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MLB: Yanks already in must-win series?

Back when printed newspapers were the main source of sports stories, the notion of “capturing the back page” was the most important thing to intra-city rivals like New York's Mets and Yankees.

Whichever team commanded the headlines of what was effectively the opening sports page meant everything. Legendary Yankee owner George Steinbrenner wanted his team to dominate so much, he would make unnecessary trades or create a Yankees rumor the day after the Mets clinched a playoff spot or had an important announcement of their own.

Today, we rely on cell phone sports apps for the bulk of our sports scores and trades. But if you think die hard sports fans and owners think more clicks and taps on Twitter or ESPN apps are just as important as the back pages… well, you’d be right.

Mets are trumping the Yankees

That is why this week’s Red Sox-Yankees series is considered a must-win series for the Yanks. It has little to do with Boston building a bigger division lead just two weeks into the season. It has everything to do with stopping the non-stop positive headlines about the team from Queens and getting some better vibes for the Bronx Bombers.

That’s not even mentioning sports radio shows, where every Yankee fan seems to be making excuses for the Yankees or questioning whether Giancarlo Stanton can’t take the pressure of the big city. That would be the Giancarlo Stanton who struck out five times in the same game- twice in the same week! Yes, that was a first.

Meanwhile, Mets’ fans are proudly crowing about their 8-1 start. Every time the Mets started so well, they ended the season with 97 or more victories. The Amazins just swept the Washington Nationals, largely considered the only challenger to the Dodgers representing the NL in the World Series.

How do the 5-5 Yankees compete with that excitement? How can they stop the bleeding? A sweep of the first-place Red Sox (8-1) would make everything right in the Yankees' world. Taking two of three would allow them to relax a bit. A few more Stanton hits would help, too.

But it’s not really that important, unless…

Every baseball fan knows there really can’t be a “must-win” scenario in April. Half the teams are still clearing snow between games. Timing is off. Rust is yet to be scraped off some players.

Real baseball begins when the temperatures are higher and the players take off their ski masks and gloves for games. By then, everyone has found their groove and the quality teams start rolling.

But in New York, Yankee fans are concerned enough to demand two of three or bust this week against the Red Sox. Anything less allows the Mets to grab the attention Yankee fans expect to be theirs. If it keeps up, new manager Aaron Boone’s name will come up along with Stanton as possible hiring mistakes.

Fans of the Mets will take every opportunity to revel in their success and the Yankees’ struggles. Knowing in the back of their minds that come July, the tide could turn for the worst, they will pile on while they can.

And back in reality…

Reality is no team is in much trouble in April. The Mets are off to a tremendous start under their new manager, Mickey Calloway. His moves have all paid off and the team believes in him. If the Mets stay healthy, there is no reason to doubt they could stay in the playoff race to the end.

The Yankees are 5-5. That is a far-cry from panic range. They are four games back with 152 to play. At worst, they will have 147 games to make up 7 on the Red Sox come Thursday. They have already experienced the first occasion where Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gabby Sanchez homer in the same game.

None of those three leads the Yanks in home runs. Didi Gregorius has four of their fourth-best 13 round-trippers. Meanwhile, with JD Martinez, the Red Sox are off to an anemic start in the power-hitting department with just three dingers in nine games. The Bombers have out-scored Boston 55-42.

Pitching is where the Yankees are faltering. Their 18th-ranked ERA of 3.94 will improve, while Boston’s fifth-best 2.69 and the Mets’ second-best 2.25 are likely to slide back toward the pack. The Yankees are fine.

And that means…

Baseball in New York and Boston is off to a fun start. All three professional baseball teams seem to be loaded for playoff runs. Every Boston-New York series will be important and as exciting as any rivalry series in the sport.

The Mets, of course, have to worry about other teams in their league. They showed they can go toe-to-toe with Washington and took two of three from another expected contender, St Louis.

It all adds up to MLB baseball at its best in the big city. Keep looking for all three teams on your sports feeds well into September.