By Zach Gewelb
While the Yankees are still looking for ways to improve their team and overtake the Boston Red Sox as the class of the American League, they have proven to be the only high profile New York City sports team worth watching in 2018.
The Mets may be the runner-up in New York sports, which is saying something considering their 77-85 season. But they fared better than New York’s other sports teams.
In the NFL, the New York Jets sit at 3-7, while the Giants improved to 2-7 after defeating the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. In the NBA, the Knicks and Nets sit at a paltry 4-10 and 6-8, respectively. On the ice, the Rangers have played to 9-7-2 record, while the Islanders are two points behind at 8-6-2.
The Yankees were the only New York City-based sports team in the “big four” major leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) to make the playoffs in 2017 and 2018 and have set the standard for success in the market.
The troubling thing is, none of the other teams seem close to reaching the same level as success as the Bronx Bombers. The Jets are breaking in a rookie quarterback and seem poised to bring in a new coach and general manager at the end of the 2018-19 campaign, while the Giants must find a successor to longtime QB Eli Manning.
The Knicks and Nets are still trying to build up their talent base and while both squads have young players with potential to improve, neither is ready to become even a playoff contender.
The Rangers are amidst a total revamp and the Islanders are starting one of their own as they look to replace franchise icon John Tavares, who fled to Toronto in free agency.
Meanwhile, the Yankees have done what few pro teams have been able to accomplish: rebuild the team on the fly while still competing. The Yankees traded off key pieces during the 2016 season, selling off key veterans to replenish their farm system. General Manager Brian Cashman did this while keeping the ballpark packed and the big league club above .500.
Now, the Yankees have one of the most exciting teams in baseball, boasting a roster filled with young stars — Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres — and veteran leaders like Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia.
All New York teams should strive to be more like the Yankees. These days, every front office across all major sports is smart. And while not every team has the resources like the Yankees have, every New York team except the Mets has a salary cap that keeps spending across their respective leagues in line.
With a cap on how much to spend, there’s no reason why New York teams should not allocate their cap space to field competitive teams. Free agency and trades aren’t the only answer, though. Those two avenues should be the second plan of action — a means to support strong player development systems. That is where the Yankees have their advantage.
The Bronx Bombers have one of the best player development systems in all of baseball. And while there are no minor leagues in football, the NHL and NBA both have developmental leagues that the New York teams should take full advantage of.
It’s not like they have to look that far to see other examples of success: the nearby Buffalo Bills and New Jersey Devils made the playoffs last season after long dry spells, while the Buffalo Sabres have better records than the Rangers and Islanders and both local Major League Soccer teams (New York Red Bulls and New York City FC) have made the post-season each of the past three years.
The state of New York City’s major sports, however, is abysmal. Only one team in the “big four” leagues is close to winning a title. It’s time for that to change. New York sports teams must do a better job representing the place we call home. Enough is enough.
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe