Before moving ahead to the Pirates, a look back — and a question.
So we're done with the Yankees. Three games at Shea, three games at Yankee Stadium, huge gates everywhere. Same as it's been since Lance Johnson stepped in against Andy Pettitte on June 16, 1997. Same as it'll be as long as they play baseball in this town.
While I don't like interleague play, never have and likely never will, I've discovered something I dislike even more: Interleague play that doesn't settle anything, at least where the Yankees are concerned. Last night's public undressing of Alay Soler let the Yankees emerge with a split: three games for them, three games for us. Same as it was in 2005. (We won the series, 4-2, in 2004; 2003's Subway Series, starring such notables as Jason Phillips and Jeremy Griffiths, is not discussed in polite orange-and-blue company.)
Three games each. A tie! And ties, as a wise baseball man once said, are like kissing your sister.
So here's a modest proposal to avoid future sister-kissing: Give us one more Mets-Yankees tilt. Make the Subway Series a seven-game affair. And bring back the Mayor's Trophy.
We used to play a Mayor's Trophy Game in this town: It was a Yankees-Dodgers affair in the 1950s, though if you want to get super-historical it first reared its head with the City Series, a seven-game set played by the Giants and the Highlanders after both finished second in 1910. (The Giants won, 4-2: Take that, MF-ing Highlanders!) The Mets took over the Dodgers' role in 1963, and for years the Mayor's Trophy Game was the exhibition that wasn't an exhibition. George Steinbrenner hated it: The Yankees would bring up minor-leaguers for cover and still be threatened with torture and pain if they didn't win. The managers hated the distraction and fuss of it — there's a famous tale about Billy Martin and Joe Torre exchanging secret messages negotiating who was going to end an extra-inning Mayor's Trophy Game with a squeeze — just like they hate the distraction and fuss of intracity games that count. The players hated it too — until they got out into the bowl of Shea or Yankee Stadium and saw the place had been packed with rabid fans. (And then they still sort of hated it.)
In other words, except for the minor-leaguers and the secret messages, it was pretty much the way it is now. Only then there had to be a winner, and that winner got a trophy. So what happened to the Mayor's Trophy? Was it in Giuliani's bunker? Did Steinbrenner melt it down to pay Howard Spira? Did we trade it to the Devil Rays for a painted plastic one that our on-staff trophy experts didn't notice had been Superglued? Whatever the case, can't we get it back or get a new one?
Play one more game, and subtract one game from a truly pointless interleague series. (Was there a Met or Blue Jay fan who really needed a third meeting this year?) Home-field advantage alternates, the way the World Series used to. Winner takes home the Mayor's Trophy, to be displayed proudly until the next go-round: The Yankees could do what they like with it (not limited to taking it and shoving it straight up their collective ass, to plagiarize Tanner Boyle). We could built it a nice shrine in the new stadium, and until then keep it on a dais made out of escalator parts and Pepsi Party Patrol t-shirts.
Yes, there's a baseball world outside of New York, and no, not every team has a natural rival. But there are a fair number of good or at least natural matchups that could support seven-game showdowns with attendant hype and some kind of shiny award: Cubs/White Sox, Giants/A's, Dodgers/Angels, Nationals/Orioles, Cardinals/Royals, Astros/Rangers (they already play for the Silver Boot, in fact), Brewers/Twins, Marlins/Devil Rays, Reds/Indians. Elsewhere the pickings are slimmer, but gin up something historical-minded out of Braves/Red Sox, then fill out the spread with Phillies/Blue Jays (heck, have the Phillies wear Blue Jays throwback unis) and Pirates/Tigers, and let the Padres and Rockies and D'Backs take turns against the Mariners. Those teams don't have perfect rivalries anyway (though there has been some agitation for Pirates/Indians instead of Reds/Indians), so what do they care if two three-game series become a two-gamer and a four-gamer?
We had a Mayor's Trophy back when the games didn't count. Now that they do, where has it gone?