At one point during the last MLB season, it seemed like a Yankees-Mets Subway Series in October wasn't out of the question. Both teams were loaded with talent, from their pitching staffs to the lineups, and looked destined to make a deep playoff run. Even their matchups lived up to expectations, giving fans a potential preview.
But by the end of the season, any World Series talk was forgotten as the Yankees lost their lead in the American League, while the Mets dropped to second in their division. Both teams would eventually go out in embarrassing fashion during the playoffs. With a new baseball season starting in a week, what must happen for both teams to avoid another disappointing ending?
The Yankees had a much busier offseason compared to last year. They addressed their biggest need in re-signing A.L. MVP Aaron Judge for nine more years of deep home runs and leaping catches at the wall. Given that he's been the team's best player since Derek Jeter, losing Judge would have been a massive mistake. They also added another all star to their pitching staff in Carlos Rodón. These were certainly smart moves, but they won't be the deciding factors in getting the Yankees over the hump.
Instead, the key will be whether their collection of young prospects can make a significant difference. The Yankees already saw Oswaldo Cabrera receive plenty of playing time toward the end of the season and into the playoffs. He can play anywhere in the field and will have an even bigger impact if his hitting improves. They also have two other prospects in shortstops Oswaldo Peraza and Anthony Volpe who are on the horizon toward seeing lots of action. The Yankees are clearly confident in both players since they passed on a loaded group of shortstops in free agency. Every good team has a few homegrown superstars, and if the Yankees can rely on their young talent for a much needed boost, it could be the difference between an ALCS and a World Series.
The Mets, on the other hand, have had a roller coaster offseason ever since it started. They lost two time Cy Young winner Jacob DeGrom, but replaced him with another Cy Young winner in Justin Verlander. They also re-signed Brandon Nimmo and added pitcher Kodai Senga from Japan. However, they saw their contract with shortstop Carlos Correa fall apart over concerns with his physical, and then watch reliever Edwin Diaz tear his ACL while celebrating Puerto Rico's win in the World Baseball Classic.
Even with all the highs and lows, the Mets still have an extremely talented team. Besides the need to temporarily replace Diaz, they do not have many glaring weaknesses. Whether the Mets can take the next step will be determined by their ability to play against inferior competition. While some might point to the Atlanta Braves sweeping them at the end of the year, that could have been avoided if the Mets didn't go 12-9 against teams below .500 during September. That's not going to cut it in one of the most competitive divisions. Like last year, the Mets will have plenty of matchups with teams ready to throw in the towel by fall. If the Mets want to make noise down the stretch, it starts by winning the games where they're favored.
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