On Feb. 3, 2002, the Boston sports landscape was altered forever as Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal fell through the uprights in New Orleans. Twelve years later, Boston remains the envy of sports towns across the country due to its teams routinely winning titles and appearing in postseason after postseason.
After compiling a list of the top 25 Boston athletes of the past 25 years last year, this year we’re ranking the top Boston teams from this championship era. It’s the top 12 of the past 12 years, and it’s based solely on the perceived “greatness” of that particular team in that particular sport. To keep things honest, Metro asked Marc Bertrand from 98.5 The Sports Hub and Mike Mutnansky from 93.7 WEEI to weigh in … and there’s plenty to argue about. A look at the list:
1. 2004 Red Sox
Record: 98-64 (Won World Series, 4-0, over St. Louis)
2. 2004 Patriots
Record: 14-2 (Won Super Bowl, 24-21, over Philadelphia)
3. 2008 Celtics
Record: 66-16 (Won NBA Finals, 4-2, over LA Lakers)
4. 2003 Patriots
Record: 14-2 (Won Super Bow,l, 32-29, over Carolina)
5. 2007 Red Sox
Record: 96-66 (Won World Series, 4-0, over Colorado)
6. 2011 Bruins
Record: 46-25-11 (Won Stanley Cup, 4-3, over Vancouver)
7. 2007 Patriots
Record: 16-0 (Lost Super Bowl, 17-14, to NY Giants)
8. 2001 Patriots
Record: 11-5 (Won Super Bowl, 20-17, over St. Louis)
9. 2013 Red Sox
Record: 97-65 (Won World Series, 4-2, over St. Louis)
10. 2003 Red Sox
Record: 95-67 (Lost in ALCS, 4-3, to NY Yankees)
11. 2009 Celtics
Record: 62-20 (Lost in semi-finals, 4-3, to Orlando)
12. 2013 Bruins
Record: 28-14-6 (Lost Stanley Cup, 4-2, to Chicago – shortened season)
Why the 2004 Red Sox at No. 1?
Beyond the weight of the alleged “Curse,” the 2004 Red Sox should also get points for the 98 wins they accumulated in the regular season. It was the most wins by a Sox team since the 1978 squad (99) and is the most by a Sox team in this recent championship era. Manny Ramirez had 43 homers and 130 RBIs in ’04 and David Ortiz bashed 41 dingers and drove in 139 runs. Curt Schilling won 21 games in his first season in Boston and Pedro Martinez tacked on 16 W’s.
Why the 2004 Pats team ahead of the ’04 team?
The 2003 and 2004 Patriots both went 14-2 and won the Super Bowl. What makes the 2004 squad better? The upgrade at running back, going from Antowain Smith (642 yards in 2003) to Corey Dillon (a career-best 1635 yards in 2004). This team avenged it’s regular season loss to the Steelers by blowing out Pittsburgh at Heinz Field in the AFC title game, 41-27.
Do the 2008 Celtics really deserve to be that high?
Yes. They’re an all-time great NBA team. Marc Bertrand points to the fact that it took this Celtics team seven games to down the Hawks in round 1. Fair. But this team got better as the postseason wore on, ending the Pistons run in the East by winning a big Game 6 on the road. They also dominated the Lakers in the Finals, giving L.A. an all-time beatdown in Game 6 at the Garden, 131-92. This team had a 66-16 record in the regular season. No NBA champ has had a better record since.
Now the big one. Why the 2007 Pats over the 2001 Pats? Are you on crack?
Mutnansky and Bertrand both thought the 2001 Pats were screwed over, royally.
Bertrand: “Who in their right mind ranks the 2007 team ahead of teams that actually won a championship? It must be the same people who think hanging a 16-0 banner is a good idea … The 2001 Patriots were great for a lot of reasons but I think we will always remember that group of players for the way they embraced the team concept.”
Mutnansky: “Holy moly. Did Matt Burke sleep through the Patriots’ 2001 season?”
The explanation: This list is based on greatness and greatness alone. The 2001 Pats lost to teams quarterbacked by the immortal Jay Fiedler and Brian Griese. The 2007 Pats were a play away from being regarded as the greatest team, not only in Boston history, but in SPORTS history. The 2001 Pats were one play away (Tuck Rule) from being one and done in the playoffs. Brady in 2007 was worlds better than Brady in 2001 and if these two teams played 10 times the 2007 team wins nine of ’em. I’m still convinced that if the Patriots lose that Monday nighter to the Ravens they beat the Giants in the SB thanks to the rest they would have gotten and a new, mortal mindset. Unlike the Colts, they went for the Holy Grail of a perfect season. They didn’t get it. But the 2007 Patriots, for several months, were the greatest sports team I’ve ever seen.”
2010 Celtics: Yes, they were minutes away from winning a title against the Lakers in Game 7 in LA. But they woefully underperformed during the regular season and had to settle for the 4-seed in the postseason due to a 50-32 record.
2008 Red Sox: This team got 18 wins out of Daisuke Matsuzaka, so that counts for something. But it was clear in the ALCS that the Rays had the better squad despite the series going seven games. The Rays shredded Jon Lester in Game 2 and took care of Tim Wakefield in Game 3, winning those two games by a combined score of 22-5.
2010 Patriots: Any team that wins 14 games in a regular season deserves credit. But a home loss to the rival Jets makes this team an immediate also-ran.
2011 Patriots: Unlike 2007, the Giants could easily make the case that they were the better team this entire season. New York went into Foxboro in November of this season and dealt the Pats their second straight loss (New England lost the previous week in Pittsburgh).
2014 Bruins: This wound is too fresh, so it’s hard to image many clamoring for this group to shoot up into the top 12. Still, the Presidents’ Trophy! A dominant, 4-1 first round win over the Red Wings! A Vezina winning goalie! A Selke winning center!
2002 Red Sox
Did not make playoffs
2005 Red Sox
Lost ALDS to eventual champion White Sox
2009 Red Sox
Lost ALDS to Angels
2011 Red Sox
Did not make playoffs
Lost Eastern Conference Finals to Nets
Record: 39-27 (shortened season)
Lost Eastern Conference Finals to Heat
Lost in seven games to Carolina Hurricanes
Notes: Clinched top seed in East for first time since 2002.
Lost 26-16 to Broncos in AFC Championship
Lost 28-13 to Ravens in AFC Championship
Lost AFC Championship 38-34 to Colts
Notes: Upset 1-seeded Chargers in divisional round
Lost 27-13 in divisional round to Broncos
Notes: Tedy Bruschi voted NFL Comeback Player of the Year
Follow Metro Boston sports editor and columnist Matt Burke on Twitter: @BurkeMetroBOS