TORONTO — Maybe this Mets-Blue Jays series, with two games earlier at Citi Field and two games this week at Rogers Centre, is more significant than we realized.
Should we call it the Separated At Birth Series?
Behold the similarities:
1) Both teams hit a wall in the late 2000s and started fresh with new general managers. Alex Anthopoulos took over the Blue Jays after 2009 and Sandy Alderson did the same for the Mets after 2010. Anthopoulos traded franchise icon Roy Halladay to the Phillies. Alderson traded the terrific Carlos Beltran to the Giants in 2011 and reigning National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to Anthopoulos’ Jays in 2012.
2) Both teams moved extremely aggressively, dealing multiple pieces from their farm system, before and during the 2015 season. The Blue Jays traded for Josh Donaldson and signed Russell Martin in the winter, then traded for David Price and Troy Tulowitzki, among many others, in July. The Mets sacrificed a draft pick to sign Michael Cuddyer in November, and then traded for Yoenis Cespedes, among many others, in July.
3) Both teams peaked in 2015, with the Mets capturing the NL East and advancing to the World Series and the Blue Jays winning the American League East and reaching the sixth game of the ALCS. Both teams’ October dreams were shattered by those pesky Kansas City Royals, who ousted the Jays in six ALCS contests and the Mets in five World Series games.
4) Both teams made the playoffs again in 2016 as wild cards. The Jays reached the ALCS again, falling in five games to the Indians, while the Mets dropped the NL wild-card game to the Giants.
5) Both teams finished well under .500 last year and are on pace to do so again, with rosters featuring many prominent players over 30, young pitchers who have struggled to stay healthy and more work to be done before they can resume contention.
Interestingly, the Royals also find themselves in dire straits after making the World Series in 2014 and winning it all in 2015. They have the rings, though, and flags fly forever.
Yet I wondered: Does the same blend of regret and anger tinge the Blue Jays fan base the way it does the Mets’? Not as far as I can tell.
Mets outfielder Jose Bautista, who received a lovely welcome back from the Blue Jays and their fans on Tuesday night, held a news conference before the game and discussed his team’s roller-coaster ride during his 10 years in the organization.
“I think it had its ups and downs,” Bautista said. “I think I was here for a long period of time. I think we had some successes, and I have a lot of memories and I get to share that with the fans. … Those are the kinds of things that last the test of time, the memories. You get to enjoy them for a long time and talk about them.”
Eventually, I think, the Mets will be able to bring back their thrilling 2015 team for an on-field reunion, in the same way their 1973 “Ya Gotta Believe!” club stood the test of time, or how Mike Piazza is revered despite the lack of a Mets title. Right now, though, there’s too much understandable anger at both ownership and the front office, the latter of which dissipated some when Alderson took a (likely permanent) leave of absence last week to deal with his recurrence of cancer.
Here in Canada, you don’t find that brand of animosity; it’s more apathy, expressed in a precipitous attendance decline. The ownership is sort of a faceless behemoth, with president Mark Shapiro the primary conduit to the fans. And the general manager, Ross Atkins, didn’t make those aggressive trades in ’15; he took over in ’16, after Anthopoulos left.
Anthopoulos, a native Canadian, remains beloved here. Their success in ’15 marked their first visit to the playoffs since winning it all in 1993. Folks here appear OK with the tradeoff of the excitement for the subsequent retooling.
“He played a big part in [the rise],” Martin, also a native Canadian, said of Anthopoulos. “He’s the one that built that team. I’m sure fans still remember Alex. He was easy to get along with. It seemed like he was just one of the guys.”
Moreover, Martin conceded, “Canadians tend to cheer for their own, normally.”
The Blue Jays have more impactful young guys, like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, coming to help soon. The Mets have better trade pieces if they so choose like Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard to give the next phase a boost.
After Wednesday, these twin organizations won’t face each other again until 2021. Let’s check in then to see which one moved forward more successfully from these similarly challenging times.
Let’s catch up on Pop Quiz questions:
1) From Matt Harris of Pearl River: Name the Hall of Fame player mentioned in the Beastie Boys song “Sure Shot.”
2) From Dan Cavanagh of Tucson, Ariz.: Name the former Yankees owner who was portrayed by actor Andy Romano in the 1991 film “Bugsy.”
Have you ever seen a Stand Up To Cancer moment during the All-Star Game or World Series? They’re pretty special. This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the organization’s relationship with Major League Baseball, and they have put together a commemorative video in honor of that anniversary. Here are the Facebook and Twitter links.
Your Pop Quiz answers:
1) Rod Carew
2) Del Webb
If you have a tidbit that connects popular culture with baseball, please send it to me at [email protected]
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