By Ernie Palladino
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It’s a hard thing to say just a couple of days after the Mets blew their 10th extra-inning game of the season. And it might seem downright insane when considering Terry Collins’ club went into Friday’s game against the Tigers eight games under .500, with only an outside shot at getting to the break-even point before the season wraps.
But here it is.
If the front office doesn’t mess it up, the Mets will win a World Series before the Yankees.
It’s all about windows. The Yanks’ is closing, and not just because of the Alex Rodriguez mess. The windows around Citi Field are wide open.
As horrendously as this season has gone, the Mets are showing signs of future success beyond the golden arms of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, although those are two great places to start the argument. Harvey, of course, is quickly moving toward “best pitcher in baseball” status. Wheeler, with three wins against the first-place Braves, has shown in his short time up that he can pitch with anybody. With improved control and lower pitch counts, Wheeler’s future as the No. 2 guy behind Harvey sets up the Mets for some wonderful pitching ahead.
With Jon Niese coming around, the rotation could be solid. Add Dillon Gee, who has pitched to a 1.47 ERA in his seven starts since July 14, and the rotation is set. Of course, there’s always the possibility of the young Gee getting traded for a bat or some bullpen help. But for this purpose, let’s assume he’s returning.
Despite varying levels of success this year, they all have something in common — youth. It’s a quality the Yankees don’t have. Not on the mound with CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, the retiring Mariano Rivera or even current ace Hiroki Kuroda. And certainly not in a lineup whose best home-run hitter now is 37-year-old Alfonso Soriano, and whose 4,000-hit (Japan and MLB combined) right fielder, Ichiro Suzuki, can’t have many more solid years left.
Derek Jeter sadly has broken down before our eyes. Aged entities like Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and the likely departing Curtis Granderson will have to be replaced in the lineup by sturdier stock than Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis.
The Yankees’ window, once a Victorian bay with an ocean view, has become a keyhole looking into a back alley.
The Mets, on the other hand, are young and vital. Juan Lagares, so lightly regarded when he came up April 23, won himself the permanent job in center field in July and has 11 assists, three short of Johnny Lewis’ franchise rookie record set in 1965. He needs to hit for a better overall average and avoid downswings like his .226 August. But in time, he should turn into a reliable hitter.
Ike Davis might just have straightened himself out, as a .448 on-base percentage since his July 5 recall ranks fourth-best in the majors since then. If he indeed has, his bat will go along with the consistent swings of Daniel Murphy and the steady — and hopefully healthy — David Wright.
Josh Satin has done good things with a .303 batting average, two homers and 12 RBI in 29 starts.
Add a veteran power hitter, keep the hustle that the position players have given Collins, and in a year or two this team could make a run at the division.
For the Yanks, now under budgetary constraints, there are just too many potential openings to fill and not enough money to go on the free-agent spending sprees of old. And the farm system just isn’t yielding enough.
As crazy as it sounds, even if the Yanks catch some September fire and leap over Baltimore, Cleveland and Oakland for that second Wild Card spot, the Mets’ future looks a lot brighter now than the Yankees’.
It’s all about the windows.
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