When was the last time the crosstown rival Yankees and Mets played in a meaningful game?
Nope, we're not talking about another annual installment of the Subway Series right around the All-Star break. Can you think of a game where New York's two teams faced off with something at stake other than bragging rights?
You'd have to go all the way back to the fall of 2000 when the Big Apple played host to a New York City World Series matchup. Surely all New Yorkers remember who came out on top then...
If you ask either fanbase who their biggest rival is, chances are it won't be their interleague foe from a crosstown borough. That's because the Yankees and Mets barely play each other every season. The Subway Series each year is undoubtedly a timeless tradition, but beyond owing a friend a few bucks or a chance to boast to a neighbor, four games in the middle of the summer always have little to no impact on a playoff spot.
That all has a chance to change this year.
Major League Baseball has been tossing around countless proposals over the last few months, attempting to bring the game back amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest plan would turn these two clubs into division rivals.
That's right. In a shortened season, where every game counts, New York's teams would face off in a situation that neither fanbase has experienced before.
This proposal – disposing of the National and American Leagues to form three, ten-team divisions based on geography – might just be the closest to reality that we've seen since MLB postponed Opening Day. Teams would play in their home ballparks, still take on perennial foes from their traditional divisions, while simultaneously splicing in several interleague games against franchises in close proximity.
For the Yankees and Mets, they'll be slotted into the east division alongside the following eight teams:
Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Pittsburgh Pirates, Miami Marlins and Baltimore Orioles
Sure, the defending champion Nationals could be a threat, while Tampa Bay has proven to be a thorn in the Yankees' side in recent years, but New York's two teams are unquestionable front-runners in this divisional format.
Not only are the Yankees and Mets set to play meaningful games if this proposal comes to fruition, but think of the individual matchups that fans in New York City will be treated to on several occassions rather than just watching it happen once or twice every summer.
Picture Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole taking turns toeing the rubber at Yankee Stadium with a playoff spot, or home field advantage in the expanded postseason, on the line. How's that for deciding which ace is the best in the Big Apple rather than a debate on Twitter?
Imagine Aaron Judge taking a Mets' hurler deep in Flushing before a Pete Alonso long ball in the bottom half of the same frame. These two sluggers have their own rivalry by default after Alonso broke Judge's single-season rookie home run record this past season – who would hit the most in a shortened 100-game campaign pinned against each other?
The storylines don't stop there. Dellin Betances and Robinson Cano would make several return appearances in the Bronx, rather than just a handful. Two of the best rotations in baseball will have a chance to duke it out while some of the best young position players in the game – like Gleyber Torres and Jeff McNeil – will go head to head.
This scenario isn't just the case in New York. This divisional format, in an unprecedented reality, has the chance to reinvigorate local rivalries across the country. From the Battle of the Bay, to the The Windy City Showdown and the Freeway Series in Los Angeles, crosstown clubs will become division rivals.
It's a chance for MLB to add even more excitement surrounding a return of baseball later this summer. Within this proposal, games could be played earlier than July 4. Sure, no fans will be in the stands just yet, but rather than watching the Yankees play the Detroit Tigers at their Spring Training facility in Tampa (as they would in the Grapefruit League North division within the 'Arizona-Florida plan') or the Mets take on a random club out in Arizona, this adds a familiarity at the local level.
Finally, you may recall the impact of Major League Baseball's return to New York City after the terrorist attacks of September 11. A go-ahead home run from Mike Piazza late in the Mets' first home game after the attacks in 2001 was a moment that brought an entire city and country together.
That's proof that baseball in the Big Apple is a symbol of normalcy and cheering on the Mets or Yankees after a period of suffering is a way to heal. As the world continues to fight the novel coronavirus, how special would it be if New York's teams faced off in baseball's first game back?
There is, of course, no guarantee this proposal will come to fruition. It all depends on how the virus progresses these next few months and if MLB decides this blueprint happens to make the most sense in an ever-changing situation. If it does happen, however, the return of America's past time will unquestionably bring a smile to the faces of those in New York City and enhance the Subway Series on and off the field.
To keep up with all of Inside The Pinstripe’s coverage, click the "follow" button at the top right-hand corner of this page.