The Road To October Begins


The Yankees won’t forget the sting of an Astros sweep in the ALCS last October. Some of the names have changed as they open their 2023 season with the Giants in the Bronx, Thursday afternoon. The fans at Yankee Stadium still have that sweep in their minds and the Astros are still the team to beat.

Armed now with the highest payroll in baseball, the Mets are also looking to replicate their 101-win season and not succumb to their chief NL East divisional rival, the Braves. They begin with optimism of overcoming the hump and forgetting an NL wildcard loss to the Padres. They begin the process Thursday with an opening series in Miami with the Marlins,

There are expectations for the local teams and it stretches to a deep run in October for the Yankees and Mets. Is there ever a question about the Yankees playing deep in October? Is there a question this time about the Mets, following their spending spree that will get them to October?

Questions for sure, as there should be in late March. For sure, April is a long way ahead of October with 162 ballgames and new rules of no shifts, bigger bases, and a pitch clock which could lead to some controversial calls. Heading into the season are also questions to be posed for both teams with expectations to play baseball in October and beyond.

The Yankees and Mets are built to win now. The overall consensus is the Mets had the better offseason in fulfilling needs to fill gaps, a spending spree that includes constructing the largest video screen unveiled at Citi Field next Thursday during their home opener.

Put it this way and be assured, an exciting baseball season for New York awaits, though we are far from saying we are headed to the first Subway World Series since 2000. On paper, a meeting of the Yankees and Mets in October is very realistic.

Of course, there has to be adversity and that pertains to 28 other teams with injuries. The Yankees and Mets sustained a few during the spring which impacts their early season rosters. The Yankees will once again be without Luis Severino in the rotation as his recurring injuries continue.

Carlos Rodon, their major spending spree for the pitching rotation, who was to follow the ace Gerrit Cole, won’t be on the mound anytime soon. A void and gap for sure and the Yankees have their contingency plan with Domingo German, Clarke Schmidt, and 25-year old righthander Jhony Brito getting an opportunity. Brito is getting the shot thanks to four strong spring starts (2-0, 2.08 ERA, 13.0 innings).

Regardless, the Yankees are banking on Cole and a Cy Young Award type season, despite leading the league last year with 33 home run balls as teams tend to jump on his four-seamer. He will get his fourth Opening Day start and coming off a 2022 season where he went 13-8, with a 3.50 ERA and a MLB leading 257 strikeouts.

It’s about Cole and keeping the ball in the yard,” said a longtime scout. “The Yankees will await Rodon, and with Cole, have that one-two punch that amounts to winning a good number of ball games. If not, then there will be many questions as they move on this season.”

Get the ball to the bullpen and the task belongs to Wandy Peralta, Michael King, Jonathan Loaisiga, Ron Marinaccio. The closer role, no longer occupied by the departed Aroldis Chapman, is in the hands of a healthy Clay Holmes, who recorded 20 saves and a 2.54 ERA. Righty Lou Trevino is unavailable for the start of the season with an elbow ligament strain, a main cog obtained last year at the trade deadline.

The Yankees should score lots of runs. Home runs will again be at the forefront of their arsenal with Anthony Rizzo, a hopeful and injury free Giancarlo Stanton supporting the new captain. Aaron Judge secured a nine-year, $360 million contract and the question of can he have another season like 2022 where he hit 62 home runs and was the best player in baseball. 

Anything is possible, but difficult to replicate for Judge. Remember, he is human and as former Mets skipper Terry Collins used to say. “They are not robots.”

You can bank on this for Opening Day: DJ LeMahieu will lead off at DH, Judge follows. Anthony Rizzo is a home run threat and has an advantage without a shift. Stanton at cleanup, Josh Donaldson coming off a good spring, and a rejuvenated Gleyber Torres at second. The patience with Aaron Hicks continues in left field. And Jose Trevino will be behind the plate as part of a platoon with Kyle Higashioka. 

