By Rich Mancuso/Sports Editor
Never ask this columnist how it will all transpire for the two baseball teams in New York. Some thrive on predictions but at the end of September the final standings at times have the experts shaking their heads. It’s a long marathon of who pitches well, staying injury free, and the constant transactions on the roster.
However, we all agree this is a great time of year and baseball will see a different tune in New York as the Mets are expected to win and the Yankees youth movement will ask fans to be patient.
Manager Terry Collins said the Mets are expected to win. The tune this year is versatility and a pitching staff that is expected to take their starts every fifth or sixth day. With no setbacks the manager said Friday, “Hard for these guys to lose games.”
That sums up a Mets season of last year where the core of Harvey, deGrom, Matz and Wheeler could not not make their starts because of lingering injuries though the exception was Noah Syndergaard who to this point remains injury free.
So now there is Zack Wheeler who is anticipated to make his first start in two years. Steven Matz and a tender elbow was not anticipated, but there always seems to be an arm issue with Matz and that is a concern. You never have enough pitching and the Mets always have someone to pick it up seen last September when Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo filled the void.
And the experts who study this day-after-day will say, the Mets are a top three team in baseball with their pitching. When asked, the tune is they go with their pitching and revolve around the bat of Yoenis Cespedes who is capable of hitting 40 home runs and driving in 100 runs.
Cespedes says he will be the MVP in the National League and will get his ring in New York.
Jay Bruce will hear boos and not Bruce if he resorts to being the player that came to Citi Field from Cincinnati, and Curtis Granderson will have to step up to be an everyday player. But the one aspect, as the manager says, is the versatility and that Mets have that with Michael Conforto, and with Juan Lagares when he returns from his early DL stint.
Versatility and reinforcements, that’s what Collins reiterates as to what made the Mets gain that final NL wild card spot in late September. They have the tools to play that tune with T.J. Rivera, Wilmer Flores, TY Kelly, and with Rene Rivera the backup catcher.
The Mets tune is stay healthy and get the runs that they need to support the pitching. It also means getting an A-game from Lucas Duda at first and Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate, the same production from Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera up the middle, and Jose Reyes staying healthy at third the catalyst to their lineup at leadoff.
The tune for Duda and d’Arnaud? Stay healthy as both missed significant time last season and the Mets have not seen the real Travis d’Arnaud who was supposed to be the key player in the deal that also delivered Syndergaard.
And if the tune stays sharp, the bullpen will survive the first few weeks without Jeurys Familia. Addison Reed is capable having been in that role with the White Sox. Collins has that versatility with Jerry Blevins, Hansel Robles, and Fernando Salas. Lugo can slip in a bullpen role or the forgotten Rafael Montero who had an impressive spring.
Revert to the beginning here: The Mets will win a lot of games and should be playing the right tune in October with a potential to overtake the Nationals as divisional champs. But the tune again rides on staying healthy!
The different view or the other tune will be played in the Bronx. Yankees fans have to be patient with the rebuilding process. For the moment the Mets are the baseball team in town, though with the prognosticators not giving the Yankees a chance, and that very well could be the tune, they will compete and could have an impact as to where the rest of the Al East stands.
Why will the Yankees have an impact? That energy of youth and the names of Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and Aaron Judge will keep John Sterling in tune with his home runs calls in the booth. This, the year of rebuilding in the Bronx and with a mix of veterans the Yankees will compete and not like the Oakland, A’s, San Diego Padres, or the Atlanta Braves in that rebuilding mode.
It’s always the starting pitching and getting past Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda and what they will do is always the questions. Signs in the spring showed a different tune and promise they will pitch and keep the Yankees in ballgames. But after that it’s a matter of who and what on the mound.
For sure, the Yankees won’t sit still. They never do with new amenities at their palace in the Bronx and with ownership that is patient but needs fans in the stands. Brian Cashman does not get enough credit as the GM in the rebuilding with youth and with one look the Yankees have the top prospects in their system and a few in the lineup.
The contracts are gone of A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. Chase Headley, you never know at third and manager Joe Girardi will have a different tune at short for a month without Didi Gregorius. Brett Gardner shows signs he will take the extra base and will Jacoby Ellsbury finally live up to his contract of seven years and $153 million?
However the Yankees won’t be mediocre if the youngsters hit the friendly home run ball in the Bronx. And, getting back to Cashman, again give the GM credit. Acquiring the veterans Matt Holliday and Chris Carter give the Yankees some versatility.
Credit to the GM? Aroldis Chapman returns and the Yankees got younger when he left and returned from Chicago with the prospects that came with the package. Dellin Betances can close the deal and is more suited in the setup role and who will argue that one-two backend of the pen?
So, in other words it is rebuilding for the Yankees. They get some respectable starts, score some runs as they can do in the Bronx, go to the pen, and they will win a share of ballgames however they are stacked in a division and league that has better pitching and that tune does makes a difference.
Revert to the beginning here: The Yankees will be mediocre and if the youngsters step up sooner than expected, well there could be an interesting tune in the Bronx. However Yankees fans as well as those across town do know it is a long season of streaks and slumps.
We do know this tune. It’s play ball Sunday for the Yankees down in Tampa and for the Mets at Citi Field Monday afternoon.
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