It seemed like every few weeks, a new team was making a legitimate case as an NBA title contender while another team was just treading water in that time period. As a result, this was the first time since the 2000-2001 season that no NBA team won 60 games in an 82 game season. However, that doesn't mean this year's playoffs will be entertaining. There are a number of teams that could go on a deep playoff run whether it's the league best Milwaukee Bucks, or the Los Angeles Lakers who didn't clinch a playoff spot until Tuesday's play-in win. Here are my predictions.
Eastern Conference: Western Conference:
#1 Bucks 4 #1 Nuggets 4
#8 Heat 0 #8 Timberwolves 1
#1 Bucks 4 #1 Nuggets 4
#4 Cavaliers 1 #4 Suns 2
#4 Cavaliers 4 #4 Suns 4
#5 Knicks 3 #5 Clippers 2
#1 Bucks 4 #1 Bucks 4 #1 Nuggets 4
#3 Celtics 2 #3 Nuggets 1 #2 Lakers 1
#3 76ers 4 #3 Kings 4
#6 Nets 1 #6 Warriors 3
#2 Celtics 4 #7 Lakers 4
#3 76ers 3 #3 Kings 2
#2 Celtics 4 #2 Grizzlies 2
#7 Hawks 1 #7 Lakers 4
At one point during the last MLB season, it seemed like a Yankees-Mets Subway Series in October wasn't out of the question. Both teams were loaded with talent, from their pitching staffs to the lineups, and looked destined to make a deep playoff run. Even their matchups lived up to expectations, giving fans a potential preview.
But by the end of the season, any World Series talk was forgotten as the Yankees lost their lead in the American League, while the Mets dropped to second in their division. Both teams would eventually go out in embarrassing fashion during the playoffs. With a new baseball season starting in a week, what must happen for both teams to avoid another disappointing ending?
The Yankees had a much busier offseason compared to last year. They addressed their biggest need in re-signing A.L. MVP Aaron Judge for nine more years of deep home runs and leaping catches at the wall. Given that he's been the team's best player since Derek Jeter, losing Judge would have been a massive mistake. They also added another all star to their pitching staff in Carlos Rodón. These were certainly smart moves, but they won't be the deciding factors in getting the Yankees over the hump.
Instead, the key will be whether their collection of young prospects can make a significant difference. The Yankees already saw Oswaldo Cabrera receive plenty of playing time toward the end of the season and into the playoffs. He can play anywhere in the field and will have an even bigger impact if his hitting improves. They also have two other prospects in shortstops Oswaldo Peraza and Anthony Volpe who are on the horizon toward seeing lots of action. The Yankees are clearly confident in both players since they passed on a loaded group of shortstops in free agency. Every good team has a few homegrown superstars, and if the Yankees can rely on their young talent for a much needed boost, it could be the difference between an ALCS and a World Series.
The Mets, on the other hand, have had a roller coaster offseason ever since it started. They lost two time Cy Young winner Jacob DeGrom, but replaced him with another Cy Young winner in Justin Verlander. They also re-signed Brandon Nimmo and added pitcher Kodai Senga from Japan. However, they saw their contract with shortstop Carlos Correa fall apart over concerns with his physical, and then watch reliever Edwin Diaz tear his ACL while celebrating Puerto Rico's win in the World Baseball Classic.
Even with all the highs and lows, the Mets still have an extremely talented team. Besides the need to temporarily replace Diaz, they do not have many glaring weaknesses. Whether the Mets can take the next step will be determined by their ability to play against inferior competition. While some might point to the Atlanta Braves sweeping them at the end of the year, that could have been avoided if the Mets didn't go 12-9 against teams below .500 during September. That's not going to cut it in one of the most competitive divisions. Like last year, the Mets will have plenty of matchups with teams ready to throw in the towel by fall. If the Mets want to make noise down the stretch, it starts by winning the games where they're favored.
