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Changing Of The Guard…

…”Guard”, get it??!!

I crack myself up sometimes!!

Oh wait, this doesn’t make any sense now, sorry.  But it will.

So now that Kemba Walker (a guard…changing from Kyrie Irving…ok, enough!) and Enes Kanter have officially been introduced by the Boston Celtics…along with all the other moves already announced…it’s time to take stock of the current roster.

9 of the 17 from last season have departed.  So over half of the team is new.  Ok, so Irving, Al Horford, Marcus Morris are the ones that really matter.  Aron Baynes and Terry Rozier I guess matter a little.  While Guerschon Yabusele, Jonathan Gibson, R.J. Hunter and PJ Dozier don’t matter at all.

That being said, 5 of the 9 rotation players are gone.  So the turnover is significant.

So what do we make of it?

Hard to say, to be honest.

Let’s face it, with the roster they had last season, they were supposed to roll into the NBA Finals.  And they really should have.  Or certainly put up a better fight.  Instead, they “rolled” to 49 victories and a second round exit.

Then they lost one of the better players in the league in Irving…I know, also a total jackwagon, but still…and then a solid, if unspectacular, presence in the middle in Horford.  And a very good back end starter or top guy off the bench in Morris.

And replaced them with…what?

Walker may be a very good player.  But probably in reality, not a max guy.  And a step down from Kyrie (when Kyrie has his head out of his arse of course).  Horford may not have been an All-Star and unstoppable force in the middle, but Kanter seems to be a HUGE downgrade from him.  Morris to…who?  Grant Williams?  I don’t know.

Even Baynes’ six fouls may be missed.  And Rozier, even though he thought he was a Hall of Famer, who replaces him now?

Seems like a bunch of question marks.

Is the locker room better?  I don’t know, maybe.  Reports had Jaylen Brown being kind of an arseclown last year.  He’s still here.

Jayson Tatum?  Still a little young and immature perhaps?  (Ok, I just explained a bunch of pro athletes, I know).

I think the Celtics are depending on the locker room being better.  And that having an effect above everything else.  Because the talent certainly doesn’t measure up.

I don’t think anyway.

The Celtics have got 14 players under contract and 2 players on 2-way deals with the G League (not including the “legendary” Tacko Fall…more on him later).

It would appear the starters are:

Walker, Brown, Tatum, Kanter and Gordon Hayward.

The rest of the rotation?  All I can think of is Marcus Smart as of now.  I suppose Daniel Theis and Robert Williams will get minutes at backup center.  I can’t tell you anything about the other center the team has signed, Vincent Poirier.  Not expecting much though.

The team is high on first round picks Romeo Langford and Grant Williams, but we will see.

Second rounder Carsen Edwards lit up the Summer League and that was fun to watch.  But…it’s the Summer League.  Fellow second rounder Tremont Waters had a great Summer League as well…and all that earned him was a two-way contract…for now anyway.

Who’s left?  Semi Ojeleye and Brad Wanamaker?  No thanks.  Semi will get minutes because Coach Brad Stevens loves him.  But he stinks, sorry.  Max Strus on the other two-way.  Who??!

So maybe the team goes 6 deep for now, until others establish themselves…IF they do, that is.  That in and of itself worries me.  Because if Stevens doesn’t have an 8 or 9 man rotation then he plays the first 6 and then gives the other 7 active guys some minutes seemingly every night.  That never seems to work.

And that isn’t even getting into the whole “will Hayward be the player he once was now that he is two years removed from his injury” thing.  I guess now Tatum and Brown will have plenty of minutes to play, so they won’t be bitching about Gordo getting his share either.

But that’s the other thing.  Not only does the team expect that the better locker room will lead to more success.  But I believe they think that Hayward is back.  In addition to the continued development of the two “kids” in Brown and Tatum.  So all of that will add up to a championship contender.  THEY think that anyway.  From what I can tell.  Not sure I am buying into all that logic.

Sssssssoooo…that leads us to everyone’s new fan favorite…Tacko Fall!

He’s a nice story.  Smart guy, fluent in English over a mere 8 months, cute name and…he’s 7’6″…did you know that?

But is he a real NBA player?  I say “no”.

I know, raining on everyone’s parade.  But seriously, at that height he didn’t even dominate in college…against less than elite competition in his conference.  I know, the conference has some teams with names:  UConn, Cincinnati, Temple, Memphis and perhaps Wichita State?  But how good are those teams NOW?

