It is difficult to have.
But let’s play a time-travel game. Let’s transport to April 7, before the first pitch of this season was thrown.
Imagine being tasked at that moment with establishing the best-case scenarios for the New York teams entering their first Subway Series meeting on July 26.
Would it be better than reality? Would it be better than the Yankees sporting the American League’s best record and doing a Secretariat at The Belmont against what was expected to be the majors’ best division?
Would it be better than the Mets, knowing they were going to be without Jacob deGrom for at least two months, sporting the second-best record in the National League and, to date, holding off the defending-champion Braves in the NL East?
The Yankees and Mets arrive with two of the four best records in the majors and two of the best cases for a championship parade.
Yet perspective is difficult, in part because the New York clubs, by their play, have raised expectations. They have changed the calculus of possibilities. It is no longer a theory that they can win a championship. No longer a forecast. No longer a dream. Projection systems now have nearly 60 percent of a season’s worth of information and, just a sampling: Baseball Reference has the Yankees as the championship favorites and the Mets fourth. Fangraphs has the Mets third and the Yankees fifth. Baseball Prospectus has the Yankees second and the Mets fourth.
The Subway Series that begins Tuesday does not have to be oversold as a potential World Series preview. These are two of the majors’ best teams.
And yet what is that gnawing feeling? Both teams are wobbling right now. Is that just a normal downturn even in a special season? Or is it more than that? Is it possible that the best the New York teams are going to play this year already occurred in the first half? Are the Mets on the brink of reenacting the second-half swoon that opened the door last year to the Braves winning the NL East and a World Series? Are the Yankees once more staring at being very good, but not great enough to even represent the AL in a Fall Classic?
The New York clubs will face each other at Citi Field a week from the trade deadline and with both teams feeling the urgency to mend or upgrade or just motivate the current team with action. And they are just the kind of organizations — with now this 60 percent of seasonal information — to see themselves as heavyweights and go diligently after upgrades.
The Mets have already begun by acquiring Daniel Vogelbach to try to address a lack of power, in general, and a woeful designated-hitter situation in specific. It will not end there. They are still looking for another bat and a reliever or two. Remove Edwin Diaz’s 1.60 ERA, .181 batting average against and 51 percent strikeout rate and the Met bullpen has a 3.79 ERA, .231 batting average against and a 24.4 strikeout percentage. That’s fine. The Mets need better than fine.
They will also inquire about Juan Soto, but perhaps the best outcome for them is that Soto will be gone for Washington’s final nine games against the Mets, since the Nationals have enough inspired suitors to shun trading him within the division.
What the Mets can hope is that deGrom is present for those contests, which begin with three games next week in Washington. His disappearance last July coincided with the Mets’ collapse. His presence in full would go a long way to fortify the Mets to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and win the NL East for the first time since 2015.
The Yankees would have to crumble epically to not win just their second division title in a decade. But they have greater aspirations. They haven’t won a championship since 2009, which in Yankee years feels as long ago as, say, 1986.
They are in on Soto. They are in on Cincinnati ace Luis Castillo. Yankees GM Brian Cashman is usually more of a midseason augmenter than someone who goes to the top of the market. But if he looks to the Yanks’ Western doppelgänger, the Dodgers, they have shown a willingness in recent years to go for trade-deadline overkill with Manny Machado, Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. That needs to be the Yankee way now, too.
They can use at least one meaningful upgrade in each category — hitter (notably an outfielder), a starter and a reliever. The season-long loss of Swiss Army knife relievers Chad Green and Michael King have thrown a bullpen strength into something less, especially if Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Loaisiga never right themselves and/or Zack Britton doesn’t make it back well from Tommy John surgery .
The Yankees and Mets appear on each other’s radar for the first time in 2022 better situated than could have been envisioned. Yet, it feels like better is still needed from both.