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Yankees, Mets’ sky-high expectations means there is no wait till next year

Elsewhere, all around the sporting city, we have seen — and, remarkably, have learned to savor — the fresh bloom of smart, and steady, and slow.

We have seen the Giants take some encouraging steps forward, although even in the best of times last summer and fall, nobody reasonably believed they were championship contenders, and in a harsh burst of winter reality, the Eagles proved it. And yet … that was OK.

We have seen the Knicks morph from a team that seemed destined to be a 41-41 monument to mediocrity to one that offers the promise of future prosperity, one that can play with the very best teams in the Eastern Conference (even despite some troubling late-hour regression). Nobody really believes they are a legit championship contender yet … and that’s OK.

In some sectors of New York, New York, some teams have learned that the old civic standard still applies: “Wait till next year” is a perfectly acceptable credo there.

But baseball beckons now.

And baseball … well, in 2023, baseball is different.

On one side of the Triborough Bridge sit the Yankees, who fervently believes they have closed the gap between themselves and the Astros, which means they are a reasonable selection to represent the American League in the 119th World Series.

The Post's 2023 MLB preview
NY Post composite
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“I think we have a really good team here,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said at the beginning of spring training. “And I don’t expect I’ll see anything down here that will change my mind.”

On the other side, the Mets expect to do something only two other teams in franchise history have ever done, once in 2000 and the other in 2016: go to the postseason for a second straight year. They are unanimous in their belief that the 101-win finish last year was a mere prelude to an even better ride this summer, one that ought to culminate in the National League’s berth in the 119th World Series.

“We know we have a lot of good ballplayers who know about winning games,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said a few weeks ago. “We think there’s something real here and something that can be built on.”

In theory that is always the goal, in both The Bronx and Flushing, at the start of every season. But this is one of the first times that both teams will enter a season with rosters to match their ambitions, with stars up and down, sprinkled all over both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.

“We believe we’re good enough to compete for a title,” Aaron Judge said.

“This team has a lot to prove,” Pete Alonso said, “but we have the character to do just that.”

Francisco Lindor and the Mets hope to get back to the postseason and more this season.
Corey Sipkin for NY Post

There is no wait till next year this year. The two teams combined to go 200-124 last year. That’s an awful lot of winning for one city. And that’s an awful lot of expectations that have only ratcheted up since the Padres dismissed the Mets and the Astros swept the Yankees two weeks later, leaving a bitter autumn aftertaste to a glorious spring and summer.

As Jim Croce sang many years ago: “There ain’t gonna be a next time, this time.” And as Frank Galvin once declared, in the voice of Paul Newman: “There are no other cases, THIS IS THE CASE.” Yep. Around here, across this baseball season, there is no more next time. There is only this time. There are no other seasons.

This is the season.

“I could lie to you guys and say, ‘I think we have a nice chance this year.’ But I’m not a liar.”

Pete Alonso and Buck Showalter hope to be a leading a Mets' World Series parade.
Corey Sipkin for NY Post

That was Davey Johnson early in spring training, 1986. The most famous quote from that bull session with the sportswriters came later: “I not only expect to win, but to dominate.” That last part made for a back-page Hall of Fame headline. But the first part was just as important, and just as relevant 37 years later for both teams in town.

The Yankees have to prove that they’re better than the Rays and the Blue Jays (and maybe even the upstart Orioles) in the AL East, and that would be a nice accomplishment; the bigger question is whether or not they can tame the Astros. And all of this has been somewhat compromised by the fact three-fifths of what was supposed to be a premier rotation will begin the season on the injured list.

The Mets? Sure, it would be sweet to beat out the Braves and Phillies — the NL reps in the last two World Series — for the NL East. But can they also beat the Padres or the Dodgers or the Cardinals? And how much of a blow will losing superstar closer Edwin Diaz — presumably for the year — wind up being?

And can either the Yankees or Mets take that next step, too? The final step? Can Anthony Volpe channel 1996 Derek Jeter? Can Justin Verlander channel 2022 Justin Verlander?

The Giants and the Knicks can sleep easy, swaddled in their feel-good blankets. They’ll find out soon enough what the Mets and the Yankees already know: It’s wonderful to have teams good enough to reasonably expect to visit the Canyon of Heroes.

Aaron Boone talk to new big-ticket addition Carlos Rodon.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

But once that happens?

Once that happens, you’d better get there while you can.