From Dominance to Prominence: Boston's Four Major Teams in a New Decade

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From Dominance to Prominence: Boston's Four Major Teams in a New Decade

(Originally posted on 4SportBoston.com )

Please say this decade isn’t about to come to an end.

The Boston fan base has certainly been spoiled over the past ten years and the “Decade of Dominance” is about to come to an end on the calender but it would be nice to think that it will continue on the field/court/ice.

Prior to the New England Patriots Super Bowl Championship in 2001, the entire region known as New England had not seen a single championship team since the 1986 Boston Celtics beat the Houston Rockets.

There is no denying that for years upon years, decades upon decades, New England as a whole has been tormented by at least one of their teams at a time. But the 2000s were different.

We never really came up with a good name for the decade that flowed from the lips like “the 90s” but “the Double Zeros” in Boston, and all of New England, were a block of years that meant dominance in sports. We saw the underdog New England Patriots win the three Super Bowls in four years (their first ever in 2001). We saw the Boston Red Sox end an 86 year curse to win two Championships in three years. We saw the Boston Celtics finally bring basketball back to the city with the most NBA Championships ever, after 22 years. Here we are on the way out of the decade watching the Bruins return to contender form and hopefully make a push for the Stanley Cup.

The '00s were definitely good years for the Boston sports fan but will the '10s, what we'll call it the Decade of Prominence, be better or worse? 

 

You will see many websites, blogs, newscasts, newspapers, etc all writing recaps of the past decade. How great everything was! Boston’s the best! Well folks, it’s almost 2010. It’s time to look ahead and think about what our four major sports teams hold for us in the Decade of Prominence.

Seemingly, we may be in some trouble heading into the new decade if we take a quick glance. Obviously there are thousands of moves to be made throughout the decade crossing over all four sports but will the right moves be made? As Kevin Garnett famously screamed after winning Banner 17, “Anything’s possible.”

New England Patriots

Heading into the Decade of Prominence, the Patriots are one of the biggest question marks. It is still debatable if we will ever see Tom Brady return to 2007 form or if the defense will ever regain the depth and leadership it was once known for. Will we even see him in a Patriots uniform past 2010 when his contract runs up? 

One thing is for certain: If the Patriots want to make a push into the next decade, receivers and running backs need to remain their focus. Randy Moss has been in the league for 12 years now and he is not getting any younger. He’s seen a lot of criticism lately, but he obviously still has “it.” But for how much longer? You would have to assume that the Patriots are going to look to bring in a new stud on the long routs once Randy’s contract ends after the 2010 season.

The Patriots need to lock up Wes Welker for the long-term and start looking for that complimentary deep route guy of the future. But can Welker continue to take the beating he does and be successful for several more years? Signed through 2011, you have to wonder how the installation of a new No. 1 receiver in 2011 will affect him.

L-Mo has looked good of late as well and has the legs to run him right through the Decade of Prominence with so little time on the field in his first three seasons. As long as he stays healthy, Maroney is the Patriots future at running back and should see an extension on his contract before the end of next season when his contract expires.

The defense is another story. This year they are young, they are fairly immature, and frankly, not getting the job done on a consistent basis. But with time comes age and I think that the Patriots have given themselves a nice core for the future. Ty Warren is signed through 2013; Jerod Mayo, Mike Wright, Patrick Chung, Ron Brace, Darius Butler are signed through 2012;  and Shawn Springs, Brandon Meriweather, Tully Banta-Cain and James Sanders through 2011.

 

Barring the circus around this coming off season and what it may hold for Vince Wilfork, his eventual re-signing will be a great push into the new decade.

Bill Belichick is currently locked in as the Patriots Head Coach through the 2013 season. Let's assume they will not return to the dominance we saw in 2007 and the three Super Bowl titles. This team has a lot of work to do to remain legit through the coming decade.

Boston Red Sox

As we all are well aware, this coming 2010 season has been called a bridge year by some, and the season that the Sox have finally lined their team up to be competitive with the Yankees by others. Personally, I believe that we fall closer to the first of the two assuming that the acquisitions of Marco Scutaro, John Lackey, and Mike “Frozone” Cameron are the biggest moves of the season.

