×

Orfao: A Christmas wish list for New England sports

  • Boston Celtics' Gordon Hayward uses crutches as he steps away from a podium after taking questions from members of the media at an NBA basketball news conference, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, at the team's' training facility in Waltham, Mass. Hayward, who broke his ankle about 5 minutes into his NBA career opener at Cleveland on Oct. 17, says he knows he will not play again this season, after needing surgery to repair the injury. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • Boston Celtics' Gordon Hayward takes questions from members of the media during an NBA basketball news conference, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, at the team's' training facility in Waltham, Mass. Hayward, who broke his ankle about 5 minutes into his NBA career opener at Cleveland on Oct. 17, says he knows he will not play again this season, after needing surgery to repair the injury. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • J.D. Martinez watches a ballgame from the dugout during his time with the Arizona Diamondbacks last season. AP file

  • Patriots QB Tom Brady celebrates after defeating Pittsburgh last Sunday. AP

  • Boston Bruins' Tuukka Rask, of Finland, blocks a shot during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers in Boston, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Michael Dwyer—AP

  • New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks on during an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini) Winslow Townson—AP



Monitor staff
Saturday, December 23, 2017

The elves are working overtime and the reindeer are ready to take flight. Santa Claus is coming to town and let’s hope the jolly old fellow has time to swing by Fenway Park, TD Garden and Gillette Stadium.

Anyone outside of New England would be quick to point out that the Boston sports fan already has plenty of toys. We’re the spoiled little brats of the sports world.

The Red Sox have won consecutive division titles. The new-look Celtics are sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings and the Bruins have won 13 of 17 games. Meanwhile, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick still rule the NFL.

Here’s the thing about being a brat: We always want more.

So, just in case Santa is among the Monitor readers, here’s a wish list for our professional teams so we can continue to overindulge in Boston sports bliss.

Red Sox

This one is easy.

The list has been the same since David Ortiz left the lineup: a bona fide slugger.

That request is now written in all capital letters and has been emphatically underlined since Boston’s four-game exit in the AL Division Series against the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros. The bitter taste of defeat has since been coupled with the only transcendent talent on the market – Giancarlo Stanton – ending up in Yankee pinstripes.

J.D. Martinez is the most likely slugger to wind up in the back of Santa’s sleigh and dropped off at Yawkey Way.

It’s fair to show some concern about bringing in the 30-year-old with a long and lucrative contract, especially given Boston’s recent flops with overpriced free agents. He’s only been named an All-Star once (2015), which coincides with the only season he’s appeared in more than 123 games.

However, he’s undoubtedly the most talented hitter remaining on the market and that vaults him atop the wish list of President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski.

While the Yankees’ combination of Stanton and Aaron Judge – along with the rest of their young talent – is daunting, the Red Sox still own the superior pitching and an additional bat will keep the AL East competitive.

If Martinez counts as the gift we know we’re going to get, can we also ask for a Red Sox-Yankees ALCS in 2018?

Celtics

Around this time last year, Boston was begging for a legitimate superstar.

Isaiah Thomas should forever be beloved in Boston, but it’s unlikely the Celtics could ever win a championship with “the little guy” as the centerpiece.

Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge crossed “superstar” off the list with this summer’s blockbuster trade for Kyrie Irving.

While Irving has impressed during his first year in Boston – his newfound commitment to defense is the most encouraging aspect of the gifted scorer’s game – there was supposed to be more under the Christmas tree for Ainge and the Celtics. Five minutes after Gordon Hayward was unwrapped, the free-agent prize needed a significant repair.

Despite his absence, the Celtics surged to a 16-game winning streak. Although the C’s have slowed down as of late, this is one of the best teams in the league even without the All-Star forward in tow.

What can Santa bring that would make the Celtics a championship squad this season? A bionic ankle would be the perfect stocking stuffer.

Bruins

Boston is in better shape than many expected this season thanks to contributions from everywhere. With help from the young guys like Charlie McAvoy to the grizzled veterans like Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins have themselves in playoff position for the second straight year.

Four of the Bruins’ top-seven point getters are 22 years or younger. The best of the bunch – David Pastrnak leads the team with 31 points in 33 games heading into Saturday – signed a long-term deal before the season.

What else could a Bruins fan want? An extended playoff run.

While the Bruins boast enough talent to challenge most in the Eastern Conference, it’s likely the length of a B’s postseason appearance is tied to the performance of goalie Tuukka Rask.

In his first 13 games of the campaign, Rask was 3-8-2 with an .899 save percentage and appeared on the verge of losing his starting gig. Recently, Rask has looked like the franchise goalie his paycheck suggests: 7-0-1 over his last nine appearances with a .943 save percentage.

The players are performing. The goalie is hot. Coach Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins should be wishing for an elusive trait for a surging hockey team – sustainability.

Heading into the holiday break, the B’s might even be rooting for the Grinch to steal Christmas so they can keep playing.

Patriots

There’s always one of these in the family. The one that’s incredibly hard to shop for.

Considering five-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady already owns the fountain of youth, it seems like the Patriots already have everything.

A healthy Julian Edelman or Dont’a Hightower would certainly be nice, but we’ve already hit our maximum for requests of bionic body parts to fix the Celtics’ Hayward.

A pass rusher like the recently released James Harrison might make some sense, as the Steelers’ all-time sack leader could bring knowledge of rival Pittsburgh’s operation. But that would likely be more of a gift to Harrison – who’s played 40 snaps this season – than it would be to the New England linebacker corps.

So, with private jets crossed off the list during the offseason, what do the Patriots wish for? The same thing New England asks for every year – another Super Bowl.

The path to a sixth title would become much less arduous with losses from Pittsburgh and Jacksonville this week. Couple those would-be upsets with a New England win and the Patriots will wrap up home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

A sixth Super Bowl would tie Pittsburgh for all-time bragging rights. It would firmly push the Patriots past the 1980s-90s San Francisco 49ers as the greatest dynasty in league history. It would be an 11th championship parade in Boston since 2001.

Is that too much to ask, Santa?

If you haven’t noticed, we’re okay with being spoiled brats.

(Jason Orfao can be reached at jorfao@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JasonOrfao.)