As my younger cousin ripped a liner through the infield at his T-ball practice on April 3, I couldn’t help but notice that spring had arrived.
Sure, technically spring arrived in mid-March, but with a calm breeze and warm air flowing through Riverside Park, spring finally seems to have arrived.
It’s not always the weather that gives that feeling either. The return of the sounds of the jubilant birds fill the air, whether its at normal times during the day or at the absurd times like coming home late at night. Other sounds like the wind through the now lively trees and the crack of a ball hitting a bat do it for me too.
As nature comes back to life, so does Major League Baseball, with a brand new season. Sure, many teams may not have high goals, but this is the one time of the year where many of those teams, the Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros to name a few, still can have the hopes of making it to the fall classic.
To that effect, the two local teams have varying views on the upcoming season.
The Mets got great news in the fact that Johan Santana, the 33-year-old southpaw with a $137.5 million contract, was able to make his first start since September 2, 2010 when he tore a capsule in his left shoulder.
If Santana is able to build on his 5 inning, two hit, five strikeout performance on April 5, the team could head down one of two paths. If Santana pitches well but the lineup, which has had injury issues of their own, falters, then Santana could be traded, he would have to accept given his full no-trade clause. If the lineup does well, Santana and the rest of the starting rotation could help the Mets be a dark horse team in 2012.
Their city-rival Yankees, however, have a much different view on the season. As always, the Yankees are World Series or bust. The Yankees had remained stagnant for most of the winter, hoping to inch closer to the goal of a $189 million payroll. However, in January, the Yankees traded superstar prospect Jesus Montero for equally dominant pitcher Michael Pineda. However, Pineda’s spring training injury might prove to be a problem.
While the Yankees surely have enough talent to get them to the postseason, one can only wonder how much longer the older guys, Jeter, Rodriguez, etc. will continue to play like some of the best players in the league and become more of a burden.
Regardless of the outcomes at the end of the season, the thrill of baseball and spring’s return surely will wake up those still stuck in the winter hibernation.
-Anthony J. Machcinski