New Yorkers have been called many names by people not from the state; brash, cocky, rude, but one label has been well deserved throughout history- a “championship sports town”
It might not seem that way as of late but ask the diehard fans of this great city, and they’ll tell you tales of legendary runs. The Islanders dynasty of the early 80’s, the Bronx Bombers dynasty of the late 90’s. These are times that fans in cities like Cleveland and Washington would give their first-born for.
Not much different from those aforementioned title deprived cities, New York sports fans have been craving a championship for five years (years?! Did I say that right?). You’d have to think all the way back to the 2011 New York Giants, who finished the regular season 9-7 and went on that improbable run. Before that it was the Yankees of 2009 who brought in the biggest free agents on the market and christened the new stadium.
So the question remains, who is next in line to take over the city and bring a title to the biggest market in America?
The Knicks went through a complete overhaul this offseason, landing Derrick Rose who is out to prove he can stay healthy and return to MVP form. With all that being said they are still in the mix for a mid to low playoff seed. It’s hard to imagine them making it to the Eastern Conference Finals and even if they shock the NBA universe, they’ll have the defending champion Cavaliers waiting for them. In Brooklyn, the Nets are better suited for a conversation about a 2017 top 5 draft pick than they are about playoffs so let’s cross them off the list for the near future.
The Rangers got younger this offseason saying goodbye to Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle among other notable names, but they’ll still have to overcome the bitter taste of a first round exit to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Henrik is another year older and some new pieces will look to build chemistry while finding the form that took them to deep runs in the not so distant past. Last season the Islanders erased the mantra that they couldn’t get out of the first round but some key subtractions (Kyle Okposo) and veteran additions (Andrew Ladd) will make the Barclays tenants an interesting team to look out for heading into the season. Neither local hockey team seems to entering the 2016-2017 campaign with that buzz in the air but then again, we’re only in August.
Nearly all of the nine major sports teams in the city have admitted defeat and decided it’s time to rebuild. The Yankees can now be added to that list. A series of timely losses to the lowly Tampa Bay Rays in late July gave the Yankees the confirmation they needed that it was time to ship out whatever valuable pieces they had. They turned Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Ivan Nova and Carlos Beltran into 7 of the top 100 prospects in Major League Baseball. The future looks bright but we may not see the fruits of Brian Cashman’s labor until 2018.
It may be too early to say the Mets window is closing but it’s certainly starting to get tight. In what seems like a letdown year following their World Series appearance last season, the Mets can’t seem to get their pitching and hitting on the same page at the same time. They’ve gone through their fair share of injuries like many other teams but if the season ended today they’d be out the outside looking in. With their core pitchers under contract until at least 2019, there’s still hope but with aging stars and the rest of the NL East on the rise it could be a while until we see a title in Queens.
Last but certainly not least, the two “win now” teams I feel are most suited to win a championship. They share one stadium located in another state and like the other 30 teams in the league, they share one goal. The Giants have made by far the biggest improvement of all the local teams, putting them as one of the favorites to win the division and maybe more. Olivier Vernon leads the way of incoming Giants, coming over from the Miami Dolphins and drawing comparisons to Justin Tuck with the way he disrupts the quarterback. Damon Harrison is also on the list, he won’t have to move his locker very far coming over from the Jets. His reputation as a guy that stays on the field will be key for a defense that finished last in the league in 2015. While the Giants defensive overhaul will be the biggest factor to their success, a return to form by Victor Cruz and a big role for highly touted rookie Sterling Sheppard will be the perfect compliments to third year star receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
The Jets had to wait until the first day of training camp to get their quarterback signed. After a distracting offseason, Ryan Fitzpatrick put pen to paper as the beard returned to the green and white. The Jets and their fans both feel that the missing link has been filled as we patiently wait what the trio of Fitz, Decker and Marshall will do for an encore performance. Brandon Marshall appears to be in the best shape of his career after being challenged by head coach Todd Bowles. As long as a newly paid Mo Wilkerson and a seasoned Revis can lead the charge on defense along with newcomer Darron Lee, the Jets should finally be able to challenge the juggernaut Patriots for the AFC East crown.
My short list of NY teams most likely to be next to win a championship: