Monthly Archives: March, 2016

John Farrell Chooses Travis Shaw over Pablo Sandoval

pablo sandoval fat

Well, the Pablo Sandoval signing from last winter officially blew up in the faces of the Red Sox.  This morning, John Farrell told reporters that Travis Shaw will start at third base on opening day, moving Kung Fu Panda to the bench.  Ian Browne tweeted that defense was the deciding factor.

And with that, the Red Sox are still on the hook for $76 million of the $95 million albatross that Sandoval signed before the 2015 season that many, including myself, thought was a good deal for the Sox.  I could not have been more wrong.  In fairness, I didn’t know what we do now, which is that the Giants offered Sandoval basically the same contract but required a weight clause in the contract, whereas the Red Sox didn’t.  If I, or anyone else, had known that the weight clause was likely the deciding factor, we would have felt differently.  But when judging the contract, I brushed off the argument that the Red Sox were paying for the post-prime years of a guy whose body shape was not going to improve.  Regardless of what facts we knew, that was a huge mistake.

Sandoval needs to go.  The situation may not be unsalvageable, but the Red Sox have no reason to try and find out.  What benefit is there to keeping Sandoval at this point?  Do you really think that he’s gonna be the perfect cheerleader in the clubhouse?  He’s not going to handle this as well as Drew Bledsoe on the 2001 Patriots, and I’m not banking on Sandoval playing himself into the lineup when he gets his occasional innings.  The only reason to keep him around would be injury, which is a definite possibility because Hanley Ramirez is at risk of killing himself anytime he tries completing anything other than a routine play.  If Hanley goes down and Shaw has to move to first, it’d be nice to give Sandoval a shot at taking back his spot in the lineup.  But we can’t expect an injury, even if it is Hanley.  Kung Fu Panda has to go.

If the Red Sox are willing to eat a ton of salary, then I love the James Shields rumors because it’s much harder to have too many starting pitchers than it is third baseman.  I’m not gonna hold my breath on that one, though.

Realistically, the Red Sox need to get Sandoval off the team by Monday in whatever way possible.  Can’t start the season with Sandoval in the lineup.  To be fair to Sandoval, he may have gotten a worse rap about being a bad teammate than he deserved, and there’s no guaranteeing that he’ll be a clubhouse cancer.  But there’s a much, much greater chance of him being a negative influence than a positive one.  If for no other reason, the Red Sox need to release him if they can’t trade him simply to prove to the young guys on the team that it’s important to avoid resembling a bowling ball when you’re a professional athlete.

Bruins Need 4 Points in Next 2 Games

NHL: Boston Bruins at Dallas Stars

On one hand, this might be the most obvious column that I’ve written.  On the other hand, though, I’m not sure if Bruins fans understand the spot the Bruins are in over the next week or so.

The Bruins play the Maple Leafs tonight in Ontario and then travel to New Jersey on Tuesday.  That gives them ample rest in between the games, and there’s no excuse to drop either game.  Next Friday (notice the extra day or rest again), they play in St. Louis.  Then, next Sunday, the play in Chicago for the 12:30 NBC matinee with Doc Emrick.  Would it shock you at all if the Bruins dropped both of those?  Me neither.

The Bruins got a gift from the Penguins earlier today when they beat the Red Wings, which means that the B’s are up on the Wings by a point with 7 games left for both teams.  The B’s need 8 or 9 points in those final games, and it’s gonna be hard for them to do so if they can’t get at least 4 points over the next 4 games.  Given that I have no faith in the Bruins in St. Louis or Chicago, they need to beat the lowly Maple Leafs and mediocre Devils.

It sucks that we have to care so much about a game against Toronto.  But that’s the position that the B’s have put themselves in with the 5 game losing streak.

Extremely Important Games Tonight for Celtics

By now, you know that we have to keep track of the Nets, Suns, and Timberwolves win totals because the Celtics own the Nets’ 1st round draft pick.  Also, we have to focus on the win totals for the Mavericks, Trail Blazers, Rockets, and Jazz because of the Mavs’ draft pick that the Celtics got in the Rajon Rondo heist.  Tonight is far more important for the Celtics than just the game against the Raptors because of those ever important draft picks.

First, the Lakers play the Suns in Pheonix tonight.  The Suns are horrendous, hence they don’t get a ton of chances to win basketball games.  Tonight is one of the nights that they not only should win, but need to win for the C’s.  They beat the Lakers last weekend in Los Angeles, and the Lakers played last night and the Suns didn’t.  Also, D’Angelo Russell might not play because of a bruised shin that he suffered last night, and if he does play, he likely won’t play his best basketball.  No excuse for the Suns to lose this one.

