Opposing Views of Subway Series

Thursday, June 8th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — For the World Series champion Yankees, the Subway Series is mostly a nuisance, filled with incessant ticket requests and media hype.

For the upstart Mets, a meeting with their crosstown rivals provides a test, a break to the monotony of the 162-game schedule.

``It has the electricity and excitement and tension that closely compares to the playoffs,'' Mets general manager Steve Phillips said Thursday, on the eve of the fifth interleague series between the teams. ``You have pressure at-bats and plays more than in an everyday game.

``I love it. It's good for baseball and very good for baseball in New York.''

Yankees manager Joe Torre, who grew up in New York when there was an October Subway Series almost every year, has a different view.

``I'm looking forward to the three games against the Mets because the quicker it gets here, the quicker it'll be over with,'' he said.

While the Yankees have won three World Series titles in four years, the Mets are the underdogs in their own city and their division. Atlanta has won the last five NL East titles and knocked out the Mets two games shy of a Subway Series last October.

That's one reason why they relish these games so much.

``This is a good test for us to see how we respond to the extra energy and the playoff atmosphere,'' Mets catcher Mike Piazza said. ``I think it's a good time of the year for us because we do need that adrenaline injection right now.''

The past series have provided memorable moments: Dave Mlicki's shutout win for the Mets in the first New York interleague game in 1997; the Mets ending ROGER CLEMENS' AL-record 20-game winning streak and their own eight-game losing streak last June; and Matt Franco's pinch-hit single off Mariano Rivera that gave the Mets the win last July in a game that featured five lead changes and seven home runs.

Despite those dramatic wins by the Mets, the Yankees own a 7-5 edge in interleague play and all those championship rings.

``You want to beat them because they are the best team in baseball,'' Piazza said. ``Until someone dethrones them they're the world champions. Any time you get a chance to beat them, it gives you confidence.''

It was that win against Clemens last June that sparked the Mets in 1999. They entered the game with a 27-28 record, on their longest losing streak of the season and had just fired three of their coaches.

In a tense pregame news conference, manager Bobby Valentine — angry about the firings — said he should be next to go if the team didn't improve in the next 55 games.

The Mets then went out and beat Clemens, went 40-15 over the next 55 games, and made the playoffs for the first time since 1988. Not that it provided Valentine much job security.

Phillips believes his team is even better this year as it prepares to return to Yankee Stadium.

``That team was not playing up to its capabilities,'' he said. ``We're not hitting on all cylinders yet this year, but we are not at our darkest moment of the season.''

The opener of this year's series once again matches Clemens (4-5) and AL LEITER (6-1). ANDY PETTITTE (5-2) will pitch for the Yankees on Saturday against Bobby J. Jones (1-2), and ex-Met DAVID CONE (1-6) pitches the finale against Mike Hampton (6-5).

Then, it's back to the normal games until the Yankees go to Shea Stadium for three more starting July 7.

``When you're out on the field at Yankee Stadium and it's a full house, obviously that's fun,'' Yankees outfielder Paul O'Neill said. ``But all the other stuff that goes with it, we can do without.''