Monthly Archives: April 2019

Trouble “Bruin”?

Haha…I crack myself up with these stupid titles every time…

Anyway, the Boston Bruins open their pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup this evening.  So what are their chances?

You got me?

Why?

One word:  TUUUUUUUUUUUKKSSSS!!!

You got it.  You know I hate the guy.  But you also know what?  It’s a fact.

Once again, Tuukka Rask crapped his pants down the stretch.  Ok, we will blame the defense some as well.  Too much Steven Kampfer and Connor Clifton are well…too much Steven Kampfer and Connor Clifton.

But Tuuks’ performance was weak nonetheless.  Seemed par for the course compared to late season performances in past years.

And this year he played barely half the schedule.

So what can we expect from Rask in the playoffs?  I know what I expect.  But that may be kind of harsh.

Looking back at his playoff record, he is actually better than I remember.  Well, his actual record isn’t that impressive (35-30).  But his goals against average of 2.25 and save percentage of .924 are solid.

Listen.  My main problem with Rask is that he STEALS relatively few games for the home team.  A 7 million dollar a year goalie needs to steal games and be great.  Not just to make the saves he is supposed to and just be there.  And he doesn’t always make the saves he is supposed to.  How many softies has he given up over the years?  How many times have you heard head coach Bruce Cassidy say postgame “we needed a save there” or “we could have used a save there”?

A lot.

Tim Thomas is a legend in this town because of all the games he stole…and winning the Stanley Cup of course too.  But he stood on his head so many times every year, especially during that Cup run.  You just can’t say that about Rask.

Prove me wrong Tuuks.  For once.  Please.  Though ESPN picked Rask as the worst starting goalie in the playoffs.  So if you can prove them wrong as well Tuuks, it would be much appreciated by many.

So where do I stand on the first round playoff matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs, all things considered?  Welp, I am a homer, so that’s not going to hurt the local squad.

The Bruins were 3-1 against the Leafs this year.  But the regular season means diddly squat now.  Ask the Tampa Bay Lightning.  They had the best regular season record…by far.  Then lost Game 1 last night.  Yeah, I know, it’s a long series and anything can happen.  And they will probably end up winning it.  But let’s remember that the Presidents’ Trophy winner doesn’t always fare well in the hunt for the Cup.  We will deal with that more in the second round if both the Bruins and Lightning advance to square off there.

We also don’t love how some “experts” are picking the Bs to win it all.  I know, they shared the second best record in the league this season.  But still…doesn’t feel right for whatever reason.

The defense worries me for one.  It looks like Kevan Miller is out (again).  And not that John Moore is anything special, he does play a little defense.  But he apparently is still out.  And that means a spot for Clifton or Kampfer…though from all indications it will be Clifton.  We’ve already covered him.

Throw in Torey Krug, who simply cannot play any defense.  Sorry.  And, with all due respect, a 41-year-old Zdeno Chara looking like he is skating in quicksand half the time.  And what have you got?

Huge question mark, that’s what.

As we have said in similar situations in the past, we are not going to tell you we watched a ton of Maple Leaf hockey this season.  But they have plenty of offensive skill, I can tell you that much.

The Bruin offense?  Not too worried about them.  Mostly healthy up front, other than Sean Kuraly.  But since he’s a bottom six guy we won’t fret too much about his absence.

I do love the noise I’m hearing about David Backes possibly being the odd man out tonight.  Give Backes credit for the way he has handled his role, or really, lack of role, this year.  But now is not the time to appease aging veterans.  If it was, Lee Stempniak would be in the lineup.

Good idea to keep the Patrice Bergeron/Brad Marchand/David Pastrnak line together.  And as a 4th group, Noel Acciari/Joakim Nordstrom/Chris Wagner is good enough.

But I love that they are giving Karson Kuhlman that shot on the David Krejci/Jake DeBrusk line.  Or they appear to be anyway.  5 points in 11 games is certainly not Hall of Fame material.  And we saw what happened last year when Ryan Donato came in late season, flashed, then completely disappeared in the playoffs.

