As we head into 2016 here are some of the major storylines for our four Boston pro teams.
For the Patriots it’s all about the number 5. That would be 5 Super Bowl titles in the Belichick-Brady era. And what could be sweeter for TB12 than to win that fifth title in his hometown. So what has to happen for yet another Duck Boat Parade. First and foremost is good health. We saw how much Gronk means to this offense when he was out of the lineup in the loss to the Eagles. A healthy Gronk gives Brady the best weapon in the game. Add a healthy Julian Edelman to the mix and the Patriots offense can score at will.
The defense has been a force all season. With 40 sacks in 13 games the Pat’s defense is on pace to have the highest sack total of the Belichick era. When they lost Revis and Browner Patriot Nation worried about the secondary. But Malcolm Butler has proven not to be a one hit wonder as he has developed into a number one corner. Plus Logan Ryan on the other side has improved each and every week into a very dependable corner. This is a championship defense.
I don’t see any AFC team coming into Foxboro and winning a playoff game. A Super Bowl matchup against the Carolina Panthers or the resurgent Seattle Seahawks will be a great test for the Patriots.
The Red Sox won the winter. But is that enough for this team to win the AL East. Dave Dombrowski did his job getting David Price to be the ace. And he rebuilt the bullpen with power arms in closer Craig Kimbrel and set up man Carson Smith. But there are plenty of question marks on this team starting with the absurd notion that Hanley Ramirez can or even wants to play first base. This could be a disaster as Ramirez playing first base can hurt the entire infield defense.
Will Pablo Sandoval show up in Fort Meyers in shape instead of looking and playing like a beer league softball player.
In the outfield Jackie Bradley is a superb fielder but had a .213 career average with a .638 OPS. And leftfielder Rusney Castillo will be 29 in July with a career OPS of .680. Not exactly what you are looking for in the outfield.
And behind David Price all you have are question marks from the fragile Clay Buchholz to unreliable Rick Porcello to Joe Kelly. All three do not instill a lot of confidence.
The biggest story line for this team is the manager John Farrell. Everyone is rooting for Farrell as he comes back from cancer. But the fact remains in 5 seasons as a manager he has one year of over .500 baseball and two straight last place finishes. The team seemed to respond much better to Torey Lovullo last season. After spending a ton of John Henry’s money this off season the Red Sox will have to come out of the gate strong or the Fire Farrell voices will be heard loud and clear.
For the Celtics the biggest storyline is building towards the next great Celtic team. This year’s team is fun to watch, will win 45 or so games and maybe even win a first round playoff series. But as M.L. Carr said this organization is championship driven. So folks keep an eye on the scoreboard and the Brooklyn Nets.
The Celtics own their first round pick and if that pick could net LSU’s Ben Simmons the C’s would take a big step in the rebuilding process. Next summer the Celtics will have about $50 million in cap space to go out and get that go to guy they so sorely lack. NBA free agents want to go to teams where they can win. With Brad Stevens and a top draft choice to add to their core Boston could finally lure their first big name free agent.
The Bruins right now are a marginal playoff team. They are more fun to watch most nights than in the past but the talent is not there. The first step to becoming Cup contenders is to get out of the salary cap hell that Peter Chiarelli put the team in.
It’s up to Don Sweeney and his staff to find talented young cost effective players so the Bruins can continue to get rid of some of the bloated Chiarelli contracts and go out and get players with speed and scoring ability that they have lacked. And at some point you have to go out and get that number one defenseman to replace the soon to be 39 year old Zedeno Chara who has 2 more years left on his contract.