In Portland, the Blazers host the Mavs.  Neither team played last night, but the Mavs are without Chandler Parsons due to his knee injury.  Portland is a very tough place to play, as the Blazers are 21-12 at home this year.  The Mavs are just 15-18 on the road this season, and I’ll be pissed off if Dirk Nowitzki pulls yet another game out of his keister.

Don’t just pay attention to the Celtics and Bruins game that are in progress.  Those games are obviously the most important ones to watch tonight, but make sure that you pay attention to Lakers-Suns and Mavericks-Trail Blazers.  You should never care about a pair of Western Conference games that involves non-contenders as much as you care about these games.

Saints are Making Big Mistake, Need to Move On

drew brees sean payton

If there’s one thing that the Peter Chiarelli taught us during his mostly successful tenure as Bruins GM that ended badly, it’s that you don’t hold onto players from a championship team just for the heck of it.  The New Orleans Saints will also have to learn that lesson the hard way.

This season, both Drew Brees and all of the Saints’ dead contracts will each take up $30 million in cap space.  That’s right, the Saints are paying $60 million off the top for a single player.  They also finished last season with a 7-9 record and a Pythagorean win expectation of just 6.5 wins, and then proceeded to make Coby Fleener their chief free agent signing.

The Saints aren’t going anywhere, and there is zero reason to keep rolling out the same team.  They signed Sean Payton to a 5 year extension today, which is totally understandable because he’s such a great coach, but it’s a signal that they’re not moving on from the pipe dream of turning back the clock to 2009.  If the Saints want to keep Payton, that’s fine, but they need to trade their star quarterback.

Drew Brees just turned 37, and he had a better season at age 36 than age 35.  There is no better time to trade an aging quarterback with a $30 million cap hit — and that’s before you remember that NFL teams need quarterbacks like fish need water.

There’s a poker game/bidding war for Colin Kaepernick that involves multiple teams right now.  Kaepernick was a fine quarterback in 2012, but it’s impossible to know if he can still be that guy.  At least we know that Brees was a hell of a QB just a few months ago, and while his production will obviously continue to slip in his late 30s, he has far more of a chance to play for a Super Bowl contender than Kaepernick, Ryan Fitzpatrick, or Robert Griffin III.

If the Saints were to trade Brees and therefore eat a large chunk of the dead money on his contract, they could trade him for a king’s ransom.  For example, the Rams have a lot of cap space left, the 15th overall pick, and a pair of 2nd round picks.  They also are set to begin their time in the country’s 2nd biggest market with Case Keenum as their starting quarterback.  Don’t you think they’d be smart to trade a lot for Brees?  They have a great defense and awesome young running back, and some defenses on their slate of opponents this season include the Seahawks and Cardinals twice each, the Patriots, Jets, Bills, and Panthers.  How in the world are they going to make the playoffs with Case Keenum at QB?  But if they got Brees, suddenly they’re a Super Bowl contender.

I can’t understand why the Saints aren’t trading Drew Brees to the highest bidder.  They’re just going to waste away in mediocrity because they’re so fond of the memories of 2009.  What they don’t realize is that, if they refuse to revamp their roster, there will be no memories of these years if they continue to finish 7-9.

 

Mavericks Draft Pick Is Key to Watch

dirk 2

The Mavericks’ draft pick that the Celtics own lies in a weird spot right now, which only adds to the importance of Dallas’ final 12 games.

Earlier today, it was reported that Chandler Parsons will likely miss the rest of the season due to knee surgery.  Dallas is now hanging on by a thread, as they’ve lost 7 of their last 9 and have watched Deron Williams, Raymond Felton, and Zaza Pachulia’s performances take huge hits in the past few weeks.  Now that Parsons is out, Dirk has to carry his team to the playoffs at age 37.

As of the morning of March 23, here are the Western Conference standings for the team in the same tier as the Mavs.

6. Portland Trail Blazers 36-35
7. Dallas Mavericks 35-35
8. Houston Rockets 35-36
9. Utah Jazz 34-36

We need the Blazers to stay ahead of the Mavericks and the Rockets and Jazz to jump them.  If that happens, the Mavs obviously are the 9th seed in the West, but why does that make such a difference in where they pick?  If the Mavs are in the 14th slot at the draft lottery, there’s no advantage for the Celtics if their pick makes a jump into the top 3, because the pick is protected 1-7.

