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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Red Sox Trade Away Future (Iglesias) For Present (Peavy) In 3-Way Deal With Tigers & White Sox

We are still roughly 13 hours away from the 2013 MLB non-waiver trade deadline (that was a mouthful) but the Red Sox have likely already left their mark on this important day on the baseball calendar. Tonight after they trounced the Mariners, they traded for starting pitcher Jake Peavy from the White Sox and they also received Triple-A reliever Brayan Villarreal from the Tigers. To complete the three-team deal, Boston sent shortstop Jose Iglesias to Detroit and three Single-A prospects to Chicago.

I'm not a huge Peavy fan, I think that he's injury prone and overrated but the guy did win the 2007 NL Cy Young with the Padres (19-6, 2.54 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 254 strikeouts). It seems like he's been around forever and he made his MLB debut in 2002 with San Diego but Peavy is only 32. After not going over 200+ innings since 2007, he performed well in a contract year (surprise surprise) last season: 219 innings, 11-12 with 3.37 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 194 strikeouts. The best part of this is that he's not a rental and the three-time All-Star will be under contract through next season with an option for 2015.

This season he was on the DL for almost two months with a broken rib. In 13 starts, he is 8-4 with 4.28 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 76 strikeouts but keep in mind that the White Sox are one of the worst teams in MLB. This is a depth move for the Red Sox who realize that they need a sharp rotation to reach the playoffs for the first time in four long years and then do damage against loaded teams like the Rays and Tigers. Brandon Workman has looked real good in three starts but he'll go to the bullpen with Peavy aboard. Another factor in this move had to be the health of Clay Buchholz. I assume the Red Sox are worried that he might not return this season so this gives them more veteran experience and skill.

Seeing Boston dump Iglesias appears cold but when you think about it, probably a wise decision. In the few months where he was getting on base and piling up hits, we fooled ourselves into thinking that he'd really improved at the plate. The huge slump of the last few weeks shows that he's still the same guy for the most part and that hot streak was completely out of character. We would all rather have him than Stephen Drew but the Red Sox screwed themselves by overpaying that sack of crap. Furthermore, Iglesias has been playing third base but his natural position is shortstop (where I predict one day he'll win a Gold Glove).

Boston was about to have a logjam on the left side of the infield anyways with Will Middlebrooks hopefully returning to the club later this season if he continues to work out his issues on the field with the PawSox. Plus, the franchise's top prospect-Xander Bogaerts-is already knocking at the door and likely to make his MLB debut any day now. It should be some consolation to Iglesias that he's likely to fall into a great situation since the Tigers are a World Series contender (again) and their starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta is expected to be suspended (as soon as later this week) 50 games for his shady ties to Biogenesis.

Veteran third baseman Michael Young is still on the Phillies and the Red Sox have been mentioned in plenty of rumors involving him earlier this week. I don't know if they'll pull the trigger on that but I'm thinking Peavy will be their biggest new player. I hope they trade for another reliever though since their bullpen could certainly use some help.

UPDATE 7/31: Brock Holt was called up by the Red Sox to presumably play third base, not Middlebrooks.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Workman Picks Up 1st MLB Win, Red Sox Bats Come Alive Against Lifeless Mariners

To state the obvious: Joe Saunders (9-10) is not David Price. The Red Sox (64-44 overall, 35-20 home) must have been thrilled to get away from Tampa Bay's ace ( who stymied them twice in less than a week) as Boston beat up on Seattle (50-56 overall, 21-28 away) 8-2 tonight at Fenway Park in the series opener.

Rookie Brandon Workman (1-1) earned his first MLB win but will likely be sent to the bullpen (more on that in a subsequent post). He went six innings, allowing one earned run on six hits with nine strikeouts and one walk. Kendry Morales (2 hits) actually gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead in the first with an RBI single but they wouldn't score again until Henry Blanco's garbage time RBI single in the ninth.

Boston had 11 hits, led by Shane Victorino's (3 for 4 with 3 hits, 2 doubles and 2 runs) sixth three-hit game of the season, Dustin Pedroia (2 hits, 2 runs, 3 RBIs) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2 hits) both notched a pair of hits as well.

The Red Sox scored twice in the first to take the lead for good. Victorino came home on a passed ball and David Ortiz had an RBI single. Jacoby Ellsbury hit a solo homer into Seattle's bullpen in the second, his fifth homer of the season, and two batters later Pedroia cranked a two-run bomb (his 7th) into the Monster seats.

Pedroia added an RBI single in the fourth and Jarrod Saltalamacchia crushed a two-run homer to right center in the eighth (his 9th).

Tampa Bay stayed red hot with a 5-2 win over Arizona and Baltimore beat Houston 4-3 meaning things at the top of the AL East remained the same. The Rays lead the Red Sox by half a game and Boston is up 4.5 games on the Orioles.

Tomorrow night (7:10, NESN) John Lackey (7-8) takes on Hisashi Iwakuma (10-4) in the middle game of the series.

Red Sox Can't Beat David Price or Jerry Meals

In any sport, I hate to blame the refs/umpires/officials since I think it's a juvenile thing to do that's both lazy and petty. However, once in a while you have to acknowledge particularly awful calls. Tonight in a makeup game from last Thursday's rain out, Tampa Bay (63-43 overall, 29-24 away) beat Boston (63-44 overall, 34-20 home) 2-1 at Fenway Park. This put the Rays back on top in the AL East by a half game over the Red Sox.

