BALTIMORE - Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher, simultaneously looking backward and forward, had a sudden thought when he bumped into Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard at spring training.
"I was like, 'Hey, man, let's meet back up in November again. Let's make it a yearly thing,' " he recalled before a recent game against Baltimore in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
F. Scott Fitzgerald noted that the rich are different from you and me. And the Yankees are different from most baseball teams. Not just because they have the highest payroll, either. They play 18 games each season against the Boston Red Sox, battles that resemble a dozen-and-a-half little holy wars. They play six times against the crosstown-rival Mets, interurban hair-pulls that rivet the attention of the country's largest metropolis.
So a World Series rematch in the fall with national television and everything on the line would rev up the Yankees clubhouse.
Three games in the middle of June? Not so much. Even though aces Roy Halladay for Philadelphia and CC Sabathia from New York will be facing off tonight.
"No," said captain Derek Jeter, his eyes widening in amusement when asked if there was any special cachet attached to the series that opens tonight in Yankee Stadium. "I mean, the fans get into it. So, obviously, the rowdier the fans get, the more exciting it is for us. But our fans are pretty much always like that."
Jeter's attitude echoed throughout the room. Yes, the Yankees understand that there will be some significance attached to the first meeting between these clubs since the Yankees captured their 27th world championship in the Bronx last Nov. 4. Yes, they appreciate that the public will be jazzed and anticipate and appreciate their enthusiasm.
But, no, they won't feel any additional tingle as they go about their business.
"I mean, the fans will make it a big deal. The media will, this and that," Swisher said. "But unless you're playing in November? That's where it's at. You're talking about two great teams. They have a great team. But, then again, this is June. It's extremely early. During the regular season, man, obviously you're just trying to put up the W's.
"I think whatever the atmosphere is [will] make the game what it is. And we definitely know the atmosphere is going to be electric. So it's going to be one of those games, just like another rival game. It's started to get to the point where Yankees and Phillies are really starting to have a good rivalry. And it's a lot of fun to play in those games."
Lefthander Andy Pettitte is scheduled to start the series finale on Thursday.
"I think there will be a little bit of extra buzz in the stadium," he said. "It's more about the fans, what kind of intensity they bring to the game. For me, it's really not a big deal. I'm going to end up pitching against them guys, so I'll just look at it as another start.
"There's no way you can even try to match what it was in the World Series. So you've just kind of got to look at it as it's one of those 162. You've got to prepare and get ready for it. But you don't want to put too much emphasis on it. But I think it will be exciting because the fans will make it exciting."
This being the Yankees, there will always be some drama. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez has hit just two home runs since May 19 and missed the weekend sweep of Houston with right hip flexor tendinitis but might be ready to play tonight. First baseman Mark Teixeira was hitting just .211 as recently as June 6; he's batting .409 with a 1.218 OPS since.
Whether Jorge Posada will catch or be the designated hitter has become an ongoing debate. He hit a grand slam from each position in the last two games, but had to leave Sunday with a sore right foot. CC has been so-so. He's just 6-3 with a 4.01 earned run average.
And the Yankees have still won 11 of their last 14 and are tied with Tampa Bay for the best record in baseball.
Maybe the Yankees are blase about the series because they won last fall. Would they feel differently if they had watched the Phillies celebrate on their field last fall?
"For what? It wouldn't change anything," closer Mariano Rivera pointed out. "Whatever happened in the World Series has happened already. That was last year. This is a new year with new challenges. To me, it's just going to be regular games."
Even the statement Phillies manager Charlie Manuel made repeatedly in spring training, that he not only wanted to go back to the World Series but hoped to see the Yankees there because he thinks the outcome would be different this time, was met with shrugs.
"That's the way you have to look at it in spring training," Posada said. "You come to spring training and obviously you want to get to the World Series. Like us [last year]. We wanted to get to the World Series and face the world champions. And that was pretty exciting last year. So they probably have pretty much the same mentality we did."
Added Pettitte, laughing: "That's interesting. I want to get back to the World Series, but I don't care who we play. I hope he gets his wish . . . except that if he does, I hope he doesn't win."