Juan Soto landed the cover of Newsday's 2024 MLB preview section.

There’s always a game within a game and baseball is no exception. There are many games inside America’s pastime. Team vs. team, pitcher vs. batter, managerial strategy … they’re all waiting to be played. But the one we’re all tired of playing is the waiting game. So, welcome to Newsday's annual Baseball Preview.

We waited a long winter for another chance to see if our favorites can survive 162 games and make it to postseason, We waited and watched as teams spent almost $2.5 billion in free agency. (Wait five years and see how that total soars.)

The Yankees and Mets each waited six months to throw off the ugliness of a 2023 season that ended with a resounding thud for them both. Although determined to rebound, they both find themselves waiting. The Yankees are waiting for Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole to strengthen his sore elbow and take his place as one of the game’s best hurlers. And the Mets, too, are waiting on their ace, Kodai Senga, hoping his gimpy shoulder comes around and he can get back to the top of the rotation.

Yankees fans are waiting to see Juan Soto, who teams with Aaron Judge to give the Bombers perhaps baseball’s most potent one-two punch. Ah, but the waiting game continues to see if Judge can overcome his abdominal injury that wrecked his spring.

Mets fans are waiting to see how the team’s new era outlook, pitched by the braintrust of David Stearns and Carlos Mendoza, will different from new eras of other seasons.

There also is a collection of Long Island players waiting to prove their major league worth. And our annual installment of the “Baseball 101” tutorial takes you to the best places of the game – destinations worth waiting for – beginning with the Big Apple, with visits to Cooperstown, Mudville, the Field of Dreams and so many points in between.

So scroll down, gravitate to what interests you and dig in. 

NEW YORK METS

Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns.

Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

After years of splashy winter moves creating humongous payrolls, Mets owner Steve Cohen passed on such transactions this time around, instead trying to set up his franchise’s future by hiring new decision-makers in David Stearns as president of baseball operations and Carlos Mendoza as manager. Newsday's Tim Healey previews the Mets' 2024 season under new management.

Four Mets observations from spring

  1. A PROMISING LOOK: The Mets had a very loose camp. Maybe it was the change in leadership. Maybe it was the fewer bona fide stars in the clubhouse or the lower expectations. Whatever the reason, the Mets came off as much more relaxed than they were in the recent past, even in the context of an easygoing preseason environment. As always, let’s see if it lasts after a losing streak or two.

  2. ALONSO READY TO GO: Pete Alonso walked around like a guy entering his contract year. He always has been focused, sure, but he has looked even more so in recent weeks: serious face, gets his work in, not a lot of goofing around. He is locked in.
  3. SEVERINO MUST STAY HEALTHY: Luis Severino looked awfully good. The Mets hope he stays healthy and that this observation holds up by the time it gets printed and read. It’s easy to see why the Mets were willing to take a chance and give the former Yankees All-Star a one-year deal. Might that top-of-the-rotation ability still be in there? He is throwing hard with a sharp slider and a new-ish sinker that seems as if it will help.
  4. THE BULLPEN IS ... A STRENGTH?: Edwin Diaz is back, and so are late-inning options Adam Ottavino and Brooks Raley. If the Mets get a couple of pleasant surprises — Drew Smith taking a step forward? Jorge Lopez finding his 2022 form? Shintaro Fujinami figuring out how to throw strikes? — the Mets’ bullpen could be a monster.

Beat writer's prediction

On paper in March, the Mets look mediocre. But here is the thing about the modern baseball landscape, featuring an over-expanded playoff field: The bar is so low that being on the high end of mediocrity will get you into the late-season postseason picture, which is the stated goal of new bosses David Stearns and Carlos Mendoza. Playoffs or not, this is a bridge year for the Mets, who want to evaluate their younger major-league players while grooming the next waves. Team success would be a bonus. Record: 83-79, third in NL East

Tim Healey has covered the Mets for Newsday since 2018.

More Mets stories

Citi Field's new food options

A "What's New at Citi Field" event showcased some of what fans can expect when they see the Amazin's in 2024. Newsday's Laura Albanese reports. Credit: Ed Quinn

Who's on the call?

  • Radio: WCBS (880 AM) -- Howie Rose, Keith Raad, Pat McCarthy
  • TV: SNY/PIX11 -- Play-by-play, Gary Cohen; analysts, Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez; reporter, Steve Gelbs
  • Spanish-language radio: Audacy app/website, 92.3 FM HD2 -- Announcing team: Max Perez Jimenez, Nestor Rosario.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Juan Soto

Juan Soto Credit: AP/Charlie Neibergall

There's a new Bomber in the Bronx, and his name is Juan Soto. Can he turn the Yankees' offense around and help bring about a long postseason run before becoming a free agent? Newsday's Erik Boland preview the 2024 Yankees' season with their new bat.