Now everyone expects him to go out and star in the NBA despite that?

Ok, executives, coaches and the like around the NBA don’t necessarily think that.  Since, you know, he wasn’t actually drafted.  But the FANS do.  Especially Celtic fans.

Listen, I would like to keep him on the roster, either the open 15th spot or signing Waters to that 15th spot and Tacko to a 2-way.  Can’t hurt to see if he can become a 10 minute a game player at that size, especially defensively.  Have him play in Maine all year in the G-League and see what happens.

But let’s all pump the brakes on him more than a little bit.

Going back, I’d like to see more of Edwards and Robert Williams…and see any of Langford.  But I’m not expecting much out of this outfit unless Hayward is truly back and Tatum and Brown take a huge leap up.

Makes you also wonder if Danny has anything else up his sleeve.  But realistically, what are his options?

I think this is the team we are looking at come October.  A stark contrast to what we were looking at last October…

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SELL!!

So, that London series was fun, eh?!

29 runs given up, 21 by that vaunted bullpen that we’ve already covered ad nauseam…sweet.  Well, the Boston Red Sox DID score 21 themselves.  Of course, after they got down big in both games.  Then couldn’t get a key hit to actually come all the way back in either.

Where does this leave the team?  I say it’s time to sell off parts.

84 games in and now 11 games behind the division leading New York Yankees.  Sure, they are only 2 games out of the second wild card (4 out of the top spot).  But does this feel like a team that can make some noise come playoff time?

No F’n way.  Not to me anyway.  And I think to most of us.

We are not even at the All-Star break quite yet, why am I so ready to throw in the towel?

It’s pretty easy to understand actually.  I mean, you have seen how listless they have appeared for most of the year, right?

The players (and the manager, and the front office, and the rest of the organization…) will undoubtedly blame the long 2018 season for the way they came out of the gate for this current season…and how they have kind of sleepwalked since then.  And maybe that is a factor…though it really should be a small one.

The Red Sox brought 21 of the 25 guys back who were on the World Series roster last season.  And one of the departed, Drew Pomeranz, doesn’t even count since he didn’t even pitch for several weeks down the stretch, including the playoffs.  Ian Kinsler, Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel were essentially the only departures.  Most of the guys on the current roster were here last year as well, although not active for the World Series, or the playoffs for that matter.  But here nonetheless.

Really, when you think about it, the only two players that have played more than a minor role on this years’ team that was not involved in any way last year at all are Michael Chavis and Colton Brewer.  I’ll give you Marcus Walden too if you like.  Since he pitched a few innings early in the year and then was never to be heard from again.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  that is not enough player turnover.  You need new blood every year, but especially after winning it all.  Keeps the fire burning and everyone is presumably still hungry.

Add this to the fact that Manager Alex Cora simply did not have the team ready to go right out of Spring Training, another colossal mistake.  “We did the same thing last year…” he liked to say in April.  Welp, every year is different, so they need to be treated differently.  Even I know that.

With this, the wretched bullpen that is like FOUR arms away from being useful, four arms that aren’t anywhere near the organization at this time and everything else, my recommendation is that they make some deals at the trade deadline.  Sending guys out that is.

The team has already made it clear that they do not want to go over the luxury tax limit.  So where are they going to acquire good bullpen arms, to start?  They have no real prospects to give up, ones that other teams want anyway.  So how do they fix things?

They don’t.

Since the farm system is so barren, maybe it’s time to see what some of these players can get you?  Granted, most of these guys won’t fetch much.  But you never know.

There is one trade deadline this year, on July 31st.  No more “waiver” deadline on August 31st.  Is this a good thing?  I don’t know.  At first blush, I say no.  Some decent deals can happen in August.  There are two full months to go after the deadline as it stands this year.  That is a long time.  Still a lot of clubs that think they have a chance.  That number dwindles in August and makes things ripe for more deals.  I don’t think I like it, but let’s see how it plays out this first year in existence.

So if the Sox are going to make moves, they have to happen sooner rather than later.  And, as stated above, how can one be confident in this team as currently constituted going forward?

Not to mention that stretch in late July/early August with the 14 games in 15 days against only the Yanks and Tampa Bay.  8 of them against the Yankees, what is that 2-6 maybe?

