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July 31, 2013

NY Baseball Future Is Brighter In Queens


As I looked at the MLB standings Sunday night, the Yankees were 5 games over .500, just 2 and 1/2 games out of a Wild Card spot. Meantime, the Mets were 10 games under .500 and 11 and 1/2 games out of the Wild Card. Despite what the numbers say, the brighter baseball future resides in Flushing, Queens.

When it comes to playoff baseball, frankly, neither team has a chance to make any noise in October. Yankees fans may be hanging on to being only 2 1/2 games back, but despite that number, to me it feels like the Yankees are already mathematically eliminated.

As of Sunday, they trailed the Red Sox by 7 and 1/2 games and were in fourth place in the AL East. The Mets are also in fourth place, and even the most delusional fan admits this season probably won't produce a run reminiscent of 1973.

Once again, the American League East has proven itself to be the strongest division in baseball. The Red Sox, expected to be in rebuilding mode, are well ahead of schedule with the best winning percentage in the league. The Orioles and Rays are built around young, talented, homegrown players who the Yankees will be battling with for years to come.

Meantime, the Yankees bats have been incredibly quiet, scoring two runs or less in 6 of their first 10 games since the All-Star break. And while pitching is supposed to be their strength, the future is questionable. At 38-years old, Hiroki Kuroda has been their ace, while C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte have been shells of their former selves. Phil Hughes has struggled and will likely leave in free agency for a more fly ball friendly ballpark.

As a team the Yankees are old and for the most part, boring. In the past, they could make a quick fix in the offseason by signing the biggest and best free agents. But that strategy to earning championships is fast becoming extinct.

Many of the best young players are locking into long-term contracts with their original teams, sacrificing salary for stability. Granted, in recent years the Yankees have put more of a premium on developing their minor league system, but it's still far behind the Rays and Red Sox, both considered top-5 in the game.

As for the Mets, it's been a long, slow, painful process, but it finally appears to be paying off. Of course everyone's aware of Matt Harvey, but Zack Wheeler continues to adjust to the majors, and there's a well-documented wealth of pitching talent quickly developing in the minors. Offensively, the Mets are still trying to figure out what they have for the future.

Is Ike Davis the 30-home run hitter of 2012, or the six-homer player of this season? Will Juan Lagares improve his offensive game to mirror the ability he has patrolling center field? Can catcher Travis D'Arnaud live up to the hype, or will he continue to be hampered by injuries?

While the Mets aren't there yet, there is a vision and a base being built by Sandy Alderson and Co. The Yankees are visionless. Over the weekend, it was reported that owner Hal Steinbrenner ordered GM Brian Cashman to finalize the Alfonso Soriano trade. Cashman reportedly didn't want to give up single-A arm Corey Black. No, he's not projected to be Matt Harvey, but Cashman understands the value, especially in baseball's current landscape, of building an organization top to bottom. Apparently, the Steinbrenners don't.

The Alfonso Soriano trade defined everything wrong with the present Yankees: dazed, confused, and still looking to win NOW. While Soriano is better than what the Yankees have in left field, he isn't part of a blueprint to make this team a contender year-in, year-out. He's an aging player who's past his prime.

While the Yankees will still likely end the season with a better record than their crosstown rivals, the buzz is quickly moving down the Harlem River toward Flushing Bay.

Pete is a lifelong Montauk resident and former sports talk host at 88.7FM WEER. He's currently a Sports Anchor at WCBS 880 and WFAN radio in NYC. He can be reached via email at peterfmundo@gmail.com.

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