Andy Kirkaldy: The good and the mediocre of Boston sports
It’s time for a look at the good, the bad and the ugly — a.k.a. the Boston sports teams. Well, to be fair, it really should be just the good and the mediocre.
Just to be straight here, there will be no complaints while talking about the teams with lesser prospects. Twelve championships since 2001 among the Patriots (six), Red Sox (four), and Bruins and Celtics (one apiece) gives those of us who spent our crucial formative years rooting for Boston-area teams nothing to gripe about.
So, the good — the Patriots. Yes, injuries and legal issues — Antonio Brown, we hardly knew ye, thankfully — have weakened the receiving corps and offensive line. And quarterback Tom Brady, if you looked closely, really didn’t throw the ball all that well on Sunday vs. the hapless New York Jets.
But does anyone believe the Pats will score less than 24 to 27 points a game despite these problems?
I didn’t think so.
Meanwhile the Patriot defense has not allowed a touchdown in four games. Yes, I know, the Jets and Dolphins might not beat Burr & Burton. But the list of opponents also includes the Pittsburgh Steelers, who scored three points vs. the Patriots and then 46 points total in their other two games, and the Los Angeles Rams, who have put up a total of 77 points in three games this season.
No one can predict the Patriots will win the Super Bowl. But I might go out on a limb and say if they don’t the Kansas City Chiefs will.
OK, mediocre No. 1, the Red Sox.
As of this writing on Monday the Boston Red Sox are 81-74, a pace that with seven games left would put them with a final record of 85-77.
That’s 23 fewer wins than a year ago.
In my Red Sox Facebook group about 10 of us predicted the Sox’s win total just before the season started. I ended up posting the low total of 95 because I had a queasy feeling about the Sox’s lackluster spring training.
And that’s where the Sox problems started. Spring training is notoriously not predictive of regular season results. But in 2018 the Sox kicked butt and took names in spring training, and the momentum carried over to a strong start. This spring the Sox went through the motions, as if they felt they could just show up and the rest of the league would roll over for them. The energy and passion that defined the team in 2018 was absent.
This has been a trend in Major League Baseball. The Yankees repeated as World Series champs in 1999 in 2000, and no one has matched that feat since. An extra playoff game was added to the schedule in 2011. Maybe that’s a factor in lengthening the proceedings and creating a next-season hangover. Maybe teams just aren’t as hungry after winning one. Maybe social media plays a role. But the Sox were flat out of the gate and never recovered.
But they might have except for one thing. As of this past Saturday per the Boston Globe: “The Sox are on pace to surpass the 876 runs they scored last season. But their pitchers went into Saturday already allowing 128 more. Their earned run average climbed from 3.75 to 4.63.”
It doesn’t work wonders for your team confidence and chemistry if your pitching stinks, plus your front office does nothing to address it before the trading deadline except add Andrew Cashner.
Which brings us to mediocre No. 3, the Bruins. What, you say, the Bruins just played for the Stanley Cup?
Well, only the Penguins in 2016 and 2017 have repeated as champions in the past two decades, so that doesn’t bode well. And the Bruins core is getting no younger — Chara, Bergeron, Krecji, Rask and even Marchand are all at least 30. And they are coming off a seven-game Stanley Cup final that ended on June 7.
The Bruins have drafted good defenders, such as Carlo and McAvoy, and found undrafted blue-line gems Torey Krug and Kevan Millar. But other than drafting David Pastrnak they have failed to address offensive shortcomings. The real issue is they had a real chance to do so in 2015 with the 13th, 14th and 15th picks in the draft, when they managed to get just one average player with the three picks, which were widely panned at the time.
Here they are with bleacherreport.com’s draft-day assessments. Readers will be forgiven if you only recognize one of the names — that’s the problem:
• No. 13: Defenseman Jakub Zboril: “Grade: C- … Zboril was a bit of a wild card, but he was generally projected to go in the bottom half of the draft.”
• No. 14: Jake DeBrusk: “Grade: D+ … This isn’t a bad pick, per se, but it’s the Bruins’ second consecutive time picking a player who, on most lists, was rated in the bottom half of the first round and, on some lists, even slipped to the second round.”
• No. 15: Zachary Senyshyn: “Grade F … Many projected this player to be available in the back half of the second round, his numbers aren’t great, and there was crazy talent left on the board.”
And mediocre No. 3, the Celtics. The Cs subtracted Marcus Morris, Al Horford and Kyrie Irving, even he is an idiot, and added Kemba Walker, Enes Kanter, Vincent Poirier and a few rookies.
They’re not going to be better, especially if you consider the lackluster performance of the USA national team that had four Cs on it and couldn’t figure out how to play together even with Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich in charge.
But a small wager on the Patriots might be in order.