On To Round Three…

…otherwise known as the Eastern Conference Finals.

So I was wrong about the Washington Wizards beating the Boston Celtics in the second round.  Wasn’t the first time I’ve been wrong, won’t be the last.  But we can all admit it the series really could have gone either way, when all was said and done.  And the fact that the C’s needed a big effort in Game 7 from Kelly Olynyk, of all people, to advance to the next round should scare the bejesus out of anyone rooting for the hometown team.

Kelly Olynyk?  Sweet, another thing that makes me look bad.  Though I won’t feel as bad when he averages about 5 points a game in the East Finals.

In any event, the Cleveland Cavaliers and King LeBron James await.  And I have to tell you, while watching Game 7 of the Wizards series, the Blowhard really wasn’t totally emotionally invested.  Normally in the playoffs, especially Game 7’s, we are hanging on every shot, every rebound, every referee call…everything.  All the while essentially funneling beers in the process.

But Monday night?  I don’t know.  It was sort of a weird feeling.  In the end, I determined that my lack of emotion came down to two things:

*I felt that the Celtics were going to get screwed in the draft lottery Tuesday night.  I know this has absolutely nothing to do with this year.  And from all indications there are a handful of pretty good players in the draft this year who should make an impact in the NBA.  So even dropping down to #4 may not have been catastrophic.  But with the way the C’s and Danny Ainge have been slowly rebuilding this team, I felt like anything less than the #1 pick would be a pretty big disappointment.

*More importantly, the fact is the C’s have zero chance in this series.  Yup.  That’s ZERO.  Not a snowball’s chance in hell.  None.  Nada.  Zilch.  Ok, enough.  But part of me was like, why bother winning this series?  So they can get embarrassed in the next one?

Stupid, I know.  You never know what can happen in any given series, right?  And when you can win a round in the playoffs, you certainly do it.  But I couldn’t shake the malaise.

Truth be told, we do know what is going to happen in this series.  What’s left to determine is how many games it will take for the Cavs to beat the Celtics.

Cleveland is 8-0 in the 2017 playoffs.  They seem to be on a mission toward another championship…or at least an expected date with Golden State in the NBA Finals.

Who’s going to stop LeBron James?  34.4 points per game in the playoffs, up from 26.4 during the regular season.  Jae Crowder?  Ummmm, I don’t think so.  The C’s could use his 6 fouls anyway.  Obviously, despite their defensive prowess, neither Avery Bradley nor Marcus Smart will be able to do it.  Jaylen Brown?  Please.

Sure, they can double and triple team the King.  But then Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love or J.R. Smith, or…a bunch of other guys will be running around wide open.  Kyle Korver will inevitably bury countless open threes.  Maybe Channing Frye too.

Tristan Thompson will undoubtedly slaughter the Celtics on the boards…along with Love and James.

I could go on, but will mercifully stop.  The people who say the Celtics have a chance will point to the fact that they got the #1 seed in the East for their performance in the regular season.  Key phrase?  “Regular season”.  Cleveland rested a lot, knowing they had a long playoff run to prepare for.  They most likely coasted in other games.  Then with a week left in the regular season, they came to Boston and blasted the C’s.  That just cemented they did not care about seeding.  They felt they could win anywhere, anytime.  And they are likely right…at least through the Eastern Conference.

There’s really nothing more to say.  Cleveland ends the run.  This time for real.  Four games to one.  I actually was going to say it would be a sweep, but the C’s may steal one.  Which one?  Guessing that if it’s any, it’s actually Game 1 tonight.  Cavs haven’t played in 10 days and may show some rust.  Celts are coming off a big Game 7 win and may be carrying some of that positive energy forward with them.  The game is in Boston.  Who knows, maybe the players are pumped the organization got the #1 pick yesterday!  Ok, not likely.

But if they don’t take Game 1, sadly it looks like a sweep.  It’s been a helluva ride though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time To Fire Farrell?

Of course!  But I’ve been saying that for a couple of years now.

Funny thing is, the Boston Red Sox mediocre start this season may have little to do with John Farrell’s managing prowess.  Or lack thereof…

Sure, there is always some blame that the manager will have to absorb when a team underachieves.  Farrell still sucks as an in-game manager.  That hasn’t changed.  Lack of leadership on more than a few occasions hasn’t helped him either.  All that nonsense with Dustin Pedroia and Manny Machado and all the other characters involved with firing baseballs all over the place.  Hanley Ramirez making up injuries so he doesn’t have to play first base.  And no one pushing him.  Those are two notable cases of a leadership void.

Farrell also doesn’t help himself with his explanations of subluxations and arm angles and all that crap.

But that doesn’t make him primarily responsible for this mess the Red Sox have created.  This actually pains me to say.

You may say, “mess”?  They are only 4 games out, no one will run away with the division and there are 125 games left in the season!  I will say, take a look at this roster, and Pawtucket’s roster and, better yet, the injury report.  And you may have a clearer picture of where this team stands.