The youngest Yankee to start at shortstop since Derek Jeter, Anthony Volpe will be broken in slowly and will likely hit eighth or ninth in the early going. Yeah, those Bleacher Creatures are ready to call the name of Anthony Volpe, their #1 pick of the 2019 draft and 21-year old prospect, who earned his spot. The Yankees kept their word about the competition for the spot and showed they are willing to go younger if that players earns it.

But be patient. He is a rookie with the pressure of New York on his shoulders. As Boone said, “We have unfinished business to do.” Volpe could be a catalyst at the bottom of their lineup. But finally overtaking the Astros is their goal and the Yankees know that’s a priority. Boone, with a new contract, along with GM Brian Cashman who signed a new deal, are expected to win. Toronto may be a notch better, the Rays are always in the hunt, and the Red Sox will rebound.

Prediction: 93 wins but Al Wild Card as division goes to Toronto.

The Mets enter the 2023 season without Jacob deGrom, who is an afterthought now. A dynamic duo of Cy Young Award pitchers, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, anchors their pitching rotation, and assuming they stay healthy, at 39 and 40 years old, will be an interesting watch.

Regardless, that’s quite a duo and part of the Steve Cohen $344 million payroll, the most expensive team in baseball history. Don’t know what to expect from Carlos Carrasco and Kodai Senga making the transition from Japan with a different mound, baseball, and rotation setup.

A different rotation but Max and Justin are pitching like two young studs,” commented a longtime NL executive. Manager Buck Showalter needs the depth and GM Billy Eppler had the offseason of assuring there were contingency plans.

Never know what to get from Carrasco. Free agent pickup Jose Quintana’s injury (stress fracture rib) was an early spring blow, leading to a question about pitching depth. It also opened a spot for lefthander David Peterson who was projected as starting in Triple-A or as a relief option out of the pen.

Regardless, here, the Mets are confident with their rotation. Not so much confidence though, losing closer Edwin Daz to a freak accident at the World Baseball Classic. Perhaps the best closer in the game and now Showalter goes with that committee of sorts of an experienced David Robertson (157 career saves) or Adam Ottavino. It’s now a predicament the Mets have to deal with, unless they pull a trade or two prior to the deadline in late July.

The keys to their lineup: Pete Alonso and capable of a 45 home run mark, another 100 or more RBI season, a category that he tied last year for most RBI (131) with Aaron Judge.

Francisco Lindor will also anchor the offense with NL batting champ Jeff McNeil. The Mets were fifth in runs scored last year, partly because of Lindor and Alonso and they are a catalyst to October.

Again, the Mets had Carlos Correa and we know how that transpired. Another potent bat in the lineup with Starling Marte, Mark Canha, and Eduardo Escobar would have solidified their standing and perhaps Brandon Nimmo is the best leadoff hitter in baseball. They go with Omar Narvaez, a good acquisition as the starter behind the plate with Tomas Nido as the backup.

They had first place most of last year and the Braves found their way to take over the division lead late in September. The Mets won 101 games, difficult to duplicate and the Braves got better. The Phillies lost first baseman Rhys Hoskins (torn ACL) for the season and Bryce Harper unavailable until June or July.

Have to like their depth off the bench, free agent pickup Tommy Pham and a speed threat with Tim Locastro, infield depth from Luis Guillorme. The DH role has come under question. It’s a spot in the lineup that saw limited production last year. If Daniel Vogelbach fails to produce, one of three prospects gets the call. Mark Vientos, Francisco Alvarez, or Brett Baty would likely get the call in that case. Baty had a strong spring and it’s a matter of time to fill a roster spot due to injury. After getting that cup of coffee and brief time in the big leagues in September, Baty could be called up first. 

Again, a Mets team that will depend much on Scherzer and Verlander. They have the tools and will be in that dogfight with the Braves and defending NL champion Phillies, but not enough to win the division:

Prediction: 91 wins, NL Wild card and opportunity to play deep in October.

Play ball. It will be an interesting and exciting 2023 baseball season for New York.

Rich Mancuso Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso. Watch “Sports With Rich” with Rich and co-host Robert Rizzo Tuesday evening 8pmET on the SLG Network and YouTube

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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