Four Yankees observations from spring

  1. ROTATION DEPTH: The Yankees’ starting five — Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, Marcus Stroman, Nestor Cortes and Clarke Schmidt — was shaping up as solid to even pretty good up until the time when Cole went down with right elbow inflammation. The Yankees, who necessarily dealt away much of their organizational starting pitching depth to better their offense, still feel good about what they have remaining. Will Warren, Luis Gil, Clayton Beeter and Chase Hampton are among the prospects they’re high on, but that depth still is a question until proved otherwise.
  2. AGE: For the Yankees to have the kind of rebound season they expect, they’ll likely need rebound years from three veterans whose bodies appear to be on the decline: DJ LeMahieu (35), Anthony Rizzo (34) and Giancarlo Stanton (34). LeMahieu fouled a ball off his right foot with less than two weeks left in spring training and will start the season on the injured list. And Aaron Judge, who will turn 32 on April 26, though healthy entering the season, missed some time in spring training with an abdominal injury.
  3. REPLACING WANDY: The Yankees, going back to the Mariano Rivera years, generally have been successful in building steady and very often standout bullpens. This season shapes up as no different, and the additions of lefties Caleb Ferguson and Victor Gonzalez should help offset the loss of Wandy Peralta. But the latter showed he could handle the bright lights of New York; that cannot yet be said of Ferguson and Gonzalez.
  4. KING ME: Michael King more than looked the part after the Yankees started building him up as a starter late last season, somewhat obscuring the terrific job he did in the swingman role in the bullpen before that buildup began. The Yankees will start the season with Luke Weaver or maybe even Gil trying to fill that role.

Beat writer's prediction

Staying healthy is always priority No. 1 for teams and at least for the first two months of the season, the Yankees lost a player they can’t afford to lose in Gerrit Cole. Then DJ LeMahieu went down with a foot injury that could have him start the season on the injured list and Aaron Judge missed time in spring training with an abdominal injury. All are over the age of 30, and the Yankees have a few players in that category whom they need to have bounce-back seasons, including Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton. The roster has been significantly upgraded over last year’s, especially on offense. Juan Soto and Judge batting 2-3 all season should be something.

Record: 91-71, second in the AL East and wild-card berth

Erik Boland has covered the Yankees for Newsday since 2009.

More Yankees stories

Hello, Joe

Joe Girardi misses New York — his friends, the buzz, the fans, Yankee Stadium. And now he's back for a third time with the YES Network as a game analyst. Read more from Girardi on his return to New York in this story from Newsday's Neil Best.

The stats on Marcus Stroman's sinker

New Yankees pitcher Marcus Stroman, who grew up in Medford, has relied on his sinker through his first eight MLB seasons. Here's a statistical look at why. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr. (video), Jeffrey Basinger and Matthew Carpenter (graphics); Mark LaMonica (stats)

Who's on the call?

  • Radio: WFAN (101.9 FM/660 AM) - John Sterling, Suzyn Waldman, Justin Shackil, Emmanuel Berbari
  • TV: YES/Prime Video - Play-by-play, Michael Kay, Ryan Ruocco; analysts, David Cone, John Flaherty, Paul O’Neill, Jeff Nelson, Joe Girardi; reporter, Meredith Marakovits
  • Spanish-language radio: WADO (1280 AM) - Rickie Ricardo

WHAT'S NEW THIS SEASON?

Skippers

The Mets' Carlos Mendoza is one of eight new managers this season. The others include:

  • Angels: Ron Washington
  • Astros: Joe Espada
  • Brewers: Pat Murphy
  • Cubs: Craig Counsell
  • Giants: Bob Melvin
  • Guardians: Stephen Vogt
  • Padres: Mike Shildt

Rule changes

Pitch clock: The time between pitches with runners on base is reduced from 20 seconds to 18. With the bases empty, the pitch clock remains at 15 seconds.

Mound visits: Number per team reduced from five to four.

Pitching: A pitcher who warms up between innings from the mound must face at least one batter.

Baserunning: The runner's lane from home plate to first base is widened 18 inches to 24, to include the space between the foul line and the infield grass.

BEST PITCHERS IN THE GAME

For the Yankees, it's Gerrit Cole, whose attention to detail goes beyond himself to his pitching teammates. Just ask Ron Marinaccio, Nestor Cortes, Marcus Stroman and more about the Yankees' "co-pitching coach." Newsday's Erik Boland did just that for this story.

