Archive for May 21st, 2010

Over the past several years, the Subway Series has usually featured two teams on divergent paths. When the Yankees have been riding high, the Mets have usually been down in the dumps, and vice versa. This time, however, both teams come limping into the showdown.

The Subway Series is always important for both teams (although much more for their fans), but this time around, the relative struggles of each team has given it added significance. The Yankees’ main concern is getting back on a winning track so the Rays don’t run and hide. The Mets, however, could be playing for their manager’s job. Should the Yankees sweep, many have speculated that Jerry Manuel could be fired.

For most of the season, Javier Vazquez has been the Yankees sore thumb, but now he is being called upon to be a stopper. After a strong start in Detroit and a relief victory against Boston, Vazquez seeks to make further progress in what so far has been a disappointing season. With the offense depleted by injuries and the rest of the starters suffering their first hiccup of the season, Vazquez’ performance has ceased to be a luxury, so any step back could be a considerable blow.

The Mets, meanwhile, have been teetering on the brink of oblivion. Three-fifths of their rotation has been sidelined by either injury or poor performance, while hitters up and down the lineup have struggled to produce. In particular, the triumvirate of Reyes, Francoeur and Bay has failed to meet expectations, which has caused the offense to stagnate. David Wright has also come under constant criticism despite being the team’s best offensive player. While his 55 strikeouts have been staggering, Wright has essentially become the whipping boy for team-wide failure (ala Arod in the past).

The Yankees have been playing a National League lineup for much of the past 10 games, so tonight’s lineup doesn’t represent the usual drop off that the team has suffered in an NL park. The addition of Kevin Russo in the eighth slot is a new wrinkle, but otherwise the Yankees will rely on their core group of stars to handle Japanese import Hisanori Takahashi, who throws everything but the kitchen sink.

So, with both teams hungry for a win, it will be interesting to see if the extra scrutiny of the series tightens the noose around each team, or helps them shake off their recent doldrums.

vs. Hisanori Takahashi PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter SS 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Brett Gardner CF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Mark Teixeira 1B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Alex Rodriguez 3B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Robinson Cano 2B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Nick Swisher RF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Francisco Cervelli C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Kevin Russo LF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Javier Vazquez P 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
vs. Javier Vazquez PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Jose Reyes SS 14 0.231 0.286 0.385 0 0
Alex Cora 2B 22 0.381 0.409 0.429 0 1
Jason Bay LF 13 0.167 0.231 0.167 0 0
Ike Davis 1B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
David Wright 3B 9 0.375 0.444 0.875 1 2
Angel Pagan CF 3 0.333 0.333 0.667 0 0
Rod Barajas C 16 0.133 0.188 0.133 0 1
Jeff Francoeur 5 0.400 0.400 1.000 1 4
Hisanori Takahashi P 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 82 0.273 0.293 0.416 2 8
Yankees vs. Mets
Season: 2010 Season: 2009 Season: 2008 All-Time
TIED: 0-0 NYY: 5-1 NYM: 4-4 NYY: 42-30

Interleague Facts and Figures

  • At 133-95, the Yankees have the best record in interleague games.
  • Derek Jeter (303) and Alex Rodriguez (253) have the most hits in interleague history.
  • Jeter has also scored the most runs (171) in interleague, while Arod has had the most RBIs (163).

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Long before interleague matchups, the Yankees and Mets used to play a somewhat annual exhibition known as the Mayor’s Trophy Game. The popularity of the game, which was played to benefit the city’s Amateur Baseball Federation, ebbed and flowed from the time it was inaugurated in 1946 (as a three way series involving the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers) until the last Yankees vs. Mets matchup in 1983 (the two teams also played a home-and-home series before the starts of the 1989 and 1990 seasons, but those games were not dubbed the “Mayor’s Trophy”).

New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner displays the "Mayor's Trophy" along side Dodger manager Walter Alston and Yankee manager Casey Stengel before the annual exhibition on May 23 1957. With the Dodgers and Giants moving to California, it would be the last Mayor's Trophy contest until the Yankees and Mets revived the tradition in 1963.

By far, the biggest lull in the series took place during the mid-to-late 1970s, when the Yankees were distracted by their own internal sideshows and the Mets were downright awful. During that period, attendance for the game plummeted (to as low as 9,792 in 1978) and interest among the players waned. In fact, the desire to play in the game was so low that it gave rise to perhaps the most infamous event in the Mayor’s Trophy: Graig Nettles’ alleged attempt to literally throw away the 1978 game.

According to Sparky Lyle’s chronicle of the 1978 Yankees, The Bronx Zoo (which is highly recommended reading for any baseball fan), the Yankees veterans grew increasingly restless as that year’s intra-city exhibition went into extra innings. At one point, Lyle recounted, Graig Nettles went up to him and vowed to take matters into his own hands by purposely making an error on the next ball hit his way. And, sure enough, that’s exactly what happened when the Mets’ Ron Hodges opened the 11th inning with a ground ball to third base. Unfortunately for Nettles, despite having a man on second with no outs, the Mets were unable to plate the run, thanks in large part to a great defensive play by Yankees’ second baseman Brian Doyle.

“If I get a ball hit to me, I’m going to let it beat against my chest, and I am going to throw in into the stands.” – Graig Nettles, as quoted in Spark Lyle’s Bronx Zoo

According to Lyle, Doyle was not exactly welcomed back into the dugout after his play helped extend the game. Years later in the November 1999 edition of Baseball Digest, Doyle, who was playing in his first career game at Yankee Stadium, recalled making two diving stops with the bases loaded in that Mayor’s Trophy game, including the one that came after Nettles’ error. “I was trying to show everybody I could play. I was giving 110%,” Doyle recounted, “After my first play, no one congratulated me. I thought, well, I am just doing my job. But after the second one, all of the guys were ragging me. It was pretty funny.”

It may have been funny to some of the Yankees’ players, but you can bet it wasn’t funny to George Steinbrenner, who by all accounts looked at the Mayor’s Trophy Game as a must win. In fact, Lyle’s entire book didn’t amuse the Boss. Regarding his accusation about Nettles, Steinbrenner responded, “Everybody says he’s a buffoon. He’s not a buffoon. He’s one of the least intelligent athletes I ever met”.

The play also wasn’t considered to be funny by many traditionalists in the New York sports media. Dick Young, the dean of sportswriters in the town, raged, “The DAMN THING [referring to Lyle’s characterization of the game] is played for the kids of New York…so they can grow up to be like Graig Nettles and Sparky Lyle…and all the other selfish heros.”

Young further added, “what is more pertinent to the game’s integrity, to the public image, than honest effort, on every play, even in exhibition games.”

Amid the firestorm that the allegation created during Spring Training of 1979, Nettles did issue a public denial. Although he insisted that he did no wrong, Nettles’ response was far from a rebuke of Lyle’s account.

“I never made an error on purpose in my life,” Nettles told the press. “I talked to Sparky about it. He’s my friend. Knowing Sparky, he was joking and it came out wrong.” (more…)

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