Mea Culpa?

So here we are just past the quarter pole of the Major League Baseball season.  The Boston Red Sox inexplicably have a 27-17 record and are in a virtual tie for first place with Baltimore atop the AL East.  I say inexplicably, because well, no one really expected this.  And if anyone says they did expect it, they are blowing some serious smoke up your keister.

My wish for John Farrell being canned by Memorial Day will go unfulfilled.  That wish has already gone unfulfilled for months actually.  But that is besides the point.  I may even have to begrudgingly admit that Farrell has done a half-decent job to this point.

Of course, that is easy to do when your offense has been off the charts the first six weeks of the season.  And the bullpen has been pretty good too.  So even if the starters are mediocre, and they have been, the success of the first two here can win you a lot of ballgames.

Therein lies the potential downfall of the team however.  The starting rotation.  David Price is 6-1, but with a 5.53 ERA.  I’m not going to be too worried about him though…he should round back into form.  Maybe he already has with his last couple of starts.  “#2 starter” Clay Buchholz has been atrocious.  And that is being kind.  My feelings on Bucky have been pretty clear.  But despite the talent he flashes (seemingly once in a blue moon recently), I’m not expecting much out of this bum.

Joe Kelly started the 3rd game of the season.  I suppose that means he is technically the #3 guy.  I don’t care about the great performance Saturday.  He still stinks.  I heard one “insider” say on a radio broadcast that fixing this shoulder impingement that landed him on the disabled list this season…you know, the impingement that he has had for like 8 years…will mentally free him now and he will reach his full ability.  Or some garbage like that.  So the “impingement” held him up for almost a decade…and he never bothered to have it fixed until now.  Ok, if you say so.  And we are not even sure it is even “fixed.”  He is just doing different kinds of exercises, working on a program and of course taking some meds.

Rick Porcello is 7-2, 3.47.  Wow.  We will take that from him.  Sad that we will “take” a 3.47 ERA from a 20 plus million dollar pitcher.  But that’s unfortunately where we are at.  The team’s best starter this year, Steven Wright, (3-4, 2.52), is a knuckleballer.  We’ve seen this movie before with Tim Wakefield.  This performance will not likely hold up.

What’s beyond that?  Other than Eduardo Rodriguez, really nothing.  Henry Owens?  William Cuevas?  Sean O’Sullivan?  Yikes!!  Can’t even talk about Brian Johnson now, as he has been placed on the inactive list in Pawtucket to deal with anxiety issues.  As for E-Rod (I actually hate calling him that, but the name has caught on), can we even count on him now?  He is due to start Tuesday for the PawSox on another rehab outing.  But how long will this go on?  Seems like the rehab has lingered on for a while.  Some setbacks.  Some vagueness.  Some overprotection.  I actually don’t expect to see him until after the All-Star break.  Or until Bucky inevitably goes on the DL.  Or, the most likely scenario…when Wright gets shelled a couple of times in a row.  At that point, Farrell will have his excuse to push Wright back to long relief, saying some nonsense about how “Steven gives us a lot of flexibility out of the ‘pen…”  Even if it is only 2 bad starts out of like 15.  But none of the other guys are really candidates to move to the bullpen.  Except maybe Kelly, but they have been clear they won’t move him there.  So we’ll just have to deal with whatever happens when Eduardo is finally ready.  I wouldn’t be shocked if that turns out to be 2017.

Any way you slice it, a lot of question marks in the rotation the rest of the way.  Yes, we knew this from the get-go.  But now after the hot start, hopefully there is more urgency to supplement the talent there going forward.

And now with the news today about Carson Smith needing Tommy John surgery and being done for the year, is the bullpen in the same boat as the rotation?  Meaning, do they need some urgency to supplement the talent there as well?

