MLB Rivalries: New York Yankees vs New York Mets

Ahead of the start of the new season, we’re going to look at some more of the rivalries that help to make MLB even more interesting. 

In this week’s edition, we’re looking at the Subway Series between the Yankees and the Mets. 

Yankees fan and fantasy sports writer Jamie Steed, along with Mets fan and semi-professional player/coach Michael Cresswell, will break down what the rivalry means to them and their team as they look to gain bragging rights as the Five Boroughs’ best baseball team. 

New York Yankees

If you ask New York Yankees fans who their biggest rival is, the unanimous answer will be the Boston Red Sox. It is arguably the most iconic rivalry in sports. But there’s nothing to say you can’t have more than one rival in sports. While recent animosity towards the Houston Astros may be considered a rivalry, it’s fair to call the Yankees’ rivalry with the Mets their number two. 

With New York City being split between five boroughs, there’s a level of pride for your borough. 

The Yankees calling The Bronx home and the Mets being based in Queens has led to an in-built level of animosity between the two. Even fans not from their ballclub’s home borough will feel an affinity to it, while harbouring mild hostilities towards the other. The right to be called the best team in NYC is certainly a thing. 

Despite the Mets being formed in 1962, playing in different leagues meant the Yankees didn’t face them in anything other than exhibition games until the 1997 season. The introduction of interleague play meant the two play each other every year now and has helped stoke the fires of a rivalry. 

Like most rivals, there’s been very few notable trades between the two. The biggest probably came in 2001 when the Yankees sent David Justice to the Mets for Robin Ventura. That’s not to say there haven’t been some big-name stars to have played for both ball clubs though. 

Darryl Strawberry, Rickey Henderson, Dwight Gooden, Al Leiter, David Cone, Willie Randolph, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Beltrán, Orlando Hernández (‘El Duque’) and the indomitable Bartolo Colón are all well-known names to MLB fans who have played for both New York teams. 

Yogi Berra and Casey Stengel (Alamy Stock Photo)

Furthermore, Hall of Famers Yogi Berra and Casey Stengel both had huge success representing the Yankees before going on to manage the Mets. Meanwhile, fellow Hall of Famer Joe Torre spent five years as the Mets manager before taking over in the Bronx 15 years later and cementing his place in Cooperstown. 

Even as recently as this offseason, the Mets replaced manager (and former Yankees manager) Buck Showalter with Carlos Mendoza, who was the Yankees bench coach before his appointment. It’s fair to say that, from a management standpoint, the names listed are considerably more associated for their time with Yankees than for anything they did with the Mets. 

On the field, the Yankees and Mets rivalry intensified in 2000. During the regular season, Mike Piazza (Mets royalty) was hit in the head by a Roger Clemens fastball. Things culminated later in the year when the two sides reached the World Series, in the aptly-named Subway Series. At last, they would finally get to play on the biggest stage of them all. 

Anyone doubting the ferocity of the rivalry got a glimpse of it in Game 2 of the series. One of the most infamous moments in World Series history; 

The Yankees went on to win the World Series, beating the Mets 4-1. Something of a symbolic score which represents the two ball clubs in stature, history and success. 

Since then, the Yankees have only made it back to the World Series three times and the rivalry has simmered down somewhat. No World Series appearance since 2009 and a seeming lack of ambition from the ownership to get back to those halcyon days has left the Yankees’ fan base frustrated. That ire was intensified when billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen bought the Mets in 2020. 

It didn’t take long for Cohen to splash the cash – the Mets entered the 2023 season with World Series aspirations and a higher payroll than the Yankees. But, in true Mets style, it all crashed and burned. By August, they had traded away star pitchers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, effectively throwing in the towel on what was meant to be the first year of a golden age of Mets baseball. 

Ask any Yankees fan about how the 2023 Mets season went and they’ll have a little giggle, seemingly knowing that’s how things would pan out. It’s as if we Yankees fans knew the Mets’ 2023 season would happen as it did. 

In this regard, the Mets have become a comfort blanket in recent years for Yankees fans. In times of struggle, torment and a lack of success, they remain a constant. A constant source of amusement and entertainment during their never-ending journey through obscurity. 

For that, and that alone, I thank the Mets. 

Jamie Steed is a Yankees fan and fantasy sports writer. He can be found on Twitter @Baseball_Jimbo. 

