Once the deal between hedge fund manager Steve Cohen and the Mets was kaput, it became even more imperative than ever that the Mets get off to a good start in the 2020 season.
One thing the Mets don’t need is the distraction of no transaction and getting out of the gate quickly will be the first step. The fans were thrilled when the news broke that Cohen was buying an 80% controlling interest in the team, and now they’ll need something to take their minds off of voicing their displeasure with the ownership.
The Mets were 40-50 in the nominal first half of last season but a 46-26 second half enabled them to finish with a respectable 86-76 mark. To the fans, respectable is not and will not be good enough in 2020.
As I mentioned above, the Mets and new Manager Luis Rojas need to get off to a good start and that begins with the early part of the schedule that features 9 consecutive divisional games to get things going. Last season, the Mets were 40-36 against NL East opponents, but they were 25-13 against Washington and Miami while going 15-23 vs. Atlanta and Philadelphia. In the first five weeks of the season, the Mets play 25 of their first 34 games against divisional opponents (almost a third of their divisional schedule) including 10 vs. the Braves. Also in that span, 7 games vs. the Brewers and a two game trip to Houston in the middle of the first road trip.
You can’t win a division title in April (or March in this case) but you can lose it if you get off to a bad start in the first month. The Mets are under the gun, more than ever to win in 2020 and being successful in the first few weeks will go a long way towards helping to achieve that goal.
The Yankees’ signing of Gerrit Cole has taken on added importance with the news that James Paxton will miss 3-4 months after undergoing back surgery. The ol’ adage is, “You can never have enough pitching,” but, with Cole and some other factors coming into play, the Yankees have the means to overcome the loss of the lefthander who projected to be the #2 starter.
It was important for southpaw Jordan Montgomery to get some innings late last season because he will compete for a spot in the starting rotation that should begin with Cole, a healthy Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. J.A. Happ has suddenly been thrust into a more important role and GM Brian Cashman is pleased that he held on to the veteran lefthander. I think Happ can bounce back and be more effective this season.
The Yankees are the heavy favorites, providing they stay healthy. Thanks to Boston apparently “throwing in the towel” on the 2020 season, their chances have improved even more. They’re hoping that Paxton’s ailment is not the start of a repeat of 2019, but what if their depth is stretched to the limit once again in 2020.
The Yankees will likely carry 6 infielders with the projected starters being Gio Urshela, Gleyber Torres, D.J. LeMahieu and Luke Voit. That would leave two back up spots among a group of Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, Mike Ford and Miguel Andujar, who will have the edge on the other three off of his terrific rookie season two years ago.
I cite the infield depth because the corner positions will bear watching. Both Urshela and Voit still have a lot to prove.
In the outfield, Brett Gardner will start in CF until Aaron Hicks comes back off of Tommy John surgery. Giancarlo Stanton figures to get more time in LF (provided he’s healthy) and Aaron Judge in right. Mike Tauchman will be a “swingman” while the saga of Clint Frazier continues.
Despite all that’s gone on surrounding Frazier, he’s still with the Yankees because his shoddy defense has overshadowed his asset, which is his bat. If the enigmatic outfielder has not been traded by opening day, he may surprise and start to live up to his potential.
I’ve written about the back up catcher spot before in this column The Yankees brought in some veteran back up catchers on minor league contracts including Chris Ianetta and Erik Kratz.
The Yankees are high on Kyle Higashioka. I have my doubts. I think the Yankees need a veteran, defense-first catcher to help handle the staff because Gary Sanchez could frustrate some of the pitchers. Sanchez better hit because he is not a solid, defensive catcher that can motivate pitchers. Sanchez gets credit with the analytics people for his framing skills but he’s poor at blocking balls and is physically not agile enough to handle the position.
A lot of fans will not be happy but the DH is coming to the National League, maybe as early as 2021. The process to bring the Designated Hitter to the Senior Circuit has already begun with the 26-man roster and the arrow is pointing towards eliminating using a pitcher to hit.
Once the roster limit was increased, it created an “another job,” to satisfy the Players Union while the owners are not really shelling out big bucks for an “everyday DH.” Teams have adopted a method of using the DH to give players a “half day” off, but still keeping their bat in the lineup.
Karpin’s Korner appears every Friday on nysportsday.com