Ranking the Top 10 New York sports stories of 2022

Aaron Judge, Kyrie Irving, Justin Verlander and Zach Wilson
Aaron Judge, Kyrie Irving, Justin Verlander and Zach Wilson / USA TODAY Sports/SNY Treated Image

New York is the city that never sleeps, and the New York sports news cycle is the one that never stops.

The 2022 calendar year was another big one for New York sports, with the pro teams constantly making back-page headlines for reasons both good and, well, not so good.

So as we raise our glasses and toast to the year that was and look ahead, here’s a look at our Top 10 New York sports stories of 2022.

Starting with…

10. Knicks add Jalen Brunson, don't land Donovan Mitchell

The Knicks have been stockpiling future picks in recent years, waiting for a disgruntled young star to become available via trade.

So when Utah started its fire sale by moving on from Rudy Gobert and Royce O’Neale, All-Star guard and New York native Donovan Mitchell became the perfect target. The Knicks and Jazz discussed a deal, but ultimately it was the Cavaliers who swooped in and traded for Mitchell, leaving the Knicks on the outside looking in once again as a major name swapped teams.

The Knicks didn’t come into the 2022-23 season completely empty-handed, though, as they inked guard Jalen Brunson to a lucrative four-year deal, and the Villanova product has been exactly the kind of on-court leader Leon Rose and Tom Thibodeau envisioned when they brought him on board.

9. Rangers reach Eastern Conference Finals

After a disappointing 2020-21 campaign, the Rangers moved on from David Quinn and brought in Gerard Gallant, who had previously taken the Vegas Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season.

Gallant led the Rangers to a 110-point season and then saw his team erase a three-games-to-one deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round and a three-games-to-two deficit against the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round.

The Rangers’ playoff magic finally wore out in the Eastern Conference Finals, falling in six games to the Lightning despite winning the first two games.

Still, thanks to a 52-goal regular season from Chris Kreider and a Vezina Trophy-winning performance from Igor Shesterkin in net, the Rangers' 2021-22 season was one to remember.

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson looks on during the second half against the Chicago Bears.
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson looks on during the second half against the Chicago Bears. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

8. Jets bench Zach Wilson ... twice

When the Jets drafted Zach Wilson No. 2 overall in the 2021 draft, the team expected him to be what every team expects from a Top 5 pick, especially a quarterback -- to be the new face of the franchise for the next decade-plus.

But just 20 games into his pro career, Wilson was benched by head coach Robert Saleh in favor of Mike White, a stunning yet seemingly necessary move for a 6-4 team with playoff aspirations.

Saleh said the team’s “full intent” was to play Wilson again this season, and that the benching was not the final nail in his coffin. But that nail may have come against the Jaguars in Week 16, when Wilson -- in his second game back in for the injured White -- completed just 9 of 18 passes for 92 yards and an interception before being benched for Chris Streveler.

Barring something unexpected, it seems like Wilson’s tenure in New York will come to an end this offseason, capping off what’s been a tumultuous tenure for the 23-year-old BYU product.

7. Aaron Judge remains a Yankee, named captain

The Aaron Judge free agency saga may be the most unique we’ve ever seen in the history of baseball.

For starters, Judge bet on himself when he turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million extension prior to Opening Day, an offer that was uncharacteristically made public by the Yankees.

Judge’s gamble paid off in the biggest way possible, as a 62-homer, AL MVP season made him one of the most coveted free agents to ever hit the open market.

Ultimately it came down to the Yankees and Judge’s hometown San Francisco Giants (though the San Diego Padres also reportedly swooped in with a $400 million offer). Just when reports started to surface that Judge could land in the Bay Area, Yankees chairman Hal Steinbrenner worked out a nine-year, $360 million deal that will likely make Judge a Yankee for life, which both he and the team have always claimed was the goal.

Judge not only inked the largest free agent contract in history, but the Yankees also named him the 16th team captain, joining the illustrious ranks of players like Lou Gehrig, Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, and Derek Jeter.

Jacob deGrom with Chris Young and Bruce Bochy at Rangers press conference
Jacob deGrom with Chris Young and Bruce Bochy at Rangers press conference /

6. Jacob deGrom leaves Mets

For months, Jacob deGrom said that he was going to opt-out of his team-friendly contract following the 2022 season. After all, deGrom has proven himself to be one of, if not the single best pitcher on the planet, and he wanted to be paid as such.

But throughout the whole season and even into the beginning of the offseason, it still felt like deGrom and the Mets may be destined to work something out to keep the two-time Cy Young winner in Queens.

That all came crashing down on the evening of Dec. 2, though, as news broke that deGrom had agreed to a massive five-year, $185 million contract with the Texas Rangers.

For Mets fans, it was certainly tough to see a homegrown star like deGrom leave. The 2014 NL Rookie of the Year went on to win the Cy Young in 2018 and 2019, and was having an astronomically incredible season in 2021 (1.08 ERA in 15 starts) before a forearm/elbow injury got in the way.