Even if Smith was healthy, my answer would be…you can’t ever have enough bullpen arms.  Looking at it from the beginning, Smith, Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and Craig Kimbrel are a solid back-end.  Not Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances for the Yankees, but still pretty good.  Robbie Ross Jr. is decent enough and you could do worse with Tommy Layne as a lefty specialist.  That leaves anyone as the 12th pitcher…since that’s what every team has anyway.  In addition to “anyone” as their 13th-20th pitchers.

But now?  Smith is done.  Koji is not quite the same guy…to be expected at his age of course.  Because of this, it’s only a matter of time before Farrell throws Tazawa every day and burns him out.  Old habits die hard.  So then what?  Ross, Layne, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Roenis Elias, Pat Light…mediocrity at its finest.  IF they are lucky that is.

Lastly, the offense.  Incredible thus far.  No other way to explain it.  The most amazing aspect really has to be that Hanley Ramirez seems to care!  But there’s where the questions start.  How long will THAT last?  Who the hell knows?  As long as they are winning, I don’t expect his attitude to change.  But with him…ugh…let’s not even think about it…

So we all know the offense can not likely keep up the pace they are at.  Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if the players above Hanley in the lineup did actually keep playing at a high level:  Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts & David Ortiz.  But then again, Pedroia has battled injuries in recent years.  And we are all still hoping Big Papi doesn’t pull a “Rafael Palmeiro” in his last year…getting busted for PED’s.  Please just make it through this year without a failed test Big Guy.  Please and thank you.

I think we still do have to show some concern with the last 4 spots in the order however.  Ok, you will say, “last 4 spots in the order, if all we have to only worry about those guys, we should be ok.”  I would say, sure, to a point.  But the Sawx will still need something out of those dudes.  And I have my questions.

If the season ended today, Jackie Bradley Jr. would likely get MVP votes.  Seems incredible, eh?  But true.  I may be one of the few left in this camp, but I am still not convinced he has completely figured out major league pitching.  Call me an idiot if you like, but we have seen him go through stretches like this before.  It would not shock me one bit to see him go something like 15-100 with 45 K’s in the month of June alone.  He’s either been awesome or horrendous for stretches in the majors…no in-between.  With his glove, I’d take the in-between.  I still think it remains to be seen if he has finally crossed that line.  Sorry.

On a lesser scale, same with Travis Shaw.  With the Fat Panda out for the year, there is no real competition.  And there hasn’t been really since he won the job.  Of course, he has been a pleasant surprise and is still playing well.  But there is also no track record with him either.  I hope he continues to hit.  I’m just not certain of it.  It’s a long season.

I guess I am not worried about Christian Vazquez’ hitting.  Pretty much anything you get from him offensively is a bonus.  But if the lineup suffers as a whole…it looks a lot worse.

I’m keeping an eye on left field.  My feeling is that you are looking at a change here.  Brock Holt won the job coming out of Spring Training, as one side of a platoon with Chris Young anyway.  I’m not sure when he got his latest concussion, but it may have “helped” the team in a way.  The Brockstar seemed to be a little exposed playing almost every day, as much as I love the dude.  Once the Sox sent down Blake Swihart and threw him in LF in the minors, I kind of felt like he would be playing there in the majors soon enough.  Just a hunch.  Partly because they had decided on Vazquez behind the plate.  But perhaps also partly to show some versatility as a piece in a future deal?

In any event, now that the door has opened for Swihart in LF now, I feel like he will stay there when Holt comes back.  Holt will go back to the utility role that he has been successful at.  And he will still get plenty of at-bats.  I would also say Holt getting another concussion is something to monitor.  He may not even be back soon.  Brock was sidelined for over a month at the end of 2014 with one.  And now he has another.  This is baseball, not football.  Something to watch.

This team has been very fun to watch the first part of the season.  I don’t mean to throw a wet blanket over the situation.  But I have found myself also waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop” with regards to them.  I don’t see them sustaining their success…unless Dave Dombrowski steps in and wheels and deals.  Can’t rule that out, but quiet so far.

