It's only April, but wait til next year for Yankees and Mets
Wait 'til next year.
That is a distinctly New York phrase, born from the old pride-drenched angst at Ebbets Field. Now, 100 years after that Brooklyn ballpark opened, "Wait 'til next year" as a concept is making a huge comeback, only in a much different way.
During the Brooklyn Dodgers' heyday, the lament came in October, after the season was over and the club had come oh so close. In 2013, fans of the Mets and Yankees seemed to be saying the same thing before the season even began.
The feeling during spring training was that 2014 cannot come soon enough. Yankee fans were leery about their team's aging, ailing roster and were looking forward to clarity about when the next era would start. Mets fans took a look at the projected major league roster and grew anxious about another long year in a proverbial rebuilding process.
It was a weird camp, with Mets ownership vowing it will start spending more money and Yankees ownership vowing that it will not. Each team is really excited about some good players in the pipeline. Those guys just aren't here to help yet.
"I'm pretty patient. I just honestly don't even think about where I'm going to start, I just come here every day and work hard," Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud, considered the new cornerstone, said in Port St. Lucie. "I'm an optimistic guy and a realist, too."
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman also is patient, optimistic and realistic. He wasn't about to concede an inch for 2013, although he is bullish on his organization's top prospects. He noted that the Yankees' system was ranked 11th among major league clubs by a national publication.
"We were fifth last year but we had a lot of injuries. So a lot of our guys are undervalued, but you'll see. We're very confident in our system," he said. "We've been able to produce a lot of young talent to go with the older guys on a yearly basis. Yes, we had Roger Clemens and [David] Cone and all those guys, but they're mixed in with Joba [Chamberlain] and Brett Gardner, and before that Shane Spencer and Ricky Ledee, and [Chien-Ming] Wang and [Robinson] Cano."
The Yankees' problem is epitomized by Slade Heathcott, who is a passionate five-tool centerfielder but has yet to play above Class A. "I'm just trying to learn the game," he said.
For the Mets, it is a matter of learning when to promote d'Arnaud and pitching phenom Zack Wheeler.
General manager Sandy Alderson said, "I probably have more discipline than I have patience. `Patience' might be a descriptive term for the discipline we have to have about the decisions we make and the progression that we're seeing."
As for accelerating the progression, as the Mets did last year with Matt Harvey (with success), Alderson added, "You don't really ever know but you have to use your best judgment. At the same time, you have to be responsive to circumstances."
Harvey, whose locker was next to Wheeler's in camp, said it was impossible not to notice and be encouraged by the young, live arms on the field every day. "Obviously, everybody looks forward to the future but we're here to win now," Harvey said.
Now might not be the best of times in New York. Now is a time to look ahead, as Yankees top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos is doing as he makes the long trek back from Tommy John surgery.
"I'll come in here and do my therapy three days a week," he said in the clubhouse in Tampa. "It's hard therapy, but it will make me stronger."
The surgery has been successful on many arms.
"Better than before. I've heard that. I'm hoping that happens to me," Banuelos said. "I've just got to be patient, wait for the time and keep working. I'm waiting for that time, waiting for next year."