The Major League Baseball season for the New York Yankees and the New York Mets begins today with the teams holding vastly different status in their eyes of their respective fan bases.
The Bombers—an apt moniker given they set the all-time home run record last season with 267—are hosting the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium (1 p.m.) and the Mets will be in Washington to face the Nationals (1:05 p.m.). As it usually is with the Yankees viewed through the prism of their ownership, players and fans, anything less than a World Series title will be considered as a disappointing season.
They fell short a year ago, going 100-62 to garner a wildcard berth then losing to their arch rival, the Boston Red Sox, 3-1, in the American League Divisional Series. The Red Sox went on to win the World Series while the Yankees’ nine-year title drought rolls into 2019.
They have all the tools to end it, starting with a lineup that set MLB’s single-season home run record in 2018 despite right fielder Aaron Judge accounting for just 27 after playing in only 112 games and accumulating just 413 at-bats due to injuries. Conversely, Yankees left fielder Giancarlo Stanton, the 2017 National League MVP as a member of the Florida Marlins, played in 158 games, had a team leading 617 at-bats and launched 38 homers.
The Yankees hope the 26-year-old Judge replicates his spectacular 2017 campaign, when he broke an MLB record by hitting 52 home runs, the most ever by a rookie and finished second in the AL MVP balloting. If he stays healthy and approaches 600 at-bats, Judge could join Stanton as a league Most Valuable Player.
The Yankees’ only glaring question mark is the starting pitching. Last year’s ace Luis Severino will be out until at least May with rotator cuff inflammation. The 25-year-old went 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA and 220 strikeouts in 2018 and signed a four-year, $40 million contract extension last month.
Until Severino recovers, Yankees manager Aaron Boone will look to Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton—who was acquired in November from the Seattle Mariners in a trade—and J.A. Happ to hold down the rotation. At 38, C.C. Sabathia has announced this will be his final season after a stellar career. But his first start will be delayed as he recovers from off-season knee surgery and a heart ailment.
The Mets have high aspirations as well. Yet their first step is to regain respectability and their fans’ faith following a season in which they were 77-85 and finished 13 games behind the National League East division winning Atlanta Braves. Signing NL Cy Young award winner JaCob deGrom to a five-year, $137.5 million extension on Monday is a positive beginning.
Although he was only 10-9 in 32 starts due to his team’s poor play, the fewest wins ever by a Cy Young awardee, the 30-year-old deGrom led the majors with a 1.70 ERA in 217 innings and 269. The future of the Mets erstwhile star Yoenis Cespedes for the 2019 season is in doubt. Hampered by foot issues, the 33-year-old Cespedes was limited to 38 games last season and his return this season is dubious.
The Mets are optimistic that former Yankee Robinson Cano, who they obtained from the Mariners along with closer Edwin Diaz in a trade this past December, will compensate for Cespedes’ absence.