For the Mets, it's Kodai Senga, who for the third time in his career is the best pitcher on his team. But as Senga tells Newsday's Tim Healey in this story, "I’m just a guy who has a decent forkball."

What about the 28 other teams? This season, Newsday's Anthony Rieber delivers the best pitcher on every MLB team entering the 2024 season. That could be a starter, a closer or someone in between. 

AROUND MLB

Deals of fortune

Turns out, even billionaires have budgets. And what we learned this winter is that many teams, including the Yankees and Mets, looked more closely at the price tags during this salary cycle. Newsday's David Lennon follows the offseason money and how it will shape this season.

American League overview

Are we looking at another Texas two-step in the American League, with the Rangers and Astros battling it out for the pennant? Or might the Yankees or another team emerge? Newsday's David Lennon previews the 2024 American League as well as ranks the teams heading into Opening Day.

National League overview

And over in the National League, it's the Dodgers with all the hoopla (and payroll), but maybe the Diamondbacks can do what they did last year with half the payroll. Read Lennon's 2024 National League preview and power rankings to see.

10 things to watch for this season

  1. For a Few Dollars More: The Dodgers invested more than $1 billion in their 2024 roster, most notably with a sweep of the winter’s top two free agents: Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamato. Will this super-team actually pay off with a title?
  2. Sudden Impact: Juan Soto couldn’t have asked for a better trade for his walk year. Hitting second in a stacked Yankees’ lineup, with Aaron Judge behind him, seems like the perfect formula for a career season, and $500 million (or more) payday.
  3. Unforgiven: Will somebody ultimately sign Trevor Bauer? The 2020 AL Cy Young winner was suspended by MLB for 324 games because of sexual assault allegations, but he was never charged with a crime, and he’s now vying for a job after pitching last year in Japan.
  4. Space Cowboys: The Rangers’ all-in World Series run managed to survive a number of casualties to their big-money rotation — Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi, Max Scherzer among them. Can they be the first team to repeat as champs since the 1998-2000 Yankees?
  5. Escape from Alcatraz: The vagabond A’s appear ticketed for Las Vegas, but when will they get there? And where will they play? This is the last year on their lease at RingCentral Coliseum, with a new park on the Strip not ready until 2028. Talk about a bummer season by the Bay.
  6. Million Dollar Baby: The next generation of MLB stars is stacked with the expected debuts of Orioles shortstop Jackson Holliday, Rangers outfielder Wyatt Langford, Pirates ace-to-be Paul Skenes and Brewers outfielder Jackson Chourio, all potential Rookie of the Year candidates.
  7. The Enforcer: MLB is doubling down on their pace-saving measures, cutting the clock between pitches from 20 seconds to 18 with runners on base, reducing mound visits from five to four and also having pitchers sent to the mound to warm up between innings face at least one batter.
  8. Tightrope: Pete Alonso and Shane Bieber — both pending free agents — headline the top potential trade deadline targets should things go sideways for their respective clubs. Also on that list: closers David Bednar, Emmanuel Clase, and maybe even Edwin Diaz if the Mets go full rebuild?
  9. The Gauntlet: The Orioles and Diamondbacks will look to avoid the sophomore jinx after breakthrough seasons a year ago. Baltimore got bounced in the first round of the playoffs after winning 101 games, but traded for Corbin Burnes in February. Arizona spun an 84-win season into a long shot World Series trip, then added Eduardo Rodriguez, Eugenio Suarez, Joc Pederson and Randal Grichuk this winter.
  10. In the Line of Fire: Things could get ugly at Fenway as manager Alex Cora is entering the final year of his contract and new GM Craig Breslow continued ownership’s austerity plan of doing next-to-nothing to improve last season’s cellar-dwelling 78-win team. Maybe owner John Henry will have better luck with Premier League club, Liverpool.

Who's on the call?

ESPN (Sunday): Play-by-play, Karl Ravech; analysts, David Cone, Eduardo Perez; reporter, Buster Olney

FOX (Saturday): Play-by-play Joe Davis; analyst, John Smoltz

WARNER BROS. DISCOVERY (Tuesday): Play-by-play, Brian Anderson, Bob Costas; analysts, Ron Darling, Jeff Francoeur

APPLE TV+ (Friday): Play-by-play, Wayne Randazzo, Alex Faust; analysts, Dontrelle Willis, Ryan Spilborghs; reporters, Heidi Watney, Tricia Whitaker

HISTORY LESSONS

Baseball 101

Monument Park at the old Yankee Stadium.

