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MLB lockdown is over, Mets and Yankees can finally return

The difficult decision that I have delayed cannot be delayed any longer. You have to buy a plane ticket, book a hotel room, book a car rental.

I’ve had a while — too long, really — to decide whether to start this spring training in Port St. Lucie with the Mets or in Tampa with the Yankees. And the fact that I ran out of time, finally, to decide is joyous. It means baseball is back.

It means owners and players have found a way to get to the finish line, late, but not so late that they’ll still lock in 162 games in a schedule that will now start on April 7 instead of March 31. That means free agency and the trading market has reopened and prepare for the most bizarre mess as spring training and high-stakes, rapid-fire, multi-times-a-day trading will happen simultaneously.

And that means I have to decide. And the fact that I have to decide is why those of us who still love the goddamn sport – even as we wonder about reciprocity – wanted it back. Why we wanted owners and players to determine acceptable minimum salaries, luxury tax thresholds and amounts paid into a new pre-arbitration bonus pool.

Because that means we’ll see Juan Soto swinging and Trea Turner running again. We see Noah Syndergaard in an Angels uniform and Corey Seager and Marcus Semien in the half-billion-dollar middlefield with the Rangers. But here in my little slice of baseball I have two competitive and exciting clubs and as a senior I have the choice of flying to the east or west coast of Florida to start.

And that is not easy. The Mets with their new additions — notably Max Scherzer and Buck Showalter — are brighter, more interesting today. But the Yankees never stop being the Yankees. And their lack of pre-lockdown movement means that essentially they will hold spring training and their version of winter meetings simultaneously. This will be their Shohei Ohtani moment, trying to excel in two different disciplines simultaneously – both making a roster while finishing most of it.

Steve Cohen, owner of the New York Mets baseball team
Expectations of Steve Cohen’s free spending ways have created a new level of luxury tax.

But don’t I want to see that first bullpen session where Scherzer lines up next to Jacob deGrom and my imagination wanders to all the possibilities the duo presents?

Won’t it be good food for the baseball brain to see how Showalter begins the multi-level process of introduction, preparation and culture building. He can no longer be silent. We’ll see how he plans to use JD Davis, Jeff McNeil and Dom Smith. And on the subject of not remaining silent, Robinson Cano has a lot to explain about why he was suspended last year.

And, by the way, it’s not like the Mets’ trade page is going to empty out with the reopening of the doors. Davis, McNeil and Smith individually or in a combo could be traded. If you haven’t heard, Steve Cohen owns the team and his co-owners are so worried about the extra money he’ll be investing on his roster that a fourth tier of the luxury tax has been created specifically for him. The Wilpons have never been more gone than when a Mets owner will have a tax named essentially for him.

So, does he add another high-risk, high-reward starter like Carlos Rodon, is it safer to debut Yusei Kikuchi, or zig yet another way? Are the Mets playing for another big stick like Kris Bryant or Kyle Schwarber or are they increasing for depth and long season?

How much better off is Francisco Lindor in 2nd grade? How do Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar and Starling Marte fit into the team? Are the Mets using the small window before Opening Day to extend Brandon Nimmo or let him play his walking year?

That question will resonate even louder 160 miles west with the Yankees and Aaron Judge. Do they do something with their best player or do they play him in free agency?

Now that Hal Steinbrenner knows the luxury tax levels and penalties – and knows that the other landlord in town doesn’t have a lock and key on his wallet – will that motivate him not only to extend the judge, but to order a full press on Carlos Correa or Freddie Freeman? Or is he going the more likely route of allowing an additional $30 million to be allocated to deepen an excellent roster. A first baseman. A shortstop. A fourth outfielder. More weapons.

It may not be Scherzer and deGrom, but it will be fun to see Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe stand side-by-side with ground players at shortstop and showcase both upcoming attractions in the future. close and why Correa is probably not going. to put on stripes.

Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa #1 is ejected
The fate of Carlos Correa’s free agency will be decided – but ending up in the scratches is a long shot.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post
New York Yankees SS Oswald Peraza on the ground in the 5th inning.
Baseball’s return means a glimpse of a key to the Yankees’ future in Oswald Peraza.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York

Is Luis Severino ready for a full season of health – and the No. 2 hit behind Gerrit Cole? Is Nestor Cortes another Aaron Small or Really Big? Are Clay Holmes and Jonathan Loaisiga as good as last year’s revelations?

Is DJ LeMahieu in good health? What about Aaron Hicks? Is Joey Gallo better acclimated to the New York experience? Hell at this point, Gary Sanchez’s last, last chance in Chapter 27 is better than union and management labor lawyers captured in still photos entering office buildings.

I will never get tired of watching Stephen Curry take 3-pointers in warm-ups or Giancarlo Stanton practice batting. The ball in the air for both is unique.

The good news for me is that I have this great job and wherever I spend my first week, I will spend my second week in the camp of the other team in New York. But I ran out of time to decide that first week because the owners and players finally decided it was time to strike a deal.

So if you have a moment, someone let my editors know I’m heading to Mets camp – with a huge smile on my face.