The rivalry between the Braves and Mets has especially been non-existent over the last decade or two. However, thanks to a three-year surge from Atlanta following their rebuild, and a current offseason that’s featured All-Star additions for New York, we may once again see an exciting clash of two dangerous NL East teams.
The problem with the Braves-Mets rivalry is that over the years, it seems both clubs are always on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of contention. When Atlanta’s up, New York seems to be down… and vice-versa.
For example: over the last three seasons (2018-20), immediately following the Braves painful rebuild, Atlanta has won the division all three years and has combined for 222 wins. Meanwhile, the Mets have finished no better than third place in the NL East while tallying 189 wins during that stretch. And it’s certainly impacted the rivalry as Atlanta has gone 31-17 versus New York since 2018, which followed a 34-42 mark against the Mets from 2014-17 — a four-year span that featured a first-place and 90-win New York team that lost in the World Series in 2015 and a second-place and 87-win Mets club during the 2016 campaign.
And when going further back, the difference in each team’s competition level is even worse as the Braves were legit contenders from 2009-13, averaging 91 wins per season during those five years (including three playoff appearances), while the Mets remained near the bottom of the division with just an average of 74 wins in that span.
Really, you have to go all the way back over 20 years — to the 2000 season — if you want to rehash an exciting rivalry between the Braves and Mets, in which each win against one another was especially crucial.
- Braves 95-67 (1st) swept in NLDS
- Mets: 94-68 (2nd / 1 GB) lost WS
Entering the 2000 campaign, Atlanta was coming off three-straight 100+ win seasons that featured two trips to the League Series and one World Series appearance as starters Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine led the Braves rotation into their 30s. New York, meanwhile, managed win totals of 88 and 97 in 1998 and 1999, respectively. The Mets offense was led by catcher Mike Piazza, who belted 40 homers and hit .303 in ’99; although, offense was really all the team had as their starting staff was getting old and becoming ineffective.
The rivalry between the teams was about to heat up in 2000, but make no mistake, Atlanta was The Team of the NL East in the season’s prior, winning the division by 18 games in ’98 and 6.5 in ’99. Each time it was New York that came up short and finished second, which eventually resulted in a helluva battle between the two clubs in 2000.
The rivalry really got started in the offseason. In the December leading up to the start of the 2000 campaign, both the Braves and Mets made big trades, spanning only 24 hours apart.
On December 23rd, Atlanta traded second baseman Bret Boone, first baseman/left fielder Ryan Klesko and minor league pitcher Jason Shiell to the Padres in exchange for first baseman Wally Joyner, outfielder Reggie Sanders and second baseman Quilvio Veras. The return didn’t pan out exactly as the Braves hoped. Two seasons later, Klesko went on to be an All-Star with San Diego. But surprisingly, it was Veras that played the best for Atlanta in 2000, hitting .309 with 20 XBH and 25 stolen bases, good for 2.4 bWAR.
New York made their big move the very next day, trading minor league pitcher Kyle Kessel, outfielder Roger Cedeno, and pitcher Octavio Dotel to Houston in exchange for outfielder Derek Bell and starting pitcher Mike Hampton. It wound up being a steal of a deal for the Mets as the duo of Bell and Hampton posted strong seasons in 2000 for New York. After posting just a. 236 AVG with 12 home runs for Houston in 1999 (-1.4 WAR), Bell hit .266 with 18 homers with the Mets (1.7 WAR); while Hampton — an All-Star with the Astros the year prior — pitched to a 3.14 ERA across 217.2 innings, good for 4.7 WAR.
Then the 2000 season started, and play between the two teams was tight… and exciting.
Of the Braves’ top 20 games that year in terms of total attendance, seven were against the Mets, including 52,000+ fans for two games at Shea Stadium on June 30th and September 28th. No other game Atlanta played in that season involved 50,000 fans. Of the 13 meetings between the Braves and Mets in 2000, Atlanta won seven, and New York won six. The run-differential for the Braves that season, against the Mets, was just plus-three.
Maddux and Glavine facing Al Leiter and Hampton, with Chipper Jones and Piazza on each team’s respective lineup — this was a real rivalry, and one that went all the way to the end of the season as the Braves and Mets met for their second-to-last series of the year in 2000, with New York trailing by just 3.5 games on September 26th.
And it was a real scare for the Braves. They lost two of three in that final Mets series, and then New York went on to win their last five games in a row, coming within one game of the division lead. Thankfully, Atlanta was able to muster one win in their final three-game set versus the Rockies to take the NL East crown. However, as we know, the Cardinals spoiled the season when St. Louis swept the Braves in the NLDS that followed. And on top of that, the Mets managed a World Series bid, though they were shellacked 4-1 by the Yankees.
Regardless, the Braves-Mets rivalry was critical during that 2000 season.
The rivalry in 2021
I’m not sure baseball rivalries will ever be as exciting as ones in college football or even the NFL. Star players in baseball just don’t have as many chances to contribute as they do in other sports. But when two teams in baseball are at their peak, with each starting rotation and lineup chalked-full of talent, the back-and-forth can be like no other, especially when you’re talking about a regular-season that spans so long.
The Braves-Mets rivalry for the 2021 season has already taken an unfortunate hit, given Carlos Carrasco‘s hamstring injury, an ailment that reportedly will keep him sidelined for at least 6-8 weeks. And I’m sure there will be other injuries, not to mention the potential for LOLMets, of course.
But for possibly the first time in over 20 years, the Braves versus the Mets could really mean something… for both teams.
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