It's almost Subway Series time once again. The New York Yankees finally won a game after a six-game losing streak and are 3-7 in their last 10, while the New York Mets have gone 6-4 in that same span, but no matter which way the two teams are headed, when they face each other, something memorable usually happens. Even though both teams are still playing division rivals at the moment, it's never too early to start thinking Yankees-Mets. And when the pair of teams square off every year, what do we need? That's right, a Yankees-Mets Tale of the Tape, because there just aren't enough of them. We'll skip the whole "Who has a better right fielder?" or "Is Nick Swisher funnier than R.A. Dickey is smart?" debates, and go straight to the fun stuff. (Actually now I'd like to know: Is Nick Swisher funnier than R.A. Dickey is smart? Sabermetricians, get on that, please.) So here is the 2011 edition of the Yankees-Mets Tale of the Tape:
The Literal Tale of the Tape: We'll start with what every fan wants to know -- which team is taller and which one weighs more? You'd figure with Chris Young and Mike Pelfrey, the Mets would be taller, and with Bartolo Colon, Joba Chamberlain and CC Sabathia, the Yankees would be collectively heavier. And you'd be right. I calculated each team's present 25-man roster plus six players on the disabled list (I didn't count Reegie Corona of the Yankees to make things even). The Yankees weigh a collective 6,609 pounds, while the Mets come in at 6,539. If the Bombers stood on each other's heads, they would be 190 feet tall. The Mets are one foot taller, though, at 191 feet.
Are They Washed Up? Derek Jeter vs. Carlos Beltran: Coming into the season there were question marks about both of these guys. Was last year's off-year just a blip for Jeter or was it the beginning of his decline? Will Beltran need knee replacement surgery? Can he stay healthy? Are bionics in his future? The early returns are in, and they aren't particularly good for Jeter but are surprisingly positive for Beltran. Even though he had that stunning two-homer game, the Yankee shortstop is playing like the date on his birth certificate says he should, with a .619 OPS and only five extra-base hits. Beltran, on the other hand, is raking, with a .945 OPS and 21 extra-base hits. Winner: Beltran. If he keeps up with all this health and prosperity, fans will be calling him the Iron Horse II.
Clubhouse Controversy: Jorge Posada vs. Frankie Rodriguez: When I tell my daughter to clean up her toys or throw out her garbage or perform some easy, minuscule task, I'll often get an "In a minute, Dad" or "I'll do it later" or maybe even a "Can you do it?" All of those answers occasionally lead to raised voices, crying, the young lady being sent to her room or any outcome that turns a simple request of something she knows she's responsible for into a melodramatic ordeal. But one way or another, the easy way or the hard way, she will be the one to ultimately get the job done, as it's her mess and she needs to clean it up. What does this have to do with baseball? Well, I just described a typical K-Rod save. He may take the hard way (usually) or the easy way, there may be tears or raised voices (mainly by Met fans), but he gets the job done (12 consecutive saves and counting). The Met closer's on-the-field performance during his tenure in New York will most likely be a footnote, though (especially if he's traded in a couple of months), as his beat-down of his children's grandfather at Citi Field will be what he's remembered most for as a Met. Posada, on the other hand, will be remembered for his contributions to four World Series winners and his hitting prowess. His "bad day" on Saturday will be a cloudy little footnote to his Yankee career. Winner: Though neither should be proud of their actions (and both have expressed remorse for what they did) and Posada is hitting well below the Mendoza Line, the Yankee DH didn't beat anybody up, so Posada wins.
Starting Pitchers Who Shop at the Big & Tall Store: Bartolo Colon vs. Mike Pelfrey: Colon has come out of nowhere to fill a big need for the Yankees. Signed as insurance, he's now a lynchpin of their rotation, and if he falters, the team could be in big trouble. And he's added to the PED debate with his rare stem-cell shoulder surgery performed by a doctor who is linked to HGH. All questions surrounding Colon involve the health of his arm, as opposed to Pelfrey, where all question marks are about his head. After a disastrous start, the tall Met hurler has settled down and is chipping away at his ERA. Winner: Colon. But the tide could be turning, as Pelfrey keeps getting better and better with every start.