Where do we start?  Third base is one place.  6 players have manned the position in 37 games.  Pablo Sandoval and Marco Hernandez primarily, though Josh Rutledge is catching up.  Brock Holt, Deven Marrero and…Steve Selsky have played there as well.  Looks like 13 errors, with Marco’s 6 and Fat Panda’s 4 leading the way.  Atrocious.  It’s gotten to the point where Marrero is earning more time because of his glove, his .243 career minor league average (.198 last year and .169 this year, by the way) be damned.

Is help on the way?  Not from Pawtucket, it would appear.  Looks like there are 5 or 6 minor league veterans playing 3B down there…without a ton of success.  I doubt we will see 20 year-old Rafael Devers in the majors this year.  Though he does currently have a .984 OPS in AA.  He’s supposedly the “next big thing”, so I doubt they will rush him.  Hopefully they won’t trade him either, what with the prospect cupboard stripped down a little bit from trades during the Dave Dombrowski regime.

I think we are stuck with the above motley crew for the time being.  Wait, didn’t Allen Craig used to play 3rd early in his career?  Maybe the Sox can salvage some of that contract?  Ok, nevermind.  He’s hitting .197 in Pawtucket with a .550 OPS.  Seems content to just collect his fat paycheck these days…

First base may be the next issue on the offensive side.  Mitch Moreland is a nice player and can fill a role.  That role should not require him to be the only player on the team to play in every single game this year however.  Especially when he looks pretty lost against lefties.

But part of this problem is that Hanley Ramirez has no interest in playing first, as noted above.  And no one is forcing the issue because they are afraid they will “lose” him.  What a joke.  Raise your hand if you saw this coming (Blowhard’s hand fully extended to the sky), at least in part because of the fact there is no David Ortiz in the clubhouse anymore to help keep him in line.  Make him play first, suspend him if he refuses.  And if he makes up injuries and you can’t tell if he is faking…well, you know his history, so you know he is faking.  I know, easier said than done.  There will be grievances and the player quitting and all that.  But management needs to figure something out and they should be smart enough to do so.

Raise your hand if you also saw Jackie Bradley Jr. reverting into, well…Jackie Bradley Jr.  (Blowhard again, arm straight up).  A mid .200’s hitter at best with a great glove.  But not an All-Star as he was last year.  I would have moved him last offseason for maximum value.  Then played Andrew Benintendi in center, Mookie Betts remaining in right.  Then perhaps a platoon of Chris Young and anyone else in left.  That ship has sailed.  On a positive note, there is plenty of time for Jackie to heat up and salvage his slow start.  But I’m afraid last year was an aberration, my friends.

Elsewhere on the diamond, I suppose I can live with the bodies there…unless Xander Bogaerts keeps up his alarming lack of production.  I don’t care if he is hitting .340.  No homers and 11 RBI in his 33 games is flat-out unacceptable.  And stop blaming Ortiz leaving for being the reason the lineup has underperformed.  There’s enough talent there to not use that crutch.

The big problem is the pitching staff.  Starting with the alarming lack of starting pitching depth on a “big-market” team.  Now, this is in no way saying I advocated for Clay Buchholz to remain here as part of what would have been 7 veteran big league starters.  I said “veteran”, not necessarily meaning “good”.  Good riddance Clay.

The other six?  Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz & Steven Wright.  Sale is rock solid, but has had a tendency to fade down the stretch in recent years for whatever reason.  Before his injury, I think we all could have counted on Price taking almost every turn…and hopefully be better than last year.  And even though Porcello was unlikely to be in the Cy Young mix again, I think we expected him to still be a suitable #3 guy anyway.

But the last three?  E-Rod is presumably still developing.  Having a pretty good year too, though he usually has thrown about 215 pitches every start to even get through the 5th.  It seems that way anyway.  Pomeranz and Wright were huge question marks.  Pomeranz just hasn’t proven durability in his career and Wright is a knuckleballer, so who knows which version will show up?

Lot’s of question marks.  Even with good health.  Then Price goes down.  Apparently Wright was never healthy from the start and pitched through his injury…and poorly.  Pomeranz expects to make his next start, but whatever he was babying in the spring is back.  Ugh.  And your next in line is Kyle Kendrick, Henry Owens and Brian Johnson.  Double ugh.

There aren’t better veteran options kicking around even now?  Dougie Fister, where are you?!

And…why did we ever consider Owens and Johnson “can’t miss” prospects?  They throw about as hard as Wright.  But I digress…

If you think the rotation is suspect, then don’t even look at the bullpen.  Disaster area.  Craig Kimbrel has been lights out.  Robby Scott has done his job…one lefty batter at a time.

The rest?  I can’t even talk about them.  Makes me sick to my stomach.  Makes me pine for some Noe Ramirez.  That should tell you about all you need to know.

This bullpen includes (theoretically) 2 guys who haven’t thrown a pitch in 2017:  Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith.  Smith threw very few pitches last year for the team.  But they are supposed to be at the back-end of the bullpen.