Ssssooooo…I am not apologizing for any of my early season hesitations and negativity…yet…

Changing course…

…into a bit of a national perspective on the “winter” sports scene now, relating it to the local teams.  You know, since the Celtics were eliminated what seems like a month ago…wait, it WAS almost a month ago…and the Bruins were atrocious and missed the playoffs altogether.

Both the NBA and NHL playoffs have been on quite often at this address, even with the local teams missing.  More often than in recent years, for sure.  As they go deeper towards the Finals, one thing has become increasingly clear to me:

The Celtics and the Bruins are far, far, FAR away from their next championship.  In their current states of course.  Things obviously can change with the right move, or series of moves.  I have confidence in the C’s making moves to help get there.  The B’s?  Not so much.

But for right this second?  There really can be no debate here.  The semifinals alone in both sports clearly show us this.

Sure, there has been a few blowouts in both series in the NBA semis.  But that really matters not.

Cleveland is clearly the team to beat in the East, as much as it pains me to say.  I can’t stand that clown, LeFraud James.  For numerous reasons (See:  Game 3 flop, for some more ammo).  Listen, I hate anyone who flops in any sport (See also:  Smart, Marcus).  That’s one of the big reasons I despise soccer as a whole.  But James doesn’t NEED to do that sort of crap.  Let’s move on before I become any more fired up…

Toronto may have been the Cavaliers’ only true competition for the entire year, yet they got smoked at Cleveland in Games 1 and 2.  Sure, the Raptors have been without Jonas Valanciunas (I totally just copied and pasted that name here!) for the whole series thus far.  But although JV may be good for say, 12 points and 10 boards or so…he ain’t Shaq in his prime.  Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are very good players.  They have some decent players that surround them.  But you’d have to say the Cavs triumvirate of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love tops the above three.  And then when J.R. Smith is dropping bombs left and right from downtown, along with the rest of their useful players, the Cavs really should obviously be the heavy favorite.

So, Cleveland should take care of Toronto soon enough and head to the finals.  That’s going out on a limb, I know.  The larger point here is that the Celtics not only aren’t ready to compete with the Cavs, but I’m not sure they would compete with the Raptors.  1-3 against Toronto in the regular season, but that in that one win, Lowry did not play.

More importantly, I am watching these games out West and thanking the Good Lord the C’s aren’t getting pummeled by any of those teams.  Specifically, Golden State and Oklahoma City, the West finalists.  Each team has a blowout win on their home floor this series.  But both are clearly head and shoulders above the Celtics.  I know, another news flash.  But games against them would truly be scary…again, in the C’s current state.  So much talent and athleticism.  Cold blooded shooters.  Even against each other, as elite teams, 10 point leads all of a sudden become 25.  Impressive.  Just watching these games in both conferences makes you realize these teams are on a different level than the C’s.  Of course, there are now only four teams left.  They are supposed to be the best.  But still…

As stated above and in previous posts, I do believe Danny Ainge and the Celtics will attempt to make some moves and continue to close the gap between them and the title contenders.  I have written previously that there is no way Kevin Durant will come to Boston.  I still pretty much feel that way.  BUT…what if OKC wins the championship?  Will Durant be more inclined to look elsewhere?  I really have no idea.  But seems like the C’s best bet is to root for OKC over the next few weeks and maybe they become pleasantly surprised.

Moving onto the Stanley Cup playoffs…I do feel that the Bruins’ are obviously a ways away from another title.  Missing the playoffs two years in a row helped me think up this original thought.  But I watch these semifinal games…actually, the playoffs as a whole for the most part…and see just a ton of speed and skill all over the ice.  Crisp passing.  Guys picking corners of the net.  Big saves.  Etc.  Almost none of what you see during Bruins games.  Picking corners?  Haha…if I had a nickel for every B’s shot fired directly into the chest of a goalie…

Claude’s system perhaps?  Yeah, sure.  Always a possibility.  Huge possibility.  But I don’t think it explains it all.  The B’s have too many 3rd and 4th line types, guys that fit Claude’s system, guys that have helped him win in the past.  But the team does have SOME highly skilled players, after all.  And they are still NHL hockey players.  They don’t just forget how to shoot at an open corner of the net because Claude asks them to put more time in down at their own end.

