No, that headline was not meant to be clickbait or to give Patriots fans a distraction to the franchise’s best player getting suspended for a quarter of the season. It’s the truth. The NFL Players’ Association took a humongous hit today, and I hope that they have the backbone to admit how badly they screwed up.
Ever since a reporter for a huge sports media conglomerate and another from a newspaper based in the capital of Indiana, whose names and company names I refuse to write because it gives them the publicity that they so crave (it’s not like they are about journalistic integrity, after all), misreported facts about how the Patriots “cheated” during the AFC Championship Game, fans and media alike have overlooked the most far-reaching aspect of this case. The NFL Players’ Association gave Roger Goodell the power to be the judge and jury for these types of decisions, and they gave him so much power that an Appellate court in NYC decided that such power superceded actual science and fact. And while I’m upset with the Appellate Court, who apparently used the Wells Report in their decision despite the fact that every scientist who took a look at the report said it was BS, I’m far more upset with the NFLPA.
While Roger Goodell has significantly elevated his status of villain in the past 5 years, the players knew that he was an enemy before the 2011 lockout. It’s not breaking news that he’s an owner’s puppet who will gladly prioritize making the owners happy over morality and fairness. Therefore, why in the world would they agree to a CBA that allows Goodell to be the judge and jury? Actually, judge and jury isn’t a fair assessment. Goodell is essentially the police, prosecution, judge, and jury, and he was allowed to pay off the crime scene investigators (Wells) to prove exactly what he wanted to hear. That doesn’t seem like a fair system of justice, which makes it all the more baffling that the NFLPA would agree to such a statute.
The NFLPA just lost one of their best players for the first 4 games of the season, and what’s more, a United States Appellate Court just determined that they have to take each of Roger Goodell’s beatings on the chin, no matter how unfair they are. The NFLPA has to live with this statute for another 4 years until the CBA expires in 2020, and they have no one to blame but themselves.
I know this isn’t what you want to hear right now, but Tom Brady is to blame for this as well. It’s not just DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFLPA, who shoulders the blame for Brady’s suspension. Brady was a high ranking member of the NFLPA during the CBA negotiations in 2011, and while he wasn’t as high ranking as the name of the case, “Brady vs. NFL,” would suggest, he was certainly high enough that he deserves his fair share of blame for this. Players should never accept a statute like this. If a union is going to be in place, then a union should be able to have basic rights that allow its workers to operate as if they were living in, you know, America. When it comes to punishment, the NFLPA has no such rights, which is all the more evidence we need to know that the NFLPA is far more inferior than the players’ associations in other sports. One judge ruled that the commissioner’s ruling was unfair, and the higher court came along and said “Yeah, but they have the right to be that unfair, the NFLPA agreed to it.” That’s a problem, and it sucks for Patriots fans that Tom Brady is the one paying for it. Remember, though, Tom Brady shares the blame in this one, and I’ll bet you THAT’S what is going to cause him a sleepless night tonight — not footballs that were never actually underinflated.
Well, it happened. We knew this would be possible, but wishful thinking combined with fatigue from Deflategate prevented us from truly understanding the possibility that Tom Brady would actually sit out 4 games due to suspension.
I don’t have to tell you that the decision is total BS, given that the judges used the Wells Report in their decision, and every major scientist from every major university who ran their own tests on this scenario found that science was not on Ted Wells’ side. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to matter to judges, who didn’t feel that it was their job to care about the facts of the case, but only to determine whether or not Roger Goodell could be this unfair. Apparently, he can.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely devastated. This ruling could hurt the Pats’ playoff seeding, which, as we learned a few months ago, is a huge deal with a potential trip to Denver looming. Denver has a very advantageous schedule this season, which makes this ruling hurt a little bit more. Having said that, better men than I have doubted the Brady/Belichick Patriots, and they’ve all been proven to be morons. I’m not gonna be a moron, and I hope that you won’t either.
The Patriots are going to win the AFC East again this year. They will be one of the top 5 Super Bowl Contenders. The sun will rise in the East tomorrow. Some things are facts of life.
But, as we learned the hard way last season — which we should have known all along — the Patriots’ playoff seeding is incredibly important, especially with a trip to Mile High in Denver on the line. The Pats have always struggled in Denver, and ensuring that the AFC Championship would be in Foxboro was an important aspect of the Pats’ 2015 season. Of course, Bill Belichick made one of his rare mistakes and rested the team in Week 17 (and didn’t go for 2 on the tying touchdown in the Jets game in Week 16).
In the 2016 season, the Patriots, Broncos, and Steelers/Bengals will likely experience another all out war for the number 1 seed. Here’s the problem: The NFL gifted the Broncos with a very advantageous schedule.
