For many people, Boston, Massachusetts represents the center of the sports universe. In the past decade, the city has boasted world champions from each of the four major sports—seven championships in total. As far back as I can remember, the city has always had at least one team in contention for a title. It’s also had its fair share of underachievers and downright awful teams along the way, but up until now, the Boston Red Sox have never been alone at the bottom of the sports totem pole.
Last season marked the Red Sox’ worst performance since 1965, a year in which the team lost 100 games. It was their first losing campaign in 15 years and their first last place finish since 1993. The Red Sox are expected to break camp with an entirely different cast in 2013, with a new manager and nine new players expected to make the 25-man roster. Needless to say, the team’s expectations are as much of an unknown as they’ve ever been.
Meanwhile, Boston is exploding with anticipation in regards to the other major sports.
The New England Patriots have been at the peak of the city’s sports love affair since winning the Super Bowl in 2001. Since then, the team has compiled a winning record each and every year and has earned double-digit win totals in 12 of those 13 seasons, winning nine division titles and three Super Bowls along the way. Even now, with baseball spring training in full swing, the top sports story in New England is whether or not the team will be able to re-sign all-pro wide receiver Wes Welker.
The Boston Bruins are doing a nice job of grabbing headlines themselves these days. The 2011 Stanley Cup champions have began the lockout-shortened season of 2013 with their best start in team history through 21 games (15-3-3).
On the hard court, the Boston Celtics have recently begun to breathe new life into their fans. After losing their starting point guard, Rajon Rondo, for the rest of the season, the team has responded by winning 13 of their last 17 games. They were all but dead and buried toward the end of January, but now the Celtics sit just 4.5 games out of the number two seed in the Eastern Conference.
For the first time in a long, long time, the Red Sox are an afterthought in Boston. The ownership group knows this all too well, evidenced by their very cringe-worthy off-season public relations campaign, which promised “change” and “a new start”.
Maybe the Red Sox can use this to their advantage. Maybe being under the radar will somehow result in wins. Maybe the team will surprise their fans with a rare winning streak right out of the gate. If not, it won’t be a big deal. Boston fans will be fine. The NBA and NHL playoffs get underway in late April.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)