BOSTON (CBS) — The last 366(ish) days weren’t very joyous for Boston sports fans, with no banners raised or parades held in 2016.
That’s how spoiled we are in these parts, where a title is the expectation whenever a new season begins. But while there were heartbreaking losses and endless “controversies” that filled the radio airwaves, there were plenty of positives to take away from 2016 as well. While we had to say farewell to one of the greatest athletes to ever don a Boston uniform, several young stars have emerged and appear ready to take the torch of greatness.
So as we prepare ourselves to bid adieu to 2016 and welcome in the great unknown that is 2017, let’s look back on some of the more memorable moments in Boston sports of the last calendar year.
David Ortiz Retires
Big Papi got a season-long farewell tour, hanging it up after 20 amazing seasons in the big leagues — 14 of them spent in a Boston uniform.
Ortiz didn’t look like a 40-year-old either, putting together the greatest farewell season we’ve ever seen. He finished with a .315/.401/.620 split and a 1.021 OPS, bashing 38 homers while legging out 48 doubles — the second-highest total of his career.
It was a remarkable season, one that featured several ceremonies (including a three-day sayonara from the Red Sox to close out the regular season), some ridiculous gifts (from BBQ sauce to surf boards to the phone he bashed to pieces in Baltimore) and an emotional goodbye following Boston’s postseason ousting.
We’ll miss you, Big Papi.
Back To The Playoffs
After a two-year absence, the Red Sox were back to playing October baseball. They won 93 games during the regular season and won the AL East for the first time since 2013.
Their playoff run ended in disappointing fashion though, as they were swept by the Cleveland Indians in three games. Rick Porcello was roughed up in Game 1, David Price was his usual playoff self in Game 2, and Clay Buchholz pitched Game 3 at Fenway. You can guess how that one went.
After scoring the most runs in baseball during the regular season, Boston managed just seven runs in the series, hitting .214 as a team and striking out 31 times in 98 at-bats.
After struggling in his first season in Boston, Porcello became the first Red Sox pitcher to win the Cy Young award since Pedro Martinez won it in back-to-back years in 1999 and 2000.
Porcello went 22-4 to lead the league in wins, and set a career high with 189 strikeouts over 223 innings of work. His 5.91 strikeout/walk ratio also led the AL. He was lights out at Fenway Park in 2016, going 13-1 with a 2.97 ERA in front of his home fans.
He also didn’t care that Kate Upton thought her fiancee Justin Verlander should have won the award, and instead sat back and enjoyed his accomplishment with some fancy wine.
Mookie’s MVP-Worthy Season
Mookie Betts didn’t win the AL MVP award, but he made a heck of case for the honor with 214 hits (including 31 homers and 42 doubles), 113 RBIs and 122 runs scored. He had an outstanding 9.6 WAR, second only to the Angels’ Mike Trout, who ended up winning the award.
The Red Sox may be losing Big Papi from their lineup, but there’s little question that Mookie Betts can lead the offense going forward.
Red Sox Acquire Chris Sale
Dave Dombrowski made the biggest trade of the Winter Meetings in acquiring ace Chris Sale from the White Sox for Yoan Moncada and a trio of other high prospects. It was quite the price tag, but Sale will be the front-end guy in the Sox rotation at a bargain price over the next three years.
Theo, Cubs Win World Series
“Curse Buster” Theo Epstein is probably still on his bender after putting together a team that ended a 108-year World Series drought.
Brady Serves Suspension
That 18-month DeflateGate saga came to an end, with Brady dropping his appeal (three months after the Second Circuit ordered the suspension be reinstated) and serving his four-game suspension to start the season.
It gave us ridiculous debates about Brady’s playing time in the preseason, a glance of his backside while he and Gisele were vacationing in Italy, and one epic meltdown by Scott Zolak.