I’m not saying that the Broncos have an easy schedule in terms of opponents, mainly because it’s near impossible to predict how teams will be playing in half a year. In terms of the timing of several significant games couldn’t be much better for the defending champs. Let’s take note of the Broncos’ schedule perks:
- The NFL Twitterverse commented on the Broncos schedule by exclaiming, “Look how tough the Broncos’ first 3 games are!” But here’s the thing, if the Broncos are gonna have to face the Panthers this season, the best time to play them is opening night. Since 2003, only the 2012 Giants and 2013 Ravens lost the kickoff game. The 2013 Ravens had to travel to Denver for the opener because the Orioles were playing at the time and the two teams’ stadiums are too close to have both teams play at once (seriously), and the Eli Manning era Giants have been an all time enigma, so I don’t put much stock into them losing, either. Given the Broncos’ home field advantage at Mile High, they’ll probably continue the streak with the added motivation of the night, and then they get the Colts at home with 3 extra days’ rest. That’s a fantastic way to face the Colts, as well.
- Denver’s other Thursday night game and Monday night game. couldn’t have worked out better. It seems like a Thursday night on the road after facing the Falcons would be a tough game, but the Broncos only have to play the Chargers. Philip Rivers might have one of his random 500 yard days, but it’s more likely that an all time QB statue will get pummeled by DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. Then the Broncos don’t play the Texans for another 11 days and it’s in Denver. The game after a Monday night game also have high trap game potential… but not so much when those same Chargers come to town for the Broncos’ 2nd home game in a row.
- Then the Broncos have to go on the road for 2 games in a row, but they get rewarded with a bye week. That bye comes in Week 11, and a late bye seems to be much better for a team with a front-heavy schedule who’s already expected to easily make the playoffs, right?
- The Broncos’s bye week gives them an extra week of rest before they face the Chiefs at home.
- Finally, the most important game of the year from our perspective is the Pats-Broncos game in Week 15 on Sunday Night Football. We already knew that the Pats would travel to Denver for the game, but we didn’t know that New England would host Baltimore on Monday Night Football only 6 days before. The Ravens do anything possible to beat the Pats up every time they play, which is part of what makes those games so awesome. The thin air of Denver on a short week after facing the Ravens? The Pats couldn’t have had a worse draw for that game.
Looks like we might have to get used to the idea of the Pats going back to Denver in the playoffs. Let’s hope Philip Rivers has a few more random 500 yard games in him.
You knew that Avery Bradley was out with a pulled hamstring (which cost the Celtics the win in my totally-not-at-all-biased opinion), but there’s more sad news on the injury front. Kelly Olynyk is down with an injury to the same shoulder that caused him to miss a chunk of the season. YAYYY!!!!
Marcus Smart will start in Bradley’s spot, which we all expected once we saw Bradley go down. Evan Turner wasn’t on point in Game 1, which probably bodes well for tonight since he’s not exactly consistent, at least with his shooting stroke. Jared Sullinger and Amir Johnson will both play a ton of minutes tonight, naturally. An underrated stroke of luck that the Celtics have been given involves the schedule, as the C’s had/have 2 full days off before Game 1, 2, and 3. If the C’s were playing on an every other day schedule, Game 3 would be tomorrow, which would make it less likely that Olynyk would be able to play. At it stands, he has a much better shot of coming back for the Celtics’ first home playoff game on Friday.
Marcus Smart will be the biggest X-factor in tonight’s game. The good news for C’s fans is that Smart finally showed what he’s capable of in Game 1. He did everything — including shooting from deep — well on Saturday, and Smart defenders got a little bit of vindication.
The bad news? Smart will have to somehow improve on his Game 1 performance tonight. Not only can he not regress at all, but he has to build on his previous play, which will obviously be a huge challenge for an inconsistent, shooting-challenged, 2nd year 22 year old. He has the heart and the balls to get it done, though, and even if the C’s get bounced in this series way faster than we all expected, we’ll learn a lot about whether or not the Celtics have a franchise player already on the roster.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the same answer to the question, “Who’s your least favorite athlete?” The answer is Kobe Bryant, and it’ll take a Matt Barnes — Derek Fisher level of personal beef between me and another athlete to dethrone Kobe from that spot. Like any modern day Boston sports fan, I hate A-Rod and Bernard Pollard and Mike Ribiero, but none of them reach the level of Kobe.
Before analyzing all the reasons that I drink the Kobe Bryant haterade, let me say that I do respect the hell out of his competitiveness and his drive for greatness. I can’t knock that he is one of the best players to ever play basketball, and I do realize that many of his faults come from his maniacal competitiveness. But not all of them do, and that’s why I hate him.
