(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
The year, with a Super Bowl Champion team under scrutiny because of a scandal known as “Deflategate” and quarterback Tom Brady was a highlight of 2015. There was the first year of an NCAA college playoff that will eventually expand, and new rules in the NFL with safety issues and more conscious about hits to the head and the concussion.
Serena Williams came up short for a tennis Grand Slam at the U.S. Open, and a horse named American Pharoah took the Triple Crown that ended a drought of 30-years at the Belmont. Stephen Curry emerged as did the Golden State Warriors in the NBA with a championship, and fantasy sports became a question of gambling or leisure?
The Kansas City Royals proved again that good hitting and a bullpen can win a world championship, and the New York Mets with some young studs on the mound became a surprise team to reach the Fall Classic.Pete Rose was denied again reinstatement to the game of baseball while Alex Rodriguez and his steroid troubles concluded with a revival.
Boxing had a brief revival. The Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao mega fight of hype, resulting in the all-time money making fight in boxing history did not live up to expectations. And soccer got a bolt when a team of women won the World Cup Final in July and had a parade down the “Canyon of Heroes” on Lower Broadway.
There was much more. As always though, New York had a share of moments. A brief view follows with apologies to events or developments that have been bypassed. Picks for event of the year and athlete of the year also follow:
And to you and yours: Happy New Year and may your best team win it all in 2016.
Baseball: The New York Mets and the National League pennant had everyone fooled and by late July the lowest offense in the league would say this would be a seventh straight losing season. After 11-straight wins in April, the momentum would not continue but GM Sandy Alderson went to work. The additions of Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, and Kelly Johnson at the trading deadline, the return of captain David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud from the disabled list sparked the momentum along with a first round draft pick, Michael Conforto.
Along with perhaps the best young pitching staff to emerge in a long time, the Mets went 20-8 in August and easily bypassed the Washington Nationals for their first NL East title since 2006. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz became the known baseball names in New York.
Wilmer Flores became the folk hero. The images of Flores and his tears on the infield became a lasting one because of a trade that never happened. The manager Terry Collins came up short as manager of the year, an honor that should have been his. Ruben Tejada revived and was the huge fan favorite after his season abruptly ended. The illegal slide at second base from the Dodgers’ Chase Utley in Game 2 of the NLDS had led to possible rule change as Tejada looks to rebound from a broken leg.
Daniel Murphy may have been a fluke but six straight postseason home runs established a new record. Murphy, along with Cespedes, propelled the Mets to the World Series with their power that disappeared in the five game World Series loss to the Royals.
Murphy turned down the qualifying offer and is with the rival Nationals, Bartolo Colon and his 43-year old arm return for another season,Jeurys Familia emerged as a top closer in the game and the Mets with new additions leave 2015 with hopes for an October return in 2016 as Cespedes had a very brief reign in New York.
In the Bronx, the Yankees struggled and made a brief appearance in the postseason losing the one-game elimination game to the Houston Astros. Victory for the Yankees because they had failed to be a part of October baseball two straight years, however there is no satisfaction unless the division title is won and winning it all.
The persistent issue of an aging roster and injuries hindered the Bronx Bombers again. Though the Yankees ended 2015 acquiring Aroldis Chapman the 27-year old lefthander from Cuba. If the stigma of a domestic violence investigation by Major League Baseball does not backfire on Chapman and the Yankee the team could have the best baseball threesome in the bullpen with Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller.
And what can be said about Alex Rodriguez? The controversial player with a mega contract revived his career putting up good numbers and stayed away from controversy. He was no longer public enemy number 1 with the fans and the Yankees hierarchy.
On The Gridiron: No championships for the Bronx high schools but a different situation on the college level as the Fordham Rams became the winning New York football team. The Rams under coach Joe Moorhead reached the NCAA FCS Division 1 championship round for a third straight year. Chase Edmonds, the sophomore running back set the Fordham single season rushing record with 1,838 yards and a Rams’ new touchdown mark with 23.
Moorhead, who turned around the Fordham football program left for greener pastures and took on an offensive assistant coaching job at Penn State. He is replaced by 32-year old Andrew Breiner who worked under Moorhead as an offensive coordinator and quarterback coach the past four years.
The Jets end 2015 on a winning note and could be playoff bound. Ryan Fitzpatrick assumed the starting role at quarterback and also revived his career with one of the better pass throwing ratios in the league, and it all happened because Geno Smith was regulated as a backup after breaking his jaw because of an altercation with a teammate. Head coach Todd Bowles, who led the defense in Arizona, is a catalyst to the momentum going into the new year.
That other team, the Giants, are expected to make some changes of the GM and coaching ranks after another dismal season and missing the playoff the fourth straight year, six in the last seven, and questions remain about how much longer Eli Manning can be the leader at quarterback.
Though the injury to Victor Cruz cut Manning’s ability to throw for the touchdown and the lone excitement, though came with controversy and the touchdown scoring of Odell Beckham Jr.
On The Court: The Manhattan College Jaspers over in Riverdale made their second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance out of the MAAC Conference and lost in the first round. Coach Steve Masiello returned after obtaining a college degree.
The Fordham Rams end 2015 with their best start, 9-2, since 1970. Tom Pecora was dismissed as head coach and Jeff Neubauer took over the helm, but the real Rams will be tested when conference play in the Atlantic 10 begins in the coming week,
In Brooklyn, the Nets have regressed to an all-time low. And across the river in Manhattan there is excitement at Madison square Garden. Carmelo Anthony seems more comfortable and the rookie, Kristaps Porzingis, their draft pick has quickly become a fan favorite and the 2014-15 season with a franchise record 60 losses is in the record books.
On The Ice: The Islanders closed an era at the Nassau Coliseum and made their home in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center. John Tavares scored the first goal in their new home and leads the team in goals and continues to be one of the elite players in the game.
The Rangers after dominating the Metropolitan Division, advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals and lost the series 4-1 to Tampa Bay. Thus their quest for another appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals came to an abrupt end.
2015 ends for the Rangers as a hockey team still to be tested. After a good start to the new season they hit a brief tailspin but goalie Henrik Lundqvist has established himself as one of the elite goalies in the National Hockey League.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE YEAR:
• American Pharoah takes the Triple Crown at the Belmont
• The spectacle and disappointment of Mayweather-Pacquiao
ATHLETE OF THE YEAR:
• Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)