Most importantly though, New England and the rest of the NFL got a look at Jimmy Garoppolo playing some meaningful football. The backup dazzled for six quarters before a shoulder injury sidelined him, and then we got a look at what rookie Jacoby Brissett could do under center (as well as some more ridiculous debates about Garoppolo’s toughness).
Through it all, the Patriots went 3-1 with an impressive win (at the time) in Arizona to kick off the season followed by home victories over the Dolphins and Texans. Brady came back after a Week 4 loss to Buffalo (you know, the Bills’ Super Bowl), and in just 11 games he has made a strong case to be the NFL’s MVP for the third time in his career.
Chandler Jones & Jamie Collins Shipped Out — And The D Got Better
Chandler Jones, an impending free agent, was shipped to Arizona prior to the season for guard Jonathan Cooper (who was released in October) and a second-round pick that was traded and became Joe Thuney (who has had an outstanding rookie season) and receiver Malcolm Mitchell (who has really caught on as of late). The Patriots’ pass rush suffered early in the season, but have been able to get after the quarterback in recent weeks.
While the Jones trade was somewhat expected, Belichick shocked everyone when he traded Jamie Collins during the bye week. He sent the freakishly athletic linebacker to the Browns for a conditional pick, essentially sending him to football purgatory for nothing. The move made little sense at the time, but it was reported in the days after that Collins wasn’t pleased with his role in the defense and the Patriots weren’t pleased with his freelancing ways on the field.
Trading away one of their best defenders is the kind of move that would normally sink a team, and the Pats did have a bit of a funk for a few weeks. But they’ve since rounded into form and are playing some of their best football heading into the postseason.
Gronk Goes Down
The Patriots will once again be without Rob Gronkowski for their playoff run, with the tight end going down in Week 12 with a back injury. He underwent the third back surgery of his football career, leaving a cloud of uncertainty for his future ahead.
Historic Wins For Brady, Belichick
The Patriots have won a lot of games with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady leading the way, and 16 seasons into their run together they’re starting to cement their names atop the record books.
Brady notched his 201st career victory (regular and postseason) on December 4 against the Rams, passing Peyton Manning on the all-time list. He and his head coach downplayed the accomplishment, with Bill saying Brady is a “good player.”
Just a few weeks later, on Christmas Eve against the New York Jets, Belichick won his 200th regular season game to become just the fifth NFL coach to 200 club. He joins George Halas (318 victories), Don Shula (257), Tom Landry (250) and Curly Lambeau (209) on that elite list.
Add in the playoffs and Belichick is 221-80 with the Patriots. Pretty impressive totals by both the coach and QB of the Patriots.
An AFC Championship Loss
We’ll make this one quick, but a collapse late in the regular season meant the Patriots had to play last season’s AFC Championship Game in Denver and not Foxboro. It didn’t go very well.
C’s Flirt With Durant; Land Horford
The Celtics spent Fourth of July weekend in the Hamptons, and it wasn’t for those famous tomatoes that George Costanza couldn’t get enough of. They were making their best case for superstar Kevin Durant to come to Boston.
For a team that hadn’t been able to lure a big name free agent since… well, ever… this was a big deal. The C’s even brought in Tom Brady and his four Super Bowl rings to join their sales group. But that wasn’t good enough, as Durant signed a two-year deal with the Golden State Warriors, forming yet another NBA super team.
The C’s did land one of the free agent prizes of the offseason, locking up Al Horford on a four-year, $113-million pact. After battling a concussion to start the season, Horford has been a big part of the Celtics’ success as of late.
Horford also missed a game to be with his wife, who had just given birth to their daughter the day before, which was a big deal because… well, sports talk radio needed something to complain about.
IT’s Career Year
Isaiah Thomas was masterful in the 2015-16 season, with the 5-foot-9 guard earning his first All-Star nod. He’s carried that over into the 2016-17 campaign, scoring 20+ points in 16 straight. He’s averaged 26.8 points per game, good for seventh in the NBA (as of Thursday).
The little guy is once again putting the C’s on his shoulders, and it’s been a treat to watch.
