By Jason Keidel
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It’s fitting that both teams are 19-19, mediocre records for a sterile series.
WFAN host Mike Francesa has been out front with his adoration of the Subway Series, but even he admits that the Mets-Yankees five-borough bash has lost much of its voltage. And many fans have moonwalked from their original stance over Interleague Play.
“Who cares?” you say. “It’s almost 20 years later.”
Some of us care because it dilutes the product, removes some of baseball’s prerogative as a game that doesn’t surrender to the trendy sort who set fire to tradition simply because they aren’t part of it.
No sport stands on its past more than baseball. Its quirks — from outfield and diamond dimensions to no ties and no time clocks — make our pastime timeless. And there’s a difference between progress and boredom. Sometimes a sport will change its contours just because it feels like it.
Some of us cherished the sanctity and secrecy of each league, both autonomous entities that only saw each other in July and October. And the fact that the Yankees and Mets always played before stuffed stands didn’t change our opinion.
Money, of course, needs no apology, and the Interleague advocates assumed that bloated revenue meant mission accomplished, ignoring those soporific series between the Phillies and Angels and Rockies and Royals.
But now we don’t have that volcanic fervor in NYC, fans begging friends or scouring StubHub to get tickets to a Subway Series game. There are swaths of empty seats on a normal night. The Yankees have velvet ropes, ushers and guards standing sentinel over their priceless seats, which are now largely empty.
Exclusivity only matters when the product is unique. The Yankees are not, and they have priced out their blue-collar fan base — the beer and hot dog crowd, the folks who made the Yankees and Yankee Stadium so essential. And the Mets just played in an empty Citi Field, under soft blue skies and a perfect spring day — Mother’s Day, no less.
We’ve had some ephemeral bragging rights. The Mets stunned the city last year by vaporizing the Yankees in four straight games. And they honestly and earnestly whipped the Yankees twice this week.
But most commentary echoes up and down the avenues, lost on the natives marching to work, who have other sports to watch on their sprawling menu of television channels. To quote Chris Russo, this series lost some juice.
Didn’t stop my boys from lighting me up on Facebook. Normally smart men and solid grammarians, they went all caps and exclamation points, jamming a joyous knife in my ribs. But I just didn’t bleed the way I used to. If you want to call this the sour grapes of a sore Yankees fan … maybe.
But the Yankees are a walking triage, with 60 percent of their starting staff — Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova and CC Sabathia — on the shelf. On Tuesday night we had the immortal Vidal Nuno. On Wednesday night we have Rafael Montero starting for the Mets. On Thursday the Yanks are starting another newbie, Chase Whitley. At least on Wednesday a big name beams from the marquee: Masahiro Tanaka. And if the Mets beat Tanaka, too, the Yanks may want to invoke the mercy rule.
Joe Girardi can get tossed during a blowout. Daniel Murphy can urge his long fly ball to nick the foul pole. But you can’t make us care when we know this series doesn’t have the novelty of yesteryear. Make them play every other year, if you must make them play at all.
If you want an infernal New York story you can look to MSG, for a change, where the Rangers have snatched the headlines. Bars and cars are buzzing with hockey chatter. WFAN co-hosts Boomer & Carton couldn’t get enough of the epic comeback on Wednesday morning, and chances are you’ll hear more NHL chat than pitching breakdowns the rest of the day, which says as much about our local, lacking baseball clubs as the Rangers.
In fairness, the Rangers are very close to a place neither the Mets nor Yanks will sniff this fall: a championship.
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