Matan Marder Friedgood, Grade 11, Staff Writer
Spring is here, and with that comes the start of the baseball season, the second half of the basketball season, the football off-season, and hockey. March Madness has passed, but there is still much to look forward to in the world of sports. Needless to say, it is an exciting time to be a New York sports fan.
For the first time since the turn of the century, both the Yankees and Mets have fans expecting them to be successful (90+ wins) this year. With a limited number of fans returning to the stands, both teams are vying for a winning April. While the Yankees have, individually, some of the best players in baseball, injury has hurt their chances in past years. Should they stay healthy, they are poised to take the American League East division. The Mets, under new ownership this season, need to prove their worth based on their offseason hype. With lots of new, upgraded pieces, their second-year manager must learn how to run his clubhouse and build a winning team with a winning attitude.
Concerning the rest of Major League Baseball, two players to watch are pitcher Trevor Bauer of the Dodgers, the National League Cy Young winner, and rookie outfielder Randy Arozarena of the Tampa Bay Rays, who recorded the most home runs in the postseason last year. A 162 game baseball season will have its ups and downs, but the New York teams should end up looking solid.
Although the NBA season is shortened this year, the excitement has not been diminished for New York sports fans. The Brooklyn Nets are full of superstars and have All-Star or former All-Star caliber players on the bench. They have become the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, at first place above the 76ers and Bucks. By the playoffs, the “big three” of James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant should be back and healthy, and that is a scary thought for a postseason series. On the other hand, the Knicks are in a hotly contested fight for the bottom of the playoffs, but with the young core of players including Julius Randle, Obi Toppin, and R.J. Barrett, the organization is developing well. They fight hard and manage to stay in games among their most threatening opponents, and it makes for an exciting watch. In the final stretch, each game means something bigger for these players than the others, and they play like it. A Nets-Knicks postseason matchup would have the city going wild, and as of now, it is a real possibility.
The pigskin has not been good to New York in a while, and the Jets are still trying to transition from a terrible to a mediocre team. With a new head coach, and the number two pick in the draft, is a new era dawning in Jets football? Only time can tell, but one thing for sure is that Darnold will not be the quarterback in this new era. He will most likely be replaced by Zach Wilson out of BYU. The Giants had a less mentioned offseason but did fill in certain missing pieces. While they may be sticking with Daniel Jones as their slinger, they upgraded the offense and defense around him, hoping for more successes in 2021 than the 2020 season. This might be the year for one or both of the teams, but it is unlikely.
Few in fan number but strong in spirit, the Islanders are a good hockey team. Sitting atop the eastern division, they are battling mainly Washington and Pittsburgh for the top spot. They are likely buyers around the trade deadline and are set to improve some holes, especially with Anders Lee gone. The Rangers are better now that Artemi Panarin has returned from a political fight in Russia. Do they have enough in them to make a playoff push? No, but one can hope, and some recent lopsided victories have bolstered fans’ excitement.
If a distraction from the world is something you are seeking, this season of New York sports can provide. The Mets, Knicks, Giants, and Jets have to prove themselves as real teams, and the Yankees, Nets, and Islanders have to not screw up the good things they have going. Seasons can flip on a dime, but it is finally reasonable to expect good things out of New York teams this year.