But here’s the thing.  If the Mavs make the playoffs, they’ll likely have the 15th pick, as the 8th seed seems more likely for them than the 6th or 7th.  If the miss the playoffs, however, the pick will probably rise to 12.  The 9th and 10th seeds in the Eastern Conference should finish ahead of the Mavs, as the Pistons sit at 37-34 and the Wizards are 35-35.  The Pistons have won their last 3 and the Wizards have won their last 5, and both of those teams have arrows pointing up as opposed to the Mavericks’ arrow pointing in the opposite direction.

Let’s say the Celtics got the 15th pick and really wanted to move up to the 12th spot in the draft.  Such a jump would cost the Celtics at least a 2nd round pick, and it might cost more if Danny Ainge really wants a certain player, considering he offered 4 picks last year to move from 16 to 9.

The difference between the 15th and 12th pick is more significant than it seems, especially if the C’s try to trade the pick.  Let’s say the Celtics get the 3rd pick from the Nets and the 24th pick from their own (if they can get the 3 seed in the East).  What if Danny Ainge wants to trade up from 3 to 2 and get either Simmons or Ingram.  Doesn’t it look a lot better to offer the 12th pick along with the 3rd and some other asset for the 2nd pick overall, rather than offering the 15th?

Over the next 3 weeks, the most important games for the Mavericks are tomorrow night at Portland, Friday April 1 vs. Houston, and Monday April 11 at Utah.  That April 11th game is imperative, as the Jazz and Mavs will likely be fighting for the 8th seed down to the wire, and the Mavs will have played at LAC the night before while the Jazz will have played at Denver the night before.  I’ll never root for the Jazz more than I do that night.

Bruins Must Hold thier Place in Standings

zdeno chara

As of the morning of March 22nd, here are the NHL Eastern Conference Standings:

nhl standings photoshop

Few things to note:

  • The Bruins do not have a playoff spot locked up, thanks to the resurgence of the Flyers.  The Bruins could get bumped by the Red Wings in the Atlantic Standings and then fall below both the Penguins/Islanders and Flyers in the wild card.  In fact, if the Flyers win both of the games that they have in hand over the Bruins, then the 2 teams are tied.  That’s concerning.
  • Boston’s chance at winning the Atlantic are waning by the day.   Thanks to the 3 consecutive losses in California, the B’s will have to both go on a run to end the season and have both the Panthers and Lightning sputter.
  • Most importantly, if the Bruins fall to one of the wild card spots, then they’re probably the 8th seed and not the 7th.  The Islanders are 1 point back of the Bruins with 2 games in hand, and my guess is that they’ll hang onto the 1st wild card spot. If Pittsburgh falls back to 4th in the Metropolitan, then they’ll still probably be ahead of the Bruins thanks to going 8-2 in their last 10.

The Bruins simply cannot fall back into wild card territory.  Not only do they risk becoming the 9th seed in the East for the 2nd year in a row, but they also would likely fall into the Metropolitan side of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket.  As the 8th seed, they would face Washington in the 1st round, and I don’t think I have to explain to you how scary that would be.  Thanks to the fact that Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid, and Kevan Miller all own Claude Julien’s sex tape (only explanation for why they are in the top 6 defensemen), one of those stiffs is on the ice at all times for the Bruins.  Therefore, the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Justin Williams line would get to feast on one of those guys every single shift.  That’s a problem.

Even if  the Bruins beat the Capitals because Marchand scored 10 goals in 7 games, Bergeron was the best skater on the ice, and Tuukka Rask stood on his head, the B’s would then face the Rangers or Penguins/Islanders in the Eastern Conference Semifinals — which would technically be the Metropolitan Division Finals thanks to the NHL’s weird structure.  I would much rather have the Bruins face the Panthers than the Rangers, for example.

NYR has taken a huge step back in terms of corsi this season, but thy’re still a well coached team with an awesome goaltender, and they “know how to play in the playoffs” (cliche alert!).  The Bruins-Rangers game tomorrow night may make me feel differently, but the Rangers will always worry me in the playoffs until further notice.  Also, Roberto Luongo in Boston in the playoffs brings back good memories.  Let’s just say that he has a much better chance of having a meltdown then Henrik Lundqvist.

Honestly, I couldn’t care much less about home ice for the Bruins.  They’re a much better road team this season, anyway.  If they have to go to Tampa Bay and then Florida in the first 2 rounds, that’s fine by me.  So long as they don’t have to face the Capitals in the 1st round.  The final 9 games of the season are imperative simply so that they avoid such a fate.

