Red Sox, Patriots show you how to lose a city in one year

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“Hey, I’m the Boston Red Sox.”

“And I’m the New England Patriots.”

(In unison) “And you might be wondering how we got in this situation.”

How wild is it that the Boston sports franchises we felt best about this time last year were probably the Red Sox, who had just come off a surprising ALCS appearance, and Patriots, who had just seized the AFC’s No. 1 seed after knocking off the Bills on Monday Night Football?

These teams are among the best in the league completely out of nowhere, we all thought. Just wait until they build on it next season.

It’s been pretty much all downhill from there.

The Sox went from the AL runners-up to the pits of the AL East and are reeling Thursday morning from the loss of champion and core member Xander Bogaerts, who just signed an 11-year, $280 million contract with the San Diego Padres. That loss, while not unexpected, has heightened fears that the weirdly callous front office is also destined to lose superstar Rafael Devers when his current deal is up two years from now.

On the other hand, the Patriots fumbled the 2021 stretch only to somehow fumble even worse in 2022, bumbling their way to a middling 6-6 record to this point with a regressing young quarterback and fraying relations between coaches and players.

So how did we get here? A look at how both teams have handled their star players and overall team vision give you a pretty good idea.

Let’s start with the Red Sox.

No one expected them to do anything meaningful in 2021 after a dismal COVID-shortened 2020 that saw them finish among the worst teams in baseball. Even bringing back manager Alex Cora after his brief cheating-scandal-mandated year off didn’t seem like it would make them a championship squad on its own. But an incredible overachieving first half and a gritty second half got them to the dance, and they stunned the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays in the playoffs before eventually bowing out to the Houston Astros in the ALCS.

All they had to do was build on that momentum, and they might be able to finish the job the next season, right? Nope.

The Sox opted to let Kyle Schwarber, who helped catalyze the playoff run with his patient approach and knack for big postseason hits, go to the Philadelphia Phillies on a deal they easily could’ve matched. He only hit six homers in the 2022 playoffs for the World Series runner-up Phillies, no big deal.

They decided to platoon the likes of Christian Arroyo, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Franchy Cordero in right field and strikeout-specialist Bobby Dalbec (along with Cardero) at first base instead of bringing in Major League players to fill those positions. That went great.

Then, they did everything they could to show Bogaerts they didn’t want him back if he chose to opt out of his contract at the end of 2022 (which he did), lowballing him on multiple occasions and signing Trevor Story to a six-year, $161 million deal as obvious insurance in case he left.

In general, Boston seemed to approach the 2022 season as another year with house money — as if winning was a bonus but losing was the expected (and desired) outcome. Players like Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Christian Vazquez and Nathan Eovaldi wondered openly about their futures before the trade deadline and campaigned for the Sox to commit to competing or tear everything down.

They got another half-measure instead as the team sold Vazquez off to the Astros and shipped Jake Diekman out of town all to acquire…Eric Hosmer and Reese McGuire. That really moved the needle.

And it could still get so much worse. As bad as the Bogaerts loss feels, you could point to him being 30 years old and not hitting for a ton of power as reasons not to commit big money to him, regardless of how important he is to the clubhouse. But if the Red Sox let Devers, a 26-year-old budding star, walk for nothing in 2024 because (checks notes…) he doesn’t play good defense, the city of Boston might not survive.

Speaking of survival...that’s about all Mac Jones is trying to do right now in a second NFL season no one wished on him.

Sure, the Patriots couldn’t do much to stop Josh McDaniels from leaving for the Las Vegas Raiders’ head coaching job. But they absolutely did not have to visit Matt Patricia, a defensive coach with no offensive play-calling or design experience, on their young quarterback. They also revealed they simply didn’t have the chops to change their offensive scheme on their own, trying and failing to implement a wide-zone-based offense in the spring and summer only to scrap it almost completely and have nothing to fall back on but high-school concepts.

The result: Jones turned into a turnover machine his first few games, got benched in Week 7 and has since had to fight tooth-and-nail to gradually improve in a thoroughly unoriginal, uninspired offense. The Patriots had a rookie quarterback on a cheap deal playing well coming into his sophomore season — the most prized asset in sports — and set him back because they forgot how to develop quarterbacks.

On top of that, they chose to enter this season with largely the same personnel defensively, minus J.C. Jackson and a few role players, to challenge the Buffalo Bills and the high-powered offenses on their schedule. As the loss to the Bills last Thursday revealed, the talent gap between this defense and the offenses they need to slow down in order to make the postseason remains laughably vast.

The idea of firing Bill Belichick has now caught fire in Boston sports media, which tells you all you need to know. Even the fact that they have $56 million in cap space to address the roster doesn't yield much hope when you think both of Jones' team-inflicted regression and Belichick's penchant to avoid selling out for big-name stars in trades or on the open market. (Sound familiar, Red Sox fans?)

Meanwhile, the Celtics are the best team in the NBA right now and made one of the more savvy acquisitions of the off-season (Malcolm Brogdon) to bolster an already championship-caliber team, and the Bruins have been a runaway train after getting the band back together and bringing in Jim Montgomery as coach, leading the NHL in points.

A year ago, you couldn’t sell stock from either of those squads. Now, they’ve got Boston dreaming of duck-boat parades.

The Red Sox and Patriots just showed you how to give a city nightmares.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports