WEEI.com writers Rob Bradford and Alex Speier go toe-to-toe to sort out which local pro sports team is next in line to deliver a title in Boston. Join Rob and Alex in the Great Debate on Friday, October 31, at 3 p.m.
The apology is a preemptive strike. For after hearing what I am about to argue you will correctly come to the conclusion that no Boston-area team will win a championship prior to early 2010. And for you who care about such things, and have grown accustomed to a certain title-driven, television-watching and ticket-buying lifestyle in these parts, that is a wait that seems simply unacceptable.
Well, with the warning being shot across your bow having been executed, here it is ….
Your next championship team? The New England Patriots.
Before I explain why the Patriots – yes, those same knee-infection-saddled, running-back-less and defensive-secondary-challenged Patriots – will find their way back to the confetti shower, let me peel away the other contenders.
Bruins: Just because … they’re the Bruins.
Revolution: This actually may be the most likely choice, because no other team falls under “they’re due” classification quite like these guys. They make visits to championship games with the frequency of my trips to the Lipton Iced Tea section in Sonny’s Mobil.
But even with many signs pointing to the likelihood of Steve Nicol exorcising his inner Marv Levy, and the organization potentially garnering journalistic favors by dropping that ‘Revolution’ coffee mug off on my desk the other day, it just doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
Red Sox: This would be my choice if Bill Belichick never existed. They are already good, have the advantage of playing in a salary cap-less existence, and appear set up for the long haul.
The problem I have is that it is just simply too tough to win on a consistent basis in baseball. And this season should have served as my argument’s greatest ally.
There are just too many variables that can factor into a team first surviving 162 games and then positioning themselves in an acceptable fashion for the needed 11 additional postseason wins. It is why the Sox’ current run of good fortune is so admirable.
But as the Red Sox stay entrenched as the ‘experts’ fail-safe when it comes to looking at least mildly intelligent come playoff-picking time, other organizations will be coming and going with their moments in the sun. Next year, there will be a Phillies, or Rays, or Rockies from the year before. And, while the Sox will probably be photo-shopped on that MLB postseason promotion right along with whatever is the flavor of the October, 2009, I’m guessing that the magic of the Kansas City Royals will be too powerful to overcome this time around.
Celtics: My statistic-fueled friend, Alex (along with other non-believers in the ‘Bradford Way’ in and around the Dotcomination offices on 20 Guest St.) think this is the no-brainer. They are still very good, better, in fact, than everybody else in most folks’ opinion.
There is also the notion that this is a team that has unlocked the secret that allows for the hoisting of such banners as the one which opened the flood gates to Paul Pierce’s tear ducts. Been there, done that, and feeling pretty good about doing it again.
But again, don’t forget those tricky variables. You need the superstars to enter the championship conversation in the NBA, and while the Celtics possess such video game box cover boys, argument-changing injuries are just an awkward joystick maneuver away for these 30-somethings.
And, of course, the punctuation for any such title banter is the play of the complementary pieces. Winners are needed, and more than just three. James Posey was a winner. James Posey isn’t here anymore. The Patriots are going to be your next championship team. (Sorry, that was an awkward segue.)
Patriots: Let me start by saying that I don’t think the Patriots will win the championship this season. I know, big leap of BenJarvus Green-Ellis faith there, I know. It could happen. Stranger things have, such as when a team with virtually no running game, a quarterback not far off from what Matt Cassell is right now, and a bend-but-don’t-break defense beat what was perceived as one of the greatest offensive teams of all time in the shadow of John Madden’s big-top of doubt.
But let’s face it, at the end of the day this has that same kind of 2006-07, talent-challenged road block Indy slapped with a dose of reality written all over it.
There is, however, hope for the world beyond analysis of Tom Brady’s medical procedures. Another foundation is being smoothed over as we speak, albeit one with the kind of rookie cornerback unevenness that sometimes turns back any optimism.
I see a lot of the Patriots of two seasons ago in this group, one that is learning lessons while winning at an entertaining rate in the process. There are problems, but other than Brady’s knee (sorry, the quarterback’s MCL and ACL are the puppetmasters for these kind of debates in Boston these days), fixing them appear a forgone conclusion.
Let’s face it, it is hard for teams to Carl Lewis their way into the echelon where the Patriots still reside, and from which others are dropping. Good drafts help, but singular good draft picks won’t allow for year-in, year-out life in the NFL fast lane.
Then there is the point I believe puts it over the top: There is no single human being more involved in this conversation than Belichick.
The NBA is a superstars’ league, and the Celtics have their superstars. Major League Baseball is an organizational and pitchers’ entity, and the Red Sox are top-notch when it comes to both. It’s just that as well positioned as both are in their respective areas of importance, neither is at the level of Belichick.
Case closed. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Speier!
Rob Bradford is the Site Editor of WEEI.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
C’mon, Rob—pay attention to the details. That’s a Red Auerbach-style cigar that I’m smoking. Your entreaty to stick something in a pipe is as misguided as the rest of your argument.