During the days surrounding the presentation of Lackey and Cameron as the newest members of Red Sox Nation, fans were starting to turn optimistic. We heard things like “Maybe defense is the answer,” “Lackey as your third starter will line up great with the Yanks,” and some guy who I swear yelled “Cameron is WICKED PISSAH." I don’t know why.

In reality, this year is still a bridge year. But is it the bridge to the Red Sox Decade of Prominence?

Despite rumors or trades from every angle, the Red Sox still have a farm system that will mix in well with the guys who are currently on the club as players move into the big leagues. The positional battles may just be lining up perfectly as well when you put a close eye on it.

The Red Sox current top five prospects are (1) SP Casey Kelly, (2) OF/DH Ryan Westmoreland, (3) OF Ryan Kalish, (4) OF Josh Reddick, and (5) 1B Lars Anderson. A few other notables at the bottom of the top 10 are (7) SP Junichi Tazawa, (8) SS Jose Iglesias, and (10) Michael Bowden. Of course, we are most familiar with Reddick, Tazawa, and Bowden from their time on the big league club over the past couple seasons.

But take a look at how those players fit into today’s lineup and the lineup you expect to see going forward. With Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia both locked up with the team through 2014, the key parts to the infield and batting lineup are there. With the opposite hot corner being a dead spot in the lineup currently, Lars Anderson will place nicely in there in the future.

With the 36-year-old (turning 37 in January) Cameron in the outfield, we are certain to see the likes of Reddick, Westmoreland, and Kalish sooner rather than later. These guys are 22, 19, and 21, respectively. Assuming the Sox are not going to re-sign J.D. Drew following the 2011 season, it will be a sight to see Jacoby Ellsbury in the outfield with a couple of these guys.

 

Kelly, Tazawa, and Bowden clearly have the road paved for them going forward and pitching is never a place any team could not use extra help at during the season. Having already seem glimpses of Tazawa and Bowden in Boston primarily this past year, both have great potential and are being groomed to be stars.

Iglesias has been the talk of the town since the great debate at shortstop began, but Theo immediately shut that down stating that the plan is for Iglesias to be primed for Boston by 2011. Works out well when you remember that they just signed Scutaro to a two-year deal.

Obviously, all of these rising stars are debatable and each one could play as a primary piece in any trade the Red Sox want to get involved in, but without being able to guess the trades of 2010 and beyond, this isn’t a bad answer for the future of this club.

The key part to leading the Sox into the new decade are easily the main component players but also the manager. Tito Francona is locked up through 2011 with team options for 2012 and 2013 so the Sox will be able to keep one of the most successful managers of the decade on the bench for several more years.

Boston Bruins

The Bruins, the ugly stepchild of the first decade of the 21st century in Boston, may stealthily be the best positioned to compete at a high level heading into the next ten years. Like the other teams in Boston, the Bruins have a firmly entrenched braintrust in GM Peter Chiarelli and head coach Claude Julien, ensuring that the decision makers have the opportunity to establish clear goals.

Where the B’s differ from their brothers in professional sports is that they have the core of their team locked up and healthy as the calendar turns to 2010. While the Celtics are dealing with aging superstars, the Patriots are trying to re-establish themselves after injuries, and the Red Sox seem torn between spending like the Yankees and growing a team from the farm system, the Bruins have went about re-establishing a presence on the local radar. And they have done so by realizing they have a good thing going.

Of the 20 players who make up the current roster, 12 are signed through at least next season. Of that dozen, six have multiple years left on their contracts. Chiarelli has done an admirable job of identifying the core of this team and committing to them.

Both of the goalies, veteran Tim Thomas and rookie Tuukka Rask, are signed through 2012-13 making sure that the Bruins will have one of the top tandems in the league for years to come. The three top centers are also locked up, including a long-term deal for franchise center Marc Savard—who agreed to a team-friendly salary cap hit to help free up dollars for his teammates.

