Newspaper article International New York Times

A Strange Feeling Is Sweeping over Mets Fans: Optimism ; Team Has Long Lived in Shadow of Yankees, but Tide Could Be Shifting

Newspaper article International New York Times

A Strange Feeling Is Sweeping over Mets Fans: Optimism ; Team Has Long Lived in Shadow of Yankees, but Tide Could Be Shifting

Article excerpt

The team is the hottest in baseball, giving supporters cautious hope that it can wrest control of bragging rights in New York City.

The team has a 12-3 record going into a three-game series with the Yankees.

Ask a group of New York Mets fans to name the worst moment of the team's 53-year history and brace for a lengthy exercise in one- downmanship, as they argue the relative horrors of bad trades, blown leads and terrible performances on the field and at the plate.

For many fans, however, there has been no nadir so much as one vast slough of underachievement, made all the more difficult to bear when viewed against the near-perennial glories of their crosstown rivals, the Yankees.

To call them rivals, though, has been something of a misnomer, much like equating Kraft Singles and Camembert because they are both called cheese. The Yankees -- with 27 World Series titles, an enormous payroll of household names and a global following -- tend to win. The Mets do not.

But the winds of fortune that have blown forever in favor of Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx appear to have reversed course somewhere over the East River and are gusting toward the Mets' Citi Field in Flushing, Queens, six and a half miles away. And Mets fans have entered the new season with an unfamiliar confidence.

As the two teams approached a three-game tilt this weekend, the Mets were the hottest team in baseball, with a 13-3 record, including 11 straight victories, a streak that tied a franchise record. The Yankees were 9-7.

The Mets' fast start, on the backs of talented young players, has led Mets supporters to assert that this may be the year that their team wrests control of bragging rights in New York City and captures the attention of the broader public. It is a prediction that even some Yankees supporters, with desultory glances at their shoelaces, begrudgingly acknowledge.

"The fan base is absolutely starving for baseball that isn't a punch line," Steve Somers, a host on the sports radio station WFAN and a swami of Mets fandom, said in a telephone interview. "After the opening day you could feel the tide turning and the tone being set that the New York Metropolitans were about to reclaim what was rightfully theirs. …

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