The team just doesn’t have enough of the ELITE offensive players, you know, guys like Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin (& soon enough, David Pastrnak perhaps?)…guys that could still work in Claude’s system, but perhaps operate with a little more freedom on the offensive end.  And those are some of the players we see playing now.

That all being said, I also find myself being frustrated watching the Eastern Conference, in particular.  Washington finished the regular season with 16 points more than anyone else in the East.  President’s Trophy for best record in the league…by 11 points.  Sure, they have a history of choking in the playoffs.  But wasn’t this year supposed to be different?  In the East, it was them and everyone else.  Then they get booted in the second round and we are watching Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay in the conference finals.

Pittsburgh changed their coach in the middle of the season…to Mike Sullivan.  Mike Sullivan??  Remember that stiff here?!  Tampa had FOUR more points than the B’s in the regular season.  Both teams have switched goalies this series, albeit Tampa due to injury.  But Tampa’s backup has played well and is 3-2.  Tampa has played without superstar Steven Stamkos since Day One of the postseason.  And so on…

What if the B’s just get IN the playoffs?  We’ve seen all of this before.  Quite simply, ANYTHING can happen.  Top seeds lose.  Goalies get hot.  Players score more.  Unheralded guys step up and make a difference.  And all of that.

Makes you wonder still why Claude kept his job.

Now, anything could happen, but I still wouldn’t give them much of a chance against the West.  Though San Jose only had five more points than the B’s…and a losing home record.  And a goalie, Martin Jones, that they actually had as property for a short time (coming from LA as part of the Milan Lucic trade, going to SJ for a first rounder and college kid).  And St. Louis has switched goalies this series as well.  Among other things.  These two teams would still skate circles around the B’s.  Chicago, Dallas, Anaheim and LA would likely have as well.

With the news that Donnie Hockey is discussing things with Loui Eriksson’s agent…well, that is kind of upsetting me.  Didn’t want Claude to stay.  Don’t want Loui here and wanted to get some value for him back at the trade deadline.  I just have zero faith in Bruins management right now.  We’ll see what happens.

One more thought:  With the goalie carousel in these playoffs and teams still doing it with only 4 teams left standing…makes you wonder why you pay 7 mil a year for yours, doesn’t it?

 

Disappointed?

I am…at least a little.  The Boston Celtics tonight found out they will have the Number 3 pick in the draft next month.  You may say that is better than getting the #5 or #6 pick…especially when the odds said they had the best chance of landing at Number 5.  I would say of course, dummy.  But when all the hype has centered around the presumptive top two picks (Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram), you may understand that getting the pick right after those two are gone may take the wind out of the sails a bit.

The next “tier” of players appear to extend from picks 3-8.  Being the college basketball expert I am (not), many of the mock drafts appear to list the same 6 players:  Dragan Bender, Henry Ellenson, Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield, Jaylen Brown and Kris Dunn.  Denzel Valentine snuck into one at #8, but most have the previous 6 dudes in some order from 3-8.  But…they vary wildly in each mock.  I’ve seen Hield, Bender, Murray and Dunn all at #3 somewhere.  Hield has been at 3 and at 8.  Brown has been at 4 and at 10.  There are a thousand mock drafts and of course everyone has a different opinion.  But you get the point:  There is no consensus #3.

