated in front of my dad and I turned back to us and yelled at me, "This is now our stadium, kid, take your Mets hat and go home."
They laughed afterward, probably suggesting it was funny to them and not as scary as I recall. Nevertheless, it left a mark. I was only eight years old, new to being a baseball fan and -- who knows -- in time I may have one day found myself rooting for the Yankees like the rest of my family. I chose the Mets because to me they were the underdogs. And after that day and that interaction, my Mets fandom was cemented.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!