I do not hide the fact that I am a Mets’ fan who also happens to despise the Yankees. My friends and family know full well how much I dislike the Bronx Bombers, but maybe everyone else needs to be made aware of my hatred (or jealousy). In 2001, I celebrated Luis Gonzalez’s bloop single to win the World Series as if it had been the Mets playing. This, just two months after I survived being in the World Trade Center on September 11 and the entire country was emotionally rooting for New York to win the championship. Bear in mind, I do not dislike the Yankee players (aside from Alex Rodriguez), and I do not dislike my friends and family that are Yankees’ fans. I need to point this out because I actually do have a lot of respect and admiration for several Yankees…none more than for the great Mariano Rivera.
On May 25, 2011, Rivera appeared in his 1,000th career game…all as a member of the Yankees. He became just the 15th pitcher to ever make 1,000 appearances, and the first to ever do it all with one team. In an era of free agency and constant player movement, this is a remarkable achievement. Sixteen years ago, not many people would have predicted such a journey for Rivera, then an inconsistent and relatively ineffective starting pitcher on an up and coming Yankees team. The Buck Showalter regime saw something else in Rivera and moved him to the bullpen at the end of 1995 where he would remain as the Joe Torre administration took over in 1996. Rivera became the set-up man for John Wetteland as the Yankees went on to win their first of five recent championships. After Wetteland departed via free agency to Texas, Rivera was annointed the new closer and has never looked back.
It goes without any debate that Rivera is a first ballot, unanimous Hall of Famer. He is second all time with 572 saves (and should overtake Trevor Hoffman later this year or next year), and is the greatest post-season pitcher in the history of baseball. Yes, I said that. I realize he is a relief pitcher, but when the most important games were on the line, he came through almost every time. I would even go so far as to say that he is the most IMPORTANT player of this entire generation. The Yankees success since 1996 is not solely because of him, but it would not have happened without him.
What makes Rivera so good? How has he been so dominant? As we all know, he primarily throws one pitch…the cut fastball. It eats left-handed hitters alive as it moves towards their hands creating more broken wood than the cast of Ax Men. It sails away from right-handed hitters making them look more foolish than Donald Trump discussing his platform for a presidential candidacy. He generally throws it at the same speed and doesn’t possess any off-speed pitches to provide a contrast. Even though the batters know what is coming, they still can’t hit it. At 41 years old, Rivera is still the most effective closer in baseball. He will blow his fair share of games, including three thus far in 2011. He will probably blow a few more during the rest of the season. However, once the calendar turns to October, Rivera becomes a different player.
Eventually the day will come when Rivera hangs up his cleats and “Enter Sandman” will turn to Exit Sandman. That means that someone else, whether they are in the organization or not at the time, will have the unenviable task of trying to fill some very large shoes. So for now, Yankees fans, appreciate what you have in Rivera. Because as a someone who strongly dislikes the Yankees, I can sure appreciate Rivera’s greatness and dominance.
This may sound sacrilegious, but is Cliff Lee really worth the years and money that are being offered in negotiations? There is no dispute that he is the top free agent available and is arguably one of the best pitchers in baseball – right now. But the notion that he deserves a 6 or 7-year contract at a salary equal to or greater than some of the game’s best pitchers is questionable. I haven’t seen anyone else make this argument regarding Cliff Lee. All I read in the papers, blogs, websites, Twitter and Facebook is how multiple teams are justifiably making insane contract offers to a 32-year old pitcher with a history of back injuries and one amazing season on his resume. Yes, adding Cliff Lee to any team would make them instantly better. The Yankees, Rangers, Angels, Nationals and every other team in Major League Baseball would love to have Cliff Lee in their starting rotation. But at what cost? It is clear that the economic prosperity of Major League Baseball and some of its teams, as well as the market value of free agents, is dictating the terms of contracts being offered. That is fine, but my criticism is the gross over-evaluation of the most elite free agent pitcher on the market this year.
I realize that a baseball player’s value and success has many intangible aspects to consider. That is why Derek Jeter just signed a 3 year/$51M contract as a 36-year old shortstop entering the final stages of his career. Jeter has intrinsic value as an iconic New York Yankee, and he has 15 years of being one of the league’s most clutch performers in the biggest of spotlights. But what can the Yankees realistically expect from an aging Jeter who has lost a step or two and isn’t getting any younger? His statistics and actual on-field performance does not equate to the contract he received. The years and numbers being offered to Cliff Lee elicit the same questions.
