Boston Red Sox

By Matt McCarthy,

2018 brought another duck boat parade down Boylston Street, and as the calendar flips to 2019, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that another parade through the streets of Boston could be in our future.

But which team enters the year with the best chance to board the duck boats at the end of their season?

To me, the answer is obvious: the Red Sox. They have the best chance to win this year in part because of the excellent state they are in heading into the 2019 season and in part because of where the other teams in town stand to begin the new year.

If you took a poll of Bostonians just a few months ago, it’s likely many would have said that the Celtics stood the best chance to win a title in the 2019 calendar year. Expectations were sky-high for a team that was perceived to be the clear-cut favorites in the Eastern Conference.

They haven’t lived up to those expectations. Not even close.

Nov 21, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving (11) reacts during the second half against the New York Knicks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The conference is stronger than anticipated and the Celtics are nowhere near as good as we all thought they would be. Forget beating Golden State in the NBA Finals, there are no guarantees this Celtics team can even win the East.

The 2018-2019 Celtics look to be more about the egos than the effort. The try-hard, little-engine-that-could Celtics are long gone, replaced by a team that has spent half a season looking like it is less than the sum of its parts.

The pieces to the puzzle haven’t fit so far. That’s been abundantly clear from the start.

Gordon Hayward hasn’t returned to form, and it’s fair to wonder if he will ever regain his all-star level of play, at least in the 2018-2019 season. “Scary Terry” Rozier has done nothing to put fear into the hearts of opponents in his return to his bit player role. Jaylen Brown has proven that he isn’t the second coming of Kawai Leonard.

Sorry for that reality check, Green Teamers.

The Celtics are nothing more than paper tigers until they prove otherwise.

The Patriots enter the playoffs with more question marks than any Patriots team in recent years. If forced to go on the road, it’s hard to see them finding their way to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII given their abysmal play away from Foxboro this year.

If Kansas City loses and the road to the Super Bowl shifts to Route 1, it’s easier to envision a scenario in which the Pats pick up two wins in January against a weak AFC field. But it’s hard to see many realistic Super Bowl matchups that would be favorable to the Pats.

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady should never be counted out, but this year’s task seems to be taller than in years past, even for the greatest coach and quarterback in the history of the game.

BOSTON – Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett of the New England Patriots celebrate during the Super Bowl victory parade on February 7, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime in Super Bowl 51. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

The Bruins, while competitive, are likely not legitimate Stanley Cup contenders, at least as presently constructed. Few teams in the NHL have as much talent at the top of their roster, but it’s fair to suggest that the Black and Gold don’t have enough depth to compete with the elite teams in the league.

Without more secondary scoring, it’s hard to see the Bruins getting past a team as strong as Tampa Bay in a playoff series.

Meanwhile, the Sox will return essentially the same roster in 2019 that won them 119 games last season. The core of their team is still young and is primed to win again. With free agency looming for nearly every key player on the Red Sox after the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the organization will likely be even more willing to go all-in to try and win a World Series this year.

No team has won back-to-back titles in baseball since the Yankees in 1999-2000, but the 2019 Red Sox seem better positioned to win two years in a row than any team in baseball in quite some time.

It’s only been two months since our last championship in Boston, and it’s not crazy to suggest that our next parade might not be too far off.

If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on the Red Sox.

Get the duck boats ready.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s own Hardcore Baseball podcast and on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.