The Boston sports scene was abuzz in 2012. While there were no duck boat parades to celebrate a major championship, there was lots to celebrate (and lament) among local teams. And the Red Sox’ struggles certainly rank high on the list as we look back on the 10 biggest Boston sports stories of 2012:
The optimism that accompanied the start of the Bobby Valentine era faded quickly, and after the final loss in New York, there was only despair. The Red Sox went 69-93, finished in last place in the AL East, and represented the worst Red Sox team since 1965. Out of playoff contention for weeks, Boston lost its final eight games and 12 of the final 13. The Red Sox were 26 games behind the Yankees after their archrivals swept them in the season finale. The embarrassments along the way were many: players and coaches feuded with Valentine; an ineffective Josh Beckett refused to entertain criticism for golfing on an off day after missing a start; Daniel Bard flopped as a starter; David Ortiz, before suffering a season-ending foot injury, railed about his contract and being considered a “leader”; and in September, Valentine threatened a radio host and complained about having the “weakest roster” in the history of baseball. It all added up to dysfunction, and a team that caused fans to turn away from the Red Sox both at Fenway Park and on their TV sets.
Tom Brady appeared primed for another Super Bowl title that would elevate him into the elite pantheon of quarterbacks with four championships ... until Eli Manning and the Giants crashed the Patriots’ coronation again. Manning engineered a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Patriots 21-17 and claim a second Super Bowl victory over New England in five seasons. “I’d rather come to this game and lose than not get here,” a disappointed Brady said after the loss. The similarities to the Giants’ win in Super Bowl XLII were large, with Manning’s pose—throwing his arms up to celebrate a game-winning touchdown—eerily similar. The loss left Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots as the team with the longest championship drought in Boston (seven years).
GM Ben Cherington made a bold move reshaping his roster by dealing Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Dodgers—after the non-waiver trade deadline. The Red Sox unloaded two expensive free agent additions that had yet to pan out in Gonzalez and Crawford and one of their most polarizing (and underachieving) players in Beckett. The kicker was that the cash-flush Dodgers picked up about $264 million of the $275 million owed to the players. The Dodgers sent back veteran James Loney, plus a package of prospects in pitchers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster and infielders Jerry Sands and Ivan DeJesus Jr. The deal signaled the Red Sox’ intent to focus on 2013, and to rebuild their organization more through scouting than free agency.
It’s not hyperbole to say that Valentine’s one season leading the Red Sox was a disaster. He never seemed to gain the trust of players. His April comments calling out Kevin Youkilis backfired, and his problems seemed to spiral as the Red Sox players continued the sorry performance that had led to Terry Francona’s departure in 2011. Valentine became a symbol for an unlikeable Red Sox team that was worse than many of the franchise’s fans had ever seen. So when John Farrell arrived as Valentine’s successor in late October he made clear the culture is going to change. He said he will run a team that is aggressive in all corners of the field, and he will make clear to players through “tough conversations” that that they will be accountable to him.
The Celtics’ three straight wins to claim a 3-2 series lead seemed improbable after they lost a bitterly disappointing overtime decision in Game 2, with complaints about officiating popping up. But the 94-90 win in Miami in Game 5 gave the Celtics a chance to eliminate LeBron James and the Heat at home and clinch a berth in their third NBA Finals in five seasons. But James had other plans. He scored 45 points in the Heat’s 98-79 Game 6 romp, then added 31 in a 101-88 Game 7 victory. The Celtics held a couple of fourth-quarter leads in Game 7, but James elevated the Heat with 11 points in the final frame. James, whom the Celtics were able to tame in the postseason when he played in Cleveland, helped Miami eliminate the Celtics for the second straight season en route to beating Oklahoma City for his first-ever NBA title.Continued...