With football season officially over, hockey campaigns officially crossing the halfway point and basketball season approaching the same point, a new beginning has gained momentum on the diamond. Put away the pigskin and shoulder pads, and trade them in for a cap, glove and bat, because pitchers and catchers have finally reported to camp.
This season looks to be an extremely exciting one, as the Chicago Cubs look to defend their World Series title against a long list of hungry contenders. On that list are the rebuilt, reloaded and rejuvenated teams from the Empire State.
The New York Mets went one and done in last year’s playoffs after a home wildcard loss to the San Francisco Giants. The fact that the Mets even made it that far was incredible. On Aug. 19, they were 60-62.
They finished 27-13 to claim a spot in the playoffs. This was a feat nothing short of incredible considering how beat up they were.
Coming off a heartbreaking loss in the World Series in 2015, the Mets went into last season with four lights-out pitchers, but ended the season with only one of those aces healthy.
Now removed from last year’s playoff drama, the Mets approached this offseason with a very conservative approach. Stars Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker went into the offseason as free agents but luckily returned to the Mets, with Cespedes signing a blockbuster four-year, $110 million deal with a no-trade clause. The Mets’ offseason big name acquisitions ended there, however, as they finished the offseason only resigning relievers Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas. The Mets believe they have the recipe to return, and possibly win, the World Series with mostly the same group from their 2015 campaign.
The Mets will enter the season with five bonafide aces, a potent lineup of power hitters and an extremely deep bench consisting of Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares and possibly Michael Conforto.
There is no reason to believe the Mets cannot challenge the Washington Nationals for the National League East Division crown, the Cubs for the National League Pennant and the American League Champion for the World Series.
Still, the team must stay healthy. Matt Harvey is coming off a rough season that ended with surgery, while teammate Zach Wheeler is coming off a two-year Tommy John surgery recovery timetable. While there are multiple questions surrounding the Mets, they seem to have a great deal of solutions, including a deep bench, bullpen and roster of minor league talent that proved they can perform in the big leagues.
The Yankees are battling choppier seas as they continue to shuffle in new talent to replace the likes of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
The Yankees are not a bad team by any stretch of the imagination. They finished 84-78, good for fourth in the American League East. While they had their struggles, they did not play awful baseball for the entire year. The Yankees have one of the best bullpens in the league, after resigning Aroldis Chapman and moving Dellin Betances back to his set-up position, where he played great just a year earlier.
The lineup is young and hungry; signing St. Louis Cardinals veteran Matt Holliday perfectly supplemented their roster by providing much-needed leadership to the locker room. Gary Sanchez showed that he may very well be a perennial All-Star catcher for the team, as he exploded onto the scene with a .299 batting average, 20 home runs and 42 RBIs in just 53 games. Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro lead a potent 4-6 combination in the middle infield both defensively and offensively.
The Yankees could absolutely make the playoffs if it was not for one giant question mark: their starting rotation.
The Yankees are led by Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and 36-year-old CC Sabathia, who look to lead the rotation. This is a major question mark for a team that plays in the same division as the Boston Red Sox, whose rotation consists of Chris Sale, reigning CY Young winner Rick Porcello and David Price.
The Yankees have a very talented young team and are looking to the future. They have been successful with their rebuild. However, if they want to have any chance in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, they need to address the rotation.
While the playoffs may be a stretch for this year, the Yanks have the formula and payroll to reach the playoffs—and go far—in the near future.
Spring Training is a time of anticipation, excitement and betting on what kind of car Cespedes drives to practice. As energy picks up from Citi Field to Yankee Stadium, New Yorkers are anxious to see how their beloved teams will fair this time around. Spring is here and it could not come sooner.