I was walking on 7th Avenue last week and noticed a baseball cap that had a vaguely familiar look to it. At first glance I thought it was a San Francisco Giants cap, but on closer examination, I noticed the insignia in orange: an interlocking Y and G. Aha! The Yomiuri Giants of Japan. And the guy wearing it was a New Yorker. I guess it’s tough to be a baseball fan in New York these days.
I try to read a baseball-related book every spring to get me back in the mood, and this year the choice was Mike Piazza’s new autobiography, Long Shot. What was surprising about it was how frank and refreshing it was. One of the all-time great catchers for the Mets was not afraid to dodge any issue, and seemingly didn’t pull any punches.
Sadly, the book is an unfortunate reminder of the last string of glory years for the Metropolitians, which ended ingloriously with a defeat at the hands of the Cardinals in game seven of the 2006 NLCS.
Of course, New York baseball fans could always rely on the Mets cross-river rivals, the Yankees. But to hear the Yankees’ owner Hal Steinbrenner talk, the purse-strings are going to tighten up. The Yankees will seek to stay under the salary cap, something George Steinbrenner regarded as a laughable guide that only applied to everybody else.
The younger Steinbrenner argues that having the highest payroll is no indicator of who will win the World Series, and that is true. The Yankees, for example, will be saddled with Alex Rodriguez’s gazillion-dollar salary for years to come.
But regardless of the World Series outcome, since 1995 the Yankees have always been competitive and always (save one year) made the playoffs. And they’ve made some wise investments: look at the success of C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira.
Right now the aging team is decimated by injuries. They do have pitching, so they will not be completely out of it. But this could be the first year that Yankee fans feel like underdogs.
That probably makes Mets fans feel better.
This could be a lonely October in New York. And imagine what happens after this season, when Rivera and potentially Jeter could be heading into the sunset.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Right now, everyone starts tied for first place.
And as we always say this time of year, Hope Springs Eternal!