By Rich Bauer
On my drive north from Pt. St. Lucie to New Jersey, the transformation from Met fan to Yankee fan hit me somewhere between Blacksburg and Harrisonburg, Virginia. The sun was gone, temperatures were in the high 40’s, golf courses had brown fairways and now all I was thinking about was the team in pinstripes over in the Bronx, the Yankees.
Let me start by saying that baseball fans in the Tri-state area this year need to show some patience with both the Yanks and Mets. Baseball seasons are marathons not sprints. The Mets are not going to win the NL East by the 4th of July and the Yankees’ young potential core will need time to develop into being everyday major leaguers.
The Bombers put up some gaudy offensive numbers in spring training with plenty of runs and home runs which were sorely missing last season. If this carries over early in the season, great, it is a huge plus, but I think pitching from Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda is the key to getting out of the gate strong and maintaining consistency. Luis Severino will have his ups and downs but let’s not judge him until he gets five starts under his belt and I wish Joe Girardi would name lefty Jordan Montgomery his fifth starter. He is an intimidating at 6’6 with good command of four pitches. Let him go, don’t shuffle him back and forth between Scranton and the big team, let him learn from the veterans.
It is going to be very interesting to see how this new batting order works out. A bit risky when you are asking two players to do something they have never done before in their careers, Gary Sanchez hitting number two and Jacoby Ellsbury in the fifth spot. I like the move, I just think you need to be careful staying committed to it just in case it turns shaky to protect Sanchez’s confidence.
Also don’t get frustrated when the big man, number 99, Aaron Judge goes 1-4 with 2 Ks for what seems like a week plus straight. Give him some time to relax and settle in. He’s not going to be Paul O’Neill overnight.
I bet most people do not know that Greg Bird was a catcher earlier in his career. I see him developing into a bit of Don Mattingly (hitting for average), some Tino Martinez (with big game home runs) with fielding like Mark Teixeira at first base. He is going to have a very long and solid career.
The guys in my mind who get little if any mulligans early in the season are Chase Headley and Brett Gardner. Headley’s poor play early in the 2016 season and Gardner’s disappearing acts last season cannot be stomached again. As veterans, they need to let their numbers do their talking or get out of the way for some very talented youngsters.
Yankee fans, let’s set some reasonable expectations this year like three to five games over .500 for each month and take one month at a time. Met fans, don’t panic when your team is not up ten games in the standings come the All Star game.
For me, it’s good to be home surrounded by more family and friends than in Florida. Hopefully, sooner than later, you will find me in the starter’s box on the first tee at Bowling Green Golf Club, in Oak Ridge, NJ.
This season we have a big decision to make. My oldest, Matt, and his lovely wife, Jenny, blessed us with our first grandchild, Samantha. She will be a year old in July and I cannot wait to take her to her first baseball game (note: she has already been to a Devils hockey game) so stay tuned throughout the season to find out if she visits Queens or the Bronx first.
Lastly thanks to the MoreSportsNow guys for picking up my spring training contract and, heads up, you will be hearing from my agent, Scott Boras, very shortly.
My promise to you all is that I will do my best to make this a baseball season to remember no matter who you root for.
photos: sportsblognewyork.com (Girardi); newyorkdailynews.com (Sanchez); bowlinggreengolf.com (Bowling Green)