It's no secret that today's NBA players have a lot of power to determine their future compared to other athletes. Teams are always willing to satisfy the needs of their superstars because they're investing so much in them. This ultimately puts the player in a position where he wields a lot of power to influence his team's decision making. However, that power is sometimes used to request a trade if he's dissatisfied for some reason.
This year, as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant had their trade requests granted as the Brooklyn Nets shipped them off to the Mavericks and Suns, ending the championship dreams Brooklyn once had when they signed the two stars.
While all players deserve the freedom to seek a new destination, one must wonder when should a player be entitled to want out.
It's very common for high-profile players to voice frustration with their teams whether it's the departure of an important player, displeasure with the coach, or concern about their team's direction. Granted, it does brings another layer of entertainment to a league filled with storylines each week. Durant himself stated, "It just brings more attention to the league, and really what makes you money is when you get more attention. So, I think it’s great for the league, to be honest."
But is it really great for the league when a superstar takes advantage of the power his team gives him?
There are plenty of scenarios where a player wants to be traded even though he might have been the problem. The NBA is a league where teams need stars to perform at a high level, and if they fall short because of their best player's personal shortcomings, that's not on the other players or the coach. Irving is a perfect example, as his personal beliefs and actions held the Nets back from reaching their potential. While he felt like the Nets hadn't respected him, it was Irving who did them a disservice - making more headlines for his controversial opinions rather than winning.
So that goes back to the original question: when is it reasonable for a player to seek a new destination?
The answer is that a player must consistently star for their team, embrace every challenge thrown at them, and hold themselves accountable before expressing his desire to be traded. If it's the team that fails them every season, then they have every right to seek greener pastures. Even after wanting out, they still must conduct themselves professionally. Anthony Davis and Carmelo Anthony are two players who fit this category.
Anthony proved to be the superstar the New York Knicks were hoping for as he consistently performed at a high level for six seasons. But with poor executive decisions, the Knicks began to waste Anthony's all-star years. While he didn't ask to be traded, everyone knew he wanted a fresh start. Even under a regime that was intent on criticizing Anthony, he continued to compete each game. Today, the majority of the Knicks fans appreciate him for embracing one of the most demanding markets in sports.
Davis quickly blossomed into the player the New Orleans Pelicans hoped he'd be when they drafted him with the first pick in 2012. However, they only managed to make the playoffs twice, and in the midst of another losing season Davis expressed his desire to be traded. Despite backlash from fans and being forced to play restricted minutes, Davis still performed at an exceptional level before getting shipped to the Lakers in the offseason.
At the end of the day, players will always have their opinions regardless of whether they're justified or selfish. They know the power their teams are granting them and some will use it for themselves while others don't find it that important. Then again, anytime a star player gets traded, there's always the chance for bitter feelings between all parties involved. But if a he gets traded after years of embracing the responsibility of a star, he'll be remembered for all the right reasons.
There are very few quarterbacks who get the ball with 5:15 left in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl with one good ankle and proceed to lead their team right down the field and leave little time remaining. Usually their team either scores with more than enough time left for the other team to score or they have to punt the football back to the opponent.
Unless you have Patrick Mahomes on your team.
He led the Kansas City Chiefs to the Philadelphia Eagles' nine yard line while using up all but eight seconds before Harrison Butker's go ahead field goal made it 38-35. Mahomes was already one of the league's most decorated players thanks to his tremendous arm strength, pocket awareness, and improvisation. With Tom Brady retiring, one can say it's Mahomes' league. Given he now has two MVPs and two Super Bowl MVPs (only the third player to accomplish this feat) it's safe to say he has set the bar for the next generation of young quarterbacks.
During this NFL season, a new wave of elite quarterbacks cemented themselves as the future of the league. With Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady finally showing signs of age, the spotlight fully turned to a number of other signal callers waiting to establish a new age: Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert, and Trevor Lawrence. All of those guys have proved themselves as leaders who are capable of elevating their squads. With only Rodgers remaining from the previous era of great quarterbacks, it's now their time to shine. Yet despite their brilliance, they will all be looking up to Mahomes for a long time.
