Anthony Beers, Staff Writer
Five years after the Madoff scandal, Mets fans have reasons to be frustrated with the great players lost, but also have reasons to be excited for what the future will bring. Starting pitcher Matt Harvey made his first appearance with the team in July last season and this year he is expected to be a consistent member of the Mets pitching rotation. Fellow pitcher Zach Wheeler, whom the Mets acquired when they traded Carlos Beltran, was surprisingly sent down to the minors recently, but his comeback to the team will be highly anticipated for the fans. Mets fans will also highly be anticipating the arrival of top catching prospect Travis D’Arnaud, one of the players the Mets received when they traded pitcher R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays.
These future players for the Mets carry the hopes and dreams of all Mets fans, but the team this season will be led by super star David Wright, who was an absolute monster for team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Wright recently signed an eight year, $135 million dollar contract with the team to achieve his goal of being a Met for life. The infield for the Mets is strong this year with Wright, Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada. Their starting pitching will be led by veteran Johan Santana and with the addition of Shaun Marcum, it’s a solid group. The biggest concerns for the Mets this upcoming season will be the outfield and the bullpen. Mets fans have been disappointed with the play of Lucas Duda, but young players like Jordany Valdespin and Collin Cowgill have played well during spring training in the hopes of earning a starting job.
The Mets have a balance of strengths and weaknesses, but probably lack the depth in the outfield and in the bullpen to be able to last the lengthy MLB season. With the dominance of the Washington Nationals last season and the acquisitions of the Upton brothers for the Atlanta Braves, it will be a surprise if the Mets are able to finish high in the NL East. All that being said, Mets fans have reasons to look up because they are definitely headed in the right direction.
Every season baseball fans begin to question whether this is the year that the Yankees’ age will catch up with them and with many recent injuries for the Yankees, that question is more serious than ever. Power hitters Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson both will be out 8-10 weeks and third basemen Alex Rodriguez could miss the entire season. Not only that, the Yankees lost Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez and Russell Martin to free agency this past offseason. That seems like a lot to overcome before opening day.
If there’s any hope for the Yankees it’s the return of their veterans that were both injured in dramatic fashions last season. Closer, Mariano Rivera, shockingly tore his ACL while running down fly balls for fun during batting practice in early May last season. This season will be Rivera’s last for the Yankees as he’s already announced his upcoming retirement at the conclusion of the year. Rivera is considered the greatest closer of all-time and his calm, collective presence during moments of crisis does a great deal of leadership for the Yankees. When it comes to leadership, it’s the return of the Yankees’ captain and ultimate representative, shortstop Derek Jeter, that means the most. Jeter broke his ankle in the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers last year where it all seemed to fall apart for the Yankees. With the return of Jeter and Rivera, it’s hopeful that the Yankees can compete while they anticipate the returns of Teixeira and Granderson.
The Yankees starting pitching is rarely weak and this season is no exception. Ace CC Sabathia leads the rotation with Andy Pettite, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova behind him. The rotation has aged a bit, but is still very solid and will keep the Yankees in games. The line up may struggle due to the dramatic temporary loss in power with Teixeira and Granderson out, but if the pitching can remain consistent (which it has over the years), the Yankees will be able to stay alive before it’s too late.
The serious question that has nothing to do with the Yankees themselves, is how freakishly good the AL East is now. Baseball fans remember how hectic the division was last season with the emergence of the Baltimore Orioles and the consistent fight of the Tampa Bay Rays, but it seems the division has gotten even crazier. The Toronto Blue Jays had a busy offseason by acquiring pitchers R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and shortstop Jose Reyes. For the Yankees to overcome all these teams and win the division may be asking a lot, but the veterans and championship experience the Yankees have always seems to benefit them in the long haul come playoff time. The Yankees will likely reach the post season as a wildcard at the conclusion of the regular season.