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Opening Day Is When?

March 29th, to be exact.  Thursday.  In March.  Boy, that sure crept up fast.  I suppose that’s what happens when it is basically still winter up here in the Northeast and baseball is not top of mind when it’s 30 degrees out and plenty of snow remains on the ground.  Not to mention the fact that the Bruins and Celtics are having great seasons, thereby keeping the focus on them for a while…possibly until both are out of the playoffs.

Perhaps also the expectations for the Red Sox aren’t as high this year either?  I don’t know.  I’m not that high on them anyway.  I’m not sold on the rookie manager.  Too many question marks on the pitching staff, especially relating to injuries…or injury risks.  Didn’t necessarily love the J.D. Martinez deal.  Hanley…everything about him.  The Yankees lineup looks prodigious…and have young potential stars on the way to boot.  Some of this stuff we’ve been through before.  Rest assured, we will get into more detail on my hesitations in the paragraphs that follow.

Listen, the Sox should be plenty good this year.  They should be in the mix for the playoffs…of course.  And for the money that the players are getting, they’d better be.  Alex Cora HAS to be better than John Farrell, right?  If he rejuvenates the younger players in the lineup, that alone is a huge win.  You know, those young players who were supposed to be the future stars and the core of this team for years to come?

So anyway, let’s start with a quick look at the roster.  No, it is not officially set yet, but it’s close enough.  In all likelihood, the roster was pretty much set before the spring even started, for all intents and purposes.  Basically just had to be adjusted a little for any spring injuries and for those who need a little more time to recover from previous offseason surgeries and whatnot.

Now let’s be honest, I did not watch a whole ton of spring training baseball.  But I read all the box scores!  And more importantly, I stayed away from all those “feel-good” stories that come out every March.  Didn’t need those influencing my feelings.  Because you all know how I feel for the 72nd guy on the roster.  Root like hell for whoever that may be!  In any event, because Spring Training results are fairly useless, we probably didn’t miss much.

Let’s get to it, in usual Blowhard fashion, we break down the roster by position, using the 40-man roster as a base, but adding in non-roster invitees (NRI) where appropriate:

Rotation (5):

In:  Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Brian Johnson

DL:  Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez

DL/Suspension:  Steven Wright

In limbo:  Hector Velasquez, Marcus Walden (NRI)

Minors:  Jalen Beeks, Roenis Elias

Comments:  If Pomeranz and E-Rod aren’t out long, then the starting five should be more than acceptable.  But that’s the big part of the problem.  Those two aren’t the healthiest hurlers around.  They could be out only a week or two, or we could see them in June.  No one ever knows with them…E-Rod specifically.  Price has apparently had a nice spring.  But are we out of the woods on his elbow yet?  Not so sure.  Johnson is in the Opening Week rotation because of all these injuries.  But how about HIS injury history?  Marcus Walden is only noted here because he may actually be the #5 guy at the start since Hector has been less than stellar this spring.

Bottom line?  Lot’s of holes here.  If the starters remain in good health, it could be a top rotation.  But what are the chances of that happening?

Bullpen (7):

In:  Craig Kimbrel (closer), Carson Smith, Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree

DL:  Tyler Thornburg, Austin Maddox

In limbo:  Bobby Poyner (NRI), Tommy Layne (NRI)

Minors:  Brandon Workman, Robby Scott, Chandler Shepherd, Ty Buttrey, Williams Jerez

Comments:  There seem to be some other guys hanging around camp, like William Cuevas, but we don’t need to talk about guys like him.  They won’t be going up to Boston for Opening Day.  Anyway…lots of questions here as well.  Kimbrel was dominant last year, let’s hope he can do it again.  But the rest?  Smith resurfaced at the end of last year, but let’s see how he handles a full season now.  I am no fan of Kelly and Barnes so I don’t even want to talk about them.  If Thornburg can regain his health, that SHOULD help.  Then again, he has pitched in Milwaukee his whole career.  Who knows how he adjusts to the AL East?  Workman has been a huge disappointment this spring and I have no idea what the hell is wrong with late-season darling Maddox.  He hasn’t pitched all spring it looks like and I haven’t even heard his name mentioned.  I have heard Poyner’s name mentioned, as he has apparently turned some heads.  But the Sox had to go sign Layne in the middle of the spring.  That can’t be good.

There will be a lot of bodies on and off the pitching staff all year-long.  But I don’t love all the questions right out of the gate.  If I had to guess, Sale, Price, Porcello, Johnson, Velasquez, Walden, Poyner, Hembree, Kelly, Barnes, Smith and Kimbrel head to Boston at the start.  In case you were worried, there is one open 40-man spot for one of Walden or Poyner and another spot can be opened when someone like Dustin Pedroia goes on the 60-day DL.  Or someone like Chandler Shepherd gets designated for assignment.  But, as you know, I’m the only one that cares about the last 40-man roster spot…

Next:  The bats

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Smorgasbord…

…lots to catch up on here, let’s start with the Thursday Night Football game and then dive right in:

Miami at Baltimore (-3.5)  

The Dolphins are 4-2 despite scoring only 92 points in 6 games.  They will be going with their backup QB in Matt Moore.  However, Moore may actually be better than the starter, that fraud named Jay Cutler.  Speaking of frauds…Joe Flacco everyone!  Neither team really excites me this year.  Therefore, take the points.