Over his 8-year career, Lee is 102-61 with a 3.85 ERA. He has had a very interesting career with many ups and downs. After being acquired by the Indians in the infamous Bartolo Colon trade with Omar Minaya and the Montreal Expos (the trade that sent Colon to Montreal for Lee, Grady Sizemore, and Brandon Phillips), he had a couple cups of coffee with Cleveland in 2002 and 2003. He found some success between 2004-2006 by going 46-24 including an 18-win season in 2005. But if you look deeper at his numbers, his ERA’s ranged between 3.79 and 5.43 during that time. He also did not possess the same walk/strikeout ratio that we have grown accustomed to more recently. During a dismal 2007 season, he was demoted to the minors to work on his mechanics and find himself. He certainly did because his 2008 Cy Young season was one of the best statistical performances in recent history. He went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA, and in 223 innings he only walked 34 batters. This dominant control would become Lee’s signature attribute. He only walked 43 batters in 231 innings in 2009, and more amazingly, he only walked 18 batters in 212 innings in 2010. That’s right, only 18 walks in the entire 2010 season split between Seattle and Texas. However, his overall record the past two years was a collective 26-22 with a 3.20 ERA.
There were some mitigating factors for his mediocre win/loss record since 2009. He was traded in the middle of each season, including switching to the unfamiliar National League in 2009. After he was traded to Seattle before the 2010 season, he was recovering from an injury and missed the beginning of the season. The Mariners were also one of the worst offensive teams in baseball, so run support was not there for him. Surprisngly, after he was traded to the Texas Rangers, who possessed a far superior offense and bullpen, Lee’s performance took a nose-dive down the stretch. He compiled a 4-6 record with a 3.98 ERA in his 15 starts with the Rangers. There were rumblings about his previous back injuries flaring up, and it seemed to make sense given his inconsistent pitching. However, once the calendar turned to October, Lee became a different pitcher.
Cliff Lee has pitched in the past two post-seasons with the Phillies and the Rangers. In 2009, he went 4-0 including two wins against the Yankees in the World Series. He didn’t just win these games – he dominated them. He carried this success over to the 2010 playoffs where he went 3-0 in the first two rounds of the playoffs, including another dominant performance against the Yankees in the ALCS. Through his first seven post-season games, he was 7-0 with a sub-2.00 ERA. However, the 2010 World Series would not see Lee achieve the same success as he lost twice to the eventual champion San Francisco Giants. He didn’t just lose, he got knocked around and looked like anything but a dominant ace pitcher. And that is the lasting memory we have of the 2010 season.
So here we are during the off-season and Lee is getting offers of 6-7 years at $150M. Yes, he is a good pitcher with some terrific success in the post-season prior to the World Series. But if you break down his numbers and consider where he is in his career, he has likely maxed out by now. At 32, he is almost beyond his prime and is coming off two very mediocre seasons. His 2008 season is one for the record books and is unlikely to be repeated, especially by someone without the history of consistency. Other pitchers who have received similar contracts, such as Roy Halladay, Johan Santana and C.C. Sabathia, all had resumes consisting of multiple years of domination and consistency. They are all generally around the same age and they all have likely reached their pinnacle of success in terms of statistical performance. Here comes Cliff Lee seemingly out of nowhere since 2008 now commanding the same type of contract that these other stud pitchers have. It is likely that if Lee signs with the Yankees, Rangers or Angels he will have success because these are all very good teams. At 32, he likely does have a few more years left where those lofty expectations can be met. But as we all know in the post-steroid era, baseball players typically do not get better once they reach their mid-30′s. Especially a starting pitcher with a history of back injuries. No one can fault Lee for seeking a contract of 7 years, especially when there are multiple teams willing to give it to him. But the sensible thing for all teams involved would have been offering a 3 or 4 year contract to maximize their rate of return. Even if Lee is successful and helps put a team over the top, what will this contract look like when he is 37, 38 or 39 years old and a shell of his former self? Maybe these teams have so much financial security that they don’t even care. So why should we care?
