Tomase: Boston’s 10 biggest sports questions as we head into 2022 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The past year has answered a lot of questions in Boston sports. The Red Sox are, in fact, going in the right direction under Chaim Bloom. The Patriots seem to be reborn with Mac Jones. The Bruins fell in the middle of the pack after spending too many years riding their 2010 core. What about the Celtics? Phew.
A new year means a whole new list of questions, and we’re here to ask 10. Only the passage of time will answer.
1. Can Mac Jones take the next step ?
There isn’t a bigger question in Boston sports, and while 2022 is unlikely to provide a definitive answer, it should at least point us in the right direction. The rookie quarterback has been largely nailed down this season while leading the Pats to the brink of their 19th double-digit winning total of the Bill Belichick era.
But there is so much that we still don’t know. Will he gain the arm strength to perform some of the bigger, tighter throws that are not currently in his precision repertoire? When will the Patriots be able to count on him to win games rather than manage them? Will he embrace the elements? It will all be part of the fun of watching him grow up.
2. Will the Red Sox spend another day?
It might not matter, as Bloom appears to be a master bargain hunter. But in the long run, there is a limit to what the world’s Kiké Hernández and Nick Pivetta can accomplish.
Nobody wants to see a return to the sold-out days for Carl Crawford, John Lackey, or David Price just because they’re there, but there are players who are worth $ 30 million a year, and the Reds The Sox will do themselves and their fans a disservice if they avoid them. Big market dollars are a significant advantage, but only if you spend them.
3. Tank the Celtics or give it a try?
The concept of tanking – intentionally losing to get a first draft pick – is disgusting. And it is thanks to what Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens have built that the Celtics never had to do it when forming the club which became a legitimate contender between 2016 and 2020.
But times have changed and with no clear path to near-term improvement, it’s fair to question whether the Cs should prioritize acquiring draft picks before the February 10 trade deadline and then leave the rest of the season unfold with a faulty roster.
Right now, the Cs are only three games away from fifth place in the lottery. Just keep doing what they’re doing, and they can do it without trying.
4. Do the Bruins have a final run?
It’s amazing to think that the Bruins’ best players in 2011 – Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand – remain the best players on the B today. Soon they could welcome Tuukka Rask again, who recorded his first save in 2007. and gave his first goal to Mats Sundin, who has been in the Hall of Fame for almost 10 years now.
The Bruins currently sit outside of the playoffs, but with more games in hand than anyone, there’s plenty of time to join this race. With Zdeno Chara gone, David Krejci at home in the Czech Republic and Rask trying to come back from hip surgery, the older generation finally says goodbye. We’ll see if there’s any magic left.
5. Speaking of generations …
Who will take over from the Patriots? If the first title window was set by Ty Law, Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson, Willie McGinest and Richard Seymour, and the next group led by Julian Edelman, Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower, Rob Gronkowski and Matthew Slater – with a guy named Brady, of course, who ties it all together – where will they turn for the next race to fame?
Tom brady took tons of corporate memory with him to Tampa Bay, and while Bill Belichick isn’t going anywhere, the number of regulars with a Super Bowl experience is already dwindling. A new generation must move forward to maintain continuity with a brilliant past.
6. Is Brad Stevens the right long term decision maker?
There’s nothing wrong with admitting that the idea crossed your mind when Ainge left and Stevens got on – Brad will be coaching again somewhere in a year, right? Stevens has expressed his commitment to leading a team and he has done nothing to dissuade us from continuing to do so.
And yet… as the Celtics embark on what could be a decade of decision making, they need to be absolutely sure they have the right fit to take the lead.
Just as we assess gamers on an annual basis, the front office shouldn’t avoid the microscope either. With Cs below 0.500 and a no-shot roster, a redesign is underway, and that should mean looking at all levels of the organization, from coach to roster to front office.
7. What is Chris Sale?
The Red Sox received an instant boost when Sale made his long-awaited Tommy John return in August. They’ve won seven of his nine starts, and even without his 96 mph fastball and boomerang slider, he still posted a 3.16 ERA. Then came the playoffs.
After spitting it out in the must-see regular-season final that the Red Sox nonetheless rallied to win, Sale was lit up in Game 2 of the Division Series against the Rays. He then failed to complete the third inning of Game 1 against the Astros before delivering 5.1 average innings in a Game 5 loss.
The Red Sox are counting on Sale to fight for a Cy Young Award again, and there’s a history of pitchers excelling in Year 2 after Tommy John. There is every interest in Sale in doing so, since he can retire in the fall. If he throws well enough to make his departure an option, the Red Sox will take him.
8. Does anyone want Josh McDaniels?
For the architect of one of the league’s most unique and consistent attacks, McDaniels doesn’t get much love. the initial list of candidates because the Jacksonville opening, for example, featured a dozen names, including an assistant McDaniels hired in Indianapolis (Matt Eberflus) before leaving the Colts at the altar.
Clubs are clearly blaming her for this runaway fiancée moment, and every offseason that goes by without McDaniels even receiving an interview increases the likelihood that her best shot at a managerial position will wait to replace Belichick, which is not. necessarily a mission of choice.
You’d think his success with a QB rookie this season would make him a prime product, but so far, the crickets.
9. Is it time to separate the Jays?
The Celtics Surrounded Jaylen brown and Jayson tatum with seasoned veterans, then watched them all run, from Al Horford to Kyrie Irving to Gordon Hayward. It’s their squad now, and it’s not going well, with the Cs approaching two years of mediocrity since their conference finals went down in the bubble.
It’s hard to see how trading either improves the club in the short or long term, but Stevens has few options. Best hope is to add a third star this summer, but the Cs can’t open up the maximum space without swapping Marcus Intelligent, among others. Needless to say, this is a conversation no one wanted to have.
10. Is it for Xander Bogaerts?
We started this discussion with the loss of institutional memory in Foxboro, and no one represents that better at Fenway Park than Bogaerts. With Dustin Pedroia retired, the Silver Slugging shortstop represents the last continuing link to the 2013 Championship.
He delivered and then part of his six-year, $ 120 million extension, but he can retire next fall and would be crazy not to. He only has to look at the seven years and $ 175 million the Rangers just granted 31-year-old second baseman Marcus Semien to recognize that there is a monster paycheck in his future even if he does. leaves the shortstop.
Bogaerts is everything the Red Sox could ask for in the face of a franchise – local, talented, committed, dignified. But if they want him to stay, they’re going to have to dust off their checkbook.