Bruin’s Season Preview?

Not quite.  For one, the season is three games old.  For two, I was pretty disgusted with their offseason and kind of tuned them out until Opening Day.  So there you have it…

Fear not!  The above will certainly not stop me from commenting on the roster/coaches/management/first three games…or anything else.  What’s better than listening to (reading) someone’s at least partially uninformed opinions?  Not much!

I’m not sure we need to rehash my extreme disappointment in the retention of Claude Julien after last season.  Again, Claude has had a good run here.  One Stanley Cup win and another appearance in the final.  Mostly competitive teams all the way through.  But missing the playoffs 2 years in a row should be unacceptable in Boston.  Especially the way they fell apart at the end of both seasons.  Not to mention that the brass has said they want to transition the style of play to…something that Claude has historically not favored.  Sometimes things just run their course and it’s time to go.

I am entirely convinced that Claude is still here simply because they handed him a 3 year contract extension in the middle of the 2014-2015 season.  This is Year 2, still a bit early to eat the dough if he was fired.  I guess we will see how the year goes, to see if Jeremy Jacobs is comfortable eating one year on the contract.  Then again, watch him win enough this year…

As for the players, looking back at the end of last year’s roster, I was surprised to see how much turnover there actually has been.  Sure, they re-signed Kevan Miller to a ridiculous contact.  They re-signed Torey Krug to a fat contract as well, but I can stomach that more than Miller’s.

But look at some other names that are gone:  Loui Eriksson is the big one of course.  I’m not upset at all he is gone.  I am extremely pissed off that he walked with the B’s getting zero in return.  Easily could have dealt him at last year’s trade deadline.  Or at least possibly traded his rights before free agency started.  Whatever.  The other names that are gone that I want to reference are the likes of Chris Kelly, Max Talbot, Joonas Kemppainen, Dennis Seidenberg, Lee Stempniak, Landon Ferraro and Brett Connolly.  Zac Rinaldo is still here, but he is in the minors.

Focusing on the forwards above, outside of Eriksson, they are largely 3rd/4th liners at best.  But Claude loved to play them.  Now that they are gone, this HAS to be a promising development, right?!  They have been replaced by the likes of Austin Czarnik, Danton Heinen and Noel Acciari…with David Pastrnak presumably playing more and Frank Vatrano another viable option when he returns to full health.  Unproven NHLers and young, for sure.  But you’d have to think that they’d have bigger upside than the veterans above, led by Claude’s seemingly all-time favorite in Chris Kelly.  Sure, Riley Nash and Dominic Moore I suppose are a couple of those “old reliable’s” that Claude can fall back on.  Maybe Tim Schaller too.  But my point is there don’t seem to be as many of them around this year.

Defense?  Slightly different story.  Right now, kids like Colin Miller, Brandon Carlo and Rob O’Gara are playing.  But Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid are hurt.  You know once they are not, they will take 2 of those jobs.  K. Miller, McQuaid, Krug, Zdeno Chara, Seidenberg…and then a combination of John-Michael Liles, Joe Morrow, C. Miller and Zach Trotman filled out the D crew last year.  A pretty horrific crew, to be kind.  But Chara, Krug, McQuaid & K. Miller will go back to being the “core” very soon.  They HAVE to, since they are the ones being paid handsomely.  Liles will be the 5th in line…since he is a vet.  Leaves one spot for the kids.

How does that help the D in this current season?  Bringing back the guys that mostly stunk last year?  Burying the kids again?  I don’t see it.  I say burying kids “again”, because that’s what Claude did last year.  I have no idea if C. Miller, Trotman or Morrow can actually play.  But with the state of the D/team last year, they should have used all of last year to find out.  Well, I guess they decided that Trotman couldn’t play, since they let him walk after last season.  But they seem to be on the same course defensively this year as last.

Add in Tuukka Rask’s struggles last year, in part because he didn’t receive much help from his D, and we could be looking at a long season this year as well.  At least a mediocre one.  Another reason to keep playing ALL the kids.  On both D and O.

