Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi proved unsentimental about easing out stars. As the cryogenic Alex Rodriguez slipped into a terminal slump last season, the manager sat him. Then he sat him some more, and Rodriguez retired at midseason.
In the end, the Yankees have what every rebuilding team lusts for: two young big boppers in catcher Gary Sanchez and right fielder Aaron Judge, a promising young pitcher in Luis Severino and a bullpen fully stocked.
Sandy Alderson, the Mets’ general manager, in past seasons has made excellent pickpocket trades; he has had less success filching prospects this year. He has traded veteran talent for the baseball equivalent of scrap wood, a bunch of hard-throwing and unrefined junior relief pitchers. “Trades are easier said than done,” he told reporters recently, which was like telling the kids that dinner tonight won’t be much.
Nor has Alderson moved to revamp the Mets’ offense, which relies heavily on a somnolent formula of hard swings, home runs and not much else. This approach was on display Monday, in the Mets’ 4-2 loss. Curtis Granderson hit a rocket that fell just inside the right-field seats, and Yoenis Cespedes whacked a shot to right center that glanced off the side of the glove of a leaping Judge. That was that.
It was more of the same on Tuesday, albeit from newer faces. Dominic Smith, the Mets first baseman who was called up from Class AAA last week, hit a two-run homer, and Amed Rosario, who made his major league debut Aug. 1, added another two-run shot in the ninth as the Mets fell, 5-4.
The Mets are strikingly uncreative. They rank first in the league in home runs and 10th in runs scored. They are last in the league in stolen bases, and on rare attempts players get thrown out more than most teams. They hit the ball in the air more than the average team and yet players rarely tag up. A hit-and-run happens only by mistake; the bunt is plainly outlawed. To watch Rosario, the 21-year-old shortstop, run and glide about the infield is to wonder who let this athlete into a room filled with earthbound players.
Alderson noted last year that the Mets were old, slow and defensively challenged. Yet he sent the same bunch out this year. Then came word that the Mets had allowed their best slugger, Cespedes, and their best pitcher, Noah Syndergaard, to work out with heavy weights all winter.
Men do not get big to play well; they get big to look well. Syndergaard may have grooved on his God of Thunder pecs, but he tore a mortal muscle in his side. Cespedes has been plagued by tender hamstrings all season and has pledged to deflate this winter, Pilates perhaps replacing powerlifting.