Spare me the “New York is becoming a Mets town!” stuff

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This was inevitable, as the Mets are doing well this year and have truly excited their fan base: the story about how New York is “turning into a Mets town.” From the New York Times:

It could be that the Yankees’ seemingly unshakable hold on the city’s baseball heart is loosening amid the sudden and stunning turnaround for the Mets . . . measuring the pulse of a fan base in a two-team baseball city is never simple, especially when one of them is the Yankees, with their 27 World Series championship and 20 retired numbers.

But some telling evidence points to trouble for the Yankees and a boon for the Mets, suggesting that New York might be turning into a Mets town for the first time since their championship season of 1986.

What follows are anecdotes about the “feeling” of the city and numbers about attendance and TV ratings purportng to support the thesis of a shift in city-wide baseball allegiance.

None of the numbers or anecdotes are surprising. Teams like the Mets which turn their fortunes around see increased attendance, ratings and exuberance from fans. Teams like the Yankees which have won for a long time but aren’t as dominant as they once were tend to see complacency and maybe a bit of boredom among the fan base. It’s a tale as old as time in two-team cities or one-team cities.

But none of this establishes one team taking over the city in any real way. Hardcore Yankees fans who wore their gear all over the place didn’t become Mets fans in early August. Mets fans who had nothing to be happy about over the past several years didn’t become Yankees fans and haven’t now suddenly switched back.

Fans who are energized are more demonstrative fans. Fans who are less energized are less demonstrative. People who are, at best, casual fans or have no strong allegiance — as you might expect in a city like New York which has a ton of transplants — will root for a winner and switch back and forth because, hell, why not? It’s fun to be caught up in something exciting. So, at bottom, stories like these tell us nothing other than “a team is winning and people like that team more now than when the team was losing.”

But that’s not news, right?

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.