Another start last night and another disappointing effort from Jon Lester. Lester went just 4 innings and allowed six runs while giving up 7 hits and walking 3 in a 7-5 loss to the White Sox. For the year, Lester is now 5-7 with a 4.80 ERA in 19 starts.
Lester's struggles started at the end of last year when he went 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in his last 6 starts. Just as Lester went bad at the end so did the Red Sox and the team had a historic September collapse which ended with them on the outside looking in on the playoffs.
In the short term, the Red Sox need Lester to pitch like the former All-Star and Cy Young candidate that he is and not like Pete Schourek did for the 2000 Red Sox in order to make the playoffs. In the long term, they need to know if this is just a bump in the road for Lester in his career or is it the beginning of a downward trend that will see him fall from the top of the game - winner of the clinching Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, threw a no-hitter in 2008, finished fourth in the Cy Young voting in 2010, and was an All-Star in 2010 and 2011 - to the bottom in just over a year.
There will be cries for the Red Sox to trade Lester, as well as his fellow pitcher Josh Beckett, but Ben Cherington and the front office need to be careful not to short sell Lester. If he is moved, the Red Sox must get value in return for him because no matter how bad his struggles have been, he is still just 28-years-old and has a career record of 81-41 with a 3.67 ERA. Those are numbers that usually inspire Hall of Fame chatter, not talk of dumping a guy for a bucket of balls.
Patriots training camp opens a week from tomorrow at Gillette Stadium and to prepare for that, make sure to check out the Boston Globe's "Extra Points" blog and the Boston Herald's "The Blitz" blog.
Greg Bedard of the Globe has started his positional breakdowns over at "Extra Points" with the defense and just looking at the possible battles that will be playing out at defenisve line and linebacker have me excited to get down to Gillette to watch camp (and probably tip back a few mason jars at Toby Keith's) and get ready for what should be another great season for the Pats.
Danny Ainge tried to make the Jason Terry acquisition a sign-and-trade with the Mavericks so that the Celtics could add an additional shooting guard. Courtney Lee, who played the last two years with the Rockets, was the likely target if Ainge could have made the sign-and-trade work but with limited assets to offer Dallas that plan fell through so the Celtics officially signed Terry with their mid-level exception last night.
The Celtics now only have the bi-annual exception, which is worth a little less than $2-million per season, and the veteran's minimum to add players. It is unlikely that Lee would accept the bi-annual exception because the soon to be 27-year-old is expected to have suitors that can pay him more money. Another option to add Lee would be through a sign-and-trade but like the situation with the Mavericks, Houston is not likely to accept what the Celtics could offer.
I speculate that Ainge will probably try and fill out the roster by bringing back veterans Keyon Dooling and Mickael Pietrus. Dooling and Pietrus played well as role players last year and although the money will not be great, they are veterans coming close to the end of their careers and the chance to contend for a title might be enough to keep them both in green.
Second-year guard E'Twaun Moore will also factor into the rotation now that a deal for Lee is unlikely. The Celtics will need Moore to step in play right away because expected starter Avery Bradley is expected to be out of action until December following offseason surgery on both shoulders.
I find it absurd that the New York Knicks, the team that in recent years have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the likes of Allan Houston, Isiah Thomas, Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Larry Brown, Eddy Curry, Jerome James, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Carmelo Anthony would not match the offer sheet that Jeremy Lin signed with the Rockets. The Knicks obviously felt that the 3-year/$25-million contract was too rich for their blood so they allowed the soon to be 24-year-old point guard to leave New York. He will be replaced at the point by Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd.
The Knicks were scared off by the $15-million price tag in the last year of the deal. However, for a team that throws money around like a rap star in a Vegas strip club, it absurd to let a talented young player like Lin to walk out of town.
By now everyone knows Lin's story. He was undrafted out of Harvard, bounced around the fringes of the NBA, and just as he was on the verge of being let go by the Knicks last season he went on a tear. In 25 starts before a knee injury ended his season, Lin averaged 18.2 points and 7.7 assists. He also made the Knicks relevant in New York, a feat that can not be underestimated. New Yorkers actually cared about the Knicks again and it was not because of Stoudemire or Anthony, it was all Lin.
The Knicks argument is that not only was the money in the last year of the deal too much for them to swallow but that because they have such a small sample size to judge Lin, they couldn't risk putting themselves in place to pay tens of millions of luxury tax dollars to keep him.
That's a poor argument. Lin might not be the next Steve Nash or Chris Paul but he definitely proved he was a viable starting point guard in the NBA and the Knicks have made a major mistake in letting him go. They also needed the positive publicity of keeping Lin on the team with the Nets moving to Brooklyn and competing for New York's attention. The Nets have re-signed Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace, and Kris Humphries, traded for Joe Johnson, and signed free agent Mirza Teletovic from Europe. Brooklyn might not be good enough to compete with Miami and Boston but at least they're making the effort to contend for a title, something the Knicks failed to do by letting Lin go to the Rockets.
The Knicks now boast an aging roster that includes ball hogging forwards Anthony and Stoudemire, the aging Kidd, and the underwhelming Felton. Lin would have made the Knicks a better team and a more exciting team. Instead they will continue to struggle to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference and will also struggle to compete with the Nets for the hearts of New York basketball fans.
With Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury back in the Red Sox lineup joining David Ortiz (who will hopefully just miss a week with a right foot injury) and Adrian Gonzalez, the top of the order is now filled with left handed hitters. The solution to finding some balance is Dustin Pedroia, who the team expects to get back tomorrow from the disabled list.
While it will be nearly impossible to truly find balance with all the lefties that he has at his disposal, manager Bobby Valentine could go with this lineup while Ortiz is out:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (L)
2. Carl Crawford, DH (L)
3. Dustin Pedroia, 2B (R)
4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B (L)
5. Cody Ross, LF (R)
6. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C (S)
7. Will Middlebrooks, 3B (R)
8. Ryan Sweeney, RF (L)
9. Mike Aviles, SS (R)
The move to DH while Ortiz heals his heel would allow Crawford to not put any stress on his elbow.
When Ortiz comes back, Valentine could make this his lineup:
1. Ellsbury, CF (L)
2. Crawford, LF (L)
3. Pedroia, 2B (R)
4. Ortiz, DH (L)
5. Gonzalez, 1B (L)
6. Ross, RF (R)
7. Saltalamacchia, C (S)
8. Middlebrooks, 3B (R)
9. Aviles, SS (R)
It is not an easy situation because Valentine needs Ellsbury, Crawford, Ortiz, and Gonzalez at the top of his order to maximize the team's offensive capabilities but it also puts them at the mercy of an opponent who has either an excellent left handed starting pitcher or relief pitcher.
Enjoy Will Middlebrooks tonight.