By Ernie Palladino
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The longer this pre-All-Star break period progresses, the more the reality begins to sink in.
There’s a better than even chance that the 2013 baseball season in New York ends Sept. 29.
Playoff baseball? Even as 98 games remain on the Mets’ schedule, and 93 on the Yanks’, the postseason appears impossible for both clubs. Especially if you refuse to be duped by that three-game deficit the Yanks sit in behind AL East leader Boston. It only looks like they’re in shooting distance of the Red Sox. They’re actually sinking, a trend interrupted only by Sunday’s narrow, ninth-inning escape in Anaheim where even the great Mariano Rivera looked vulnerable for the second time on the road trip.
As the Yanks have proved often this season, outbursts like that five-run third, which gave CC Sabathia room enough to work into the ninth before David Robertson and Rivera nearly mucked it up, have occurred far too infrequently to be optimistic about things.
For all practical purposes, unless things on the local landscape turn around and quick, the only excitement this summer will come out of Florham Park. That’s where Mark Sanchez will battle and beat out Geno Smith for the Jets’ starting quarterback job, only to lose it after the first four games.
There’s an advantage to all that. More beach time for the fans, who will be unencumbered by such mundane things as division and wild card races.
The Mets, of course, will remain as dead as they are now. Sandy Alderson all but admitted that Saturday when he told 350 season ticket holders — the approximate number of full-time suckers who will stick with the Mets after this mess ends — that help is on its way.
IN SIX MONTHS!
That puts the organization smack into December. Subtext: Wait till next year. Lame.
Just what the general manager plans as a Christmas present for the suffering faithful is anybody’s guess, but he said he’ll have some money to throw around at that point. Seeing is believing, though.
Meanwhile, he’ll undoubtedly have a new manager. Terry Collins’ veiled criticism of the effort of a lineup that would labor to score runs against their Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas shows he may well be losing the locker room. That would be the final nail in his coffin.
So the Mets, 14 under .500 even after Kirk Nieuwenhuis walked them off Sunday with a three-run homer to beat the Cubs 4-3, have inched closer to oblivion.
The Yanks? Joe Girardi can’t do much about the injury situation that has again taken Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis out of the lineup, Tex for possibly another trip to the DL. Not that they were doing little of note before Teixeira’s wrist and Youkilis’ back acted up again. These have all the earmarks of nagging injuries. And now that once-clutch replacements such as Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells and Jayson Nix have found their level, about a Grand Canyon’s depth from where they were in May, Girardi will have to work some other kind of magic.
What that entails is anybody’s guess.
Uncertainty about productivity surrounds Derek Jeter, who won’t be back until after midseason. And then there’s the whole Alex Rodriguez Biogenesis mess as well as that aging, surgically-repaired hip.
Meanwhile, Ichiro Suzuki saves runs in right field and busts it to get to third with none out, only to see it go to waste as the rest of his team flails at pitches well out of the strike zone and turns every pitcher into Cy Young with men in scoring position.
Even with Sunday’s win, the Mets have lost 10 of 13, the Yankees snapped a five-game losing streak. Taken as isolated slumps, neither would torpedo a season. But they have trends, and that is too much to overlook at this point.
The Yanks were the only hope before, so much so that Girardi was being talked about as Manager of the Year. That talk has waned, however. Now, he’s just trying to keep his team in contention — presently a half-game behind the second wild card spot — with an inconsistent patchwork.
There’s still plenty of time to turn it around. But the evidence leans more toward the negative.
Playoffs? Not this year.
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