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Degeneration Generation

As SNY spoke with Dave Mlicki [1] Monday night about claiming first blood in a Mets-Yankees tilt that mattered, I found myself more than a little distracted. Mlicki had blanked the Yanks 20 years ago?

No, that couldn’t be right.

Surely it was five years ago.

OK, maybe 10.

But nope, you could look it up [2]. The Mets and Yankees have been at this interleague thing a long time — a real generation that spans several baseball ones. Which is long enough for it to become something less than special.

Oh, I tuned in Monday night. But that was more because I’d spent nine days in the Met-unfriendly climes of Alaska and British Columbia, and so seen only snippets of action. I missed my Mets, despite this year being generally missable, and particularly wanted to see Amed Rosario [3] and Dominic Smith [4] on the same field and in the same lineup. Mets-Yankees just happened to be the first game where I’d get to do that.

Rosario’s not unfamiliar at this point, but Smith was new to me. The sleepy-eyed rookie strikes me as what you’d get if someone smushed Butch Huskey [5] into a slightly smaller package, though I did also note of his soft hands and instinctive awareness of what to do with them during Monday night’s game.

The rest of the Mets were more familiar and so less compelling. Curtis Granderson [6] jerked one of his patented Yankee Stadium home runs into that ludicrously close right-field porch. (Seriously, why did they ever let him leave?) Yoenis Cespedes [7] had a very Cespedian game: a home run, a poor throw home that let a runner score, a disclination to run to first after a third strike escaped the catcher. Rafael Montero [8] was better than expected except for one inning in which he retreated into all-too-typical timidity. Hansel Robles [9] was good for an inning, which of course got him another inning, during which he was predictably bad, surrendering a massive Aaron Hicks [10] home run that doomed the Mets.

Oh, and Hansel pointed to the sky again, as if the ball were going a quarter of the distance budgeted. Since not giving up home runs seems to be a bridge too far, he could at least stop doing that.

As for the new-look Yankees, they have an assembly line of hard-throwing, competent relievers, the gigantic Aaron Judge [11] and a bunch of dudes I haven’t bothered paying attention to. I can’t work up any animosity for this edition except Brett Gardner [12], and even he’s only irritating if you’re determined to be mad at someone.

Maybe it’s the old age talking, but that’s fine with me. I didn’t like interleague play in the first place, but for years I was helpless to avoid getting whipped into a lather by the typically understated coverage heralding the return of the Subway Series. Still, as Dave Mlicki might tell you, it’s been a long time. On Monday I muttered and fussed out of instinctive tribalism, but that’s all I could muster. When Rosario looked at a called strike three, neither the borderline call nor the end of the game [13] particularly bothered me.

I’m sure that will change. The Mets will have something to play for, these new Yankees will reveal old loathsomeness that I will beseech the baseball gods to punish, and it’ll be on again. But Monday night was just another game in a lost season — and a dull game at that, if you want to know the truth. It’s good to be back, but as this season dwindles my reaction isn’t to mourn but to shrug. And in a way, that’s sadder than any pop-up to Luis Castillo [14] could be.