The big story this season, like usual, has been the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Except this year the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees aren’t a big story because of their pennant race. Instead they are a story because the New York Yankees are so far behind the Boston Red Sox. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will always be a story regardless of how many games separate them. I understand the reasons why but it’s unfortunate that other rivalries and feuds are getting lost in the shuffle, like the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets.
The best rivalry in the National League is certainly debatable. The Atlanta Braves and New York Mets have been big rivals lately but the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants have much longer, more historic rivalries. But one thing that is not debatable is that the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets are definitely having the best pennant race in baseball. Not a whole lot of people have noticed, or at least I haven’t heard the media talk about them.
There are many reasons that the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves are having the best pennant race. You can start by looking at the team leaders in the National League. The New York Mets and Atlanta Braves clearly have the two best offenses in the National League. The New York Mets are in first in runs, the Atlanta Braves are in second. The New York Mets are in first in hits, the Atlanta Braves are in third. The Atlanta Braves are in first in RBI, the New York Mets are in second. The New York Mets are in first in batting, the Atlanta Braves are in third. The New York Mets are in first in on base percentage, second in slugging and first in OPS. The Atlanta Braves are in third in slugging, third in on base percentage and second in OPS.
Another way to look at how evenly match the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves have been this season is to keep track of the standings through out the year. So far the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets are the only two teams in the National League East that have been in first place in the division and the other team has always been in second. We are only a little over a month and a half into the season and the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets have already changed leads eighteen times and been tied six times. During one stretch of the season the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets swapped places in the standings every day for a week straight.
There’s still more than that. So far this season has lasted 53 days. In those 53 days the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets have been tied in the standings 10 days, the Atlanta Braves have led the division 22 days and the New York Mets have led the division 21 days. The New York Mets currently lead the division but the Atlanta Braves currently lead the head to head series.
Even the players are pretty even head to head. Chipper Jones leads the Atlanta Braves; the New York Mets are lead by Carlos Beltran. The New York Mets have young stars Jose Reyes and David Wright. The Atlanta Braves have young stars Brian McCann and Jeff Franceour. The Mets will get a boost when Carlos Delgado is out of his slump. The Atlanta Braves will get a boost when Andruw Jones is out of his slump. The Atlanta Braves have veteran John Smoltz. The New York Mets have veteran Tom Glavine. Tim Hudson is having a great season for the Atlanta Braves. John Maine is having a great season for the New York Mets. The New York Mets are getting a lift from guys like Endy Chavez, Shawn Green, Jose Valentin and Moises Alou. The Atlanta Braves are getting a lift from guys like Kelly Johnson, Willie Harris, Matt Diaz and Scott Thorman.
The New York Mets and Atlanta Braves have been neck and neck all season and there is no reason to think it’s going to change any time soon. They might very well play each other in the NLCS after the loser of the division gets into the playoffs as a Wild Card. It’s just too bad the baseball schedulers always have to put the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves games on the same day as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox games because the Mets and Braves will never get the attention it deserves.