There are numerous ways to look back at last weekend's Subway Series between the New York Yankees and New York Mets. We can take the payroll approach and compare the $163.4 million that the Yanks were paying the 25 men that were on their roster at that moment to the $78.6 million men that the Mets rolled out onto Citi Field, for an approximate $85 million difference. The Bombers had four positional player All-Stars on the field (with another on the DL) while the Mets had two (down to one for most of Saturday and all of Sunday). We can compare the team records from May and June, and see that somehow the undermanned Mets were almost as good as the Yanks, with a 30-24 mark while the Yankees were 33-22. But the dominating theme in the series was the shortstop position.
The ghost of Derek Jeter, one of the greatest interleague and Subway Series players ever, hung over the proceedings for three days. Jose Reyes had verbal bouquets thrown at him from Alex Rodriguez ("They have the world's greatest player right now playing shortstop over there, and most exciting."), Jeter (A-Rod's "probably right") not to mention FOX pounding us in the head with the Reyes and Jeter storylines all Saturday afternoon. In the first 11 innings of the series, Reyes was in the middle of everything, whether it was the crazy pop-up to short left field that bounced right into his glove and confused Robinson Cano into staying at third base or the phantom tag that A-Rod threw on him that changed the complexion of Game One before the dynamic Met finally had to leave the series with a mild hamstring strain.
While Reyes was "only" going two for five on Friday night, another shortstop, Eduardo Nunez, stole the show, with a four for four, one double and one RBI outing. And on Saturday, as chunk-sized Bartolo Colon was finding every nook and cranny of the strike zone confounding Met hitters, Nunez was even more spectacular, going three for four with two two-baggers and a home run (and his one out was made on a diving catch by Justin Turner). When Sunday came around, each team had to employ a different shortstop, with the Mets' Ruben Tejada having a noncontroversial, ho-hum game while Ramiro Pena was front and center with two errors, one in which Brett Gardner saved his bacon by throwing Lucas Duda out at the plate in the bottom of the ninth and the other being costly as the winning (or losing, depending on your point of view) run scored soon after. Jeter's sure hands were sorely missed last Sunday.
The shortstops had the spotlight shining on them in this series, with starters, backups and one that wasn't even there making a difference. And the two teams' situations at that position have changed dramatically since last Friday night, which has had a big impact on the teams' week. Now on to the rest of the top stories in the world of New York sports.
The Countdown: All eyes turned to Jeter when he returned from the DL on Monday, and the countdown to 3,000 resumed. There were plenty of roster shuffling, injuries, ailments and other off-the-field stuff swirling around the Yankees this week. Besides the return of their Captain, Phil Hughes is back (and was so-so in his start on Wednesday as he tried for his first victory of the year), while Ivan Nova was shipped off to the minors and Mariano Rivera has a sore elbow, which shorthanded their bullpen. On the field, they quietly won two out of three from the Mets, but they also quietly lost two out of three from the Cleveland Indians (which was their first series loss since the Boston sweep last month) and came up short in the first game of their series with the Tampa Bay Rays as well. All that losing has bumped them back into second place. But their recent play and non-Jeter news is mostly flying under the radar, as the chase for 3,000 overshadows everything. 2,998 down, two to go . . .
Just When You Thought They Were Out . . . When Reyes left Saturday's game and the Mets lost their third consecutive game to fall back under .500, it looked like their feel-good ride was coming to an end. But Terry Collins' never-say-die Amazin's pulled out a miracle win on Sunday, and then kept on winning in Los Angeles, taking three out of four, with the whole roster contributing. Jason Bay has had a resurgent couple of weeks (though if he never "surged" for the Mets can he "re-surge"?), and crashed into the Dodger Stadium left-field wall for the second consecutive season. Is it a sign that he didn't suffer a concussion this time around? There's one consistent thing about the inconsistent Mike Pelfrey -- he can't win on the road. But the way things are going for the Mets these days, Pelfrey threw six shutout innings on Tuesday. Fill-in shortstop Ruben Tejada drove in a pair of runs in Wednesday's victory. And Bobby Parnell has been unhittable lately, throwing 100-mile-an-hour gas. One of the team's secrets: They're the best NL team at hitting with two outs, as they lead the league in two-out hits, extra-base hits, OBP and slugging and are second in runs. They're up to two games over .500 now, with three to play before the All-Star break. Now if they can just start winning at home. And if only the Braves can lose once in a while. Things will be that much harder for them, though, with Reyes on the DL.