Old Relievers: Mariano Rivera vs. Jason Isringhausen: The unrivaled Yankees closer blew two consecutive saves earlier in the year, but sandwiched around that pair of blunders has been his usual impeccable performance. Rafael Soriano was brought in not only to set up Rivera but to be his heir apparent also. Well, with Soriano's issues, Rivera may need to pitch until he's 50. The Met reliever's decision to hang around Florida once the season got underway instead of taking his services elsewhere has paid off for Isringhausen and the Mets. After some reshuffling of the bullpen, the recidivist Met has earned his way into the eighth-inning setup role, with a 2.08 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. And as he's aged he now bears an alarming resemblance to Tim Robbins. But the Met reliever has much better mechanics than the actor featured in Bull Durham. Winner: Rivera by a hair, because he's Rivera.
Underperforming Young Guys: Brett Gardner vs. Josh Thole: The Yankee left fielder has been somewhat of a disappointment this season, after being promoted to the leadoff spot but then demoted back to the bottom of the order. The Met catcher has been a small disappointment himself, with his defense surprisingly regressing this year, while his offense hasn't been up to par. But they're relatively young, and both could catch fire and finish with successful seasons. Winner: Gardner, but not by much. Thole hasn't played one full season yet, while Gardner should be entering his prime and flourishing.
Dynamic In-Their-Prime Homegrown Infielders: Robinson Cano vs. Jose Reyes: The duo of exciting players is producing as hoped for this year. Cano has one of the sweetest swings in baseball, and Reyes is one of the most thrilling players out there. Neither walks a ton, and neither are known for their baseball savvy. But both are just flat-out fantastic players, and are making an early statement to appear in this year's All-Star Game. Winner: Reyes. He's been more consistent, while Cano has struggled after a hot start. And the Met shortstop has three more extra-base hits than Cano.
All-American Boys: Mark Teixeira vs. David Wright: The Yankee first baseman began the season with a bang, but then struggled and has yet to really catch fire. Wright has looked as bad as he's ever been lately, with his numerous strikeouts from last season continuing on into 2011, though we may have an explanation now for his subpar performance, after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back. His swing has been messed up for a while, though, even before his injury. Neither has caused as much as a ripple, tantrum-, controversy- or behavior-wise. They're both too nice for that. But both have plenty of room to improve their seasons. Winner: Teixeira. His .878 OPS dwarfs Wright's .741.
PED Cheats: Alex Rodriguez vs. Ronny Paulino: These two were both caught with their hand in the cookie jar, but life goes on for the steroid-era players. Can you compare a superstar to a backup catcher? Only on a list like this one. A-Rod has been a huge disappointment for the Yankees (his two home runs on Tuesday notwithstanding), while Paulino, in his short time with the Mets, is doing the job he was brought here to do. Winner: Paulino. The Met catcher has exceeded expectations, while A-Rod's foibles are a big part of the Bombers' poor play of late.
Big Free Agent Underperformers: Rafael Soriano vs. Jason Bay: The new Yankee reliever has "not New York material" written all over him. Finicky and quirky, he now can't even stay on the field after putting in a mediocre performance to start his Yankee career. As for Bay, his fielding has been much better than expected. Unfortunately, that's about the best thing you can say about him. But he hasn't presented any problems for his team, and he hasn't had any issues dealing with playing in New York. He just hasn't hit. Winner: Bay. Just for not being the prima donna that Soriano seems to be.
Initials for $1,000, Please, Alex: CC Sabathia vs. A.J. Burnett vs. R.A. Dickey: D.J. Carrasco is disqualified for being in the minors, so that leaves us with three starting pitchers who go by their initials, and they all coincidentally gave up six runs in their last start. Sabathia's really only had one bad start this year, but unfortunately it came against the Red Sox. Burnett has surprised everybody with his competent first month and a half start to the season, but then reverted to A.J. being A.J. on Monday with wild pitches and home runs galore in his sixth inning implosion. And Dickey has disappointed so far, as his knuckler has lost some of its flutter and some of its control. Winner: Sabathia. He's easily the best of the bunch. Not even Dickey's status as a folk hero can save him here.
Chin-lung Hu: He's in a category all his own, with his .050 batting average, and he was finally put out of his (and our) misery by being sent down to Buffalo. Winner: Not Chin-lung Hu.
So there you have it. What does it all mean? Beats me. But I'm sure R.A. Dickey would have a theory.