But I want to see what the kid can bring.  If it doesn’t work, move on to someone else.

I am also intrigued by the Marcus Johannson/Charlie Coyle/Danton Heinen line.  Not sure how much they have exactly played together.  But I know Johannson and Coyle played together a bit when Marcus came back from his injury.  Seemed to be ok.  Let’s keep looking at that combo too.

I feel like the offense will be ok.  In fact, it may well be a series that features a handful of 6-5 games.

Why?

The way I feel about Rask HAS to be the same way Leaf fans feel about their netminder, Frederik Andersen.  I guess he’s ok, but ok isn’t what anyone wants in the playoffs.

Andersen’s goals against average was 2.77 this season.  Seems a little high in today’s NHL.  Not to mention that his career performance in the playoffs isn’t anything to write home about.  Including a ghastly 3.76 GAA in last years’ playoffs.

Ssssssoooo… that gives me a little comfort.

Prediction?  I don’t know, Boston in seven?  Sounds about right.  Though it could be Toronto in five for all we know.

That’s the beauty of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Exciting for one, but sometimes completely unpredictable for another.

And as we all know a hot goalie can take a team pretty far.  Maybe that can be Tuuks for once?  Though I’m not sure that is something we should be counting on…

What Are The Pats Doing?

What do you mean?  They are doing what they ALWAYS do.

To back up a little bit…so that Gronk piece last week was supposed to be an update on the New England Patriot free agency action.  Then he kind of threw a monkey wrench (wait, is it politically correct to use this term anymore?  Brief research indicates that it’s ok, but you never know these days.  But…I digress…) into that plan.

So the Pats are doing what they always do during the free agency period.  Eschew the bigger names and sign a bunch of depth-type guys and see who sticks.

What’s wrong with that?  Doesn’t that always seem to work?  For the most part anyway, I would say?

But the fans once again do not like it.  Talk radio hosts don’t either.  So yet again, we have to listen to everyone squawk about how “Bill never does anything” and “we need a receiver who can stretch the field” and all that crap.

Doesn’t anyone ever learn?

Sure, I suppose it would be nice to have had defensive end Trey Flowers return.  Or have the Patriots sign a high profile free agent from outside the organization such as linebacker C.J. Mosley or the “Honey Badger”, safety Tyrann Mathieu.  OR trade for another high profile guy such as receivers Odell Beckham Jr. or Antonio Brown.  Who doesn’t love a big splash?

But this is not how New England does business.  This is not how Bill Belichick has EVER done business.  No, we can’t count the acquisitions of Randy Moss or Corey Dillon back in the day.  Bill took advantage of disgruntled stars supposedly on the decline.  Beckham and Brown may have been disgruntled, but they don’t appear to be on the decline at all.  Not the same situation.

Maybe you can count the Adalius Thomas acquisition as an exception.  But you get the point:  it’s rare that Belichick signs off on these types of things.

So even though the re-signing of Brandon Bolden and the signing of Matt LaCosse may be the two biggest moves of the offseason thus far (Ok, it’s actually the trade for Michael Bennett.  But once again, you get my point), there is no reason to panic at this point.

Especially considering that we have about three and a half months before training camp even opens.  Not to mention a draft at the end of the month.

The draft?  Yeah, I know that is a crapshoot.  Especially for Bill and his crew.  But they have 6 picks in the first three rounds.  Gotta believe that a couple of those pan out.  Not to mention that the 12 picks they have overall will eventually turn into 16 this year (5 in the seventh round) and one or two next year.  So they can miss on a great deal on them actually.  Though we aren’t hoping for that of course.

I would guess the focus at the draft would be on tight end, receiver and fat guys on both sides of the ball.  Then again, the Pats won with THAT group of receivers last year, so maybe they just sign a couple more bums off the street to cover that.

But a TE in the first round?  Eminently possible.  Some would even say probable.  But knowing Bill he takes a safety or something.

