Maybe it’s the excitement of having two brand new stadiums? Or perhaps it is the fact the Mets have suffered two epic collapses in the course of the last two seasons? Maybe it’s the fact the Yankees DIDN’T make the playoffs for the first time since 1995 last year? Or perhaps it has to do with the fact that our country is going through the economic tumble of a lifetime? Whatever the reason, the passion for baseball in New York City is back this season and back big. And all this anticipation culminates on this second week in June, right as we can begin to taste summer in the air.
Certainly New York City isn’t the epicenter of baseball like it was in the 1950’s. But after New York Baseball fans had to tolerate one autumn without either of their teams in the Playoffs, for the first time in fourteen years (oh the agony), the hunger between Mets and Yankees fans to see their team reach Valhalla is a hot topic on many a bar-stools through out the five boroughs. And coming this week, both the Mets and the Yankees will begin a week that could possibly be remembered as the “turning point/s” of their 2009 campaign.
Certainly, every season has a story. And for the Mets thus far, the story has been the snake bitten way that most of their team has fallen to injuries. These injuries have marred the Mets season thus far, to the point where it defies logic how one team can face so much terrible luck and bad health.
Hip surgery for their star 1st basemen, an inability to throw strikes from a key component of their pitching rotation, an injured leg for their all-star speedster at short, a stomach flu that left their quiet leader in center field and a starter pitcher a couple feet from a bathroom at all times for a week, a man who was to be the “8th inning guy”- a bonafide closer in his own right- going under the knife with an elbow injury, and even the replacements for these people breaking fingers and pulling hamstrings. Did I even mention the fact that they had a member of their television crew come down with the dreaded Swine Flu?
It’s been that sort of season for the Mets, who coming into play Monday were some how only 3 games back from the Phils who are in 1st place. Yet the Mets will have a chance to even that up as the two teams play a 3-game series in Citi Field starting Tuesday.
As for the Boys from the Bronx, the season has already seen peaks and valleys- more peaks as of late, with strong starting pitching, late hitting heroics and red hot hitting. Despite being 0-5 verse the Red Sox this season, the Yankees find themselves 1/2 a game up in the division and looking to make a statement this week as they will face the Sox in a 3-game set, starting on Tuesday Night. The Yankees, who have (to put it bluntly) been completely embarrassed by the Sox thus far this year, have to take two out of three this week- if all else for their own mental well-being and to keep the ‘whoa is me’ Yankee fan at bey for a bit. Losing two out of three, doesn’t mean they won’t be a contender for the rest of the season, but it sure will leave a terrible taste in the mouths of Yankee Universe.
The big game of this series for the Yankees will be Wednesday when a enigmatic Chien Ming-Wang takes the mound for what is probably the biggest start of his career since Game 5 of the ALDS in 2007. Wang, who has been downright dreadful, is attempting to build up his confidence and make a case that he deserves to stay in the rotation for the foreseeable future. But Wang, who seemingly has the mental toughness of a self-sympathetic child at times, can ill-afford to be embarrassed up at Fenway. An embarrassing start with Wang on Wednesday and it’s possible that his confidence will be gone for the foreseeable future. Also of note will be CC Sabathia’s first start vs. the Red Sox, as a member of the New York Yankees on Wednesday. CC who is a lifetime 2-4 vs. the Sox with a 3.91 ERA, is looking to set the tone as the staff ace and rebound from his last couple notable performances verse the Sox, which took place in the 2007 ALCS, when he was roughed up by the Sox in the playoff against them. But despite perception created from that playoffs series- CC has pitched VERY well at Fenway in the regular season, as he boasts a 2.35 ERA in 23 ip there for his career.
After those 3-game sets, the Yankees and Mets will turn their attention to each other for the first of two sets of the “Subway Series”. What will be interesting is to see what the mental states of both these teams are coming into the series. If the Mets get smacked around by the Phils, desperation will be in the air on a mid-June weekend. If the Yankees get smacked around by the Sox, there will be a lingering sense of defeat all weekend long. If both teams play well against their “other” rival, expect Yankee Stadium to be its usual unruly “‘Go back to Queens’-‘Way to buy all your championships'”-self, that is a trademark during the Subway Series.
Ahhh boy, Summer is in the air, and baseball is running into it’s peak. So sit back and enjoy the show- cause before you know it, it will be winter again.
Here’s some of your pitching probables for this week:
Tuesday 6/9, 7.05pm-
Burnett vs. Beckett – Happ vs. Santana
Wednesday 6/10, 7.05 pm-
Wang vs. Wakefield – Hammels vs. Pelfrey
Thursday 6/11, 7.05pm –
Sabathia vs. Penny – Moyer vs. Redding
Friday 6/12, 7.05pm – Maine vs. Chamberlain
Saturday 6/13, 4.05pm – Hernandez vs. Pettitte
Sunday 6/14 1.05pm- Santana vs. Burnett