So this will never happen at all, I will guarantee it.  The Sox have spent too much money and there is too much talent on the roster for the organization to wave the white flag.  They all will think they can turn that proverbial switch when it matters too.  But let’s take a quick look below at specific things I would do, or at least consider doing, before July 31st, by positional group:

Catcher:  No need to do anything here.  Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon are good enough.  But maybe they can get Blake Swihart back?  (I may never give this up!).  Although Blake has been even more atrocious in Arizona than he was in Boston.  That’s what happens when you play once every 10-15 days or so I guess.

Infield:  Mitch Moreland and Steven Pearce seemed like a GREAT idea to platoon at first base for the 2019 season when it started.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t exactly worked out that way.  Both of these contracts will expire at seasons end and it seems that Chavis has kind of locked in that first base role at this point anyway.  If healthy, both Moreland and Pearce can provide some value to a (real) contending team.  They won’t fetch a ton, but it should be considered.

Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez also are up at the end of the season.  These guys won’t get you anything so I guess I probably wouldn’t bother.  I don’t think I don’t want either of these dudes back next year, so maybe they can explore it.  I’d actually take Holt back, but he may be up for a decent raise…and he can never stay healthy either.  And I don’t want to see him every day at second base next year anyway.

Outfield:  Here’s the big one.  To start, let’s ship Jackie Bradley Jr. out of town as soon as possible.  He hit .315 with 5 homers and 14 RBIs in June.  .992 OPS.  There is his hot month.  He is making 8.5 mil this year, with one more year of arbitration next year.  Probably get 10-12 mil or so.  For 5 bad months and one good one.  Let’s sell high now and hope some team is dumb enough to give them something good for him.

The elephant in the room?  Mookie Betts.  I am not in favor of moving him just to move him.  But if he is really not going to sign here long term, then the reality is the Sox need to shop him.  I have no idea if he wants to re-sign here.  But it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it.  And that is the popular opinion.  The Red Sox HAVE to know how he feels, way better then Joe Fan does.  If he is truly a flight risk, the Sox need to take action.  Don’t be rash, but it has to be a real option.  Although I will take a proven Major League player over prospects 100 times out of a 100, this may be an opportunity to do some replenishing on the farm.

J.D. Martinez has to be a consideration to move too.  I believe there is a pretty good chance he opts out after this year and tries to secure that one last guaranteed contract…for more than he is supposed to get the next three years.  Again, the team has to have a better idea of his feelings on opting in or out after the season.  If the sense is that he will opt out, trades would have to be explored here.

Pitching staff:  I don’t have the stomach to split out the bullpen and no one wants any of those guys anyway.  The one starter that should have some value is Rick Porcello.  Seeing he’s up after this year and the signing of Nathan Eovaldi basically ensured the Sox wouldn’t re-sign him, Porcello should be shopped.  Sure, he’s not the “Cy Young Rick Porcello” this season, but he can eat innings and contribute to a contender.  No doubt about it.

Once again, none of this will happen.  Then the Sox will squeak into the playoffs and lose in the first round.

But think about it, even if the Sox were able to unload most of the players with expiring contracts (or close to it) talked about above, they would still have a nice core of Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi, Chris Sale, David Price, Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez (I guess), Vazquez, Chavis and I suppose a couple of bullpen arms that can work the 6th and 7th.  Maybe some decent major league players coming back in trades.  Perhaps a top (real) prospect or three.  And all of a sudden some money to spend, being not right up against the luxury tax anyway.

A World Series winning team?  Unlikely.  But making the best of a bad situation?  Perhaps…It COULD be an interesting few weeks for the Red Sox.  If they want it to be…

2019 MLB National League All-Stars

NL squad is below.  32 players selected, 20 position players and 12 pitchers.  Each team is represented, as we know.  (S) for the starter.  Comments below each position.

C:  Willson Contreras, ChC (S), Yasmani Grandal, Mil

Pretty easy.  J.T. Realmuto was the only other option.  Moving on.

