Monthly Archives: December 2015

Not quite ready for Prime Time…

So there were plenty of fans around the region last week that were convinced that the Boston Celtics were going to hand the Golden State Warriors their first loss last Friday.  And with Golden State near the end of a road trip, without Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, being bound to lose at some point…maybe the stars had aligned?  I didn’t think so…of course that is easy for me to say nearly a week later…but I didn’t!  I did think the Celts would be able to hang in there anyway.

Hang in there, they did.  And they had a shot to win the thing a couple of times.  More on that later.  Sure, they didn’t get any help from the officials.  But what did they expect?  This is the NBA!  All the superstars and the great teams are going to get the majority of the calls.  This is the way it has been since the beginning of time.  So though you may have heard many Celtic fans complain about the refs, you didn’t (and won’t) hear it from me.

Since then?  A lackluster win against a mediocre Charlotte Hornets team.  A stinker against the Cleveland Cavaliers, without Kyrie Irving, but still easily the cream of the crop…in the East anyway.  And what appeared to be an abysmal defensive effort in a loss to the also mediocre Detroit Pistons…where someone named “Kentavious Caldwell-Pope” scored a career-high 31 points.  Ok, I suppose Caldwell-Pope must actually be ok if he is averaging about 14 points per game…but still.

Time for the next move Danny.

Listen, I have been a fan of what Danny Ainge has done to get the Celtics back to where they rightfully should be…among the NBA’s elite.  A little pompous to say that they SHOULD be among the elite?  Maybe…but they do still own the most Championship Banners…so I’m sticking with it.

Ainge has gathered up a lot of serviceable players (if not stars) and an extensive array of draft picks.  He has the services of a young coach, Brad Stevens, who seems to be universally respected.  The current lot of players play hard for Stevens, and rarely utter a blip about inconsistent minutes or anything of the sort.  They are buying in right now.  The Celtics are a competitive team, that will battle on almost every night, no matter how far they get down.  They’ll play until the buzzer and play hard at that.  They probably have a shot at being the #2 seed in the East, when viewing the vast mediocrity of the rest of the conference outside of the Cavs.

But they also have a shot at being the #11 seed.  Seriously.

Right now, they seem to be stuck in a little bit of no-man’s land.  Therefore, the perfect time to take the next step.

What is the next step?  Damned if I know.  But Danny, Brad and all the other front office insiders should.  And with the way the rebuild has gone thus far, I trust that they do.

Going back to having a chance to win against the Warriors, the C’s just couldn’t close them out.  They don’t have a guy or two that can make THE shot at the end of the game.  Isaiah Thomas is your best player.  But SHOULD he be?  Nope.  He is a very nice piece.  But they need more.  Avery Bradley seems to be continually improving offensively, but is still inconsistent.  Other “shooters” the team has?  Erratic, at best.  They gave minutes to R.J. Hunter earlier in the year and since he got hurt James Young seems to be getting those.  But they are either not ready and/or are not the answer.  5-15 minutes per game for those two isn’t going to help in any event.

The big guys?  Jared Sullinger is rebounding well…but shooting like crap.  Including at the line…62% for a career 75% guy?  David Lee and Amir Johnson?  Useful, but…Tyler Zeller?  Nice burst last night, but otherwise 11th man timber.  I’m still not exactly sure what Jonas Jerebko does besides run around a lot and hit a couple of threes every once in a while.  Speaking of threes…I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times…WAY TOO MANY!!  Sully has thrown up 52 of them…at a .288 clip.  At least he has gone from .269 to .283 to the current .288 the last few years.  But yeah, please stop Sully!  How is anyone letting Johnson shoot 26 of them so far (7-26, .269)?  Yeah, one a game shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is to me.  Why is a guy like him out beyond the 3 point arc at all?

Anyway, I’ve said a lot of the above more than a few times, I know.  So I should have some answers, I know that as well.  But I don’t.

What I do know is that you can’t possibly use all of the draft picks in stock.  Of course other teams know that as well.  But that doesn’t mean they don’t have value.

The question is, do those Brooklyn Nets picks have as much value as we all think (and have been told) they do?  Maybe.  I am aware that there are 50 plus games left.  But the Nets currently are tied with the Pelicans for the 3rd worst record in the league at 7-18 (Lakers are 4-21…side note…that always makes me smile…and the 76ers are an almost unbelievable 1-26…which after harkening back to the rivalry in the 80’s, also makes me smile).  There are a couple of other less than mediocre teams that could affect things, but I suppose the Nets pick would ideally be Top 5 anyway.

