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Big Apple Circus: Evaluating the current state of New York sports

(AP Photo / Brad Penner)

New York City is known as a place where passionate sports fans live. 

They are brutally honest and expect the world. They will love you if you play hard and show fight, and they will boo you mercilessly if you let up, complain, or just plain stink. 

When it comes to football, baseball, hockey and basketball, New York teams have been in the news quite a bit lately. Amid a sensitive time in New York’s sports history, I’m going to take a look at the state of each franchise. Sorry Buffalo and New Jersey, this piece is for the five boroughs only.

The World Series is about to begin, so let’s start with the aftermath of the 2021 MLB season for the Subway Series rivals.

New York Yankees

The Bronx Bombers fell short in the American League Wild Card game to the arch nemesis Boston Red Sox, and for a hot minute, it seemed as though Aaron Boone had managed his last game in pinstripes. 

That was apparently not the case, as Boone recently inked a three-year extension with a fourth-year option. This took Yankees fans by surprise, as another subpar result (in Yankee fans’ eyes) surely meant changes were coming, starting at the top. Instead, Boone will continue manning the helm for the Yanks for the foreseeable future. 

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Now, the Yankees are in an interesting spot. They need to make a big splash in free agency, and all eyes are on Carlos Correa and/or Corey Seager at the moment. That means the future is in doubt for players like Luke Voit, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Clint Frazer and the much maligned Gary Sanchez. 

All of those players (save for LeMahieu) are arbitration candidates, and the Yanks can’t sign-and-trade all of them and afford the high-priced free agents. 

One thing is for sure, Boone may still be around, but big changes are coming for the Yankees in 2022.

New York Mets

*Sighs* Where to begin…. 

The Mets got something they dreamed of last offseason, something they thought would change their team’s direction and give them endless funds and instant new cred – they got a new owner named Steve Cohen and the world was right again in Flushing. 

They even traded for Francisco Lindor and signed him to a long-term extension. 

However, things weren’t much different than before, and controversy swirled around the team on and off the field. 

Jared Porter was hired in December, and was fired a month into the job after revelations of inappropriate sexual conduct surfaced. Porter’s replacement Zack Scott was charged with drunk driving late into the season. Trying to find the team’s next general manager and president of baseball operations has proven difficult, as all of the big names they wanted to interview have either not been approved to interview, or have flat-out declined. 

On the field, you had a team who was in first place in the National League East for most of the season squandering that lead and missing the playoffs altogether. 

Jacob deGrom was looking like a Cy Young candidate before a mystery ailment, which turned into a low grade UCL sprain, shut him down for the year. Expected superstars Lindor, Michael Conforto and Dominic Smith had down years. Manager Luis Rojas has now been relieved of his duties, and the Mets have yet to hire a new manager. 

It was more of the same this year for the Mets. But, in true Mets fashion, the fans are ready for next season, where things will definitely be better…

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On to the hardwood…

New York Knicks

Wow. I never thought I’d see the day where Knicks fans were excited for the season to begin, yet here we are. 

The Knicks shocked the world by getting to the playoffs as the fourth seed last season, and even though they made a new enemy in Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young and were taken out in the first round, that gave the fans reason to be excited. 

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That energy from the postseason has carried over to the brand new season. A thrilling overtime win over the Boston Celtics was a great way to tip off the 2021-2022 campaign. 

With players like RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and the newly-signed hometown hero Kemba Walker, the Knicks won’t be happy to just make the postseason this time around; they want to win it all. Tall task for sure, but the Knicks and the team’s fans are certainly feeling good. Besides, good play means the attention is off of owner James Dolan for a brief time.

Brooklyn Nets

Kyrie Irving. Need I say more? 

The veteran superstar is not with the team for the time being until he agrees to be vaccinated, per a New York City mandate for all players on New York teams to be vaccinated to play in home games. 

It’s been a circus. Irving not being with the team at all was an organizational decision. He won’t get paid for home games, but will still be paid for away games he could theoretically play in. 

The Nets and the franchise’s fans want him to play. He’s even said he wants to play. But, until he gets vaccinated, if ever, he won’t. 

Taking Irving out of the equation, Nets fans still have a lot to be excited about. They still have Kevin Durant and James Harden. Wow. Blake Griffin and Joe Harris are still in tow, as well. 

The Nets are a playoff team with or without Irving. With Irving, however, they could potentially win it all.

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Let’s drop the puck!

New York Rangers

The 2021-2022 hockey season is also starting up, and Madison Square Garden will surely be rocking for two New York sports teams this season. 

Rangers fans may be a little frustrated right now as the team went from being young, fast and skilled to a bigger, slower but tougher crew. The idea was to have the team become grittier after they were bullied around last year. 

The team does boast elite talent, having added the number one pick in the draft recently in Alexis Lafreniere, and a few other young guys that could blossom into special players. 

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A lot needs to click for the Rangers this year, and they have the potential to do it. 

Rangers fans also love their young goalie, Igor Shesterkin. But, if this goes south, the only thing Rangers fans will have to look forward to this season is January 28, when they retire longtime goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s jersey.

New York Islanders

The Islanders are a solid group that has repeatedly knocked on the door politely, but never wound up and kicked it down. They seem to come alive in the playoffs, but haven’t won the big one. 

They have the same President/GM as the 1990s and early 2000s New Jersey Devils, and they are built like those teams. Strong, tough and play great defense. 

Their biggest bug-a-boo has been the mighty Tampa Bay Lighting, and the forecast isn’t looking any clearer. 

But, fans are excited about this team, even with the constant home arena switching. Islanders fans are ready to put on rubber gloves, sit in their cars with rubber tires, and have the Lighting be defeated. Unless that whole rubber beats lighting thing is a myth, in that case, they better beat them on the ice.

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Hut, hut, hike!

New York Giants

Let’s save the worst for last: the two New York City area football teams. 

It pains me to say how bad this Giants franchise is right now. Since the infamous Odell Beckham boat ride a few years ago, the G-Men are the worst team in the NFL. 

Giants fans have had enough of general manager Dave Gettleman. He has whiffed on far too many draft picks, with only a few that have panned out. The biggest flops being Andrew Thomas, Deandre Baker (which to his credit, who could’ve seen that coming?) and Daniel Jones. 

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Jones doesn’t seem to be the answer as the long-term franchise quarterback, and Gettleman took Jones with the sixth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. 

As for Saquon Barkley, there was controversy when Gettleman took the elite running back second overall, passing on other possible franchise quarterbacks that year and not addressing some glaring holes in the offensive line that would protect the young halfback. 

As for head coach Joe Judge, after a promising first year at the helm, regression has hit hard. The team is banged up, yes, but the coaching hasn’t been great across the board. Judge’s tough guy routine wears thin when the team underperforms. 

This franchise and its trajectory should look very different next season. Change is needed.

New York Jets

The Jets have been treated to some of the most brutal hazing over the last couple of years. A basement dwelling joke in the league, and when it rains, it pours. 

Last season, when they were on track to land Trevor Lawrence with the number one pick, they won a game they “shouldn’t” have, and handed Lawrence to the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

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They wound up with Zack Wilson, and Jets fans convinced themselves this would be the right guy. It’s too early to tell if Wilson will pan out, but the Jets fans are sitting where the Giants fans aren’t. Happy with their coach, behind their quarterback, and feel excited that this team can grow and build into a contender. 

Jets fans are ready for this team to be relevant again, and when they are, the franchise’s fan base will be in full force.

How do you feel, New York sports fans? Let us know by following @SOTSports on Twitter or by liking our Facebook page!

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