Boston sports winners, losers during this coronavirus-induced hiatus

Ken Laird
March 31, 2020 - 10:36 pm

We’re months away from the return of sports in America, that we know. 

But there are still winners and losers.

Some New England sports figures are more affected by the absence of games than others, and in fact some might not even be minding the layoff.

So with the obvious disclaimer that none of this matters whatsoever right now in comparison to the battles in our hospitals to save lives, here are my Top 5 most hurt and most helped Boston sports figures due to the Coronavirus stoppage:

Top 5 Boston Sports Losers During Coronavirus

1. Jeremy Jacobs

Not only did his hockey team have a President’s Trophy season ripped away, the Bruins owner and chairman of Delaware North is the face of a colossal public relations fiasco as he was the last NHL boss to offer any financial help for game-day employees. And even when that offer came, it read as vague at best and phony at worst. Employees have been cut and many other salaries reduced. 

Jacobs is now Charles Montgomery Burns, a man worth an estimated $3.4 billion yet treating Bailey Building & Loan clients like Lionel Barrymore’s Henry F. Potter. Neither past nor future Bruins success will make fans forget about how the Jacobs’ family is treating their employees during this crisis. TD Garden is built on public land, but it appears Jacobs’ public is not getting a helping hand.

2. David Pastrnak

A 50-goal season was in the bag. And then it wasn’t. Will it forever be known as The Pasta 48? It appears so. Even if the NHL resumes this summer, the likelihood of further regular season games is unlikely. The last Bruin to hit half-a-century in goals will still be a quarter-century ago, Cam Neely in 1994. It’s downright tragic.

Not to mention, Pastrnak and the “Perfection Line’ had unfinished business in the postseason after the St. Louis Blues proved them imperfect in the 2019 Cup Final. Yes, Pastrnak will at worst own a co-share of the Rocket Richard Trophy. But this was a breakout year ripped away with a chance to add the cherry on top at the end: to outshine Crosby, Ovechkin et al. on the biggest stage and prove NHL elite status beyond a shadow of a doubt.

3. Robert Kraft

With nothing much else to discuss on sports-talk radio, Robert Kraft can’t achieve the one thing he desires: peace. Everything comes back to Brady talk, and for the Patriots’ owner inevitably some of the departure blame buck stops at his place. Kraft hasn’t helped matters with his spin zone to pin-the-blame on Brady, but I feel for him: RKK really could have used the cover of the NCAA Tournament, the Masters, an X-Games, or even a spirited bowling tournament at this point to cloud TB12’s exodus.

Instead, the Brady blame game is back in the A-Block with every new Bruce Arians or Chris Godwin soundbyte that comes celebrating TB x TB out of Tampa Bay. And this narrative will never be erased: Kraft is forever culpable in allowing the Goat to leave New England before retirement. Kraft chose Belichick over Brady. It’s not a legacy-destroying reveal, but the Coronavirus stoppage made the reveal all the more clear.

4. Tom Brady

No longer a Boston athlete, Brady makes my list anyway because the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be followed like the region’s 5th (or 6th, sorry Revs) professional team this year. And this layoff is bad news for a man who needed offseason work and was committed to attending OTA’s this time around. Brady’s legacy IS on the line here, at least in terms of proving Who Made Who, Belichick or Brady. He needs the rapport with Godwin and Evans he never had in 2019 with N’Keal and Jakobi.

I’m sure there will be plenty of covert work managed between Brady’s new weapons on some Montana field or California beach, but the best laid plans of sticking a 12-4 season in Bill’s craw are now looking like everyone’s blank 2020 Desk Calendar. Brady still has gas in the tank, the question will be whether his ground and air support show up in cohesion as they are forced onto the playing field before they’ve had basic training.

5. Ryan Weber

Who is Ryan Weber, you ask? Exactly.

You might have known Weber had the Red Sox played ball in 2020. Our Rob Bradford tells me he was “absolutely dealing” before JetBlue South was boarded up for the virus. Weber was of course in line for a starting rotation slot due to David Price’s trade and Chris Sale’s bum arm, and he’d allowed just one hit in his last appearance in Ft. Myers, a four-inning stint. All together in Spring Training, he hadn’t allowed a run. My bet is that we will see baseball back first of all the sports, but whether Weber is still in the same groove at that time is another bet altogether.

And then there are the fortunate ones. 

Top 5 Boston Sports Winners During Coronavirus

1. Chris Sale

If you’re going to have Tommy John surgery, you may as well pick the Pandemic year. And further, if you’re going to have Tommy John surgery right when your brand new $145 million extension kicks in, you may as well hide in quarantine for 14-16 months. Dombowski’s Folly doesn’t seem so despair-laden at the moment. Heck, the next time the Sox play ball Sale may yet be on the mound. 

2. John Henry

Not only have Jacobs and Kraft taken the town’s ownership venom of late, Henry and the Sox brass must be pinching themselves. The 2018 cheating report continues to be embargoed, the Sale news is buried, Mookie Betts may never play in Los Angeles AND the trade return will hold up. Alex Verdugo gets time to heal up from his ailments, Ron Roenicke gets more time to plan, and if baseball does return this summer the Red Sox will be embraced by fans like my morning show partner Greg Hill embraces a Cape Cod frozen pizza.

The Sox will be loved again, and maybe Henry will, too. Provided, of course, that 2018 cheating never happened.

3. The Cheaters

Speaking of which, whomever did cheat on that Red Sox 2018 squad is loving every minute of this lull in the action. Instead of being lumped in with Bregman, Altuve and the Houston Trashtros, any Sox Scammers will now be mostly forgotten upon the return of sports. Sure, 2018 may yet have an asterisk, and Alex Cora may be beyond saving, but at this point sports fans would take all the illicit material Enrico Pallazzo could uncover from under a ballplayers’ hat if it just meant live action again.

And as for Spygate II, does anyone even remember it? Dave Mondillo gets off scott-free.

4. Danny Ainge

Trader Danny stood pat at the NBA trade deadline, and it was going to cost his team a chance at Banner 18. I don’t believe the Celtics were getting past Milwaukee, let alone either L.A. team in the finals. The team’s depth was looking sorely exposed the last live hoops we watched, despite Jayson Tatum’s at times herculean efforts. But if the NBA is scrapped, Ainge is off the hook and in fact kept all his draft assets in house with a young, developing cast. Sometimes good luck is the key to good fortune.

5. Bill Belichick

I’ll put my money on Belichick to gain an edge during a pandemic. Belichick’s worth ethic is unassailable (last offseason’s Barbados trip aside), and his team will be ready when the lights are turned back on. Does anyone doubt Bill and Ernie Adams will have the league’s most efficient plan to get players up to speed? Now, they may not have a quarterback of any worth, but Jarrett Stidham is feeling more comfortable about his offense right now than Brady is about his. And Bill’s defense will be fine, maybe good enough to win the AFC East again.