The “Rites” of Spring: New York Baseball
By Rich Mancuso/Sports Editor
The seven week countdown has started to opening day when the first pitch is thrown at Citi Field and a week later the Yankees get their turn in the Bronx. Expectations are high for both teams as in a few days the Rites of Spring begin with pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp albeit minus those few who will participate in the World Baseball Classic.
So the quiet offseason is coming to an end. If you add a few additions for the Yankees the fight for positions will be minimal. For the Mets, Yoenis Cespedes was the center of attention and he was quickly re-signed so the center of attention is assuring that that young pitching staff is back to health.
David Wright gets a new beginning and Jeurys Familia, the closer will report to Port. St. Lucie. A suspension is pending for the Mets righthander and that leaves a question mark. Who will be a viable replacement to be the closer? That could be the prevailing thing to watch for manager Terry Collins.
Yes, the Rites of Spring return. For the Mets that memory still lingers about failures of returning to the World Series last year. The incentive is to get there again and baseball experts will sat their pitching is a key factor for a return to the big dance in October.
“The expectation here is get back there,” said the manager Terry Collins about October. That was a quote last spring and it was again this week as the equipment truck arrived at the Mets spring training complex. Expectations are always the word in February as the Rites to Spring begin.
Except this spring there is knowledge and caution that Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz are healthy. The knowledge also that this spring Noah Syndergaard will be the ace and get the opening day nod.
Why do we call this The Rites of Spring? Because this is a new beginning the records of last year are in the books and spring is eternal when it pertains to the game of baseball. And face the facts, this has not been a good fall and winter season of sports in New York with exception of good hockey on the ice with the Rangers and Islanders making runs for their postseason.
Enough of the James Dolan-Charles Oakley feud at the Garden and time to put that on the back burner because it is The “Rites” of Spring.
For the Yankees, of course, spring is eternal. And when considering the enthusiasm of youngsters reporting to Tampa, there is every reason to get this started. Memories linger also in the Bronx, they always do. Gary Sanchez will remain in Tampa because his realization is the Yankees and staying healthy are more important that participating in the WBC, a tournament that is played at the wrong time of year.
Cespedes will report to camp as the catalyst. And if he has a grand arrival with a golf bag or a fancy vehicle, who cares? It’s down to business and enthusiasm for a new season in what we call The “Rites “of Spring. It is that type of excitement that was seen in a Mets spring training camp last February since that NL championship year of 2000.
These are the “Rites “of Spring where expectation and excitement begin towards the start of a new baseball season. The best part of the equation are decisions made by managers and the coaching staffs and who will make the cut to be a part of the 25-man roster that comes up north.
And for the Yankees, where expectations are always a part of the equation, the questions are also the strength of a starting pitching rotation that was inconsistent and besieged with injuries the past two years. Manager Joe Girardi will monitor the progress of righthander Masahiro Tanaka and the veteran CC Sabathia.
Oh, no! Alex Rodriguez supposed to monitor at Steinbrenner Field. Instead, A-Rod has a new shoe on the foot collecting his millions as a special instructor for the youngsters that are a part of this Yankees future.
Yes these are the “Rites “of Spring for the Yankees, a team always with high expectations and perhaps the youth will have believers looking at baseball being played this October.
As to projections and where both teams will finish, well that is always left to the experts who call for the Mets once again finishing with more wins than the Yankees at the end of September. But during the course of a long 162-game season anything can happen along the way.
Aroldis Chapman as the closer again? Hey, it is that time again for positive energy. The Yankees get some good innings from the starters, score a few runs, Chapman comes in from the pen and takes over for the save.
The “Rites “of Spring are in full swing this weekend and soon after the long baseball campaign. Time to forget last year surrounded by a baseball classic that should be played another time of year if they can get that right!
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