Monday, July 20, 2015

Random Thoughts (July 20, 2015)

Roger Goodell is expected to announce their ruling on Tom Brady's four-game suspension before the start of training camp.

My guess is that Goodell will reduce the suspension to two games and then Brady and his legal team will file a lawsuit in federal court with a judge providing a temporary injunction that will allow Brady to start the 2015 season on the field.  The case will linger throughout the season but under Bill Belichick the Patriots have ignored larger controversies so this will not be an issue as they seek to defend their Super Bowl title.

In the end, a federal judge will completely over turn the suspension and the NFL will also announce a new plan for the handling of footballs that will include measuring and recording the air pressure of game used footballs before the game, at half time, and at the end of the game.

Brady's former teammate and current NBC analyst Rodney Harrison said recently that, "This is the best thing that could have happened to Tom Brady.  This will rejuvenate him.  The rest of the league better look out.  This year, he's going to make everybody pay for what's happened."

A motivated Brady looking to once again prove that he's the best quarterback that has ever played the game is bad news for the rest of the NFL and is a major part of the reason why the Patriots will once again win ten or more games, win the AFC East, and be in the hunt to win the AFC and the Super Bowl.


After getting shut out while losing their first two games after the All-Star break the Red Sox woke up this morning in last place in the A.L. East, 8 games behind the Yankees.

The flickering hope that this team could somehow get back into contention has morphed into the reality that they will finish in last place for the third time in the last four years.  Sorry folks, but they are finished.

Just because they are doomed to the cellar does not mean that there aren't reasons to watch this team.  The Red Sox have done an excellent job of acquiring good young talent and Boston is seeing the benefits of that this season.

Let's start with Xander Bogaerts.  The 22-year-old shortstop is in his second full season.  After being a late call-up in 2013, he helped the team capture the World Series but in 2014 he struggled at the plate and was moved back-and-forth from shortstop to third base.  This season, Bogaerts has been on of the few bright spots, both at the plate and in the field.  He has an impressive triple slash (batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage) of .302/.336/.410 to go along with 20 doubles, 3 triples, 3 home runs, and 43 RBI.  While you'd like to see a little more power, it is fair to say that Bogaerts is establishing himself as the team's shortstop of the future and a building block for this franchise going forward for the next decade.

Bogaerts will be joined as a franchise cornerstone by Mookie Betts.  A second baseman by trade, Betts has easily transitioned to center field and has made most members of Red Sox Nation forget the departure of Jacoby Ellsbury.  Betts has a triple slash of .271/.321/.453 as well as 22 doubles, 6 triples, 10 home runs, and 43 RBI while playing an above average center field.  Also just 22-years-old, Betts should join Bogaerts on the A.L. All-Star team for the next decade.

Another 22-year-old to keep watching is left-handed starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez.  While it may be premature to declare he is the next Jon Lester after just nine big league starts, Rodriguez does look like he can be a solution to the team's pitching problems and be a top of the rotation starter.  Through these nine starts, Rodriguez is 5-2 with a 3.59 ERA.  He has been shaky at Fenway Park however, going 2-2 with a 6.41 ERA in five home starts.

In addition to Bogaerts, Betts, and Rodriguez, the Red Sox have a bunch of other prospects who seem poised to contribute in the immediate future.  Blake Swihart has already been with Boston this year and did not look out of place after a slow start at the plate.  Pitchers Brian Johnson, who is expected to make his big league debut tomorrow night in Houston, and Henry Owens will be given every opportunity to become part of the rotation for 2016, unless they are traded to add more established starting pitching.  Count me in as a believer that Rusney Castillo will live up to the hype and become the team's starting right fielder in 2016 after a slow transition from Cuba to the U.S. in his first year.  A little farther down the line are Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada, third baseman Rafael Devers, and outfielder Manuel Margot.

So, while 2015 is another bust year for the Red Sox, they do have enough young talent to be back in contention in 2016 and beyond.  For that reason, keep watching this year's team to see these bright talents continue their development.


The three NBA Summer Leagues - hosted by Orlando, Utah, and Las Vegas - are nothing more than a way for team's to get an initial look at their draft picks and top young players or for fringe players to impress scouts to land a spot at the end of the bench or earn a contract from a European team.  The results are not to be taken too seriously but viewers can get an idea whether or not a player has a chance to be successful when they start going up against real NBA players.

The Celtics had a team entered in both the Utah league and in Las Vegas.  While there was an assortment of fringe players, the team also had 2014 first round picks Marcus Smart and James Young on the roster in addition to 2015 draft picks Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, Jordan Mickey, and Marcus Thornton.

Smart, who proved as a rookie that he is a fierce defender, showed some glimpses of the offensive development that he will need to become a starting point guard in the NBA.  Two dislocated fingers ended Smart's summer prematurely but he is expected to be 100% by the start of training camp.  Young, who obviously has worked on his body demonstrated by the muscle he's packed on over the past year, struggled with a hip injury and did not really get the chance to show off the improvements in his game that have been reported.

Rozier showed off his speed and explosiveness.  While it will take time for him to develop as an NBA point guard, having a quick guard who can create his own shot is the way of the future in the league and Rozier has the ability to become a very good player.  Hunter, drafted for his shooting, struggled early but started to knock down his open looks after a few games and also showed off some nice play making ability from the wing.  Mickey dominated the boards and protected the paint on defense enough that the Celtics are trying to sign him to a four-year contract which is a rarity for a second round pick.  Mickey's is a little undersized at 6-8 to be an NBA power forward but if he can rebound and defend against actual NBA players like he did in Summer League, he will be a steal for the C's.  Thornton displayed the ability to create, and finish, his own shot but in a crowded back court he's more likely to go to Europe or be used in a trade than he is to see floor time in Boston this year.  Undrafted free agent Jonathan Holmes also played well but will be a long shot to make the team as the roster is currently

Danny Ainge has constructed a roster for Brad Stevens that is heavy on point guards and post players but thin and inexperienced on the wing.  Smart and Rozier join Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley at point guard, although there is some positional flexibility provided by Smart and Bradley's ability to defend bigger wing players.  Mickey will look to break in to a front court that has David Lee, Tyler Zeller, Amir Johnson, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, and Jonas Jerebko under contract.  On the wing there is Evan Turner, Jae Crowder, Perry Jones III, Young, and Hunter with Jerebko and Jones also being able to take minutes at small forward.

Ainge is likely to swing a deal with all of that depth as well as with a truckload of first round draft picks over the next several years.  One player that might come available is Paul George in Indiana, who seems to butting heads with the team over their desire to make him play some power forward this season.  The Celtics could offer the Pacers Bradley, Sullinger, and Olynyk as well as their own 2016 first round pick and the Dallas first round pick that has some protections attached to it but would be a 2016 pick if it is not in the first seven picks.  George would be the missing piece for the Celtics as a go-to scorer on the wing and by moving Bradley, Sullinger, and Olynyk, the team would not be as cluttered at point guard or at forward.

A hypothetical rotation of Thomas, Smart, George, Lee, and Zeller as starters with Crowder, Turner, Johnson, and Jerebko off the bench would be enough to contend in the East and that's before we see if Rozier, Hunter, Young, Mickey, and/or Jones can contribute.

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