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The eight Boston pro sports champions since 2001, ranked in order of probability

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  November 4, 2013 11:46 AM

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Right, because the rest of the sports world doesn't find us obnoxious enough these days.

Hey, we could yowl about the four other potential championships during this run that were so close to belonging to the city and ... OK, I'll stop now.

There is an actual reason I bring this up, other than to offer a smug self-aggrandizing nod to how successful our sports teams have been the past dozen years.

(Rambler's aside: The City Hall celebration for Raymond Bourque, defenseman, Colorado Avalanche, feels like it happened 77 years ago. It was a desperate plea for a winner of our own disguised as a nice gesture.)

Anyway, the reason I bring this up: Too many among us are quick to anoint this 2013 Red Sox team as the most improbable champion of the eight who have boarded duck boats since the 2001 Patriots got the party started. One of our commemorative editions here at the Globe made such a proclamation on the cover.

Don't get me wrong -- it was a wonderful season, one we'll never forget. They did win 39 more games this year than they did during their injury- and Bobby V.-plagued 2012 season.

But the most improbable. No. Nope. No way. Second-most, OK. But No. 1 is unassailable -- the 2001 Patriots' run to victory in Super Bowl XXXVI. Someone scripted that, and he or she is a much better writer with a much better imagination for plot than yours truly.

For the sport of it -- and maybe to retroactively revel again -- here are the eight championships since 2001, ranked from most to least likely.

And don't try to argue the top spot. I mean, did you watch the Snow Bowl ...

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8. 2004 Patriots

What a beast this team was. Basically, it was an updated replica of the 14-2 Super Bowl champ of a year previous plus Corey Dillon (1,635 rushing yards), rookie Vince Wilfork and a healthy Rosevelt Colvin. They won their first six games, building on the 15-game winning streak that carried over from '03, before falling at Pittsburgh in Week 8. They exacted their revenge with a 41-27 win in the AFC Championship Game, then held off the Eagles for their third Lombardi Trophy in four seasons. Man, they were stacked.

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7. 2007 Red Sox

They're stuck in the middle now between a timeless 2004 champions and the 2013 squad that gave us one of the most fulfilling seasons imaginable. But don't dismiss their legacy -- the '07 Sox were a juggernaut, outscoring their opponents by 210 runs over the course of the 96-win season. Josh Beckett was a true ace, winning 20 games and dominating in the postseason, Mike Lowell hit .324 and drove in 120 runs, and there was a nice mix of players who won in 2004 (Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek) and those who would drive this year's champs (Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury), with Big Papi the common thread through all three.

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6. 2007-08 Celtics

In retrospect, it's easy to glance back and see them as the favorite all along. But remember, at the beginning there was skepticism about whether Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen would mesh, how Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins would be complement starters, and if there were any bench at all beyond James Posey. Garnett's inherent unselfishness went a long way toward making it work immediately -- they won their first eight games, 20 of 22, and 29 of 32.

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5. 2003 Patriots

They proved a force of nature, going 14-2 and winning their last 15 games, including the postseason. The defense, led by Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, and free-agent newcomer Rodney Harrison, was the league's best, allowing just 14.9 points per game. But coming off a frustrating '02 season in which they missed the playoffs, there were mixed expectations entering the season, and genuine concerns after an opening 31-0 loss to Drew Bledsoe and the Bills.

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4. 2010-11 Bruins

The memories are golden -- the brilliant postseason play of Tim Thomas and, subtly, David Krejci, the depth and regular-Joe (and regular-Patrice) camaraderie of one of the most likable teams we've ever seen across all sports -- that it's easy to forget what they had to overcome. The Bruins required three Game 7 victories to secure their first Stanley Cup since the days of yore (and Orr), and they did it with the ghastly memory of losing four straight (after taking a 3-0 lead in the series) to the Flyers the previous spring hanging over it all.

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3. 2004 Red Sox

It was not improbable in the same way as this season. The Red Sox have never had, and may never have again, a roster that was as talented and charismatic as the 2003-04 Red Sox, which in my mind is a two-season single chapter of an extraordinary story of redemption and resilience. Add to that the burden of something of a championship drought -- I believe it was 86 years, but who really cares now? -- and the way that they won, with the comeback over the Yankees, because of course that's how it would happen, and nothing in Red Sox history matches this in terms of meaning and fulfillment. Was it improbable? In retrospect, no, because they were loaded with talent. But in those days, the dream still felt impossible, and the Yankees were nothing compared to that obstacle that had to be overcome.

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2. 2013 Red Sox

I'm not going to say everything went right this season, because Joel Hanrahan probably doesn't see it that way when he looks at the fresh scar on his right elbow, and Andrew Miller and Andrew Bailey probably would have wished for better health as well. But almost everything went right, from the hiring of John Farrell (I'd say he was worth giving up Mike Aviles) to the seven significant free-agent signings to the reasonable health and/or improved seasons from all of the key holdovers (I still cannot believe David Ortiz remained healthy) to Koji Uehara's star turn as the club's fourth closer to the accelerated arrival of Xander Bogaerts to all of the timely hits in the postseason to ... well, to everything. Plus, bonus points for the beards. Good heavens, was this season, the whole wild thing, a good time.

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1. 2001 Patriots

Still the most unlikely sports story ever come true in our neighborhood. There were plenty of similarities to this year's Red Sox tale, but on a grander scale. The Patriots' St. Louis opponent in the championship game was more fearsome than the Red Sox' St. Louis opponent. The Patriots, who added the likes of Mike Vrabel, Roman Phifer, and Antowain Smith the previous offseason, mastered the art of hoarding talented, proven, undervalued upper-midlevel free agents a dozen years before the Red Sox did. And as unlikely as so much of the Red Sox' success once seemed, there is nothing as unfathomably storybook as second-year quarterback Tom Brady's ascent in replacing perceived franchise player Drew Bledsoe. Plus, for all of the clutch plays this October, none of it matches Adam Vinatieri's winning kick in the Super Bowl. This was and is the most unexpected champion in the history of Boston sports. But hey, if other teams want to keep trying to match it, we'd all be happy to keep lining the parade route.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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