We should care because as profitable as baseball is right now, there is no guarantee that things will remain the way they are. Teams are generating more revenue and income than ever, thanks in part to television networks and overall interest and attendance at games. But money does not grow on trees, so a team that makes a financial commitment like this had better be prepared to suffer through a devaluation at the end of the contract. In 2016, whoever signs Lee and is paying him $23M will likely not be receiving their money’s worth for his performance. That is just human nature. But this contract could become an albatross and prevent the team from making other moves that it needs to. Basically, signing Cliff Lee to such a contract is for a short-term goal with long-term repercussions. But again I ask, is he really worth it? His playoff performances the last two years seem to have masked the reality that Cliff Lee has had a very pedestrian career outside of his ridiculous 2008 season. He is not likely going to get better, and he must accept the pressure and responsibility of being in the spotlight as one of the highest paid athletes in all of professional sports. He is a simple man from Arkansas. He is not flashy, he does not get in trouble, and he seems to enjoy his lifestyle living in relative obscurity. This will all change once he signs on a dotted line for the projected years and dollars that have been offered.
In summation, I am not saying that Cliff Lee isn’t a good pitcher or that teams wouldn’t be better with him on their pitching staff. What I am saying is that he is being treated like an all-time great and someone who can be counted on for numbers that correlate to the dollars he is about to earn. His overall resume does not demonstrate that. He will help whomever he chooses to sign with, but what will that sentiment be a few years down the road?
Comments? Thoughts? Questions?
THE SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT
FlemishUSA v. League Commissioner
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM
THE COUCH POTATOES UNITE FANTASY BASEBALL LEAGUE
Decided October 24, 2010
Cite as 2 F.J. 35 (October 2010)
The plaintiff, FlemishUSA, is a participant in a fantasy baseball league called The Couch Potatoes Unite (hereinafter referred to as “CPU”). CPU is a fantasy league based on the Major League Baseball playoffs and is hosted on website located at www.fantasypostseason.com. The complaint is devoid of the following information: number of teams in the league, point scoring system, structure and style of the league, roster limitations, rules and guidelines, and names and contact information of the other members of the league.
The plaintiff alleges that during the league’s draft, the Commissioner manually re-set the draft order on several occasions. This has been confirmed by the website’s administrator who provided testimony stating that the league’s Commissioner did in fact make such changes, including giving himself the last pick of the first round. The plaintiff asserts that the Commissioner was able to draft several prolific players, including many of the upper-tier pitchers that were available.
After the draft was completed, the plaintiff and other members of the league realized what had happened, and as a result, they attempted to make some trades to balance out the league. The plaintiff admits that some of these proposed trades made little sense and were not fair or even. The Commissioner blocked some of these proposed trades which were nonsensical and uneven. However, after the Commissioner was made aware that the team owners suspected foul play in the management of the league, the Commissioner began approving trades with less scrutiny.
Prior to the start of Game 6 of the National League Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies on October 23, 2010, FlemishUSA made changes to his lineup including the placement of all New York Yankees onto his bench. He subsequently inserted Ryan Howard (1B-PHI), Chase Utley (2B-PHI), and Mike Sweeney (1B-PHI) into his starting lineup. However, after the game had started, FlemishUSA checked his lineup and noticed that Howard, Utley and Sweeney were all on his bench. Plaintiff did not provide any documentation or proof of his lineup submission.
Plaintiff claims that the Commissioner intervened and changed his lineup based on his allegedly suspicious actions during the draft and his self-serving, arbitrary decisions regarding trades.
The site administrator for www.fantasypostseason.com provided testimony regarding the plaintiff’s allegations with respect to the issues with FlemishUSA’s lineup:
“With respect to specifically the issues with your bench. On our site, league commissioners cannot influence which players are on your bench. However if you made a recent trade or free agent changes the site may have adjusted your lineup to maintain a valid legitimate roster. So whereas Yahoo puts all acquired players on the bench our site finds a valid combination of players and sets a lineup. Now while we thought this was a good thing, it turns out that it has confused some of our members and we are going to change that behavior as soon as the mlb playoffs end. In any case, we can get you points for the players that were benched for yesterday’s game. Can’t say for certain that you got bit by an auto-adjustment situation but we can address that. Not an issue.”
