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  • Paul Semendinger

(Old and New) Perspectives: Meet the Mets!

By Paul Semendinger

December 11, 2022

***

Some of this article was originally written in December 2019...

***

THE METS JUST SIGNED KODAI SENGA.


As Yankees fans hope each day for the team to take the next steps forward, the Mets swooped in, out of the blue (remember when the Yankees used to do stuff like that?) and signed one of the last best free agent pitchers.


Is there any question that the Mets are all-in to win in 2023?


On this deal, the Mets actually did quite well. Senga was inked to a five year deal worth a modest $75 million. For a pitcher who many say could be an ace, the Mets just signed him for a very modest price. But, regardless of price, they got him. Senga projects as the number three pitcher on a staff with some great arms: Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and now Kodai Senga as the three top of the rotation arms for the Mets.


WOW!


Is there any question that the Mets are all-in?


The Mets' payroll for 2023 now stands at approximately $335 Million (according to MLBTR.)


Luxury Tax? What Luxury Tax? The Mets are playing to win. They want to win the National League East, they want to win the National League Pennant, and they want to win the World Series.


They also want to win the city of New York.


And I believe they are achieving that goal.


***

It was three years ago that I first wrote the framework of this article. Many of the words at the end of the piece come from that original post.


It's interesting, when I wrote that piece, I was laughed at by many, scoffed at by some. I was told I was wrong time and time again.


I wasn't wrong.


There was a time when the Yankees were New York's most exciting baseball team. That time has passed. There was a time when the Yankees went all-in, always, and there was no question that their number one goal was to win the World Series.


It hasn't been like that for years. We all comment about the price of players. We all look at the Luxury Tax. We've been conditioned to do that because that is how the Yankees operate. Maybe this will change this off-season (finally). But it hasn't yet.


When Francisco Lindor was out there, the Mets grabbed him - even though many said that the Yankees would be the big players on that front. The Yankees shied away because Lindor would cost too much. The Yankees have stayed away from legions of players these last many years, dating back even before Justin Verlander in 2017, not because they wouldn't help, but because of their price tag.


Time and again, we see the Mets going big, getting the players, some who people think might go to the Yankees, and doing all the things that used to define the Yankees.


It was my hope that once the Mets started playing big, that the Yankees would respond in turn. Thus far, the Yankees have not done that.


So far the Yankees have sat on the sidelines and watched their younger brother show more of a desire and passion to win. There is no debating that.


The Mets grabbed Justin Verlander and then have also signed Brandon Nimmo, David Robertson, and now Kodai Senga. They are not stopping.


The Yankees resigned their star player, Aaron Judge, and since then we've been waiting. Granted, it's been less than a week, but while the Yankees have been quiet, other teams are moving, fast.


***


The year the Mets acquired Francisco Lindor, the Yankees went all-in on re-signing D.J. LeMahieu. Which player would you rather have today?


This is what I wrote at the time:


Baseball fans are talking in New York. And they are talking about the Mets.

What are they saying about the Yankees? “I hope they get D.J. back.”


The Mets fans, and the city, knows that the Lindor move was just the first.

Yankees fans know that if the Yankees even get D.J. LeMahieu, that’ll be their last big move.


If the Yankees sign LeMahieu, he’ll be gone in five years. In five years, Francisco Lindor will be the age D.J. LeMahieu is today. One of those two players is a shortstop. The other is a second baseman who is starting to lose a step (with fans and experts alike already talking about his eventual move to first base). One of those two players has hit 30 home runs three times in his career. The other never has. One is fast. The other, not really. One is known as “Mr. Smile.” The other is known as “The Machine.” (Machines are nice. They are reliable until they get old and break down. Smiles sell tickets and create interest.)


Which of those two players will have a bigger impact on New York sports over the next five years… over the next ten? We all know the answer.


Lindor could have been a Yankee, but the Yankees weren’t interested.

***

One team in New York is clearly all-in. That's the Mets. It's been the Mets.


The other team, our beloved Yankees, well, I'm still not so sure.

***

And I know the immediate response of some reader, as they read the above.