I’m simply not convinced that Julien will do it.  I think he has ALREADY changed course a little bit.  Take Czarnik, for example.  I thought he was the most impressive newcomer on Opening Night.  He centered the 3rd line and played on both the power play and penalty kill units.  I thought he looked pretty good.  Apparently, he didn’t play as well in Game 2 and found himself on the bench in Game 3, in favor of Schaller…with Moore taking his spot on the 3rd line.  The whole team laid an egg in Game 2 and apparently Czarnik was to blame.  Heinen hasn’t done much in my eyes, especially since he has played on the second line.  And Jimmy Hayes also still appears to be useless.  But Czarnik is the first guy out.

Carlo is playing heavy minutes and seems to be acquitting himself quite well.  O’Gara too.  Even C. Miller.  So we shall see when Claude starts jerking them around.  And for the love of God, can someone please tell me why Chara is playing over 25 minutes in a game in THE THIRD GAME OF THE SEASON??!!  39 years old.  Moves with a piano on his back.  Has broken down late in the season a few years running now.  But Julien already is upping the minutes.  Insane.  Stupid, actually.  One of my favorite parts of the pregame on Opening Night was that Julien told the interviewer that Z worked all summer on skating and side to side drills in the effort to increase his speed.  Ummmmm…that ain’t happening.

Some other brief observations from 3 games:

*Not excited about Patrice Bergeron missing the first 3 games due to injury.  Glad he got in the World Cup of Hockey in full though.

*Like what I see from David Backes thus far.  The contract ain’t pretty.  But at least for now I hope that he can replace Heinen and make the David Krejci line with Ryan Spooner more productive than it has started out as.

*That being said, it would appear Backes, Krejci and Spooner are best used at center.  In addition to Bergy, that’s a full house.  But none of them are playing 4th line.  Interesting to see how this all pans out.

*Krejci looks terrible so far.  Hip?

*Tuuks played well in the last game.  But that softie to start his season still angers me.

*Listening to Jack Edwards call a game is still insufferable.

*Pastrnak looks ready to make a “leap”.  Let’s hope Claude doesn’t bury him the next time he fails to backcheck.

*Brad Marchand was fantastic in the first game.  Should’ve even had one more goal if he didn’t try to get fancy with an open net.  But I hope people aren’t expecting 40-50 goals from him this year.

*I know that it’s tough to look at guys that have sort of blossomed after leaving the Bruins, such as Blake Wheeler.  But in that trade they received Rich Peverley.  Peverley was a pretty big piece of bringing the Stanley Cup back to Boston the end of that season.  Maybe we let this one slide?

*The whole team was awful against the Maple Leafs.  So did the B’s need to go out and get Anton Khudobin back?  Not saying Malcolm Subban was ready, especially after his scary injury to end last season.  But Subban supposedly looked good in camp.  So maybe just re-sign a Jeremy Smith or something until Subban or Zane McIntyre can contribute?  Or just give 1 year instead of 2 to Anton?

*Seth Griffith supposedly looked pretty good in camp too.  He put up huge numbers in Providence last year.  I have no idea if he can actually play in the NHL.  But I do hate losing young players that seem to have potential for absolutely zero…which is what happened when the B’s tried to sneak Griffith through waivers at the end of camp.

In any event, the returns are good thus far, but it’s early.  I’m not convinced this is a Cup contender.  Let’s see if the young kids pan out and better yet, if Claude sticks with them through all the ups and downs.  Hopefully the infusion of at least a little bit of youth keeps us watching for a spell anyway…



More hardware…

…now for the National League.  Full disclosure:  The Blowhard watches a whole helluva more American League baseball than National League.  This may be quick…

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
  2. Daniel Murphy, Washington
  3. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
  4. Nolan Arenado, Colorado
  5. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta
  6. Joey Votto, Cincinnati
  7. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
  8. Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets
  9. Buster Posey, San Francisco
  10. Corey Seager, LA Dodgers

10 guys is definitely steep here, as from what I can tell it’s Bryant and then 9 other guys to fill out the ballot.  Murphy 2nd?  Why not?  He led the league in OPS.  He was 13th in WAR?  Oh no!!  I can’t in good conscience put Arenado at #2.  Sure, his numbers are once again great.  But again…Colorado.  I felt like Murphs deserved to be higher than Rizzo and it feels like 2-4 is the next “tier” after Bryant.

5-7…MVP’s?  I don’t know.  These guys all had great years, but their teams were awful.  I have friends that would probably put Freeman 2nd, since he was 3rd in both OPS and WAR and well, it doesn’t matter that his team finished 26 and a half games out of first.  They also probably would put Jon Lester 3rd, since he is…Jon Lester.  You know who you are.

