Meet the Mets! Updated Perspectives on the Mets and NY City Baseball
by Paul Semendinger
Originally Published – January 8, 2021
There is a new sheriff in town and his name is Steve Cohen.
Yesterday, the Mets made the first of what will be many moves in the coming months and years to bring respectability back to the franchise. He plans to bring respectability and a winning team to New York. He also just (finally) caught the Yankees’ attention.
As I have warned in previous posts (some of which is also below), New York has traditionally been a National League baseball town.
The Yankees have had a grasp of the city in recent decades because the Yankees were big players. They were the exciting team. The Yankees were winners. The Yankees also made moves. If there was a big player out there, the Yankees were in the hunt for that player and they often got that player. That created excitement. The Yankees were interesting and fun. They had energy. There was no question about their commitment to win. None. (That’s all they talked about.)
By and large, those days are now gone. Gone. That has not been part of the Yankees’ model for the better part of the last decade. The Yankees most often do not create excitement. They hang out now (and have been (minus a few exceptions) more on the periphery. And, they have made their intentions clear. They don’t intend to be big players in the free agent market or the trade market. They are not “going for it.” They are not “all-in.”
Yes, the Yankees will put a good team out there, a respectful team, a team that could win… that might win, but they won’t pull out all the stops to try to secure a championship. Those days are over and have been for a long time.
A long time.
The list of players the Yankees have passed up over the last decade is legion. Is is long indeed. It’s been so many that we often forget but this list includes Yu Darvish (not just THIS off-season, but the first time when he first came to the MLB), David Price, Justin Verlander, Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole (when he went to the Astros), Patrick Corbin, Manny Machado, Francisco Lindor, Aroldis Chapman (when he first came to the MLB), the list goes on and on. The Yankees passed on players who have helped other teams win pennants and World Series. We have seen this year after year.
And in New York, the Yankees got away with this because they remained competitive and because the Mets were a franchise in chaos and confusion.
The Mets are no longer a joke and the Yankees are on the verge of becoming New York’s number two baseball town. It can happen quickly.
It may have just did.
Of note, even while being a team in chaos, the Mets are the more recent New York team to appear in a World Series. Think about that. The Mets, a team that couldn’t seem to do anything right, have been in a World Series more recently than the Yankees.
Here’s another fact – since 2004, the Mets and the Yankees have each been in the same amount of World Series.
The Yankees sell themselves as the franchise of championships. What championships? Where are all the trophies and rings? Where are the pennants? The Yankees’ great success is ancient history. A 26-year old fan today remembers but one Yankees’ World Series appearance. The Yankees have lost a generation of fans. The young fans today don’t know anything about Yankees championships. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are about as relevant to young fans as Reggie Jackson, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Babe Ruth. They are all ancient history.
Quite bluntly, the Yankees are no longer a championship franchise. It’s a franchise that competes, sometimes reaches the post season, and loses when it gets there.
Let me ask an easy question – If you’re a kid growing up right now, which team seems more exciting to root for? Which team projects to be more fun in 2021? Which team has more energy?
Which team is going for it?
Which team has the owner who is bringing more excitement?
The Yankees of today feel like a nice old used-car that you might purchase. “It’s an old model, it used to be the best. You’ll get some nice reliable miles out of this old baby. There are a couple of fancy bells and whistles, but they don’t always work The car might get new tires every now and then . It’s a good car, just don’t expect too much out of her. This car isn’t designed to win any races.”
The Mets are the shiny new sports car. And they are on a lease. “No worries, after a short while, we’ll upgrade this baby to an even better model.”
Since New York can quickly become a National League town, the Yankees should sit up, quickly, and take notice.
The new sheriff has just signaled that he means business. He doesn’t plan on giving away the turf he’s taking. No, the new sheriff is here to stay and make his presence known.
This new sheriff also understands New York. He has seen the old sheriff taking the townspeople for granted. Those townspeople haven’t been happy about that for a long time.
The new sheriff knows that this is a town for his taking. He intends to take it because he also knows the history.
