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Archive for Thursday, October 19, 2000

Mets like Yanks except for Clemens

But Piazza more worried about winning than getting revenge against Rocket

October 19, 2000

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— The Mets and Yankees don't harbor the same animosity that existed between New York's baseball teams the last time there was a Subway Series.

Today's players pal around at the city's hotspots, hold charity events together and have friendships off the field. Not quite Billy Martin and Sal Maglie.

"We actually like their team," Mets backup catcher Todd Pratt said Wednesday. "Well at least 24 of the guys."

Now, who would that 25th player be?

"We all lost some respect for Roger (Clemens)," Pratt said.

As much as both teams might try, the matchup between Clemens and Mets catcher Mike Piazza will dominate talk around the first Subway Series since 1956.

Piazza is 7-for-12 against Clemens with three memorable home runs. That success, say the Mets, prompted Clemens to drill Piazza in the helmet with a fastball on July 8 at Yankee Stadium.

"I put it behind me already," Piazza said. "It is irrelevant. My feeling is we are trying to win the game. We've moved on."

The tensions have cooled, but they are not totally forgotten. The Mets, who didn't let the Yanks use their weight room at Shea Stadium the next day, won't ban the Yankees next week.

"If anybody thinks it's the most important thing going on, they're incorrect," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. "If they think it is forgotten about, they're also incorrect."

No one expects any retaliation, even if Clemens happens to pitch and bat at Shea, which is not expected to happen.

The Mets began preparations Wednesday for their first World Series since 1986. The clubhouse still reeked of champagne from Monday's celebration after winning the NL pennant, but the players were rested from a day off.

Some spent Tuesday watching the Yankees beat Seattle to give New York its first Subway Series since 1956. Valentine watched the game surrounded by Yankees fans at his Connecticut restaurant.

For the Mets, who have played second fiddle to the Yankees in New York the past six years, this series is as much about being the best in the city as it is being the best in the world.

"The Yankees are definitely the team of the city," said outfielder Jay Payton, whose swollen left eye was back to normal after he was hit by a Dave Veres pitch Monday night.

"This is our chance to get a place on the map. Whoever wins can walk around with their chins high and have bragging rights for a long time."

That's why the most of the Mets were so happy to see the Yankees win. Some people tried to cheapen their NL pennant by saying they didn't win the division and didn't need to beat the Braves to make the World Series.

A win against the Yankees will quiet all the critics.

"If they beat us, they have the three-peat. If we beat them, we get their rings," Pratt said. "If we do that, Atlanta can't say anything. They had their chance against these guys and couldn't beat them."

Valentine hasn't announced his rotation yet, but it is expected to be the same as it has been for the first two rounds: Mike Hampton, Al Leiter, Rick Reed and Bobby J. Jones.

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