Published on: 20th August, 2013
by Scott Mandel
New York — Forget about who wins more games this season between the two New York baseball teams. Forget about who makes or doesn’t make the playoffs in 2013. This has been a Yankees town, and deservedly so, for the length of the Derek Jeter-Mariano Rivera-Andy Pettite-Jorge Posada years but like all good things, they do and must come to an end.
Mark this down. The Mets will be the big story in New York baseball for the foreseeable future. And, no matter what the current won-loss record says, that future started this season.
One of the oldest axioms in baseball is you win regular season games with offense but you win championships with pitching and defense. Far from a finished product on the field, with several holes still to be filled on their roster, the Mets are building what appears to be a potentially dominant pitching staff of young flame throwers who may turn the National League into their own little playground of overwhelmed hitters, broken bats, and many victories for the Mets.
In Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jonathan Niese on the current major league staff, the Mets have a dynamite core of young, inexpensive starting pitchers whose careers are just getting off the ground.
The Yankees, on the other hand are clearly a team in decline. One of the problems with getting old is that you also get slower and you get hurt a lot. We’ve watched the Yankees organization, once the epitome of professionalism when it came to personnel evaluation, disintegrate into a gigantic soap opera under the weight of the Alex Rodriguez disaster. They have not developed any viable replacements in their minor league system to replace the elderly players on their major league roster. Worst of all for Yankees fans used to the Steinbrennerian credo of “win or else,” the Yankees corporate decision (read as Hal Steinbrenner) to get their payroll below the magic $189 million salary cap figure has handcuffed general manager Brian Cashman from fixing what ails his team the old-fashioned Yankee way, by buying players.
Perusing the Yankees roster, almost every position on the field is manned by players whose best years are long past. Mark Texeira at first, Jeter at shortstop, Rodriguez at third, Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki in the outfield along with a pitching staff with an average age somewhere north of a Florida retirement home has left the Yankees highly dependent on rebuilding their roster either through free-agent spending or minor league development.
Then what? How will the Yankees contend for championships over the next several years?
It says here they will stick it out with their aging stars for as long as their contracts run and will not sign free agent replacements until they can remove the old contracts off their closely-watched financial books.
The Mets have been financially crippled for several years by their dealings with Bernard Madoff. They’ve also been crippled by very poor signings (see Jason Bay – $16.5 million, Frank Francisco – $6.5 million, Johan Santana – $31 million) totaling $54 million, contracts finally coming off their books with the end of this season.
Their payroll will drop down to approximately $70 million. Mets general manager, Sandy Alderson has already gone on record saying ownership will be allotting significant resources in the payroll, perhaps by as much as $35-40 million for the 2014 season.
Unlike the Yankees, whose players and contracts are among the least attractive to other major league teams, the Mets have several young pitchers at the major and minor league levels who are coveted by other teams. Pitching is the most expensive commodity to purchase in the major leagues today. Contracts for starting pitching have become ridiculously high, in most cases, the production does not equal the dollars spent.
With young pitchers like Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, and other highly acclaimed prospects, the Mets control their contracts for most of the next five years without the fear of free-agency rearing its head, leverage that allows them to spend more on position players or use one or more of the young pitchers in trades for positional needs.
Right now, it’s the Mets who hold all of the cards. The Yankees are living dangerously on the edge of disaster, hoping to squeeze another year out of their old stars. Bet on the Mets.