Boston going a year without a title? Don’t be ridiculous. You must have this town confused with Atlanta or something. The Celtics are going to keep the championship vibe flowing in ’09.
For the sake of this argument, I’m sticking with the three teams that have already won championships this decade. The Bruins show plenty of promise for the future, but its going to take time for Milan Lucic to knock out every other player in the NHL.
The Revs are going on the road for their winner-take-all against a Chicago Fire team that outscored them 9-1 during the season. Even if they win on unfriendly soil, the Columbus juggernaut will not be denied this year. Those cases dismissed, let’s get to the Big Three of pro sports in Title Town.
WHY THE PATRIOTS WON’T WIN
Even you admit that the 2009 Super Bowl seems a longshot. At least you got something right.
Obviously, Matt Cassel is making progress. But for him to lead the Pats to a Super Bowl this year would be freakish. Only two quarterbacks in NFL history have led their teams to Super Bowls despite entering the year without a single start.
Kurt Warner was the first. But his supposed stint with the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League was a cover for the fact that he was abducted by aliens in the late-90s. Brady was the other, having done the deed in winning the Super Bowl in February 2002.
Cassel’s inexperience would be less relevant if the Pats had a great running game, but the committee of Kevin Faulk, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Sammy Morris and Lamont Jordan is averaging 4.2 yards a carry, tied for 15th in the NFL.
The defense, likewise, has shown few signs of being in the historic class of the 2000 Ravens, who could win despite the presence of Trent Dilfer under center. The Pats are allowing 7.9 yards per pass attempt, sixth worst in the NFL, and 11 touchdowns, which is tied for the eighth most. The run defense has been gashed for 113.3 yards per game, a mark that ranks 20th.
The Pats couldn’t win a Super Bowl with their full complement of players in February. To think that they could win another championship before the Celtics seems absurd.
As for your premise that they’ll win in 2010? I wouldn’t bet against Belichick, but there’s waaaaay too much uncertainty with that Brady fellow.
WHY IT WON’T BE THE RED SOX
The Red Sox have already been declared the Las Vegas favorites to win the 2009 World Series. But, of course, the next Fall Classic won’t roll around until well after the Celtics win their next championship in June.
But the challenges to the Red Sox as Boston’s next championship team are more profound than just the calendar. It’s been all but impossible for teams to sustain title runs in baseball.
In the last 30 years, 19 different teams have won the World Series, and only one team (the 1996-2000 Yankees, who won four) has won as many as three championships. Teams can come from nowhere (hello, Tampa Bay!) to compete for a title, and dynasties are nearly impossible to forge.
In fairness, the Sox—who came one win short of reaching the World Series both in 2003 and this year—could have had as many as four championships in the past six years. Given that remarkable run of recent success, it would be foolish not to consider the Sox legitimate contenders for the 2009 title.
Yet the going may prove particularly tough next year. This October, the Sox looked like a team that was running on fumes by the end of the ALCS. The cumulative stress of two straight deep postseason runs—sandwiched around a season-opening trip to Japan that forced the team to start its season in March—seemed apparent. It’s hard to imagine that 2009 will prove any less daunting.
WHY THE CELTICS ARE BOSTON’S NEXT CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM
Banner No. 18 is coming.
The Celtics hoisted one championship marker to the rafters on Tuesday, and they’ll raise another before any other local team has a chance to do so. It’s not hard to figure out why.
Barring a catastrophic injury to one of the Big Three, the Celtics will be better this season than they were in 2007-08. The free-agent defection of James Posey no doubt represented a loss, but the continued development of Rajon Rondo, Leon Powe and Kendrick Perkins—among others—should give the Celtics an improved supporting cast.
That bodes well for Gang Green in a league where sustained championship runs are the norm. In the last 30 years, only nine NBA teams have won championships. On nine separate occasions, teams won back-to-back titles, and there have been 18 instances of teams winning at least twice in a five-year span.
one of the other major sports is so favorable to sustained runs at the top. You can look it up—in fact, I did. Check the chart, Bradford.
Two things are at work on that front—other sports feature a higher rate of injuries, and other sports are more dependent upon depth.
Basketball has featured two-star dynasties, whether the Kobe and Shaq Lakers or the Jordan and Pippen Bulls. Major playoff upsets are rare, as talent is usually sufficient to crush the plucky underdog.
The presence of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen establishes the Celtics as the clear class of the Eastern Conference (opening night reinforced the suggestion that LeBron and the Cavs aren’t ready to unseat the kings), and gives the C’s the sort of championship core that is unmatched in the NBA.
The teams in the West will beat up each other, making for a very punch-drunk opponent that becomes an easy Celtics knock-out victim in the NBA Finals next June...kind of like Bradford in this "debate."
Alex Speier is a Senior Writer for WEEI.com.