Monday, October 8, 2012

Game 29: Checking in on Baby Brother

Throughout the beginnings of my fandom in the mid-1990s, the Mets-Yankees rivalry was fierce. I owned a t-shirt that read "This is your brain" next to a Yankees logo and "This is your brain on drugs" next to a Mets logo; my best friend had one where the Yankees and Mets logos were switched. Our elementary school made a rule that we were only allowed to wear them if we wore our shirts on the same day. With the advent of the six "subway series" games each year with interleague play, the Mets-Yankees rivalry become so heated, they were on the same level as the Red Sox in terms of my degree of loathing. When the two teams met in a World Series edition of the subway series in 2000, the city was at once divided by allegiances and united by the thrill of late-October baseball.

That was the rivalry at its peak. Lamentably, after two late-season collapses, some really bad contracts, and the crippling blow of the Madoff scandal to the ownership's ability to run the team effectively, the competitive animosity between the teams has disintegrated completely. Many Mets fans have become disaffected by recent moves like letting Jose Reyes leave via free agency while Jason Bay continues to be a blight on both the field and the payroll.

Yankees fans, meanwhile, are almost irrationally ambivolent and dismissive of all things Mets.

The Mets have always been the baby brother trying desperately to keep up with the Yankees' track record of heavy spending and winning seasons, but their past ability to run stride for stride with the Bronx Bombers has made their recent failures are all the more disappointing. Perhaps some of the novelty of interleague play has worn off, but the biggest driver behind the disintegration of the Subway rivalry has been the extreme divergence of the teams' performances.

So on Saturday, the second to last day of our trip, it felt really strange to be in the Citi Field parking lot. Because of how the relationship between Mets fans and Yankees fans has evolved in recent years, I was shocked by how negatively I reacted to arriving at the stadium. I very much liked the stadium itself, and I for one thought the food was the best of any ballpark in baseball, but it became clear immediately that some embers of the Mets-Yankees rivalry still burn inside me.

And then all of the signs of the dead rivalry started to hit me. The Mets had a 65-74 record. Their leadoff hitter was a guy named Mike Baxter. The cheapest game day seats in the stadium cost $32 (the $10 student discounted seats were sold out), the most expensive of any stadium by far, which led to a paid attendance of 25,000 (though the number of fans in the stands looked a lot closer to 15,000). After a 1 hour 15 minute rain delay (our first delay of the whole trip), the Mets were losing 8-3 and the stadium was practically empty. Oh, and one of the fans in our row was literally asleep. Not even nodding-off-close-your-eyes-for-a-minute sleeping; I think that if there had not been a torrential downpour in the seventh inning, he may have woken up to an empty stadium with the game already over.

And the Mets were playing the Braves, their fiercest division rival. Every New Yorker old enough to have a driver's license vividly remembers John Rocker and Chipper "LARR-RRY" Jones. Braves fans will never forget the havoc Mike Piazza and John Franco wreaked upon them. Or at least that was what I used to think; maybe some of them already have.

The worst part is that I know there are die-hard Mets fans who love to support their team even in tough times like these, but at $32 a ticket, can you really blame them for not showing up?

Games Watched: 29
Games to go: 1
Thuuz Rating: 19
Half-eaten Shackburger
Food: A+ and the best of any stadium. With Danny Meyer creations like Blue Smoke and Shake Shack, coupled with New York staples like Two Boots Pizza, it simply does not get any better.

Tim Kurkjian Award: There was no noise when the game started, which I mention because the main restaurant plaza is located behind the center field scoreboard. As a result, we didn't even realize the teams had taken the field and the first pitch had already been thrown until we were walking back to our seats with the food.
Miles Traveled: 14,346
Miles to next game: 215 (Blue Jays @ Red Sox, Fenway Park)

Click "Read More" for more pictures

Close up of the sign
29 down, 1 to go
Damon shows off the sign
The scoreboard

Pregame ceremony honoring Mets minor leaguers

Panorama of the stadium

Airplane flying noisily over Citi Field; one of many

The Home Run apple

Freddie Freeman

Cheese fries with spicy tomatoes, a Shake Shack delicacy

The invincible Kris Medlen

Medlen's stats on the year
Medlen action shot

Another airplane

The guys, after the end of the 5th inning made the game official

Joined by our friends Brad and Spencer

Chipper Jones, in what is likely his final season

Watching the game as a storm looms

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