For the last several years, the New York Mets have been the worst kind of punchline. Their owners, brought to financial ruin by Bernie Madoff, cut costs so deeply each they were forced to trot out terrible team after terrible team, always promising an off-season roster splurge. During this dismal half-decade, General Manager Sandy Alderson had to carry a lot of water in the tabloids, reassuring fans that the Mets were, in fact, building towards something. It was going to be something lean, something affordable, and something very, very good. As recently as last year, it seemed like a cruel extortion of both the cash and the devotion of the Mets faithful. But then it actually happened.
Heading into the weekend matchup in the Bronx against the Yankees, the Amazins have the best record in baseball and are riding an 11-game win streak. Those long-promised young arms have finally arrived, with Matt Harvey’s Tommy John surgery now standing as a case of fortunate timing—the rotation needed another year to fully mature anyway. Jacob DeGrom, Jon Niese, and even Dillon Gee are now pitching lights-out for the Mets, with the ageless Bartolo Colon notching his league-leading fourth win yesterday. The Mets, it can be argued, suddenly have the strongest pitching in the majors.
On offense, the Mets have been getting numbers from David Wright, while Lucas Duda has become a homegrown wonder. Even Curtis Granderson, whose problems at the plate drove Mets fans crazy last year, has been striking out way less this year while nearly leading the league in walks. It's not a great offense, but it is functional, and, crucially, clutch enough to win the close games their pitchers virtually guarantee. Could Alderson have been telling the truth all those years? It almost hurts to say this, but maybe he was.
Which brings us to this weekend. The Mets are heading to the Bronx to try and steal the very bright spotlight from the Yankees. The Yanks are also riding a bit of a hot streak themselves, but this is not a roster destined for greatness. Their stars are too old, their pitchers too prone to injury. In fact, the Yankees are focusing on their farm system, a longterm bid to rebuilding a core capable of a dynasty a la the 1996 team led by erstwhile Captain Jeter. It might take a few more years for the seeds they plant now to grow into the next championship run. In the meantime, they have A-Rod shocking everyone with a hot bat and a bullpen that is stronger than their rotation. They are, at worst, watchable.
This is the weekend that New York City will be ready to finally meet the brand new juggernaut that is known as the Mets. In the process, we’ll be seeing a Yankees team in transition, hampered by bad contracts, creaky joints, and closely monitoring their farm system for signs of life.
Even though it's going to be a chilly weekend, It’s springtime again for baseball in New York City and that’s something to cheer about. After a long decade of financial schemes run amok, PED's dominating the head lines, two new, mediocre stadiums that fleeced taxpayers, and the long decline of a once-powerful dynasty, the two New York City teams are ready to get young and fun again. Play ball.
Photos by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images