Coming off a remarkable 10-game home stand sweep and 11-game winning streak, the red hot Mets boast the best record in baseball as they head to crosstown Yankee Stadium for a three-game Subway Series.
Their improbable hot streak has them sitting at 13-3, in first place in the NL East by 4.5 games. If they play .500 ball for the rest of the season, they’d still finish 86-76 – a seven win improvement over last year and in striking distance of a wild card. But then, consider that this team has been beating up on division rivals with nearly half their roster on the disabled list and just imagine how good they can be by summer, when injured players are healthy and prospects are ready. Playoffs are suddenly a very real possibility in 2015.
This Mets team has got dominant and deep pitching, young talent in spades, and an indomitable spirit that won’t be broken by a limited payroll or a rash of injuries. Meanwhile the Yankees have an aging roster with bloated contracts trying to find its way through retired Hall of Famers and A-Rod dramas.
Since Derek Jeter first donned pinstripes back in 1995, New York City has been Yankee town. Led by homegrown future Hall of Famers Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, as well as all-stars Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada, the Yankees took home five World Series titles and made 17 playoff appearances during Jeter’s storied 20-year career. Perhaps now that Jeter has retired, we are again entering a new era – one in which the Mets rule New York, just as they did in 1986, the last time they got off to such a torrid start.
Built To Last and Last to Build
Thanks to former GM Omar Minaya, the current Mets team is stacked with young and prime-aged talent. And thanks to current GM Sandy Alderson, our minor league affiliates have become a pipeline of emerging stars. How many teams can lose five relievers, a starting pitcher, their best hitter and hot hitting catcher to injuries (and one PED suspension) and then reel off 11 wins in a row? Their recent success is a tribute to the talent and depth their current and former GMs have put in place, as well as the motivation of the coaching staff.
In the short-term, it’s fantastic to see Jeurys Familia stepping into the closer role vacated by Bobby Parnell and Jennry Mejia, and Kevin Plawecki filling in behind the plate for the injured Travis d’Arnaud. This bodes well for the long- term as well with the dugout, front office and rival general managers getting a glimpse of the Mets’ future. This time next year, due to free agency or trades, this team will look a lot different. Daniel Murphy and Bartolo Colon are key contributors playing in their walk years; yet that is of no concern with a farm system stacked at the highest levels.
The Yankees meanwhile, thanks to a fan base accustomed to winning and shelling out hundreds of dollars for tickets and $11 for a can of Budweiser, refuse to rebuild. Instead of methodically building another sustained winner with draft picks, international signings and organizational development, the Yankees front office chose to keep the team competitive with expensive free agent signings.
If you define a big contract as three-plus years and at least $12 million per season, the Yankees have 10 such players on their roster in Alex Rodriguez, Mark Texeira, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Chase Headley, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller. This season, those 20 players make up $179 million of their massive $218 million payroll. Next year, those numbers remain virtually unchanged. While the latter four names are in their prime, the first six are all on the downside of their careers. Until 2017 when Texeira, Beltran and Sabathia (with a $5 million buyout) come off the books, the Yankees are handcuffed. Yes, they seem to have a blank check book, but they are already into the luxury tax and according to this week’s NY Time’s report, their TV ratings are down 21 percent so far this season.
Meanwhile, SNY broadcasts of Mets games are up 47 percent. Winning begets paying customers and TV viewers. And they’ve done it with a modest $101 million payroll. In terms of those “big contracts,” the Mets have just two in David Wright and Curtis Granderson. Second tier contracts like Michael Cuddyer, Colon, Jon Niese and Murphy are short term and will soon clear essential payroll to lock up the home grown stars to long term deals through their prime years. Get used to the Mets winning, because this team is built to last. Maybe Mets viewership is up and Yankee viewership is down because the casual New York baseball fan is dropping the zero and gettin’ with the hero (yes, an unexpected winning streak can spur a life-long Mets fan to drop Vanilla Ice quotes).
We’re Goin’ Streaking!
The Mets streak, even if it ends tonight against the Yankees (please no!), is remarkable nonetheless. For some historical perspective, the longest winning streak in major league history belongs to the 1916 New York Giants who won 26 in a row. Led by legendary manager John McGraw the Giants team did it with speed (seven players had at least 15 stolen bases) and pitching (the staff had an outstanding 2.60 ERA, led by workhorses Jeff Tesreau, Pol Perritt and Rube Benton). Amazingly though, the streak wasn’t enough. The Giants finished 86-66 and missed the playoffs in the pre-wild card era.
More recently, the Billy Beane 2002 Oakland A’s won 20 in a row on their way to winning the division with 103 wins. That A’s team was led by Miguel Tejada’s MVP season, Eric Chavez’s career year, Scott Hatteberg’s OBP (as documented in Money Ball) and dominant pitching from Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Cy Young winner Barry Zito. Of course the A’s went on to lose the Minnesota Twins in the AL Division Series.
This is the fifth time in their history the Mets have had an 11-game winning streak – 1969, 1972, 1986, 1990 and 2015. If they beat the Yankees tonight, it will be their first ever 12-game winning streak. With Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Jon Niese taking the hill for the Mets, maybe we can make it 14 straight. How about 17 straight before we return home for a series against the division-favorite Nationals who currently sit six games behind us. This year, it seems anything is possible.
Let’s go Mets!