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October 9, 2000

The Daily Prospectus

Big Market Funnies

by Christina Kahrl

OK, as an A's fan I now have to swallow the same advice I've been offering to grieving White Sox fans for the last couple of days: this year is just the first of many steps in what ought to be a great decade for both teams, and whatever gets accomplished, it will be valuable experience. As much as "wait til next year" smacks of Cubbish hopelessness, in the case of two well-run organizations, it is a motto of hope and not despair. I can gnash my teeth about sun fields produced by media moguls, but the Yankees won, and that's life.

Equally impressive is the victory of the Mets over the Giants. Despite an ungodly amount of wailing over Bobby Valentine's decision to start Bobby Jones in game four despite his inappropriate "fifth starter" label, and the odd absence of any complaints about Dusty Baker's decision to start and lose with genuine sixth starter Mark Gardner (or to use Kirk Rueter in relief before game four), the Mets won handily. As some work Michael Wolverton is doing for ESPN.com will point out, some of it was luck, and as we all had to witness, some of it was Dusty Baker, but this is the postseason, and one man's luck is another man's sense of destiny. We'll leave that to biased and unbiased historical interpretation.

This brings me to my point of what, for me, is a tremendous source of amusement: the perils, foibles and outright misinterpretations of what the victories of the Mets and Yankees represent. For most of the preseason and throughout the year, the major media have been proclaiming the Mets and Yankees as the easy favorites in their divisions, and while both teams have made it this far, neither team has gotten to where it is because of the seamless success of their preseason plans. This year's Yankees team has a lot more in common with the 1973 Tigers than it does with the 1996 Yankees. For most of the team, this could well be their last chance at a ring, and while nobody will weep if this is Clay Bellinger's last dance in the spotlight, there is something compelling about seeing a great team play out the string. It seems strange and inappropriate to consider the Yankees the favorites for anything at this point: they've overcome the collapse of major portions of their pitching staff and the meltdowns of so many important hitters that labels like "favorites" and "underdogs" should have no meaning.

Similarly, so much has gone wrong for the Mets over the course of the past season that I'd hardly call their path to the NLCS the cakewalk so many predicted during spring training. Indeed, despite watching every one of the veteran hitters they picked up over the winter fall well short of expectations, which was expected by people like me, they exceeded expectations of what they would accomplish as a team, at least by people like me. Does that make them favorites and top dogs, or scrappy battling underdogs? Labels like that are inappropriate as well as overly simplistic. If you ask me, it's part of a compelling case for why Bobby Valentine needs to get a lot more credit for his managing, but at the very least it makes them a good team.

So now we've got the looming danger of a subway series and all of the parochial nonsense that it would represent, because love it or hate it or both, there is no provincially self-obsessed burg in our great country as knotted up in itself as New York. But I'd rather not lose what I think is compelling about having the Yankees and Mets make it this far, and which might get lost in the frenzy to cover the local angle, which is that both teams deserve credit for how they've managed to live up to expectations and surprise us at the same time.

Chris Kahrl can be reached at ckahrl@baseballprospectus.com.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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