Starving for a title: Yankees, not Jets, are New York’s most disappointing franchise

BY VICTOR HENSLEY, News + Record Staff
Posted 10/13/21

If you look closely, there’s something interesting happening in New York.

I know that’s an evergreen statement because it’s, well, New York.

But I’m specifically talking about the …

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Starving for a title: Yankees, not Jets, are New York’s most disappointing franchise

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If you look closely, there’s something interesting happening in New York.

I know that’s an evergreen statement because it’s, well, New York.

But I’m specifically talking about the uncharacteristic struggles of sports in New York City, one of the largest sports markets on planet earth.

Let’s set the stage.

On Oct. 5, the Yankees lost to the Boston Red Sox in the American League Wild Card Game, 6-2, forcing yet another premature ending to the Yankees’ season.

With the defeat, the streak became official: New York has now gone 10 years without a professional sports title, the longest drought since the early 1900s (1905-1921, 16 years).

For some cities, 10 years is nothing.

Think about Cleveland, which went 52 years without a major pro sports title until LeBron James and the Cavaliers won the NBA championship in 2016.

Or Toronto, which went 24 years without a championship until Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors took home the NBA title in 2018.

Or the active streaks of Minneapolis (29 years), San Diego (55 years) or Buffalo (55 years), all of which have gone decades without championship parades gracing their downtowns.

But this is New York we’re talking about. Sports are ingrained in the city’s culture — so is winning titles.

Madison Square Garden is such an iconic venue that it’s referred to as basketball’s “Mecca.”

Wearing a Yankees hat is seemingly required by law, as every resident — from 98-year-old grandmothers to 2-week-old newborns — rocks a classic navy blue cap.

Sports are so popular in New York that it’s one of two cities (Los Angeles) with at least two teams in each of America’s four major pro sports.

One team per sport just wasn’t enough. So it added more.

In total, the eight active major pro sports teams in New York have won a combined 55 championships since 1900.

But with 2021 adding yet another fruitless year to New York’s sports catalog, the Giants’ Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots in 2012 is still the last title taken home by any of them.

But it’s not just the fact that none of the teams have taken home hardware in over a decade. It’s that, for the most part, they’ve been … bad.

Since 2017, the Giants and Jets are each 19-50, both of which are tied for the worst record in the NFL over that span.

In the 2010s, the Knicks were one of the laughing stocks of the NBA, going 324-480 (40.3%) over the decade as their ownership and front office continues to make blunder after blunder.

(However, the Knicks did string together a nice year — 41-31 — this past season, led by some of its younger pieces, making the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the East before bowing out in five games to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round.)

The Nets, since moving to Brooklyn from New Jersey in 2012, have compiled a 325-393 record and, even last year, when lauded as early championship favorites after acquiring Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, they were unable to make it to the NBA Finals or even the Eastern Conference Finals, losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round.

The Rangers and Islanders have been some of the only watchable New York teams over the last decade, putting together a couple of good seasons, including a 2014 Stanley Cup Final appearance for the Rangers, who lost in five games to the Los Angeles Kings.

The Mets have been another laughable squad, cursed with poor management, up-and-down seasons and jokingly bad moments. However, they also made a World Series appearance in 2015, but came up short to the Kansas City Royals in five games.

And that brings me to the Yankees, the winningest team in all of American pro sports — and their fans will let you know it.

Everybody knows a Yankees fan in their own life, just like everybody knows at least one Dallas Cowboys fan. Their fandom — propped up by their long, illustrious history — permeates every inch of the country, whether you’re in a large metro area or a small rural town.

But as bad as the Knicks, Nets, Jets and Giants have been throughout the drought, the Yankees’ annual disappointments might take the cake for the worst aspect of New York sports.

Since 2012, the Yankees have put together an impressive 854-664 record with five seasons of 90-plus wins, including two with 100-plus wins.

They’re consistently in the conversation for the best team in Major League Baseball.

They’ve got some of the biggest names in the sport putting on pinstripes night in and night out.

They’ve had a top-three payroll in baseball in each of the last three seasons.

And yet, they have absolutely nothing to show for it.

Just two appearances in the American League Championship Series.

No World Series appearances, no World Series titles, nothing.

This season, the Yankees made moves to boost their chances of getting over the hump.

In the offseason, they signed former Cy Young-winning pitcher Corey Kluber to bolster their rotation, then added second baseman Rougned Odor, outfielder Joey Gallo and first baseman Anthony Rizzo — among others — via in-season trade.

Then, the Wild Card game happened.

The team’s moves this season are consistent with the last few years, where the Yankees have constantly added household names to their roster, no matter the cost.

Since 2017, the Yankees have added Gerrit Cole, Giancarlo Stanton, J.A. Happ, Troy Tulowitzki, Zack Britton and DJ LeMahieu, spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. That just scratches the surface.

And time-and-time again, those acquisitions have underperformed and the Yankees have ended up in the same ol’ spot: watching the World Series from home.

The Yankees’ experiment of spending an exorbitant amount of money for baseball’s top talent, though it’s worked for them in the past, has been an utter failure, while teams like the Tampa Bay Rays — who have one of the lowest payrolls in MLB with names that almost nobody, outside of hardcore baseball fans, would recognize — have played more games in the World Series (six) than the Yankees (zero) since 2012.

And while some of New York’s teams, like the Knicks and Nets, continue to improve with either rising young talent or established veterans, the Yankees continue to stay in the same, stagnant spot, acting as faux contenders with a lot of money, jersey sales and disappointed fans.

After the Yankees acquired Rizzo at the trade deadline on July 29, I tweeted the following: “The Yankees — per usual — are seeing how many big-name players they can nab before ultimately not winning the World Series. My favorite time of the year.”

It’s gotten so easy to predict, it’s like clockwork.

Mark your calendars for October 2022, because you’ll likely see the same result. It never fails.

All of this is to say that if New York’s championship drought comes to an end anytime soon, don’t count on the Yankees to be the cause.

Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at vhensley@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.

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