BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: ESPN)
Forget looking at the standings. Forget waiting until Memorial Day to see if the Yankees and Mets are legit. Let your eyes tell your story.
The eye test is the best test when we can evaluate players and teams in sports. It represents the bottom line.
Right now, your eyes tell you the Yankees and Mets are excellent with a combined record of 45-19 heading to the weekend. They play like they will be playing in October. There’s so much to like about watching both teams on a daily basis. There’s nothing like looking at your phones or reading your daily newspaper (is that such a thing still?) and feeling your heart warm just reading about what our baseball teams in town are doing.
It does not guarantee both teams will be playing in the World Series or as we call it the Subway Series Sequel this season. As Billy Beane would say in MoneyBall, playoffs are a crapshoot. The Yankees still have to deal with the mighty Houston Astros, plucky Tampa Bay Rays and dangerous Toronto Blue Jays. The Mets still have to deal with the annoying Atlanta Braves, talented Los Angeles Dodgers, underrated San Diego Padres and pesky San Francisco Giants.
But here’s what we can do: Enjoy it for what it is. This is fun. There’s nothing like enjoying a nice warm day or evening and watching quality baseball in our backyard while eating good food with a beverage of our choice. We can enjoy the conversations about our baseball teams at the water cooler or at a sports bar or in a subway or bus. To have both teams, let alone one team doing well is a privilege. It’s hard. We have seen bad, boring baseball in recent years, so take it for what you get and worry about the postseason when October comes.
In a way, this is like a Golden Era of Baseball that is unprecedented. It’s rare to see two great teams playing well in the same town at the same time.
The Mets continue to write a good story. They improved to 22-11 after their ninth series win of the season against the woeful Washington Nationals Thursday afternoon. They are the only team in baseball that has not lost a series this season. This is good enough to be in first place in the NL East.
The Amazins are on place to win the division. They have everything in piece to get it done. Their starting rotation boasts a 3.29 ERA, which is good for fourth in baseball. Consider that Jacob deGrom is on the injured list with a stress reaction on his shoulder, that is impressive. Tylor Megill, David Peterson, Taijuan Walker and Carlos Carrasco have done a yeoman job compensating for deGrom’s absence to complement Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt, which is why the Mets are in a good place. Plus, their bullpen has been effective, and their offense has been timely and productive.
The Mets offense performed timely in a sense they know how to drive in runs with men in scoring position, and they don’t need to rely on home runs to make up an offense as Sandy Alderson wanted them to do last year with his launch angle nonsense that had negative effect on players such as Jeff McNeil, Francisco Lindor and J.D. Davis.
Outside of Trevor May and deGrom, the Mets haven’t been bogged down with injuries. Their offensive depth such as Travis Jankowski and Luis Guillorme contribute in victories. Their offseason moves such as Eduardo Escobar, Starling Marte and Mark Canha contribute. Their bullpen depth helped them.
Most importantly, there hasn’t been off-the-field distractions such as thumbs-down incident or feud within one another that took the life out of the team like last season. This serves as a testament to Buck Showalter’s leadership as Mets manager. He established the culture and tone the minute he got the Mets job. His presence brought gravitas for players to respect him.
Steve Cohen’s $11.25 million investment of Showalter paid instant dividends. That’s something to be said about paying for a manager that knows what he is doing, and Showalter is showing that by having his team play good baseball almost every game.
If there is a team that can give the Dodgers or even the Braves a series, it’s the Mets because of the manager, pitching and offense. This could be a nice October run. And yes, the Mets have some fine young players in their farm system that they can deal for in a position of strength.
Then, there’s the Yankees. All they do is win. We knew they would be good. They are a great regular season team, so it shouldn’t be a surprise they are playing well. Still, 23-8 is 23-8. A team that has do everything right to have a record that they have. Here’s what scary: They have yet to play their best baseball in a sense they can be even better than this such as the offense heating up when the weather gets warmer.
Like the Mets, the Yankees haven’t had injuries in years past that took a toll on them in the end. This explains why they are doing well.
Their bullpen always does well. Their starting rotation stands out the most. It has been effective with Nestor Cortes playing the role of an ace. Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino provide depth. Gerrit Cole managed to do fine so far without the sticky stuff. Their starters may not be highlight worthy, but it does the job.
The Yankees offense provide a throwback from their 90s dynasty days. This is a team that is actually playing station-to-station baseball. It’s a refreshing concept that has been missing for a long time. Of course, it’s based on necessity with the dead ball and the weather being cold. But this could work in the postseason where a renewed emphasis on advancing runners, steals, hit-and-runs, bunts and playing for one run matters more than just hitting home runs. This makes a case right there that Aaron Boone has gotten more out of his expensive roster, especially when role players such as Isiah Kiner-Falfea are producing.
Oh, and the Yankees have organizational depth in the minors that they can make a big deal this summer.
There are going to be questions for both teams, especially the Yankees. It’s fair to wonder if the Yankees smoke and mirrors starting rotation can be sustainable all season, especially in the postseason. Can their offense be good enough in October when it matters? Are they good enough to beat the Astros, the class of the American League, in a long series?
The Mets will go through a slump this season. No team does not go through it. Even the 1998 Yankees went through it to start the season that started to raise concerns about Joe Torre’s job security. How they handle it will go a long way to what they do in October.
Yes, they have the talent to beat the Dodgers and Braves, but getting it done is another thing. The Braves have been a pain in the posterior for the Mets since they started to be an elite team in the 90s.
We have plenty of time to worry about that from now until October.
Right now, we should enjoy it for what it is. It’s been a long time we saw enjoyable baseball in these parts. Yankee Stadium and Citi Field should be electric this summer and this fall. We are back to being in a real baseball town again. What’s the point of enjoying the games if we have to fret over October? Regular season baseball should be fun because of how hard it is to get to play in the postseason and how grueling it is to play six months a season with traveling that comes with it.
For both teams in town thriving, this is something we can take a step back and appreciate.
It could be a lot worse. We could be Cincinnati.