Despite scheduling, Subway Series still has lusterMid-week series hasn't removed the excitement from crosstown battle
Last year, the Mets swept a series that began at Citi Field on Memorial Day, and it was a new wrinkle to an annual matchup that has been a highlight on the New York calendar since interleague play began in 1997. In reality, it made something that was old new again, but even if the idea of the Series itself is old hat so to speak, that doesn't mean it's not still a treat.
"I think the newness of (the Subway Series) has worn off, but I think the excitement level is still very high," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said prior to Monday's opener. "When I walk into Citi Field there's obviously a great buzz - and it's the same when the Mets come over here - and there's a buzz in the city. In most things in life, the newness is where you see the highest level of excitement, but I still think there's excitement in this."
If there was anyone who didn't believe Girardi, then they should have been at Yankee Stadium on Monday night. A crowd of 46,517 packed the Stadium and was loud all night, with several dueling chants between Mets and Yankees fans and an atmosphere one could compare to a big-time soccer match.
That was no surprise to Derek Jeter, who has been a Yankee for every single minute of interleague play so far.
"The atmosphere is always good. Fans get into it, and they're pretty energetic every time we play the Mets," The Captain said. "As players you look forward to that. The mood does depend on where you play or who is winning or how close the games are, but it's always pretty fun."
Even on a Monday night, as the crowd proved in Game 1. But, despite that raucousness and the unique "home-and-home" atmosphere created by the Monday through Thursday set, not everyone is fond of the Subway Series being "just another" mid-week series - with Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira chief among the dissenters.
"I've always said I'm not a huge fan of interleague play, but I love the Subway Series and think it should be celebrated," Teixeira said. "It's huge for New York baseball and the city itself, and I wish it was still on weekends; it would be nice for it to be able to be even more special."
Girardi doesn't necessarily "agree" per se - he reiterated Monday that "my only thoughts on scheduling is I think the AL schedule should be more balanced, because you play within your division a lot and in any given year, a certain division might be tougher than others" - but regardless of when the Subway Series is played, he still has to look at it the same way he always does.
"It's the same way you approach it every year. These are important games early in the year, two here and two at their park," he said. "These are big games, but they're always big games."
And, as years go by and Mets-Yankees - or White Sox-Cubs or Angels-Dodgers, for that matter - become less "special" in terms of quantity, Girardi doesn't think they'll ever diminish in terms of quality.
"I think it's the in-town rivalries are really good, and I think they'll always be good, People ask if it loses luster, but I think that when you're 10 minutes away from each other, it'll always be pretty special."
Yankees reliever Matt Thornton, who got his first true taste of the Subway Series with an appearance on Monday night, was one of the new Bombers who was looking forward to it. Thornton has been part of another intra-city rivalry (White Sox-Cubs) and seen another of baseball's best (Yankees-Red Sox) from both sides, so he knows just how hot a true rivalry can be no matter where, when, or how it is played.
"Both (Chicago teams) have struggled over the last couple years so maybe some will say that rivalry has lost its luster a little bit, but there have been a lot of great games and series there and fans look forward to it," Thornton said prior to Monday's game. "Being part of that, and Yankees-Red Sox, I'm excited to see what the Subway Series looks like from the inside."
The 2014 version was special for some on the other side too, as there are now four ex-Yankees on the Mets - with one of them, Curtis Granderson, just "defecting" across town this winter. Granderson was a beloved fan favorite as a Yankee, and he was welcomed back with open arms upon his return; there were a smattering of boos, of course, but the "Grandy Man" got lots of cheers when he batted in the first inning, and he also did his signature dance when he received roll call in the bottom of the frame.
Even if it was straight "haterade" showered on him, though, Granderson knew he would relish the moment regardless.
"It's neat to get a chance to do it on both sides, not many people obviously get a chance to do that," he said prior to the game. "I fondly remember playing the four or six games against the Mets every year, because I got a chance to lock in on it no matter where the teams were in the standings and get some bragging rights for those brief days."
And you can count him among those who don't mind the schedule change.
"The fact that the series are back-to-back, playing here and then going over to Queens, makes it pretty cool," Granderson said.
Agree to disagree on many topics, but one thing is clear: the Subway Series still has it.