New York Mets 

The Mets and Yankees, while for years always staring at each other intently since 1962, have had huge similarities. Owners, staff and many players have donned the uniforms of both respective teams. 

Such greats as Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Curtis Granderson and Bubba Trammell. It can be a surprise to some when you realise that 155 players have turned out for both teams. 

This brings us neatly to the whirlwind that was the 2000 World Series. New York had seen more of its fair share of The Fall Classic in the ‘90s (dominated by our rivals) and, after sublime performances all round from Mike Hampton (thanks Bobby Bonilla!) and Benny Agbayani, among others, faced each other with a matchup that every New Yorker virtually dreamed of. That dream however, for us, was a mirage. Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza exchanged words (and lumber), and the Yankees juggernaut continued as Derek Jeter and crew decisively took away the series in five – they had just won their third title in a row.

Following this, the 21st Century for both clubs has been one of intrigue, change and what-if’s rather than success. The first decade saw the Mets transform a vastly-aging core lineup with premier sluggers, to an exciting youthful roster with Reyes, Wright and Beltran in tow. Conversely, the Yankees qualified again for The Fall Classic in 2001 and 2003 only to lose to the Diamondbacks and Marlins respectively. However, they would manage to beat the Phillies in 2009. The Mets, meanwhile, made it to The World Series again in 2015, only to falter to the Royals – my first, and only, World Series to-date.  

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen (Christoper Pasatieri/Getty Images)

This leads us to now. Throughout these last few years, the Mets and Yankees’ rivalry, while heated, has felt distant due to the performance on the field. The Mets now have the amazing Steven Cohen, and have undergone many steps, from signing big-name acquisitions like Scherzer and Verlander to trading away the two midway through last season. Meanwhile, the Yankees will look to keep rebuilding what is an aging team. 

In any case, both sets of fanbases will be determined for both success and the anticipation of self-satisfaction in watching the other collapse. 

However (and this is my personal opinion), a feeling of optimism hangs over me, not just for the highly-prospective 2024 London Series and the Subway Series, both of which I will be attending, but of a club that, by all accounts, can provide miracles

Ya gotta believe. 

Michael Cresswell is a player/coach for Herts Baseball Club, and can be found on Twitter @MrCresswell. 

Conclusion 

The New York Yankees have historically been one of MLB’s biggest spenders, regularly topping the league table for highest annual player payroll. 

MLB teams are able to sell their own media rights, and are now also able to sell their own local digital streaming rights too. Therefore, the Yankees’ ability to attract the best players with high-value contracts over the years has partly been thanks to a virtuous circle where the Yankees, the top baseball team in America’s biggest media market, and so, probably MLB’s most famous team too, were able to command top dollar from media outlets to broadcast their games. In turn, this meant the team could continue to keep attracting the best players, which led to more success on the field – the most World Series win in MLB history with 27 – which meant they could keep commanding top dollar from broadcasters, and then could afford to keep attracting the best players. It also helps that they are now one of the few MLB teams to hold a majority stake in their own TV station – the YES Network – and so, can now charge cable providers to have the YES Network on their platforms.

However, that has changed in recent years, particularly now the Mets have an owner in Steve Cohen who has been happy to invest money into a team that had MLB’s highest annual player payroll last season

While that strategy did not pay off last season, with the Mets missing the playoffs all together, the residents of Citi Field still had the foundations of a very good roster last year, even after trading away the likes of David Robertson, Scherzer and Verlander from its bullpen by the deadline in order to reduce payroll. 

The Mets has now boosted its bullpen again, adding Shintaro Fujinami, Jake Diekman Luis Severino, Sean Manaea, Adam Ottavino, Austin Adams, Michael Tonkin and Jorge López, as well as talented position players like Harrison Bader and Joey Wendle to add to the likes of Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Brandon Nimmo

Meanwhile, the Yankees have stuck with tradition, again being bold in their transactions by bringing in big-name talents like Juan Soto, Marcus Stroman and Clayton Andrews, to add to a roster that already has Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres, among others. 

If both organisations can now take those collections of very talented individual players and turn them into cohesive, well-functioning teams, there’s every reason to believe both could be competing for post-season success, and we may even see rivalries renewed in The World Series once again.

Brett Walker is Bat Flips and Nerds’ Oakland Athletics contributor, and can be found on Twitter @BrettChatsSport.

Featured image – Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

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