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It's better to be a Mets fan than a Yankees fan.


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NEW YORK -- Up is down. In is out. Dogs and cats are living together, most likely in an apartment in Flushing. The roles in our baseball universe have completely reversed.


For the first time in a long time -- and we're talking two decades here -- it's better to be a Mets fan than a Yankees fan.




If junior is just getting interested in baseball, you should slap an orange-and-blue cap on his head, replace his Bob the Builder DVDs with SNY highlights and sing "Meet the Mets" as a lullaby. The way things are going this season, he might thank you in a few years.


Take Exhibit No. 40 this spring: Willie Randolph, in discussing the latest installment of the Subway Series that begins tonight, had to essentially give the visiting team a pep talk.


"The Yankees are going to be just fine," the Mets manager said, and maybe this is the one piece of good news for the Bronx faithful these days. It was Randolph, after all, who sent a Double-A team out to play the Cubs yesterday, one with names like Gotay and Newhan and Castro, and surmised, "Looks like a winning lineup to me."


Sure enough, 2 1/2 hours later, Randolph was charging on the field to hug Carlos Delgado after the struggling slugger hit a two-run single to cap a five-run, ninth-inning rally.


When the afternoon started, it appeared the most excitement would come during the "Weather Education Day" program. Then, it was 6-5 Mets, with Delgado nearly getting his jersey ripped off his back as his teammates mobbed him near the mound at Shea Stadium.


Have we mentioned it's better to be a Mets fan?


Out in Chicago, the Yankees were still not hitting, dropping to 18-21 with another dreary loss to the White Sox. The Red Sox, meanwhile, swept their day-night doubleheader against the Tigers. At this rate, The Boss will need to sign the Hubble Telescope just to see Boston in the standings.


"The Yankees are a great team," Mets third baseman David Wright said after producing an RBI single in the first pinch-hit at-bat of his career. The Mets keep saying these things, but they're allowing past performance to influence their current perception of their more-popular neighbors.


If they were in the same division, the team from Queens would have a comfortable 7 1/2-game lead in the standings. The last time the Mets were this much better than the Yankees on May 18 was 1991. That was the first year of the Stump Merrill regime in the Bronx. And the last year.


Yeah, it's still May. But right now, when sizing up the respective lives of a Mets fan and a Yankees fan, it's hard to make a compelling argument that the guy in pinstripes is having a better time.


And please, forget this one: "How many championships have the Mets won in the last 12 years?" That's the last gasp of a desperate fan, the final attempt to throw a hidden ace on the poker table to steal a pot. The past championships make for nice memories, but the operative word here is past.


This is about right now.


The Mets are leading the division, preparing for a three-game series against their old tormentors, the Atlanta Braves, that could foreshadow the excitement of a possible pennant race.


The Yankees are 9 1/2 games back in the standings, and when the Red Sox visit next week, they should pack shovels.


The Mets are hip.


The Yankees get hip flexors.


The Mets have a franchise shortstop off to a great start this season. Yes, the Yankees have one, too.


Jose Reyes is 23.


Derek Jeter is 32.


The Mets have a charismatic third baseman who hits for power. Yes, the Yankees have one, too.


David Wright is signed through 2012.


Alex Rodriguez can become a free agent.


The Mets have a general manager who picked up emerging young starter John Maine (5-1, 2.14 ERA) as an afterthought in the trade that sent Kris Benson (and his wife) out of town.


The Yankees have a general manager who signed Carl Pavano to the worst free-agent contract in baseball history -- if his career in the Bronx ends with five victories, each one cost $8 million.


The Mets shave their heads for solidarity.


The Yankees cut their hair to appease The Boss.


But above all, the reason life is better as a Mets fan than a Yankees fan boils down to one word: Expectations.


Mets fans want to win a World Series and think their team is good enough to win one. But they can still enjoy the ride, still relish moments like the five-run comeback yesterday without the numbing championship-or-bust feeling that permeates their Bronx brethren.


The Yankees fans? Every year without a world title brings another angry statement from George, another panicked round through the free-agent market and an off-season filled with angst. Unless something changes, that misery might start in September. Or even August.


Look, the Mets haven't won anything yet. Their starting rotation is still suspect and some of their star players have spent the spring mired in slumps. No, life as a Mets fan is hardly perfect.


But for the first time in a long time in this city, it beats the alternative.

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