One of those teammates, Patrice Bergeron will most likely reap those rewards with a long-term extension past his current end date of 2011. In addition to those forwards, potential top-flight winger Milan Lucic is primed to blossom into a legit power forward over the next four seasons. Team captain Zdeno Chara is signed through next season, but it will be a big shock if he doesn't sign a deal to finish his career in Boston as well.

The fact that high-caliber players are willing to sign long-term deals in Boston shows just how far this team has come over the past ten years. Gone are the days of low-balling good players and tacking on aging second-tier skaters to fake an attempt at competing. The Bruins have again become a destination for NHL players based on the perfect storm of circumstances.

The combination of smart and dedicated management, a true leader behind the bench, a passionate fan base, and skilled players on the ice has bridged the gap between the doldrums of the middle of the decade and instilled a sense of hope and even expectation among anyone donning a Bruins sweater – be it one of the 20 players or any of the thousands of Bruins fans across New England.

The fun part will now be watching the team develop from developing upstart to recognized force. It is easier said than done, but it is clear that from top to bottom everyone involved in this organization is interested in going from ugly stepsister to princess sooner rather than later.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics may have the most interesting new decade after their roller coaster '00s. The C’s went from a team that was playing to have the worst record and most chances at the number one pick in the 2007 NBA Draft to making moves that would make them the NBA Champion that following year. Looking forward to the Decade of Prominence, the Celtics are set up pretty well.

I have always been a big believer in the business aspect of sports, having always believed that spending money up front wins championships and championships bring back more money in the long run is not a hard concept to invest in. Seemingly, Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics decided to go just this route and invested millions of dollars in the likes of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to join in and help Paul Pierce succeed in the hunt for the championship.

In this 2009-2010 season, we are looking at another Celtics team that may be well on their way to another successful playoff run. Whether this team goes on to win it all or not may play a role in the future success going into the new decade.

As of the end of this season, only five players are inked for next season including Garnett, Rasheed Wallace, Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis, and Rajon Rondo. They also have team options on J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker. And don’t forget about the player option held by Pierce, Mr. Boston Celtics himself.

For those of you who know the Celtics, that means that Ray Allen, Eddie House, Tony Allen (yes!), Brian Scalabrine (boo!), Marquise Daniels, Sheldon Williams, and Lester Hudson are all free agents after this season.

The key result of success this year, should be the re-signing of Ray Allen. Sugar Ray loves being here in the Northeast, close to his alma mater of UCONN, and seemingly, he loves the chemistry that he has with Pierce and Garnett as well. The only problem may be if the Celtics are looking to deal that money towards some more youthful talent as Allen is still worth as much as he was when came in.

The key component to this team has been locked up in Rajon Rondo. Maybe stealing a page out of the old Celtic yearbooks, this team will be built around a talented young point guard for at least the next five years. With Perkins inked for one more season, I would fully expect a new contract to be built to keep him in Green for years to come.

In today’s NBA, teams are finding that there are more and more superstars who can shoot well, making that position more flexible than ever. The pieces of the puzzle that are hardest to fill are all but done here with the physical center and the speedy, quick-thinking point guard.

Judging by the fact that the Celtics have a total salary (15 players) of $84,678,579 this season and already have $63,326,049 tied in only eight players for next season. That is a difference of Ray Allen’s contract alone.

Looking at these numbers, we may have some interesting moves and seasons ahead in the early part of the decade but overall, the 2010-2019 seasons may just be the Celtics return to prominence overall.

Coach Doc Rivers is signed on with the team through the 2010-2011 season. Will this team see a major transition at that time? It will greatly depend on if Doc can keep the team successful through the changes over the next couple of years.

What does this mean for fans?

Well, Bostonians near and far, let me tell you that the best is yet to come.

We are currently in the process of seeing Boston, or New England for that matter, become an even further known as a four-sport threat. As we have covered here, there are a lot of questions coming up for each of our teams, but the excitement and enthusiasm each team will bring to this city, and each individual sport will remain unbridled. We should certainly be ready for an exciting Decade of Prominence.

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