To start, let’s throw out this fiction that all, or at least most, of Kobe’s faults throughout his career have come from his drive to win championships. It’s complete bullshit. He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be, and more specifically, he wanted to be an NBA alpha dog more than anything. From about 2010-2012, we would hear Kobe often declaring, “I’m all about number 6.” Here’s the thing, though. That sixth ring, or the first through the fifth, was never his primary motive. His primary motive was his own personal greatness. If Kobe really was all about the rings, then why did he willingly aid in the disbanding of the greatest 1-2 punch the NBA had seen since MJ and Pippen all because of his ego? Kobe and Shaq agreed on Shaq’s podcast recently that the reason they butted heads was that it was impossible for two alpha dogs to exist at once, and that’s fair. But doesn’t that prove that Kobe wasn’t all about the rings? I’m not absolving Shaq from blame in the bitchiness that the early 2000’s Lakers exhibited, but nobody is trying to pretend that Shaq only cared about winning rings throughout his career.
Oh yeah, and if Kobe only cared about rings, then why did he take the worst contract in the NBA the past 2 seasons, crippling the Lakers’ cap space? Last season, LeBron James made $21 million, and he almost carried his team to a championship after they lost both of his All Star sidekicks. The past 2 years, Kobe has made an average of $24.25 million to jack up a ton of horrendous shots and stunt the growth of the Lakers’ young pieces.
And let’s explore a little further how good of a teammate Kobe Bryant was…
You know how everyone crucified D’Angelo Russell for how bad of a teammate he was for recording the conversation with Nick Young? Yeah, well, Kobe basically did the same thing, except worse. He took a shot at Shaq for paying hush money to his side pieces simply because he hated Shaq. At least when D’Angelo Russell put his teammate on blast, it was unintentional. (For those who are crying out “Why are we criticizing D’Angelo Russell and not Nick Young, Young was the cheater!?” Yes, you’re right, Nick Young was cheating and there’s no excuse for that. But if you’ve been following the story through the eyes of sports fans and analysts, then of course we’re gonna look at the situation through the perspective of sports, i.e. what a terrible teammate D’Angelo Russell is.)
And that isn’t the end of Kobe’s horrible status as a teammate. Remember when he called out Smush Parker, who hadn’t been on the Lakers in years, by saying “We were too cheap to pay for a real point guard, so we let him walk on”? I find that quote especially interesting because Kobe Bryant said that right before the 2012-2013 season, a season in which the Lakers would have to play a bunch of journeymen due to injuries. Don’t you think it’s a bad idea to send the message that you’ll call out guys who aren’t that good long after they’re off the team? I’m sure his teammates loved hearing that. I have no problem with a player speaking his mind, but when there’s nothing to be gained by saying something and it can only cause a rift in the locker room, why say it? Then again, Kobe didn’t care at all about rifts in the locker room.
Next, let’s go onto the fact that Kobe, for all the talk of him being so direct and brutally honest, has been both incredibly passive aggressive and a complete liar at times. The Shaq-Kobe beef was the best example, because, despite the two guys proclaiming that they were happy that they always handled their business face to face, there exists the minor detail that such a proclamation is absolutely absurd. Shaq and Kobe exuded more bitchiness and gossip than the Real Housewives and Jersey Shore put together.
And how about Kobe dropping the line today that the Charlotte Hornets said they had no use for him in 1996, which fueled him completely?:
Here’s the thing: That’s also bullshit. The real story can be found here. The short version is that Kobe’s agent, Arn Tellum, wouldn’t let Kobe work out for certain teams in an effort to get Kobe on a non-lottery team. He specifically wanted the Lakers, and Kobe and Tellum did whatever they could to make the Kobe-for-Vlade Divac trade happen. But when you want to anoint yourself as the most badass competitor of all time, the truth doesn’t matter, right?
But there’s one more reason that I hate Kobe passionately, and I’m guessing that you know the reason. Actually, there are two reasons, but they stem from the same situation.
“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”
Yeah, I’m talking about the 2003 incident in Colorado. Despite the fact that sports fans have tried their best to forget the incident, Kobe Bryant raped a woman. Well, to be fair, I honestly don’t know if “rape” is the right word to use. I’m not saying it’s not, I’m just saying that a professional who knows far more about sex crimes than I do needs to make that call. I’ll take Kobe’s statement above at face value, and I’ll believe him that he thought the encounter was consensual. Therefore, he didn’t have the same malicious intentions as most rapists, but that doesn’t change the fact that what he did was unequivocally evil. Especially when you’re a 6’6″ professional athlete who probably has twice the body weight and 5-6 times as much muscle as the woman in the scenario, you have to make sure that she actually, you know, wants you to have sex with her. Seems like a good idea. But maybe I’m just a Lakers hater, right?
