Top 10 New York Sports Stories of 2013: Nos. 5-1
Today, the calendar officially flips to 2014, meaning the "deadline" is officially closed, and we're fairly confident that our Top 5 represents the biggest and best (and, in some cases, toughest) events from the New York sports scene last year. But, to be honest, we thought that way weeks ago too, because we're fairly confident that just knowing who we are and which teams we cover would lead you to guess at least three of the remaining entries.
Want to see if you were right? Here they are, our Top 5 New York Sports Stories for 2013:
No. 5: A postseason drought for all
The 2012-13 NBA season saw both the Nets and Knicks make the playoffs in the same season for the first time since 2004, and the same NHL slate saw the Islanders and Rangers both advance to the postseason together for just the second time in two decades. That is, unfortunately, where the 2013 New York sports postseason stories ended.
A summer of struggle ended with the Yankees and Mets both finishing in third place in their respective divisions -- the 85-77 Yankees missing the postseason for just the second time since the strike and the 74-88 Mets staying home in October for the seventh straight year. Add in the fact that the Jets and Giants will both be missing the NFL playoffs this season, and it was officially the most bleak second half of a sports year in a long time here in the Big Apple.
Add in that the Nets, Knicks and all three local hockey teams are struggling so far in 2013-14, and you have a recipe for unhappiness that New Yorkers haven't tasted in quite some time.
No. 4: All-Star Fever, present version
Five years after the old Yankee Stadium hosted the MLB All-Star Game, Citi Field ushered in the "new" stadium era by hosting baseball's mid-summer showcase.
After two days of pomp, circumstance and mammoth home runs, the actual game began with Mets phenom Matt Harvey rightly on the on the mound for the National League, and on one of his first pitches, he prematurely ended Robinson Cano's night by hitting him with a heater right above the knee.
It would get better for the Yankees, though, because American League manager Jim Leyland took no chances and made sure that Mariano Rivera got one last great public farewell by bringing him in -- to "Enter Sandman" no less -- for the bottom of the eighth.
Of course, no one will ever forget that moment, as Rivera jogged in to an empty field and stood on the mound, soaking in adulation from not only the capacity crowd, but also every single player in both dugouts -- all of whom stood and clapped in appreciation for the greatest closer of all-time.
No. 3: Phenom Down
As high as Harvey's season got by starting the All-Star Game, perhaps the entirety of Mets Universe got just as low when the phenom pitcher was diagnosed with a partially torn arm ligament in late August.
Harvey was 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA in 26 starts when he was diagnosed, ostensibly ending his year shortly before an innings limit would have finished his season prematurely anyway. However, the end result is not what anyone involved with the Mets wanted. The phenom originally planned to try to rehab the tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, but eventually opted for surgery in October and will miss the entire 2014 season.
No. 2: Hello, Brooklyn, the sequel
It was just about 18 months ago that the Nets organization made a huge splash, officially kicking off their move to Brooklyn by re-signing Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez to big deals and acquiring Joe Johnson from Atlanta.
It was a new year, a new team and a new era for the Nets, who won 45 games and advanced to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons -- but that apparently wasn't enough.
This past offseason, the Nets struck again, first bringing in a new head coach in Jason Kidd -- less than a month after he retired following the Knicks' playoff exit -- and then swinging a blockbuster trade with Boston that sent Wallace (and several others) packing and brought back three former NBA champions in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry.
Add in the later acquisitions of former All-Star Andrei Kirilenko and capable backups Alan Anderson and Shaun Livingston, and the stage was set for another all new team and perhaps an even better new era in Brooklyn in 2013-14.
No. 1: From Core Four to last man standing
Jorge Posada's retirement in January 2012 turned the Core Four into a "Key Three," and after Mariano Rivera revealed in March 2013 that once that year's final pitch was thrown, it would be no more than a dynamic duo, the world was treated to an epic farewell tour that spanned more than a dozen cities, numerous gifts and one last legacy moment at almost every ballpark the Yankees visited.
Unfortunately for fans, however, as that tour wound down, they were hit with another piece of tough news: Andy Pettitte announced in mid-September that he too would be retiring at the end of 2013, leaving Derek Jeter as the last Core Four member standing come 2014.
It was a sad moment, but both men got the farewells they so richly deserved during a week that Yankees fans will never forget. Pettitte's final home start came on Mariano Rivera Day, with the southpaw getting one last nod just an hour or so after watching "The Sandman" get his number retired, and four days later, it was Pettitte and Jeter who came out to the mound for the emotional task of taking Mo out of his final MLB game.
That moment needs no further editorializing, but it did get one fine postscript when two days later, in the Yankees' penultimate game of the year, Pettitte went out and tossed a complete game in his hometown of Houston to say one final goodbye from the hurling half of the Core Four.
Gone they are, but the legacies of Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera will never be forgotten.