Here are the Bruins’ and Red Wings’ schedules.  That April 7th game is appointment television in both cities.

bruins schedule photoshop

red wings schedule photoshop

Celtics Lose 3rd Straight, Face Raptors Friday

Their luck was going to catch up to them at some point.

Before last Friday’s game against the Rockets, the Celtics had won 17 of their last 22 and 14 straight home games.  While I’ll still declare that the Celtics are a much better team than most people realize, it was always clear that they were still playing way above themselves during that stretch.  Now, the basketball gods are evening things out a little bit.

The Celtics got blasted tonight, as the 4th ranked Celtics defense (in terms of defensive rating) was no match for the mighty Oklahoma City offense, especially with Jae Crowder out with a high ankle sprain.  Kevin Durant had 28 points, 9 assists, 7 boards, and an absurd +30 plus/minus in only the 30 minutes he played before the game was out of hand. The only reason the Celtics lost by “only” 21 was that the game was out of hand early and the Thunder played their garbage time guys.  This is how bad the game was: Oklahoma City played 38 year old Nazr Mohammed for 2 minutes tonight, prompting everyone across the league to ask, “Nazr Mohammed is still in the league??!!”

The advanced stats demonstrate just how important Jae Crowder is to the Celtics, but you don’t need them to realize how much the Celtics him.  Durant’s stat line shows that Boston had absolutely nobody to put on KD.

Crowder’s injury worries me and should worry you, because I’m more than a bit skeptical that he can return from a high ankle strain in 2 weeks.  If he was out a pair of weeks, then he would be back in time for the Clippers game in L.A., but if he’s out longer, he could miss consecutive games against the Clips, Blazers, and Warriors on the West Coast.

The Celtics are in a rough spot, no doubt about it.  They’re now tied for 4th in the East with the Hawks and sit half a game back of the Heat.  With all that being said, if the Celtics fall all the way to the 6th seed in the East, they would still be a very dangerous team in the playoffs.  They’ll have Crowder back, and they would likely play the Heat or the Hawks in round 1, two teams who don’t have anything resembling a good crowd to boost their home court advantage.  They’d be on the other side of the Eastern Conference bracket as the Cavs.

The Celtics are not screwed.  They’ve hit a bum in the road, but as always, we have to take a step back and look at the big picture with this team.  Crowder may be out, but at least they have him locked up at $7M per season for the next 4 years, right?  Their salary cap books, draft picks, and organizational wherewithal still puts them in a hell of a spot going forward.

 

Patriots Trade for Martellus Bennett

martellus bennett against pats

Today, the Patriots struck another move, trading for Martellus Bennett of the Chicago Bears.  Bennett carries a $5.185 million cap hit for the seaon in the final year of his contract.  The Patriots traded their 4th rounder, pick #127, for Bennett and a 6th rounder, pick #204.

As far as the picks go, I love the trade.  Pats may have lost their 1st rounder, but they’re stocked with picks when it comes to the actual number of selections.  They have 2 seconds, 2 thirds, now 5 sixths, and 2 7ths.  Belichick will probably trade one of those second or third rounders for multiple picks anyway.  Getting Bennett is more than worth moving down 77 picks for a more than capable 2nd tight end.

The problem is the salary.  Bennett adds $5.185 million to the cap, which cancels out almost all of the $5.4M boost that they got from the Chandler Jones – Jon Cooper swap.  The Bears were going to cut Bennett if they didn’t find a trade partner, which makes me think that he wouldn’t have commanded much more than $5.185M on the open market.  The Pats had roughly $17-18 million in cap space before the Bennetet move, and giving $5+ of it to Bennett isn’t exactly a bargain.

All in all, though, I like this trade for the Pats.  The passing offense needed some minor tweaks, and swapping Brandon LaFell and Scott Chander to Chris Hogan and Martellus Bennett does the job, and it the difference more than makes up for the ~$5M that the swaps cost the Pats.

 

Patriots Trade Chandler Jones

NFL: Super Bowl XLIX-New England Patriots vs Seattle Seahawks

Wow.  In an offseason that was quiet for the Patriots so far, Bill Belichick dropped a bombshell today.  Chandler Jones, the supposed cornerstone of New England’s front seven for at least the next half decade, has been traded to the Arizona Cardinals for G Jonathan Cooper and a 2016 2nd round draft pick.

