Will Derek Jeter be back to his old self?
It’s now just a week until opening day and for the first time in many years, there seems to be a better vibe amongst Mets fans than Yankee fans heading in to the new season. That’s not to say that the Mets will be better than the Yankees this year. It has more to do with the opposite directions the two clubs are going in.
The Yankees have been top dogs in New York for well over 20 years and Mets fans have just had to shut up and take it. The Yankees winning their division and heading to the playoffs was pretty much a guarantee every season. With owner George Steinbrenner demanding nothing short of a World Series Championship each October, star players were purchased regardless of the price. The Yankees operated like a Beverly Hills housewife with an unlimited credit card.
Now, the days of the free spending Yankees look to be over. Hank Steinbrenner is attempting to get the team’s payroll below $189 million in the near future to avoid paying the luxury tax. It may be that the Yankees are starting to pay for all of the success that they have had. They are stuck with huge contracts on players that are past their prime and their roster of long time superstars is getting old.
Meanwhile the Yankees have been dealing with problems all spring. Alex Rodriguez has been implicated yet again for PED’s and will be out for at least part of the season due to complications following off season hip surgery. Other Yankees that will begin the season on the disabled list include Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeiera, Michael Pineda and Derek Jeter. The mounting injuries even led the Yankees to reach out to retired players such as Chipper Jones and Derrek Lee.
Many baseball analysts are predicting that the Yankees won’t make the playoffs this season. Some are even suggesting that the Yankees and Red Sox will be battling for last place in a very competitive American League East.
The Mets on the other hand have been a disappointing mess ever since coming up one game short in the 2006 NLCS. Mets fans have become accustomed to having no expectations.
The Wilpons’ involvement in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme has forced the Mets to dump salary and go with youth. It’s too early to proclaim that the Mets are close to challenging, but there are a number of signs that things are moving in the right direction.
The team’s young pitching staff includes a group of promising starters all under the age of 30. Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Matt Harvey could soon be joined by 22 year old Zack Wheeler. Wheeler came to the Mets from the Giants in return for free agent Carlos Beltran.
Other promising arms in the organization include Jenry Mejia, Collin McHugh, Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero.
Added to the mix is veteran Johan Santana. When he is healthy his experience should be an invaluable presence for a young Mets pitching staff.
The Mets’ outfield and bullpen are still major question marks heading in to the season. One good sign from Spring Training is Lucas Duda’s ability to hit the long ball. Meanwhile Jordany Valdespin and invitee Marlon Byrd have put up good numbers in Florida and could play a part in the outfield.
Newly appointed captain David Wright should be ready for opening day and expectations are high for first baseman Ike Davis coming off of a disappointing season.
The Mets’ catching situation is looking very promising. Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas were sent to Toronto as part of the RA Dickey trade. In return, the Mets received solid veteran John Buck and the highly touted Travis d'Arnaud. D’Arnaud hit .354 this spring and is expected to become the Mets catcher of the future.
The best thing about the start of a new season is that every team starts with a clean slate. Time will tell if those writing off the Yankees are wrong and if the Mets are a team on the rise. Regardless of what anyone thinks, it’s what happens on the field that really counts.
Enjoy the 2013 season.