Bender has been getting some huge props over the last week or so.  18 years old, someone with extreme upside, blah, blah, blah.  Every time I hear his name he grows an inch or two.  He’s like 8’7″ now I think.  I know, funny.  But seriously, he is listed at 7 feet even, 215 lbs.  You know who that sounds like?  Yup, Kelly Olynyk!  And you know how I feel about that dude.  Actually, I just looked this up to compare…did you know Kelly is listed at 7 feet even, 238 lbs?  238?  Really?!  Could’ve fooled me.  Regardless, wouldn’t those measurements of Bender give you a little pause?  Especially since he is likely closer to 200 lbs than 215.  Sure, he still apparently has some growing left.  And once he gets to the NBA, surely teams will bulk him up.  But he also doesn’t have much for numbers overseas either…especially the ones under “minutes played”.  Maybe I’m looking at the wrong page…in summary, he sounds more like the next Darko Milicic to me…now anyway.  Maybe Bender looked good on video playing one on none and posting up chairs like Yi Jianlian did years ago…

I’m not going to go through every one of the above players.  Mostly because I had never heard of Ellenson or Brown until like 3 hours ago.  Plus, we have already established my lack of knowledge of college players in general.  Briefly though…Hield stayed all 4 years at Oklahoma…many would say that can be something that hurts him.  Why didn’t he come out early, even after his junior year?  Murray apparently also has a ton of upside but may need some time.  Dunn is a point guard and not necessarily the Celtics’ greatest need.  4 of the 6 are guards, with only Ellenson and Bender as “big” guys…and we already said Bender ain’t that big.  Etc.

If Danny Ainge keeps the pick, I have no idea who they would take.  Hopefully, he does.

But that’s the key…are they keeping the pick?  And if they try to trade it, what value does it have?

I have never been convinced that Danny is 100% keeping the pick.  With all the picks, players, non guaranteed contracts, etc….there are so many routes he can take, I can’t begin to predict which one he actually will.

But I can speculate that the value of the pick took a little hit by falling outside the Top Two.  And that is a little bit concerning.  Maybe there would have been more value if he dealt it before the lottery (ie: at the trade deadline).  Of course hindsight is 20/20.  I wouldn’t have dealt the pick back then either.  In any event, it’s not worst case scenario.  That pick will be “the best of the rest.”  And there is some value in that.  All it takes is one team to be salivating over Bender’s or Murray’s potential.  Then it could have tremendous value.

So I actually did watch the NBA Lottery telecast.  Something I certainly don’t make a habit of.  But figured what the hell, what else do I have to do tonight?  Other than the ESPN announcer Heather Cox butchering the word “Timberwolves” when introducing their representative, I found one other nugget particularly intriguing.  When Cox was interviewing Philadelphia coach Brett Brown about the future of the Sixers, he specifically mentioned Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, not once, but TWICE.  As key pieces of that future.  Interesting that he did not mention probably his best player, Jahlil Okafor.

Sure, Okafor had some off-court issues, at least early in the season.  But he’s still pretty damn good.  And only 20 years old.  And as opposed to the two players Brown did specifically mention, Okafor actually PLAYED last year.  Seems to me his name should’ve rolled off the tongue first.  Even if Brown also didn’t mention another probable “core” piece as well in Nerlens Noel.  Okafor’s absence seems pretty noteworthy any way you slice it.

So, what was intriguing about Brown’s comments (or lack of) was…I don’t think it is a secret that Ainge likes Okafor.  There was also some smoke around the trade deadline regarding him and maybe some discussions.  If this is all true, could this be revisited now perhaps?  For the third pick and of course other pieces involved?  Something to think about anyway.

Other than that, nothing else really jarred any emotion during the telecast.  Looks like we will have to wait until draft night to see the next step the C’s take.  The #3 pick is not the end of the world, but it just adds another layer of complexity to the “Summer of Danny.”

I’m also somewhat disappointed that the C’s decision to send Isaiah Thomas to rep them in the lottery did not work out either.  Well, no one has really worked out for the team at the lottery…ever.  Never had the #1 pick.  Despite the historical success of the franchise, that fact is astounding to me.   Maybe next year for the Nets pick they just send Bill Belichick…

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