In any event, this roster is far from being final.  Not to mention I really believe the team thinks Josh Gordon will contribute next season…for whatever that is worth.

As for the free agents they HAVE signed, I can’t say I have a tremendous problem with any of them.  I don’t particularly love Bolden.  But Bill is going to stockpile his special teamers whether we like it or not.  And since Bolden wasn’t here last year and the special team units kind of stunk, bringing him back can’t be awful.  “Safety” Terrence Brooks allegedly will help there too.  Nose Tackle Mike Pennel HAS to be better than either Malcolm Brown or Danny Shelton, right?  LaCosse won’t be Gronk.  But hopefully, he won’t be Dwayne Allen or Jacob Hollister either.  Bringing WR Phillip Dorsett, CB Jason McCourty, P Ryan Allen and DE/LB John Simon back won’t kill you.  We will see about new WRs Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris.

Then ask me again after the draft…where they may have to take a kicker now too, as Stephen Gostkowski and the team are apparently differing on the amount of compensation in the next potential deal.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  Gostkowski can be shaky at times.  Seemingly during key times.  BUT when you look at the body of work, you have to acknowledge that he has been pretty damn good over the years.

Many people want Gostkowski gone.  But look at some of these kickers floating around the league.  Not good.  Be careful what you wish for.  One of those retreads may end up in Foxborough.  Then you’ll be begging for Stephen to come back.

Now, he should face competition from someone next year.  Say that every year.  Spending a low round pick on a kicker, I would not be adverse to.

While we are on free agents and Gronk and all, many people think Gronk “screwed” the Patriots by waiting so long to announce his retirement.  Because people felt that they could have spent his cap room on a guy like free agent TE Jared Cook.  Or free agent WR Adam Humphries.

But did he really screw them?

We are talking about Jared Cook here.  A 10 year NFL veteran…of 4 different teams.  Now a 5th with New Orleans.  Who has never broken 1,000 yards…or even 900.  Are we as fans really bitter on missing out on him?  I can’t see it.

We are also talking about Adam Humphries.  Now, Humphries is a young, ascending slot receiver…we think anyway.  Could be the next Troy Brown, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, etc.  But what if he isn’t?  On top of that, how would a big fat contract like the one he supposedly was offered look in the “room”, with Edelman still here making maybe half of what Humphries was making?  Can’t say that would be a positive, though the Pats have certainly dealt with distractions like that before and could have worked around it I’m sure.  But worth noting.

I have to tell you if Gronk “screwing them” is the popular thinking, why are we also not blaming guys like Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower for “screwing the Pats”?  Those guys’ inflated cap numbers are not commensurate with their play.  Hightower came out and said he wasn’t taking a pay cut…not sure if the Pats even asked.  Not sure about anyone asking Devin either, but I am betting if they did, he balked too.

Now, we know Bill loves those guys “in the room”.  But Stephon Gilmore restructured.  Maybe they should have considered it too?  Michael Bennett even restructured and made himself some more money in the process.  Maybe Devin and Dont’a could’ve too?  Just sayin’…

Tom Brady will likely restructure down the road as it’s unlikely he will keep that 27 mil cap charge for next season.  And if he really plans on playing until he’s 45, then an extension should be in order as well.

Bottom line?  They will work the cap any way they need to in order to make things work.  Like every other team does.

Speaking of Brady, how does everyone feel about Josh Rosen?  Rosen didn’t have much of a rookie year in Arizona last year.  But he’s young.  And a Top Ten pick from last year.  I know, Blake Bortles was taken third overall in 2014…so I guess Rosen’s draft slot doesn’t mean a whole helluva lot.  Not to mention the fact that I have no idea if the kid can actually play.  But the scenario is worth monitoring.

Don’t the Pats have to add a “real” quarterback this offseason?  I say yes.  But I guess this is where Bill usually says “no”.

By the way, Gronk’s agent flapping his gums about him potentially coming back?  I suppose it’s possible.  But I’m not betting on it…

The Boys Of Summer…

…have started out like it’s still the middle of winter.

