The sports world came to a screeching halt in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, new horizons came into sight in 2021, a year full of new beginnings despite lingering uncertainty.
With sports coming to life once again, and competition at an all-time high, we compiled nine Boston-centric superlatives to ring in 2022.
So, here’s what we’ve got after looking back on the past year in Boston sports.
Most Valuable Player: Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi
The Red Sox’s bullpen was a key part of their postseason success. However, Eovaldi helped carry Boston’s starting rotation, from the beginning of the year through the playoffs. The 31-year old had a 3.75 ERA over his 32 regular-season starts and 4.6 WAR. And this doesn’t even come close to summing up his postseason contributions, as he had 25 strikeouts over 20 2/3 innings. To top off his résumé, Eovaldi was named Boston’s 2021 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes a player who represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field.
Offensive Player of the Year: Bruins left wing Brad Marchand
Marchand had a stellar 2020-21 season offensively, totaling 29 goals and 40 assists in 53 games for the Black and Gold. He finished fifth in voting for the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL’s MVP. Additionally, he was named to the NHL All-Star First Team in 2021.
Defensive Player of the Year: Patriots linebacker Matt Judon
New England welcomed Judon, a defensive powerhouse, with open arms when he left the Baltimore Ravens to sign with the Patriots in free agency. And the 29-year old has exceeded expectations, leading the charge for a New England defense that has the Patriots looking like legitimate AFC contenders.
Coach of the Year: Red Sox manager Alex Cora
There was no one better fit to lead the Red Sox through adversity and the ever-changing pace of thrilling postseason play than Cora. After his absence in 2020, Cora returned and immediately picked up where he left off, setting the tone for Boston’s surprising 2021 success. The Red Sox ultimately came within two wins of reaching the World Series, defeating the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card Game and the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Division Series before falling to the Houston Astros.
Newcomer of the Year: Red Sox outfielder Kiké Hernández
Hernández, full of personality, boldly burst onto the scene for the Red Sox, and he didn’t hold back offensively or defensively. The 30-year old’s versatility made him a key component, and he brought his game to another level in the postseason. Hernández has been praised for his defensive skills and was rewarded with his second consecutive Fielding Bible Award for best defensive multi-position player. Hernández?s nine Outs Above Average and eight outfield assists ranked ninth in the AL.
Transaction of the Year: Bruins’ trade for Taylor Hall
Hall was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres, along with Curtis Lazar, at the NHL trade deadline in exchange for Anders Bjork and a second-round draft pick. The deal immediately provided a boost to Boston’s second line and has long-term implications, with the Bruins re-signing Hall to a four-year contract in July.
Biggest Storyline of the Year: Red Sox’s playoff run
The Red Sox finished in last place in 2020, going 24-36 in the pandemic-shortened Major League Baseball season and casting doubt about their long-term future in the AL East. They silenced their skeptics in 2021, though, winning 92 games during the regular season before defeating the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game and the Rays in the AL Division Series. Boston lost to Houston in six games in the AL Championship Series, but not before a memorable run that had Fenway Park buzzing in October.
Biggest Surprise of the Year: Mac Jones being the best rookie quarterback of the 2021 NFL Draft picks
Jones, the 15th overall selection and the fifth quarterback picked in the 2021 NFL Draft, has been huge for the Patriots, providing offensive stability in his rookie season after beating out Cam Newton for New England’s starting QB job during training camp. The former Alabama star is the frontrunner for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year as the Patriots eye a deep playoff run one year after going 7-9.
Best Game(s) of the Year: Red Sox clinch ALDS with a pair of walk-off wins over the Rays
If you don’t remember these remarkable innings, or if Tiësto’s remix of “Dancing On My Own” isn’t still playing in your head, then what were you doing in October? The Red Sox battled the Rays in the ALDS, defeating them in four games, and the series included no shortage of heroics. First, Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez launched a walk-off home run into the seats above the Green Monster in Game 3 to give Boston a 2-1 series lead. Then, Kiké Hernández sealed the deal in dramatic fashion with a walk-off sacrifice fly in Game 4. The Red Sox were the second team ever to clinch a postgame series with back-to-back walk-off wins.