After watching the opening round of the MLB postseason, I have come to two conclusions:
1) It is nowhere near as fun without a New York team in the playoffs
2) These crowds are louder and more exciting than anything we’ve seen in New York in years
Now, you can make the argument that there was simply a lack of success this season, giving NY little to cheer about all year-long. But if that’s your argument, I don’t think you have attended a game in either Citi Field or the New Yankee Stadium since there opening. New York was once the most feared city for any opposing team to visit, crowds were well-known for their knowledge and notorious for the “Bronx Cheer”, but those glory days seem to have disappeared in the ruins of Shea and Old Yankee Stadium.
Watching crazed fans from cities such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis have me filled with envy of the energy their crowds have provided. Pittsburgh fans, who were riding high after waiting 22 years to return to postseason play, tormented Reds starter Johnny Cueto in the wild card game with “Cuettttoooo” chants that clearly affected his performance. It is gamesmanship like that from the fans that was once seen on a regular basis in New York. Vin Scully once referred to the mound of old Yankee Stadium as “The loneliest place on earth” for opposing pitchers. That fear may still exist to some extent on reputation, but not on actuality when the game begins.
Maybe it’s the thousand’s of dollars you must spend to sit in the lower bowl areas, that have priced the die-hard fan out of the stadium. It is not unusual to see these coveted seats half empty on a given night, with the patrons that are there barely aware of what is occurring on the field. The other half are sitting cozy in a luxury suite somewhere, munching away on a lobster roll or sushi (if you are ordering Sushi at a baseball game, we probably aren’t friends). It is hard to blame these fans for not sitting on the edge of their seat, when they are basically sitting on leather recliners. These luxurious accommodations are great, they really are, but they have diminished the atmosphere that once existed.
I know the feeling is that “winning will solve all problems” but I don’t think that is the case. In just 2009, when the Yankees won their last World Series, there was a notable difference in that crowd. The majestic feeling no longer existed and fans were loud at times, but nothing to what we have become accustomed to from the storied franchise. New York is simply not a feared place for players to visit anymore, we now we have too much of a “corporate” feel with true fans struggling to be heard from the rafters.
Yankee Stadium, in its heyday, was the loudest and most intimidating baseball stadium I had ever seen. The sound level was second to none and the fans would make opposing players tremble from the atmosphere they provided . Shea Stadium, was well-known to “rock” during big games in its history. Players and fans a like would literally feel the rafters moving from under their feet as crowds erupted like no other with each key play. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love both new stadiums, they are each as beautiful a ballpark as there is out there. Although I do not miss the overly narrow seats, hour-long bathroom lines and dirty facilities, I would do anything to bring back the magic that existed in those crowds, from those stadiums.
Matt Harvey will be faced with his biggest challenges of the year in his next two starts against the Reds and Yankees. Early on Harvey has proven himself to be one of the best young pitcher’s in the game and arguably has been the best pitcher in the National League to date.
I think Harvey has been fantastic, far better than I even could have imagined, but he hasn’t exactly pitched against the strongest teams. It’s not that this is his fault, his job is to pitch every 5th day against whoever that games falls against. His two strongest opponents have been the Nationals and Pirates, both of whom he beat, but he did catch the Nationals early on when they were struggling.
Harvey has the type of attitude that he wants to pitch against the best, he seems eager to take on these challenges and prove himself to be better than the rest. These next two starts could be statement games for the young ace as he takes on two very formidable line ups. The Reds are a very good offensive team, who looked poised to make another trip to the postseason. I’m looking forward to seeing him take Joey Votto, Brandon Philips and Jay Bruce head on tonight in what will be the best line up he has seen.
His biggest start is slotted to take place on Tuesday against the crosstown rival Yankees. This is the game that both Mets and Yankees fans are most excited far during next weeks subway series. For Mets fans, we have had very little to cheer about this season, besides when Harvey takes the mound. Fans would love to see him shut down the Yankees, giving them at least one day of bragging rights of having the best young arm in the city, possibly the game.
For Yankees fans, well they have had plenty to cheer about as the Yankees have been one of the biggest surprises in all of baseball. They have seemingly done everything right this season, despite all the injuries they have dealt with. The only day the Yankees are not the back page headline? When Matt Harvey starts. They would love to stop this Harvey love fest for at least one game.
I don’t have much doubt that Matt Harvey is up to the challenge. I think tonight will be a great warm up game of sorts as he takes on this Reds line up in preparation for his start against the Yankees. These are the moments that he seems to live for and his start against the Yankees may very well big the biggest stage his pitches on this whole season.