NEW YORK -There is a different feel at Yankee Stadium, an uncommon sense of urgency before the All-Star break.
A weekend series with their cross-town rivals has only heightened these emotions. The Mets are undeniably the best team in the National League, and Yankees fans appear to be envious.
Injuries and a spotty pitching rotation have cast seeds of doubt in the Bronx, something that hasn’t been felt since the early 1990s. While only trailing the Boston Red Sox by three and a half games, drastic moves are needed for the Yankees to have a legitimate shot at the postseason.
Since the start of interleague play and as of Saturday, the Yankees have owned the Mets, leading the all-time series 35-22. The tide has begun to turn, though, as the Mets have won 10 of the past 17 meetings in the Subway Series.
For the first time in nearly two decades, the better New York team resides in Queens.
After 15 years of finishing runner-up to the Atlanta Braves, the Mets are poised to capture their first division championship since 1988. General Manager Omar Minaya has restored the Mets roster, and only a pitcher is needed to solidify a World Series run.
The first move Minaya made was to beat out George Steinbrenner and the Yankees in signing Pedro Martinez. In 2005, the Mets offered Martinez one more year than the Yankees, and he signed a four-year, $52-million contract.
Since joining the Mets, Martinez has compiled a 22-12 record and an ERA of 2.97.
Losing out on Martinez, the Yankees opted to sign Randy Johnson. In his two years with the Yankees, Johnson has a record of 26-15 and an ERA of 4.74. In only 13 more innings pitched, Johnson has surrendered 40 more earned runs.
Steinbrenner has always spent money to field the best possible Yankee team. In 2006, the Yankees have the highest payroll in the league at $194,663,079 invested in the team. The Mets have the fifth highest salary at $101,084,963, which is $93 million less than their rivals.
The biggest difference in salary comes at third base. Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees is due to earn $25 million in 2006. The reigning American League MVP is hitting .279 with 17 home runs and 57 RBI.
Mets third baseman David Wright is still under his rookie contract and in 2006 will earn $374,000. This season Wright has a batting average of .325, 18 home runs and 64 RBI.
All season, Yankee fans have been booing Rodriguez for his performance at the plate, but he has struggled in the field even more.
Rodriguez leads all third baseman with 13 errors and has a fielding percentage of .938. Wright has committed nine errors and has a field percentage of .952.
The Yankees lineup has been ravaged with injuries as starting outfielders Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield have been out since May, and a return this season is unlikely. On June 27, second baseman Robinson Cano was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a leg injury.
Rumors have been swirling about the Yankees trying to fill weak spots in the outfield and in their starting pitching lineup. The main problem for the Yankees is that most of their top prospects have been traded away. An aging team with a decimated farm system will bring an end to the Yankees’ dominance in the next year or two.
With an 11-game lead over the second-place team in the division, the Mets are set to dominate for years to come. The Mets have the most promising left side of the infield with Wright and Jose Reyes, a duo that has the potential to become the best ever.
No team has enjoyed more success than the Yankees and the pressure to win now will lead to their downfall. After capturing two World Series titles in the late 1970s, Steinbrenner refused to develop his farm system and the Yankees entered an 18-year title drought.
The Miracle Mets last won in 1986, but the additions of Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Wright, Martinez and Reyes give the Mets the best team in baseball. For the Yankees, brining in Rodriguez, Johnson, Sheffield and Jason Giambi has only added pressure to the team.
Two decades of high hopes and major disappointments will come to an end in 2006 for the Mets.