Five Questions for Yankees-Mets

Yanks, Mets beat writers go toe-to-toe to talk about the weekend's Subway Series

Updated: May 20, 2011, 9:44 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews and Adam Rubin |

With this year's edition of the Subway Series set to begin in the Bronx, ESPN New York tackles five burning questions concerning the crosstown rivals.

QUESTION 1: With the Yankees struggling and the Mets clearly in rebuilding mode, has the Subway Series lost its luster?

No, because fans of each of the two teams are often so focused on the other -- especially true of Mets fans toward the Yankees -- that a head-to-head matchup of the two sometimes takes precedent over how either team is actually doing in the real world. Even if the Yankees go on to win the division and the World Series, Mets fans will take great satisfaction if their team takes two of three this weekend and again when they play at Citi Field later in the season, and vice versa. The Subway Series is truly like a season unto itself.

Yes. Mets-Phillies and Yankees-Red Sox -- at least Mets-Phillies when both teams were neck-and-neck in the division -- are far more relevant and meaningful. While there are always dramatic twists, such as Luis Castillo's drop of the pop-up two years ago, the novelty has worn off. Has there really been any buzz about their year's Subway Series before today? Couple that with each team's struggles, and the focus is on anything but each other.

QUESTION 2: This time next year, will Jose Reyes be a Yankee?

Doubt it, because Derek Jeter still has two years, and possibly three, left on his deal, at $17 million a season, so where do you put him? At this stage of their careers, Reyes might be able to displace Jeter at shortstop but not Alex Rodriguez at third or Robinson Cano at second. And Jeter, as we all know, is not a DH. So I don't think there's any room in the Bronx for Reyes until 2013 at least.

Well, Reyes does want to stay in New York. And the commute isn't that far from his home on the North Shore of Long Island to the Bronx. But signing Reyes without first identifying a plan for Jeter's relocation from shortstop appears a long shot that would make the still-fresh Jorge Posada controversy seem like a ripple. It's one thing to squabble with Posada. It's another thing to again take on Jeter.

QUESTION 3: Is it possible that right now, at this very moment, Francisco Rodriguez is better than Mariano Rivera?

This might be the most ridiculous question ever asked. If you go strictly by the numbers, Rodriguez is having a better season than Mo, but not by enough to outweigh the character issues that make a difference not only to me, but I'm sure to fans of both clubs. K-Rod is having an outstanding season, but Mo is having a good one, too, even if he did blow the save Wednesday night against the Orioles. And he remains not only the greatest closer of all time, but over the course of an entire season, I'll bet he'll be the best closer in the game this year, too. K-Rod's despicable behavior last year -- in addition to assaulting an old man, he also verbally abused a female sportswriter, an ugly addendum to the incident that went largely unreported -- makes Rafael Soriano look like a model citizen.

After a blown save in his first appearance this season, K-Rod converted his 13th straight save opportunity Wednesday. Aside from a recent three-appearance stretch, Rodriguez always allows baserunners. Still, he is getting the job done, and is now on pace to comfortably exceed the 55 games-finished threshold that will vest his contract at $17.5 million for 2012. Tales of Rivera's early season demises have been overstated in the past. But at this very moment, you need one save, you go with K-Rod. The question isn't who is the better citizen.

QUESTION 4: Who's the better third baseman, A-Rod or Justin Turner?

Another beauty. A-Rod made the switch to third base at age 28, after two straight seasons of Gold Glove play at short, and while he hasn't won a Gold Glove at third in eight seasons there, he has been nothing less than excellent. Turner has played all of 12 games at the position in his entire career. Let's have this discussion again about 10 years from now.

To twist an old Pedro Martinez line: Who is Justin Turner? He has been a great story, while A-Rod may be in the early stages of a career swoon. But we tend to get caught up in recent, small sample sizes. Just a few weeks ago, Mets fans had stopped caring when Angel Pagan would return because Jason Pridie was performing so well. Now, they eagerly await Pagan's expected return next week.

QUESTION 5: Did the Mets abuse Pedro Feliciano?

Feliciano says no, and that is good enough for me. This is a pitcher who despite his heavy usage -- 266 appearances over the last three years, more than anyone in baseball -- had by his own account never suffered a sore shoulder or elbow, never been on the disabled list, never felt that he was being overworked. If the Yankees' medical staff overlooked a brewing structural problem when they chose to sign him to a two-year, $8 million deal, that's on them. But for Brian Cashman to blame the Mets, well, that's not just untrue, but unfair.

Feliciano set franchise records three straight seasons with the Mets, with 86, 88 and 92 appearances. That's a ton of use. But Feliciano did it willingly. Overuse? Obviously, the Mets were guilty in that department, because they failed for years to identify a second left-handed reliever to pair with him, albeit not for lack of trying. (Signing Scott Schoeneweis for three years, $10.8 million, anyone?) Abuse is a different level. Buyer beware. And let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

BONUS QUESTION 1: Which team's fans are suffering the most now?

My guess would be Yankees fans, because having grown up a Mets fan in Queens, I know all too well the sense of resignation that sets in early while rooting for this team. Mets fans always hope for the best, expect the worst, and shrug it off when it (almost always) happens. Remarkably resilient. Yankees fans, on the other hand, have developed a sense of entitlement that strips much of the joy out of watching their team play. Winning doesn't bring pleasure, but relief; losing is a catastrophe. There is an entire generation of Yankees fans born after 1980 who actually believe the team must win it all every year or the season is a failure; just look back six months to the outrage many fans felt when the Yankees fell two games of going to the World Series just ONE YEAR AFTER WINNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP! That kind of a fan base has to be dying, inside and out, over the team's struggle to stay barely ahead of mediocrity this season.

Mets fans clearly have it worse. Since Carlos Beltran took that curveball from Adam Wainwright in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, it has been almost straight downhill. The 2007 collapse. A September '08 swoon, too, to toy with the emotions. Now the Mets potentially are headed for a third straight losing season. There are no 27 championships to fall back on, either. Oh, and the owners are being sued for $1 billion. Money issues may contribute to Reyes walking at the end of the year. The star third baseman has a broken back. And while Yankee Stadium is a shrine to that organization's history, Citi Field -- at least at its inception -- was a tribute to the Dodgers. Ouch.

BONUS QUESTION 2: Which ballpark do you like best to work in: Yankee Stadium or Citi Field?

No comparison. You can say a lot of things about Yankee Stadium 3.0 -- that it is too sterile, too corporate, too expensive and not nearly as raucous now that all the "real" fans have been priced out of the ballpark, and you'd be right. But, except for the open pressbox that can get chilly in April and October, the working conditions for the media are top notch. Easy access to the clubhouses via private elevator and no labyrinthine tunnels to negotiate to get there. Citi Field, on the other hand, is an abomination in every way, hideously festooned with so many billboards and ads on the outside it looks like a shopping mall, and impossible to navigate on the inside. The working media has to walk through a restaurant, up one flight of stairs and down another just to reach the press seating from the elevators, which they must share with fans after the game. And after some Mets losses, that can be a pretty ugly ride. Plus, not only is the food terrible, they don't even let you make your own salad at the salad bar. A guy with tongs has to place it on your plate, one lettuce leaf at a time. An absolute joke.

Wally has it right, albeit in a little harsher language than I'd use. The lone drawback working-conditions wise at Yankee Stadium is that the open-air press box tends to get a little cold on those typing fingers. That's generally not an issue in interleague play. But it is come October, when the Yankees inevitably are still playing. Covering a team on the road is always easier anyway. There are fewer back rooms off the visitors' clubhouse where players can disappear. That allows for more access and better information-gathering.

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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