Is that a good pick?  Who the hell knows?  I admittedly do not know the impact players in the NCAA right now (and which will change once players start declaring for the draft and all).  But the scuttlebutt I am hearing is it is that Ben Simmons kid from LSU and not much else.  At least there isn’t much chatter about anyone from what I have seen.  If it’s the “Anthony Bennett” draft of 2013 (Caldwell-Pope at #8!!), what good are the picks?  Ok, so Victor Oladipo (#2), Ben McLemore (#7), C.J. McCollum (#10), Michael Carter-Williams (#11) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (the “Greek Freak”…I should’ve just said that) (#15) may very well work out long-term, to name a few.  And yes, I just looked those all up.  (The Celtics?  Kelly Olynyk at #13 and Colton Iverson (!) at #53).

Anyway, the Celtics have never had much luck with the ping-pong balls.  And if the talent coming out is questionable, maybe it’s time to start shopping the “coveted” Net picks?

NBA veterans?  You want DeMarcus Cousins?  I don’t.  Talent is undeniable.  But I am done with Rajon Rondo type players on my team.  You may say that there are boatloads of those in the NBA.  I would probably agree.  But I’d try to stay away from that ilk if I could.  Just takes one to bring down this thing Danny and Brad are building.  Dwight Howard?  With some of his recent comments, one may assume he is heading down that “bad attitude” road as well.  Kobe?  Haha…kidding.  At this point, it’s hard to know what NBAers are/will be available.  Things are pretty tight in the East and other than the Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs, the same can be said in the West.

At least the Celtics are more entertaining to watch this year.  But let’s hope Danny can swing something relatively soon to keep the arrow pointing up…

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Was the Price right?

Of course it was!  We are of course talking about David Price…in case that was a mystery.  Well, he did sign with the Red Sox about a week ago, so maybe it was…

Sure, he has underperformed in the playoffs, to put it nicely.  He has a history of listening too closely to fans/media/outside noise…not a great thing when pitching in Boston.  After Game 1 against Texas this past postseason, he claimed that he is nervous in his first postseason start of the year (fair enough), but also nervous during his “first spring training start” and “first bullpen”, etc.  And then used some sort of duck analogy.  Ok, a little weird.  So maybe some of these things are a little concerning.  Or a lot concerning.

But the Sox needed an ace…and thankfully they have moved on from the “5 aces” crap of last year.  Price was the best out there.  The Sox have the money.  This move HAD to be made.

You may say giving a 7 year contract to a 3o year old pitcher is stupid.  John Henry would have said that last year, but since he changes his mind every year, he didn’t care last week.  You may also say well, Jon Lester was age 30 last offseason and Henry and the Sox wouldn’t give him 7 years.  I would say the Sox didn’t really want to sign him at any price.  I think Larry Lucchino’s original offer of 4 years, 70 million should have told you that right from the start.  We’ve covered all that before though…

Let me also ask you this:  Would you rather have David Price at 7/217 or Jon Lester at 6/145 (plus 25 more in a 7th year or a 10 mil buyout)?  I don’t care how well Lester pitched in Boston, especially in the playoffs.  I don’t care if Lester came through the Sox’ system.  I don’t care if Jon Lester loves Boston.  The answer is easy…and it’s Price.  Price is a clear #1.  Lester, as good as he was here, really is more of a #2.  Take a look at his first year in the National League too.  11-12, 3.34, 207 K’s in 205 innings.  Not horrible, pretty good actually.  But not worth 25 laaaaaaaaaahge.  Obviously there is a long way to go to judge both of these deals.  But I’d take Price any day of the week and I think most of you would too.

If you are balking at the deal because of the 217 mil, well, have you seen the other contracts out there?  Greinke:  6/206.5.  Yikes!  But it goes way beyond that.  Johnny Cueto is still unsigned.  But he wants 25 mil plus.  These 3 were the “Big Three” of the free agent pitchers.  Fine, give them a boatload of dough.  Look deeper at the next “tier”.  Jordan Zimmerman:  5/110.  Jeff Samardzija:  5/90.  Hisashi Iwakuma:  3/45.  Mike Leake:  Unsigned, but looking for at least 15 mil/per.  Mike Leake??  If you ask me, John Lackey’s 2/32 is a steal when compared to the above contracts.  But still 16 per for a 37-year-old pitcher.

Sure, the money on the next level is less and the years are less.  But I’d still take Price’s contract over any of those.  Dig a little deeper.  Look at these:  Marco Estrada (2/26); JA Happ (3/36); Brett Anderson (1/15.8).  Rich Hill had 4 meaningless September starts for the Sox and got 6 mil from one of the cheapest teams out there in Oakland.  Switch gears to relievers:  Darren O’Day (4/31); Ryan Madson (3/22); Joakim Soria (3/25); Shawn Kelley (who?) (3/15); Tony Sipp (3/18).  Throw in position players:  Ben Zobrist (4/56); Chase Utley’s corpse (1/7); Colby Rasmus (1/15.8); Asdrubel Cabrera (2/18.5).  Chris Iannetta, a 32-year-old backup catcher who hit .188 last year…4.25 mil for him.