(1) Should Flemish USA be awarded points for Ryan Howard and Chase Utley?
(2) What, if any, action should be taken against the league Commissioner for changing the league’s draft order?
1. SHOULD FlemishUSA BE AWARDED POINTS FOR RYAN HOWARD AND CHASE UTLEY?
Based on the site administrator’s response to the issue of players being placed on a team’s bench after making free agent acquisitions or trades, the Court will defer to the owner of the website to handle the issue. The site administrator offered an explanation for what likely happened and has also offered to resolve the issue by providing the points requested for by the plaintiff. The Court will not intervene with such a resolution, especially because there is no tangible proof that the league Commissioner did in fact alter the plaintiff’s lineup.
2. What, if any, action should be taken against the league Commissioner for changing the league’s draft order?
The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment advocates for league Commissioners to have a certain amount of authority and autonomy to run and administer fantasy sports leagues. This is because being the Commissioner of a fantasy league is a thankless job that invites drama, controversy, and second-guessing. On the other hand, the Court also reciprocally expects league Commissioners to honor these respected positions by utilizing, enforcing, and adhering to rules and etiquette that govern the league. Even in a league where there are no written rules or guidelines, there are general competition standards which are assumed and expected to be honored.
When conducting a fantasy sports league draft, the order of the draft is either announced before the day of the draft or immediately before its start. Unless there are rules permitting the trading of draft picks between teams, the draft order is set as it was picked (either randomly or based on the previous season’s results) and should not be changed. The site administrator provided confirmation that the league Commissioner did in fact alter the draft order on three occasions. However, he ended up giving himself the last pick of the draft. Since the plaintiff did not provide the draft results or the rosters of each team, the Court will not speculate as to the strengths or weaknesses of the draft positions that each team had. Additionally, the Court will not make any judgment as to the benefits or detriments to drafting last in the first round because no evidence has been offered regarding the specific rules or scoring system of the league.
The Court strongly frowns upon league Commissioners arbitrarily making decisions that do not benefit the league as a whole. To modify the draft order without consulting the other league members or offering any explanations is the antithesis of what is considered in the best interests of the league. However, the draft has been completed and the league has been well underway since then. If the league members did not protest at the time or make any demands for reimbursement in exchange for remedying the issue, than the plaintiff and other league members have waived their rights to bring these allegations and obtain some sort of compensation or injunction. The Court recommends that the plaintiff and other league members reconsider joining a league where this particular Commissioner is running it. No matter what league the plaintiff joins in the future, he should make sure there is a governing document which outlines all of the league’s rules, and there should also be a process of checks and balances to prevent a Commissioner from having unlimited autonomy in his decision-making authority.
The Court hereby decides that site administrator’s handling of the lineup submission issue will be upheld, and that no action should be taken against the Commissioner for modifying the draft order.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
This is the fourth installment of the 2010 OBFBL Power Rankings. As usual, I will rank each team in order of strength based on overall record, points scored, upward or downward streaks, and my own subjective criteria. I will provide a quick breakdown and analysis and list each team’s previous ranking.
Onward and such!
#1 – Dawg Eat Dawg (18-6) – Previously #1
Nothing changes at the top as Benny maintains his year-long hold on the #1 spot. He has gone 4-1 since the last rankings and continues to dominate the league with his solid pitching and consistent offense. Roy Oswalt has pitched well all year, but didn’t get any wins on a putrid Houston team. Now that he has been traded to the Phillies, look for him to accumulate W’s to add to his stellar numbers. Lincecum and Greinke continue to produce, as well as Brett Myers and the resurgent Billy Wagner. Despite not being able to shake Jason Tuvel off his tail in the division, Benny has already clinched a playoff berth.
#2 – C.C. Ate My Ketubah (18-6) – Previously #2
Fortunately for Ari Teplitz, he has clinched the NL Central and secured a playoff berth. Unfortunately for Ari, his team has suffered another catastrophic injury as Kevin Youkilis has been lost for the season. After Kendry Morales’ injury, Ari continued winning and never lost his threshhold on the division lead. It will be interesting to see what happens now without Youkilis in his lineup. Nyjer Morgan has also been lost to injury, and Jon Rauch’s value plummeted due to the Twins’ acquisition of Matt Capps as their closer. Ari will be in the playoffs, but how far can he go with so many critical injuries?