All-Stars & All-Snubs: The Yankees, predictably, had almost their whole team named to the AL All-Star roster, with Jeter, Cano, Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson in the starting lineup, and Russell Martin and Rivera also going to Arizona, though Rivera won't be pitching due to his sore arm. The Mets have the deserving Reyes starting (well, not anymore) and Carlos Beltran coming off the bench. CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira will not be going, though. Apparently the Bombers had already met their quota, which left those two in the lurch. Of course there are plenty of snubs around the league, so with six players from the Bronx chosen, it's hard to complain. And there will most likely be injury replacements anyway, so Sabathia may even end up going in place of Rivera. Cano will take part in the home run derby, while the Mets don't really have anyone who hits home runs so they tried to sell Dave Kingman as their representative, but no one fell for the ruse.
Frozen Free-Agent Frenzy: On the surface, the Brad Richards acquisition seems like another one of those not-too-long-ago New York Rangers overlong, overpaid veteran free-agent signings. But the former Dallas Stars center is exactly what the Blueshirts need -- a play-making No. 1 center to complement Marian Gaborik and a quarterback for the power play. Nine years sure seems like a long time, but with the front-loaded contract, most of the money will be doled out in the first five years, where one would hope Richards would thrive reunited with his old coach. If he's too far down hill in the last few years, well, they can give him the Chris Drury treatment and buy him out. Richards amazingly enough took less money to come to New York, and stable ownership was one of the things on his check list, which was an impetus in deciding to sign with the Blueshirts. Though it may be the first time ever that someone associated the word "stable" with James Dolan. In other local hockey news, the inked Mike Rupp to a three-year, $4.5 million deal. The valuable Ruslan Fedotenko re-signed with New York. But they lost Matt Gilroy who joined Tampa Bay. The New Jersey Devils re-signed Andy Greene and Johan Hedberg. And the New York Islanders signed center Marty Reasoner to a two-year, $2.7 million contract but lost the penalty-minute-accruing Zenon Konopka to the Ottawa Senators and defenseman Radek Martinek to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
R.I.P. Armen Gilliam: The Hammer passed away a few days ago at the all-too-young age of 47, while playing a game of pickup basketball. An All-American at UNLV, Gilliam was taken with the second overall pick in the 1987 NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns, and was named to the All-Rookie Team in his first season. He went on to play 13 seasons in the NBA, for the Suns, the New Jersey Nets, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Utah. In his three years with the Nets, from 1993 to 1996, he was the team MVP all three seasons.
R.I.P. Dick Williams: The Hall of Fame manager died on Thursday at the age of 82. He began his playing career in Brooklyn with the Dodgers, as a part-time outfielder in their Boys of Summer glory days of the first half of the '50s, and also played for Baltimore, Cleveland, the Kansas City A's and Boston. In his first year as manager, in 1967, he led the Red Sox to the World Series, losing to the Cardinals in seven games. He won a pair of titles with the Oakland A's in '72 and '73 before resigning and being hired by the Yankees. He never made it to New York, though, as he was still under contract with the A's and owner Charlie Finley wouldn't let him take over the Yanks. He eventually went on to manage the Angels, Expos, Padres (where he went to another World Series) and Mariners. He's only one of two managers to take three different teams to the World Series (Bill McKechnie was the other).
R.I.P. Ruth Roberts: Who is Ruth Roberts you ask? She is the talented woman who co-wrote "Meet the Mets" with Bill Katz. She died last week, at the age of 84. While it's not the greatest song ever written . . . wait a minute, yes it is. Thanks for the music, Ruth.
NBA & NFL Lockouts: Still going . . . but Deron Williams has a backup plan: He's going to Turkey. He didn't say if he would bring Mark Sanchez with him, though.