Kobe’s level of scum in the Colorado case isn’t the be all and end all of why I hate him in regards to the case, though. Part of the reason that the case infuriates me so much is the public reaction, especially 13 years later. You know how Ray Rice has been vilified to the point that he’s basically the poster boy for and high profile domestic violence case? And let’s be as brutally honest as people claim that Kobe is: It’s clear that part of the reason that the Rice case got so much public traction is because so many people, many of whom don’t care about the full context of domestic violence in the NFL, jumped on the story as a way to crucify the NFL and the Ravens for the way they handled the case and to stand on a moral platform and proclaim how horrible domestic violence is and how rampant it is in professional sports — all points which are unquestionably 100% true.
Here’s the thing. The American public is quite stupid when it comes to issues like this, as I have written before in regards to the Johnny Manziel situation with his girlfriend in December. For instance, people only cared about the Ray Rice case when a video was released, even though Rice admitted to the NFL exactly what he did during his first meeting with them. Furthermore, the hypocrisy among fans on issues like this is dumbfounding. The public wants to criticize the NFL for reacting to such a case so late, but they fail to mention that there were 57 cases of domestic violence in the NFL between 2006, the year that Roger Goodell took office, and the Rice incident in 2014. A whopping THIRTY-FUCKING-FOUR went completely unpunished. It’s always seemed to me that the American public has given itself some credit for making the NFL change its rules, and the public has stood on some moral high ground by saying, “Can you really believe how bad the domestic violence situation in the NFL is???” Well, why did the public outcry only reach that level with the 58th case of domestic violence in Goodell’s 8 years as Commissioner? If the American people want to give themselves credit for changing the public discourse about domestic violence and the horror of it, then the same people should also accept some blame for not giving a shit about the issue until 2014.
I bring up the Rice/domestic violence example not to compare that crime to Kobe Bryant’s, because, frankly, I think Bryant’s was worse. (Again, my opinion doesn’t really matter on that one, and I’ll leave that verdict up to a professional in dealing with sex crimes.) I bring up the Rice example to demonstrate the stupidity with which the American public deal with high profile sex crimes, especially in the aftermath.
You know how people always demand that athletes should be role models? Specifically, parents demand that athletes need to be role models for their children. Well, since the Colorado rape case, it seems that Kobe has become a role model for so many because of his competitive drive and desire to win. This Bleacher Report slideshow stated that Kobe had the 2nd highest selling jersey of the previous decade from 2013, and they say in the Kobe slide that Kobe still had the 5th highest selling jersey in 2004 and 2005 — the years following Kobe’s rape case.
Ultimately, this is the biggest reason why I hate Kobe Bryant. Kobe has long been the epitome of hypocrisy among sports fans. It has never made sense to me that so many fans claim that their athletes need to be more than just athletes (a sentiment which I largely disagree with due to examples like Kobe Bryant), and specifically, athletes need to be role models to show children how to behave on and off the court. If that’s the case, then why does Kobe Bryant get a worldwide retirement tour in which everyone serenades him with love when Ray Rice gets called a cancer to society? Believe me, I’m not defending Ray Rice, but it would only seem consistent for people to treat Kobe with even 1% of the same level of disdain that Rice receives.
When I was in college, our marketing professor showed us a Nike advertisement with Tiger Woods (post sex scandal) that says “Winning solves everything.” She asked us her opinion on the ad, and then told us that she hated it because it seemed to send a message that what Tiger did was OK, so long as he wins. While that professor was one of my favorite and best professors, I couldn’t disagree more with her for saying that Nike was way out of line. Nike was simply stating the truth of how the public views its athletes. People are willing to overlook what horrendous acts someone has committed, so long as they produce on the field. That’s what you’re seeing now throughout the retirement tour that Kobe Bryant is getting, as people are not just staying (correctly) what a great basketball player Kobe is, but what a treasure to humanity that he has been. Actually, that’s false, and such a line of argument spits in the face of the sanctimonious stances that people take about how athletes need to be role models, how sports teams should care about a player’s character just as much as they care about his talent, and how heinous crimes, especially those against women, are unforgivable. Even if Kobe Bryant A) cared about winning more than being an alpha dog like he has always said, B) was anything other than a horrendous teammate, and C) wasn’t as much of a passive aggressive liar as he is, I would still hate him. I hate Kobe not just for committing a crime that nobody should ever commit, but because he’s the best possible example for the societal hypocrisy that is exhibited by sports fans.