What Patrick Mahomes did this year was nothing short of spectacular. Despite winning the Super Bowl three years ago, some people thought the Chiefs might regress after they traded superstar receiver Tyreek Hill in the offseason. But by the end of the regular season, any talk of a down year was long gone. Mahomes established himself as the frontrunner for MVP right from the start and never looked back. He threw for a career high 5,250 yards and 41 touchdowns while leading the Chiefs to a 14-3 record. But it was in the playoffs where Mahomes showed how great he truly is.
For the majority of the playoffs, Mahomes played through an ankle sprain that made it difficult for him to walk at times. Yet he continued to add one chapter after another to his incredible career, while taking down the trio of Lawrence, Burrow, and Hurts. Every game saw Mahomes do something incredible. First it was playing the entire second half of the divisional round after injuring his ankle. Then it was defeating Burrow, his supposed kryptonite, in the championship game. He concluded his magical run in the Super Bowl by orchestrating a magnificent second half against one of the league's best defenses that saw Kansas City score on every possession.
Teams always look for a guy who can dramatically change their fortunes the moment he steps on the field. Only a few players can be seen as a franchise-changing pick, but Mahomes fits that category. Kansas City might have been a good team before Mahomes, but with him at the helm along with head coach Andy Reid and tight end Travis Kelce, they are the team to beat. Legendary NBA coach Pat Riley once said "The great ones will lift you above and beyond."
Mahomes has done just that.
Before the regular season, I decided to make three bold predictions for each conference. In a season filled with plenty of dramatic developments, I felt that it was only fitting to go back and evaluate each prediction. While a couple didn't age well, the majority were pretty respectable. Here are the final grades.
1. Von Miller will be the Final Piece Buffalo Needs: A-
Buffalo might have not made the Super Bowl, but that certainly didn't have anything to do with Von Miller's performance. The future Hall of Fame pass rusher was playing like the difference maker Buffalo paid him to be before tearing his ACL in week 12. While Buffalo's defense still played well without him, they clearly missed his presence in the playoffs as the Bengals' offense gashed them en route to a 27-10 victory. While it's not a guarantee Miller would've changed the outcome, it's a safe bet that the Bills would've been a much different team with him on the field.
2. The Raiders Won't Make the Playoffs: A+
This was one of my most accurate predictions as the Las Vegas Raiders would indeed finish with a disappointing 6-11 record. Even though wide receiver Davante Adams proved to be a terrific acquisition, it wasn't enough to overcome their inability to prevail in tight contests. It's worth noting that I stated teams who win a bunch of nail biters one year usually take a step back the following season, which is exactly what happened. The Raiders lost five games when leading at halftime, with four of those leads being by double digits.
3. Jets Will Have Two Rookie of the Year Winners: B
While the Jets did sweep the Rookie of the Year awards, I'm giving this a B because of who I predicted to win. On the defensive side, I correctly had Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner winning the award. He performed at an all-pro level and already has a legitimate case as the best cornerback in football. However, I had running back Breece Hall winning for offense, and while he was looking like the frontrunner in October, an ACL tear ended any hopes. The award instead went to fellow receiver Garrett Wilson who tallied over 80 receptions and 1,100 yards. Nonetheless this is a high honor given that the Jets became only the third team in NFL history to have two rookies win the award.
1. The Saints Will Have a Better Record Than the Buccaneers: D+
This prediction gets a D+ and rightfully so. I thought that the Saints will come back healthier and regain their status as division champions but I was certainly wrong. If anything, the Saints' championship window looks all but closed after having such a promising future. It's always difficult to replace a legend, and Dennis Allen got first hand experience after succeeding Sean Payton as head coach. The only reason why I'm not giving this an F is because I did mention that the Buccaneers will have a disappointing season, which was the case. They won their division despite finishing 8-9 and were later trounced by the Cowboys.
