One of the happiest holiday gifts that I can think of is optimism for future of my favorite sports franchises. As I write this, I am 39 years old and can think of only one championship between my favorite sports teams, the NY Knicks, Mets, and Jets. The championship I speak of is the 1986 NY Mets, of which I was too young to really appreciate. Since that moment I have gone through a 30 year drought of pleasant sports memories. I am quickly realizing that similar to Boston resurgance a decade ago for the Sox and Celtics, New York is on the cusp of something special.
In MLB, the Mets have had several deficiencies that I can think of over at least a 5 year period. No bullpen, no power in the lineup, and not a ton of guys that could hit for average or better. The result has been a middling roster of no scoring with top talent starting pitching that couldn't win low scoring games. Fast forward to this upcoming season, the bullpen has been addressed by adding one of the best closers in the game, in Edwin Diaz, and bringing back Jeurys Familia to be the setup. Degrom, Wheeler, and Syndegaard in my opinion are the best group of starting pitchers in the National league. Robinson Cano although 36 is still a viable option, and we're finding diamonds in the rough like Jeff McNeill that no one was counting on, not to mention the younger guys that are starting to come up from triple A to MLB this year. Lastly, add catcher Wilson Ramos who is head and shoulders better than Travis D'Arnoud who was supposed to be our catcher of the future. I add this all up, and think the Mets don't need to do anything but let the players play, and continue to develop the farm system, and the wins and loses will work themselves out.
In respect the NBA, my beloved Knicks have not been right since the end of the Patrick Ewing era with the exception of some holdovers like Allen Houston, Sprewell, and Larry Johnson in the late 90's. Although the Knicks have made it to the playoffs with guys like Stoudamire, Carmelo, Tyson Chandler, they haven't been seen as real contenders in 20 years. This year however, strangely enough, I look at this 9-25 team with more optimism than I did the Mike Woodson led Anthony/Stoudamire teams of 6 years ago. If you're a Knicks fan and you've watched the last 5 - 10 games, you have seen 19 year old Kevin Knox become a confident rookie putting in 20 point games with ease. You would have also seen 22 year old Emanuel Mudlay finally solve the debate about who the starter should be between Burke, Ntilikina, and himself. I have no doubt that next season, and for the next 10 seasons to come all the Knicks front office needs to do is keep Mudlay, Trier, Dotson, Knox, and Porzingis on this team for as long as humanly possible. Each one of those guys is a special player. If you add in the early lottery pick they get next year, the Knicks will be loaded with talent with potentially as many as 4 guys capable of avergaing 20 points per game while also being able to pass, rebound, shoot the 3 effectively, and score off the dribble. This will be the fastest rising team in the NBA, and I seriously don't even think they need to sign an aging 30+ year old veteran like Kevin Durant.
Lastly, is our collective favorite the New York Jets. Here are some subjective arguments that I'm gonna lay out as fact. Tom Brady, Ben Rothlesburger, Phillip Rivers, Joe Flacco are all on the way out within the next 2 seasons or sooner. After the 2019 season the road to the AFC title will be held by 4 quarterbacks. Patrick Mahomes in the west, Deshaun Watson in the south, Baker Mayfield in the north, and Sam Darnold in the East. Teams go as quarterbacks go, and for the next decade these will be the 4 quarterbacks ruling the AFC similar to how the Pats, Steelers, and Colts used to rule their respective divisiions. You can already see the Patriots decline, and it will be complete by next year.
The Jets will need a few pieces, namely a #1 wide receiver as this season was a blessing in uncovering Enunwa is best suited as a second wideout, and Robby Anderson as a #3 Desean Jackson type of role. The Jets will also need an improved offensive line, and a pass rusher. Luckily Henry Anderson can be re-signed, and there are multiple edge rushers becoming available in free agency (Za'Darious Smith, Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett, Dee Ford, Jadaveon Clowney, Derrick Morgan, Clay Matthews). If the Jets do not overspend trying to get a running back and focus on offensive line and edge rusher, they can easily hone in on improving the pass rush, as well as the O-line play overall. The Colts recently traded back with the Jets and picked up 2 starting offensive lineman which have helped them tremendously. The Jets currently own the #3 pick, and with the opportunity to trade back with QB needy teams in a weak draft, can potentially steal the Colts playbook from last year and draft multiple starting O-Lineman setting the stage for a decade of stability.
Overall, through this lengthy blog, there are several similarities between these three teams. All have young talent that are clearly on the way up. All have cap space, and are ready to make the splashy move in free agency. All however, should resist that urge, and make the splashiest move of all, by letting the young talent continue to play, and adding the one or two pieces that can potentially make them playoff, and championship contenders from 2020-2030 so that all of us will have something to enjoy with our children. How we all witnessed the end of the drought of New York sports, and survived until the championship years started to role in.