By Michael Otero
Baseball is right around the corner. That’s right, teams have already reported to spring training in Florida and Arizona and one can smell spring right around the corner.
There is a lot of optimism by many fans in the New York area for this upcoming season because it may in fact be the season where the Mets overtake the Yankees in on-field production and winning. The back-to-back seasons of missing the playoffs hasn’t gone over well with the fans in the Bronx, and meanwhile, the Mets have built a quality club one town over built on young starting pitching.
With Cy Young candidate Matt Harvey, last season’s Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom, and the improving youngster Zack Wheeler, the Mets have a solid core of starters that can take the league by storm and carry them to their first division title since the 2006 season.
The pitching will be there all year for the boys from Queens barring injury, but the big questions lie in the hitting. Can David Wright bounce back from a rough 2014 campaign? Will Lucas Duda show the same power he did last season? Can Curtis Granderson find his home run stroke from 2012? How will Michael Cuddyer adjust to his new team and new ballpark?
The questions are all legitimate, but one thing is for certain: the Mets will need consistent and timely hitting to be in contention and be there in October. Perhaps the most important hitter to the Mets success will be second basemen Daniel Murphy. The table setter sported a .290 average last season and scored 80 runs on a team with very little productivity behind him. Murphy will look to build on his 2014 season and lead the Mets to new heights.
After missing the playoffs for the second straight year, and without their beloved captain Derek Jeter, the Yankees are in uncharted waters. The Yankees, once the epitome of every team in baseball according to some, have now fallen into mediocrity (or at least by their standards).
Offensively, the Yankees are led by a group of veterans who are at crossroads in their respective careers. Mark Teixeira has been injury prone over the last couple of seasons and he wants to find his 2009 form, (his initial year with the Yankees). Carlos Beltran will look to rebound from an injury plagued down last year while Brian McCann will try and put it all together with a year under his belt in the Bronx.
Perhaps their most consistent hitters patrol the outfield in Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner. Both players can easily score 100 runs and swipe 50 bases, but the key will be staying on the field, as both players have had injury problems over the last two seasons.
I would also be remised if I didn’t mention the most polarizing athlete in New York, Mr. Alex Rodriguez. What kind of production will the soon to be a 40-year-old third basemen/designated hitter/former steroid user provide? Nobody knows, and that’s a scary thing when the Yankees have over $25 million committed to him for another three years.
The suspect aging offense is part of an overall theme for the Yankees as their pitching staff is more of the same. With a less dominant C.C. Sabathia, who is coming off knee surgery leading the pack, the Yankees staff isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Following C.C. is the much talked about Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka, who is coming of a tear in his UCL. After him comes the young duo of Michael Pineada and Ivan Nova, both of whom are not strangers to the disabled list. If the Yankees can hang their hats on one thing, it is their pitching at the end of games. The Yankees pen is headlined by flamethrower Dellin Betances who struck out 135 opponents in 90 innings last year to an ERA of 1.40. Andrew Miller, Adam Warren, and Esmil Rogers round out the stacked relievers in the Bronx.
Both the Mets and the Yankees have a lot of questions surrounding their franchises and those questions will have answers when the season gets underway in early April. Baseball is here… are you ready?