I have no doubt that you’re all aware that, technically, the Celtics could still sneak into the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference. If Cleveland decides to play all of their guys tonight against Atlanta and Washington goes full throttle on Wednesday against the Hawks, the Celtics could get the 3rd seed back by beating Charlotte and Miami.
I hope that happens, and I’ll be pulling hard for the Cavs tonight. But let’s get a little more realistic. The Celtics are very, very unlikely to get the 3rd seed, which relegates them to the 4th, 5th, or 6th spots. Getting the 4th seed would obviously be the best move for the Celtics… or would it?
The 2015-2016 Celtics season has been all about measuring how close the Celtics are to being a contender. They can’t win it this season, but they’ve also made tons of strides since last season’s trade deadline that has put them on the fast track to contenderhood. If this season doubles as a barometer for the Celtics, isn’t it most important for us to see just how far into the playoffs to go?
If that’s the case, then it might be better for the Celtics to get the 6th seed rather than the 4th. Such a drop would necessitate the Celtics beating Atlanta without homecourt advantage, which is a tall task, considering that the Hawks are a tougher matchup for the C’s than the Heat or (definitely) the Hornets. Yet, if the Celtics beat the Hawks in the 3-6 matchup, they would be in a much better spot in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, facing the Toronto Raptors rather than the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Raptors would be the perfect playoff test for the Celtics. How far can ateam go when it’s built around perimeter defense? And how much can the Celtics’ perimeter D carry them in the postseason against a great team? Against the Raptors, with Lowry and DeRozan, we would find out the answers to those questions, and we would learn how the Celtics measure up to the Raptors on the biggest stage. The conventional wisdom about the Raptors, which I agree with, is that they’re the best team who can’t win it all this season. (The Clippers could also claim that title.) Therefore, the C’s need to jump ahead of the Raptors to have a shot at banner #18, and a Raptors-Celtics series would present the perfect opportunity for us to see how far the Celtics are from that level.
Imagine if the Celtics got to the Conference Finals. Suddenly, they would be a perfect free agent landing spot, and every superstar who wants to get traded (BOOGIE!!!) would tell his agent to put the Celtics on his trade list. Sure, they would lose to the Cavs, especially because the NBA and the ghost of David Stern would give LeBron and the Cavs every call if it got to a Game 7 in Cleveland. But that would be a fun ride, and it would speed up the Celtics’ ascension that is already going 100 MPH.
In the end, I’d rather have the Celtics get the #4 seed because the Hawks are that much better than the Heat or the Hornets. The Hawks are by far the worst matchup for any of the 3-6 teams, and I don’t want the Celtics to get the unlucky draw. I’m realistically hoping for Celtics-Hornets at the 4-5 series (regardless of whether the C’s are the 4 or 5 seed, because the Hornets are not on the Celtics’ level). I’m ok with Celtics-Heat as 4-5 as well, but all I’m saying is that I wouldn’t mind it if the C’s drew the Hawks at the 3-6 matchup and stayed on the Raptors’ side of the Eastern Conference bracket.
Back on February 29, I wrote why the Bruins should have extended Loui Eriksson at the trade deadline, rather than trading him or letting him walk into free agency. My main line of argument was the numbers that Loui Eriksson was looking for, according to Darren Dreger:
Eriksson is a damn good player, and $6~ million is not too much for a player of his caliber. That’s the short version of my opinion on Eriksson. For the rest of it, read the piece that I linked to in the first paragraph. For now, let’s move on to what happens with Eriksson in the summer.
The Bruins have missed the playoffs, and the Bruins are headed for a much worse fate in regards to Eriksson. The Swedish winger will now command more than what he was asking for in February according to Dreger, and the Bruins are damned if they sign him and damned if they don’t. If the Bruins pay up for Eriksson, he’ll likely command $7 million per year, especially if he’s content with only 5 years on the deal. Or, he could push for a 7 year deal from another team or an 8 year deal from the Bruins, which would take him up until right before his 39th birthday.
Given that the Bruins just endured a horrendous and downright pathetic collapse, they might try to overturn much of the roster (and coaching staff/front office, which I’ll write about soon). If so, that would include letting Eriksson walk. It’s possible that they could trade his free agency rights to another team, but why would Eriksson signal to another team that he’d be willing to sign a contract before free agency? If he’s made it through this season without signing an extension, wouldn’t he want to make it to free agency? I don’t see the B’s trading his rights before June 1 unless some other team is convinced that Eriksson is the missing piece and they’re willing to overpay him.