8-10 I was just throwing darts.  Even considered Wilson Ramos.  Ryan Braun had some decent numbers, but…

Speaking of Lester, he may well have been worthy of a top 10 nod, along with Max Scherzer.  And perhaps Madison Bumgarner.  Didn’t feel it here though.  If you do, I wouldn’t argue with it.  Like I said, the whole list was basically a crapshoot anyway.

Cy Young:

  1. Max Scherzer, Washington
  2. Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs
  3. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco
  4. Johnny Cueto, San Francisco
  5. Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs

Here’s a ballot that could use the 10 spots.  Not that all of those 10 could be considered the winner of the Cy Young.  But there were several others in the league that warranted “end of ballot” consideration.  These include, Noah Syndergaard, Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Martinez, Jake Arrieta and the late Jose Fernandez.  Perhaps Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon too, if you like your closers.  We know I don’t though.

I see this as between just Scherzer and Lester.  And, of course, as a Boston homer, I would’ve loved to give this to Jon.  But after going deeper into the numbers there was no way I could do it.  Lester had a better ERA by about a half a run.  But that’s where it ends.  Max had a better WHIP by a smidge, pitched about 26 more innings, had one more win, almost 90 more strikeouts…and for those who like WAR, it was 6.2 to 5.3 in favor of Max.  The competition in their divisions were similar with one playoff or near playoff team, one average team and 2 putrid ones.  Plus the Cubs won their division handily and surely faced less pressure…not a major consideration, but it was all part of the equation that added up to Max.

Bumgarner and Cueto were a pretty clear next tier to me.  Hendricks got the last spot largely because he led the league in ERA by a healthy margin and was 2nd in WHIP by a slim margin.  Pushed him ahead of Noah for me.  But I didn’t lose a ton of sleep over 5th place.

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Corey Seager, LA Dodgers
  2. Kenta Maeda, LA Dodgers
  3. Trea Turner, Washington

Seager was the clear-cut choice here.  No other hitter played enough to qualify, while Seager played the whole year at a high level.  I don’t love putting Maeda second, not after 8 years of pitching in the Japanese leagues.  Yes, Japan is not the majors.  But it’s probably better than Triple-A teams stateside.  Either way, the rules say he is eligible for this award.  Since he was also around for a full season and put up some pretty good numbers on a playoff team, he gets the runner-up position.

Third place could have gone a few ways, but I picked Turner.  Showed great speed (33 steals) and good power (13 dingers) in about half a season.  Throw in the high average (.342) and that sealed up third for me.  Trevor Story was on his way to throwing up some monster numbers before missing the last 2 months or so with injury, but…Colorado.  Aledmys Diaz also threw up decent numbers before he missed the better part of the last two months himself.  And he was an All-Star, for whatever that’s worth.  Seung-hwan Oh had a very nice year in relief for the Cards.  After 9 years in Korea and 2 in Japan.  Plus…reliever.  Junior Guerra, Steven Matz, etc.  There were a bunch of NL rookies who offered pretty good contributions for a half or three-quarters of a year.

Manager of the Year:

  1. Dusty Baker, Washington
  2. Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs
  3. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco

Between Baker and Maddon and I hate Maddon, so gimme Baker.  Nah, that’s not the reason.  But it’s hard to vote for a guy that won the division by 17 and a half games and was on cruise control for pretty much the whole season.  That’s what I think anyway.  Sure, he had to keep the team full of All-Stars focused and all.  Sometimes that can be hard (see Francona, Terry and Torre, Joe, among others).  But I went with Baker for the top slot.  Dusty took over for Matt Williams and guided the Nationals to 12 more wins…despite a MAJOR drop off from 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper.

If you wanted to put Terry Collins of the Mets 3rd, that would be ok.  He had to deal with many injuries, specifically in his rotation, where among all his young studs 43-year-old Bartolo Colon ended up making the most starts.  The team suffered injuries in his lineup as well.  And Collins still got them to the playoffs.  Bochy didn’t necessarily have to deal with a boatload of injuries.  But he did have to deal with a subpar everything, other than Posey, Bumgarner and Cueto.  Either one works for 3rd for me.

