The following is, of course, a fictitious account of the 2000 World Series that was, of course, not won by a New York team known as the Mets: Derek Jeter was slumped in his chair and staring...
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The following is, of course, a fictitious account of the 2000 World Series that was, of course, not won by a New York team known as the Mets:
Derek Jeter was slumped in his chair and staring blankly into his Yankee Stadium locker. Joe Torre was locked behind his office door, weeping softly at his desk. George Steinbrenner was pacing manically in the clubhouse, ready to say something that might inspire a week’s worth of back pages.
The Yankees had just lost Game 7 of the 2000 World Series to the Mets, and the home team was dying a thousand deaths. The Yankees had won the previous two titles, and three of four, and Steinbrenner was hunting for a TV network to call his own, a platform to push new-age pinstriped mythology to an insatiable fan base. He wouldn’t sell his baseball team to Cablevision because its chairman, Charles Dolan, wouldn’t let him keep running the Yankees or honor his request to also run the Cablevision-owned Knicks and Rangers.
Steinbrenner wanted to impose his will on every relevant sports franchise in town … and especially on the Mets.
“You’d better f—ing win or else,” the Boss had told general manager Brian Cashman.
“From a company standpoint, the city was ours,” Cashman said later. “The city was at stake, the television contract was at stake, the entire financial power of the business was at stake. I felt like if we lost to the Mets, it would’ve diminished our three championships. It would’ve been like they didn’t count. … I’d never before been scared of losing. But I was scared of losing to the Mets.”
His worst fears were confirmed. Mike Piazza’s three-run homer in Game 6 sent the Subway Series barreling into a Game 7 the Yankees played as their GM felt — scared of losing to the Mets. When Armando Benitez struck out Bernie Williams with two outs in the ninth, freezing for eternity the 7-2 final score, Bobby Valentine bear-hugged his coaches and summoned his father-in-law, Ralph Branca, down to the field. Branca had surrendered the most devastating home-run in the city’s rich baseball history, and Valentine wanted the former Dodgers pitcher to feel on this night what Bobby Thomson and the pennant-winning Giants felt nearly a half century earlier.
It was a glorious moment for Mets owner Fred Wilpon, who earlier had been lectured by Steinbrenner about the second-rate furniture in Shea Stadium’s visitors clubhouse. Who was the second-rate operator now that the Mets were booked for a parade up the Canyon of Heroes?
After he tried to shower off the permanent Game 7 stains, Jeter told the media it would be difficult to continue living as a prince of the city, surrounded by taunting Mets fans. A disconsolate Torre said he would meet with Steinbrenner in the coming days to discuss his future, or lack thereof, and a gutted Cashman said the same.
“We felt we had the horses to win, but we didn’t get the job done,” a steamed Steinbrenner said. “I know Joe feels terrible about it, as he should. That Valentine did a hell of a job, and the Mets showed a lot of fight. We’ll be back to work first thing in the morning to give our fans the championship team they deserve. If my people say we need to make changes, I won’t be afraid to make them.”
Had the Mets actually won the 2000 World Series, rather than losing it to the Yankees in five (as they did), some very interesting local things might have gone down.
- Out of desperation, Steinbrenner might have topped the Rangers’ record $252 million bid for Alex Rodriguez that offseason.
- With or without A-Rod, the Boss would have been tougher on Jeter in negotiations and likely would’ve signed him for a little less than $189 million.
- Empowered by their conquest of the Yankees, the Wilpons might have better navigated their many crises, dodged their Loserville labels, and (who knows?) never felt compelled to sell to Steve Cohen down the road.
- Valentine would be an entirely different historical figure in the game.
- If Torre and Cashman weren’t fired after losing a Game 7 to the Mets, they might’ve been after losing Game 7 to the Diamondbacks the following year.
Asked what might have been had the Mets won their third championship 21 years ago, Valentine said: “When we go to golf tournaments, Yankee players who were on world championship teams are there, and everyone’s excited about having those players play with them, where the same level of player on my Mets team doesn’t get that level of excitement. If we’d won in 2000, my players would be on the top of the list. I think it would have changed a lot of lives, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.”
Asked what might have been had the Yankees lost that Subway Series, Cashman said: “The Boss put so much pressure on us, but we won. I don’t waste my time thinking about things that didn’t come to pass. I do waste my time thinking about opportunities lost, but in 2000, that was not an opportunity lost.”
Damn right it wasn’t.
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Ian O'Connor