If the Mets are competitive and good and fun, they’ll take the city back.
The names Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden don’t mean as much today as they did in the mid-1980s. At all. In fact, today those names actually bring up memories or analogies totally different from what those names represented in the years from 1984 through 1987 (or so…).
Most fans today were too young, or not even born, to remember (or even know) that for a period of time in the mid-1980s, the New York Mets owned New York City baseball.
The brightest stars, the superstars on the Mets, were the biggest and greatest stars in the city. New York baseball was the Mets and Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden. The Mets dominated New York sports – they were The Show. The Yankees were a distant second fiddle.
Of note, for clarity, the Yankees of that period were actually a very good team with their own superstar players. The Yankees had stars galore, lots of promise, and they did win – a lot. They just didn’t win any pennants in those pre-Wild Card days. Of note:
1984 Yankees: 87-75 (3rd Place)
1985 Yankees: 97-64 (2nd Place)
1986 Yankees: 90-72 (2nd Place)
1987 Yankees: 89-73 (4th Place)
The Yankees of those years had Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson, Ron Guidry, Dave Righetti, and many others. They were good, real good… they just weren’t great.
The Yankees were fun to watch. Mattingly was setting records, winning Gold Gloves, gaining an MVP. Rickey Henderson was stealing bases all over the place. Dave Righetti set the All-Time Single Season Saves record. Ron Guidry won more than 20 games in 1983 and 1985…
The Yankees were really good… But they weren’t the Mets.
The Mets owned New York. Big Time.
In 1986, the Mets (2,767,601) outdrew the Yankees (2,268,030) in total attendance. Look at those numbers, the Mets outdrew the Yankees by more than 500,000 fans. (And that’s with a Yankees team that won 90 games.)
The Mets’ attendance was greater than the Yankees every year from 1984 to 1992.
The first New York team to draw more than three million fans was the 1987 Mets.
It was the Mets who owned New York.
All of this to say that there was a period, brief as it might have been, when the Mets were New York’s biggest and most popular team. The Yankees played second fiddle. We haven’t seen days like those in over thirty years, but with a new owner in Queens, an owner with deep pockets and a willingness to spend, the Mets are now relevant again.
The Mets could once again own New York…
If the Yankees let them.
And the Yankees are letting them.
When was the last time the Yankees went all-in at the trade deadline?
What have you heard more of the last ten years – the Yankees fervent pursuit of the best talent or their interest in getting under the luxury tax?
Look at the two teams, right now. Which team promises to be more fun to watch in 2021?
Which of these two teams looks to be more fun to watch going forward?
Who on the Yankees, right now, has the star power and personality of Francisco Lindor?
Lindor is a Met. He brings energy, excitement, and fun.
Baseball fans are talking in New York. And they are talking about the Mets.
What are they saying about the Yankees? “I hope they get D.J. back.”
The Mets fans, and the city knows that the Lindor move was just the first.
Yankees fans know that if the Yankees even get D.J. LeMahieu, that’ll be their last big move.
If the Yankees sign LeMahieu, he’ll be gone in five years. In five years, Francisco Lindor will be the age D.J. LeMahieu is today. One of those two players is a shortstop. The other is a second baseman who is starting to lose a step (with fans and experts alike already talking about his eventual move to first base). One of those two players has hit 30 home runs three times in his career. The other never has. One is fast. The other, not really. One is known as “Mr. Smile.” The other is known as “The Machine.” (Machines are nice. They are reliable until they get old and break down. Smiles sell tickets and create interest.)
Which of those two players will have a bigger impact on New York sports over the next five years… over the next ten? We all know the answer.
The best player in New York plays now for the Mets. The most exciting player in New York is a Met.
He could have been a Yankee, but the Yankees weren’t interested.
The Mets have set out to win back the city.
If the Yankees continue the model and approach they have used since 2010, they’ll lose the city faster than a Jacob DeGrom fastball…
The Mets fired the first shot.
Will the Yankees continue to play dead?