2001-12-22 / Sports

Ode To The A: Yankees and Mets Hit Home Runs

By Elio Velez

Ode To The A: Yankees and Mets
Hit Home Runs
By Elio Velez

Happy Holidays to each and everyone and may all of you have a safe and happy holidays. Families gather together, talk about what presents they got and chat about the good things that happened to them this year. For the Yankees and Mets, they made the holidays a very happy and successful one. Even as baseball threatens contraction and labor problems hovers about, both New York team have been extremely busy this offseason.

After last season, both teams made enough splashes with trades and signings that the rest of baseball was shocked at the moves they made. While they were busy, the rest of the league has moved at a snail pace. Many teams have been conscious this year of spending a ton of money on free agents. Free agents such as Chan Ho Park, Juan Gonzales and Johnny Damon still remain out there. And they still might remain there for a while as teams still try to budget these free agents to their teams.

The Yankees stayed true to form, as they were very active at the owners meetings in Boston. The Yankees finally got their man as Jason Giambi signed for 7 years and 120 million. It was the worst kept secret that Giambi was going to sign here. Pitching wins championships and the Yankees wasn’t done there as relief pitcher Steve Karsay was signed to a 4-year deal. He provides set up help and can save games when Mariano Rivera isn’t available. Sterling Hitchcock resigned with the team for 2 years and will become the fourth starter.

The Yankees filled up their outfield with signing injury prone Rondell White to play left and trading for John Vander Wal from the Giants. White will be interesting to see if he can stay healthy for more than 100 games. Vander Wal provides a lefty bat at Yankee Stadium and can play the outfield and DH. Adding to the trade with the Mets for Robin Ventura and the Yankees have revamped almost 1/3 of their roster from last year.

Mets GM Steve Phillips wasn’t going to let the team stand still after their disappointing 82-80 2001 season. He kept burning up his cell phone minutes until he convinced the Indians to trade Roberto Alomar to the Mets. The trade shocked everyone (including this writer) as no one expected this move to happen. Alomar is one of the greatest second basemen of our generation and one of the top 5 overall players in the game. Though the Mets traded outfield talent, the chance to acquire Alomar could elevate them to a new level.

Alomar brings speed to a team did not have any. He plays a gold glove defense and can hit third in front of Mike Piazza, who should be going gaga that he might drive in a lot of runs with Alomar setting the table. Edgardo Alonzo moving to third caused rumblings at first. Lately though, Alfonzo has accepted the move and provides gold glove caliber at third. With Ordonez, Alomar and Alfonzo, not many balls will go through the infield for hits this year.

The Mets wasn’t done as they signed pitcher David Weathers to fortify the bullpen for three years and signed Japanese pitcher Satoru Komiyama to provide long relief help and spot starting. Adding speed to the top of the batting order was Roger Cedeno, signed for 4 years and 18 million. He isn’t a good outfielder but he provides speed and wanted to come back to New York. David Justice was a Met for just one week and he was traded to Oakland for relief pitcher Mark Guthrie and a prospect.

That trade created payroll room and Trader Steve wasn’t done yet. He decided to send 2001 heroes Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Desi Relaford to San Francisco for pitcher Shawn Estes. T his is a trade that is very questionable. Estes did not have a good 2001 and has been very inconsistent in his career. He has a good curveball and changeup, left-handed and will become a free agent next year. Most players have good years in their last contract year so the Mets hope to hit lightning with Estes. The Mets aren’t done as they still look for another big bat in the outfield. It goes to prove that Steve Phillips can never be counted out to make a big deal. Juan Gonzales is still out there and Phillips may be sending false signals by telling the press he may not have money to sign him. If he does not, Phillips may use his excess pitching to bring in a left-handed bat.

What this offseason tells the fans is that both teams are committed to having an outstanding 2002 season even if there are problems that loom over baseball. George Steinbrenner has a new network and he needs stars to make people shell out their dough to pay for a new channel. Mets’ Fred Wilpon knows that this 2002 season may be the last best chance for the Mets to make it to the World Series before the team gets too old. I just can’t wait for pitchers and catchers to arrive in February. Until next time, Peace!

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