Dressed for Success: Safest jerseys to own in Boston sports
Anyone who buys an athlete’s jersey (you’re allowed; don’t let any “If you’re over X age” nonsense make you feel otherwise), has lots to consider. Favorite team, favorite player, home/away/third, etc.
Yet the biggest thing to consider if you want any sort of bang for your buck is the safety of a jersey, or ability to wear it for the long haul without it looking weird. Guys leave in free agency, get traded or otherwise fall from relevance. Retiring’s fine, especially if it’s with the local team, but there’s nothing dicier than getting a pretty good player’s jersey when you aren’t sure what’s ahead of them. The Ellis Hobbs III jersey I customized the day he was drafted, for example, proved to be what the kids call “a bad look.”
“Safest” doesn’t mean “best player.” It means safest for the reasons I just outlined. Here are the 25 safest Boston sports jerseys right now among active players.
25. Patrick Chung
Cocaine be damned, Chung’s been a Belichick favorite throughout his two stints in New England. This is basically an “In Belichick We Trust” jersey.
24. David Price
On one hand, he’s due a ton of money for the next three seasons, so he probably isn’t going anywhere. There’s still the chance he goes all the way back to being a fan least-favorite, in which case you’d be wearing the jersey of someone who plays in this town, but clearly wishes he didn’t.
23. Brandon Carlo
So he “doesn’t have a contract.” Once he is signed, Carlo’s the type of player you keep around. He doesn’t produce enough offensively to warrant a massive cap hit, but he’s a very good No. 3 of 4 defenseman. It wouldn’t surprise me if he outlasts McAvoy in Boston just based on money.
22. Matthew Slater
Slater’s a free agent after the season. Would he leave? He at least considered it a year ago when he took a free-agent visit with the Steelers. It’s hard to imagine him playing anywhere else, but “Vinatieri left” is the “Gretzky was traded” of NFL defection logic.
21. Mookie Betts
This should be the safest jersey in all the land. The Red Sox should pay him whatever they want because they’re the Red Sox and they should never lose a great player over money. They’re being more, let’s say “thoughtful” about it, however, and could theoretically lose him in free agency or trade him before he gets there. In such an event, a Betts jersey represents an MVP and a World Series champion. It could also just be the Boston jersey of a player who goes into the Hall of Fame wearing another team’s threads.
20. Dont’a Hightower
How much he has left in the tank is debatable, but Hightower’s been a star throughout his career and made one of the greatest plays in Patriots Super Bowl history. That’s not an easy list to make.
19. David Krejci
Krejci’s 33 years old and has two years left on his current contract. He said when he signed that deal in 2014 that he’s always wanted to finish his career back home in the Czech Republic, so there’s a good chance Krejci’s entire career will have been spent in Boston, with at least one Stanley Cup and a couple of Conn Smythe-level playoff runs.
18. Jayson Tatum
Talk to me in a year. If Tatum shows out in his third season, the Celtics should have no problem locking him up prior to the last year of his rookie deal, as the 76ers did this offseason with that guy who can’t shoot.
17. Stephon Gilmore
He’s a Patriot, so he could be gone at any minute. That said, it’s clearly in both his and the team’s best interest for the 28-year-old to stick around. He arrived as a Pro Bowler and has since become an All-Pro and arguably the best corner in the league.
16. Tuukka Rask
He’ll be a free agent in two years, but there isn’t currently a no-brainer succession plan. Then again, goalie contracts have gotten insane, so it’s a coin flip as to whether he’ll sign another deal here. Warning: A Rask jersey will not be safe from dummies striking up conversations about how it’s his fault he hasn’t won despite being the best goaltender in both of his Stanley Cup runs.
15. Stephen Gostkowski
He’s the Patriots’ all-time scoring leader. Shut up.
14. Marcus Smart
A heart-and-soul player, but does anyone actually think the Celtics would consider him untouchable? Danny Ainge is the ultimate do-what’s-best-for-the-organization executive. It makes jersey selection a little tougher as a result.
13. Charlie McAvoy
This one’s dicey because we don’t know whether he’ll sign an eight-year deal or a shorter deal that would take him right up to unrestricted free agency. He’s a star player and star players are always in demand. It would take financial mishandling for McAvoy to not spend the vast majority of his career in Boston.
