The State of Boston Sports

This is first and foremost a basketball blog. However, with the Celtics deciding that winning games isn’t too important and the Patriots looking vulnerable (yes, even though they beat the Jets) questions about the validity of one and the longevity of the other have risen. Are the Celtics as good as advertised? How much longer do the Pats have? Despite winning a title semi annually, the thought of “is this it?” always enters Boston minds. I mean, we’re the city that was synonymous with failure for multiple decades. Minus the Celtics of the 80’s and we would’ve been staring down the barrel of a 30 year title drought. Not anymore though, not only did we get back on the board, but we’ve taken the throne. When you sit atop the mountain everyone looks for a chance to take you off, and this is every other cities best chance to topple Boston since 2010. Back when the Red Sox finished third in the AL East, the Celtics lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Lakers, the Patriots choked in the divisional round against Mark Sanchez and the Jets, and the Bruins blew a 3-0 lead to the Flyers. Are Boston sports at that same low point now? Heavens no, we’re a month removed from a dominating World Series win. However, this is the lowest the city has been in a long time early into the Celtic’s season, and this late into a Patriots one. There’s no need to panic though, despite what a certain radio show that rhymes with Smellger and Spazz (nailed it) would have you believe. The sports teams in Boston are fine, and they’ll continue to be fine, however it’s never a bad time to assess all four situations even if it’s to stroke our own ego. In that regard, I give you The Current State of Boston Sports.

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We start at the most positive point. The Boston Red Sox won the 2018 World Series in as convincing a fashion as possible. This team featured two gold glovers (I refuse to count Kinsler), three silver sluggers (I will count J.D twice though), the A.L comeback player of the year, and the MVP. This team’s core is extremely young and for the most part all love being here. Where do the question marks arise you ask? Nathan Eovaldi and Joe Kelly (easily the two best bullpen guys all post season) are free agents this year along with all star closer Craig Kimbrel. While yes, that doesn’t seem like an issue that should worry anyone, the way the Sox allocate that money has huge implications for the following off seasons. In 2020 Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, Mitch Moreland, Steve Pearce, and Xander Bogaerts are all free agents with Mookie Betts and ALCS MVP Jackie Bradley joining them in 2021. Mix in a J.D Martinez player opt out, and this whole roster could potentially depart. This is the Red Sox though, they’ll have the money to retain a lot of these guy, the problem is filling the gaps of those who leave. MLB’s top 50 prospect list features zero Red Sox, but still the level of worry needed is minuscule. Devers, Betts, Benintendi and Bogaerts are all under 30, and if they all can be resigned, Alex Cora and the boys aren’t going anywhere. The biggest threat this team faces resides in the Bronx. Coming off a 100 win season of their own, the Yankees are looking to do what they do best and outbid every other team in free agency and the trade market. After acquiring pitcher James Paxton from the Mariners, the Yankees continue to stay linked to free agent all star short stop Manny Machado. Out west the Astros aren’t a team to take lightly either, as they’ve been in talks to get perennial gold glover Paul Goldschmidt from Arizona. In terms of the Red Sox roster and what they can control, this team is going to be dominant for quite some time. Their window is wide open, and at this point, nothing could happen to close it.

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The least talked about team in town is maybe the one who should have the most buzz. Currently the Boston Bruins injured reserved list features the captain Zdeno Chara, the future of the team in Charlie McAvoy, two young promising defense men in Brandon Carlo and Urho Vaakanainen, and the best player on the team Patrice Bergeron. Any team dealing with these types of injuries, especially a young one like the Bruins, would turtle and cave in on itself. Yet somehow Boston has gone 6-2-2 in their last 10 with 30 points which is good enough for fourth in the Eastern Conference. Led by a mix of veterans like Brad Marchand and David Krejci, and young talent like Jake DeBrusk, this team is cruising at this point of the regular season. The long term prospects of this team are even more appealing as noted scorer of goals 22 year old David Pasrnak inked a six year deal this off season. After years of watching talent this team has drafted like Tyler Seguin, Blake Wheeler, and Phil Kessel find success elsewhere, it’s rewarding to see Boston have some young guns of their own. With DeBrusk and McAvoy leading the charge, followed by guys like Bjork, Grzelcyk, Karlsson, Heinen and Donato, this team has youth for days. Goaltending is this teams only question mark. As the President of the “Tuuka Rask is actually good” club even I will admit he started the season off as bad as he possibly could’ve. Where Rask dropped the ball, newly signed backup Jaroslav Halak has picked it up, as he currently ranks second in save percentage and goals against average. After stepping away for personal reasons, Rask has come back and looked a lot better, most recently, posting 31 saves on the road in Montreal. While Boston’s goalie duo right now looks legit, Rask is on the wrong side of 30 and Boston has yet to draft a suitable replacement. Once Boston gets it’s goalie situation handled past Rask’s contract, the Bruins are going to compete for the East year in and year out.

