Mediocre Metropolitans?

by Kevin Allen | 7/3/00 5:00am

I'm from New York and I have to say that it's about time that the Mets started to get some credit. I remember that while I was growing up, liking the Mets was almost as bad as supporting communism. But now the Mets are turning the tide of popularity in the Big Apple. As I type this, the Mets are only a game out of first place in the NL East, which is more that the Yankees can say Let's face it Yankee fans; your team's days are numbered.

I don't say that out of shear hatred or anything, but let's face it, all dynasties come to an end. I don't think the Yankees will end up like the post-Jordan Bulls, but the Bronx Bombers are clearly winding down just as the Mets are warming up.

At the beginning of this season, all the "know-it-alls" predicted that the Mets had missed their window of opportunity for greatness. Without John Olreud and Roger Cedeno, most believed that the Mets would stumble back into mediocrity. I'm glad that all the non-believers have been proven wrong. I'll admit that Todd Zeile is better at first that I thought he would be, but I never doubted that the Mets would be post-season contenders again this year.

For all the money and talent that the Yanks have, the Mets have always had one intangible that Steinbrenner can't buy- a reputation as the underdog.

When you have players in your history such as the Babe and have won as many World Series as the Yankees have, it's virtually impossible to become known as an underdog. Basically the Yankees would have to play baseball as poorly as the Clippers play basketball for about the next quarter century before the country was completely convinced that they sucked, but I digress As an expansion team in the Yankees town, the Mets couldn't really help being dubbed New York's second team. If you bring an expansion team to a city that already has a quality team with lots of history, support will be small at first. So with popularity nearly 40 years in the making, the Mets are ready to rumble.

It's not that I don't acknowledge the bright spots in the Mets' history; 1969, 1973, 1986; but now I feel that the Mets have a chance to start a dynasty of their own. After making the post-season for the first time since 1988 last year, the Mets have continued to play great baseball. They have the drive to make it back to the playoffs because the Mets still have something to prove. They exited last year's National League Championships when Kenny Rogers walked in the winning run in extra innings and the Mets know they deserved better. Mets manager Bobby Valentine knows that his team could have met the Yanks in the first Subway World Series last year, which is exactly why they have to make the post-season again. If the Mets defeated the Yankees in the World Series, they would rise to a new level of respect in the minds of New Yorkers. No longer would the Mets be second in their division, or second in their city maybe, just maybe they'd finally be on par with the Yanks.

If you take a look at this season so far, the Mets have shown the determination of a championship ball club. For example, the Mets put together a 10-run eighth inning on Friday to come from behind and beat the Braves 11-8. It's that never say die spirit that will keep the Mets going. So far, they've won 12 games in their final at bat; don't be surprised if that number doubles by September.

Thus, with the All-Star break getting closer everyday, the Mets have found themselves right where they want to be. If the season ended on July 2nd, guess which New York team would make the playoffs? As this story goes to print, the Mets not only have the chance to take command of the NL east, but are also ahead of the Colorado Rockies by 2 games in the Wild Card race. Where are the Yankees? Why, they are two games behind the Blue Jays in the AL East and four games off the Wild Card pace. So while the Yankees have traded for David Justice and are still praying for some pitching, the Mets have found success with marquee names such as Darryl Hamilton and Rey Ordonez injured.

What does it all mean? Are the Yankees truly crumbling? Maybe, maybe not. But when you reach the top, there is nowhere to go but down. The Mets are about due for their turn in the limelight and they still play to win. The Yankees have started to believe their own hype and are now just three games over .500 but I have no doubt that Yankees manager Joe Torre will whip his team into shape in time for the playoffs. But the Yanks better get in gear; they need some work if they want to lose to the Mets in the Series.