12. Chris Sale
There’s an awful lot of risk involved here. Coming off this weird-ass season, Sale’s about to begin a five-year extension. We’ve seen him be the best pitcher in baseball and we’ve seen him be surprisingly pedestrian. Depending on how he holds up, you’re wearing either the jersey of a longtime ace or an expensive representation of an ill-timed signing.
11. Kemba Walker
The safest Celtic. He’s signed the longest among Boston’s core players, as his player option for 2022-23 could keep him in the picture longer than Smart.
10. David Pastrnak
Pastrnak has four years left on his deal and the team will seemingly be contending that entire time. The biggest concern regarding him playing his entire career in Boston: He’s already underpaid. Will he try to make up for it by eventually chasing top dollar in free agency down the road?
9. Rafael Devers
He’s arbitration eligible through 2023 and he’s already one of the best players in the game. The only thing that keeps this ranking from being higher is the fact that we don’t know whether he’ll eventually sign a mega-deal in Boston.
8. Xander Bogaerts
Bogaerts starts a six-year deal after this season and the Red Sox generally aren’t the rebuilding type. He probably won’t be the “face of the franchise” if guys like Betts and Devers stick around, but who cares? He’s young, he’s won and he’s got some more All-Star appearances ahead of him.
7. Brad Marchand
He’s already won, he’s one of the best players on the planet and he’s entering the third season of a five-year deal. The only thing not currently safe about a Marchand jersey is wearing it anywhere outside of New England.
6. Dustin Pedroia
If this ranking were based on guaranteeing the player finish his career with the local team, this would be No. 1. It just isn’t the sexiest jersey right now because we don’t know if he’ll play again and he’s not far enough removed from his career for a No. 15 jersey to be a throwback. At any rate, Pedroia will finish his career as a true Red Sox lifer, having been drafted by the club and winning everything from Rookie of the Year to MVP to a pair of World Series. He was a fan favorite and came to be an obnoxious Bostonian. No. 15 will undoubtedly go down as a classic jersey around these parts.
5. Julian Edelman
Edelman is 33. He’s not playing much longer, and you’ve got to assume that’ll all be with the Patriots. Even if the sides eventually part ways for the final year of his career, ask yourself this: Would your Troy Brown jersey be any less amazing if he’d gone to the Saints after the three Super Bowls? Probably not.
4. Devin McCourty
We wondered going into Super Bowl LIII whether it could be McCourty’s final game in the NFL. Thankfully it wasn’t, but it’s fair to assume the 32-year-old is nearing the end. He should go down as a Patriots lifer and will have at least three Super Bowl titles to his name when he hangs ‘em up.
3. Patrice Bergeron
Bergeron checks all the boxes: Elite player, decorated champion and as beloved a player as there’s ever been in Boston. He’s signed for three more seasons and will turn 37 the summer of his free agency. It’s hard to imagine him finishing his career anywhere else.
2. Tom Brady
Here’s the only reason Brady isn’t the safest jersey: If he leaves after this season (he won’t) and wins a title or two with another team (he’s capable), it leaves a weird taste. It puts a dent in Brady-Belichick and leaves Patriots fans feeling the way other sports fans are supposed to feel: Frustrated with their team.
If this were a ranking by actual standing in pop culture and sports history, Brady would top this list by several miles. In that regard, Jordan jerseys are the only competition.
1. Zdeno Chara
Like Brady, Chara is 42. Unlike Brady, he isn’t expected to play to 45, thus making the one-year deal on he’s currently playing a realistic possibility to be his last. And if it isn’t, there’s no reason to believe he’d play the extra year elsewhere considering he’s already shown a willingness to play on below-market contracts here this late in his career. And even if Chara were to depart for a year or two, he wouldn’t be singlehandedly carrying a team to a title the way we all know Brady still could at his age.
Bottom line: You want a jersey of an active Boston sports giant that’s got zero chance of being tough to look at one day? It’s Chara, one of the best defensemen of all time and the primary reason the Bruins went from an aimless laughing stock back to an annual contender.