As the Red Sox prepare to open the second half of their season tomorrow night in Tampa, they know they will have Jacoby Ellsbury in the lineup for the first time since he hurt his shoulder in April. It will be a big boost for the team at the plate and in the field. Ellsbury, who finished second in the MVP voting in 2011, will add another big bat to Bobby Valentine's lineup and could help the Red Sox make a strong push for a playoff spot.
According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com (ESPN insider account needed), the team is also expecting to get Carl Crawford back on Monday when the team opens up a series at Fenway Park against the White Sox. Crawford needs a few more rehab games after suffering a groin injury. The thinking is that the combined returns of Ellsbury and Crawford will bolster the Red Sox enough that they will be able to bust out of their mediocre first half and contend in the American League.
The trouble with Crawford is that he will need Tommy John ligament replacement surgery for his injured left (throwing) elbow. Crawford knows it is inevitable but he feels like he can help the team this season and put off the surgery until the offseason.
This is a move that I disagree with completely. As much as Crawford wants to help the 2012 Red Sox on the field - while also making up for a subpar 2011 season - it is a mistake to jeopardize the remaining five years on the 7-year/$142-million contract he signed before last season. There is no guarantee that his return will get the Red Sox into the playoffs or, more importantly, win the World Series so he should get the Tommy John surgery now with the hope that he will be healed and ready to play starting in the Spring of 2013.
I do applaud Crawford for wanting to play through injury but it is not in the best interest of the franchise to let him play. The team has too many problems with their starting pitching to believe that the return of an injured Crawford will help them catapult from a 43-43 first half into the American League playoffs or the World Series.
As for Ellsbury, who can be a free agent after next season and as a Scott Boras client will almost definitely test the market when the time comes, I wonder if the team will explore trade options. Ellsbury is a star but with no guarantee that he will be in a Boston uniform come April 2014, maybe now is the time to showcase him for a team willing to take him on for the next season and a half.
One option that I have wrote about, and have made clear that I borrowed the idea from the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo, is a package of Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Jose Iglesias, and Ryan Kalish to the Mariners for Felix Hernandez.
Another possible trading partner could be the San Francisco Giants. The Giants offense would benefit greatly from adding Ellsbury to a lineup that already features Melky Cabrera, Buster Posey, and Pablo Sandoval and they could send left handed starter Madison Bumgarner to the Red Sox in exchange.
It's only summer league but through three games down in Orlando, there have been some very positive signs for the Celtics.
First round draft picks Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo have been bright spots. Sullinger has demonstrated a polished inside-outside offensive game while Melo has shown flashes of the defensive presence that he was at Syracuse. Sullinger is expected to contribute more immediately for the Celtics this season but with a lack of depth at center and an aging Kevin Garnett needing breaks during the regular season, Melo might need to be able to play right away as well.
Fellow big men JaJuan Johnson, the team's first round pick in 2011, and Sean Williams, a former first round pick of the Nets out of Boston College, have also played well. Johnson is a faceup power forward with a smooth jump shot while Williams is more of a rebounder and defender. Again, with the lack of depth up front behind Garnett, Brandon Bass, and Jeff Green, Johnson and Williams are joining Sullinger and Melo in a competition to play significant minutes next season.
Second-year guard E'Twaun Moore and second round draft choice Kris Joseph, two other players in summer league who could land roles off the bench this season, have also played well. Moore has been aggressive in attacking the basket while Joseph has been filling up the stat sheet with points and rebounds.
If the team does not make any more moves - and with their salary cap space just about gone that is likely - this is where the Celtics roster stands right now:
5: Kevin Garnett, Sean Williams, Fab Melo
4: Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, JaJuan Johnson
3: Paul Pierce, Jeff Green, Kris Joseph
2: Avery Bradley, E'Twaun Moore
1: Rajon Rondo, Jason Terry
The locks for Doc Rivers rotation would include the five starters - and under this scenario, Terry would likelyy fill in for the injured Bradley - as well as Green and Sullinger. Williams and Melo would fight it out for minutes as the backup center while Moore and Joseph would be competing for minutes on the wing. If Danny Ainge does not add at least another guard (Courtney Lee? Keyon Dooling? Both?) then Moore is likely to see time as the backup point guard while Joseph would see minutes as the backup shooting guard until Bradley returns from his shoulder surgery.
Courtesy of the Hollywood Prospectus blog over at Grantland it looks like the Griswolds could be coming back to the big screen. Ed Helms is reportedly in line to play Rusty Griswold, the son of Chevy Chase's character Clark Griswold, in what would be the fifth installment of the Vacation franchise.
While I usually don't love when Hollywood cranks out the same movie time after time, the Griswolds were always good for a few laughs and Ed Helms is one of the funniest guys on the big screen these days so this would be a movie I would certainly pay $11.75 to see.