Well, perhaps this isn’t exactly the way we would have drawn up this first-ever Subway Series meeting coinciding with the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.
In that perfect blueprint, the Mets and the Yankees would each be having splendid seasons, and the series — while meaningful, yes, because all of them are meaningful — wouldn’t have an elimination-round feel to it. There would be plenty of time for reflection and remembrance, and there would be a rededication to do everything possible in the future to make this — if not an annual thing — as close to one as possible.
Well, one thing is certain:
They really should try to make this happen as often as possible. As fundamental as both the Yankees and Mets were to the city in the days and weeks after the terrorist attacks 20 years ago, this really should be a quasi-regular part of the annual commemoration. That is the easy part, of course, because it is subject only to a schedule-maker’s skills, and not the whims of the game.
The other part?
Well, at the least you can say this:
There will be little question how much meaning to attach to this latest version of the Subway Series. There is zero doubt that both teams come to the three-game series at Citi Field beginning Friday night not only desiring the same thing but requiring it:
Two out of three.
Win the Subway Series.
Just win a series.
Both teams need this. The Yankees have lost six games in a row after Thursday’s 6-4 loss to Toronto, never once led against the Blue Jays this week in dropping four straight, and now suddenly find themselves with a narrow half-game grip on a playoff spot. The Mets lost again, 3-2, have lost three out of four to the Nationals and the Marlins, and are nearing the place in their season when they simply have to win every night.
Look, neither team will in actuality be eliminated this weekend, no matter what happens. For the Mets, that’s because neither the Braves nor the Phillies have shown any inclination to bury them. For the Yankees, it’s because there is still so much season left. You jump to conclusions a week and a half into September at your own peril.
But that doesn’t change this: it sure feels like the stakes are higher than they’ve been in most of these meetings. Look, nothing will ever compare to the 2000 World Series until and unless there’s a Mets/Yankees sequel in the books someday (some year) down the road. And there will never again be the electricity bouncing around the city as there was on June 16, 1997, the first time these teams played a game that counted.
The first time the Mets and Yankees played a meaningful September game was Sept. 18-20 of 2015, which was also the last time both of the teams would qualify for the postseason in the same year. The games were important but even then: The Mets entered having already seized an eight-game cushion in the NL East; the Yankees, though trailing the Blue Jays by 3 ½ in the AL East nonetheless led the Astros by four for the first wild card and the Twins by 5 ½ for the other one.
So when the Yankees won two out of three there was little seismic shift in where the teams were headed.
Not this time. The Mets are coming off the softest stretch of their schedule in which they will forever bemoan they couldn’t do better than the 9-5 mark they flew home from Miami with. Now it’s back to varsity-level competition, and that hasn’t always gone well for the lads from Flushing.
The Yankees’ situation isn’t quite as dire. And only about 15 minutes ago it seemed like they’d built enough of a cushion where they could treat these games however they pleased. But then a 13-game winning streak devolved to a 2-10 stretch with Thursday’s loss to the Blue Jays. They aren’t catching the Rays and now have to worry about being caught by the Jays as they run neck-and-neck with the Sox.
Not the way you’d draw it up for a weekend of solemn baseball ceremony. But once the ceremonies are concluded the baseball itself ought to be awfully intense. Not a bad consolation prize.