As March comes to a close, the New York Yankees and Mets will head north from their Florida spring training homes for Opening Day with uniquely similar aspirations. While the Yankees have been perennial contenders for most of the last decade, the Mets are now considered top shelf, largely thanks to owner Steve Cohen’s enormous $333 million dollar payroll. Both teams face much adversity within their respective divisions, which CBS Sports ranks the top two in baseball.
The Yankees enter yet another season with a World Series-or-bust mentality — but have failed to reach the championship since their 2009 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. They boast a potentially potent lineup led by 2022 American League MVP Aaron Judge, whose 62 home runs set an American League (AL) record last season. The lineup features a solid supporting cast including Anthony Rizzo, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahiue and the power-hitting Giancarlo Stanton.
Yet for a lineup that led the AL in runs, home runs and walks in 2022, many questions remain. For one, spring training has produced an ongoing battle for starting shortstop between top prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza, a position that has seen instability for the team since Hall of Famer Derek Jeter’s retirement after the 2014 season. The outfield remains in flux, as doubts surrounding veteran center fielder Aaron Hicks’ ability continue. After a down year offensively in 2022, 37-year-old third baseman Josh Donaldson needs to improve in order to justify his $21 million dollar salary.
Injuries on the pitching front have also led to worried Yankees fans. The starting rotation was considered one of the strongest in baseball after signing star Carlos Rodon to a six-year, $162 million dollar contract in the off-season, who would join a group including ace Gerrit Cole and high-level pitchers Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino and Frankie Montas. As Opening Day approaches, Rodon, Severino and Montas will begin the season on the injured list with varying degrees of severity. Montas will miss the most time, as he is expected to return in August due to a recurring shoulder injury.
A few key bullpen pieces are also starting the regular season injured, as relievers Lou Trivino and Tommy Kahnle are sidelined as well.
Even with these injuries and overall uncertainty, the Yankees are expected to be major contenders for their division title and the championship. A strong offense can hopefully cover for a still serviceable pitching staff to begin the season, and star outfielder Aaron Judge should continue to be one of the best players in baseball while carrying the lineup.
Moving across town to Flushing, the New York Mets look to build off an impressive 2022 campaign in which they won 101 games. This year, they aim to win a division race against the highly competitive Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves, the latter having won the Nation League (NL) East via tiebreaker last season.
The Mets head into Opening Day with a strong lineup headed by star players Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor, who are accompanied by productive hitters Starling Marte, Brandon Nimmo and the 2022 NL batting champion Jeff McNeil. They are rolling out quite a similar lineup to the one they finished the previous year with.
In one of the biggest stories of the baseball offseason, pitching ace Jacob DeGrom left the team in free agency to the Texas Rangers. DeGrom, considered one of the best pitchers ever when healthy, was hampered by injuries over the past two seasons, making his departure a slightly softer blow for the fanbase and organization alike.
In response, owner Steve Cohen signed reigning Cy Young winner Justin Verlander to a two-year, $86 million dollar contract, adding a no-doubt first-ballot Hall of Famer to an already strong rotation that includes former Washington National turned Met “Mad” Max Scherzer and later acquired pitchers Jose Quintana and Kodai Senga.
These injuries and minor setbacks have left fans doubtful, as seen on fan accounts, most notably @nym_news on Instagram. The account posts many things such as memes and news detailing any information that comes to light. One piece of information spurring doubt across the fanbase is the Mets’ decision not to have redhot Brett Baty and Mark Vientos on the roster for Opening Day, sending them down to Triple-A Syracuse along with fellow Major League prospect Francisco Alvarez. “There’s just some more development markers left for them to reach,” stated the organization, leaving Mets fans waiting for the top prospects to crack the Major League roster.