The rivalry between the Yankees and the Mets hasn’t been going on for very long at all in baseball terms; the Mets have only been in the league since 1962, less than half as long as the Yankees. They are in separate leagues. They face off against each other only 6 times per year. There haven’t been many heated moments between them. The players don’t hate each other. The two have only played each other in the World Series one time(2000), and it was a lopsided affair that the Yankees needed only 5 games to win. At first glance, you could conceivably make a case that the Yankees and Mets are not rivals. And then it occurs to you while you are sitting in right field at Citi Field as a drunk loner Mets fan with more pimples on his face than Roger Clemens has on his back yells “Swishhhhh anddddd Swallowwww!!!!” at Yankee’s right fielder Nick Swisher. At that point you understand that this rivalry is as real as it gets in baseball, because the difference between the two teams lies not only in their number of titles, but in the ideology of their respective fan bases.
With the season almost halfway over, it is clear that the Yankees and Mets have two separate goals for the season as well as for the future. The Mets want to play meaningful games as deep into the season as possible while keeping their young core of talent completely intact. A first round exit from the playoffs would be a bonus for them, and yet the fans could not be happier. There is finally a direction and a core for a franchise that feels they choked away their last group of talent with bad front office moves, worse Septembers, one Jason Bay signing, and one knee-buckling curveball.
Across the city, the Yankees are stuck between an inevitable rebuilding period and their yearly motto of World Series or bust. With roster issues ranging Mariano Rivera’s season-ending injury to suspect starting pitching, the Yankees continue to reel off wins and remain in first place. However the regular season is often thought of as the preseason for the Bombers, and anything less than a 28th title would immediately put the job of manager Joe Girardi on a stove.
And while these differences may seem season-specific, they are merely this season’s illustrations of the big picture differences between the two franchises.
The Mets haven’t won a World Series since 1986. Thus there is a whole generation of fans that haven’t seen a victory parade. And while the thirst for a title is apparent, the lack of one has given birth to an appreciation for the little things that Yankee fans will never understand. Mets fans can genuinely reminisce about moments that didn’t take them to the top, but gave them a whiff of what the air up there smells like. While Yankees fans would view moments like the Endy Chavez catch and Robin Ventura’s “Grand Slam Single” as wasted moments that lead to nothing, you cannot convince the Mets fan base that those moments didn’t mean something.
Mike Piazza never took the Mets to the promised land. And yet if you ask any Met fan about the Piazza-era they will pump their chest out with pride because regardless of outcome, few players ever put a team on their back the way Piazza did with his Mets. In the sport that perhaps relies the least on individuals, Piazza affected his Mets as much as any quarterback or all-star center, and Met fans remember him fondly for that reason. More recently, Johan Santana was brought here to anchor a pitching staff for a team that was expected to win it all. Four years and a few major DL stints later, the Mets have yet to even make the playoffs with Santana on the team. You wouldn’t know it by the ovation he gets every single time he takes the mound at Citi Field. Johan is their guy, and his tortured stay in Queens made June 1st, 2012 that much sweeter. After never experiencing a no-hitter or a perfect game in the franchises’ entire history, Mets fans watched as Johan Santana officially completed his journey back from the all of the losing and all of his injuries in a crafty, gutsy, and very emotional() 134 pitch no-hit performance against the St. Louis Cardinals. While Yankees fans see any season that doesn’t end with a parade as a failure, New York Metropolitan fans can draw a parallel between themselves and a player like Santana, wondering if their faith and heartache will someday payoff.
Tradition. Pride. Class. These are the words that are often associated with the Yankee’s organization. An organization that does not even allow their players to have facial hair beyond a mustache. An organization with 27 championships, the most in any sport. An organization that doesn’t distract itself with rivalries beyond the one in Boston. Their fans? Pompous, obnoxious, petty, god-complexed. The Yankees are the most successful franchise in baseball and yet their fans still have a chip on their shoulder. It is quite simple for Yankees fans. The Mets suck. But it isn’t enough for the Mets to suck, they want the fans of the Mets to realize, understand, and acknowledge just how much they suck. Any joy Mets fans take out of regular season or early-round playoff moments is like a naive child that thinks a shiny quarter is more valuable than a 100 dollar bill. Piazza sucks. Johan Sucks. The only reason the Mets won the title in 1986 was because of an error on the first baseman of the other team we enjoy tormenting. It’s not enough for the Mets fans to live in the backyard of the evil empire, they are expected to contract whooping-cough from inhaling the fumes of the death star.
It’s nothing personal towards Mets fans, that is how all of the other 29 teams get treated.The only thing that matters for the Yankees and their fans are championships. And while going deep into the playoffs every year is exhilarating for fans, it has forced them to become numb to regular season and individual player accolades. Some would say they should be enjoying the “Golden Years” of Derek Jeter’s great career. Their response? They want to win one more ring for him. Alex Rodriguez had some statistically unbelievable season in his early years with the Yankees, but he wasn’t truly accepted until he helped the Bombers win a ring in 2009.
In 2012 there are two franchises in the same city playing with different goals in mind. One wants to create an environment that will allow its young talent to grow. The other is relentlessly marching towards their usual goal of winning a championship. The respective mindset of the fan bases are just as different, as each have had their expectations molded by a generation of events and circumstances. Ultimately, the best situation for baseball in New York City will be one where both franchises are competing for a title.
But that will never happen….because the Mets suck.