This is what we have had already in baseball in New York, in as rollicking a first month, on both sides of town, as we’ve had in a long time: We had the Mets down 2-0 and down to their last out one night in St. Louis, and score five runs after that. They topped that on Thursday night in Philly, when they came from 7-1 down against the Phillies in the 9th, got eight hits and seven runs after that, ended up winning, 8-7. It was only as big a 9th inning comeback as they’ve had in their history.
And the Yankees? Not only did the Yankees just win 11 in a row, they showed more life than they have since they were making their deep runs into the American League Championship Series against the Astros (we now know they could out-sign-steal the Yankees any day of the week). When the Yankees finally did lose a game, to the Blue Jays, Wednesday night in Toronto, they loaded the bases in the top of the 9th before Isiah Kiner-Falefa grounded out to third base.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s early, neither of our teams have even played a fifth of the season yet. It doesn’t change the fact that the two best stories in major league baseball, even in a season that has the two southern California teams in first place, are these two right here:
1.) Buck Showalter’s Mets.
1A.) The Yankees.
Right now the place I long ago took to calling Baseball New York has become something else: It has become First Place New York. And we have been reminded all over again, as if we needed reminding, that even though there were times when the Giants were king because they beat the Patriots in a couple of Super Bowls, the big game around here is still baseball. And there is nothing better around here in sports than a two-team baseball summer, like the one that is starting to organize itself at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium.
“You try not to get giddy,” Buck Showalter said on Friday, talking about the magical 9th inning events of the night before. “But some nights it’s harder to do that than others.”
New York baseball fans feel the same way right now. It is because the Mets and Yankees, off what we have seen from them, have given us a shot at one of the most rare events we get in our two biggest sports, which means baseball and football:
Two first-place teams.
The last time it happened in baseball was 2006. It used to happen into the 50s, of course, when we had teams at the old Stadium and Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds, and finishing first in the world before division play meant you punched a ticket to the World Series. So we had the Yankees vs. the Giants in ‘51, and the Yankees vs. the Brooklyn Dodgers in ‘55 and ‘56. But even when we got a Subway Series out of the past in 2000, the Mets were a wild card that year, despite winning more regular-season games than the 87-74 Yankees did.
But only in ‘06, and not since, did we come out of the regular season with two first-place teams. You want to know when both the Giants and Jets finished first in their divisions in the same season? Never is when.
The last time the Jets finished in first place was 2002. Last time for the Giants was in ‘11, before they beat the Patriots again in February of ‘12 Super Bowl in Indy. The Knicks last won the Atlantic Division in 2012-13. Rangers last finished first in 2014-15. The Nets last finished first when they were still in Jersey, in ‘06. In the last decade, the Mets and Yankees have each finished in first place one time. Yankees in ‘12. Mets in ‘15.
Bottom line, on the subject of being at the top of divisions? We don’t do a lot of first place around here anymore. The Islanders? They last finished in first place 34 years ago.
Now our two baseball teams have given us early innings like this. Everything that Brian Cashman wanted to happen this season has happened, at least so far. Defense has gotten better. Starting pitching has been better than even he could have expected. Bullpen, which we expected to be strong, has been as much a reason for the Yankees’ early speed as anything else. Gerrit Cole has started to pitch like an ace again.
And Aaron Judge, the Shaq of baseball, has shown that when he is still healthy, he can still carry the team on extremely broad shoulders. If he stays healthy, and hits this way all season long, we will look back on what the Yankees offered him on a contract extension right before Opening Day and wonder if they thought Judge was on sale. When the Yankees took on the Blue Jays, the darlings of the preseason picks, this past week, they nearly swept them.
Then there are Buck’s Mets, who have already had those special comeback wins and, oh by the way, made Citi Field explode with noise on the night of that combined no-hitter. They have come together very quickly under Showalter, and have gotten contributions up and down the lineup and down the batting order. The result has been a special first month.
“It starts with the fact that we have the people we can do it with,” Showalter says, “and so much of the credit for that goes to Billy (Eppler). He just seems to know. And we’ve got players who know they’re going to get a chance to contribute.
“I remember Billy had lunch with Jeff McNeil before the lockout, and after he did he called me and said, ‘You’re going to really like this guy.”
Buck pauses and then says, “With whatever happened between (McNeil) and (Francisco)Lindor last season, you see now that the two of them have something in common: They really, really want to win.”
You have to see Buck’s presence in the dugout, and the clear picture we’re getting of how the team has responded to him. Then factor in the immense, and electric presence, of Max Scherzer, when he’s got a baseball in his right hand, when he’s pacing the dugout between innings of his starts, when he’s even getting himself thrown out of a game he’s not pitching because he doesn’t like the way the home plate umpire is calling the game. He pitches like somebody who’s been on the great New York stage for years. More importantly, he is somebody who is made for that stage.
When Boss Cohen of the Mets was told what the price would be for a 37-year-old starting pitcher with a lot of miles on him, Cohen did everything except blink. Cohen is a part of this story, an essential part, too.
First weekend in May. Two first-place teams. First-place New York. Hot dog.
Mickelson’s $40 million in gambling losses, the failing Red Sox & happy Mother’s Day…
Boy, I can remember the days when losing $40 million gambling, as it’s been alleged by writer Alan Shipnuck that Phil Mickelson did over a
4-year period, was a lot of money.
Let me see if I have this straight:
Twenty of Buck’s guys get hit by pitches and he gets suspended for a couple of balls in the dirt that make Kyle Schwarber dance?
“Bosch: Legacy” dropped on Friday, so it was a good thing, at least from where I was sitting, that the Mets got rained out in Philly.
So Sergio Garcia gets a bad ruling and now he doesn’t want to play the PGA Tour anymore?
Rub some dirt on it, you big baby, and walk it off.
If Carlos Alcaraz isn’t the best men’s tennis player in the world by the end of this year, he will be by the end of next year.
Somebody needs to explain to Dr. Kryie Irving that you don’t get to be a martyr just because you call yourself one.
This guy talks more than he plays basketball.
You simply cannot have a more spectacular afternoon in baseball than Shohei Ohtani did at old Fenway on Thursday afternoon.
Red Sox are kind of interesting so far.
After coming within two games of the World Series last October, the only team in the sport demonstrably worse than they were after the first 26 games was the Cincinnati Reds.
Somehow after coming that close to the Series, they picked that moment to try to rebuild.
You don’t have to remind Knicks fans that their team was only one pick away from Ja Morant.
Same as they were on pick away from Steph.
My pal Stanton says that the only thing missing from these NBA playoffs is Charles Oakley flexing as he defends the driving lane to the basket.
Where did they find some of these justices on the current Supreme Court – TJ Maxx?
Gary Cohen’s call of the Mets’ comeback on Thursday night was merely sensational If you missed it live, go find it online.
And by the way? Congratulations to my old pal Curry Kirkpatrick, for his long overdue selection to the Sports Media Hall of Fame.
If you used to read him in Sports Illustrated when he was a kid, you know.
Do you ever.
Finally today: Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, Lee Lupica, who continues to inspire all of us in the family, even at the age of 94.
She may have lost a step, or two.
It hasn’t affected her great heart.
And Happy Mother’s Day to the mother of our four children, the former Taylor McKelvy.
I keep telling her the same thing:
If she ever leaves me, I’m going with her.
Source: Berkshire mont