Will this be the year the Yankees lose the back page?
Since we began tallying tabloid fish wraps five years ago, the Yankees have always dominated the count. Basically, it was easy. As the chart shows, they faced no competition.
But if you delete 2020 - the messed-up, mini Covid year - the back page numbers show a steady shrinkage of Yankee control over the attention span of New York sports fans.
With a year of transition looming over Gotham, the Yankees' dominance does not look promising.
In sports, attention is money. Old George Steinbrenner made no secret of his desire to "win" the back pages. NYC remains the only American city with competing tabloids that relentlessly - and ruthlessly - hustle to capture eyeballs. In the last five years, the Yankees have enjoyed the traditional advantage of being New York's preeminent sports franchise.
But you can't gush over 27 world championships forever, and the Yankees have been doing it now for 11 years. The franchise has blown through a 2018 talent surge with nothing to show for it. Meanwhile, Hal Steinbrenner seems more excited about soccer, football bowl games, and avoiding MLB luxury taxes than of restoring the Yankees to prominence.
Over the last few years, Tampa has eaten our lunches, and Boston owns the once-great rivalry. (Last year's greatest rivalry, by far, was LA-SF.) Toronto is ascendant, and even lowly Baltimore will soon unveil baseball's best young prospect.
As for the Yankees? Jeez Louise. The hopes that once roiled up from future stars - such as Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, Luke Voit, Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres - have dimmed to frustration. To root for this team brings an unmistakable fatigue.
Steinbrenner runs a self-sustaining machine that - by trading prospects and relentlessly combing scrap heaps - makes the postseason and fizzles. With ever-expanding playoff structures, it's not hard to do. Fans are weary of it.
On paper, at least, the Mets enter 2022 as as not only a better team, but a more exciting product. (Of course, they remain the Mets, so anything can happen.) The lowly Knicks have risen - slightly - to challenge for the playoffs, and the Nets may surprise everyone.
Only the Giants and Jets - franchises so sorry they should be moved into receiverships - will likely remain wretched and irrelevant. For them, our imaginations are not bold enough to envision success.
In 2022, the Mets will likely topple the Yankees' reign. It's worth noting that these cycles of dominance can run long term. For the Yankees to recapture their following, they need to win the world series. Hal better start recognizing this. The view from second-place will not be pleasant. And we will do everything we can to be heard.