Last Thursday morning, a member of the Yankees posted a memo outside the team clubhouse entrance. It was titled, “Motivated Professionals Only.” It read: “By entering here, you agree to give 100 percent of what you have. There are no excuses. Everyday, every moment is an opportunity to excel, to be more, to achieve your best. Do not squander your time by going through the motions. Train hard and get results. At the end of the day, look in the mirror and ask yourself if you gave your all. If you don’t have that level of commitment, don’t waste your time or ours.”
Growing up a Yankees fan, I initially loved it. It is a motivational sign that certainly looks to set the tone as pitchers and catchers report. But it also hints at an organization that understands where they are situated not only in the landscape of baseball, but also in this city. In essence, the Yankees are now a franchise that is searching for an identity.
The Mets already have an identity in place.
For the first time since, I would say, the mid-80s, the Mets go into spring training as the superior franchise. They have the dynamic rotation and the brilliant young closer. Their line-up is deep and veteran-laden and has the transformational bat in Yoenis Cespedes and the young thumper in Michael Conforto. The Mets, as a team, know the expectations and they have embraced it.
Meanwhile, the Yankees are a team in transition. They have older players in Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira who are no longer sure things. You have serious doubts if any of the three can stay healthy the entire season. Even if they do stay healthy, you wonder if Father Time catches up with them and there is a drastic drop-off in production.
Yankees fans are excited to see some of the young prospects like Gary Sanchez, who they have been hearing about since the Yankees signed him at 16-years-old. The Yankees need a little bit of getup and go and they need to show some passion. Certainly last season fizzled as they went quietly into the night against Dallas Keuchel and the Astros in a one-game playoff. So for some, this might be a sign of change and that would be a good thing.
Certainly the spotlight has changed in this city. It is now much more focused on Queens than the Bronx. The Mets have a team with few weaknesses and a dynamic rotation. The Yankees are filled with more questions than obvious answers right now.
Just think how much times have changed for the baseball fan in this city. After all, it was just last spring when the Mets left T-shirts in their lockers down in Port St. Lucie. On the front it said: “Win: It’s In Your Grasp” and on the back it said: “Take the Damn Thing.” In 2012, the Mets wore “Underdog” T-shirts in the customary orange and blue. Those shirts were ordered by the co-owner, Jeff Wilpon, as he searched to provide some extra motivation and support.
Therein lies the rub.
The Mets don’t need the extra motivation or the search for an identity anymore. They showed it last October in their World Series run and they know they are good.
The Yankees? They’re searching for it. They certainly have some talent, but as things stand today their 2016 identity is cloaked in mystery.