#3 – Slappy McSingleton (15-9) – Previously #5
OBFBL rookie Matthew Abbott has been on fire since the last rankings going 5-0 and ascending to the top of the NL East. Everything has been clicking on all cylinders for Matthew. His recent additions of Wandy Rodriguez and Jeremy Hellickson paid immediate dividends. Roy Halladay, Ricky Romero and James Shields have all been consistent and productive. Despite losing Justin Morneau during the triple-header week, Brandon Phillips and Adam Dunn stepped up with some tremendous production. While his lead is minimal over his two division rivals, Matthew has positioned himself to make the playoffs in his first year.
#4 – This is the Business We’ve Chosen (14-9-1-) – Previously #3
Jason Tuvel has been a thorn in the side of Benny Greenstein, refusing to go away in the AL West pennant race. However, Jason has a comfortable 2 and 1/2 game lead in the AL Wild Card chase. To his credit, Jason has overcome his reputation for fading in the second half by continuing to win by riding his impressive pitching trio of David Price, Jon Lester and Yovanni Gallardo. Despite only going 2-2-1 since the last rankings, Jason is in position to make the playoffs.
#5 – Benny is Tiger Woods’ Bee-otch (14-10) – Previously #4
OBFBL original and former two-time champion Marc Stein has gone 3-2 since the last rankings and currently is the NL Wild Card leader. The recent injury to rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg could be a blessing in disguise as it is now likely he will pitch into September due to the rest he had while on the DL. Albert Pujols has been heating up, and to everyone’s surprise, Jose frickin’ Bautista has continued to dominate the league. He put up an astounding 77 points during the recent double-header week, which is one of the top 3 scores of all-time for a position player who did NOT hit for a cycle.
#6 – There is No Giant Douche, Only Zool (13-11) – Previously #9
Commissioner Mike Stein dominated the triple-header week, but then got his ass handed to him again in a double-header massacre. Mike is now 2-4 in double-header weeks, including getting swept four times. Ryan Howard’s injury could be devastating as none of his reserve bats even deserve to be in the starting lineup to replace him. Mike’s pitching staff, which is impressive on paper, has been very disappointing as King Felix has lost 3 in a row and John Lackey continues to be a disappointment. Yet Mike is only 1 game out of the NL Wild Card race and 2 games out of the NL East division race.
#7 – Hoof Hearted (13-11) – Previously #6
Despite going 2-3 since the last rankings, Jared Levitt has grown a two-game lead in the NL West. He can’t seem to get his entire team healthy at the same time as Josh Beckett’s return is slightly marred by the loss of Ian Kinsler again. Adrian Beltre has been a revelation at 3B hitting like it is 2004 again. Jared continues to take advantage of the slumps his division rivals are in. If Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Sanchez can maintain their success, then he will have three viable pitchers to lead him to the playoffs.
#8 – Mets in 2010 (12-12) – Previously #16
Jordan Maliavsky is the league’s biggest jumper in the rankings as he vaults all the way to #8 after going 5-0 since the last rankings. His acquisition of Tim Hudson bolsters a pitching staff that already includes Cliff Lee and a red-hot Gavin Floyd. Jordan has gotten clutch performances from Corey Hart and Delmon Young to help offset the lack of production from A-Rod. Now that A-Rod hit his tainted 600th homerun, perhaps he will relax and regain his power stroke down the stretch.
#9 – Death Star Destroyers (12-12) – Previously #10
Abe Strasser has catapulted to take over the division lead based on the 2nd tie-breaker with Mario. Abe has ridden the strength of his pitching all year as Sabathia, Santana, Lilly, Liriano, Pavano and Lowe have all been solid. His makeshift lineup, which doesn’t look impressive on paper, has quietly been contributing consistent (if not unspectacular) points – enough to help him win games. Abe still could us a bat to help bolster his lineup, and selling high on one of his pitchers could help him accomplish that.