2. Justin Jefferson Will Win Offensive Player of the Year: A+
I believe this was my best prediction as Jefferson won an award that's difficult for receivers to win. From a statistical standpoint, Jefferson happened the exact way I said he could: by raising his numbers and leading the league in two out of three major receiving categories. Jefferson's touchdowns dropped slightly but his career highs in receptions and receiving yards were both good enough to lead the league. It also helped that Jefferson was the most important player on a Vikings team that won a bunch of close games on their way to a 13-4 record.
3. Trey Lance Will Outperform Jalen Hurts: F-
There is nothing whatsoever that was accurate about this prediction. Trey Lance was expected to be the future quarterback of the 49ers, but played poorly in the season opener before suffering a season ending ankle injury. To make matters worse, the 49ers looked a lot better whether it was Jimmy Garoppolo or Brock Purdy - the likely candidate to start next season - under center. In Philadelphia, Jalen Hurts had a terrific year showing dramatic improvement as a passer while maintaining his skills as a rusher. His play is major reason why the Eagles punched their ticket to the Super Bowl.
In 2022, the Jets actually gave their fans some reasons to be optimistic. They had plenty of young players such as Garrett Wilson, Quinnen Williams, Sauce Gardner, and Breece Hall (when healthy) who emerged as difference makers and helped lead the Jets to a 7-4 record. Unfortunately, none of the players are quarterbacks. In a league where that position is so vital, the Jets couldn't find an answer at the position, whether it was Zach Wilson (right), Mike White (center), and Joe Flacco (left). This ultimately led to a six game losing streak and a 12th year out of the playoffs.
Now that the season is over, fans are already making their wishlists of possible quarterbacks. There will be many quarterbacks available this offseason and while any of them will be an upgrade, there are a variety of factors to consider. Some are easy to evaluate such as their stats, while others like their mental toughness will require more thought. With that being said, here are my preferred options for Jets quarterback.
1. Jimmy Garoppolo
Out of all the four quarterbacks I mention here, Garoppolo is certainly not the flashiest quarterback. He hasn't posted eye-popping stats and can be injury prone, as seen this year. Even with some of these question marks, he is still a productive quarterback who can be consistently relied upon. With a quick release, he is able to utilize the many skill positions the 49ers have. In addition, Garoppolo has climbed into a tie for fifth place for the most victories by a 49er quarterback, despite starting only 55 games since 2017. The 49ers may not need him as of now, but those numbers can't be ignored.
Perhaps Garoppolo's biggest attribute is his resilience. He's had to live up to a record $137 million contract extension in 2018, come back from multiple injuries, and face competition following their selection of Trey Lance in 2021. Despite these obstacles, Garoppolo has continued to perform at an exceptional level and has elevated his teammates in the process. Those qualities in particular make him a perfect fit to play in a big market like New York. The cherry on top is that Garoppolo is one of the cheapest options in free agency, which will make it easy for the Jets to sign him.
2. Aaron Rodgers
When it comes to throwing a football, few can do it better than Aaron Rodgers. He is a lock for Canton thanks to his ability to effortlessly locate the football wherever he wants. Time and time again, Rodgers has the impossible look routine from game winning drives to 70 yard bombs. His resume includes four MVP awards, and a Super Bowl championship. As for his status, the future Hall of Famer could be shipped this off-season and the Jets have been listed as one potential destination. The hiring of his former offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to run the Jets' offense has only added more fuel to the possibility.
So with all that greatness, what could possibly draw the Jets back?
For one, Rodgers is on the older side. At 39 years old, Rodgers experienced some decline in his play. This year, he threw the most interceptions in his career since 2008, while his touchdowns took a deep dive. Although Rodgers' season would've been strong for any other quarterback, it is hard to ignore this drastic decline given his age. He also has the reputation of being a jerk who only cares about himself. Rodgers can be thin-skinned, which may not fly with the New York media. If Rodgers got away with throwing shade at the Packers' organization, New York would persecute him for those actions.
3. Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson is another talented quarterback on this list who's a possible option for the Jets. Unlike Rodgers, the 2019 NFL MVP is a dual threat QB whose legs are just as a dangerous as his arm. He has yet to throw for 4,000 yards, but Jackson's mobility has allowed him to make plays, whether it's throwing or running. Since being named the starter midway in his rookie season, Jackson has helped lead the Baltimore Ravens to the playoffs in four of the last five years. In addition, the Jets have had the best odds to land Jackson if he decides to leave in free agency.
However, getting him could come at a steep price regardless of how it's done. Before the season, Jackson bet on himself by denying a $250 million contract offer by the Ravens and although it didn't work, the Jets may still have to break the bank to get him in free agency. There's also the possibility the Ravens could franchise tag him, which would require a bevy of assets to acquire him. As talented as Lamar may be, it is always risky to invest most of your future in a quarterback who hasn't fully replicated his MVP year.
4. Derek Carr
While there's still a chance Jackson remains a Raven, it is certain that Derek Carr will not remain a Raider after he was shockingly benched in their last two games. What made this move so surprising was that he had a productive nine seasons with the Raiders. Carr can perfectly place any throw regardless of how short or long it may be. In addition, he has completed over 300 passes every year while throwing for over 4,000 yards in four of them. While many quarterbacks have done this, it is particularly impressive given the revolving door of coaches during his tenure.
There are some downsides to Carr however. While he has often put the Raiders in a position to make the playoffs, he also plays a role in their downfall. Carr has lost more games and thrown more interceptions in December than any other month in his career. Considering that December was when the Jets unraveled, they may have to think twice about getting a quarterback who can be erratic down the stretch.
It is always an exciting time of year for the NFL playoffs regardless of how each team makes it. Unlike last year, there are plenty of teams in both conferences who have the assets to make a serious playoff run. With the season starting to enter its final stages, here's a brief overview of my predictions.
#2 Bills over #7 Dolphins
The Bills are going into this postseason with Damar Hamlin's continued progress serving as motivation. Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and co. will be too much for a Dolphins team that barley squeaked into the playoffs
#3 Bengals over #6 Ravens
Like Miami, Baltimore has slumped since Lamar Jackson got sidelined with a knee injury. Meanwhile the Bengals have been one of the league's hottest teams winning an AFC best eight games.
#5 Chargers over #4 Jaguars
This is my favorite wild card matchup as Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence will both make their playoff debut. It will be close, but Herbert's Chargers have a bit more firepower which will be the difference.
#1 Chiefs over #5 Chargers
The Chargers have been a worthy adversary of the Chiefs. It will be a hard fought game, but it's hard to see Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce going out in defeat against a division rival. I got the Chiefs in this game.
#2 Bills over #3 Bengals
Everybody will be watching to see what happens three weeks removed from when Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest. In what will be a showdown between two high-powered offenses, Buffalo's pass rush has still been productive without Von Miller and they will eventually get to Burrow.
#2 Bills over #1 Chiefs
In the third consecutive year of Allen vs. Mahomes, Allen will prevail this time. Allen will once again put up a Herculean effort and this time, Buffalo's defense will get the key stops in a close affair.
#2 49ers over #7 Seahawks
In his first playoff game since 2017, Christian McCaffrey will play with a vengence while the defense ends a feel good season from Geno Smith.
#3 Vikings over #6 Giants
The Vikings aren't perfect for a 13 win team, but they still have star power with Justin Jefferson leading the way. He will make the most of his playoff debut and send the Giants home.
#5 Cowboys over #4 Buccaneers
In what will be an offensive slugfest, Dallas' defense will frustrate Tom Brady enough to overcome sloppy play from Prescott.
#1 Eagles over #5 Cowboys
In another chapter of their storied rivalry, Philadelphia will be well-rested and resemble the team that was 13-1 at one point. They will run all over Dallas' defense, while Prescott's struggles will prove costly this time.