Ok, so the last paragraph was likely unnecessary.  But I like numbers, so deal with it.  The point has been driven home though I think.  The money is being spent out there.  May as well spend it on the best.  Especially when you still have guys like Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Rick Porcello and Wade Mil…ummmmmm, nevermind on him…still in your rotation.

So I liked the Price signing, that’s pretty clear.  Did I like the Wade Miley trade?  Glad you asked!  The answer is…I don’t know.  But I think I do.  Wade Miley is a nice #4 starter who you can seemingly lock into 30 plus starts and close to 200 innings.  That is a positive for any staff.  But he is still…Wade Miley.  Who is to say Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Steven Wright…or any other Joe Blow can’t step into the #4/#5 starter role and replace him decently enough?  Plus, as much as I am not excited about John Farrell coming back as manager next year, when Miley pulled that stunt in the dugout with him after being shelled earlier last year, well, let’s just say I didn’t love that.

So Miley should be replaceable.  Maybe his replacement will be Roenis Elias…who knows?  Elias is a couple of years younger, so that is a positive…for whatever that’s worth.  Losing Jonathan Aro?  Meh.  Carson Smith?  Kind of makes you wonder why Seattle would give up a cheap guy under control for several more years.  But trading a reliever for a durable starter?  Maybe that’s why.  I often would not trade starters for relievers.  But again, Miley can be replaced by…anyone.  And if Smith can help solidify the back-end of the bullpen…probably worth it.  I can’t really get all that worked up about it.

I AM however all worked up about trading Garin Cecchini for a bag of used balls and a couple of beat up fungo bats.  Ok, I am not.  I did find it surprising that Cecchini was DFA’d over a guy like Bryce Brentz…but since absolutely no one but me cares, I’ll save those thoughts for myself.

So with the signing of Price and 4th outfielder Chris Young and the trades for Smith and Craig Kimbrel, Dave Dombrowski says he is essentially done.  (Aside on Kimbrel:  I usually don’t love trading for closers when they can be “found” (see:  Uehara, Koji).  Nor do I love giving up prospects for 60-70 innings a year…4 of them to boot.  But I normally would trade prospects for proven players.  And I am not sure I am worried about any of the 4 prospects becoming someone the Sox regret they gave away.  Even Manuel Margot.  The Sox need bullpen help.  Sooooo…I came to terms with it).

Anyway, Dombrowski said something to the effect of that he “doesn’t like to lie as it sets a bad example…”.  I hope he is stretching the truth then anyway.  There is more work to be done.  I’d still like to see a solid #2 starter.  Is it Eduardo Rodriguez?  Maybe.  But I sure as hell hope it ISN’T Clay Buchholz.  I’d love to see him dealt.  It isn’t Rick Porcello…though his contract doesn’t look so bad anymore, no?  Maybe Ben was somewhat right on one thing at least.  Anyway, there is rotation depth yes, but I’d take another upper end starter.  Bullpen?  Good start with Kimbrel, Uehara, Smith and Tazawa.  Maybe Elias.  Maybe Joe Kelly?  Matt Barnes?  I guess.  Robbie Ross Jr. is a decent 10-11 guy I suppose.  I wouldn’t mind seeing another proven guy out there though.

Hanley Ramirez has to go as well.  Easier said than done, I am well aware of that.  But the outfield experiment did not work last year.  Do we really think the first base experiment is going to work this year?  Cancer in the clubhouse…all that.  Just do whatever it takes to get him out of here.  I think it happens.  But it’s going to take some time…and the Sox eating a lot of dough.  Maybe even until spring training when someone on another team gets hurt and a team panics.  I don’t know how it will happen, but it needs to.  I’d also investigate trading either of Jackie Bradley Jr. or Rusney Castillo.  I’m not sold on either of those guys really.  Maybe trade one of them while they still have some value.  Although I can live with the 4 guys (Young and Mookie Betts the other 2 of course) in the outfield if I have to.

A couple more months until Spring Training…still time to make some decent tweaks to the roster…

 

Are you serious?

So it’s been roughly 50 hours since the game ended, but I still am having a tough time believing the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots.  Did the Eagles deserve to win Sunday?  Absolutely.  Should they have won?  No f’n way!

Call it a “hangover” game if you wish.  Tough loss in Denver the previous week, end of undefeated season, blah, blah, blah.  Call it overlooking an inferior opponent.  Call it “well, every good team has a stinker every year” sort of thing.  Call it whatever.  You know what I call it?

One of the worst coached games in the Belichick/Brady era.

