The most hyped Boston sports teams since 2001
The most hyped Boston sports teams since 2001
On Tuesday, MLB shared a video from Red Sox spring training showing David Price, Rick Porcello and Chris Sale throwing with the caption, “The crack of the leather and a lot of aces.”
While “Leather and Ace” with musical note emojis would have been a better caption, the video captured the main story with a Red Sox team carrying big expectations. The biggest of Dave Dombrowski’s offseason moves, the Sale trade, conceivably put Boston’s rotation over the top. Now the defending AL East champions are viewed as World Series favorites, with Bovada giving them the best chances to win.
This is not uncharted territory for Boston sports fans. Plenty of times in this golden age of local sports has a team not only been viewed as one that could win it all, but one that should win it all.
Some have accomplished that feat, while at least one has imploded altogether. Here are the most Boston hyped teams since 2001.
2004 Red Sox
Regular season: 98-64 (Wild Card; second in AL East)
Playoffs: Won World Series
Theo Epstein was an aggressive general manager, but the devastating end to the 2003 season prompted him to go nuts in the offseason.
He started by offering up Manny Ramirez to anyone who would take him. When Ramirez cleared irrevocable waivers, he remained Boston property until the team’s next attempt to shed him, which wouldn’t come much later.
In the meantime, Epstein convinced Curt Schilling to accept a trade to Boston, but equally important for Epstein was the addition of All-Star closer Keith Foulke.
Much of Epstein’s time was occupied with an attempt at shuffling the American League’s star players. He’d agreed to trade Ramirez, Jon Lester and cash to the Rangers for Alex Rodriguez, and to trade Nomar Garciaparra and Scott Williamson to the White Sox for Magglio Ordonez and Brandon McCarthy. Those moves were contingent on Rodriguez re-working his contract, and when the players’ union rejected the contract restructure, the trades fell apart.
The rest is history. A-Rod went to the Yankees, Schilling won 20 games, Kevin Brown punched a wall, the Yankees blew a 3-0 series lead and Jeff Suppan ran the bases like an absolute idiot.
Regular season: 14-2
Playoffs: Won Super Bowl
The funny thing about the Patriots’ first three titles is that, for the most part, the football world only saw one of them coming. The 2001 Pats weren’t even expected to have Tom Brady at quarterback and the 2003 team, in addition to coming off a season in which it missed the playoffs, had just released one of its best players in Lawyer Milloy.
Yet that 2003 team, like the ’01 team, did win the Super Bowl. Any questions about whether Brady had been a flash in the pan were answered, and he had solidified himself right along Peyton Manning as one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
One area in which the Patriots weren’t sensational was running back. The Pats had the 21st overall pick in that draft thanks to the previous year’s trade with the Ravens, but rather than banking on Steven Jackson to fall, they opted to trade a second-round pick for Corey Dillon. That freed them up to replace Ted Washington with some guy from Miami named Vince Wilfork.
With a stout defense, what looked to be a Hall of Famer at quarterback and, suddenly, a running game, the 2004 Patriots looked unstoppable. As it turned out, they were.
Regular season: 16-0 (first in AFC)
Playoffs: Lost Super Bowl
As crazy as it seems in hindsight, the hype for this team wasn’t centered around the acquisitions of Randy Moss or Wes Welker; the receivers were outshone by a defensive signing.
The Patriots made a somewhat uncharacteristic move by signing top free agent linebacker Adalius Thomas to a five-year, $35 million deal. The big story at the time was that the Pro Bowlers would further flourish under Bill Belichick. A frequently used bit was that he would become the team’s first defender since 1995 to post double-digit sacks.
Add that to the fact that Tom Brady finally had receivers again, and the Pats seemed a shoo-in to get to the Super Bowl. No one really knew how good the receivers would be given Moss’ falling out in Oakland; for many, Donté Stallworth seemed to a safer bet to be a consistent weapon for Brady.
While it wasn’t clear that the team would be close to unstoppable until Moss’ nine-reception, 183-yard debut, the 2007 team had perhaps the highest preseason expectations of any Patriots team. The irony, of course, is that Thomas didn’t play nearly as big a factor in the team’s success as expected.
Regular season: 66-18 (first in Eastern Conference)
Playoffs: Won NBA Finals
While fans wrestled with the risk the moves represented, a busy offseason for Danny Ainge turned the Celtics from a team with a mix of promising young players and veterans that had finished with the second-worst record in the NBA to a team of aging stars with a limited window.
Out was the fifth overall pick and 22-year-old power forward Al Jefferson, among other assets. In was 32-year-old Ray Allen and 31-year-old Kevin Garnett to team with 29-year-old Paul Pierce.
The hype was immediate. The trio was coined the new Big Three and they could soon be seen doing SportsCenter commercials together.
The Allen and Garnett additions also made Boston a destination, with Eddie House and James Posey signing in Boston. The continuing development of second-year point guard Rajon Rondo was almost an afterthought lost in the buzz of the new Big Three.
All of the hype proved to be warranted. They had their third-best regular season in franchise history before beating the Lakers in six games for their 17th title.
2011 Red Sox
Regular season: 90-72 (third in AL East)
After years of sports talk radio callers wanting the Red Sox to get Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox… got Adrian Gonzalez. And Carl Crawford.
Suddenly, a team that had finished third in the AL East was considered a World Series favorite. Josh Beckett was answering questions about potentially winning 100 games. The Boston Herald was, infamously, dubbing them the “BEST TEAM EVER!”
The team flamed out in historic fashion, going 7-20 in September and becoming the first team ever to hold a nine-game lead in September and miss the playoffs. The whole fiasco, which included allegations of the team’s starting pitchers eating fried chicken and drinking beer during games, led to the exit of longtime manager Terry Francona.
In the end, the Red Sox ended up finishing just one win better than they had the previous season, going from 89-73 to 90-72. Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford were traded to the Dodgers the next season.
Regular season: 54-19-9; 117 points (earned Presidents’ Trophy)
Playoffs: Eliminated second round
After Tyler Seguin and Jaromir Jagr combined for one goal in the Bruins’ deep 2013 playoff run, Peter Chiarelli blew up the right side of the Bruins’ offense with the intent of improving a team that had come two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup.
Seguin, Jagr and Rich Peverley were dismissed. Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla were brought in. For whatever longterm risk trading Seguin represented, Boston’s offense looked to have eliminated the uncertainty that plagued it at points in the 2013 postseason.
The team also looked to be improving elsewhere. Tuukka Rask posted numbers in that playoff run that mirrored Tim Thomas’ 2011 stats and looked to be entering his prime. Dougie Hamilton, coming off a promising rookie season, figured to take another step forward in his second NHL season.
While Eriksson struggled to adjust and dealt with injuries, the Bruins looked to be worth the hype in the regular season. Behind 30-goal seasons from both Iginla and Patrice Bergeron, the B’s overcame a season-ending injury to Dennis Seidenberg to post the NHL’s best record.
The fun didn’t last much longer, however. After making easy work of the Red Wings in the first round, the Bruins fell to the Canadiens in seven games. Regular playoff stud David Krejci posted just four points in 12 games, while a goal-less postseason for Brad Marchand led to speculation as to whether the team might trade him.