The almost immaculate vibes of Yankees, Mets Opening Day
The Yankees are due to return to the World Series.
It is almost unfathomable that a team that reaches the postseason so consistently and annually features one of baseball’s most talented rosters could go more than a dozen years without a trip to the Fall Classic.
Half of all MLB teams (Giants, Rangers, Cardinals, Tigers, Red Sox, Royals, Mets, Cubs, Cleveland, Astros, Dodgers, Nationals, Rays, Braves, Phillies) have played in the World Series more recently than the Yankees have.
If you believe this is the Yankees’ year, Opening Day only enhanced your optimism.
The Bombers’ 5-0 win over the Giants hit all the right notes.
Aaron Judge returned from his record-breaking season by homering on his first swing.
Gerritt Cole threw six scoreless innings — the first such outing by a Yankees starter on Opening Day in two decades — while setting the team strikeout record (11) in a season opener.
Anthony Volpe’s much-anticipated debut included a walk, a stolen base and flawless defense.
Gleyber Torres went deep. The bullpen was efficient. The final pitch was thrown 2 hours and 33 minutes after the first.
The Yankees started the season by achieving what is nearly impossible: matching the expectations of baseball’s most demanding fanbase.
The Mets, on the other hand, couldn’t make it to first pitch before learning prized free-agent acquisition Justin Verlander won’t make his first scheduled start.
Hours before the Mets’ season began in Miami, the future Hall of Famer was placed on the injured list with a low grade strain of the teres major muscle (armpit).
Verlander will be reevaluated in a week and will be able to play catch before then. The 40-year-old, who was signed to a two-year, $86.6 million contract in the offseason, first experienced discomfort during his final spring training start on Sunday and didn’t want to risk suffering a worse injury early in the season.
“It’s not the way I wanted my Mets tenure to start, that is for sure,” Verlander said. “I put in a ton of work to not have things like this happen. … I’m just very thankful it’s as minor as it is, but it still doesn’t subtract from how I feel.”
Mets co-ace Max Scherzer earned the win in the team’s opener after allowing three runs over six innings in the 5-3 victory over the Marlins.
(At the same time, the Mets’ former ace, Jacob deGrom, didn’t qualify for the win in his Rangers debut, allowing five runs and six hits in 3 ⅔ innings.)
The Mets collected three runs from reigning Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara. Brandon Nimmo began earning his massive contract with a tie-breaking, two-run double in the seventh. Starling Marte and Jeff McNeil picked up two hits apiece.
And the bullpen passed its first test without Edwin Diaz, pitching three scoreless frames.
The ingredients of a title contender were evident on the field.
The pre-game news was the latest reminder of how easily those hopes can be crushed.
Today’s back page
🏀 Julius Randle’s playoff status in doubt after brutal Knicks injury update
🏒 BROOKS: How Rangers played against Devils is recipe for disaster
🏀 Another St. John’s player enters transfer portal as roster overhaul continues
📱 Join the Inside St. John’s text-message conversation to keep up with all the behind-the-scenes buzz around Rick Pitino’s Red Storm and to get your Johnnies questions answered by reporter Zach Braziller.
Two Final Fours not to miss
The Final Fours — yes, both — will be like few college basketball has ever seen.
The men’s side features three first-time participants (Miami, San Diego State, Florida Atlantic) for the first time since 1970, and none of the teams hold a top-three seed for the first time since seeding began in 1979.
Following four dominant performances, No. 4 UConn (29-8), led by Dan Hurley, enters the weekend as the favorite to win it all, but its greatest threat comes in a semifinal matchup against the offensive firepower of No. 5 Miami (29-7), led by Jim Larrañaga, 73, the only head coach left in the field who has led a team to the Final Four (2006 George Mason).
The undercard pits experienced, defensive-minded No. 5 San Diego State (31-6) against No. 9 Florida Atlantic (35-3), which could shoot its way to becoming the lowest-seeded team in NCAA Tournament history to reach the title game.
However, the women’s side — hosting its first Final Four in 38 years without UConn, Stanford or Tennessee — has the marquee matchup.
No. 1 South Carolina (36-0) is two wins from claiming back-to-back national championships, but No. 2 Iowa (30-6) — making its first appearance since 1993 — has the one person with the ability to trip up the seemingly unstoppable Gamecocks.
National Player of the Year Caitlin Clark enters off the first-ever 40-point triple-double in NCAA Tournament history with her Steph Curry-like shooting range giving the Hawkeyes hope for the massive upset.
The matchup of the sport’s most dominant team and its most exciting player has resulted in Final Four tickets for the women’s side going for more money than the men’s on secondary ticket markets.
No. 1 Virginia Tech (31-4) or No. 3 LSU (32-2) will be waiting in the title game. The Hokies are making their first Final Four appearance, while the Tigers — led by three-time national champion coach Kim Mulkey — ended the school’s 15-year Final Four drought.
Still waiting for takeoff
The Jets stand alone in sports.
This week, the Sacramento Kings clinched their first NBA playoff berth in 16 years, ending the longest drought in American pro sports.
Now the Jets’ 12-year postseason absence ranks as the longest drought among all teams in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, WNBA and MLS.
The Buffalo Sabres’ playoff-less stretch began in 2011-12. The Detroit Tigers and L.A. Angels’ MLB-worst droughts started in 2014. The Charlotte Hornets most recently reached the postseason in 2016.
With the Devils set to appear in the postseason for the first time in four years, all but one of New York/Jersey’s major teams will have participated in the playoffs in the past year.
Aaron Rodgers can’t arrive quickly enough.