By Sterling Pingree
In business, quarterly earnings and quarterly reports are a good gauge to understand the health of your organization. I recently received my quarterly statement about my retirement fund and it got me thinking (as most things do) about the Boston sports scene. The grass outside isn’t very green yet, but the metaphorical grass in New England is still the envy of every other sporting city. However, a closer look at what has transpired over the last 3 months has seen a dramatic shift in the hierarchy of Boston sports.
In mid-January, the Patriots were in the midst yet another playoff run that would lead them to another Super Bowl appearance. They were unquestionably the kings of the region. However at the same time, a close number two were the Boston Celtics. Kyrie Irving was the alpha dog the team has needed since KG’s heyday, and youngsters like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown had announced their arrival as stars in the making.
But as January can be, not everything is fresh powdered ski mountains and hot Dunkin coffee. The Bruins were a nice little story, but after the moves they’ve made the past 3 years, most of the region was still guarded and unwilling to buy into Butch Cassidy’s Sundance kids.
What about those Boston Red Sox? In January, they had played one trick all off season and that was play dead. Their big splash was resigning Mitch “This land is my land, this land is” Moreland. While the Yankees were busy trading a couple of Oldsmobile hubcaps and Ron Guidry’s mustache scissor for Giancarlo Stanton, the Sox brass were content to, I don’t know what. Figure out a way to reboot “Sox Appeal”?
Look at the landscape now though! The Bruins are up 2-1 in their playoff series against Toronto and housed the Leafs in games one and two. Butch’s kids have grown before our very eyes and blossomed even more with the additions of Rick Nash, Brian Gionta and rookie Ryan Donato.
The Red Sox are 13-2 and have the best record in the American League. The Sox have a deep line up and the top 3 in their rotation can match up with anybody’s in baseball when healthy. Even more amazing however is that even during the spirited comebacks and clutch hits, the team is doing this at way less them 100% health. Xander Bogaerts started the year on fire and the only thing that could slow him down was an unfortunate injury. Mookie Betts is currently down with an injury and Hanley missed a game after being hit on the hand with a pitch. What has gone completely overlooked during the greatest 15-game start to a season in franchise history is the fact that their 4th and 5th starters have been Brian Johnson and Hector Velasquez. Drew Pomeranz won 17-games last year and has pitched more in the state of Maine than he has the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Don’t forget that our bullpen has consisted of extra doses of Marcus Walden and Bobby Poyner. This is without a doubt the most remarkable run to start a season the Red Sox have ever had. All of that with a first time manager at the helm.
But unfortunately there are two sides to every coin, or two faces to every Batman villain (I’m not sure if I’m mixing metaphors, or if that was even a metaphor) and in this case the other side of the coin is the current states of the Boston Celtics and the New England Patriots.
The Gordon Hayward injury during opening night was borderline tragic, but the Kyrie Irving knee surgery was the final shot that put this team’s dreams of winning the Eastern Conference on ice. Instead of watching a 2-seed, tear through a historically down East, we’re now in a dog fight with Giannis and the Bucks in the first round. An appearance in the Eastern Finals now seems like a pipe dream. Although I will say, seeing Tatum, Brown, Rozier, Horford and Morris go on run for pride’s sake would be a lot of fun.
The New England Patriots are in a precarious spot yet again. Gronk doesn’t know if he wants to play, Dola, Solder, Lewis, Butler and Cooks are all gone, Brady is riding camels, Belichick had a birthday on Monday and nobody knows what all of this means! (Except that last one, it means Bill Belichick is now 66-years old.) There are non-stories almost every day about whether Gronk will play, is he upset with the team, with Coach Belichick, does he want to play again, is he dancing with Shaq in the club? There are a lot of questions surrounding this team, and from a talent stand point, they are certainly down from where they were in January.
With the NFL Draft a little more than a week away, things could change quickly for the Patriots during the second quarter. Check back with my in June and we’ll see what the landscape looks like, because in New England the old adage goes: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.” That holds true in New England sports as well, if you don’t like it, something big can and will happen, it’s just a matter if it turns good or bad.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.