At any point prior to the MLB’s all-star break, it would have been difficult to envision both the New York Yankees and the New York Mets falling as flat as they did when postseason baseball finally rolled around.
The Yankees owned the best record in baseball and the Mets sat comfortably atop their division, which featured two very worthy challengers in the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies.
But as the postseason neared, both teams suffered an alarming drop in play.
The Mets’ once seemingly impossible-to-lose division lead became less secure every day as the defending champion Braves dangerously loomed. The Yankees no longer looked like the historically good regular season team many thought they could end up being after their first half of the season.
However, these were supposed to be just regular season problems. The MLB season is a grueling test of endurance for teams as they play 162 regular season contests. Teams are bound to have slumps, and when they do, they usually do not define their season. If anything, late season slumps can serve as much needed wake up calls before the most meaningful games begin.
The Mets had their division title ripped from them as they went winless in a decisive three-game series at the end of the season against the Braves. The perfect indicator for where the Mets season seemed to be heading was the fact that they had won over 100 games but did not have a division title to show for it.
Still, they had their first playoff berth since 2016 and an opportunity to redeem themselves in their NL Wild Card matchup against the San Diego Padres. But that redemption never came as the once magnificent Mets played staggeringly uninspiring baseball in the best of three series.
The first game saw their starter Max Scherzer, who they recently had extended to a three year $130 million contract, concede seven runs to the Padres as the Mets lost badly.
With their season on the line, the Mets responded with seven runs of their own in the next game and forced a decisive third game.
The Mets slogan for the season was “These Mets,” alluding to how this year’s team was going to be the one that delivered on the promise that previous Mets teams had failed to fulfill. As fans were ushered into the stadium for the third game, they received bright orange towels proudly proclaiming their season’s slogan, their declaration of change for a franchise that has not won a world series since 1986.
But even as fans waved their orange towels in the air, indicating a hope that this was finally going to be their year, it quickly became evident that it was not going to be.
San Diego’s starting pitcher, Joe Musgrove delivered seven scoreless innings, allowing only one hit to a previously high octane Mets offense. In the meantime, the Padres’ batters delivered an abundance of run support and the game ended 6 to 0, with “These Mets” never really seeming to have a chance.
The Yankeees’ division title earned them an automatic spot in the AL Division Series against the Cleveland Guardians, a series that the Yankees, though at times rather unconvincing in their play, managed to win.
From there, they advanced to an AL Championship Series (ALCS) matchup with the Houston Astros, who lost to Atlanta in last year’s World Series.
In the ALCS, all the reasons for concern caught up to them, as the Yankees played so poorly their home game ticket prices plummeted from $200 to $20 in between the third and fourth games. The Yankees thus fell into a historically insurmountable 0-3 series deficit.
Even Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who hit a record-setting 62 home runs in the regular season, fell into a playoff slump, hitting a measly .139 over the course of his 36 postseason at bats and only hitting two home runs while striking out 15 times.
Free agency acquisitions like Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa also struggled, and while new Yankee Anthony Rizzo did have a strong postseason, batting .276, he is widely expected to re-sign elsewhere this summer.
Both New York franchises are now left scrambling after looking like World Series contenders only a few months prior and both will have to address pressing questions.
The Mets will be forced to reckon with their extremely-high payroll and how sustainable keeping such an expensive lineup can be if it does not produce serious postseason success. Or could their owner Steve Cohen double down on his spending and bring yet another big, expensive bat to Citi Field? Jacob DeGrom’s free agency also looms large this offseason as the star pitcher is expected to opt out of his current contract.
For the Yankees, Aaron Judge is rumored to be on his way out of the Bronx this offseason. Add Judge’s potential departure to the rumblings about Rizzo and the top of the Yankees order looks to be potentially rather depleted. Yankee fans were also calling for manager Aaron Boone and general manager Hal Steinbrenner’s jobs after being swept by the Astros, but the organization has decided to retain them both for next season.
While both teams ultimately failed to deliver, both had highly impressive performances considering the length of the season. There will be some turnover, some loss and some improvement. And when the season rolls around next summer both Yankees and Mets fans will have reason for optimism, though they’d be wise to practice it cautiously.