This leads me to the upcoming conclusion.  Although the Blowhard has not been a fan of Farrell for quite some time now, the finger points more to the construction of the team this year more than the manager’s performance.  Right at Dave Dombrowski.

You can’t control injuries (or illness).  But there is enough talent on this team to win.  There have been enough red flags on some of the guys acquired by DD that were worth noting.  He seemed to not only ignore them, he seemed to also overpay to get them.

Most of the trades involved prospects.  I would usually move prospects for proven guys any day of the week.  But did he need to move 4 of them for a closer in Kimbrel last year?  Send the top pitching prospect straight up for Pomeranz?  Send 3 prospects AND Travis Shaw for a middle reliever?  I’m no huge Shaw cheerleader.  But the Sox sure could use him now…at first or third.

For the record, I’ll give up the prospects for Sale.  But that’s different from the deals above.

Now, what does Dombrowski have to trade?  Couple of top prospects are left if he wanted, for sure.  But when MLB.com lists a 27-year-old lefty specialist (Scott) as your 29th best prospect across all minor league levels, that’s not a good sign.  That’s like a small market team.  Again, I’d trade prospects for proven guys every day.  Just seems as if, other than Sale, these prospects are being used for the wrong guys…and too many of the prospects are being dealt in each of those deals.

There is definitely plenty of time this season to right the ship.  But I’m not sure how long Price lasts when he comes back.  I don’t believe Thornburg throws a pitch for the team this year.  Who knows about Smith?  Sandoval will come back at some point, but to me, he is a lost cause.  3B will be an issue all year, offensively and defensively.  Just saw that Hector Velasquez is starting Thursday night.  Who?  Exactly.

This season is on Dombrowski thus far and not Farrell.  So to answer the question posed, Farrell probably does not deserve to lose his job based on the results this season…but as they say, you can’t fire 25 players…

Best of Three…

…and am I changing my mind on Washington four games to two?

Nope.

I assure you, this is not an overreaction to the C’s getting trounced in Games 3 and 4 in Washington.  But those games certainly don’t help.

In reality, the Wizards should be up 3 games to 1 right now.  They had 2 great looks to end Game 2 before it went to overtime and missed both.  People around New England I think are blinded by Isaiah Thomas’ magical(?) 53 point performance that they actually miss this simple fact.

Isaiah actually only has 32 total points since his Game 2 outburst.  Yeah, Game 3 was out of hand early.  And Game 4 got out of hand during the 26-0 run in the third quarter.  So his playing time was down a smidge.

But you know what else?  Washington finally had some answers for him.  That has been dissected over and over for some time now.  So I’m not bringing anything new to the table here.

The point to stress again is that…Isaiah can’t do it by himself.  Again, no secret.  Though Al Horford has stepped up his game for the most part in this series…in my eyes…who has been the C’s third best player?  Terry Rozier perhaps?  Yikes!!

Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart…all nice players.  But these guys simply aren’t going to beat the better teams.  Of course Rozier isn’t either.  So the Wiz double and triple IT and then…it’s over.

Guess what too?  Bradley is hurt again.  Surprise!!

We can talk about a max contract or not for Isaiah and player moves and all that when the offseason arrives.  As for this series though, will it change when the C’s get home tonight for Game 5?  I don’t see it.  Unless the team hits 19 threes again, including Crowder’s 6 for 8, as they did in Game 1.  Which I don’t see either.

Which brings me to coach Brad Stevens.  He has done what he’s could with matchups.  Trying to “hide” Isaiah on defense.  Trying to free up IT on offense.  Mixing in the regular bench guys in Smart, Kelly Olynyk and Rozier to try to maximize their time on the floor.  Even finding some use for Jonas Jerebko from time to time (but not for Amir Johnson though…oh well, can’t win them all!).

But the threes…oh God…the THREES!!  Roughly half the Celtics shots are threes.  When they go down, very nice.  But when they don’t…ugh.  During that 26 point run, the C’s kept firing up threes like they were going to get 10 points each time they would fall.  Of course they were kicking the ball all over the place too, but when they did take shots, they were ugly threes.

I know, I know, I KNOW…this is Brad’s system and it works…works a lot actually.  But when it doesn’t, someone needs to rein the team in.  Especially in the playoffs.  Didn’t seem to happen last game.

I think the Wizards bring their game plan in from DC and also their renewed confidence and win a tight one in Game 5.  Then once again blow the C’s out Friday night in Washington.  Am I happy about it?  No.  But it is what it is.

IT gets slowed down a bit, the Wiz grossly outrebound the C’s again, no other Celtics step up, the C’s don’t hit 19 threes…etc., etc., etc.  It all adds up.

Again, the progress shown by the Celtics this year has been great.  There is more work to do, as we have been saying in this space all year.  But it’s been a nice ride in the meantime.  And especially Isaiah has been fun to watch.

In the end, losing in this round shouldn’t be so depressing when you think about it.  The Celtics would get embarrassed and possibly swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.  I don’t think that is going out on a limb either.

May as well let the Wizards be that sacrificial lamb though…

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