Spring Training 2018 is Underway
By: Eric Ransom
Nothing puts an end to the cold, harsh winter better than just two simple words – Spring Training.
The time of the year has arrived again to shake the rust off and begin another glorious season of baseball. For both the Mets and Yankees, the playoffs could be on the horizon – for both teams.
For the Mets, their season last year couldn’t end fast enough. After an abysmal 70-92 season full of injuries and disappointment, a breath of fresh Florida air is just what the Amazin’s need.
Putting the 2017 season behind them was paramount this past winter, and many areas of concern were addressed by the likes of General Manager Sandy Alderson. A new look Mets team, complete with a new manager, Mickey Callaway, look to instill a new culture and work ethic with the club.
New pitching coach Dave Eiland also joined the coaching staff, as well as a brand new training and medical team.
The Mets have also acquired a bevy of new players, including the likes of former Yankee 3B Todd Frazier, 1B Adrian González, and RP Anthony Swarzak, along with re-signing INF José Reyes.
Most notably, the Mets brought back RF Jay Bruce on a 3 year, $39 million deal after being traded to the Cleveland Indians last August.
Bruce, 30, had a career year last season between the Mets and Indians, posting a personal best 36 home runs and 116 RBI.
Another former Met returned to the team in free agency, that being SP Jason Vargas, who pitched briefly with the Amazin’s in 2007. His signing ensures depth and another reliable left-handed pitcher to join a talented but seemingly cursed starting rotation.
With such names as Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom and Matt Harvey, “cursed” doesn’t seem to fit the mold of these once elite Mets starters. With the six-foot-six Syndergaard sidelined for most of the season, as well as underperformance all around the pitching staff, the Mets team ERA ranked 27th in the National League last year.
Only DeGrom held his own, finishing with a career-high 15 wins and 239 strikeouts. He looks to build off of last year’s stellar season with a full cast of characters to support him this year.
The biggest question mark in the rotation (other than health, of course) is the fading Harvey, aiming to reclaim his dominance from earlier seasons. Unlike the terrific 2013 and 2015 seasons, Harvey had the worst year of his career in 2017. With his 6.70 ERA, he ranked highest among qualified starting pitchers in the MLB, and allowed a career-worst 21 home runs.
Callaway, though, has high praise for his starting pitchers. An experienced pitching coach with the Indians, he has quickly shown just how awestruck he is at their level of dominance.
“We have seven guys that can pitch in any rotation right now. I’ve never seen talent like this in one spot.”
Left-fielder Yoénis Céspedes, now ditching the golf clubs and dumbbells for yoga, aims to put his injury-plagued 2017 far behind him. His focus on stretching and conditioning his body this past offseason were in efforts to preserve his physique for the long haul of a baseball season, hoping to avoid any more costly injuries.
Finally, All-Star OF Michael Conforto will miss the first month of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, ensuring more playing time for Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo in center field, until his targeted return on May 1.
In the Bronx, the Yankees are ecstatic with their new look heading into 2018.
Led by hiring a new manager in former Yankee Aaron Boone, The World Series is on their radar – and the rest of the league knows it.
The 2017 season was to be a year of rebuilding and starting fresh – but don’t tell them that.
After finishing with a surprising 91-71 record and winning the Wild Card game against the Minnesota Twins, the Yankees shocked the baseball world. Taking on the defending American League Champion Indians, the Yankees defeated them in five games, and faced off against the Houston Astros, unfortunately losing in seven games.
New manager Boone had encouraging words regarding the lofty weight of World Series aspirations.
“We understand the expectations. Last year was great, but one of the things that stands out about being in that room right now is that each guy I’ve spoken to, that hunger is there.”
The biggest acquisition of the offseason belongs to the Bombers, who acquired National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins last December. Stanton joins AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge, creating a duo of sluggers that led the Major Leagues in home runs last year, with 59 and 52 respectively.
The Yankee’s offense is poised to be a powerhouse this season, supported by players such as Gary Sánchez, Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird.
Along with their potent lineup, The Yankees also have maintained the best relief pitching in baseball, mostly through trades during last season’s trade deadline. With closer Aroldis Chapman, pitchers like Dellin Betances, Chad Green, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle will lead the charge.
Last year’s bullpen finished with a 3.34 ERA, placing 3rd in the American League.
Starting pitcher Luis Severino enters Spring Training a much different pitcher than he was at this point last year, after finishing 3rd in the Cy Young voting with 14 wins and a 2.98 ERA. Other All-star pitchers like Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray hope to round out a rotation now led by Severino.
Veteran starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia also agreed to a contract to remain with the Yankees, signing a 1 year, $10 million dollar deal to pitch in his 18th MLB season.
Recently, the Yankees acquired INF Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks to sure their starting infield after trading Starlin Castro to the Marlins for Stanton. Drury will play third base, along with a combination of Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes at second, Gregorius at shortstop and Bird at first base.
In all, the Yankees have a team capable of capturing it’s 28th title – and at the very least – New York baseball as a whole is set to be entertaining this year.