It doesn’t get any closer in baseball than what the McNamara division has been in the New-York Penn League. Heading into the final series of the regular season, all four teams are separated by 1.5 games. This includes the Brooklyn Cyclones (Single-A, Short Season) and the Staten Island Yankees (New York Yankees, Single-A Short Season). Currently, Brooklyn is one game behind the Aberdeen Iron Birds (Baltimore Orioles, Single-A, Short Season) and the Hudson Valley for both the division and Wild Card. Aberdeen and Hudson Valley will also face each other Saturday-Monday.
The Cyclones-Yankees rivalry is one of the more prominent ones in the lower levels of minor league baseball. It began in 2001 and was named “Battle of the Boroughs”. The two teams have met in the postseason on four different occasions over the last 17 years
“As a player, each team here is your rival. You have to play hard. They are two teams from New York. It makes it more exciting for the people. As a player and a coach, you have to beat anyone. Staten Island is always tough,” said Brooklyn manager Edgardo Alfonzo about the rivalry.
“Those guys always fight. Every time you play against Staten Island, something is going to happen. Their lineup is pretty good, their players are good, the coaches/manager are nice.”
The end-of-the-season rivalry got a little more interesting because Brooklyn is able to call up players with the Rookie-level seasons ending earlier this week. On Thursday, the Cyclones called up their 1st Round pick in this year’s MLB Draft, 3B Brett Baty, and their 3rd Round pick, RHP Matthew Allan. Baty went 1-for-2 with 2 walks and a 3-run double in his debut on Friday. As for Allan, he is scheduled to start the series opener on Saturday night:
The Cyclones return home tomorrow to take on Staten Island with lots of new faces including RHP Matthew Allan who is expected to make the start. Allan was recently placed 4th on @MLBPipeline Top 30 Prospects in the Mets organization. pic.twitter.com/1sij5tp2HE
— Brooklyn Cyclones (@BKCyclones) August 30, 2019
In addition to the two top prospects, a former Staten Island Yankee will now be putting on a Cyclones uniform as Mets second baseman Robinson Canó begins a rehab assignment:
Eight-time All-Star Robinson Cano will play for the Cyclones tomorrow when we take on the Yankees at 6:00 PM.
— Brooklyn Cyclones (@BKCyclones) August 30, 2019
One of those pitchers that could face the Yankees again is RHP Garrison Bryant. Bryant has been one of the best pitchers in the NYPL this year as the All-Star has a 2.18 ERA in 13 games and has a 0.64 ERA in 5 appearances this month (29 strikeouts to 1 walk in 28.1 innings). He has faced Staten Island twice this year (1-1, 4.44 ERA, 11 strikeouts, 1 walk).
“Its cool. You like playing against good teams. It makes everybody a little bit nervous, more excited to play. During a long season, if you can get those little behind the scenes moment where you get guys fired up if something happens, it’s exciting,” said Bryant about how the rivalry is viewed in the clubhouse.
When talking about Staten Island, Bryant mentioned how the lineup is aggressive at the plate and the adjustments he made in his second outing against them on August 12.
“Staten Island, they take a lot of big aggressive swings through the zone. If you make a mistake, they are going to get you. You can’t give a pitch away. The first time I faced them I struggled a little bit because I tried to be too perfect, too fine and I missed spots. They took advantage. Next time after watching them, I did the exact opposite. I took every pitch real serious and attacked the zone and kept my focus the entire game,” said Bryant.
Coming into this weekend’s series, the two teams have played 8 times and each side has won 4 and 5 of those 8 meetings have been decided by 3 runs or fewer. The last meeting between these two teams was a wild one, which Staten Island won on a walk-off, 2-run home run in the bottom of the 11th.
Like Alfonzo, Cyclones coach Endy Chavez was also a part of the annual Subway Series when the Mets and Yankees play each other. While the rivalry does not match up to the Subway Series, Chavez does notice the competitive level the matchup brings.
“It’s totally different,” said Chavez. “First of all, the majors is the top of the line. But, honestly, we have pretty good competition.”
While it is not a playoff series and the playoffs are not the end-all, be-all in minor league baseball, the postseason allows players to play more games and continue their development before heading to the Instructional League.
“It’s fun. Every game is competitive, every game means something, and every pitch matters a little more. It’s fun playing a little bit of postseason baseball, it’s cool to experience that,” said Bryant about how close the playoff race is.
Over the course of Labor Day Weekend, the Cyclones will look to continue the good winning stretch they have had lately as they push towards either a wild card berth or a division title.
The rivalry may not be at its apex in terms of buzz compared to when it began, but when a Mets affiliate battles a Yankees affiliate for a postseason spot such as Syracuse trying to win the International League North Division from Scranton Wilkes-Barre in Triple-A (neither team plays each other), bragging rights are never a bad thing to win.