Classic Acela Rivalry Series: Mets head to the Bronx

The Mets open the first chapter of the Subway Series with the Yankees tonight at Yankee Stadium.

To preview, this weekend’s series, Michael Baron talked with Mike Axisa of both River Avenue Blues and MLB Trade Rumors to learn more about the Yankees and their up and down 2011 season:

Michael Baron, It has been a tale of two seasons so far for the Yankees – they were hot out of the gate, getting good pitching and timely hitting, but they have tailed off in the month of May in all facets of the game. Age issues have dominated the discussion about the Yankees, but what would you say their problems are the result of to this point?

Mike Axisa, River Avenue Blues: It’s a lot of things. Curtis Granderson has been carrying the offense for the most part, though Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez will chip in the occasional RBI single. Otherwise almost everyone else in the lineup is slumping. Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada haven’t hit at all and face serious questions about whether it’s just an early season slump or the ugly truth of age-related decline. Nick Swisher hasn’t hit either but I’m not too worried about him, he just turned 30 so it’s not like he’s over the hill. Robinson Cano has been good but not great, and Russell Martin is doing a fine job behind the plate. Too many bats just went cold at the same time.

To make matters worse, the pitching has been letting them down whenever the offense has done its job. They faced Jon Lester and David Price in back-to-back games this week, scored five runs in each and somehow lost both. They’re giving back runs in ugly ways, mostly having to do with defensive gaffs. Bobbles in the outfield, double plays not being turned, stuff like that. Simple fundamental mistakes. It’s all gone wrong at the same time.

Michael Baron, Despite the recent negativity which has surrounded the team, there have been a lot of positives and pleasant surprises for the Yankees so far in 2011. Which of those positives have stood out to you, and why?

Mike Axisa, River Avenue Blues: Granderson, by far. He started slowly and got hurt last season, but since revamping his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long in the middle of last August he’s been one of the best hitters in baseball. Jose Bautista is dominating headlines and rightfully so, but Granderson’s been fantastic. He’s hitting righties, lefties, fastballs, changeups, curveballs, you name it, all while playing an above-average centerfield.

Bartolo Colon has done surprisingly well, but he’s not exactly a long-term piece. Martin’s been better than expected and Brett Gardner rebounded from a terrible start, but that’s really it for the positives right now.

Michael Baron, The expectations for the Yankees are deservedly high once again in 2011. Having said that, they do have their problems, and so do you think they can live up to those expectations and be the championship contender they’re expected to be?

Mike Axisa, River Avenue Blues: Oh sure, I definitely think so. Jeter and Posada and even A-Rod are on the downside of their career, but there’s still plenty of bats to carry the team anyway. I’ve been expecting them to trade for a starting pitcher since losing out on Cliff Lee, and that will help the rotation. They have enough pieces to figure out the bullpen like they have in every other year of the Joe Girardi era. They’ve been awful of late, but that’s not their true talent level.

Thank you, Mike… and Mike.

In addition, Ted Berg of and Alex Belth from Bronx Banter Blog preview this weekend’s Subway Series:

By the way, to win tickets to the World Series or a 2012 Mets rivalry series game, check out the Acela Rivalry Series Challenge here.