Another Postseason Disappointment
The Celtics made the playoffs for the second straight season in 2016, but were once again ousted in the first round. They did win a pair of games, with Thomas putting on a show with 42 points in a Game 3 win at the Garden, but Boston fell to the Atlanta Hawks in six games.
Maybe 2017 is the year they’ll finally win a playoff round under Brad Stevens.
Celtics Draft Jaylen Brown
The Celtics owned the No. 3 overall pick on draft night in June (along with 300 other picks), thanks to Danny Ainge’s 2013 heist in Brooklyn. While there were a ton of rumors leading up to the selection, from Milwaukee’s Kris Middleton to Philadelphia big men Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, the Celtics used the pick to draft Jaylen Brown out of California.
Fans weren’t too pleased with the pick, as owner Wyc Grousbeck was booed at a draft part at the TD Garden. Brown has shown flashes of promise over the first few months of his NBA career, but has had a tough time cracking Stevens’ lineup. He’s only 20, so patience is the key with Brown. But for a fan base eager for their team to take that next step, patience may not be a luxury the Celtics can enjoy.
We probably should have known that 2016 was going to be a rough one for the Bruins when they kicked off the new year with an embarrassing 5-1 loss to the rival Canadiens in the Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium. But they were a playoff team for much of the season, until they collapsed down the stretch. Again.
The B’s went 4-8-2 over their final month to fall out of the playoff picture, capped off with an embarrassing 6-1 loss to the Senators on their home ice. Tuukka Rask couldn’t play that day due to illness, and the B’s found themselves down 4-1 midway through the second period.
With a win, the Bruins were in. Even with a loss, the Bruins could have been in, but the Flyers beat the Islanders later that afternoon to steal the playoff spot from Boston. It was an ugly, disappointing and painstakingly frustrating ending for those who support the spoked-B, but something they were kind of prepared for, given the same thing had happened just 12 months prior.
While there weren’t really any consequences, with team president Cam Neely, GM Don Sweeney and head coach Claude Julien all keeping their jobs, at least it led to Neely cursing on Felger & Mazz. That was fun.
Pastrnak Breaks Out
The Bruins have 86 goals this season and Pastrnak has 19 of them. In 30 games.
The 20-year-old has turned himself into a legit scorer and a solid all-around player. Now let’s just hope they don’t trade him off for some spare parts.
Tuukka Standing On His Head
The Bruins have 18 wins on the season, and Rask has been in net for 17 of them. He currently ranks third in the NHL (as of Thursday) with a 1.96 goals against average with his four shutouts are tied for the second-most. He’s given up a few goals he should have stopped, but overall, Rask has been the main reason the Bruins are currently a playoff team.
More Olympic Bling For Needham’s Aly Raisman
At the old age of 22, Aly Raisman was the elder of the US gymnastics team at the Rio Olympics. She went on to win a gold medal after a dazzling floor routine in the team competition, and then took home silver in both the individual all-around competition and the individual floor exercise.
When she came home with three more medals for her collection, she was given her own day in her hometown of Needham.
Gold Medal Sportsmanship From Local Runner
During the Women’s 5000 meter track and field event in Rio, Topsfield’s Abbey D’Agostino collided with New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin and they both ended up on the track. It was clear both runners were in pain, but in an incredible display of sportsmanship they helped each other finish the race.
Hamblin finished 29th while D’Agostino (who suffered a torn ACL) finished 30th, and the two runners embraced after crossing the finish line.
Steve Burton: Alligator Wrastler
WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton already had D-1 college quarterback and sports director on his resume. Now he can add alligator wrestler to that list.
No, this isn’t sports. But the video took over the internet for a few days, and now when people ask if you’re ready for 2017, you can respond with a resounding “I AM! I AM!”
No alligators, or TV personalities, were harmed in the taping of that Sports Final segment (watch the entire segment here).
What was your favorite Boston sports moment of 2016? Let us know in the comments section!