Boston Sports: A Study in Struggles

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            2007
was a hallmark year for the top two sports teams in Boston. The Patriots went
16-0 and fell one David Tyree drop away from perfection. The Red Sox, of
course, won their second World Series of the decade. Since then, both teams
have headed for the cellar.

            On
Sunday afternoon, when the Patriots were walloped by the Ravens, they showed
that their capabilities this season revolved around dominating weak teams while
choking or falling to good teams. They lacked talent on defense and a
versatility on offense (the Moss/Welker pair does not count as an abundance of
options) that ultimately put them in their place: on their sofas watching the
playoffs.

            Last
season, the Patriots lost Tom Brady in the first game of the season and still
went 11-5. While that’s all well and good, a team with a 16-0 record the
previous season should be able to win with or without their quarterback. The
Patriots fell short of the playoffs, but instead of raising expectations for
this season, they engaged in a series of inexplicable moves.

            Matt
Cassel’s performance in Brady’s absence was excellent for his stock, yet the
Patriots ended up trading not only him, but also Mike Vrabel for draft picks
that they subsequently traded away. They also traded away all of their first
round picks and passed on highly touted linebackers the team so desperately
needed.

            By
the time the Patriots showed up to training camp, they were missing Richard
Seymour, leaving only Vince Wilfork as a big name on defense. There was no
talent there, and while Belichick is a defensive-minded coach who does have the
capability to build himself a defense, he simply didn’t give himself enough to
work with.

            The
Patriots seem to be in the throes of rebuilding a championship caliber team,
yet they have not taken that last step in finding enough talent to lead them to
glory for unknown reasons. The prices cannot be too high. After all, the Kraft
group just built a majestic shopping plaza in Gillette Stadium’s front yard. So
why the mediocrity?

            Similarly,
since winning it all in 2007, the Red Sox seem unwilling to pay or acquire the
type of players necessary to bring baseball glory back to Boston. During the
summer of 2008, Manny Ramirez forced his way out of Fenway, so the Red Sox
brought in Jason Bay as a replacement. Bay was phenomenal in Boston, the kind
of quiet, team player that everybody needed in the aftermath of the Manny
circus.

            Yet
removing Manny from the roster meant the lineup card would be missing the
hugely important intimidating bat. The Red Sox had a bunch of players who were
good, but none capable of greatness the way Manny was. Ortiz has watched his
numbers drop over the last few years, and while Youkilis, Pedroia, Lowell and
Bay are good hitters, they do not have the power to change the course of any one
game with a single swing of the bat.

            During
the off-season after the 2008 post-season (where the Red Sox played above their
capabilities before eventually falling to the Tampa Bay Rays), the Red Sox
refused to spend the money to upgrade their team. Why? I could not tell you. All
I know is that the Red Sox began the season with a mediocre line-up, a
question-mark-filled pitching rotation, and a shaky bullpen. They exited the
season in much the same way.

            A
line-up where most of the power is coming from J.D. Drew? No thank you. Jed
Lowrie and Julio Lugo platooning (until Julio was traded and Lowrie was injured
. . . again) at short? Shoot me now.

            This
off-season, the Red Sox are starting to spend money. They acquired John Lackey,
Adrian Beltre and Mike Whoever-he-is, which is an improvement over last year,
but they still have not found that much needed bat for their lineup or a
bullpen that looks like it can hold a lead.

            Perhaps
this is just a play-off loss hangover, but it seems that the winning ways from
the first half of the decade are but a distant memory. Sure, I’m lucky that I
was able to witness so many championships in such a short time, so I shouldn’t
complain, right?

            I
wouldn’t complain if I saw a good reason for both teams to low-ball it
financially and put together a half-hearted roster. The Patriots and the Red
Sox have the resources to do more, attract better players, coach stronger, yet
neither team is fully taking advantage of those resources.

            If
I felt the NBA had any redeeming qualities, perhaps I would just move on to the
Celtics, yet I don’t foresee much basketball-worshipping in my future. I guess
for these next 36 days before Spring Training starts, I’ll dwell on my fan-hood
misfortune.

            Wait.
It’s an even numbered year . . . olympics or bust!  

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