Thursday, July 09, 2015

Random Thoughts (July 9, 2015)

If A.L. East teams look closely in their rear view mirrors, that is the Boston Red Sox that are gaining on them fast.

On June 20, the Red Sox were in last place in the division, 10 games behind the Rays with a 30-40 record.

Since then, the Red Sox have gone 11-5 to improve their record to 41-45 and are now just 5 games behind the division leading Yankees.  The two teams meet for a three-game series starting tomorrow at Fenway Park.

This is still a flawed team - the starting pitching is an issue, there is a lack of depth in the bullpen, and Mike Napoli has been a disaster - but they do have hope.

Clay Buchholz has been lights out in his last five starts, going 4-0 with a 1.70 ERA.  David Ortiz has 9 home runs and 25 RBI since the start of June.  Koji Uehara is closing games with the ease he displayed in the 2013 World Series run.  Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts are also looking like the future franchise cornerstones that they were publicized as when they were coming through the minor league system.

There is a long way to go but if Ben Cherington can address some of the teams weaknesses, they should be a factor in the A.L. East in the second half of the season.


Danny Ainge and the Celtics will have an interesting first few days of free agency.

Ainge has agreed to a deal with Amir Johnson of the Raptors while also agreeing to re-sign Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko.  The team also has a trade in place that will send Gerald Wallace to the Warriors in exchange for David Lee with an additional player or players included to make it work under the salary cap.

The NBA's salary cap is tricky and I won't pretend to have the slightest idea of how it works (Larry Coon is the guru on the cap) but the Celtics have been masters of taking advantage of its loopholes to add players or other assets such as traded players exceptions.

On the surface, the deals that the team has made in addition to their draft picks gives them a glut of big men and point guards with very little experienced depth on the wings.

Lee and Johnson would join Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and second round pick Jordan Mickey as post players with Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and first round pick Terry Rozier as point guards.  The teams primary wings are Crowder and Jerebko (who both can and do play some power forward), Evan Turner, second-year player James Young and their other first round pick, RJ Hunter.

Expect Ainge to finalize each of the deals from the past week in a specific order as to maximize the team's cap space and assets while also looking to trade for at least one other experienced wing player who can be a difference maker as a scorer.


The first few weeks of Don Sweeney's tenure as Bruins general manager have been interesting to say the least.

At the NHL Draft at the end of June he dealt Dougie Hamilton to the Flames for draft picks and forward Milan Lucic to the Kings for a draft pick and two players then drafted three players in the middle of the first round who have very little chance of helping the team before 2017.

So much for keeping the team in contention.

In free agency, he has added winger Matt Beleskey from the Ducks and traded forward Reilly Smith and the contract of Marc Savard to Florida for winger Jimmy Hayes. Sweeney also re-signed center Ryan Spooner and winger Brett Connolly while trading for center Zac Rinaldo.

The Lucic trade was an obvious one for Sweeney to make.  While Lucic has been an important member of the Bruins, he is going to be looking for a big payday next summer in free agency so it was time to move on and getting a first round pick as well as goalie Martin Jones, who was flipped to the Sharks for a 2016 first round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly, and prospect Colin Miller was a nice haul.

The Hamilton trade has been criticized due to the belief that Sweeney could have got more in return. However, it has been pretty clear that Hamilton wanted out of Boston so while three draft picks - a first, second, and third in this year's draft - doesn't seem like much for a potential All-Star defenseman, Hamilton's desire to leave pretty much tied Sweeney's hands on making a deal.

Beleskey and Hayes are both physical forwards that should add scoring to the Bruins while also fitting well into Claude Julien's defensive minded system.  Spooner and Connolly should also help put the puck in the net while Rinaldo should provide a physical element to the fourth line.

Sweeney now must add at least one top-four defenseman.  Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg aren't getting any younger, Adam McQuaid has yet to get through a full season without an injury, and Torey Krug is not known as a plus defender.  Building up the depth on defense in front of Tuukka Rask will be paramount to their success in 2015-2016.


Just 15 days until the Patriots start training camp and the journey towards winning their fifth Super Bowl of the Brady-Belichick era.

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