Top 10 New York MLB storylines for 2014
For all the talk of Giants and Jets, Knicks and Rangers, New York is first and foremost a baseball town. And after a harsh winter, baseball returns to the five boroughs on Monday.
The Yankees missed the playoffs for just the second time since 1995 and went on an unsurprising shopping spree, led by Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann. The Mets missed the playoffs for the seventh straight season and went on a surprising shopping spree.
Metro looks at a handful of things you’ll be talking about this season.
1. A new Hiro in town
The Yankees went out and spent big on a new ace — Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka.
At least they hope he will be an ace based on the $175 million they spent to lock him up for the next seven years.
The spring training returns were positive (2-0, 2.14 ERA), but the infamous Kei Igawa was 2-0 with a 3.13 ERA in his first spring training too. No one expects a dud, but no one will be sure until he plays real games either.
2. Niese’s health
The last thing you want after a guy missed a month and a half last year is to have him injured in spring.
But that’s exactly what happened with Jon Niese. The Mets don’t seem concerned, but it’s a fear that will last all season.
3. Anything left?
The two biggest signings for the Mets this offseason were Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon.
Granderson, even if strikes out a lot, should be dependable in the Mets’ lineup. Colon is a bigger question.
The 40-year-old had a 5.28 ERA and just four strikeouts in 15 1/3 spring innings. But he’s a veteran, who you presume was just stretching out his arm before Opening Day. He needs to replace Matt Harvey’s production.
4. One more trip around MLB
There’s very little left to to be said about Derek Jeter’s final season — and he still has 162 games left to play.
But there’s no question Jeter will be the biggest story much of the season, even if he doesn’t want it to be. He’ll be receiving accolades at each stop much like Mariano Rivera did last season. In fact, his first stop in Houston will feature cameos by Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens.
5. Tex’s health
When David Ortiz had capsule surgery on his wrist, he wasn’t himself for two years. What will be the case with Mark Teixeira?
He will be out there Opening Day, but the production will be the bigger question mark.
6. Late-season comeback
The Mets say Harvey is going to be out for the entire 2014 season. Harvey, well he’s not so sure about that. He tweeted last year — before he even began rehab — he would return before the 2014 season was out. If the Mets are doing what is in the best interest of Harvey longterm, he probably won’t pitch this season.
But good luck keeping that bulldog off the mound if he’s throwing 95 mph in September and the Mets are still in contention.
7. Turning back time
When the Yankees traded super prospect Jesus Montero for super prospect Michael Pineda following the 2011 season few people didn’t have an opinion one way or another. We knew it’d be a few years before anyone knew who had won the deal, however. Turns out, it might not be for even longer. Pineda missed all of 2012 and 2013 after undergoing major shoulder surgery. Montero has been anything but the superstar he appeared headed toward becoming in 2011.
He’s made the rotation and it’s finally time for Pineda to show if his rookie performance with Seattle can be duplicated in New York.
8. Closing time
You may have heard Mariano Rivera retired at the end of last season. (Good, thought so.) Now it’s David Robertson’s turn to step up and fill the role held down by Rivera for two decades. Robertson struggled in a brief stint in the position a couple years ago, as Rafael Soriano held it down when Rivera tore his ACL in 2012.
We know Robertson is a good pitcher, but how will he handle the pressure in those one-run games that could decide whether the Yankees make the playoffs?
9. Drew it up
How long will the Ruben Tejada experiment at shortstop last and will the Mets go out and either trade for someone or sign Stephen Drew? It’s fairly certain Tejada is not the longterm solution at shortstop for the Mets. Beyond that, very little is known. It doesn’t seem likely the Mets would pay $14 million for one year of Drew.
10. Slimmed-down CC
CC Sabathia came into Yankee camp 15 pounds lighter than last season when he had one of the worst seasons of his career. He had a 4.78 ERA in 2013 — the worst ERA of his career. But the early returns in spring training have been good. He was 3-1 with a 1.29 ERA and had 16 strikeouts in 21 innings.
If the Yankees can get Sabathia pitching like his old self, they should have one of the top rotations in baseball.
Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.