It’s Opening Day, practically both Christmas and Easter combined for any baseball fan.
For Mets and Yankees fans, given how loud and intense New York City is (in a good way), this means the excitement is double. For one day in the spring, both sets of fans have matching enthusiasm and anticipation for what the next several months may bring.
The 2022 season is no exception. Mets owner Steve Cohen was aggressive in free agency, landing dynamic outfielder Starling Marte and future Hall-of-Famer Max Scherzer. They also have star shortstop Francisco Lindor and can look forward to another great year from Pete Alonso.
Across the East River, in the Bronx, the Yankees have also retooled. A brand new lineup hopes to put the rest of the American League East on notice. Oh, and Gerrit Cole also still wears pinstripes and heads a fantastic rotation.
There’s a lot to unpack ahead of the first pitch, even if the Yankees have been bumped back to Friday. What should we expect from the Yankees and Mets in 2022?
Which version of the Yankees will we see?
The Yankees have been defined by two things the last few years: streakiness and injuries. The lineup tried too hard to hit home runs all last year and save for a 13-game winning streak, the team stumbled to a Wild Card berth.
Now, general manager Brian Cashman is putting the last year of his current contract to good use. The lineup still has plenty of power, but doesn’t live and die by it. Defense is a new priority too, not to mention more pitching depth than one could even imagine.
Another baseball season begins, another season where the Yankees are expected to be great and compete for a World Series. After last season’s mishaps, how much can they afford to struggle this year?
Will Jacob deGrom actually opt out?
Life has three certainties: death, taxes, and Jacob deGrom getting injured. The Mets’ righty ace is currently shut down for four weeks with a stress reaction in his shoulder, marking the second year in a row that he’ll miss time with an injury. Still, deGrom plans on opting out of his contract at season’s end.
This from a man who pitched just 92 innings last year? deGrom’s quite the gambler if this is still the plan. Great as he is when healthy, he’s probably looking at a June debut at the absolute earliest. What if he suffers a setback and his return gets pushed to July? Will he still opt out then?
It wasn’t that long ago that deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Noah Syndergaard were supposed to lead a Mets dynasty. Will Steve Cohen’s aggressive spending be enough to keep him around if he does opt-out? More importantly, with all of deGrom’s injuries, would a new contract be money well-spent?
How much does Max Scherzer actually have left?
Speaking of Mets pitchers, let’s talk about Max Scherzer. Cohen was not shy about how badly he wanted the three-time Cy Young winner and signed him to a three-year, $130 million deal. Scherzer was 15-4 with a 2.46 ERA for the Nationals and Dodgers last year, so the deal seemed a good idea despite the high price tag.
There’s still one key concern. Scherzer turns 38 in July and has a chronically balky hamstring. He will earn over $43 million a year for the life of the contract.
The good news for the Mets is Scherzer’s velocity hasn’t diminished and he still throws a good mix of pitches. For all we know, he’s an ageless wonder and will put up ace numbers in a Mets uniform. Even so, not even a future Hall of Famer can stop age from suddenly kicking in the door.
Will the Yankees extend Aaron Judge?
The Yankees having their Opening Day pushed to Friday has something of a silver lining. Now, Cashman and his team have a spare 24 hours to check off the (literally) biggest box on the offseason list: extend Aaron Judge. The massive outfielder turned in an MVP-caliber campaign in 2021, batting .287 with 39 homers and 98 RBI.
Judge recently reaffirmed Opening Day was the deadline for any new contract. Otherwise, the Yankees will have to wait until free agency next winter. There’s plenty of mutual interest, so this very much seems a case of “when” rather than “if.”
Which New York team reigns supreme?
The Mets and Yankees are cats and dogs. No matter where each team finishes in the standings, even if they both miss the playoffs, the fans will always feud. But this year, both teams are clearly serious about getting to the Fall Classic and raising the trophy. When push comes to shove, who’s it going to be?
The Mets spent into oblivion to add Marte, Scherzer, and also two underrated bats in Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar. Buck Showalter is also back in New York as the new manager and brings with him both knowledge and a winning attitude rarely seen in Luis Rojas.
The Yankees, meanwhile, relied more on shrewd trades and depth rather than targeting any of the stars on the market. Balance was favored over spending big money on big names this winter. Given how relaxed the Yankees have looked at the plate all spring training, the approach seems to be working.
The Mets, meanwhile, are about to start their season without their ace, another top pitcher dealing with a minor injury, and now Taijuan Walker is hurt too. Can Chris Bassitt and Carlos Carrasco carry the load if anyone misses more time?
The Yankees and Mets both need a lot of good karma on their side to kickstart their seasons and guide them to a strong finish. Right now, that karma favors the Yankees.