By Ernie Palladino
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While offering the nation’s viewing audience the most fun and enthralling World Series in recent memory, the Giants and Royals also exhibited a few traits that should have the front offices of the Yanks and Mets rethinking their practices.
It was understood from the get-go that this was not a titanic World Series matchup, but rather a collision of the leagues’ fourth-best teams. It was the first series where neither participant won 90 games, and each came out of the wild-card game. For the purist who longed for the days where World Series teams at least had to capture their divisions, thus making the Fall Classic a battle of winners, 2014 proved the new-age philosophy that a pair of evenly matched also-rans could produce an entertaining series.
If those old-time thinkers still exist in our local franchises, they had best change quickly or get out. This is how today’s postseason is set up. One need not be the best, just good enough. And the Yanks and Mets are neither right now.
A look at how San Francisco and Kansas City competed should give Brian Cashman and Sandy Alderson some ideas about how to tinker with their rosters. Young and fast is the way to go. While power is and always will remain important, it is better still to have consistent contact hitters. For all the fearsomeness Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence, Buster Posey, Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez offered, four of the Series’ final five games concluded without a homer. And that one homer, by Moustakas, simply provided the meaningless final run in the Royals’ 10-0 rout in Game 6.
In fact, there were only five homers hit the entire series.
This was certainly not a series of single, walk and wait for the long ball. The alternative proved so much more effective, and more entertaining to watch. It is just what the old, creaky Yanks and the talent-poor Mets need.
Instead of collecting every 38-year-old still working, the Yanks should focus their attention on importing younger, faster talent and developing through the minors. Imagine the stir they’d cause if a fast-growing star like Joe Panik came out of their system — just as a good-looking shortstop named Derek Jeter did 20 years ago — and produced a play like that third-inning, glove-hand flip that turned a potential rally into a double play. Imagine if they had a fast, fleet outfielder like Lorenzo Cain, who ran down just about everything in the expansive Kaufman Stadium outfield. Suppose they stopped making an issue of 39-going-on-100-year-old Alex Rodriguez, left Chase Headley alone at third to excel there, and developed a younger talent who could offer hitting and defense in the style of the 28-year-old Sandoval.
The few who head out to Citi Field know the Mets need positional upgrades more than alterations to the right field dimensions. They already have Gold Glove finalist Juan Lagares, who covers massive chunks of ground in center. But they could certainly use a power-hitting outfielder who strikes out less than Curtis Granderson.
Now that Giancarlo Stanton could sign a long-term deal with the Marlins for a truckload of dough, the Mets can’t even contemplate trading for him. The Wilpons would never let their GM take on a $30 million-plus salary, anyway. But it should get that organization thinking about developing other positions besides pitcher.
Oddly, the Mets as currently constituted don’t need an arm like Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, whose performance set the standard for all future postseason pitching. They are well set with a returning Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee and Jacob deGrom. But the Yanks need another younger gunslinger to complement fellow Tommy John surgery returnee Masahiro Tanaka. The elder statesmen of that rotation are not going to get the Yanks into the postseason.
And what do you think the Yanks could do with either of those bullpens?
Power is always important. But the Giants and Royals showed that it’s not the be all and end all to winning. Speed, situational hitting, great defense — all fueled by youth — is an even better formula.
Especially in a new era where a World Series champion isn’t necessarily the best of the bunch, or even second-best.
The also-rans of 2014 should have provided the two local franchises with plenty of food for a long offseason of thought.
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