Ok, that’s not much of a revelation, I admit.  But this one is all on the coaches.  The Pats had no business losing to the Iggles.  In Foxborough, no less.  Their last two games consisted of getting blasted by the Lions and Buccaneers.  Two teams that are ummmm, mediocre at best.  Sure, the Eagles have a shot to win that putrid division called the NFC East.  But they are still terrible.

Some people may want to blame the injuries.  Gronk, Edelman, Hightower…all out.  Collins back after missing several weeks and not necessarily in game shape.  Amendola missing a game and coming back, maybe he isn’t full speed either.  All that.  I say no way.  The team the Pats put on the field was plenty good enough to beat this outfit.

So, back to the coaches.  I’m not exactly sure what the game plan was here.  Seems to me this was a game where they could do the bare minimum if they had to and still walk away with a win.  “Bare minimum” would likely mean running the ball a little more…or even a lot more.  Add in the fact that the offensive line has struggled protecting Brady in recent weeks, that seems like more of a reason to run it.  I’m no LeGarrette Blount guy.  And I don’t love Brandon Bolden or James White toting the ball too much either.  But it just seemed like the right thing to do.

And they seemed to run it fairly well as they built the 14-0 lead.  Then the rugby kick happened.

In hindsight, this doesn’t actually bother me as much as it did when it actually transpired.  Again, this game should have been a cakewalk any way you slice it.  So if they onside kick it and don’t recover, what’s the harm?  Some would say that this is the team to try stuff like that against.  Because it shouldn’t hurt you in the end.  So it didn’t work and then the Eagles ended up scoring.  So what?

The real downfall started with the decision-making on the last drive of the first half.  Conservative again, just like against the Broncos.  Not typical Patriots-like behavior, but based on the circumstances, maybe not the worst move.  Except…once Bolden had a few carries that gained some yards…they seemed to change their mind.  Big mistake, as we all know.  Incompletions, clock stoppages, forcing the Pats to attempt a punt…and you know that all turned out.

The next curious call came midway through the 3rd quarter when White got to the Philly 1 on a reception and then the Pats ran up to the line to try to catch the Eagles off guard…or offside.  This stunt has worked many times in the past.  But again, based on the circumstances, maybe a different path should have been chosen?  The negative run and incompletion that followed were bad enough.  But of course the interception return TD was killer.  Just not sure why they had to rush that one…in this circumstance.  Easy second guess I suppose.

The punt return TD was of course not bad coaching (I think?), but just bad execution.  But I wonder if the next interception was bad coaching?  The trick play to Brady was nice and all.  But maybe instead of going deep the very next play and trying to force one in there, maybe a run was in order?  I don’t know…just my immediate thought right after the trick play anyway.  Brady ain’t exactly used to running 40 yards downfield after all.  Maybe a chance to “catch his breath” on the next play would’ve been a better course of action.

One more coaching mishap I would say was once the Pats cut it to 35-28 with 3 minutes left, another onside kick was ordered.  With Nate Ebner kicking again, to boot (pun intended).  Why not kick away?  Sure they ended up lucking out when the 3rd string running back fumbled.  But still…

Just a lot of bad decisions at bad times.  Was it overconfidence?  Pure arrogance?  Maybe.  But Belichick rarely, if ever, turns in a bad coaching performance…after Thanksgiving too, for that matter.  He’s usually got everything running smoothly by the time December rolls around.  Not this year.

People are also lauding the defense for only giving up 14 points as well.  But the defense also gave up crucial third down plays, with a penalty or two sprinkled in as well.  Against an average QB with average WR’s and backup RB’s.  Many runs to the edge that gained significant yards as well.  So I am not exactly as excited about their performance as the public seems to be.

In any event, with all that being said, I am not following some of the crowd by saying that the season outlook is now gloomy.  Sure, this loss was atrocious and sure, they are now technically the #3 seed, without a bye.  But it’s hard for me to believe that the coaching will be anywhere near this bad the rest of the way.  And that they will lose 3 in a row.  I’m hoping that this is a wake-up call and they come out flying against the Texans Sunday night.

People are pointing to the Patriots ties in the Houston organization and saying, “well, they know the Patriots’ tendencies…”  And the Pats don’t know theirs?  People are afraid of a guy like Vince Wilfork “circling this game on his calendar”.  Wilfork?  Really?  He served the Pats’ well for years, no doubt.  But he is on the back nine…back three maybe…and I have a hard time believing he will be much of a factor.  The Houston D overall is apparently fairly decent and we all know about JJ Watt.  But take out DeAndre Hopkins and I am not sure there is much O to talk about.

I’m confident that the Patriots put the Eagles game behind them quickly and take care of business going forward.  At least through the next 4 games.  Get the bye and hopefully home field.  But then again, what else did you expect me to say?!

 

 

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