Home News Bill Madden: Excitement of Opening Day will quickly fade for Yankees, Mets

Bill Madden: Excitement of Opening Day will quickly fade for Yankees, Mets

So here it is all ye Yankee and Met faithful: Prepare yourself for a summer of third place.

I realize this is the time of year — especially in New York — where fans dream World Series dreams, but it just ain’t happening with either of our locals. For all their offseason maneuverings (the Yankees much more so than the Mets) there’s still too much difference between the Orioles and Blue Jays in the AL East for the Yankees and the Braves and the Phillies in the NL East for the Mets.

We start with the Yankees, who addressed their biggest need — a left-handed power bat — in the biggest way with the trade for Juan Soto. But at the same time they are still a team lacking in athleticism. With the exception of right field (Soto) and center field (Aaron Judge), the Orioles have better, younger and more athletic players at every position, especially when they bring the gifted Jackson Holliday up at the end of April. At the same time, the acquisition of Soto has forced the Yankees to move Judge to center where opposing scouts and even some of the Yankees’ own people worry is an injury waiting to happen.

Bad enough the Yankees are going to be without Gerrit Cole until at least May, and still don’t know what they have (or don’t have) with Carlos Rodon, but the Blue Jays with Chris Bassitt, Jose Berrios, Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi have the strongest starting pitching in the AL East. Here’s how a scout following the Yankees all spring assessed them: “Soto is unquestionably a difference-maker and I think he’ll thrive in New York because he seems to have the even keel disposition for it. But the Yankees’ starting pitching, especially since they don’t know when Cole will be back and whether he can pick up where he left off last year, is a real issue.”

About the Mets, this much is certain: They will be considerably better than last year’s 75-87 and will likely be better than both the Marlins (who after letting Kim Ng go as GM went back to their penny-pinching ways by not re-signing their best hitter Jorge Soler) and the forever rebuilding Nationals. How do we know that? Well, starting out, new manager Carlos Mendoza has two pivotal players — Edwin Diaz and Starling Marte — who Buck Showalter was without all or most of last year, as well as this offseason’s last-minute signing of J.D. Martinez.

But while Steve Cohen and his new GM David Stearns have continued to caution us that this is a transitionary year for the Mets, they’ve done almost everything to confirm that other than filling the previously revolving-door DH role with Martinez. In particular, Stearns took the cheap route to fill out the starting rotation behind Kodai Senga (who hopefully will be back by May) and Jose Quintana, spending a total $46 million on Luis Severino, Sean Manaea and Adrian Hauser — all of whom have something to prove. And it was the same thing with the bullpen in front of Diaz; Stearns obviously hoping Brooks Raley will have a second straight standout season and Adam Ottavino still has something left in the tank (questionable).

I’m still betting on the Mets to have improved enough to finish third. But I’m also keeping a close eye on Phillies star Bryce Harper, who had a dismal spring (5-for-28 with no homers and only one extra base hit). Scouts were alarmed at the fact that he wasn’t pulling anything and word is Harper has a back issue. If this is something that lingers, second place for the Mets may not be a pipedream.


In his “no questions/statement only” press conference last week Shohei Ohtani managed to inadvertently invoke both Claude Rains’ Captain Renault in “Casablanca” (“I’m shocked there was $4.5 million in gambling debts paid off out of my bank account”) and John Banner’s Sergeant Schultz in “Hogan’s Heroes: (“I knew nothing about this until I arrived in Seoul”). But he did nothing to answer the two most pertinent questions that could clear up this entire scandal: (1) How did Ohtani’s interpreter Ippei Mizuhara have access to Ohtani’s bank account and the ability to make wire transfers out of it? And (2) How did Ohtani not know — or get any alerts — that thousands of dollars were being wired out of his account to a bookmaker? Until or unless those questions are answered satisfactorily to all the proper authorities — MLB, the IRS, the state of California — Ohtani is coming off less-than-credible in all of this. … On Tuesday, Jordan Montgomery became the final Scott Boras client to take a severe haircut, electing to sign with the Diamondbacks for a one-year deal worth $25 million with a vesting option of $22.5 million for the 2025 season. Two days before Montgomery finally got a job, MLB’s Jim Bowden breathlessly reported on their Front Office show that ”the Montgomery market is here” and that “he has two long-term offers” while also reporting the Yankees and Red Sox were also still on him. What do you think happened to those two long-term contract offers? Who could Bowden’s source possibly have been? So much for his credibility. Meanwhile, Montgomery had spent all winter reportedly seeking a seven-year deal of upwards of $170M, but as he did with Matt Snell, Cody Bellinger and Matt Chapman, Boras grossly over-reached and misread the market, costing his clients millions by having to settle for one-year deals with opt-outs after the market dried up.


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