It’s all falling apart spectacularly, isn’t it?
In Flushing, the Mets are immersed in baseball’s version of a slow-moving funeral procession. This one doesn’t end at a cemetery, though — it ends at a golf course in early October while 12 other less expensive teams duke it out for a title.
In the Bronx, the Yankees fell further out of grace — their only perceptible fire coming out of Aaron Boone, who most recently took on umpire Laz Diaz with the sort of desperate, theatrical rage that was part King Lear, part Sonny Corleone.
It’s bleak, it’s disappointing, it’s baffling, and, given the enormous payrolls, it’s unprecedented.
But while there’s little chance of salvaging this season, New York’s great failures can do one big thing correctly this year: They can put the ‘I’ in team. They can do right by individuals, especially their superstars. And they can put the plans in motion as soon as it’s reasonable.
The Mets should forget about trading Pete Alonso in the offseason — his power numbers, his ability to pull himself out of the worst stretch of his major-league career, and his willingness to stand in front of the cameras and take accountability have earned him a long-term spot for a franchise that could be very good in two years’ time.
He has one more year under team control, but the Mets' front office can give as good as they’ve gotten from Alonso and offer him the contract extension he’s deserved as soon as they can.
This isn’t an emotional decision, by the way: Baseball is a business and businesses are built on relationships.
Does Steve Cohen really want to alienate a homegrown star with a protracted dispute? Do the Mets really want fans to think they’re not punting on 2024, and that they plan to make a strong run in 2025? Well, then start with Alonso, who’s already No. 5 all-time for home runs as a Met with 181.
After all, the Mets are already paying around $90 million to have Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander not pitch for them next year. Technically, Cohen paid that money to get highly regarded prospects in return, but isn’t the proven guy who consistently hits around 40 home runs a year worth similarly grandiose spending?
Across the RFK Bridge, Aaron Judge has already gotten his payday, but there’s a way the Yankees can do right by him, too.
After losing two of three to the White Flag White Sox, they’re five games out of the last wild-card spot with three teams in front of them. If this trend continues, they need to seriously consider shelving Judge, who is admittedly dealing with chronic discomfort in the right big toe that kept him out of the lineup for nearly two months.
Judge previously said that surgery was an option: If that’s the case, he should be allowed to get it as soon as possible, even if it comes at the expense of a few wins in a lost season.
That’s sacrilege, I know.
We’re all supposed to sit here and pretend that it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. And sure, the Yankees still have a chance at the playoffs — a whole 8.4% probability entering Thursday, if you’re into FanGraphs projections — but at some point, it stops being about "having hope."
More losses like Wednesday’s, and what we’re actually looking at is an over-commitment to the sunk-cost fallacy: We’ve gone this far, so we might as well keep going.
That’s not going to serve the Yankees for much longer, and it’s not just because of their win-loss record.
So far, they’ve done very little to prove that they have the tools and the chutzpah to be anything different than what they’ve been. They’ve got Judge and Gerrit Cole, yes, but they also have Carlos Rodon on the IL, a perpetual need in leftfield, streaky hitters, and a rotation with more holes than a plate of rigatoni.
This season has also revealed some concerning off-the-field issues: Jimmy Cordero was suspended for violating MLB’s joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy, and it reportedly took what Brian Cashman called a “recent situation” for the team to step in and help Domingo German deal with “a very serious problem” with alcohol misuse.
There have been grumblings about how they use their analytics, and calls for Aaron Boone’s job.
None of this speaks to a championship-caliber team. All of which means that the Yankees will have to embrace a quality not often associated with this franchise: Humility.
They need the humility to make a brutal appraisal of their talent level. They need the humility to know when to fold. And they need the humility to understand when it’s time to put the individual over the team, because fighting for the team isn’t worth it anymore.
None of this is pleasant — not in Flushing, and not in the Bronx. And it’s not like Alonso and Judge are exactly having a ball, either.
But while it’s likely too late for the Yankees and Mets to emerge from the ruins of this baseball season, they can still pay back two of their remaining pillars.