With a few exceptions, 2018 was a year to forget for New York sports teams.
The Giants, Jets, Knicks and Nets still are bad. The Mets flopped spectacularly after a hot start. The Rangers are now rebuilding, and the Islanders watched their franchise player bolt in free agency.
Only the two Bronx residents, the Yankees and New York City FC reached the playoffs. Both fell short of expectations, however. City soccer fans also had the opportunity to watch the Harrison, New Jersey-based New York Red Bulls in the MLS playoffs.
Fortunately, only days remain in a lost Big Apple sports year, and there’s much to look forward to in 2019. Here are some of the biggest storylines on the horizon as the calendar flips:
Mets’ new direction
The appointment of former agent Brodie Van Wagenen heralded a bold new direction for the Amazin’s. Since he became the Mets general manager, the team acquired former Yankees star Robinson Cano and All-Star closer Edwin Diaz from the Seattle Mariners; brought back one-time Mets closer Jeurys Familia; and signed All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos.
The added offensive punch and bullpen boost shore up two of the team’s most glaring weaknesses from a disappointing 2018. At last, reigning NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and the rest of a standout starting rotation could have the run support their performances deserve. Or, it could backfire even more visibly than last season.
Yanks chase 28
Not to be pushed aside for the New York baseball spotlight, the Yankees remain among the top contenders in the American League. After setting a new regular-season record for team home runs and returning all the principal contributors to that mark, there’s no reason to believe otherwise.
The Bronx Bombers have yet to make the type of offseason splash fans often expect — the speculated three-team trade with the Mets and Miami Marlins involving Syndergaard and All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto never came to fruition. Star third baseman Manny Machado represents the most prized free agent target, but reports indicate the Yanks will go only so far with a contract offer.
Will it be enough to end the 10-year championship drought and win their 28th World Series crown?
NBA star search
Both the Knicks and Nets are amid youth movements, but each has the opportunity to lure stars back to the Big Apple. It’s possible that either team could ink two players to max contracts, with the right setup moves.
The loaded free-agent class should include Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker and DeMarcus Cousins. Any two of them together would instantly make the Knicks or Nets players in the East. That’s especially true of the Knicks, who are sure to re-sign restricted free agent and 2017-18 All-Star Kristaps Porzingis over the summer.
End nears for Eli
Giants coach Pat Shurmur’s vote of confidence to the contrary, Eli Manning doesn’t look like he’ll be the franchise’s starting quarterback for much longer. Even his legendary brother, Peyton, saw a sharp drop in his performance at the end of his 30s; Eli will be 38 on Jan. 3.
With Manning’s current understudies seemingly not the long-term answer, expect Big Blue to address the quarterback position early in April’s NFL Draft or in free agency — or both. Even if the two-time Super Bowl winner remains on the roster by training camp, there’s no guarantee he’ll start for the Giants again in the new year or beyond.
Storm are brewing
Decades have passed since St. John’s has produced such a strong start to the men’s basketball season. Although their non-conference slate hasn’t featured many noteworthy games, the Red Storm have taken care of business.
Defending national champion Villanova looks vulnerable, and there are no other major Big East threats in the national rankings. Johnnies junior guard Shamorie Ponds, a Brooklyn native and former Thomas Jefferson standout, remains one of the best players in the conference. This could be the year head coach Chris Mullin guides his alma mater back to the NCAA Tournament.