#10 – 5 Finger Baseball (12-12) – Previously #12
Mario’s up and down season is now back on the upward swing as he has gone 3-2 since the last rankings, thanks in large part to Matt Garza’s double-header week no-hitter. Injuries have started to take its toll on Mario as he lost Magglio Ordonez to the DL, and Aramis Ramirez has been on and off the DL too. Justin Verlander hasn’t been the consistent ace that he thought and A.J. Burnett has been a trainwreck. Despite all this, Mario is still tied for 1st place and in position to make a run at the playoffs.
#11 – Full Metal Jacket (11-12-1) – Previously #7
Joey I. has struggled mightily since the last rankings going 1-4 yet still remains in 1st place due to his division rivals struggling as well and failing to capitalize. It will interesting to see how Joey I.’s young players perform down the stretch. To his credit, he has taken a chance relying on so many young players as vital pieces of his team, such as Matt Wieters, Drew Stubbs and Mike Stanton. Josh Johnson continues to be awesome, but Joey I. needs his Matt’s to perform well too (Capps, Cain and Latos).
#12 – Jewish Mafia (11-13) – Previously #8
Randy Peltz’s Hebrew Hitmen have really struggled lately only going 1-4 since the last rankings. Carlos Beltran’s return has not provided the spark that he expected. Pitching stud Ubaldo Jimenez went through his first slump of the year during the crucial triple and double-headers, but he looks like he regained his dominance this week. Hanley Ramirez continues to be underwhelming, but Matt Kemp looks like he may have broken out of an extended slump. The talent is certainly there, but Randy’s team needs to get going and get going soon.
#13 – Jumpin’ Jesse Orosco (10-13-1) – Previously #13
It has been quite an interesting ride for OBFBL rookie Tim Catts over the last few weeks. Tim set some OBFBL history during the triple-header week with an OBFBL record of 120 points for the entire period. He also set an abysmal record for the least amount of points in a 7-day period with 60, which broke the previous record that had been in place since 2004. Then, Tim blew out his division rivals in the recent double-header week scoring 300 points despite still having an inactive Dustin Pedroia in his lineup. Tim is, if nothing else, unpredictable.
#14 – Len Tuckwilla’s Nuts Over My Chin (10-13-1) – Previously #15
Injuries and wrong decisions on when to start Dice-K have doomed Craig’s season. In one week, Craig has lost Carlos Santana (not the singer) and Carlos Pena to the DL. Just FYI, this is an OBFBL record for most Carlos’s injured in the same week on the same team. Congratulations Craig. Despite his struggles, Craig is only 2 and 1/2 games out of 1st place in his division, so he is still within striking distance. For the 3rd time this season, he has left Dice-K’s 20+ points on the bench. Does he really hate the Red Sox that much???
#15 – Sharks With Phrickin’ Laser Beams (9-15) – Previously #14
Jim Malloy’s Sharks have gone 1-4 since the last rankings yet he remains only 2 and 1/2 games out of his division race. Phil Hughes seems back on track, and Trevor Cahill has been a revelation on his pitching staff. Veterans Jimmy Rollins and Torii Hunter continue to be productive, and Miguel Tejada seems quite happy in his new home in San Diego. Jim has been an historically streaky player, so he is close enough in the race to make a serious run if his team gets hot at the right time.
#16 – Cole Hamels’ Multi-Racial Children (9-15) – Previously #11
Jeff and Mike have gone 0-5 since the last rankings and are barely hanging on to their playoff hopes as they face elimination if they lose one more game. Injuries have depleted Cole Hamels’ team as Chase Utley, Clay Buchholtz, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Freese were unavailable for the recent triple-header and double-header weeks. The Uptons look like they may be breaking out of slumps, and Ellsbury is already back. If they can stay in the race, Utley should be back as well which would give Cole Hamels’ a complete team for the first time in many weeks.
#17 – What is the Plural of Moose? (9-15) – Previously #17
Cory remains ranked at #17 after going 2-3 since the last rankings. However, he finds himself mired in last place in the AL Central trailing both the Death Star Destroyers and 5 Finger Baseball by three games. Cory lacks a hitter with much power, so he must rely on a compilation of hits, runs and RBI to accumulate points offensively. Dan Haren hasn’t done anything since he was traded to the Angels and the loss of Jake Peavy didn’t help matters. It could be a struggle down the stretch if Cory continues to rely on Livan Hernandez, Bud Norris and Justin Masterson.
