by Rob Joyce
It’s Thanksgiving Week, which means it’s a time of reflection about the positive parts of our lives. This extends over to sports, where no matter what a team’s record is, there’s some sort of shining light within an organization. For the 13 professional sports teams in the area, here is what they should all be thankful for as we get ready to carve some turkey:
Boston Red Sox – Young stars:
Sure the Sox struggled with the long ball in Year 1 without David Ortiz, but they still won a second straight AL East title. That was in no small part thanks to a trio of budding young stars. Twenty four-year-old Mookie Betts had a “down year”, which means he hit .264, but also drove in and scored 100 runs, hit 46 doubles and was far and away the best right fielder in baseball. In left, Andrew Benintendi would have won Rookie of the Year most years, except he had superhuman Aaron Judge to compete with, and 20-year-old Rafael Devers came up from the minors and looked like a 10-year veteran at the plate. That’s a nice core to build around.
New York Yankees – Baby Bombers:
Only the Yankees can be in a rebuilding year and come within a win of a World Series. Aaron Judge (25) mishits baseballs 400 feet, and though he strikes out a ton, he walks a bunch, too. Gary Sanchez (24) is probably the most complete hitter on the team. Didi Gregorious (27) had a breakout year. And the team’s best hitter in the postseason was arguably Greg Bird (25). Not to mention Luis Severino (23) just finished third in the Cy Young voting. They’ll head into next season behind only the Astros as AL favorites.
New York Mets – Noah Syndergaard:
It was a wildly disappointing 2017 for the Mets, who had a laundry list of injuries. That includes the 24-year-old Syndergaard, who pitched just 30 innings. But when he’s healthy he has an upper-90s fastball, he’s a fun personality (a recommended follow on Twitter) and he has a bright future ahead.
New England Patriots – avocado ice cream:
Pats fans should be huge fans of this, and all the other unusual dietary habits of Tom Brady, because at age 40 he’s still the best quarterback in the league. While other quarterbacks in his age group like Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning are aging, Brady is as good as ever. It’s terrifying.
New York Giants – the season’s over in six weeks:
For a team some considered a Super Bowl contender in September, it’s been a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad year. Thankfully it ends in six more games.
New York Jets – receiving corps:
Many thought the Jets could go 0-16, but alas they sit at 4-6 in large part because of a surprisingly competent offense. When Quincy Enunwa went in injured reserve before the season started the skill positions were bare bones. But Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse have combined for nine touchdowns, Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been a steal from Tampa Bay, and they’re all under 27.
Boston Celtics – Kyrie Irving:
Remember all the detractors who said Kyrie couldn’t win on his own? Since an 0-2 start and without Gordon Hayward, the C’s have ripped off 16 straight wins. And while Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown look like budding young stars themselves, just look at Irving’s 47-point performance on Monday. He did it on 16-of-22 shooting and singlehandedly outscored the Mavs over the final quarter and change. If he plays like that in May, a trip to the Finals is in the works.
Brooklyn Nets – the 2013 Celtics trade is nearly over:
The Nets infamously traded their unprotected first round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018 (plus the rights to swap in 2017) to the Celtics for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and DJ White. Two quick playoff exits later, the Nets bottomed out and became one of the worst teams in the league, handing all of their high-end lottery picks to Boston. They own Toronto’s first-rounder in 2018, but they’ll finally have a first-round pick of their own in 18 short months.
New York Knicks – Kristaps Porzingis:
The 22-year-old is averaging 27.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 47/40/84 percent and he stands at 7-foot-2 and no 7-2 person should be able to do all the things he does. Thank goodness Phil Jackson didn’t trade him.
Boston Bruins – Patrice Bergeron:
The Bruins are a middle-of-the-pack team in the East, with an average offense, an average defense, an average powerplay (you’re getting the picture here). But the 32-year-old Bergeron keeps doing what he does best. He’s scored 12 points in 14 games, he’s won 57 percent of his faceoffs, he’s a plus-7 on the ice and he’ll be a finalist for the Selke once again. He’s still at the top of his game.
New Jersey Devils – the rebuild is over:
The Devils have completely transformed their roster in recent years, going from one of the oldest groups in the league to one of the brightest and youngest. Taylor Hall is the star, at a point-per-game clip. At 18 Nico Hischier (15 points in 20 games) looks the part of a playmaker, as does 22-year-old defenseman Will Butcher. In all they have nine players on their active roster that’s 22 or under, they sit atop the Metropolitan Division and could be there to stay for awhile.
New York Islanders – John Tavares:
He’s one of the ten best players in the league, he wants to stay with the Islanders, but the free-agent-to-be would force the organization to hit the reset button if he bolts this summer. Cherish him, Isles fans.
New York Rangers – Henrik Lundqvist:
Rangers fans were ready to send the staple between the pipes out to pasture after the team got off to a slow start. One six-game win streak later and all is well on Broadway, and Lundqvist has been a workhorse once again. He’s started 18 of 23 games, with a 2.81 goals against and a .911 save percentage. Sure he’s not the perennial Vezina contender he once was, but he’s also not a decrepit old man either. The defense in front of him still leaves plenty to be desired, and he still has the ability to put a team on his back. If anyone deserves a Cup in the NHL, it’s Hank.