According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, if the Yankees and Mets were to square off in the World Series, 59% of New Yorkers would root for the Yankees while just 37% would side with the Mets. That the Yankees have the majority shouldn’t come as much of a surprise — they’ve always been the favorite New York team. Still, that’s a pretty sizable gap and I wouldn’t have guessed Mets fans were that few and far between.
Harry Enten of Five Thirty Eight made an interesting observation about this spread: He found that, historically, the polling gap depends heavily on the Mets’ performance. Specifically, the spread between the two teams increases by something like 2% for each additional year the Mets miss out on the postseason. In case you’re too young to remember, the Mets last made the playoffs back in 2006 when they ultimately fell to the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series. After that run, the Mets trailed the Yankees by just 1% in that year’s Quinnipiac poll, but the gap has been growing ever since.
Casual baseball fans are fickle creatures. They like to be affiliated with a successful team, regardless of which team that is. If the Mets aren’t getting the job done, these people will sway their allegiance to the Yankees without batting an eye. This might explain why the Yankees have been so hesitant to make a trade with their NYC counterparts in recent years even though the Mets, being a National League team, have little bearing on the Yankees’ playoff hopes.
Its been nearly a decade since the two teams engaged in a trade. Their last deal was when they swapped lefty relievers Mike Stanton and Felix Heredia back in 2004. Only the Athletics, Blue Jays, and Red Sox have a longer trade-less streak with the Bombers. This lack of activity might be partly about spiting a cross-town rival, but I’d say it has more to do with market share. When the Mets are good, they sway a good chunk of NY area fans — and attendance revenue — away from the Yankees. The Yankees have every incentive to avoid doing anything that might give the Mets an advantage.
Luckily for the Yankees, the Mets don’t have a very good team this year. But given the talent in the upper-levels of the Mets farm system, it’s only a matter of time before they start contending for the playoffs again — and luring casual baseball fans back to Queens.