There was a time when this would have driven the Yankees crazy, winning games and losing the back pages. You can only imagine how a previous administration would have seethed about seeing the Mets dominate the conversation. But for better or worse, that time is long gone in the Bronx, which has become New York's Sea of Tranquility.
The Yankees were not even taking joy Sunday in watching the Mets squirm about the weird timing of Matt Harvey's sudden concern for his innings limit. When Joe Girardi's pregame news conference was dominated by talk of the verbal stink bomb Harvey and agent Scott Boras threw into the Mets' pennant drive, the Yankees' manager said, "I can only imagine what Terry is going through."
He was downright sympathetic to Mets counterpart Terry Collins, saying, "I feel for everyone over there, because it's tough."
Then Girardi and his team went about beating the Rays, 6-4, rather methodically. They received a solid start from Ivan Nova -- who, like Harvey, is coming off Tommy John surgery -- as well as a pair of timely homers and typical lockdown relief. Nothing new or dramatic there, especially in the latter part. The Yankees are a calm 57-2 when leading after six innings, 71-0 when leading after eight.
What really is odd, when you think about it, is that the mayor of No-Panic City is Alex Rodriguez. One of the most polarizing figures in New York baseball history, he is quietly making a massive impact. He hit his 28th home run of 2015 in the sixth inning Sunday, one pitch after Brian McCann's homer. A-Rod's was a tiebreaker and a momentum-changer.
"You get to watch him hit on a daily basis, you know why he's successful. He's got one of the best swings that you could possibly have," McCann said. "There are no flaws, and when he's seeing the ball, there's nobody better. It's great to see him go about his craft on a daily basis."
In the eighth, Rodriguez singled for his 3,053rd career hit and tied Rod Carew for 23rd place on baseball's all-time list.
"Rod is someone I have a lot of respect for. Rod is someone who was very good to me early in my career, when he was the hitting coach with the Angels and I was a young lad with the Mariners. So I really have a lot of appreciation and respect for Mr. Carew," he said in postgame comments that deliberately stayed a country mile away from bombast. At another point, he said McCann's blast was much more important than his own.
We're not saying that Rodriguez is the new model of humility, but he is going out of his way not to create the kind of maelstrom that Harvey did. The comparison is appropriate, of course, because of the common thread: Boras. The agent used to represent Rodriguez, displaying his unique sense of timing by announcing A-Rod's opt-out from his previous Yankee contract during the fourth and final game of the 2007 World Series.
The Yankees realize that the Harvey situation is not a publicity stunt. They know that a pitcher's concern about his health and future is serious business. "I know there is a lot going on, on the other side of town, and it happened with Stephen Strasburg a couple of years ago. It put everyone in a tough spot," Girardi said, referring to the young Nationals pitcher who was shut down before the 2012 playoffs.
Maybe a little controversy would actually help the current Yankees. They drew only 35,299 Sunday for a game with huge playoff implications. You would not call the atmosphere generally electric.
But they seem fine to proceed without the luster and bluster. They might have exposed the Rays (what kind of team pinch hits for its cleanup hitter in the ninth?) and they finally beat ace Chris Archer. The Orioles stumble in Monday on a 2-8 skid, then the Blue Jays follow. Life on the mild side is not so bad.
One Yankee in particular was quite happy not to be in the crosshairs. When Rodriguez was asked about the Mets, he smiled, started walking quickly toward the exit and told reporters, "I'll see you guys tomorrow. Happy Labor Day."