"LINDOR WAS SIGNED FOR A HUGE CONTRACT!!!!!"


And with that response, we can all see clearly that the game for the Yankees has changed.


Significantly.


The Yankees have, over many years, for well more than a decade, hoodwinked us. They've tricked us. They've changed the way we look at baseball and our team.


No longer do Yankees fans wish for great players with realistic hopes that they'll get those players. No. That doesn't happen any longer.


When great players become available, Yankees fans immediately - immediately, and always - first ask, "Can they afford him?"


The Yankees have been operating on a strict budget for so long that the fans have resigned themselves to this idea that certain players are just unaffordable for the richest franchise in Major League Baseball.


These was never any doubt that Francisco Lindor was the better player and the better bet to be a star and an impact player, but Yankees fans cited his salary as the reason not to get him.


No one said, "The Yankees shouldn't get Lindor." No one said that he isn't a great player. They said, "He's not a $300 million ballplayer," in the manner that indicated that the Yankees couldn't afford a luxury that expensive.


Remember all the talk about, "The Yankees have to save cap room for Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres and Aron Judge..."


The Yankees changed the game so much that Yankees fans don't even go into the off-season thinking the big players are in play. They go into the off-season asking which discount players the Yankees can acquire. Just look at the posts we've written on the site.


These is another team in New York that isn't looking at costs. The bottom line for the Mets is the World Series. Oh to be that team again, the team defined by World Series and not by a process rather than results.


The talk for the last few days for the Yankees has been about Carlos Rodon. All acknowledge that he'd be a fantastic addition to the staff, but the immediate next question is, "Won't he be too expensive?" Fans say, "I'd love to have Rodon, but not at that price..."


Yankees fans now ask, "Is there a less-expensive alternative?" The Yankees have been so cost-conscious that they have radically changed the way Yankees fans root for their team.


Yankees fans never used to think like that. It used to be about winning. Period.


Now they have the fans counting dollars rather than homers, strikeouts, and wins.


There is a baseball team in New York, and it's not the Yankees, that isn't letting the luxury tax define the product they're putting on the field.


Yankees fans used to think BIG. This was because the Yankees acted BIG.


Those days are no longer. Those days are gone. They are long gone.

***

When Steve Cohen bought the Mets, I predicated that the Mets would soon be the darlings of New York. It's happening.


My hope was that once the Yankees saw the way the Mets were going all-in, that they would step-up in turn.


That we have not seen yet. It might happen. It might. I hope it does. But we have not seen that yet.


For the Yankees, the luxury tax isn't just a tax, it represents a cap - a cap on the team's willingness to put the best product on the field.


The Yankees say they want to win, and, of course they do, but only at a price.


The Mets, the little-brother of the BIG YANKEES, are acting more like baseball's most valuable franchise than the Yankees are.


***

Great players create great excitement. Teams going all-in are exciting. Teams that make big moves are fun to root for, they keep their fans talking.


And, as I have also said, many times, winning pays off. In dollars. When players are great and when teams win, the teams make tons of money off the marketing of those players and those championships. They make money on them forever.


The Mets seem to understand this.


I'm still waiting for the Yankees to.


Yes, the Yankees brought back Aaron Judge. What else will they do to make the team a winner?


While the Mets sign player after player, Yankees fans keep talking about their hopes to trade Josh Donaldson or Aaron Hicks to open up some needed salary space. Think about that...


The Yankees have changed the way we root for our team. "Maybe if they can trade Gleyber Torres, they can also get Aaron Hicks to go in that trade - and maybe we can get a back-end starter or a good bullpen arm."


Mets fans look at their team and their owner and say, "They want to win. Period. No questions asked."


(That's what Yankees fans used to say.)


***

Years ago I wrote the following stating that Steve Cohen's acquisition of the Mets might spur the Yankees on to also go big. (I have edited some of this.)


Thus far I was correct that the Mets would be big players. How the Yankees respond is yet to be seen. The next few weeks will actually tell us if the Yankees are willing to step up.