Miami 21, Baltimore 17.

Week (against the spread):  9-6

Week (straight up):  10-5

Season (against the spread): 50-56

Season (straight up): 64-42

Now for the rest of the Boston sports world, in no particular order:

*John Farrell is gone as the manager of the Boston Red Sox.  We have known that for a bit.  And everyone on God’s Green Earth knows how I feel about Farrell.  So no need to expound on any of those thoughts here.  Good riddance.  Buffoonery at every angle.

But…Alex Cora?  Count me among the unimpressed.  Just six years removed from the game, but more importantly, he has no managerial experience whatsoever?  Yeah, I’ve heard he managed the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic.  But who cares about that?  He was (is) a bench coach for the Houston Astros.  Doesn’t excite me either.

People are raving about him.  Maybe he has great people skills.  And actually can manage.  More importantly, maybe he can straighten out those morons in the clubhouse.  But…how do we really know?

He actually played here from 2006-2008.  Does that help?  Perhaps a little.  He knows what the demands are here in Boston.  Looks like the only player on this roster he actually played with was Dustin Pedroia…and Pedroia took his job.  People describe Pedey and Cora as close.  But I swear I remember Cora being pissed Pedroia took his job.  I don’t know, maybe Cora can also play 2b this upcoming season until Pedroia comes back…as we learned Wednesday that Dustin had knee surgery that will keep him out around seven months.  If the other options are Brock Holt, Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin, then why not?  I know, there is a whole offseason to find a better temporary 2b option.  But some local jamoke writer actually proposed those three clowns as legit (and probable) options.

Let’s also look at the hiring process.  The only three guys General Manager Dave Dombrowski thought of interviewing were Cora, Ron Gardenhire and Brad Ausmus?  THESE guys were the cream of the crop?  YIKES!

Dombrowski has some work to do on the actual roster and most certainly the clubhouse.  Let’s also see who Cora surrounds himself with on his staff.  But this hiring reminds me of a somewhat similar one for the Sox back in 1992.  A hire that a former college hallmate termed a “franchise manager”.  They had to go get him before someone else swooped him up.  Yup…Butch Hobson.  Ugh…

*The Celtics obviously took a big hit with the Gordon Hayward injury.  Just over five minutes into the season he goes down for the year…what a kick to the junk.

But you know what?  They’ll still be up there fighting for the top seed in the East.  Cleveland will probably treat the regular season as an extended preseason, similar to what they did last year.  There are other competitive teams in the East.  I suppose Milwaukee, Washington and Toronto will be in the upper tier.  But not unbeatable, even without Gordo.

Look, with only 4 of the 16 players on the roster carrying over from last year, there was going to be an adjustment period anyway.  I don’t think anyone thought the C’s were going to win the NBA Finals this year with full health.  Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum appear to have a world of talent (though I am not getting too high about their performance against the lowly Knicks on Tuesday).  But let’s remember they are 21 and 19 years old, respectively.  In fact, 7 of the 16 players are rookies, though admittedly most of those are on the back-end of the roster.

It’s a long season and anything can happen.  Barring any other unforeseen major injury, I’m still excited about watching this team develop.

*I don’t believe Jae Crowder intentionally tried to injure Hayward.  But he certainly had a hair across his arse in the opener.  Al Horford got all worked up at him at one point.  Don’t see Al react like that much.  Anyway Jae, let it go dude.

*Brown certainly looks like a different player this season.  I know summer league means squat.  But I did watch some of the games there.  Judging by how Jaylen has come out in the regular season thus far, I would have expected him to dominate the summer league.  And he was pretty unimpressive there, in my opinion.

In any event, for a guy with his talent, he seems to have a lack of touch around the rim.  Seems like he could have added several layups to this years’ total already.  But I shouldn’t complain.  He sure looks a hell of a lot better taking outside shots than he did last year.  Keep improving his finishes around the rim and of course the free throws and the sky COULD be the limit.

*I have no idea if guys like Abdel Nader, Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele, Daniel Theis or Jabari Bird can actually play in the NBA.  But I can for damn sure tell you one thing:  I’d rather give those guys a shot than have carried over the likes of Jonas Jerebko, Gerald Green, Tyler Zeller and Amir Johnson into this year.  We KNOW what those guys can do…and it’s not much.  Let’s see if any of these kids can develop into something.  While playing 9th to 13th man minutes.

I’m intrigued mostly by Theis, to be honest.  Now, I don’t want him playing 30 minutes a game.  But I’d like to see him get a consistent 10-15 minutes a night to see what’s there.  Listed at 6’9″, as a center, if he can add to the mix as a rebounder, that would be a tremendous help of course.  Especially considering the fact how horrid the Celtics were in that department last year.

