On the diamond, every spring brings a new beginning

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One distraction we’ll all be happy to do without is the never-ending A-Rod saga. Alex Rodriguez, having withdrawn his appeal of a season-long suspension for his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs, will sit out 2014. Now the Yankees can move forward, with the focus shifting to much less controversial players, like Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. Sure, there are question marks in the Yankees’ infield, but Rodriguez’s absence will be a unique case of addition by subtraction.

Two notable Yankees headed elsewhere this spring, thanks to free agency. Robinson Cano cashed in with the Seattle Mariners, while Curtis Granderson signed with, yup, the Mets. Now there’s a New York story that can happen only in baseball: A star ends one tenure with the team that’s always expected to be the contender, and begins another, across town, with the perennial rebuilder. Have the Mets found the leader they need, along with David Wright, to take them to the playoffs?

Another beginning the Mets were hoping to see blossom this spring was the career of Matt Harvey, but that was put on hold when Harvey needed Tommy John surgery. He’s begun throwing at the Mets’ complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., as he looks ahead to 2015. In the meantime, all eyes will be on the Mets’ young guns — Zack Wheeler, Travis D’Arnaud, Noah Syndergard and Rafael Montero — to see if they can turn the eternal promise of April into a sizzling-hot summer.

The spring refrain in the baseball-mad metropolitan area remains the same: The Yankees could be a championship-caliber team, and the Mets — well, let’s just say that if they’re leading the National League East in July, that will be a pleasant surprise. The only thing we know for sure is the sweetest thing about both spring and baseball: everything comes up new, fresh and green — think outfield grass — and on Opening Day, everyone is tied for first.

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