One of the great things about doing one’s observing from, “The Hub of the Universe,” is that when it comes to sports, there is always something significant going on. There are various points every year when the major sports teams in the area collide with such force, that the resulting chatter is so loud that it becomes very difficult to keep it all straight. It’s potentially the loudest in the Fall, when you can, in theory at least, actually have all four teams playing at once. But believe me, with the approach of Spring, ALL the organizations are making plenty of noise, making it very difficult to keep things sorted out. But lets try, by looking at each team individually.
There has been a growing excitement of late around the Green that just wasn’t there earlier in the season. It’s been essentially triggered by the trade deadline arrival of 5’9″ point guard Isaiah Thomas, and the 6’10” Jonas Jerebko from Detroit. For most of the first half, the prevailing feeling was the Celts were better off “tanking it” in hopes of setting themselves up for a spot in the lottery. But the spark that the newcomers have generated, combined with the play of the younger players who were already there, such as Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley, Tyler Zeller and Evan Turner, has the Boston faithful rooting for a spot in the playoffs. That and the fact that they have a stockpile of 22 draft picks (including 4 #1’s in 2016) over the next five years, has the faithful thinking post season play for a while. Even a brief appearance would help to give the youngsters some confidence and provide a foundation on which to build. I believe as I write this they currently hold the last spot with 12 games to go, so it is still an uphill battle, but it certainly has made things a great deal more interesting, not to mention entertaining.
Even though the Bruins are in a similar spot as the Celtics in terms of making the playoffs (actually up by two points at this point), there are nowhere near the amount of positive feelings. Obviously, this is to a large extent a matter of expectations. Not much was expect of the Green, while the B’s were expected to be serious challengers for the Cup. Instead, it has been a season of two steps forward, one step back for the Bruins, with an offense that has struggled to score, and a defense that has forced goalie Tuukka Rask to work overtime–too often literally. Not having a healthy David Krejci has hurt the offense, and trading Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders hurt the “D,” and it doesn’t seem likely anything will change substantially before the playoffs. I think you have to assume a failure to make the post season, or a quick exit, will cost some people their jobs. At least we won’t have to wait too much longer to find out if it’s going to be management, players or both.
You would have thought from the outcry from Patriots Nation when Darrelle Revis left, that the NFL had come to take back the Lombardi Trophy. As much as I would have liked to seen him finish his career in New England, I never really believed that his stay here was more than a one year rental. I think it was clear from the start that he was still intent on making the kind of guaranteed money ($39 million as it turned out) that the Pats would never be comfortable shelling out. When I say finish out his career, I have to believe that we are, in reality, talking about only one or two more years in terms of being at or near the top of his game.
Even though New England lost two important keys to their Championship defense in Revis and Vince Wilfork, it is generally expected that they will remain strong in this area. Linebackers Jamie Collins, going into his third season, as well as Dont’a Hightower, entering his fourth, are expected to do the heavy lifting next year, and will be the keys to the Pats’ success on that side of the ball. Yes, the rest of the AFC East took some meaningful steps in regards to closing the gap between themselves and the Pats, so it should be interesting next season. We have plenty of time to discuss that, so I’ll just leave you with the reminder that even at 38, Tom Brady is still easily the best QB in the division.
After following spring training for about two weeks, I’ve come to the following conclusions:
1) I expect that the Sox will make the trade for Cole Hamels sooner rather than later. This is due in large part to how good the Yankees have looked so far, as much as anything else. Should the Sox wait too long to pull that particular trigger, they could lose him to New York, and that could make winning the division very difficult indeed.
2) Mookie Betts is going to be the starting center fielder. It’s a bit of a no-brainer when you combine the facts that he is hitting like about .500, and projected CF Rusney Castillo missed two weeks with a strained oblique. I’m beginning to be concerned that Castillo may be a bit injury prone, as his Fall League season was cut short by a wrist injury. He did hit a three run homer in his first at bat upon his return to spring training competition, so I won’t give up on him yet.
3) Christian Vasquez, and not Blake Swihart, is the Sox catcher of the future. This should be interesting to watch play out. Swihart hit .389 this Spring before being optioned to AAA, and seemed to impress everyone, but Vasquez has proven himself to be a very solid major league catcher, and Swihart may be the piece to the puzzle that brings Hamel to Boston. I’m guessing we won’t have to wait too long to know for sure.
- The “Roger That” Edition - February 28, 2017
- The “Nice Ring To It” Edition - February 3, 2017
- The “Shaken, Not Stirred” Edition - January 17, 2017
- The “Malcolms in the Middle” Edition - January 11, 2017
- A “Catching Up, Following Up, and Weighing In” Edition - December 31, 2016
- The “Cannon and Flowers” Edition - December 21, 2016
- The “Farm, for Sale” Edition - December 10, 2016
- The “Tebucky Jones Tribute” Edition - November 13, 2016
- The “World, Serious” Edition - November 1, 2016
- The “Easy Come, Easy Go” Edition - October 18, 2016