By Jason Keidel
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The 2015 Yankees and 2016 Mets have some odd similarities.
Both finished the regular season 87-75. Both lost their wild-card game. Both were shut out. Both lost to pitchers who tossed complete games. Both teams surrendered three runs on five hits. The ’15 Yanks totaled three hits. This year’s Mets got four.
Yet even with those surreal stats, the Yanks were more widely considered a failure, while the Mets were lauded as a scrappy gaggle of overachievers who overcame a laughably litany of injuries, particularly to their glittering pitching staff.
But if we cut through perceptions, it’s hard to deny the zero-sum reality that this is looking like a forlorn year for our sports franchises.
So as we put the postmortems on our two baseball clubs, we pray we don’t have to eulogize the Jets and Giants before the first frost coats your windshield.
The Jets are one loss this weekend — against the desperate, ornery Arizona Cardinals — from replacing their weekly whiteboard motivations with draft board analysis — which, as always, will try to unearth a franchise quarterback.
Gang Green returned largely intact, with a roster that came painfully close to going 11-5 and reaching the playoffs. Yet instead of improving their gridiron connections, Ryan Fitzpatrick has regressed to the form that made him a gridiron gypsy, playing for six different clubs over 12 years. His passer rating two weeks ago, against the Chiefs, was 18.2.
The Giants, losers of three straight, just need to beat Baltimore, at home, to at least give fans an ephemeral sense of hope. If they don’t, they will be 2-4 in a division that has become surprisingly robust and gawking upward at the resurgent Cowboys and Eagles.
Some of us thought the Giants would be somewhat reborn under a new coaching regime. But Ben McAdoo’s Big Blue is looking much like last year’s Tom Coughlin’s bunch. The electric connection between Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. has produced just one 100-yard game and one touchdown in 2016.
The Nets may have changed their name, but not their game, and haven’t won a title since they were literally in a different league, when Dr. J was soaring over ABA rims and dunking tricolored basketballs in the ’70s.
Try naming the Nets’ starting lineup in two weeks. Exactly. Other than those two enchanted years at the Meadowlands, when Jason Kidd led a fast break to consecutive NBA Finals, the Nets have been an NBA punchline.
And the Knicks are, of course, the Knicks.
For the first time in some time, they get the fan base giddy with a fresh crop of high-end players. Yet the headlines bulge with their best acquisition of the summer, Derrick Rose, fielding questions about a rape case. Strip loyalty and emotion from the algorithm — as Las Vegas always does — and the Knicks’ over/under is 38.5.
Carmelo Anthony must look at his peers – particularly LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — and wonder what the hell happened. When he landed in the Big Apple, the media and the masses — except yours truly — saw stacks of Larry O’Brien Trophies. Now Melo is an elder statesman on a team that hasn’t won since the Nixon administration.
If it’s any indication of the NYC area sports scene, WFAN’s Boomer & Carton were talking Yale soccer Wednesday morning. And rather than muse over a recent professional sports contest, they took calls from listeners barking about sausage, peppers and false sightings of Joe Benigno.
If you’re an NHL devotee, consider the morning radio drop: “Nobody cares about hockey, Boomer.”
The sports world may feel inverted. The Red Sox have leapfrogged the Yankees on the MLB totem pole. The Nationals stomped the Mets this year. Heck, the Cubs are eight wins from breaking the billy goat’s back.
If this keeps up, we may need a sports psychologist to fix our New York state of mind.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel