Different Sides of the Spectrum: The 2012 New York Mets and Yankees

The 2011 Major League Baseball season saw epic climaxes and drastic downfalls as legends were made and history was rewritten. The end of the season went down as one of the most chaotic and renowned 24 hours in baseball history. The Atlanta Braves, leading the NL Wild Card for much of the season, finished with one of the worst collapses in memory, by choking away an 8 ½ game lead to the St. Louis Cardinals. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays rose from defeat by fighting back from a 7-0 deficit in the 8thinning to the New York Yankees, ultimately tying the game after a

Courtesy Sports Illustrated

2-out, 9th inning pinch hit homerun by Dan Johnson, before Evan Longoria hit a walk-off homerun in extra innings to send the Rays into the playoffs. They were able to clinch the Wild Card because the Red Sox had blown a lead to the Baltimore Orioles earlier, despite having 2 outs and 2 strikes in the 9th inning; the collapse led to an overhaul of the Red Sox front office, coaches and players.

Although it will be hard to match, the 2012 season promises to expand on these storylines and deliver a season worth of pitching gems, rising stars and critical comebacks.  The introduction of a second Wild Card makes this season even more intriguing as an additional team and one-game playoff will drastically alter the entire playoff race. The New York Mets and New York Yankees are on different ends of the spectrum, with the Mets looking to rebuild and prepare for the future while the Yankees are seeking their 28th World Series Championship. The Mets and Yankees took different strategies into the offseason and while they may not translate immediately onto the field, these two franchises remain mainstays of the backpage of the New York newspapers.

New York Mets

The Mets played their hand early in 2011, dealing away Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants for superstar prospect Zack Wheeler at the trade deadline last year, demonstrating that they were going to rebuild for the future and let their stars go. They carried out this plan as they watched superstar shortstop Jose Reyes sign with the Miami Marlins for 6 years and $106 million without as much as making an offer. The Mets come into the 2012 season with little depth, low expectations and a division that’s arguably the most competitive in baseball (although the AL East remains the most talented). Their two best prospects, Wheeler and Matt Harvey, remain at least two years away from becoming stalwarts in the rotation and they are currently projected by many to finish last in the NL East. The 2012 season will allow the Mets to develop their young studs, especially Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, and position themselves to become dominant in the future. Although this will be a long season for Mets fans, the team is headed in the right direction.

For all their shortcomings, the Mets did not have as atrocious an offseason as it seems on paper. They were able to settle a major lawsuit brought against them by Irving Picard, the trustee of the assets seized by the court in the Bernie Madoff scandal. They also moved in the fences at spacious Citi Field, known for its favorability to pitchers; the change bodes well for David Wright, who saw much of his power drained by the dimensions of the field. Furthermore, the recovery of Johan Santana remains critical to this team, present and future. Santana is signed on for this year and two more and thus, they will need him to become the ace he was before Tommy John surgery. If he is able to regain his ability, Santana will help guide the younger pitchers and may even become a piece the Mets could move for valuable assets down the line, although his contract remains a significant burden. The Mets also agreed to a contract with Jonathan Niese, their 25 year old southpaw, that buys out his free agency years while also giving the Mets the option to retain him beyond that if he reaches his potential. This could be a tremendous signing for the Mets, at a low cost, if Niese becomes the pitcher many imagine he could be.

New York Yankees

The Yankees had a tremendous 2011 season but saw their World Series hopes dashed by the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series. Despite being able to run through the 2011 season without a dominant starter behind CC Sabathia, their biggest weakness was exposed in the playoffs when the Yankees simply could not match the Tigers’ pitching. In response, general manager Brian Cashman dealt star prospect Jesus Montero for 23-year-old flamethrower Michael Pineda from the Seattle Mariners. Many praised the deal, as sluggers are easier to find than young star pitchers, but Pineda reported to spring training overweight and was placed on the disabled list with tendonitis before the season. Pineda fared well at Safeco Field in Seattle last year but it will be important that his transition to Yankee Stadium, a notorious hitters park, be seamless if the Yankees hope to bolster their rotation behind Sabathia. In addition to Pineda, the Yankees signed Hiroki Kuroda, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kuroda is a lefty who does not throw hard but can locate his pitches and should be able to upgrade the middle of the rotation. It is important to remember that he pitched in the NL West, the weakest division in baseball, throughout his career so a move to the AL East should lead to a spike in his ERA and WHIP numbers. The Yankees also signed Andy Pettite to a minor-league contract but whether he can make a difference remains to be seen.

The Yankees offense meanwhile, remain its strongest asset while the bullpen is solid. Although their superstar players are not getting any younger, Derek Jeter was sharp in the second half of the season and Mark Teixeira should be able to raise his average this season. Curtis Granderson should regress this year but the other bats in the lineup should more than make up for this. Robinson Cano and Mariano Rivera remain the best players at their position and their performances this season will be crucial to the Yankees success. Rivera has hinted that this may be his final season and it is up to the Yankees to send off the greatest relief pitcher the right way. The Yankees are always favorites to win the World Series and if their pitching upgrades can pay off, they remain the team to beat. However, with the Angels’ acquisitions of Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson and the Tigers’ acquisition of Prince Fielder, they have tremendous hurdles in their way. The new Wild Card rules can also backfire against the Yankees if they do not win the AL East because a one game playoff to determine a Wild Card winner does not necessarily mean the best team will win. The American League has tremendous depth with the Yankees, Angels, Rangers, Rays and Red Sox (and potentially, the Blue Jays) all clustered in two divisions. Only three of these six can make the playoffs and the race for the final berth will be a story to watch all season long. The Yankees enter the 2012 season with a better team than last year and an upgraded pitching staff; if they can continue to win close games and perform up to their standards, the 28th World Series championship may be waiting at the end of the 2012 season.


NL East: Philadelphia Phillies

NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals

NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks

NL Wild Card: Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds

AL East: New York Yankees

AL Central: Detroit Tigers

AL West: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

AL Wild Card: Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.