By Ray Kuhn
Whether or not you care is inconsequential to me. Your thoughts on the Subway Series do not, and should not, impact my thinking or enjoyment of the games. As far as I am concerned, all I care about here is my enjoyment of what happens when the New York Mets face off against the New York Yankees.
Sure, that is selfish. But to a point, isn’t that what being a fan is? The games, and everything Major League Baseball has to offer, is out there for all to digest, consume, and enjoy in any manner you wish. What you do with it is entirely your choice.
I will say that the media, at least in the past, has taken a decidedly New York and/or big-market stance, but the dynamics are a lot different from the first time the Mets and Yankees faced off in the regular season all the way back in 1997. As far as where we are today compared to then, it might have been 1937.
Inter-league play was brand new; the internet was just starting to find its legs, beepers were more of a thing than cell phones (let alone smart phones), and MLB Network was still more than a decade away.
To say that the way we follow baseball has changed over the past 25 years would be a tremendous understatement, and it is also telling that the Mets and Yankees are facing each other on an otherwise non-descript Tuesday and Wednesday night in July.
No longer are baseball fans forced to care about what is clearly a New York concern. The fact that this has been going on for so long also helps here, but the technology- filled world that we live in has blurred the lines between big and small markets from a media standpoint.
In a sense, that market has now become saturated, and it is a good thing. It is infinitely easier to enjoy baseball and being a fan requires a lot less effort than it used to.
You can follow any team(s) or player(s) you wish and consume as much or as little of the sport as you want.
No longer is it a novelty to watch a game outside of your local market or to follow news that is not generated in the confines of your hometown. Perhaps most importantly, we are no longer beholden to ESPN and what they deem worthy of covering or promoting.
Under that same point, over the past 10 or so years, the argument could very well be made that the Subway Series itself has been diluted and does not mean nearly as much as it used to.
But was it ever supposed to mean anything out of the confines of the New York area?
Instead, we can now take it as what it is, and that is simply a matchup of two very good teams that could potentially meet in the World Series.
Back in 1997 when Dave Milicki emerged victorious in the first Subway Series game ever, that meant something. The Mike Piazza/Roger Clemens feud was quite heated, and there have been other memorable moments as well between the two teams. I am not here to go through them all, but the over-arching theme here is that the games are more interesting, competitive, and drama filled when both teams are good.
And this season, thanks in part to Steve Cohen and the changes he has put into place, that is certainly the case. The two games that we just enjoyed earlier in the week could very easily be construed as a potential World Series preview. That simply changed the Subway Series into being two of the top five teams in the league facing each other as a good measure what can be expected when the leaves begin to fall.
Most fans now understand that these games mean the same as games against the Astros and the Braves, but it also does not mean they are any less exciting. While the majority of fans now have the ability to compartmentalize these games and their meaning, the fact that the Mets and Yankees (along with their followers) do share the same surroundings provide an added emphasis.
As someone whose rooting interests lie with the Mets, I feel great after the past two games. Most of those feelings do come from the fact that Yankees are also a great team, but I also do not that the other small piece of my joy should be minimized as it comes from beating a geographic rival.
The angle that these games mean as much as games against the Nationals or Tigers in 2022 does not fly as far as I am concerned with both teams can already make their playoff reservations for October. And when one, or both, teams are struggling, I am not above enjoying some manufactured excitement.
After all, isn’t our sports fandom all derivative from the simplest of the barroom or schoolyard arguments?
Ray Kuhn can be found writing on Fantasy Alarm and podcasting at Friends With Fantasy Benefits after previously covering the Houston Astros as part of the FanSided network at Climbing Tal’s Hill. Reach him at @ray_kuhn_28 or email@example.com as he is always interested in talking or writing about our great game.