Knicks owner James Dolan insisted he was “ambushed” by a fan who recommended he sell the team. What is the word he would use to describe an ownership that has offered fans two decades of incoherence, ingratitude and incompetence.
Dave Gettleman, the GM time forgot, misread the capability of his roster and the market, and unless he is secretly working on a documentary about how to undersell talent, then his plan is as easy to understand as Dolan.
St. John’s college basketball renaissance goodwill tour lasted about the time it takes to say Walter Berry, as the Red Storm still have not gotten beyond the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament in the past 19 seasons despite playing those games at home. The Rangers celebrated the 25th anniversary of their last title, and that just raised wonder how close are we that “1994” gets chanted like “1940” once did. Is Madison Square Garden the world’s most famous arena or famished — for winners.
Look, we can play the tough New Yorkers sticking up for the city’s sports teams, but that would be false bravado. The best of the winter lot are the Islanders, who play — actually I have no idea where they play — and the little engine that could Nets, who are led by — actually I don’t know who they are led by.
Somehow we got to St. Patrick’s Day, and Kristaps Porzingis and Odell Beckham Jr. are gone, and Bryce Harper and Manny Machado never came. Imagine if I told you that would be the case on Nov. 1.
Actually, maybe you would believe it, because our championship-starved town is now reduced to hoping ping-pong balls bounce just so and Zion Williamson becomes the latest to try to eradicate the Dolan stench. I will believe Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are working for Dolan when there are signed contracts and that the new, new, new, new, new, new Jets are not the “same old” when I stop seeing grainy film of Joe Namath holding an index finger aloft as the lone anti-buttfumble moment in their history.
So, it falls on the Mets and Yankees to provide a counter narrative about the bedraggled nature of New York sports — please no emails about how a soccer or lacrosse team is doing.
This takes particular resonance, because while we’ve been sleeping, sporting life has gotten far better for this city’s most natural rivals in Boston and Philadelphia. The Eagles are a year removed from their first Super Bowl title; the fruits of The Process are such that the 76ers have at least a puncher’s chance to emerge from the Eastern Conference, if not this year then over the next few; and the Phillies’ bonanza offseason included landing the best player available in a trade in J.T. Realmuto and guaranteeing the most lucrative contract ever for Harper (by the way, the most under-the-radar move of the offseason was Philly obtaining shortstop Jean Segura).
Boston has become championship central. Don’t blink you might have missed another parade. Things are so good in that city that the Celtics are underachieving yet entered the weekend with a .609 winning percentage, a rate the Knicks have topped once in the past two decades.
Since the Yankees wilted with a three-games-to-none lead in the 2004 ALCS, the Red Sox have won four titles to the Yanks’ one, including last year when Boston produced a franchise record 108 regular-season wins.
Boston won in a George Steinbrenner-esque way last year — blowing out payroll, raiding the farm system to complete trades, enlisting stars. That is not criticism, by the way — rings are forever.
The Yankees have been more disciplined. But that better discipline has to ultimately pay off in titles. I agreed with their decision to forego Harper and Machado and double-down on their young core while deepening a 100-win team from last season.
They have lost in the playoffs to the eventual champs in each of the past two years. They have a roster good enough to win it all. They are the best team in New York and, thus, the best hope to make folks remember where the Canyon of Heroes is.
Brett Gardner mentioned early in camp that Job 1 is winning the division for the first time since 2011, ending the Red Sox three-year reign atop the AL East and avoiding the one-and-done wild card. If you consider the decade to conclude in a Year ending in 9, the Yanks have not gone a decade without appearing in a World Series since 1910-19. They last appeared, and won, in 2009.
So the pressure is on Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone, Aaron Judge and Stanton, James Paxton and Aroldis Chapman, but that pressure is not just to win for the 2019 Yankees. There are pressures historical and regional, too.
And the Mets have obligation here as well. The Wilpons probably get cover by sharing a town with Dolan. But during their ownership — despite all the city advantages — they have won one title (none as the solo owners) and never have made the playoffs in three straight seasons.
They made an unorthodox GM hire in Brodie Van Wagenen, who at least provided a clearer mission statement than Gettleman by shunning the trend to tank and, instead, attempting to bulk up around a strong rotation.
The result, I believe, is a team that, along with the Angels and Twins, has the most potential variance in the majors. I would believe it if the Mets won 75. I would believe it if they won 90. And if they ever won 90, it would probably be because of a rotation that no opponent would want to face in the postseason. So, it is not a zero chance October could belong to Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Edwin Diaz, heck maybe even Yoenis Cespedes by then.
This city has endured another winter in which failure points us toward drafts — the Jets soon picking second, the Giants sixth and the Knicks still to be determined. Porzingis and Beckham are gone, at least in part because inadequate front offices could not create winners and happiness around them.
So we turn now to the Yankees and Mets to make the spring, summer and — yes — the fall different. Can they make it here, because most of the teams aren’t going anywhere?