Worried?

I don’t think we should be.  But it is certainly annoying, I can say that much.

The starting pitching has been wretched…and that is being kind.  Is it because they were babied in the spring and really aren’t ready for the start of the real games?  Is it because catcher Sandy Leon didn’t make the team and the pitchers love throwing to him?  Is it because they are starting the season on a loooooong road trip?  Is it because they won the World Series last year and are fat and happy now?

I’d say, no, no, no and no?

Manager Alex Cora came out recently and said they had the same game plan for the starting pitchers last spring and things turned out just fine.  I actually didn’t believe him so I looked up the innings pitched for the starters last spring and…looks like he was right.  Of course.  So we can’t blame that plan I don’t think.

Leon has a great defensive reputation, but it’s not like Christian Vazquez doesn’t.  Blake Swihart sure does, but he’s caught one of the five games thus far.  So we can’t blame him.

Long road trips?  I don’t see it.  These guys are used to the road.  In fact, haven’t they been on “the road” since mid-February at Spring Training?  And I don’t think the hunger is gone from the team.  Though I will allow that oftentimes teams that win and then do not change personnel even a little bit the next year can succumb to that.  Doesn’t seem to me to be in this groups’ DNA however.

Listen, it’s five games into a 162 game season.  There could be a little bit of a “World Series Hangover”, but the Red Sox were bound to regress any way you slice it.  Thinking they will win 108 games again in 2019 is pure folly.

Chris Sale will straighten out for sure.  He’d better.  More on that later.  Of course, he will probably spend some time on the injured list (I still want to call it the “disabled list”, so can I?).  But he will rebound.

Nathan Eovaldi will not be the pitcher we all saw in the playoffs last year, but he will rebound enough as well.  Rick Porcello will be who he always is (innings-eater with a low to mid 4.00 ERA).  Eduardo Rodriguez will be who he always is (injury prone with some untapped talent).  And David Price will not be the same playoff guy either but will be reliable enough.

Let’s not panic one time through the rotation.

Let’s also not place all of the blame for the teams’ 1-4 start on the rotation.  The bats haven’t exactly been on fire…other than J.D. Martinez and perhaps Rafael Devers.  Of course, when the offense gets down 6 runs early seemingly every day, it’s a tough hole to continue to climb out of.

In any event, let’s let some games play out and take a look down the road.  Then we can panic a little if needed.

Some other Red Sox thoughts, in no particular order:

*Opening Day Roster.  We really didn’t do a roster projection like we would normally do towards the end of Spring Training for two reasons.  We pretty much covered it in the mid-March pieces.  And also because there really wasn’t much for us to talk about.

Sam Travis made the team because Steve Pearce suffered an injury late in Spring Training and started on the Disab…er, Injured List.  But Travis won’t be around long.  Colton Brewer made the team because the Sox decided to have Dustin Pedroia start out on that Injured List as well.  The team went with an extra pitcher to start the year…and thank God they did since the bullpen has gotten quite a bit of work.

Nothing really to see there though.

The one “controversy” was Swihart over Leon.  But was that really a controversy?

Leon may be a good defensive catcher.  But he simply cannot hit a lick.  Swihart supposedly can hit but is still a work in progress behind the plate.

The reality is, no matter how well Swihart hit in Spring Training, and he did hit over .400, he wasn’t likely to fetch much in a trade.  The “top prospect” status has faded and teams still don’t know if he can catch.

Vazquez was always likely to be the main catcher, what with his defensive capabilities and the fact that they spent money on him after the 2017 season.  Meaning, the Sox liked him.  But also meaning, no one was trading for that contract.

As a good field, no hit catcher, Leon had no market either.  Plus he was getting paid almost 2.5 mil as well.  Steep for one of those types of guys you can find anywhere.  And of course, the Sox found out about his market when they tried to shop him and there were no takers.  Then they outrighted him off the roster into the minors and no one claimed him off waivers either.