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Ted Williams once said “The one constant throughout the years has been baseball.” Well the Splendid Splinter didn’t account for Thomas Edward Patrick Brady. Year in and year out the Patriots have been the model NFL franchise since 2001. Given their have been some hiccups along the way, namely the witch hunt scandals and the Hernandez situation, but what the Pats have built in Foxborough is second to none. That being said, this team is the second most frustrating (we’ll get to that) and has the shortest shelf life of any team in Boston, but understandably so. This team has been what it’s been for EIGHTEEN years. Any other franchise would pay top dollar to get half of that success, so we as fans have to expect the price tag to be steep when its finally time to pay. With Brady’s career winding down, question marks surrounding Gronk, and no real sign that Belichick will be on the sidelines after this year, New England’s time atop the peak of football may soon be up. That’s why we as fans have put such underlying emphasis on this season. We all know this maybe it, at least for Tom and Bill. With that being said, this season has been infuriating. I get that complaining about an 8-3 team, who’s currently second in the AFC, is the definition of champagne problems. This team though, is extremely inconsistent at best. The offense had it’s struggles early on, but when Michel, Brady, Gronk, Gordon, and Edelman are all on the field it cannot be stopped. The defense however, doesn’t make an ounce of sense. They hold Aaron Rodgers to 17 points only to follow it up with an abysmal 31 point bludgeoning at the hands of Marcus Mariota. When they show up they’ll stop everyone, but come January if you don’t show up once you’re gone.

Despite a win now mentality this team does have pieces on both sides of the ball that can win, at the least, next year. On offense you have Brady and Edelman for one more year on the books which always gives your offense a heartbeat. Add Sony Michel to the list as the rookie running back has shown he can alleviate a ton of pressure off of Brady out of the backfield. Defensively, Stephon Gilmore has been very good in man to man schemes, and Devin McCourty is returning to form as the season goes on.  The number one priority this off season in terms of on the field talent has to be bringing Trey Flowers back. He’s a machine and has developed into the best player on this defense. The clock is ticking though, and time is certainly almost up. Until then though, as long as we have Tom Brady taking snaps I like our chances.

Brad Stevens

Then there’s the Celtics. My god this Celtics team. From top to bottom this team is loaded on paper. The starting five features three All Stars and two players featured in the rising stars game. The second unit features guys who would get significant minutes elsewhere like Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier. Currently in the 8th seed, they’re a .500 team going into a game tonight in New Orleans. With a young head coach and young core this Celtics team seemed on the door step of a dynasty. The timing was perfect too, LeBron heads to L.A, Golden State starts to show signs of cracking, and Philadelphia doesn’t address a single need in the off season. Flash forward a month and none of that matters because we’re down 26 at home to the New York Knicks. In the grand scheme of things, this team is in a fine position. They have youth to build around, or to trade for a superstar, there is no need to panic about this team’s long term window. Kyrie has shown up this season averaging 21 points and 6 assists. No one has played well all season long though and that’s whats killing this team. Tatum and Brown haven’t taken the step we all thought they would and Gordon Hayward clearly isn’t right yet. It’s still early but this Celtics team may fall in with the likes of the 2010 Pats, 2011 Red Sox and 2012 Bruins. Groups that on paper we’re championship favorites, but just didn’t seem to care when the chips were down. There isn’t much for me to say from an analytics perspective as Chuck’s recaps here hit the nail on the head, but from just an entertainment perspective, the better team on Causeway street wears Black and Gold. If you asked me in August if I thought that to be possible I’d have laughed in your face. This team has all the time in the world but the fan base’s patience won’t last that long. They don’t need to “win now” but it really wouldn’t hurt to win sometimes.

Does this city have question marks? For sure, but every team here has the chance to win a title. With one down in the 18-19 campaign, it really isn’t that insane to expect one or two more. Beyond that though, the youth these teams have, minus the Pats, is extraordinary. So while yes, now that October is over and all three remaining teams are looking up in the standings, Boston still sits in the drivers seat. And these teams aren’t passing the keys over any time soon.

-Eric

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