Boston sports fans are nothing if not critical. Our high expectations are sometimes met, but just as often we’re disappointed with the performance of one of our favorite athletes. Fairly or not, Boston’s stars earn labels based on these performances. Some are positive, some are negative, but all are hard to overcome once they’ve been established.
We run down the most notable labels given to current Boston athletes.
Label: Frat boy
Gronkowski’s charming, carefree exterior and muscled good looks make him an easy target. He’s been known to party, but what 24-year-old millionaire wouldn’t have a little fun? It’s not hard to find a picture of a shirtless Gronk on the Internet.
Label: Just like his brother
J.D. Drew was not the most popular Red Sox. The big contract and unemotional demeanor did little to endear Drew to Red Sox fans, especially after watching Trot Nixon muddy up right field for years. With a $9.5 million contract for this season, J.D.’s brother Stephen gave Sox fans some pause when he sat out with an injury earlier this season. But the shortstop has bounced back in a big way, becoming part of a very rootable group of Red Sox.
Label: Injury prone
Currently out with a fracture in his foot, Ellsbury has a long injury history. He played just 18 games in 2010 and 74 games last season after injuring his shoulder sliding into second in April. Agent Scott Boras has come out to assure fans that Ellsbury will be back before the end of the regular season.
Ridley put the ball on the ground twice in the Patriots’ season-opening win over Buffalo, and one was returned for a touchdown. In 2012 he had four fumbles on a heavy workload of 290 carries in the regular season. He was benched in the opener, and after fumbling in the playoffs after the 2011-12 season, he did not play again, including the Super Bowl.
Outside of Rajon Rondo, Green may be the best player on the 2013-14 Celtics. He’s also somewhat mysterious. He’s never been the best player on a team, and he’s a 6-foot-9-inch player with a career rebounding average of 5.2. He averaged just 3.9 rebounds per game last season. By contrast, the 6-foot-7-inch Paul Pierce, who has a similar game, has a career average of 6 rebounds. Green has not established himself in the post.
In five seasons since 2008 Buchholz has made 15, 16, 28, 14, and 29 starts. When healthy he can be brilliant. Buchholz posted a 1.71 ERA and a 9-0 record in 12 starts earlier this season before a mysterious shoulder ailment kept him out until September. Many questioned his toughness after he was reluctant to return to action despite being cleared by doctors to pitch again.
Rondo’s talent is undeniable, but he’s a polarizing figure in Boston partly because of how some perceive his personality. The competitive Rondo has gotten into it with both teammates and coaches. Most of his reputation here comes from what happens behind closed doors, so it’s hard to know the whole truth.
Label: Dirt dog
Pedroia has played almost all of the last two seasons with thumb injuries. He’s missed significant time due to injury only once, in 2010, and even then he stayed in shape by taking grounders on his knees as he recovered from a foot injury. He plays the game hard, running out ground balls and throwing his body around the diamond like a player from another era.
Brad Marchand is an instigator, and known as the ‘Lil Ball of Hate. Lacking some of the physical gifts of his most talented teammates, Marchand plays the game in attack mode. Sometimes he takes bad penalties. He’s not exactly beloved around the league, but his gritty play fits the Bruins’ style.
All hockey players play through pain, but what Patrice Bergron did during the Stanley Cup Finals last season went above and beyond. After the series, Bergeron revealed he was playing with a broken rib, punctured lung, and separated shoulder.
Maybe it’s his size, or maybe it’s his consistency and his role as the most indispensable player on the team. Maybe it’s the legends spun about his fighting prowess: Despite him rarely fighting, it’s rumored Chara could beat every other player in the NHL in a fight.
Ortiz cemented this label during the Red Sox’ magical run to a World Series title in 2004. Crucial hits in big spots earned him the reputation of coming through when it mattered most. Red Sox ownership cemented this label by presenting Ortiz with a plaque, calling him the most clutch player in Red Sox history.
Label: Great teammate
Everywhere Jonny Gomes goes, his team wins. You’ve heard that, right? Just ask the Reds and Athletics how much they improved with Gomes in the picture. With Gomes on the team, the Red Sox have the best record in baseball this season after being one of the worst teams in the league last year. You can’t help but notice Gomes cheering on his teammates after big plays.
Opinions about Kris Humphries far outweigh his importance on the court. He’s a good but not great player, but due to his reality TV stardom and an on-court scuffle with Rajon Rondo, Humphries is not thought very highly of.
Signed to replace Wes Welker, Amendola has the talent to rival Welker but has not proven he can stay on the field for a full season. In 2011 he played just one game before getting hurt. In 2012 he started in eight. He’s hurt again this season, playing through a groin injury in a Week 1 win over the Bills but missing Week 2 and possibly more.