Some Mets fans are quick to quick to write off the Yankees because they’re not relevant to the team’s day-to-day grind. After all, the teams are in separate divisions in separate leagues. Why pay any mind to what’s going on across town, right?
Well, that may be about to change.
Expansion is on the lips of MLB owners, and according to Baseball America, a consensus is starting to form that there will soon be 32 franchises, with Montreal and Portland as the cities that are the front runners for being awarded teams.
There seems to be a building consensus that baseball will soon be headed to a 32-team configuration...https://t.co/Hy8iq5ygYi— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) October 16, 2017
It’s far from reality, and before this comes to fruition, there are quite a few hurdles to clear. But BA’s Tracy Ringolsby outlined one potential expansion plan that could make the Mets and Yankees division rivals. I highly recommend clicking the link and checking out all the particulars of the plan, which include a slightly smaller regular season schedule, a guaranteed off day per week, and a new playoff format.
The biggest area of note to Mets fans is how the new divisions might be structured. Ringolsby says four, eight-team divisions could be formed – the East, North, Midwest, and West. The plan places the Mets in the Northern division with the Red Sox, Indians, Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays, the expansion Montreal franchise, and the Yankees.
I love it.
In many ways, team and division performance is cyclical. A division is tough one year (see the 2015 NL Central, with three teams with more than 97 wins) and putrid another (see the 2016 NL Central, with just one club cracking the 90-win mark), so the franchises involved can be a blessing or a curse. But being lumped in with the Yankees (and, to a lesser extent, the Red Sox) would be a blessing.
Why? Well, take 2017, for example. It’s a rebuilding year for the Yankees, right? That’s the narrative, and to an extent, it’s true. No one expected a 52-homer, 8.1 WAR season from Aaron Judge. But these upstart Bombers still had an Opening Day payroll of $201 million, second in all of baseball.
That’s not me griping. Quite the contrary. I’m envious. Part of those commitments were ill-advised deals (Jacoby Ellsbury and – even though he was lights out in Game 3 – CC Sabathia), but a lot of it is plugging proven commodities into spots that, at the time, needed an upgrade. Matt Holliday on a one-year, $13 million deal and Chase Headley to his four-year pact with an annual average of $13 million. Midseason moves to get Todd Frazier and Jaime Garcia with the remaining balances on their deals (prorated portions of the $7.4 million and $12 million in 2017 salaries, respectively. Garcia is also due $13 million next year).
If you’re in the same division as a team like that, you have to keep pace with them. You can’t write off the hypothetical Northern crown to the teams willing to spend, while you hope to catch lightning in a bottle.
Right now, the Mets are lucky. The other big money team in the division is the Nationals, who are so hamstrung by their cable TV deal that they have to offer backloaded contracts, and the Braves, Phillies, and Marlins are in separate stages of rebuilding. In that context, the Mets’ Opening Day payroll of $155 million looks respectable, until you realize they were outspent by teams like the Orioles, and have a near-identical payroll as that ::deeply sarcastic tone:: large market juggernaut, the Seattle Mariners.
I’m all for fiscal restraint. The Mets are on the other side of a rebuilding phase where the idea was to get lean before adding payroll around their young core. But when you have a glaring issue – like David Wright’s health – that could simply be addressed by taking on money as a form of an insurance policy, and you don’t? That’s where I have an issue.
Sharing a division with the Yankees could finally be the impetuous for the Mets to operate like the big market club they are, while giving the rivalry the real life juice it has lacked for a long time. If this one goes down, I’m all in.