Look, this isn’t a Mets blog. But our crosstown friends still reside in the same city, and they’re of interest to anyone who lives here. When the Yankees were quite dreadful from 2013 to present, the Mets were a fascinating distraction, a cast of characters so exciting that it vaulted them to most popular baseball team in the city. Who could blame anyone who’s a fan: Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and Yoenis Cespedes are quite a core, and that would electrify any franchise.
After reaching a high point in 2015 where they made it to the Fall Classic only to lose to the Royals, their fate took a turn in the wrong direction. David Wright was lost to injuries last June, and he has yet to fully recover. Steven Matz had a lat strain in 2015 and then had surgery for a bone spur in his left elbow at the end of last year. Matt Harvey’s 2016 season ended with season-ending surgery to fix his thoracic outlet syndrome. Even though they grabbed a wild card spot, their progress was erased when they were eliminated in the wild card game by the Giants.
And this year, it’s more of the same. The Mets have been notoriously vague about their numerous injuries, and there is also some speculation that pitching coach Dan Warthen’s sliders causes excess strain in the elbow. This issue came to a head when there was speculation Syndergaard was hurt, but he refused to undergo an MRI. Then, just two days ago, he left his start against the Nationals with pain in his right biceps and subsequently went to the disabled list with a lat muscle tear. No one knows when he’ll return.
The Mets’ issues with injuries, and their slow slide into possible mediocrity, is nothing short of prolific. The season is young, and I truly think there’s enough talent on their squad to compete, but it’s certainly reasonable to ask whether this is a team whose core can compete in the long run.
Which begs the question: why didn’t the Mets go “all in” last year? They reached the World Series in 2015, and their response was to basically trot out the same roster. The revamped Daniel Murphy was replaced with Neil Walker, who has been good but not as great as Murphy is now. To their credit, Cespedes was re-signed, but that was the bare minimum they could do. The Mets’ payroll is at just $123 million, and even though they lost a fortune in the Bernie Madoff incident, there was no effort beyond Cespedes to put all the chips on the table when the pitching was healthy.
That brings me to the Yankees, finally. The Yankees very well could have their own core forming—Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Luis Severino, and others; that’s a pretty good start. If I were the Yankees, I’d heed the warning the Mets laid out.
In baseball, you don’t know how long things hold together. Players get hurt, players regress, players fall apart. It happens all the time. Which is why when everything does come together, it has to be understood to be ephemeral. That’s even more the case with pitching, because it very much was for the Mets.
So when that “spending spree” is supposed to happen, that’ll be an interesting barometer. If the Yankees continue to clutch their checkbooks—or, in another way, don’t trade some prospects if an elite player is available—they could find themselves in a similar position where they have a lot of talent, but not enough consistency to succeed. Or, that supposed talent could quickly dry up.
The Mets are a bizarre example. They’re primarily built on pitching, and their payroll likely won’t match the Yankees for a while. But they do show the pitfalls of pinning your hopes on a rebuild, and holding on for even a year too long can leave you with nothing to show for your efforts. Luckily for the Mets, their youth movement isn’t “over” yet. The Yankees find themselves on the opening end of the contention window, it seems, and they should take advantage the moment they feel it’s wide open. You never know when it could crumble.