The Yankees and Mets may share the landscape, but it’s right there on Page 1 of “New York for Dummies” that the Big Apple is a Yankees town by default. Only in times of great upheaval does the city change its pinstripes.

It’s been a while since such a phenomenon has taken place. But it is on that note that we can say this: You might want to stay tuned.

This weekend, the Yankees and Mets will gather at Yankee Stadium for the first of two three-game sets in the annual Subway Series. And though the series has traditionally served as a show of force for the Yankees, it’s looking a little different this year.

If you’ve so much as glanced in the direction of Queens recently, you’ve seen the Mets piling up the wins. They wrapped up a perfect 10-0 homestand with a 6-3 win against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday and have won 11 in a row to push their record to an MLB-best 13-3.

So after making it six straight sub-.500 seasons in 2014, the Mets are movin‘ on up. And as ESPN notes here, there’s already a faint hint of 1986 in the air:

Where the Subway Series is concerned, the 1986 vibes are all too appropriate.

That was smack in the middle of the last great New York upheaval. The Mets averaged 95 wins and won a World Series between 1984 and 1990, while the Yankees averaged just 84 wins and didn’t make it to October once. New York’s baseball crown rested squarely on the head of the Metropolitans.

But the Yankees won it back in the mid-1990s and have worn it ever since, posting winning seasons every year since 1993 and upping their franchise World Series count from 22 to 27. And from the looks of things, they aren’t too interested in giving it up now.

While the Mets have won 11 games in a row, the Yankees just won three out of four in Detroit against a dangerous Tigers team and have won six of seven to push their record to a respectable 9-7.

So behold! It’s a rare Subway Series with an actual narrative. On one side is the aggressive new regime that means business, and on the other is the old guard that’s not ready to bend the knee.

That’s where we are now. And darn it, you can’t help but wonder where things will go next.

If there’s one thing the Yankees are accustomed to, it’s putting the Mets in their place.

Since the arrival of interleague play in 1997, the Yankees are 56-42 in 98 games against the Mets and have failed to win the two clubs’ annual showdowns only twice (2004 and 2013). This isn‘t including the Yankees’ win over the Mets in the 2000 World Series, which is also kind of a big deal.

And now, there’s a decent chance the Yankees will do their thing to the Mets once again.

Though the Mets are coming in hot, they’re going to be playing in a hostile environment for the first time since April 12. One can also argue the Yankees are the first legitimate challenge they’ve faced. The Mets caught a sluggish Washington Nationals team out of the gate and have since feasted on the Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies.

The Yankees also have some good pitching lined up for the Mets. Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi easily have the best stuff in the Yankees rotation and will pitch the first and third games of the series, respectively. CC Sabathia is going in the middle game, and he’s arguably pitched better than his 4.35 ERA indicates.

If these three help lead the Yankees to a series victory, the Mets will have gone from the penthouse to the outhouse in no time at all. There would still be a lot of season left, not to mention a second three-game set in September, but the message will have been sent: No, the Mets aren’t ready for the Yankees’ throne just yet. Like a little brother who just can’t beat his big brother’s high score, they’ll have more work to do.

It’s in the opposite direction, however, where the really fascinating stuff lies. 

It’s not by accident that the Mets have been winning games. With a 2.81 ERA that ranks second in the majors, they’ve been getting some great pitching. Two guys largely responsible for that are reigning National League Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom and The Dark Knight himself, Matt Harvey, who will both be going against the Yankees.

The Mets have also been hitting a bit. As of this writing, they’re one of only eight teams with at least 73 runs. Nobody can get Lucas Duda out, and Michael Cuddyer has been just the kind of veteran bat the Mets were hoping for when they signed him.

If the Mets do, in fact, make a statement against the Yankees, you can count on one thing: They’re not likely to make a big deal out of it.

Veteran third baseman David Wright hinted as much to Mike Puma of the New York Post:

It wouldn’t be surprising to find out that most of Wright’s teammates feel the same way he does. For them, measuring the quality of their play against that of the Yankees is pointless. As long as the two remain in separate leagues, it doesn’t matter how they stack up against each other.

So, let there be no doubt that this discussion is for fans only. But if the Mets do take this weekend’s series from the Yankees in their own backyard, what they’ll have told fans is that they are indeed ready to take back New York.

The odds of all New Yorkers being on board with that are about as slim as those of the Knicks winning the NBA Finals next season. But you better believe the majority could be on board in the near future.

You already get the sense that New York is ready for a Mets coup. Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post posed the possibility of such a takeover in spring training, and the idea seemingly hasn’t lost any steam since.

“The fanbase is absolutely starving for baseball that isn’t a punch line,” said WFAN radio host Steve Somers to Kirk Semple of The New York Times. “After the opening day you could feel the tide turning and the tone being set that the New York Metropolitans were about to reclaim what was rightfully theirs.”

This is where we grant that talk is cheap and that a newspaper columnist and a guy on the radio don’t necessarily speak for all New Yorkers.

But who says New Yorkers need anybody to do the talking for them?

They can do that on their own by telling us who they like to watch, and the answer is increasingly becoming the Mets. While attendance at Yankee Stadium is down slightly, attendance at Citi Field is way up. And according to Richard Sandomir of the New York Times, the Mets are now nearly as big a draw on SNY as the Yankees are on YES.

Sandomir‘s observation that this is because winning is more fun than losing is a tad unfair, given how the Yankees haven’t exactly been slouching of late. But if you want to look at that reasoning in light of where these two teams are headed, well, that’s a different story.

With Derek Jeter gone, the Yankees are now entirely without links to their glory days in the 1990s and early 2000s. They also don’t look headed for new glory days any time soon. Their roster is loaded with old, over-the-hill players like Sabathia (34), Alex Rodriguez (39), Mark Teixeira (35), Carlos Beltran (38) and Brian McCann (31). And both at the major league level and down on the farm, the Yankees are short on future building blocks.

The Mets aren’t quite the polar opposite, but they definitely reside on the other side of the spectrum.

Veterans like Wright, Cuddyer, Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon are flanked by talented youths like Duda (29), Travis d’Arnaud (26) and Juan Lagares (26), and deGrom (26) and Harvey (26) lead a pitching staff that should also include flame-throwing right-hander Noah Syndergaard (22) before long. Their roster is not only legitimately good now, but it should stay that way for a few more years.

New York’s baseball crown isn‘t up for grabs yet. It belongs to the Yankees until they show they’re no longer worthy of it, and their recent play says that day may not be imminent. If the Mets want it, they’ll have to earn it.

But for the first time in a long time, the Mets have the goods to do just that. And if they put the crown on their head this weekend, it may be staying there for a while.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

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