The Bruins are stuck between deciding to re-sign Loui Eriksson for way more than they could have paid a few months back and letting a stud right winger walk. My bet in on the latter, because the B’s front office will be looking to make changes for the sake of making changes. Don’t get me wrong, there are legitimate changes that have to be made with the Bruins, but almost all of the holes that need filling are on defense. When Eriksson gets offered a ton by another team, Cam Neely and Don Sweeney will pass.
And make no mistake about it, Loui Eriksson will get a humongous offer from some team. People will point to last summer as a sign that NHL GMs have finally figured out not to spend too much money in free agency in a sport with a hard salary cap, but the example of last year doesn’t really apply. Check out the list of NHL free agent signings last summer. Do any of those guys bring as much to a team as Eriksson? Artem Anisimov and Justin Williams are great players, but I’d rather have Loui in a heartbeat. Brandon Saad signed a deal for 6×6, but restricted free agents are always underpaid in comparison to UFAs.
The Bruins had a chance to pay Eriksson the same money that Brandon Saad gets, and they missed it. Now, they’ll watch as he plays for a cup contender next year. Or, they’ll re-sign him to a contract that either lasts too long or takes up a little too much cap space. Either way, they’re screwed, and it’s all because they hedged their bets at the trade deadline instead of paying a great player what he’s worth.
Anyone who says that spring begins on Easter Sunday or March 20th. I don’t care if they have one of the biggest days in the world or this fancy thing called “science” on their side. Spring officially begins on Opening Day. If you disagree, then you probably can’t see the colors of the American flag, which makes you a commie.
Baseball season is finally here. Well, it was supposed to have already started for the Red Sox, but Mother Nature hates you and me. The Red Sox (finally) open up their season tomorrow at 1:10 in Cleveland against Corey Kluber and the Indians, with new ace David Price on the hill. After tomorrow’s game, there’s 161 more, and it promises to be an interesting, whether good or bad, ride.
I’m pretty high on the Red Sox this year. People forget that the Sox finished the season on a pretty good run, all things considered. It’s easy to write off 2015 as another last place year, and at some point, a 78-84 record speaks for itself. But let’s take a closer look at how the Sox got there.
After starting 10-7, the Sox then went an abysmal 23-36 through June 27, earning a 33-43 record. They climbed back to 42-47 by the All Star break… and then the wheels came off. They won exactly TWO games out of their next 13, and they were out of it by the trade deadline.
After that, though, the Sox won 34 of their final 60 games, which translates to a .567 winning percentage that rivaled the Blue Jays’ whole season winning percentage of .574. If you know anything about sabermetrics, or if you’ve ever heard of the phrases “moneyball,” “advanced stats,” or “common sense,” you know that 60 games is not a good sample size for an MLB team. I’m not saying that the Sox were even in the same zip code as the Blue Jays last year, but they were better than we remember. Also, the Sox had the run differential of an 81-81 team, demonstrating at least that the Sox were not a 78-84 team.
This offseason, Dave Dombrowski filled the team’s biggest needs by signing David Price and trading for Craig Kimbrel. They didn’t lose anyone significant, unless you include Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting job and should be off the team within a matter of weeks. (I was hoping he would be gone by opening day. I guess Dave Dombrowski and Mother Nature BOTH like to screw with me.)
Let’s get to some predictions. We’ll start with predictions for the Red Sox, some bolder than others.
1. Xander Boegarts’ batting average will drop, but his OBP will rise (thankfully).
Bogaerts won the Silver Slugger last year at just 22 years old with a batting average of .320, which should make you ecstatic about his future with the Red Sox. Here’s the thing, though. I have to throw a little cold water on that batting average, because X had an absurd .372 BABIP, or batting average on balls in play. I hate it when people overvalue BABIP or any other advanced stat, because I have no doubt that Bogaerts makes better contact with the ball than most MLB players. But .372 is insane. As far as Red Sox shortstops go, even Nomar Garciaparra only had a single year in which his BABIP was over the .360 mark, and that’s when he hit .372 in 2000.
However, Bogaerts’ OBP of .355 will rise. He only walked 4.9% of the time in 2015, down from 6.6% in 2014. I expect him to improve past the 6.6% mark, if for no other reason than he’ll have another big league season under his belt and he’ll be smarter at the plate. Pencil him in for a .307 batting average and a .360 OBP. I’ll take those numbers from a 23 year old shortstop any day.