#2 49ers over #3 Vikings
Nick Bosa continues to make his case as the best pass rusher in the league, harassing Kirk Cousins throughout the game. On offense, all their top guns will show out against a shaky Minnesota defense.
#2 49ers over #1 Eagles
Linebacker Fred Warner will be spying Jalen Hurts throughout the game, and the 49ers will attack Philadelphia's middle of the pack run defense en route to their second Super Bowl appearance in four years.
#2 Bills over #2 49ers
Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs will propel the offense, putting up numbers similar to Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp last year. Brock Purdy will get start even with Jimmy Garoppolo healthy but he will lose his first career NFL game despite putting up a solid fight.
As the calendar flips to 2023, most of the NBA title favorites such as the Bucks, Celtics, and Nuggets have been making their case during the season's first quarter. However, there is always a new team that enters the mix and this year, it's the New Orleans Pelicans. After sneaking into last year's playoffs, they've taken a significant step forward thanks to the return of Zion Williamson. There are obviously a lot more games left but this team is seriously good enough to win a round or two.
After a strong showing against the 64-win Suns in last year's playoffs, New Orleans has stormed out the gate to begin the season. They are currently sitting in third place of the Western Conference with a 21-12 record. A big reason why they've been so successful is that they have one of the league's most well-balanced rosters. Young players such as Williamson and Brandon Ingram and veteran acquisitions like C.J. McCollum have all been making significant contributions because they all know their roles.
Zion Williamson has unquestionably been the most important player of the Pelicans. Viewed as a franchise-altering pick, Williamson has dealt with numerous injuries, and even though he's played well when he was healthy, the team often lost. But now Williamson is playing like an MVP candidate, and the Pelicans are winning, which is the combination fans have waited to witness since the day he was drafted. Williamson is currently averaging 25 points and seven rebounds, while seemingly defying gravity in some way every game. It would not be a surprise to see him make the All-NBA first team at the end of the regular season.
In addition, Williamson's supporting cast is arguably one of the best in the league. On offense, Ingram and CJ McCollum are two crafty players who can score in various ways, and hit big shots down the stretch. Their defensive standouts consist of two sophomore players in Herb Jones and un-drafted guard Jose Alvarado. Jones is a tough wing defender thanks to his freakishly long wingspan, while Alvarado makes his mark with his IQ and tenacious hustle.
If there's any concern, it could be the lack of a true point guard. McCollum may be productive at the position in the regular season, but he has usually played shooting guard his whole career and opposing defenses could affect his decision making.
Other than that, they have all the tools to make a deep run. Their roster as a whole consists of many players who have at least one year of playoff experience. Even though Williamson has yet to appear in a playoff game, he is used to the spotlight and will certainly thrive. When they go into the playoffs as one of the best in the west, don't be surprised.
This season marked the 13th year without a 28th championship for the New York Yankees. Despite an ALCS appearance, their success is measured by whether the Yankees win the World Series, and losing to the Houston Astros for the third time in six years certainly leaves a bitter taste. With a roster that has many holes, and a series of important decisions to make - most notably re-signing Aaron Judge - it's time the Yankees build a roster with reliable long term players.
Championship teams in baseball are constructed of guys who are already, or will be foundational pieces for years to come. The Yankees once appeared to have a true core of homegrown players, and big names such as Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole were supposed to be the final piece. Even though those "final pieces" have played exceptionally well, the Yankees as a team have shifted their roster more than expected. This year's team had too many stopgap players and while it may have resulted in regular season success, it's certainly not a way to win in the postseason.
One way the Yankees have always looked to make major upgrades has come through free agency. Although Yankees are known to spend millions each year, they recently have not been as active on the market compared to previous years. If there's a good time to live up to their reputation, this offseason is the perfect time.
For this year's free agency, the Yankees have to be active and while re-signing Anthony Rizzo is a good start, bringing back Aaron Judge is their biggest priority. Fresh off an A.L. record 62 home runs along with his first MVP award, it's imperative the Yankees bring him back considering how he was their only consistent performer. Another player they should resign is left fielder Andrew Benintendi who gives them an additional lefty that's a contact hitter as well as a solid fielder.
