It’s the time-honored tradition of making promises for the coming year. Some resolutions we intend to do our very best to keep. For others, we just go through the motions of recognizing the need to improve but know deep down there isn’t enough resolve to carry them through to fruition.
In my travels to the homes of the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, Celtics and Boston College, I’ve seen enough in 2012 that makes me look forward to 2013 and ask for better in the next 12 months. Yes, the Red Sox have their fair share of space on this list. And no, I’m not going to completely throw them under a bus because, after all, the new year is all about turning the page, like Terry Francona used to say. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.
So, without further ado, here are 10 resolutions for 2013 that the local teams should make for their fans.
10. Boston College athletic director Brad Bates finds hope and promise with the football and basketball programs.
A 2-10 finish in 2012 got Frank Spaziani fired after four seasons. He lost the recruiting touch that is the lifeblood of any Division 1 football program. In comes Steve Addazio from Temple (after a stint at Florida, where he coached Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez). Boston College fans can only hope that Addazio has kept his recruiting contacts up to date because they desperately need an infusion of talent to turn BC's fortunes around. Meanwhile on the hardwood, the prospects of getting into the upper crust of the ACC isn’t much brighter. Donahue was 21-12 in his first season taking over for Al Skinner. He was 9-22 last year and is 6-5 this season, with home losses to Bryant and Harvard. Not exactly the way to draw blue chips to your program. Donahue has to get to work fast to start building his foundation to show Bates that he’s serious about reviving BC’s basketball tradition that was strong in the early 1990s and 2000s.
9. Jeremy Jacobs sees the light, makes amends with the players and rescues the NHL season.
The Bruins owner arguably is the most despised man in Boston sports. He makes the Grinch look like Tim Allen in "The Santa Clause." Jacobs is the lightning rod for all the anger that has been directed at the NHL from a fan base that feels betrayed by the man. He has wasted all the goodwill built from the B's 2011 Stanley Cup championship. He is a good businessman who has ticked off his customers. I can’t see how he can let this go on much longer. The word is that the owners have had a 48-game schedule in their back pocket all along. It might take a lot more than just dropping the puck for Jacobs to get those angry fans back in his building. But it’s a start.
8. Dustin Pedroia gets through to Jose Iglesias.
As he pointed out to boss Rob Bradford and baseball expert Alex Speier on WEEI’s Hot Stove Show on Thursday night, Pedroia can’t wait to get back to work and put 2012 behind him. Pedroia became a symbol of everything that went wrong with the 2012 Red Sox, sometimes very unfairly. Starting with the episode during fielding drills with Mike Aviles in spring training, and continuing with his “That’s not how we do things here” defense of Kevin Youkilis after Bobby Valentine’s ill-conceived criticism, Pedroia found himself on the wrong side of the PR battle in Boston for the first time in his career. Now he’s spending time training with the would-be shortstop of the future in the offseason, trying to help Iglesias hit the ground running come spring training. Pedroia knows that even with Stephen Drew on board, Iglesias needs to show he has the strength and determination to hit in the majors. That’s what a leader does.
7. Scott Boras keeps quiet on Jacoby Ellsbury and lets him focus on bouncing back.
This one might really fall in the category of wishful thinking. Ellsbury is looking to bounce back from an injury-riddled season that limited him to four homers, 26 RBIs, 14 steals and a .271 average. Everyone knows that the superagent Boras likes to remind “the market” of just how valuable his client can be with a binder full of player-friendly statistics and stories. All you need to know about Ellsbury heading into his free agent season in 2013 is how he bounced back in 2011 after just 18 games in 2010. In ’11, Ellsbury hit .321 with 32 homers and 105 RBIs in 158 games and finished second in the MVP race to Justin Verlander.
6. John Farrell does everything in his power to rejuvenate Jon Lester and rescue Daniel Bard.
More than anything else, the bounceback of the Red Sox hinges on their pitching staff, specifically Lester. Farrell knows Lester as well as anyone and the hope is he can restore Lester to his 2010 form, the last season Farrell spent with the lefty. That year, Lester was 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA and 1.202 WHIP, leading the American League with 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings. That same season Bard was blossoming into baseball’s best setup man behind Jonathan Papelbon, posting a 1.93 ERA and 1.004 WHIP in 73 appearances. Last year, Bard fell apart in the misguided attempt to convert him to a starter. He was 5-6 with a 6.22 ERA and 1.736 WHIP. Things actually got worse at Triple-A Pawtucket when the team tried to put him back into his old role in the bullpen (7.03 ERA, 1.875 WHIP).
5. Rajon Rondo smiles more.
I’ll admit this is selfish. Rajon Rondo is a brilliant point guard in the NBA. And that’s not hyperbole. He’s one of the very best in the game, and he has assumed a great leadership role on the team. But every once in a while, it would be nice if he would show just how much he enjoys being on the floor with a team that -- if healthy -- has a legitimate chance to win the NBA title in a quickly closing window. I’m not questioning whether Rondo enjoys what he does. Of course he does. What I’m asking is that he relax and take it all in. Too often Rondo appears bothered by it all. He’s an artist who loves to show off his work on the floor, but once he enters the locker room he’s rarely seen with a smile. Part of that is entirely understandable. The C's locker room is too crowded with 15 chairs shoved into the middle of the room over the logo. There’s little space for anyone to move. He promised before last season that he would try to show that he’s enjoying himself. Now would be a good time for that.
4. Danny Ainge gets Kevin Garnett some serious help in the post.
Look, Doc Rivers can say all the right things about Jason Collins being the best communicator out on the floor with KG and convince us all that Collins is the best pick-setter on the team. But how good would a Kenyon Martin-type look in Celtics green with KG on the court at the same time? We’ve seen how much effort KG has put into the season already. The C's need something left in his tank come April and May.
