The Time Has Come To Say Good Bye To Subway Series
Thank you once again, Bud Selig. Twelve years ago, you gave baseball fans across the country, and especially in the New York/New Jersey market, something to watch every June and July: inter-league play.
For the initial five or six years, the annual right of early summer brought us intriguing matchups that no one would be able to see unless it was late October. Regional rivalries such as Yankees vs. Mets, Indians vs. Reds, Cardinals vs. Royals, Cubs vs. White Sox, as well as the never before seen match ups: Yankees vs. Phillies, Mets vs. Indians, Barry Bonds at old Yankee Stadium, Ichiro Suzuki in his first at bat ever at Shea Stadium and many more brought fans to the fields of play.
Yes, there was a time that as a fan, I used to love inter-league play, especially the Subway Series. Every time the Yankees and Mets would meet, it felt like Armageddon Day; the last thing in the world a fan wanted was to see his team go down to its cross town rival and having to hear about it at school or work the next day.
My heart used to beat as fast as it could during a pennant chase in late September and October. I lived and died with every strike, ball, single, double and home run. It was great back then. It meant something then.
From the Met perspective, they were trying to derail the reigning World Champions Yankees, a team that dominated not only the back pages of New York newspapers but dominated every single team in baseball.
Met fans couldn't stand the sight of every big hit from Derek Jeter, the violent passion of Paul O'Neil, and, oh yes, Roger Clemens and his 'Roid rage on Mike Piazza.
From the Yankee perspective, they looked at the Mets and their fans as that annoying little crosstown cousin who had no muscles, no hot girls, buck teeth and wore glasses so big he looked an owl.
The Mets were a pest back then, always treating any win against the Yankees as Game Six of the 1986 World Series, and any loss as the worst thing in the world next to death and taxes.
The Yankees hated losing to the Mets because they were supposed to be the "inferior" team in the city. The Yanks were the Champs, and losing to the Mets would mean that George Steinbrenner would swoop down from his leather recliner at Yankee Stadium to chop someone's head off before the night was over.
Back then, the passion was there. Today, it is pretty much gone.
With the exception of the "Castillo Drop" game, the Subway Series this year has slowly and sadly lost a lot of its luster. Yankee and Shea Stadium used to be filled with chants of "Lets Go Yankees," "Yankees Suck" and "Lets Go Mets." Those chants were so loud you could hear it on TV.
Today, you could hear a pin drop. Fans sit on their hands as if they were watching an Orioles/Yankee game or a Mets/Nationals game. The fans do go, and do root for their team, but the hatred between the rivals is gone.
Maybe that has something to do with the fact that neither team has really been successful over the past five years, or maybe it has something to do with the consistent success of true division rivals in Boston and Philadelphia that has caused this series to wane.
Or, maybe it is the blatant fact that fans have to endure not only one, three game series between the Mets and Yankees, they have to endure two series, separated by just a week or two every single year.
Too much of a good thing? I think so.
Fans in the metropolitan area have seen over 75 games between these two teams since 1997, including the 2000 World Series, with six games to be played every season between the two from here to eternity.
At some point, the post-season-like-passion for this event is going to be come to end. It is summertime, with 100 games left to play and more important games to play against the likes of the Phillies, Red Sox, Marlins and Rays. There is really no need anymore to treat this one series as the be all or end all.
For years, participants of this series, whether they be Joe Torre or Willie Randolph, or David Wright or Derek Jeter, usually played down the importance of the Subway Series; now, fans are starting to do that as well.
Yesterday, as I was getting ready to watch game one of another Subway Series, I noticed that the papers didn't have the big pull-outs that they used to have earlier in the decade. Fans weren't calling up talk radio to blast their Yankee or Met counterparts, and the atmosphere at Citi Field was kind of dull.
It is easy enough to get pumped up for one, three game series, but two series? No, it is getting harder every year.
Therefore, it is time to reconsider this whole inter-league schedule. Instead of two Subway Series at both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, baseball should limit New York fans to just one series every year, with the two teams squaring off at one stadium one year and the other the next.
Instead of having the series in mid-June, it should be scheduled on the 4th of July weekend when family and friends usually get together for BBQ's, socializing and, of course, baseball. If that were to happen, the passion would return for this series, since it would be a once a year occurrence like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
This should be the case for every city. Chicago should have only one Cubs/White Sox series; Maryland should have only one Nationals/Orioles series; southern California should have only one Angles/Dodgers series.
Moreover, the rest of inter-league play should be eliminated, allowing teams to play more games against rivals from the same league. Why? The Wild Card, a playoff spot that has become one of the most cherished pieces of October in recent years.
We are a spoiled lot here in New York, but if we want to feel the old passions for the Subway Series again, then baseball must step in and find a way to make Mets/Yankees special once again.
The Fourth of July and Inter-City Baseball! What could be a more American way of celebrating America's birthday than that?
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