Before fulfilling the assignment of making predictions for the 2020 Boston sports year, it’s best to look back to see how 2019’s prognostications panned out. Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned there, some instructive takeaway that helps one become more clairvoyant in the future.
In this case, there indeed was a lesson for me: I’m very, very bad at predictions and should not be making them, even tongue-half-in-cheek, for any respectable publication, blog, or MySpace page.
As if that’s going to stop me.
For veracity’s sake, a brief acknowledgement of my erroneous and erratic predictions for 2019: The Red Sox would repeat as MLB champions (they couldn’t even repeat as a playoff team); the Celtics would lose to the Warriors in the NBA Finals (like you knew Kawhi would reign in Canada); Rob Gronkowski would sign with the Texans (he signed with Fox and seems content in his post-football life); and fans would blame Tuukka Rask after a tough Bruins playoff defeat (some predictions are easy).
All I can say to that is that I’m due, and like Marcus Smart, I’m going to keep shooting no matter how my last few attempts went. As always, take these predictions with an entire shaker of salt . . .
Former Red Sox Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, and Manny Ramirez all fall short, without much suspense, in the Baseball Hall of Fame voting, even though all three should be in with relative ease. Meanwhile, Derek Jeter becomes the second player — and, following Mariano Rivera, the second ’90s dynasty Yankee in two years — to be voted in unanimously, even though we all know Nomar was better.
New baseball boss Chaim Bloom trades the most complete player in modern Red Sox history, Mookie Betts, and David Price to the Dodgers for outfielder Alex Verdugo, pitcher Tony Gonsolin, infield prospect Jeter Downs, and the rights to Nick Punto. The Red Sox, having reduced their payroll below the $208 million luxury-tax threshold, unveil a banner on Opening Day commemorating the achievement. Prospect mavens are disappointed that Downs is the best farmhand the Red Sox could get in return, since everyone knows that Nomar Downs is better.
Andrew Benintendi supplies an early-career Mike Greenwell season (think .315/22/95) rather than the late-career Greenie season he submitted last year (.266/13/68). Chris Sale wins 16 of his 29 starts as he transitions into the junkballing Frank Tanana portion of his career. And Mike Shawaryn becomes the Red Sox version of Ryne Stanek, pitching a total of 56 innings while making 28 starts as an opener. The result: A 91-71 record, and a loss to the Rays in the wild card.
The duckboat engines remain cold, while Mookie wins the World Series with the Dodgers a few weeks later.
Despite two receiving touchdowns by Titans coach/linebacker/de facto tight end Mike Vrabel, the Patriots defeat Tennessee, 24-20, in their first wild-card playoff game since 2009. But the season, and the quest for a second straight Super Bowl win and seventh total, comes to an end a week later when the Chiefs defeat the Patriots, 26-23, in the divisional round.
In the most improbable plot twist longtime NFL observers can remember, Chiefs coach Andy Reid actually remembers to call time out with the clock winding down before Harrison Butker’s winning 51-yard field goal in the final second.
Shocking rumors swirl that Tom Brady will join new coach Josh McDaniels in Cleveland. The rumors gain steam when McDaniels’s first act is to have Baker Mayfield evicted from FirstEnergy Stadium. But Brady’s argument to his wife Gisele on Cleveland’s behalf — “At least it’s not Detroit’’ — doesn’t work, and after some fence-mending by Robert Kraft, he signs on with the Patriots for one more season.
After reviewing all of the evidence, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell finds no connection between the Patriots football operations department and the Kraft Sports Production videographer who taped the Bengals sideline in Cleveland while working on a documentary. Still, Goodell docks the Patriots a 2021 second-round pick and fines the organization $1 million, because Jerry Jones yelled at him that he’d better do something, daggumit.
Marcus Smart beats out the Jazz’s Rudy Gobert and the Clippers’ Patrick Beverley for NBA Defensive Player of the Year despite having infections in both eyes, an oblique injury, three dislocated fingers on separate occasions, two dislocated toes, food poisoning from eating a bad poached egg, and an allergic reaction to a random swarm of locusts. Only two of the injuries lead to Smart missing a game.
Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown are selected as the Celtics’ representatives at the All-Star Game in Chicago. Jayson Tatum is one of the toughest omissions, but he defends his title in the Skills Challenge and makes a case as the best contestant in the event ever, again sinking a half-court shot en route to victory.
The Celtics finish second in the Eastern Conference to the Bucks, but advance to the NBA Finals by wiping out the Nets and Sixers before defeating Milwaukee in seven games. Kemba Walker scores 37 points and, much to his teammates’ relief, does not pull a Kyrie and insist on defending Giannis Antetokounmpo in the clincher.
The Celtics do lose to Los Angeles in the Finals, but it’s the tolerable Los Angeles, with board man Kawhi Leonard winning another ring.
In the regular-season finale against the Hurricanes, David Pastrnak scores his 55th and 56th goals. He is the first Bruin to score 50 in a season since his boss, Cam Neely, did it in 1993-94, and the 56th gives him the most in Bruins history by a player who doesn’t answer to “Espo.’’
In a mid-January game against the Penguins, Brad Marchand scores in the shootout to give the Bruins their first shootout victory of the new year after going 1-9 in the silly event the previous calendar year. The goal is Marchand’s first in six tries in the shootout this season, and just his second since the start of last season. Despite its rarity, no plans are made to commemorate the moment with a plaque or statue at TD Garden.
After finishing with a league-best 114 points in the regular season, the Bruins advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, where a rematch with the Blues awaits. In Game 7, the Bruins prevail in a 1-0 thriller when Charlie McAvoy picks the perfect time to score his first goal of the season. No one can fault Tuukka Rask for anything this time.