That about sums it all up…

Gross…different sport…

…so now it’s up to Clay Buchholz.

Think about that for a second.

Ok, that’s enough of that.  Now get your head out of the oven.

The good news?  This series is not over.  The Red Sox are coming back home and that, in and of itself, should create a glimmer of hope.  Cleveland is barely a .500 team on the road.  They also score about a run and a half less per game away from their friendly confines.  Their offensive numbers overall are much worse on the road, though the pitching splits are admittedly pretty similar.  But Josh Tomlin should not be unbeatable either.

You would assume the Sox offense will wake up at Fenway.  Well, they certainly can’t be any worse.  The only guy who has shown up so far is Brock Holt.  I suppose Andrew Benintendi too.  But that is it.  Similar to Cleveland, the Sox’ offensive numbers spike upwards at home.  Though not the same as the Indians, their pitching stats do get worse at Fenway.

The bad news?  Where do we start?

The Sox obviously have a good team and have the capability to not only come back in the series, but also take three in a row to win it.  But does anyone have that vibe now?  I don’t.

After winning 11 in a row to seal up the AL East, the Sox dropped 5 of their last 6 regular season games.  This obviously cost them home field, at least for this series.  How big was that really?  Didn’t think it was a huge deal before the series.  Feeling like that was the wrong assumption now.

People may write off the end of the season too.  Players were tired, they wrapped up a playoff spot and lost focus, home field wasn’t THAT important, etc.  But most of the regulars played most of those last 6 games.  So John Farrell must have though they still did have something to play for.  And then they didn’t get the job done in that respect.

This may have carried over to the first 2 games of this series.  We have seen an alarming number of brain cramps and bad plays in a mere two games:  Dustin Pedroia with an uncharacteristically brutal error in Game 2.  Benintendi being lazy on a fly ball in Game 1, allowing a catcher to tag from first to second.  Jackie Bradley Jr. with some terrible throws from the outfield, not to mention some horrific at-bats.  Sandy Leon with a bad throw or two.  David Price walking a the #9 hitter Roberto Perez, who hit .183 this season, TWICE in two at-bats.  Rick Porcello giving up three bombs in one inning.  Maybe even Marco Hernandez not taking third on a loose ball at the plate in the eighth inning in Game 1 (though there was only 1 out and he may not have made it, so maybe I’m being picky on this one).  This is only to name some.

Has the season-long farewell tour caught up to David Ortiz as well?  Especially with all of the events last week?  Perhaps.

More bad news?  You got it!  Due to Corey Kluber’s performance in Game 2, the Cleveland bullpen will be fresh for Game 3 on Sunday.  Specifically Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.  So if Tomlin gets ripped, Terry Francona can do a similar thing Sunday that he did Thursday.  And doesn’t everyone expect Buchholz to get blasted too?  So Game 3 could very well play out exactly like Game 1.  Not good for the Sox.

I would very much like to blame John Farrell for this series.  But I can’t really.  His two “aces” lasted 7 2/3 combined innings.  His offense completely shut down.  He has seemed to make the right bullpen moves.  People may have complained about moving Holt to 2nd in the batting order and Xander Bogaerts down to 6th, but Holt has performed.  I’m honestly not sure what else he could have done differently across the board.  As much as I would like to bash him, I really can’t.

One thing I would consider though:  Moving Benintendi to center and inserting Chris Young in left for Game 3.  Bradley is 0-6 with 5 strikeouts.  Probably would be 0-7 with 6 K’s if he didn’t get hit by a 0-2 pitch in his last at-bat Friday.  He doesn’t look right any way you slice it.  But what else can you do with the team?  Not much I am afraid.  Just have to hope the home cooking helps win Game 3.  Then maybe bring Porcello and Price back on short rest and hope the results in their second starts in the series are vastly different than their first ones.  Though how can we really expect that with Price’s career futility in the postseason?

I’m not packing it in, but it really does look like a lifeless team now, no?  And then to have to rely on Buchholz.  Yikes!  But we’ve seen them do it before.  Just have to hold out some hope for that.

The best thing about coming back to Fenway?  No more shots of LeBron James and the rest of the Cavalier clowns in their luxury box.  Please TBS, how many times did we really have to see that?

Speaking of TBS…I think we’ve had enough of them too…

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