*Last, but not least, the Boston Bruins.  This could be a looooong year, my friends.  But you know what?  I think I am ok with it.

Say what?  Think about it.  These guys are not championship timber, by any stretch of the imagination.  Not even a player or two away.  There has been an influx of young players this year.  Started a little bit last year, but you can really see it now.  There are apparently more to come.  Don Sweeney has been talking about this for years and we MAY be starting to see the “fruits of his labor”.

We have given Donnie Hockey a little bit of a beating the last couple of years, but if this was the plan all along, and Cam Neely (also taking a beating) and ownership have been on board with it…and of course if it eventually WORKS…then the B’s could be set up for years to come.  All the while remaining at least competitive during the transition years.

There is a long way to go, but in this young season we have seen glimpses.  We’ve also been horrified at some of the play.  But with young players and inexperience, that comes with the territory.  If the future is truly bright, then can’t we deal with the ups and downs for a little longer?

*Let’s break it down a little further.  If the lines this year when everyone is healthy are…

Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork

DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Spooner-Backes

Kuraly-Nash-Acciari

Chara-Carlo

Miller-McAvoy

Krug-McQuaid

…doesn’t that give you a little hope?  Specifically looking at Bjork and DeBrusk hopping right into the top six forward mix.  As well as Carlo and McAvoy making some noise on defense in their 2nd and 1st year, respectively.  Of course it would help if these guys really can play…and by all accounts they can.  It would also help if Vatrano and Spooner took their heads right out of their arses as well.  But you could always sprinkle in a Timmy Schaller…or a kid such as Danton Heinen or Austin Czarnik or I guess this Kenny Agostino dude they just brought up.  Or…

Of course, I’d rather still have Colin Miller over Kevan Miller.  Or ANYONE remaining from the Tyler Seguin trade (or someone who could play anyway…meaning…not Jimmy Hayes).  But if some of the other dudes eventually make it as well…Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Matt Grzelcyk, Rob O’Gara, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon…we could be looking at a solid young core for years to come.  We shall see…

*Lastly, I will also tell you, I would keep the kids coming.  As the trading deadline approaches and the Bruins likely at the bottom of the playoff seedings, or even slightly out of them, I would work to shop some of the vets and implement more kids.  Not everyone, mind you.  But a few.

First off, they couldn’t necessarily trade ALL the vets anyway.  Most of the higher paid ones of course have no movement clauses, thanks to former GM Peter Chiarelli…and a little by Sweens himself.

Who would I look to deal?  Tuukka Rask, top of the list.  You just don’t need a 7 million dollar a year goalie.  Especially for a team in transition.  He has a modified no-trade.  The door is open.  Zdeno Chara has had a nice career in Boston.  But he’s heading toward 41 years old.  And they are still throwing him out there for about 25 minutes a game…in OCTOBER!  Stop the insanity!  Give those minutes to someone else.  Z has a no-move, but maybe see if he will waive it to go to a contender.  I’ve heard people around here saying that they wouldn’t mind if Chara signed on for another 2 years after this year.  Once again, STOP THE INSANITY.  You still may be actually able to get something decent for him too.

Others?  Krug for sure.  3 more years at 5.25 for a defenseman that is truly an offensive specialist.  Has some no movement protection starting next year.  Move him before that goes into effect.  Backes?  Makes 6 mil for the next 4 years with a lot of no-move protection.  Likely untradeable.  Krejci?  I’d love to see him on the above line.  But injuries seem to be taking control of him.  And yes, no-move protections of course.

Just see what’s out there for some of those guys.  Can’t hurt.  Oh yeah, it’s time to just buy Matt Beleskey out.  That ship has sailed.  Actually, that ship sailed long ago…

Football First…

…and then John Farrell.  We will get to the Boston Red Sox manager’s firing, as well as the ineptitude during their American League Division Series loss to the Houston Astros, in due time.  But since Thursday Night Football is upon us, we need to get this pick out.

Short and sweet here though:

Philadelphia at Carolina (-3.5) 

This matchup between two 4-1 teams should be a pretty f’n awesome game…except that it is on Thursday Night Football.  Pretty much guaranteeing that it will be a dud.

Philly smoked the Cards last week, but that’s not saying much.  They had a couple of squeaker wins the previous two weeks against teams that now are a combined 1-9 (Chargers and Giants).

Carolina is coming off two consecutive road wins, against fairly good competition in the Patriots and Lions.

As Carolina is coming home now, seems to be lining up for a Panther win, no?  Nah.  Feeling Iggly for some reason.  And I really can’t give you any scientific reason why.  Again, Thursdays are kind of a crapshoot.  So this week we will celebrate that by throwing a dart against the wall.

Philadelphia 27, Carolina 24.

Week (against the spread):  8-6

Week (straight up):  9-5

Season (against the spread): 37-40

Season (straight up): 48-29

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