2. At 1st base, Hanley Ramirez will be bad… but passable.
The Red Sox are not paying Hanley Ramirez to be a good fielder, nor are they putting him at 1st to be Doug Mienkiewicz. They’re simply sticking him there for a lone season before he moves to David Ortiz’ DH spot. Hanley has shown the willingness to dive for balls so far this spring, whereas last year he wouldn’t have dove for a ball if it meant that he got to be DH for 5 games. His shoulder surgery has helped matters there, and while I’m sure that his defense will be considerably below average and cost the Red Sox a few runs, I also think that he’ll perform well enough to not be a humongous liability like he was last year in left field.
3. Either Joe Kelly or Rick Porcello will become a significant asset to the pitching staff, but not both.
Just playing the law of averages here. My money is on Rick Porcello to rebound, as he’s still just 27. Porcello’s FIP was 4.13 last year and his xFIP was 3.72 while his ERA was 4.92, and it’s a good sign when there’s that big of a discrepancy with a pitcher. He won’t be worth $20.5125 million per year, but he’ll be fine as a #3 starter, and he might just be a quality #2 behind Price. Kelly is in a similar boat with his ERA compared to his FIP and xFIP, but I have less faith in him to become anything more than a #4 starter. He still hasn’t pitched more than 134.1 innings in a season and has never had a FIP below 4.00. My guess is Kelly will be a fine starter, and it’ll be a debate heading into October of whether or not he’s the 4th postseason starter or the 5th starter/long reliever.
4. Brock Holt will make it hard for John Farrell to play someone else over him, as hard as Farrell may try.
Brock Holt must be wondering what he has to do to get into an MLB lineup. He can play 7 positions, and I’m pretty sure he would make an awesome 3rd catcher or 15th inning relief pitcher. He plays good (not great, but good) defense at every position, and his BA and OBP have both been impressive the past 2 seasons. Yet, the Red Sox always want to find a way to get him on the bench, whether it’s by signing Chris Young or keeping Rusney Castillo on the roster when he needs more full time work in Pawtucket. Holt should not have a designated position, because a huge aspect of his value is that he can play anywhere on a moment’s notice. But he should have a spot in the lineup every day until he proves that he doesn’t deserve it. I don’t think that day will come in 2016.
5. David Ortiz will still hit 30 homers because he’s David #$%^ing Ortiz.
It’s been awhile since I bet against Big Papi (since he was on the Twins, actually), and I won’t start now. The dude is motivated to go out on top. Ortiz wants you to know that he’s not going out like Derek Jeter.
If you think that I’m resorting to old school, antiquated, non-statistical ways of analyzing David Ortiz, you’re right. Nothing about this guy’s later years has screamed “logic” or “statistics.” He keeps hitting home runs like he was put on this earth to do… because he was.
Well, that game was… strange. The Blackhawks put 4 of 22 shots past Tuukka Rask, who gave way to Jonas Gustavsson in the net after that. The Hawks were up 6-0 heading to the end of the 2nd period, but the Bruins scored twice in the final 16 seconds of the period and then twice more in the 3rd. With about 10 minutes to go and down a pair of goals, we all honestly thought that they had a good chance of winning.
Alas, it didn’t happen, and the B’s sit a point back of Detroit in the playoff standings. Furthermore, they’re a game back in the ROW column to the Red Wings, but that fact isn’t as bad as you think. If the Bruins are to make up a point on the Red Wings and tie them after 82 games, it’ll likely come from the Bruins winning a game that the Red Wings lose in overtime. As long as that win for the Bruins isn’t a shootout win, they’ll get right back to even in the ROW column.
The Bruins’ and Red Wings’ schedule for the final 3 games of the season is quite favorable to Boston. The Red Wings are enjoying a long break from Saturday night through Wednesday, but then they play the Flyers on their home ice. The Bruins do not play Wednesday, as they’ll host the Hurricanes on Tuesday in a game that is the definition of “must win.” On Thursday, the Red Wings come to Boston without the day of rest that the B’s will have. On Saturday, the Bruins host the Senators, who obviously have zero to play for except being a Bruins spoiler (actually, for the Sens, that’s a great reason to play hard), while the Red Wings finish the season in MSG. The Rangers likely will have to care about the game to either avoid falling to the Wild Card spot behind the Islanders or to usurp the Penguins for home ice in the 1st round.
Both of the ‘other’ teams that the Red Wings face, the Flyers and Rangers, are way better than the Bruins’ ‘other’ teams, the Hurricanes and Senators. The B’s also host that pivotal Thursday game vs. Detroit. Finally, in the previous 3 games that the B’s and Wings have played against each other, Boston has earned 4 points to Detroit’s 3. Even if the B’s were to lose in overtime to the Wings, they’d be tied at 5 points in both of those games, which sends the playoff spot to the next tiebreaker if they’re tied in points, ROW, and points in head to head games. The Bruins would then get the final playoff spot because their goal differential is far superior to the Red Wings’.
