If the best way to describe how the 2021 season unfolded for the Yankees and Mets was tedious, then the right adjective to describe the 2022 campaign for New York baseball as captivating but with a caveat.
As captivating as both teams were, the phrase unfulfilled potential can be included to describe a season where the teams combined for 200 regular-season wins, a total that was six more than the combined total in 2006 when both teams also fell short of their possibilities for various circumstances.
After a combined 123 players made at least one appearance for both teams, 113 suited up at least once for both teams, who saw a combined 5,700,944 attend their home games.
The Yankees were defined by anything related to Aaron Judge’s contract and home runs while featuring the terrific story of Nestor Cortes, the 36th-round pick turned All-Star.
The season started with Brian Cashman telling the world the details of the contract he was offered and rejected hours before Josh Donaldson hit a game-ending single to beat the Red Sox. After he homered once in his first 13 games, Judge ended April with six homers.
Six homers in the first month does not create the feelings of a record being broken. Then came May and June when Judge hit 23 homers, giving him 29 and by the All-Star break he was at 33, matching the Yankee record for homers by the break set by Maris in 1961.
Judge’s home run chase, at least the first half of it occurred as the Yankees were on their way to 64 wins in their first 92 games, drawing comparisons to the 1998 team.
The Yankees endured about six difficult weeks that were part of their trade deadline haul that saw them acquire Frankie Montas, Harrison Bader, Scott Effross, Lou Trivino and Andrew Benintendi. The haul did not have its intended impact as Bader made the best contribution by hitting five homers in the postseason.
Judge’s home run chase peaked throughout the summer as he reached 42 homers through July and got to 50 by the end of August, doing it as the Yankees saw their former 15 1/2 game lead shrink significantly amongst a series of emotional reactions.
Eventually the Yankees righted themselves enough and the home run chase hit full throttle after Judge hit No. 60 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 20. It created a three stage response to Judge at-bats of silence, anticipation and ultimately disappointment since he tied Maris in Toronto and surpassed him in Texas but it was a series of events so significant some networks interrupted early season college football for live looks.
Meanwhile at the same time, the Mets were peaking in a big way and seemed headed for their first divisional title since 2015. They took the lead in the first week, seemed to be safely on the way to securing by taking four of five from Atlanta on the first weekend of August. It still seemed safe when they took two of three from the Los Angeles Dodgers in a presumed NLCS preview that even captivated Timmy Trumpet, the recording artist of Edwin Diaz’s dynamic entrance song “Narco”.
It was not that noticeable during 2021 when Diaz pitched well but the Mets stumbled to 77 wins. During the past season, his jog to the mound and 32 saves along with his other 29 appearances were captivating performance art as Diaz posted a career-low 1.31 ERA while fanning 118 of the 235 opposing hitters in 61 appearances.
Despite Diaz’s dramatic finishes and occasional outings in the eighth inning and limited dominance from Jacob deGrom in conjunction with Max Scherzer shining when he was healthy, the Mets stumbled in September, notably when they lost two of three to Washington and were swept at home by the Cubs.
It cost them a chance at locking up the division and a disastrous weekend in Atlanta that forced them into the expanded round where the Padres allowed one run in their two wins and the season ended with a thud thanks to a combined one-hitter on Oct. 9 which prevented fans from finding if Timmy Trumpet would perform before a World Series game like the Baha Men did ahead of Game 4 in 2000, the one when Derek Jeter homered on the first pitch.
The Yankees were slightly better in the postseason, though it seemed like they were struggling to the finish line. After winning the division by six games, the Yankees batted .182 but Gerrit Cole produced two stellar outings and the offense achieved just enough to escape the Cleveland Guardians in five games played over eight days due to faulty scheduling. Despite the first-round escape there was uncertainty about the leadoff hitter, the shortstop and closer as the playoffs unfolded.
That struggle against Cleveland left little time to fully prepare for Houston and two weeks after Buck Showalter’s first season with the Mets ended quietly, the Yankees went out in four and learned what it is like to commit a costly mistake against the best team.
The mistake happened in the seventh inning on a misplay between Gleyber Torres and Isiah Kiner-Falefa for a potential force at second. Then in a moment many expected, Yordan Alvarez hit the tying single, Alex Bregman hit the go-ahead RBI single and when Judge grounded out, 2022 was a memory for the Yankees and the 13th straight time without a World Series game.
The exits created a sense of anticipation once the offseason began picking up but there was some trepidation before Judge won his gamble by re-signing for nine years, $360 million. Then the Yankees added Carlos Rodon and while they could still use a reliever and perhaps a left fielder and shortstop, their offseason is off to a decent start.
As for the Mets, they are up to $806.1 million in their offseason spending. Besides retaining Brandon Nimmo and Diaz, they hope adding Justin Verlander on a two-year, $86 million deal offsets deGrom’s departure to Texas. Verlander is part of a free agent haul that includes Kodai Senga of ghostfork fame, Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Omar Narvaez and possibly Carlos Correa if they figure out the physical issues, they are nervous about.
In the meantime, the anticipation will build and intensify once spring training begins shortly after the Super Bowl. And once the meaningful games start, both teams are hoping they will do enough to avoid an ending of unfulfillment.