Perspectives: Are The Mets Greater Than The Yankees Right Now?
by Paul Semendinger
February 5, 2021
In a different era, this would never have happened. None of this would have. All of it would have been inconceivable.
That other era, of course, wasn’t that long ago.
In fact, in some ways, it seems like yesterday.
In other ways, it’s been a lifetime.
Heading into the off-season, it was speculated that the Yankees might be active in the free agent or trade market for a catcher. Their starting catcher, Gary Sanchez, has had more than his share of troubles. There were two solid catchers who would be available as free agents: J.T. Realmuto and James McCann.
In a typical off-season, or at least one from the more recent past, from that era when the Yankees were frequently in the World Series, the Yankees would have, at least, been players in the catcher’s market.
This year, they weren’t.
But another New York team, the Mets, were.
The first big splash of the off-season was the Mets signing James McCann for the very reasonable four-years/$40.6 million.
Also heading into the off-season, as had been speculated for years, it seemed that the Cleveland Baseball Team would be shopping their young superstar shortstop, Francisco Lindor, one of the best players in the game, and a player whose work ethic, attitude, and skill set (excellent defense at shortstop, speed on the bases, and a switch hitter) all fit the Yankees perfectly.
Again, the Yankees were not even players in that market. Lindor was ultimately traded. He was traded for an underwhelming package. Instead of getting in that market, the Yankees sat on the sidelines.
Not the Mets.
The Mets acquired the shortstop the Yankees needed – the exact player who would have added so much to the 2021 Yankees.
Not only that, the Mets got a potential top-of-the-rotation starter, Carlos Carrasco, in the deal.
Finally, it was also readily apparent, as plain as day, that the Yankees headed into this off-season needing to improve their pitching, especially their starting pitching. A host of starting pitchers were moved this off-season – stars and difference-makers. Many of these pitchers would have undoubtedly helped the Yankees, but the Yankees watched them all go. There wasn’t even any real speculation that the Yankees had any interest in any of those pitchers. Again, the Yankees sat on the sidelines.
Instead, the Yankees signed three pitchers (to date) – all of whom have had major injuries, and only one of whom even pitched any significant innings in 2020 (and at that, all of 16.1 innings).
(For the record, I like all three of those signings, but one cannot say that any of the three are sure things – at all.)
The likes of this haven’t been seen in the Bronx… maybe ever. The Yankees, the mighty Yankees, baseball’s most legendary franchise, and one of the sport’s most wealthy, reduced to bargain bin shopping during a period when stars abounded, even at discount rates…
While other teams were finding great deals in trades and in free agent signings, the Yankees spent the winter, when they even looked, looking at the dented cans and slightly opened boxes in the back rack of the grocery store.
Not only that, the Yankees had a star player, a fan favorite, and an excellent pitcher in his own right, Masahiro Tanaka, who basically stated, “I’ll either be a Yankee or go back to Japan.” The Yankees wished him well and saw him fly back to his home country. The Yankees seemingly said, “We can’t afford to pay you.”
Then, last night, the speculation came. It was fast and furious for a while. It seemed that Trevor Bauer, the very best pitcher on the market, the reigning N.L. Cy Young Award winner, had signed with the Mets. As of the writing of this article, that deal is not done yet. Trevor Bauer is not a Met.
It seems though that very soon, maybe even today, Bauer will either sign with the Mets or the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Yankees have not been players in his market either.
If Bauer signs with the Mets, his salary will probably put the Mets over the luxury tax cap.
If Bauer signs with the Mets, the Mets will be making a very loud statement – “We plan to win.”
The Yankees have said a lot this winter and they have said this for many of the more recent winters. “We plan to win” hasn’t been in the Yankees’ vernacular as much. The Yankees, more often than not, talk more about their loss of revenue, their tight budget, the luxury tax, and more.
The Yankees, of course, do want to win, but they have put self-imposed limits on their willingness to go all-in to that end.
It seems the Mets are going with a different approach.
IF the Mets sign Trevor Bauer, it becomes abundantly clear that they are New York’s biggest baseball team. They will definitely be the most exciting team in the city. They will have the energy. And that energy could last for years – maybe decades.
In a few short months, the landscape of New York baseball might have changed.
The Mets may have ascended the mountain.
The Mets might soon be kings of New York.
In a word…
Final important note – I am not a Mets fan. I have no interest in rooting for the Mets. I have watched, rooted for, loved, and invested in the Yankees my whole life… since I was a little kid back in the summer of 1977.
I will always be a Yankees fan. Period.
If Francisco Lindor wins the next seven NL MVP’s that won’t change my feelings about the Yankees. If Trevor Bauer wins the next eight Cy Young Awards, my love of the Yankees won’t be dimmed.
If the Mets go 162-0 while the Yankees go 0-162, my heart will still be with the boys from the Bronx.
The Yankees have me. And will, always. I am a dedicated and loyal Yankees fan. That will never change.
But, I will also look back at this winter, and the many recent winters and trade deadlines, when the Yankees could have made their team super and great, and probably added a few more pennants, and I will be sad. I feel feel empty. I will regret what I saw and wonder, aloud, about what might have been.
I will recall the Yankees teams of my lifetime and the ones I have also read so much about – the teams that never let anything distract them from their one true goal, to be the Yankees, the giants of baseball. To be the Yankees, the World Champions as often as they could.
I will feel that empty feeling that comes with lost opportunity. Opportunities for greatness don’t come often. It might be that the Yankees let this one go. The baseball world was theirs for the taking these last few years, probably since 2017 or so. They have not seized that opportunity. They have not captured the moment. (They have let it go…)
The Yankees will have me as a loyal and dedicated fan forever, but if McCann, Lindor, Bauer (?), and the rest of the Mets squad starts to bring pennants and excitement to Flushing, Queens, the Yankees will lose millions of fans and the city. That’s for certain. New York loves winners. And right now, the Mets seem to be the team most committed to winning.