Thanks to the Bruins somehow winning in St. Louis, they’re in a much better spot than you think. Given how much of an enigma this team is, maybe it’s not good for the Bruins to be in a good place, but I’m feeling pretty confident about the Bruins getting the 3rd playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.
This morning felt like on of our teams had just won a crucial series. The magnitude of last night’s game was much greater than we expected it to be, and as the game went on, fans were realizing that an upset of the Warriors in Oakland would be a humongous victory for the Celtics. And it was.
However long this Celtics core is together, last night’s win will be one that defines them. If this core wins a championship in the next 5 years like we all hope (and expect), then we’ll look back on last night as the game that put them on the map as a true title contender. They still won’t win it this year, but we all know unequivocally, now more than ever, that their arrow is pointing up more than any other team in the league.
Let’s review what we learned about the specific pieces that the Celtics have that will take them to the promised land.
Smart shut up all of his doubters last night, which was far too many people around these parts for the past few weeks. Yes, his shooting is a mess right now and needs to improve dramatically if Smart is going to become a franchise player, but last night, Smart showed the world on the biggest stage of what he’s capable of when everything clicks for him. Marcus was ferocious on defense, contributed on the stat sheet, and even ran the offense a few times when Isaiah wasn’t the captain. Brad Stevens trusted him enough to play all 12 minutes of the final quarter, and I’m guessing that we’re all comfortable with trusting in Brad Stevens’ judgment.
Going forward: Smart proved that he’s not just a glorified complimentary piece who could double as a lucrative trade asset, but rather a franchise cornerstone.
IT has the heart of a lion, which he has never displayed better than he did in the 3rd quarter last night. Went toe to toe with the best shooter in the world without blinking. I felt completely at ease that Isaiah Thomas was the alpha dog for the Celtics on the offensive end last night against the best team in the league, and I didn’t think I’d ever say that so confidently.
Going forward: Those who have said that Isaiah can’t be a core player on a championship team because of his size and defense are idiots. He can absolutely be a prominently featured player on the Celtics team that takes home banner #18.
Turner is one of the best Swiss Army Knives in the league. The Celtics were playing against the best Swiss Army Knife in the leauge, Draymond Green, but Evan Turner showed the whole league that his versatility is invaluable. Turner played 37 minutes last night, most on the Celtics and tied for most in the game, and the dude has BALLS. Nailed the mid range jumper with 1:15 to go and hit the 2 game winning free throws without the slightest bit of worry on his face.
Going Forward: It has been assumed since Turner signed with the C’s in 2014 that the team would let him go at the end of his contract to free up more minutes for their young studs, but now, we would all love to keep him. Turner will probably price himself out of the Celtics’ plans, but if they make their move to contenderhood this summer and had cap space left over, I would love if they spend (or maybe even overspend) on Turner.
Sullinger may have also priced himself out of the Celtics’ offseason moves, as he will be a restricted free agent. Sully did everything the Celtics needed from him last night, including trash talking with Draymond Green. Sully told Danny Ainge that he was right in taking another chance on him after last year’s weight issues. Sully will be a valuable part of a contending team within a few years. He’s the Celtics’ best rebounder, and his ability to get the boards is crucial.
Going forward: I have no clue how close Sullinger’s free agency offers will be to his maximum contract starting at $21 million next season. I doubt he’ll get to that number, but he’ll now get at least $13M and more likely $16-17. I’m not sure if the Celtics want to pay that, but the good news is that his trade value even as a sign-and-trade candidate this summer is higher than it was at the end of last year. But I’d love if the Celtics found a place for him going forward.
Bradley loves playing against the Warriors and Stephen Curry, and that ability to step up against the best is a tremendous sign for him going forward. Bradley was in Curry’s jersey all night, and he still found a way to contribute offensively. Bradley deserves those 1st team All Defense props that his teammates are giving him, and he’s an invaluable player for a contender to have.
Going forward: Bradley also proved himself to be a franchise cornerstone and not just a nice asset. You need guys like Bradley to win, especially with the perimeter talent around the NBA now.
- Brad Stevens: Stevens might be the 2nd best coach in the league. That’s how good he is, and he doesn’t get enough credit when people talk about who the Celtics’ best asset is. I still say that it’s Smart, but Stevens is right up there.Going forward: Wyc Grousbeck and Danny Ainge are experts at creating a fantastic work environment and organization. I trust them to know that Brad Stevens is the perfect guy to coach the team going forward. He has 2 years left on his contract, and the Celtics should extend him this summer for top dollar. I hope he runs the Celtics for as long as Bill Belichick will run the Patriots.