Monument Park at the old Yankee Stadium. Credit: Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan

Oh, the places you'll go as a baseball fan. To Yankee Stadium, old and new, for lesson upon lesson of the game's greats. Or to Mobile, Alabama, the hometown of Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey and Satchel Paige, to name a few. Or to the Green Monster in Boston, or 41 Seaver Way. Or to Cooperstown, Camden Yards or Chavez Ravine. Or, just maybe, it's somewhere in a tributary of the Delaware River in New Jersey to dig up the mud used to rub up major-league baseballs for use in a game. Newsday's annual Baseball 101 seminar from Mark Herrmann looks at the 101 places of baseball.

(And if you're new to this feature, scroll through our archives of past installments of Baseball 101.) 

50 years ago, Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run

“I never wanted them to forget Babe Ruth. I just wanted them to remember Henry Aaron,” the legendary slugger said. But his chase of Babe Ruth's record was filled with hate mail and death threats. On the 50-year anniversary of Aaron's record-breaking home run (April 8, 1974), Bob Herzog looks back on how Aaron carried himself with stoic dignity

Headed to the Hall of Fame

Cooperstown will welcome four new members this summer in Adrian Beltre, Todd Helton, Joe Mauer (voted in by the BBWAA) and Jim Leyland (elected by the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee). Induction will be July 21.

2024 MLB PREDICTIONS

MVP

AL: Juan Soto, Yankees

NL: Mookie Betts, Dodgers

CY YOUNG AWARD

AL: Corbin Burnes, Orioles

NL: Zack Wheeler, Phillies

HOME RUN LEADER

AL: Adolis Garcia, Rangers

NL: Pete Alonso, Mets

BATTING LEADER

AL: Corey Seager, Rangers

NL: Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta

ERA LEADER

AL: Shane Bieber, Guardians

NL: Justin Steele, Cubs

STRIKEOUT LEADER

AL: Pablo Lopez, Twins

NL: Spencer Strider, Atlanta

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

AL: Jackson Holliday, Orioles

NL: Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Dodgers

COMEBACK PLAYER

AL: Anthony Rizzo, Yankees

NL: Edwin Diaz, Mets

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

AL: AJ Hinch, Tigers

NL: Craig Counsell, Cubs

GAMES THEY’LL WIN

Yankees: 92

Mets: 85

BEST OF THE BEST

Newsday's David Lennon selects his choices for the best in each league for the categories selected below:

PLAYER

AL: Corey Seager, Rangers, SS

NL: Mookie Betts, Dodgers, SS

FRANCHISE

AL: Yankees

NL: Dodgers

MANAGER

AL: Kevin Cash, Rays

NL: Rob Thomson, Phillies

GENERAL MANAGER

AL: Eric Neander, Rays

NL: Alex Anthopoulos, Atlanta

STARTING PITCHER

AL: Gerrit Cole, Yankees

NL: Zack Wheeler, Phillies

OVERALL ROTATION

AL: Mariners

NL: Atlanta

SETUP MAN

AL: Bryan Abreu, Astros

NL: A.J. Minter, Atlanta

CLOSER

AL: Josh Hader, Astros

NL: Edwin Diaz, Mets

OVERALL BULLPEN

AL: Astros

NL: Atlanta

LEADOFF HITTER

AL: Marcus Semien, Rangers

NL: Mookie Betts, Dodgers

POWER HITTER

AL: Aaron Judge, Yankees

NL: Shohei Ohtani, Dodgers

IN THE CLUTCH

AL: Corey Seager, Rangers

NL: Freddie Freeman, Dodgers

BASERUNNER

AL: Bobby Witt, Jr., Royals

NL: Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta

MOST EXCITING

AL: Julio Rodriguez, Mariners

NL: Corbin Carroll, D-backs

INFIELDER

AL: Andres Gimenez, Guardians

NL: Dansby Swanson, Cubs

INFIELD ARM

AL: Bobby Witt Jr., Royals

NL: Oneil Cruz, Pirates

OUTFIELDER

AL: Daulton Varsho, Blue Jays

NL: Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres

OUTFIELD ARM

AL: Adolis Garcia, Rangers

NL: Ronald Acuna Jr, Atlanta

CATCHER

AL: Adley Rutschman, Orioles

NL: J.T. Realmuto, Phillies

ROOKIE TO WATCH

AL: Jackson Holliday, Orioles

NL: Paul Skenes, Pirates

HOME UNIFORMS

AL: Yankees

NL: Cardinals

ROAD UNIFORMS

AL: Blue Jays

NL: Cubs

ALTERNATE UNIFORMS

AL: Athletics (kelly green)

NL: Mets (Friday black)

STADIUM

AL: Fenway Park

NL: Dodger Stadium

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