#18 – Veal Cutlet a L’Orange (4-20) – Previously #18
It hasn’t gotten any better for Maury who has gone 1-4 since the last rankings and was the first team in the league to be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Despite finally getting Brian Roberts back, Maury lost Jason Bay to injury (which may not actually hurt him). To his credit, Maury continues to make moves to improve his team and compete despite not having a chance anymore. Maury is asking himself if things would have been different had he been more patient with Zack Greinke and Wandy Rodriguez. The answer is probably not.
It is hard to believe that Interleague play has been around for 14 years already. It feels like yesterday that Dave Mlicki shut out the Yankees in the very first Mets – Yankees regular season game. Back then, it was so new, innovative, and exciting. Bragging rights were at stake between Mets and Yankees fans. Obviously since then, one team has had a tremendous amount of success. The other team is the New York Mets.
However, after 14 years of seeing the Mets and Yankees play each other every year, including once in the World Series (damn you Timo Perez and Armando Benitez), I have to say that I still enjoy the Subway Series as much as I did in 1997. I was at the second game of the Mets-Yankees series this past weekend at Citi Field. Besides the fact the Mets won, I can objectively say that the stadium’s energy was electric and the game was tense as if it was October baseball being played.
I have been to several Subway Series games over the years. The first one was in 1998 at Yankee Stadium where my friend and I arrived to see someone sitting in our seats. After some confusion, it turns out the geniuses sitting there had tickets for the next day’s game that they couldn’t attend, so they decided they would use them the day before. Yeah, not so much. That game was most remembered by a Yankee hitting a ball back up the middle and shattering Armando Reynoso’s shin bone. Later in 1998, I went to a Sunday night game at Shea Stadium where Brian McRae hit a game winning sacrifice fly. Yes, Brian McRae actually did something productive on the Mets.
In 1999, I was at the infamous Sunday night game at Yankee Stadium where Mike Piazza hit a grand slam off of Roger Clemens to ignite the Mets’ 40-15 stretch that led them to the NL Wild Card that year. I was also at games in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008 and now 2010. The one thing that all of these games have in common, regardless of whose home stadium it was played in, is that the energy is electric. The chants of “Let’s Go Yankees!” and “Let’s Go Mets!” back and forth is awesome. The “Yankees suck!” and “Mets suck!” chants are hilarious. The trash-talking, the ribbing, everything about it is awesome.
What makes it even better is the level of knowledge, involvement and passion that both Mets and Yankees fans possess. I will talk crap about the Yankees to anyone, but I must respect most Yankees’ fans knowledge of the game and their team. Most Yankees fans are classy people who know their team is good, but they will still just talk baseball and analyze the game. Of course there are exceptions, just like Mets fans, but overall the dynamic between Mets and Yankees fans is pretty serene and friendly competitive. The other great thing I love is the dynamic between friends and families who have different rooting interest. My wife is a Yankees’ fan and I am a Mets’ fan. A lot of my friends are Yankees’ fans as well. So seeing people sitting together with different teams’ jerseys, one person standing up and cheering and the other sitting down and sulking, is always amusing (except when I am sulking and my wife is cheering).
Over the last 14 years, the Yankees have experienced success just about every year (oooohhh no, in 2008 they missed the playoffs for the first time since the War of 1812). They have pretty much dominated the Subway Series over the years because the Mets haven’t been very good with the exception of a couple seasons. But that’s ok. The tension, drama, passion and excitement is still in the air when these two teams play. The Clemens-Piazza rivalry added spice. Now there really isn’t too much drama between the teams. You always see Jose Reyes and Derek Jeter chatty with each other. David Wright and A-Rod are chummy with each other discussing who has left more runners in scoring position. But you know deep down these players want to win the Subway Series. It isn’t just another set of games, no matter what milquetoast answer the managers or players give. And for the fans, it is great because we get to do some trash-talking.
While Interleague play is a bit excessive overall and not the novelty it once was, the natural rivalry games (Toronto vs. Arizona anyone?) should still be revered because they provide mid-season playoff style baseball. The best part at the game the other night was a guy wearing a Ryan Howard jersey in our section. Amidst random chants of “Phillies suck!”, a Yankee fan went up to that guy and said that “the Phillies suck, and that is something everyone here can agree on.” And that is the beauty of the Subway Series.