As for acquiring players, the Yankees will have a bevy of talented shortstops who are all the primes of their career. Although there are plenty of big names, Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson should really be the top of their list. Besides the fact that both of them have gotten significantly better over the years and won a World Series, they're both in their late 20s. Signing one of them would stabilize one of the most important infield positions for years to come.
While the idea of constructing a winning roster through free agency is always appealing, the most recent teams to win the World Series have had a healthy portion of homegrown talent. But other than Aaron Judge, the Yankees' roster doesn't feature many players from their farm system. However, they have a few intriguing players worth fully investing in.
One player that deserves more playing time is Oswaldo Cabrera. He was called up in mid-August and would slowly play his way into becoming a consistent starter through his stellar play in the field. His hitting is still a work in progress but that should change once he gets more experience. Although he's capable of playing plenty of positions, Cabrera should be the third baseman given that Josh Donaldson turned out to be a major disappointment.
In addition, the Yankees have two infielders who could make an impact in Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza. Although they both play shortstop, the Yankees should give one of these guys a legitimate shot whether it's Volpe, Peraza, or both of them. They could do this by passing up on some of the shortstops on the market. But the best case scenario is to trade Gleyber Torres to make room at second for either Volpe or Peraza once the Yankees do sign a shortstop.
What allowed the Yankees to have their last dynasty is that they had a sustainable nucleus of players that led the way each year. With the perfect mix of draft picks and free agent signings, the Yankees roster was able to stay intact. If the Yankees want to replicate that success, they must make moves that will give them a foundation along with some direction.
With the Yankees' season ending in the hands of the Houston Astros yet again, all eyes will focus on Aaron Judge's looming decision in free agency. After rejecting a $213 million offer before the season, Judge significantly raised his value by hitting an A.L. record 62 home runs, while knocking in 131 runs. As for the Yankees, they looked like World Series favorites going into the all-star break, but after another postseason disappointment, re-signing Judge may not be so certain. Regardless of where he signs, and for how much, Judge is already a winner of free agency.
There is still a strong possibility of him returning to the Yankees. Although he's only been on the team for six years, Judge has easily been the best player to wear pinstripes after Derek Jeter. He is a homegrown player who has represented the organization as well as anybody could for the last six years. Since Judge's rookie year, the Yankees have never missed the playoffs. Re-signing Judge would make him a Yankee for life which is a very good honor for any ballplayer. With Judge on the roster, the Yankees will certainly be playoff contenders every year. Whether he wins a World Series or not, 99 will certainly be retired someday by the organization.
However, it's worth wondering if Judge would really want to continue playing for an organization that has constantly came up short time and time again. From the team's second half slump to their playoff collapse, Judge has every right to question whether it's worth staying with a franchise that seems to be more known for their disappointment rather than their success as of late.
In this postseason, Judge might've slumped at the worst time, but he wasn't the one who couldn't convert a potential double play in an elimination game. He didn't choose to take Gerrit Cole out of the game when he was still at 95 pitches. He also wasn't the one who assembled a roster that consisted of guys who are viewed as "stopgap" players. As for the fans, Judge has every right to question whether he wants to play for a fanbase that shockingly booed him during the playoffs.
Going elsewhere would be a fresh start, and maybe even a homecoming for Judge if he signs with the hometown San Fransisco Giants who are rumored to have interest. Whereas the Yankees always seem to be stubborn in their approach towards winning, Judge may have a better chance of winning if he signs with a team that's willing to adapt year in and year out.
I think another year without a championship definitely complicates Judge's status as a Yankee. If there's anything their front office is good at, it's resigning players in free agency. However, the Yankees have thrown Judge under the bus at times, and that could haunt them this offseason. Fans should at least prepare for possibility of seeing number 99 in new threads.