By Mark Paulette
(Check out yesterday part one.)
8. Al Horford Ships up to Boston, 7/2/16 – “The Boston Celtics can’t lure a top free agent they said.” [Insert Dwight Schrute “False” meme]. Al Horford penned a 4-year, $113-million deal with the C’s, bucking said trend and bringing his 4x All Star resume to Beantown. Not to be negative, but I feel compelled to ask – while it’s a big money deal on paper, is Al Horford really a top player in the league? Or simply a product of inflated player salaries?
7. Aly Raisman Strikes Gold in Rio, 8/5/16-8/21/16 – The Needham, Mass native captained the “The Final Five,” which became the first U.S. gymnastics team to win back-to-back gold medals. Raisman became the first American gymnast to win a repeat Olympic medal in the floor exercise and ranks second all-time among U.S. gymnasts with six medals. Not bad for a 22-year-old.
6. Hanley Ramirez Walks Off Yankees, 9/15/16 – Had the Red Sox season ended with better fortunes, this moment would’ve had a featured segment in the season’s DVD. Trailing 5-2 in the ninth, the Sox scored a run before Hanley Ramirez came to the plate with two-on and two-out. Hanley later would claim he was “trying to go to the moon” and that’s just what he did, turning around a Betances heater and sending it into the centerfield bleachers, launching Fenway into a frenzy. The walk-off shot was the nail in the coffin for the Yanks’ season and propelled Boston on a run which would lead to an AL East crown.
5. Chris Sale Megadeal, 12/6/16 – Dave Dombrowski drastically changed the landscape of Major League Baseball and gave Red Sox fans an early Christmas present when he acquired Chicago White Sox’ ace, Chris Sale. The deal cost Boston prized prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, but what certainly is one of the biggest deals in franchise history on paper could prove to very well be one of the most impactful. The lefty owns a 74-50 career record and averages 225 strikeouts per season. He’s also finished top-6 in Cy Young voting and made the All Star team in each of his five years as a starter. Sale joins reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, and former Cy Young winner David Price, in a loaded rotation which has made the Sox betting favorites to win the pennant.
4. Return of the King, 10/9/16 – Just in case you forgot Tom Brady’s greatness, or were sidetracked by the serviceable play of the backups in his absence, the GOAT reintroduced himself to a sea of Patriots fans on a sun-soaked Sunday afternoon on the banks of Lake Erie. “How would missing four games affect the play of the 39-year-old QB?” pundits asked leading up to kick off, not a damn bit. Brady shredded the hapless Browns for 406 yards and three touchdowns in his long-awaited return. With the revenge tour in full effect and a potential third MVP award in the cards, here’s to hoping this run ends with the top moment of 2017.
3. Rick Porcello, Cy Young, 11/16/16 – Over the course of the 2016 season, Rick Porcello went from a questioned, overpaid member of the Red Sox rotation to the best pitcher in the American League. The 6’5” righty racked up wins without breaking a sweat in ’16. (Actually, that’s a lie, his salt-stained cap tells a different story.) All in all, his league-leading 22 wins to just four losses, 223 innings pitched, 189 strikeouts, a 3.15 ERA and three complete games were far and away better than any other starter in the AL. Those numbers were good enough to become the fourth pitcher in Red Sox history to win the esteemed award.
2. Win #201, 12/4/16 – Tom Brady further cemented himself as the greatest quarterback in NFL history by beating the St. Louis Rams, 26-10, in week 13 to become the winningest quarterback in the history of the world. With win #201, Brady edged ahead of Peyton Manning for first place on the all-time list. Not only is the volume of the mark impressive, it’s the efficiency at which Brady has dominated the league: winning 77% of the games he’s played over the last 16 years. (Second on the percentage list among QB’s with at least 50 wins is Russell Wilson, 62-26-1, 70.2%.)
1. Papi’s Farewell, 10/10/16 – Let’s be honest, the entire 2016 season from David Ortiz was one giant, memorable ride. Never has an athlete at 40 years of age gone out on such dominant terms (.315/38/127). Ortiz basically did whatever he wanted on the diamond this past year as if it were a scripted tale. But the ending was not scripted, as the Cleveland Indians swept the Sox in the ALDS. Seeing the heart and soul of the franchise standing among the falling raindrops on the mound at Fenway as the crowd stood as one saluting their hero was enough to pull at even the most hardened of heart strings in Red Sox Nation. While it certainly wasn’t the way Ortiz envisioned his career coming to a close, that moment was damn near perfect. (Or, at least I imagine it was in person, the TV networks flubbed in their coverage of it.) Either way, I don’t think anyone will argue the final moments of Papi’s Hall of Fame career are deserving of the top spot in 2016.
Mark Paulette is the PVC for 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.