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Hartnett: Feeling blue in the Big Apple

Brian Hartnett | Wednesday, December 4, 2013

 

Frank Sinatra once crooned, “I want to be a part of it: New York, New York.”

But if you’re a New York sports fan, the New York sports scene is probably the last thing you want to be a part of this year.

To the delight of many around the nation, New York sports teams, known for their abundance, propensity for signing high-profile stars and general overrepresentation in media coverage, are collectively having their worst year in decades.

In fact, you’d have to go back to 1966, when the Jets were still in the AFL, Mickey Mantle was in the Yankees’ outfield, and the Nets, Devils and Islanders were still pipe dreams, to find the last time when New York sports were this bad, as a Wall Street Journal article from last month pointed out.

As of Nov. 26, the nine New York professional sports teams had a combined winning percentage of slightly above .410. Even worse, this dismal winning percentage doesn’t seem to include any teams that will have a legitimate shot at contending for league championships this season.

In fact, only one New York team has posted a winning record this year – the Yankees, which is appropriate given their history as undoubtedly the city’s most successful franchise. Unfortunately, the Yankees’ 85-77 mark was not enough to land them a spot in the playoffs, as the team’s strategy of signing big-name players past their prime fell apart when many of those players got injured.

If that wasn’t enough, Yankees fans had to watch their hated rival, the Red Sox, emerge from the American League East cellar to win their third World Series in the last decade. And Tuesday night, they had to roll out the welcome mat for the injury-prone Jacoby Ellsbury, who the team evidently felt was worth the third-largest contract for an outfielder in baseball history.

The 30-year-old Ellsbury might be a spring chicken compared to some of the other players the Yankees have signed, but unless he switches positions, he won’t have much of an impact on the team’s struggling starting rotation.

The Yankees’ National League counterpart, the Mets, ended the season at 74-88 to cap off their fifth consecutive losing season. The team’s future looked bright at times due to its young stars, but the shine has lost a bit of its luster now that All-Star Game starter Matt Harvey will miss next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

With two Super Bowls in the last six years, the Giants have been New York’s most successful team this century, but Big Blue has left its fans feeling blue this year, as a porous offensive line, vulnerable defense and poor decisions from quarterback Eli Manning have put the team essentially out of playoff contention.

In contrast to the other teams I mention here, the Jets have actually overachieved, although that might not be saying much considering most prognosticators projected them to win three games. This season, however, has not quelled the constant quarterback controversy in the Jets camp, as rookie Geno Smith seems to love turnovers as much as former starter Mark Sanchez did.

On the courts, the Nets and Knicks have set a new mark for underachievement. The Nets entered the season as a prime title contender, but the most expensive team in the NBA has seen most of its stars lost to injury and the rest struggle to establish team chemistry. At Madison Square Garden, Knicks’ coach Mike Woodson’s seat is hotter than a subway station in July, and star forward Carmelo Anthony recently referred to his three-win team as “the laughingstock of the league.”

Hockey will never be the king of the New York sports scene, but fans looking for a respite on the ice won’t find much to cheer about. At .500, the Rangers might be the city’s only hope for a playoff team this winter. Ilya Kovalchuk, who the Devils signed for a cool $100 million only three years ago, is now playing for SKA Saint Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League, and the Islanders, last year’s surprise team, have returned to their traditional spot at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

In short, New York sports teams have been a historical disappointment this year. And it’s probably fair to say even Sinatra would be hard-pressed to find the words to describe such a situation.

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.