The Yankees are losing New York

Steve Kemp, left, and Yoenis Cespedes.

Steve Kemp, left, and Yoenis Cespedes.

Even though I wrote a book about the 1986 New York Mets—a team that briefly owned the city—I never really thought the modern Metropolitans could recapture the Big Apple. It just seemed sort of impossible. Beginning with the miraculous 1996 World Series comeback over Atlanta, the Yankees were New York. By were New York, I don’t simply mean they were New York baseball. No, they were New York—culture, style, celebrity. Their hats were ubiquitous. The names were iconic. Derek Jeter was more than a shortstop; he was a status symbol. He was Joe DiMaggio, he was Mickey Mantle, he was, in a way, Frank Sinatra. Larger than baseball, and larger than life. Joe Torre was the city’s father figure. Mariano Rivera was our protector. In the aftermath of 9.11, people turned to the Mets for entertainment, but they turned to the Yankees—and Yankee Stadium—for reassuring. Everything was OK, because the Yanks were playing ball.

So, as we prepare for Game 1 of this year’s World Series, I’m more than a bit shocked to say that the Mets are about the own New York once again. And I don’t mean temporary ownership, like a rental agreement for a few months. I mean own, as in out-draw, out-excite, out-win and out-matter the Yankees. Why? Two reasons:

A. The Mets are loaded with young pitching, and young pitching carries baseball teams.

B. The Yankees feel like Radio Shack.

Seriously, the Yankees feel like Radio Shack. Outdated, expired, 50 percent off selected merchandise before the store closes. There’s so little to get excited about with the franchise, which has recently had its own Back to the Future experience by going back to the 1980s and signing a whole load of so-so free agents to fill the uniforms. Whereas once it was Don Baylor and Steve Kemp and Dave Collins, it’s now Stephen Drew and Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. And then there’s the stadium—a charmless mall that, secretly, executives have to realize was a huge mistake. Citi Field ain’t Shea (I absolutely loved Shea), but it’s at least funky and cool and charming—sorta like the Mets. The new Yankee Stadium, well, it just sucks. It’s a building; one where history no longer took place. Sure, you can buy a $50 steak there. But can you feel like you’re sitting in a ballpark, gritty and grimy and ready to boo the hell out of Boston’s left fielder? Not really. Not like yesteryear.

There’s no quick fix for the bloated Yankees, just as there will be no quick collapse for the Mets.

New York will always be New York.

But New York—despite the beliefs of some—is not always a Yankee town.

1 thought on “The Yankees are losing New York”

  1. Puh-leeze, gimme a break.

    The Mets have gone on a nice run. Including the playoffs, which is no mean achievement. But it’s a pitifully small statistical sample. Especially when they were barely above .500, at 49-48 as recently as July 23. That’s WITH all those “fabulous” arms — one of whom, Matt Harvey, may well be gone next season.

    And they still finished only with the fifth-best record in their league — hardly the stuff of legends. They’ve been excellent in the playoffs, but everybody knows the MLB playoffs are as random as can be — in common parlance, a “crapshoot.” Speaking of which, if I were a bookie and knew the kind of flighty, flimsy analysis on which you make your predictions, I’d fade your action every day, and you’d go home wearing the proverbial barrel and suspenders after losing your shirt and pants.

    Don’t make the mistake of extrapolating cosmic truths from what’s happened in a short period of time. They couldn’t buy a hit for almost 100 games. Then, they got Yoenes Cespedes, who’s been a shot in the arm, but unlikely to be a long-term solution. And they’ve caught lighting in a bottle, to coin a novel phrase, with Daniel Murphy in the playoffs. But really, (a) how long can that last and (b) will he even be there next year? Their hitting is unlikely to be a lot better next season.

    I’ll tell you something else that you overlook. Most great young arms become crappy or sore older arms in the blink of an eye; or if they stay good, the team hampers itself by overpaying with long-term contracts that bite them in the ass a few years later, when the pitcher has broken down but is still making roster moves difficult by taking up a high percentage of the team’s payroll. Or they wind up somewhere else where they’ll get paid, because a team can’t keep that many great starters on the roster if it has to pay them all.

    And those crappy, malodorous, soon-to-be-extinct “Radio Shack” Yankees? With all their injuries and drama, they still finished 87-75 (the 4th-best record, by a hair behind Texas, in the AL this season) compared to the Mets’ 90-72. All this to-do over a 3-game difference over a 162-game season?

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