New York News

Season Traversing Much Different Paths for MLB Locals

Juan Soto #22, Aaron Judge #99 and Alex Verdugo #24 of the New York Yankees celebrate after defeating the Chicago White Sox 6-1 at Yankee Stadium on May 18, 2024 in New York City. (Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images) / A New York Mets fan with a bag over his head after losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field on May 29, 2024 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo: Luke Hales/Getty Images)

I feel like I write the exact same column every year around this time.

My beloved New York Mets, with whom I have so much optimism in March and April, have faded into oblivion, while the crosstown rival New York Yankees are appearing as strong as ever.

Typically right around Memorial Day, MLB teams can pretty much determine how they stack up against the rest of the league. A similar story has unfolded in New York City: The Yankees are the top team in the American League, while the Mets are the bottom-feeders of the National League.

Starting in Flushing, expectations were minimal heading into the season. Still, given the expanded playoff format, the most devout Mets fans were making a case that the team could compete for one of the National League wild card spots.

However, ugly would be an understatement for the 2024 Mets. Stars Kodai Senga, Francisco Alvarez, and J.D. Martinez all missed significant time, and most of the players are underachieving.

“I thought they would be better defensively,” said Father Ralph Edel, chaplain at St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows. “Hitting comes and goes. Relief pitching has proven to be one of the most volatile things in baseball. Based on the moves they made in the offseason, we thought this was going to be a good defensive team.”

The bullpen has also been a major cause for concern. All-Star closer Edwin Díaz got off to a solid start in his return from injury, but he’s struggled mightily over the past few weeks and is now on the injured list.

“They can’t close games,” said Father Bill Sweeney, pastor of St. Francis de Sales, Belle Harbor, who is also currently serving as administrator to St. Camillus, Rockaway Park. “I just can’t believe it.”

Francisco Lindor, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Starling Marte, and Pete Alonso are all struggling, and the with the latter set for free agency, the faithful seems indifferent to this once-hallowed slugging superstar.

“They could lose with him (Alonso) or without him,” Father Sweeney said. “They’re already talking about selling everybody at the trade deadline.”

To be a Mets fan requires an inordinate amount of hope, so with still four months to go, Father Edel is remaining optimistic.

“I’m confident that they’ll bounce back,” he said. “If we don’t turn to these human stories of sports for hope, then what are we doing?”

Over in the Bronx, the Yankees are once again going through the motions of dominating the regular season. Led by sluggers Aaron Judge and newly acquired Juan Soto, the Yanks got off to a fast start, with even the oft-injured Giancarlo Stanton producing at the plate.

Yet it’s been the team’s starting pitching that has been the best in the league. Even without reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole, the Yankees have been lights out on the mound.

Luis Gil has been outstanding, Carlos Rodón has returned to form, and Marcus Stroman, Nestor Cortes, and Clarke Schmidt have been beyond solid to round out the rotation. However, for Yankees fans, there’s always room for improvement.

“The bullpen does need some help,” said Father Chris Bethge, the diocesan vocations director and faculty member at Cathedral Prep and Seminary, Elmhurst. “I could definitely see them being active at the trade deadline for a reliever.”

With Cole and young, exciting outfielder Jasson Domínguez poised to return soon, the Yankees will only get better in the second half. Early success aside, for Yankees fans it’s always about October, and a World Series drought since 2009 has Bronx Bombers fans feeling like it’s World Series victory or bust this year.

“I think it’s World Series victory or bust every year,” said Father Bethge, spoken like a true Yankees fan.

As we head into the summer, the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer when it comes to our local pro baseball teams.

The irony here is that the Mets have the highest payroll in the game at $311 million. Truly, they’re the worst team money can buy.

For the Yankees, they’re trending upwards, yet anything short of a Fall Classic title this year would be considered insufficient.

Enjoy the rest of the season!