We are kind of shocked here that the Sox didn’t “play it safe” and keep the two defensive-minded catchers this season.  After all, they rode them to a World Series championship last year.  But we also would have made the same choice with Swihart over Leon.  Let’s see what the “kid” can do now.

I just hope they give him enough playing time to truly find out.

And on top of that, Sandy is waiting in the wings in Pawtucket anyway.  We have not seen the last of him, I can assure you of that.

*Contract extensions or lack thereof.  Sale and Xander Bogaerts signed lucrative extensions.  Mookie Betts and Rick Porcello did not.

Sale signed for 5 years and 145 million.  Seems steep based on his health issues from last year and the fact that he typically wears down each year in the second half.  That being said, in the last piece I said I would extend him for 3-4 years even if the money was silly.  So another year or two at silly money?  What the hell?!  The Sox have the money and it’s not going to preclude them from signing anyone else if they wanted to.  More importantly, if he is the Chris Sale we normally see, then the dominance for even 3/4 of a season is probably worth the dough.  Although the 5 year no trade clause seems a little excessive.  It’s like Peter Chiarelli was brought in just for that part of the deal.

As for Bogaerts…shocking.  Not that I wouldn’t do it.  But it’s shocking he would sign for “only” 6 years, 120 million.  With Scott Boras as his agent, no less!  I honestly felt that Xander would hit the market, some team would wildly overpay and he would be gone.  Regular MO for Boras clients.  What a deal for the Sox.

Porcello, yeah, I guess it’s not a big deal he hasn’t been extended.  Rumor has it he offered a “discount” though.  How much is anyone’s guess.  Not to mention if it is actually true.  And maybe his money can be better spent elsewhere.  That all being said, at least we know he’s almost always taking the ball every 5 days.  Can’t downplay that.

Betts is the main one.  That kind of goes without saying.  Now yes, we know Mookie has 2 more years here before anything HAS to happen.  But he has given no indication that he even wants to be here.  Does he like it in Boston?  Does that matter?  Especially if an 18-wheeler full of dollars is dumped in Mookie’s driveway?  It might.

In the wake of a whole slew of veterans signing lucrative extensions prior to entering free agency in recent weeks (Sale, Bogaerts, Nolan Arenado, Mike Trout, Jacob deGrom, Paul Goldschmidt, Justin Verlander, etc.), in addition to many younger players that are a ways away from free agency signing long-term deals way before they need to (Alex Bregman, Ronald Acuna, Eloy Jimenez, Brandon Lowe (who?), German Marquez, Aaron Nola, etc.), maybe now Mookie be up for doing the same?

Doesn’t appear likely.  Let’s get into 2020 before we do anything drastic, however.  “Drastic” meaning considering dealing Mookie because he is leaving.  We have a little more time before that comes into play.

Also makes you wonder what J.D. Martinez will do when he gets the chance to opt out of his deal after the season.  Even if he has another monster year, will he test the market again?  The market was slow to develop for him prior to the 2018 season.  He will be 2 years older and pretty much be labeled only as a designated hitter.  With the way these guys are all signing to guarantee their money now, it would seem that J.D. should stay in this deal, similar to what Price did last year.

Time will tell on that one as well.

*Bullpen/closer.  Welp, hard to tell thus far, since their two “best” relievers, Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier, have pitched one game apiece.  Barnes got a save in his game, but I am not convinced he is the sole closer.

The rest of the bullpen has been used often because, as discussed, the starters have been awful.  We will never know if Tyler Thornburg can ever regain any competence.  But at least he is getting some action to try to find out.  Pitching 3 out of the first 5 games has to be encouraging as well.  Heath Hembree had an abysmal spring, which has continued into the regular season.  Simply because he cannot find the plate it appears.  This is a slight concern because although he is nowhere near elite, Hembree did have plenty of positive moments out there in 2018.  Yes, I just did say that.

I still think the bullpen stinks overall…but at least I can’t bash them too much for what they have done thus far this season.

And well, at least the Sox are winning tonight as I wrap up this post…oh wait…

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