3. Tom Brady shows more fire.
We’ve seen it on the field plenty of times before from the best quarterback of this generation. We saw it in Pittsburgh in 2010 when he ripped his team during a Sunday night game and his Patriots responded with a win over the big, bad Steelers. We saw it in 2011 on the sideline in Washington when he and Bill O’Brien got into a shouting match over an interception in the end zone. But what we saw from Brady after the sloppy, lethargic win over the Jaguars was something different. It was genuine anger and disgust at the level of play from himself and his teammates with the playoffs and a potential playoff bye on the line. When he shows this side, we don’t just see Brady the great quarterback, we see Brady the unquestioned emotional leader of the team.
2. Stevan Ridley holds on.
I still wonder what would’ve happened in Super Bowl XLVI if Ridley had not been benched since fumbling away the ball in the AFC divisional playoff victory over the Broncos. He provides the balance and explosion in the running game that would’ve kept the Giants honest and kept the NASCAR pass rush in the pits a little longer, perhaps just long enough for the Patriots to hold on after they built a 17-9 lead. This year, history looks to be repeating. There are concerns about Ridley’s ball security late in the season. But the Patriots can’t afford to be without him with a pass-rushing team like the Bengals likely waiting in the wings in the first round. The Bengals are very vulnerable against the run. Play-action might be just the trick to beating teams like Cincinnati and Denver in the playoffs. The Broncos and Bengals are the two biggest obstacles between the Pats and a trip to New Orleans. Ridley, along with Danny Woodhead, was one of the few bright spots for a Patriots offense that sputtered against the Jaguars. He ran hard and with purpose. If he does that in the playoffs, I’m convinced the Patriots will make it back to the Super Bowl and finish the job this time.
1. The Red Sox become fun to watch.
For the first time in the John Henry era, the Red Sox were painful, boring and ugly to watch in 2012. The franchise that brought New England World Series trophies in 2004 and ’07 forgot that baseball is supposed to be an enjoyable pastime -- not a three-hour infomercial. If you ask Red Sox fans, that is what bothers the majority of them the most. Every fan knows their team is going to suffer through a bad season every so often, no matter how well or foolishly you spend your money. It happens to the Rays, Yankees and all teams in between. What they can’t stand is to have the “Red Sox” brand force-fed down their throats as the team is struggling badly to redefine its identity. Here’s some friendly advice for Red Sox management and fans alike: Let the 2013 Red Sox breathe with fresh faces like Will Middlebrooks, Jose Iglesias, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli (maybe), Adam LaRoche (maybe) and Jonny Gomes. There’s a very bright future ahead for the likes of Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Matt Barnes and Bryce Brentz.
Now, a personal note. Boston is a sports town that has been spoiled with legendary voices. Joe Castiglione, Ken Coleman and Ned Martin for the Red Sox. Johnny Most for the Celtics. Bob Wilson and Fred Cusick for the Bruins.
On Sunday, 72-year-old Gil Santos will work his final regular-season game when he calls Patriots-Dolphins on radio. In a nice touch, Gino Cappelletti is coming out of retirement to call the first couple of series of the game, reuniting a team that -- through the 2011 season -- called the most successful run in the franchise’s history. Santos and Cappelletti certainly have earned their place among the announcing giants in this region. Part of that has to do with the unprecedented success of the team. But most of it has to do with the professional style and approach the two brought as the voice of the Patriots for the better part of three decades.
Before Sunday’s game, the pair will be honored for their 28 years of play-by-play as two of the most identifiable voices in Boston sports.
“He’s meant a lot,” Bill Belichick said this week. “Gino and Gil have been doing it for so many years. It has changed this year and there will be another one next year, but it’s kind of the passing of the torch at that role. I know for the fans, that’s huge because that’s a lot of times their connection to the team. They hear that every week, thousands and thousands of fans. I know that was the case for me.
“I grew up watching the Colts, it was Chuck Thompson and he was the voice of the Colts. As a fan, you felt more of a connection to him than anybody else because that’s the guy you heard the most from. I know Gil and Gino have meant a lot to this organization and I know there is a great affection for them from our fans. Gil coming back and doing it for one more year; we see him every week on the plane. He’s been a real staple for us and he’s been very supportive. I’ve had a good personal relationship with Gil and we’ll miss him.”
As will all of New England. Best of luck Gil and Gino. You’ve earned it.
As for the resolutions of the Boston sports fan, we turn to the Trags Bag and the loyal tweeps for their input.
@TrentSouth Red Sox will win the World Series. Wild Card team, but they'll win.
@BigBadBruins88 My New Years resolution for the BRUINS to be sold by Jeremy Jacobs. He hates hockey and could care less about the fans.
@BostonGal4Ever Most important resolution for any Boston sports team for 2013: Patriots must re-sign Wes Welker.
@bosbruins2011 I would like for there to be a Boston Bruins season at TD Garden PLEASEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! @Trags @WEEI also would like for pbruins to win games I go to, and for the Jets to get rid of Sanchez and Tebow, Rex and GM and get Matt Flynn from Seattle!
A Trags Bag extra this week: What do you want to see from the Patriots this weekend in their regular-season finale?
@OldTimeBasebal1 I want the #Patriots to give the Fish something to really cry about and beat them by 35. 42-7.
@docvarmint 1. No Injuries 2. Offensive Execution 3. Improved STs play (look at starting field position differential!).
@0_LayDX Gronk playing and a number 2 seed. Maybe a sack from Cunningham.