1B:  Josh Bell, Pit (S), Freddie Freeman, Atl, Pete Alonso, NYM, Max Muncy, LAD, Rhys Hoskins, Phi

DEEP position this year.  I wanted to find room for Anthony Rizzo (ChC)…and I should have.  Even Eric Hosmer (SD) and his ridiculous contract have 57 RBIs this year.  But…you know, team and position constraints kept those guys off.  Even with five making it.  Because, you know, there is no DH in the National League.  So there’s room for at least these five.  Bell starts, yup, highest OPS.  But if you went Freeman or Alonso, no worries.  Alonso…what a year for the rookie.  Something for Mets fans to cheer about.  Well, unless you like clubhouse confrontations with reporters, that is.  I thought Muncy’s year last year was a total fluke.  Count me wrong on that…again.  Inexplicably, Hoskins is the Philly rep.  Hope that 13-year contract for Bryce Harper works out over the last 12 years anyway.

2B:  Ketel Marte, AZ (S), Mike Moustakas, Mil

Cut and dried here too.  Maybe Ozzie Albies (Atl) gets some votes.  Didn’t see this out of Marte?  Neither did most.  And Moose playing second?  No problem.  He just keeps hitting dingers.  Looks like he will be playing more third these days, but since he started out the year at second and has played a smidge more games there, we are slotting him here.

3B: Anthony Rendon, Was (S), Nolan Arenado, Col, Kris Bryant, ChC

Someone is going to pay Rendon a lot of money next offseason.  Arenado is STILL getting penalized for being a Rockie.  But you know what?  We should actually be giving him some props.  He got a sh%t-ton of money to stay in Denver.  BUT, a lot of players STILL would have left.  If he plays his whole career in Coors Field, he will glide into the Hall of Fame (barring injury.  See: Helton, Todd).  Anyone who leaves Colorado is foolish, in my opinion.  They should take less money to stay.  Helps their career.  Anyway, we are still starting Rendon.  Why?  OPS is higher!!  Bryant seems to be back on track.  Plus he still plays the outfield.  So there’s that.  We also considered Eduardo Escobar (AZ).  Yup, we did.  And Manny Machado (SD).  Not to be.

SS:  Javier Baez, ChC (S), Trevor Story, Col

Paul DeJong (StL) and Dansby Swanson (Atl) merited consideration.  But we are not there yet.

OF:  Clay Bellinger, LAD (S), Christian Yelich, Mil (S), Juan Soto, Was (S), Ronald Acuna, Atl, Marcell Ozuna, StL, Charlie Blackmon, Col

Guess Yelich’s MVP year wasn’t a fluke, eh?  So maybe Mookie’s was…which doesn’t help the writer.  Anyway, Bellinger is apparently the real deal as well.  Those two look like they will be fighting for the MVP this year.  Another nice battle is between the kids, Soto and Acuna.  We will be looking at them for years to come too.  Soto gets the start, want to guess why?  Hint:  OPS!!  Ozuna was taken over DeJong as remarkably the only guy from the Cards.  Blackmon?  Sigh…Colorado.  But sometimes it is just impossible to ignore the pure numbers, regardless of the park.  Jeez, even David Dahl (yes, Col) put himself in the mix this year.  Hunter Renfroe (SD)?  No room.  Same can be said for Jeff McNeil (NYM) and his .341 average.

P:  Max Scherzer, Was (S), Hyun-Jin Ryu, LAD, Mike Soroka, Atl, Jacob deGrom, NYM, Luis Castillo, Cin, Caleb Smith, Mia, Zack Greinke, AZ, Walker Buehler, LAD, Clayton Kershaw, LAD, Will Smith, SF, Josh Hader, Mil, Kirby Yates, SD

Honestly, the only other guys I considered here were Cole Hamels (ChC) and Felipe Vazquez (Pit).  Maybe even Chris Paddack (SD).  But this was kind of an easy list here.  An impressive one?  Not really.  But these are the guys.  Ryu is having a tremendous year.  7 walks all year in 103 innings?  Awesome!  I like Max’s overall numbers better, however.  If you want to start Ryu, no worries here.  But those are the two candidates.  Caleb Smith is a stretch, but he is the Marlin rep.  Castillo, Yates and Will Smith are their teams’ respective reps, but those were easy calls, to be honest.  To steal a quote from last years’ column, I wasn’t on the Yates bandwagon then, but am certainly now.  deGrom isn’t putting up as sick numbers as he did last season, but they are still nice.  Kershaw isn’t as dominant as he has been in the past, but he is still getting it done.  Not much else to say here.

Sssssoooooo…lets see how we match up against the real selections…

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