While my initial reaction was “What the hell?! Chandler Jones is an animal!,” it’s easy to see what Bill Belichick was thinking here.  He realized that Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Malcolm Butler, Jamie Collins, and Jabaal Sheard all have contracts that expire after the 2016 season.  While it was expected that Jones and Hightower would sign extensions this spring that would decrease their 2016 cap hits, BB obviously felt that he wouldn’t be able to retain all of his young studs.  Instead of risking losing Chandler for nothing except a compensatory pick at the end of the 3rd round in 2017, Belichick decided it would be best to gain an offensive guard with some upside, a late 2nd round pick, and $5.40 million in cap space (Jones’ cap hit minus Cooper’s).

I get it.  In fact, if you don’t get why Belichick pulled the trigger, then you haven’t been following the Patriots very closely over the past 16 years.  I have no complaints about the trade… but I do have a concern.  The Patriots clearly take a step back for the 2016 season because of this trade, and that is admittedly a very hard pill to swallow.  The Pats are the AFC favorites due to the fact that the Broncos have lost their QB and an awesome pass rusher.  It hurts to see them lose a defensive end who had 12.5 sacks last year, just turned 26, and shares many of the same genes as this dude.  It’s nearly impossible for the Pats to replace the value of Jones for the 2016 season with a rookie 2nd round pick and whoever they get with the extra $5.4M.

However, despite everything I just said, these are the kinds of trades that make the Patriots the best.  Tom Brady and his avocado ice cream diet still have a few more years at an elite level, and this move should signal that Bill Belichick expects the Patriots to be a force long after the 2016 season.  Also, Chris Long is visiting the Patriots today, and they can replace at least 80-90% of Jones this season on the defensive line through Sheard, Ninkovich, Geneo Grissom, Trey Flowers, and someone like Long.

Let’s pretend that Bill Belichick gave a damn about the approval of anyone else when he makes a transaction.  If he did, then I would give him my blessing on this trade, as much as it sucks to see Chandler Jones leave in a year when they’re probably the favorites to win it all..  If I didn’t approve this trade, it would mean that I wasn’t a full supporter of the dynasty that Bill Belichick has built over the past decade and a half.  These are the kinds of trades that he makes, and it’s a move that few others would pull off.  But that’s why he’s the best.

MLB Is Having the Culture War It Needs

jose bautista bat flip

Goose Gossage is a whiny, old guy who hates fun to most of America, but to the demographic of baseball’s most passionate fans, he just put the nail on the head.  Gossage went after Jose Bautista, Yoenis Cespedes, anyone who shows too much emotion on the diamond, and nerds who are ruining baseball.  Through his comments, he became the poster boy for the much needed culture war that Major League Baseball and its fans are finally having.

Meanwhile, Bryce Harper wants to revolutionize the game.  As aggravating as he can he, he represents where a new age of fans want the game to go.  Well, maybe he’s not exactly where the fans want baseball to go, but he represents that direction far more than Gossage.

Baseball simply doesn’t excite young fans anymore, and it’s a problem that MLB was way too late to recognize.  The game moves too slow for millennials who have the attention span of a goldfish — unless they have loaded up on their Adderal.  No disrespect to my fellow millennials, by the way, because I feel the exact same way.  For a Red Sox regular season game, I need anywhere between 1 and 4 other things to be doing during while the game is on TV, depending on the pitching matchup, importance of the game, and the time of the season.

Meanwhile, baseball traditionalists not only don’t want the game to speed up, but they hate any emotion being shown on the field.  You can tell that I’m being kind of one sided on this one, but it’s clear that the game has to modernize significantly.  Any product still has to make itself appealing to the world around it, so long as the very essence of the game is not compromised.

But that’s the problem.  Baseball traditionalists feel that speeding up the game, allowing bat flips, and ensuring that catchers don’t die at home plate is an affront to America’s national pastime.  The worst part is the MLB’s resistance to highlights and clips on social media.  The only way that the MLB is going to grow in the eyes of young people is through social media, and they somehow don’t realize that.  The league is relying too much on older, white fans, and they’re only now realizing it.  Chris Rock perfectly summed up the baseball’s loss of black fans, as well as how detrimental it is to MLB.

The problem is that cultural change doesn’t take place through a smooth process.  Considering the fervor with which baseball traditionalists hold on to the whimsical aspect of the old days of baseball, the culture war will be rough one.  If baseball doesn’t fight through the culture war and modernize in time for young fans to catch on, it could be the end of baseball’s prominent cultural significance.