This from 2019:


There was some big news that came out of Flushing, New York yesterday having to do with that other baseball team in New York, the Mets. It seems that plans are in the works for the Mets franchise to be sold to billionaire Steve Cohen.


Why, would we, as Yankees fans care about this? What does this have to do with the Yankees?


I think it could actually mean a lot.


One quote from an article reads:


The Wilpons have long-been criticized for an apparent unwillingness to spend the big bucks necessary to keep the the team competitive, despite being in the New York market.” (NY Post)


All of this made me pause and think a bit as the news of the potential sale came down…


The names Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden don’t mean as much today as they did in the mid-1980s.


Most fans today were too young, or not even born, to remember (or even know) that for a period of time in the mid-1980s, the New York Mets owned New York City baseball. The Mets dominated New York sports – they were The Show. The Yankees were a distant second fiddle.


The Mets were great. They were exciting. They won. They had energy and fun and they were loved – by so many.


Yes, the Mets owned the city.


Of note, for clarity, the Yankees of that period were actually a very good team with their own superstar players. Fans today hear of, or recall, the 1980s incorrectly in relation to the Yankees. People think the Yankees of the 1980s were a terrible team. They weren’t. They had stars galore, lots of promise, and the did win – a lot. They just didn’t win any pennants in those pre-Wild Card days. Of note:


1984 Yankees: 87-75 (3rd Place)

1985 Yankees: 97-64 (2nd Place)

1986 Yankees: 90-72 (2nd Place)

1987 Yankees: 89-73 (4th Place)


The Yankees of those years had Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson, Ron Guidry, Dave Righetti, and others. They were good, real good… they just weren’t great. With no Wild Card, the 1985 and 1986 teams went home at the end of the season. In today’s world, they might have reached or won the World Series.


The Yankees were fun to watch. Mattingly was setting records, winning Gold Gloves, earning an MVP. Rickey Henderson was stealing bases all over the place. Dave Righetti set the All-Time Single Season Saves record. Ron Guidry won more than 20 games in 1983 and 1985…


The Yankees were really good, but they weren’t the Mets.


The Mets owned New York. Big Time.


In 1986, the Mets (2,767,601) outdrew the Yankees (2,268,030) in total attendance. Look at the numbers, the Mets outdrew the Yankees by more than 500,000 fans. The Mets’ attendance was greater than the Yankees every year from 1984 to 1992. The first New York team to draw more than three million fans was the 1987 Mets. It wasn’t the Yankees. It was the Mets who owned New York.


All of this to say that there was a period, brief as it might have been, when the Mets owned New York and the Yankees played second fiddle. We haven’t seen days like those in over thirty years, but with a new owner in Queens, an owner with deep pockets and a willingness to spend, the Mets could actually become relevant again – much more relevant than they’ve been, even in the last few decades when they’ve won or reached the World Series.


The Mets could once again own New York…


If the Yankees let them.


The only way for the Yankees to combat the Mets’ new super rich owner will be for the Yankees to stay great, to stay competitive, and to be a championship club – a dynamic and fun championship club. And the only way for the Yankees to do that, I think, is for them to spend the big bucks, when necessary, to land the big talent.


In order for the Yankees to remain baseball’s biggest and best team, they will have to go full throttle to stay there. The Yankees won’t be able to dominate as New York’s biggest and most popular team if the Mets find that old energy and rekindle their now dormant fan base.


There was a time when the Yankees were New York’s second biggest baseball story.

The potential exists for those days to return.


I would assume that the new Mets ownership is going to want to make a big splash and will seek to create headlines as they go for championships. This is going to force the Yankees to do the same.


The days of the Luxury Tax defining the limits of the Yankees’ spending might be over. The tax might hurt the Yankees’ bottom line, but it won’t impact them as much as playing second string to the Mets in baseball’s biggest city would.


The Mets sale will probably help to open a new dawn in the Yankees world, even today.

If the Mets become great, the only way for the Yankees to be baseball’s biggest team is to be greater.


It’s no fun being New York’s second best team.


And that’s GREAT news for Yankees fans.


Great News.


Let’s Go Mets!


And then, Let’s Go YANKEES!!!

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