Before the crack of the bat on Opening Day in March, the Mets and Yankees were strong betting favorites to go to the World Series. Three months later the Mets were 36-43 and 16 games behind the Atlanta Braves (52-27) in the National League East when they hosted the Milwaukee Brewers last night (Wednesday) at Citi Field. They were fourth overall in the division and looking up at eight teams ahead of them in the NL wildcard race.
As for the Yankees, they are unstably hanging on to the second wildcard spot in the American League. They were 43-36 and in third place in American League East, 9.5 games below the Tampa Bay Rays (54-28) and trailing the Baltimore Orioles (48-30) by four heading into last night’s matchup with the Oakland Athletics on the road.
Entering this season, the Mets and Yankees chief decision makers believed they had built championship teams based on the returning players from last season and the new additions. The Mets signed Justin Verlander to a two-year, $86.7 million deal after he helped the Houston Astros capture the World Series and was named the American League Cy Young Award winner. After posting a record of 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA a season ago, the 40-year-old Verlander began this season on the injured list and is 2-4 with a 4.11 ERA in 10 starts for the Mets.
The franchise had the highest opening day payroll in the league’s history at $353.5 million, spending $500 million in free-agency last winter. Getting highly disappointing returns on his investments, Mets owner Steve Cohen tweeted on Tuesday that he would be holding a press conference before last night’s game, “You will get it from me straight.”
Prior to Tuesday’s 7-2 victory over the Brewers, just as the Mets had in their previous 10 games, general manager Billy Eppler said the team had no immediate plans to fire manager Buck Showalter or drastically shake up the team’s roster.
“We’ve got a decent amount of runway before the deadline,” said Eppler, referring to MLBs August 1 trade deadline. “We hope that we can change the story. If we can, then we can add. If it doesn’t, then we’ll just have to create other opportunities and see what else exists out there.”
The Yankees on the other hand have a little more breathing room. However, Aaron Judge’s return to the lineup is a primary concern and a critical factor in how the Yankees will move forward. The reigning AL MVP hasn’t played since tearing ligaments in his right big toe crashing into the outfield wall in Los Angeles on June 3 making a sensational catch against the Dodgers.
Another issue the Yankees must address is what they will do with infielder Josh Donaldson, who’s batting .125 with 14 strikeouts and a .641 OPS being paid $21 million this season. The Yankees, which began the season with baseball’s second highest payroll ($276.9 million) have been without lefty starter Carlos Rodon all season. He has yet to make his Yankees regular season debut after signing a six-year, $162 million deal in December. Rodon is working his way back from a forearm injury sustained in spring training then subsequent chronic back complications.
The Mets end their four-game series at home against the Brewers today then will play the San Francisco Giants for three games tomorrow through Sunday before facing the Braves in Atlanta for three next Tuesday-Thursday. The Yankees end their series in Oakland this afternoon, will be in St. Louis to take on the Cardinals tomorrow through Sunday, and head to Baltimore for a four-game series Monday-Thursday.