New Yuck, New Yuck

From the looks of the back pages of New York City’s tabloids–you know, actual print newspapers that still have sports sections and reporters–they’ve already moved on to football and training camp drama,  Aaron Rodgers is on his way to New Jersey, Saquon Barkley may be on this way out.  They’re a whole half-year of this sturm and drang ahead for readers to be amused and/or consternated by,

Their timing this year couldn’t be more fortitituous.  Because it sure seems like barring a massive turnaround in momentum and fortunes, their baseball teams, both in the postseason last year, won’t be anywhere near it this year.

Sure, the Yankees are still five games over .500, but in a bottom-heavy American League where Oakland and Kansas City are both losing more than seven in ten games that means as of today, they are looking from the outside in at even a wild-card playoff berth.  Worse still, last night’s 4-3 loss to the Angels in Anaheim was their third in the first four games of a six-game swing that also saw them lose two of three to the National League-worst Colorado Rockies, it was the second straight game where the bullpen allowed a late two-inning homer to tie the score (in Denver, that also happened in the 10th inning after the Yankees regained the lead) and was then ghost-walked off by their opponents in their last at-bat.

But for Yankee fans the height of ignominy is to wake up on this late a date for the first time since 1990 and see their team in last place in the American League East.  The 90s were an incredible decade overall for the Pinstripers, but it began with a season that saw them flail under three different managers and saw Andy Hawkins pitch an eight-inning no-hitter in Chicago (these days, it technically wouldn’t count, but then it did) on the losing end of a 4-0 score.

As for the Mets…well, I was afraid you’d ask that.  This morning, the outstanding Ken Rosenthal of THE ATHLETIC summed up how dire things are in Queens:

A fan approached me at Citi Field on Saturday night, looking forlorn.

“Who wants our players, Ken?” he asked, knowing the answer would only depress him.

Think about that: The Mets are the most expensive team in major-league history, yet as the deadline approaches, their players are perceived even by their own fans to have little trade value.

Pick a flaw. Too old. Too expensive. Too inconsistent. A number of Mets are a combination of all three, which is why the team is 43-50, 18 1/2 games out of first place in the NL East and 8 1/2 out of a wild-card spot, sitting on playoff odds of 13.7 percent.

Considering owner Steve Cohen’s current investment — $363 million in salary, plus another $100 million-plus in luxury-tax penalties — the game has never seen a bigger flop. And here’s the worst part: The deadline will not be a panacea. The Mets’ problems cannot simply be wiped clean.

In what was essentially a last-gasp effort for relevancy and perhaps to begin a post-All Star Break run of the likes seen by their division rival Washington Nationals in 2019 and the Atlanta Braves in 2021 that saw each win a World’s Championship, not the mention the 2015 surge that put the Mets in one for the first time in 15 years, the Mets, hosted a Dodgers team that had itself fallen on hard times, and lost that series.  They scored a total of three runs in three games.  Pete Alonso has effectivly turned into the second coming of Dave Kingman.  Francisco Lindor’s batting average is barely above the Mendoza line.  Daniel Vogelbach, who physically resembled Rusty Staub before his weight loss, is now looking more like Staub at the plate than ever.  Not the Rusty who played, but the Rusty who died a few years ago.

Max Scherzer finally pitched decently to at least keep the Mets in the game enough to eventually eke out a 2-1 10 inning win, but the bullpen yet again couldn’t hold the thin lead the Mets gave a starter, and they all but imploded any chance at victories on Friday and Saturday nights despite decent efforts by both of the Mets’ other topflight starters, Justin Verlander and Kodai Senga.

So could Scherzer be trade bait to perhaps set the Mets up for a reboot, as this team is far closer to resembling the massive letdown teams following competitive seasons, such as the 1992 “Best Team Money Could Buy”, the 2009 fourth-place finishers that opened Citi Field unceremoniously, and the 2017 team that only saved face by struggling to bring back last hurrahs for Jose Reyes and David Wright, neither or whom were anywhere close to the levels of aptitude they had when they were younger and healthier?  Perhaps, if Cohen were ready to pay the majority of the $43.3 million he still owes him to a team that would take him on.  The Dodgers did just that two years ago and made it to the NLCS, giving the Nats a haul that included current starting pitcher Josiah Gray and starting catcher Keibert Ruiz.  The Mets could use some younger prospects, especially pitchers.  The Dodgers do have a bunch of them and if the Angels are hell-bent on not trading Shohei Ohtani to them, perhaps they might bite on a reunion with one or two of their younger arms that have been keeping them afloat in the competitive NL West despite a barrage of injuries to their more experienced hurlers.

But Scherzer’s own health has been a concern this year, and the Mets have far too many other flaws to deal with.  Edwin Diaz will eventually return to hopefully provide a lights-out closer, but the rest of the pen has been woefully inconsistent.  The likes of David Robertson, Brooks Raley, Drew Smith and Adam Ottavino might provide some value for teams actually in contention who could always use some help, but the return anyone smart would give the Mets for such coin flip propositions would be in the form of prospects at best.  Who would clos forthe rest this year?  Not sure it matters, as its looks more and more like those chances are becoming rarer than hen’s teeth.

So yes, Saquan and Aaron, you keep leaking your stories of discontent to the working press that remains.  They now need you as much as you need them.   Baseball, at least at the level New York fans need it to be at to care, is all but over for 2023.


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