For New York baseball fans, the 2000 baseball season Mets-Yankees Subway Series was a match made in heaven. However, if you weren’t from the Big Apple, you might not have cared that much -- and that dichotomy expressed baseball’s big problem moving into the 21st century.
Some small-market franchises struggled to compete, while some felt that the balance of power had swung permanently to baseball’s biggest markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and the Bay Area. Those four areas did account for five of the eight playoff teams in 2000. But while New York and the Bay Area each produced two division champions, other big cities saw their teams sputter.
Despite the second-highest payroll in the game, the Dodgers couldn’t bring home a title. The Cubs were a sad 65-97 even though Sammy Sosa led the majors with 50 homers. Anaheim hung tough, but too many unhealthy veterans consigned the Halos to third.
However, on the south side of Chicago, the inexpensive and largely unknown White Sox, featuring veteran Frank Thomas and young Magglio Ordonez, ran away with the 2000 American League Central Division. Though the Sox lost to Seattle in the American League Division Series, they showed that not all winners needed bloated payrolls or veteran-heavy lineups.
Oakland was another such example. Featuring American League MVP Jason Giambi (.333, 43 homers, 137 RBI), Oakland’s unheralded but productive lineup, and a pitching staff featuring Tim Hudson and Barry Zito, gave them their first American League West crown since 1992.
However, the As couldn’t top the Yankees. Even though New York lost 15 of its last 18 regular-season games, the Bombers clicked in the playoffs. New York edged Oakland in five, with the clinching contest going to the Yankees after a six-run first.
The Yankees featured Bernie Williams (.307, 30 homers, 121 RBI) and Andy Pettitte (19-9), but they won largely with depth and a strong bullpen. New York’s offense flexed its muscle in an ALCS win over Seattle, whose big guns -- Alex Rodriguez (41 home runs) and Edgar Martinez (145 RBI) -- couldn’t compensate for a shaky Mariners mound staff.
Meanwhile, the Mets snuck into the National League playoffs via the wildcard, but they knocked off the favored Giants (featuring Barry Bonds and league MVP Jeff Kent) to reach the NLCS. Their opponent? The Cardinals, who also upset a favored team -- Atlanta -- in their Division Series. St. Louis battered the Braves’ moundsmen for 24 runs in a three-game sweep.
The Cardinals and Mets then hooked up in a five-game NLCS that New York took handily. The final two games were blowouts, showing that the Mets and their supercharged offense (including catcher Mike Piazza, second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo, and unheralded rookie outfielder Timo Perez) were worthy standard-bearers for the senior circuit.
The much-heralded Subway Series began on October 21. While the Yankees grabbed the trophy in five games, each game went down to the final out, with three decided by one run and the other contests decided by just two runs.
Game one, the longest game in Series history at 4:51, ended with Jose Vizcaino’s 12th-inning single and a 4-3 Yankees win. The next night, the Yanks jumped out to a 6-0 lead before holding off the Mets, who rallied for five in the ninth.
After the Mets won game three 4-2 at Shea, the Yankees took the final contests 3-2 and 4-2. Big hits from Luis Sojo and Derek Jeter (who homered in the final two games) were the difference as the Bronx Bombers became baseball’s first three-peat winners since the 1972-74 A’s.
The next page provides headlines and summaries for some of the top stories of the 2000 baseball season.