DeGrom left for Texas as the Mets all-time leader in career ERA (2.52), WHIP (0.998), and Ks per nine innings (10.91).

5. Giants' Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll era begins

Coming off the heels of five straight losing seasons, the Giants knew that they had to make a change -- or two, or three -- to get the franchise back to their winning ways.

So with GM Dave Gettleman "retiring" and head coach Joe Judge getting fired, John Mara handed the keys to the franchise to a pair of architects who were instrumental in building the Buffalo Bills into an NFL powerhouse: Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll.

Schoen came in and quickly had to reshape a roster that lacked depth and was cluttered by bad contracts, so he drafted Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal to help the roster overhaul. Meanwhile, Daboll’s offensive scheme and willingness to be aggressive saw the Giants get out to a 6-1 start.

Now, the playoffs appear to be on the horizon for the first time since 2016, and the immediate impact made by both Schoen and Daboll is virtually impossible to overstate.

4. Mets win 101 games, return to playoffs

It didn’t take very long for Buck Showalter to make his mark on the Mets.

In his first season with the club, Showalter -- the eventual NL Manager of the Year winner -- led the Mets to a 101-61 regular season, a huge jump from the 77-win season under Luis Rojas in 2021.

With a rotation led by the newly acquired Max Scherzer and deGrom (though he pitched in just 11 games), and a balanced offensive attack anchored by Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and others, the Mets were a dominant team in 2022, wining 100-plus games in the regular season for just the fourth time in franchise history (2022, 1988, 1986, 1969).

While the Mets maintained a sizable NL East lead for most of the season, they were eventually caught by the reigning champion Atlanta Braves, who also finished with 101 wins and won the division thanks to a tiebreaker.

The Mets entered the postseason as a Wild Card team, hosting the San Diego Padres in a best of three. Ultimately, it was the Padres who eliminated the Mets with a 6-0 Game 3 victory, and while the end result left a sour taste in the mouths of Mets fans, the 2022 campaign was undoubtedly one of the best years in franchise history and has set the stage for what could be an even more successful year in 2023.

3. Kyrie Irving suspended for promoting antisemitic film

In late October, Nets guard Kyrie Irving used his social media platforms to promote an antisemitic film. After the guard initially failed to apologize for promoting it, the Nets suspended Irving without pay for “no less than five games,” while setting a series of measures that he needed to fulfill before he could once again take the floor.

At the time of Irving’s ban, team governor Joe Tsai called Irving “unfit” to be a Net, and Irving's suspension -- and comments -- became a major national story.

Irving later apologized via social media and in an exclusive sit-down with SNY’s Ian Begley, and returned after missing eight games.

“I really want to focus on the hurt that I caused or the impact that I made within the Jewish community. Putting some type of threat, or assumed threat, on the Jewish community,” Irving told SNY. “I just want to apologize deeply for all my actions throughout the time that it’s been since the post was first put up. I’ve had a lot of time to think. But my focus, initially, if I could do it over, would be to heal and repair a lot of my close relationships with my Jewish relatives, brothers and sisters.”

2. Mets' wild offseason haul

Sure, the Mets won 101 games in 2022, immediately putting themselves back in the mix as World Series contenders.

But at the end of the day, the Mets were not the last team standing, so owner Steve Cohen, GM Billy Eppler and the rest of the front office went all out to bring in even more pieces to help the Mets win what would be their first title since 1986.

It started with Justin Verlander, brought in to anchor the top of the rotation once deGrom left for the Rangers. Then the Mets added Kodai Senga, Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Brooks Raley, and Omar Narvaez. Meanwhile, the club retained many of their key free agents, like Edwin Diaz, Brandon Nimmo, and Adam Ottavino.

And just to add to a wild offseason, the club agreed to a 12-year, $315 million deal with star infielder Carlos Correa. Although it hasn’t yet been finalized due to concerns about Correa’s physical, ultimately all these moves propel the Mets closer to their goal of bringing a World Series back to Queens.

New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) hits his 62nd home run to break the American League home run record in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field.
New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) hits his 62nd home run to break the American League home run record in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field. / Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

1. Aaron Judge's historic 62-home run season

Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Joe DiMaggio.

All of those players were prolific home run hitters who posted some of the greatest single-season power numbers in the long and storied history of the Yankees.

But none of them ever did what Aaron Judge accomplished in 2022.

Sixty-one years after Maris set a Yankees and American League record with 61 home runs in 1961, Judge set a new mark by slugging 62 home runs on his way to winning AL MVP.

Judge's 62nd blast came in the penultimate game of the Yankees' season, a first-inning solo shot off of Rangers righty Jesus Tinoco, as he became the new AL single-season home run king, and many would argue that he is the only clean player in either league to ever break Maris' mark.

And perhaps most impressively, Judge did all of this after betting on himself by turning down a contract extension ahead of Opening Day. At the end of the day, Judge became the new AL and Yankees home run champion and landed a new, very lucrative nine-year deal to stay in pinstripes.

Not a bad year at all for Mr. Judge.