David Price (6-5) was excellent for the second time in a week against the Red Sox: 7.1 innings, 1 earned run on 2 hits with 8 strikeouts. Felix Doubront's (7-5) old and bad habit of racking up pitches early crept back into his game as he only last five innings because he threw 104 pitches.

The Rays took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on Sean Rodriguez's RBI double that scored Yunel Escobar (2 for 3). Wil Myers' (single, walk, stolen base) fielder's choice made it 2-0 in the following frame. Evan Longoria was 2 for 5 with a double and run.

Getting a rare start, Brandon Snyder cut it to 2-1 in the sixth inning with a sliced shot off Pesky's Pole in right. The controversial play happened in the eighth as Daniel Nava was called out on what would have been a sacrifice fly by Snyder. It was a bang bang play at the plate but replays showed that Nava's foot touched the plate before he was tagged. John Farrell was thrown out for arguing the bogus call which home plate umpire Jerry Meals later admitted was a mistake on his part. Nava also deserves some blame from the previous play when he should have scored a run on Stephen Drew's double to right.

Boston threatened in the ninth as Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a single, stole second base and eventually ended up at third base with Jose Iglesias (who pinch ran for David Ortiz) on second. Fernando Rodney struck out Mike Napoli to end it for his 26th save of the season.

Even though they lost on what should have been an off day, the Red Sox catch a break with six more games at Fenway during this homestand against teams from outside the AL East that they need to beat: 3 vs. Seattle (50-55, 3rd in AL West) and 3 vs. Arizona. Tomorrow night (7:10, NESN) Brandon Workman (0-1) faces Joe Saunders (9-9). On Wednesday (7:10, NESN) hours after the non-waiver trade deadline passes, John Lackey (7-8) takes on Hisashi Iwakuma (10-4). Finally, Thursday (7:10, NESN) Ryan Dempster (6-8) battles Felix Hernandez (11-4).

Monday, July 29, 2013

Brad Stevens Continues To Surround Himself With Guys From The Butler University

The Celtics are not going to win that many games next season but the good news is that they promise to be way more interesting than they have a right to be. Boston head coach Brad Stevens continued to mine his Butler pipeline as news surfaced today that he hired his former guard Ronald Nored (who played on both Final Four squads) to a player development role with the C's and Maine Red Claws (their D-League team).

If you're scoring at home, Nored (who's 23) becomes the third Butler connection in Boston next season. Statistics guru Drew Cannon (Nick's younger brother?) and assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry (great name) were also brought over from the Hoosier State.

After a solid college career as a smart and tough overachiever in the Stevens mold, Nored spent last season as an assistant coach at South Alabama. To bring a guy this young and inexperienced (in the conventional way) to the NBA shows how much Brad must love him. Keep in mind this is a guy that he recruited then had play for him at Butler all four seasons. In short, he must know him inside and out.

All this makes me wonder if I should apply for some made up position with the C's. If only I had something that tied me to Butler then I'd be a shoe in. For real though, Boston's staff is sure to be the youngest in the NBA in 2013-2014 with Stevens, Cannon and Nored along with longtime NBA assistant Ron Adams and holdovers from Doc Rivers' staff last season in Jay Larranaga and Jamie Young.

UPDATE 8/2: The Celtics released Shavlik Randolph so now they have the regular season limit of 15 players on the roster.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Red Sox Retake Lead In AL East Over Rays With Mere 56 Games Left

Since 2011, the Orioles have completely owned the Red Sox. Baltimore (58-48 overall, 30-22 home) is 6-4 against Boston (63-43 overall, 29-24 away) this season but the Red Sox have started to make some progress by winning their first series against the Orioles since July 2011 (following six series losses).

Coming on the heels of last night's 7-3 victory at Camden Yards last night, this afternoon Boston blanked Baltimore 5-0 thanks to Jon Lester's (10-6) best outing of the season to take two out of three this weekend.

Lester went seven innings, allowing only four hits and tying a season-high with eight strikeouts and two walks. Matt Thornton pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Pedro Beato had a 1-2-3 ninth for the shutout.

As they've fallen five games behind the Red Sox for control of the AL East, the O's clearly need to make a move or else they will probably be left in the dust by Boston and Tampa Bay. Baltimore's rotation is a mess and it's hard to see them making the playoffs for the second year in a row with bums like Jason Hammel (7-8) being counted on. Who would have thought that their unexplainable success would tail off a bit?

The Red Sox went up 1-0 in the first inning on Mike Napoli's (2 doubles, run) RBI double. David Ortiz (4 for 4 with 2 runs) hit a two-run homer in the third which gave him 12 straight seasons of 20+ homers (11 w/Boston).

Playing in back-to-back games even though the day game followed a night game, Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2 hits) made Red Sox manager John Farrell look good with a two-run single in the eighth for the 5-0 Boston lead. Jacoby Ellsbury was 2 for 5 with a run in the win.

Rain moved last Thursday's Red Sox-Rays game to Monday night (6:10, NESN)-a mutual off day for both teams-in Boston. Tampa Bay (62-43 overall, 2nd in AL East) lost 6-5 to the Yankees this afternoon so Boston is half a game ahead of the Rays once again. Felix Doubront (7-4) faces David Price (5-5) as the Red Sox go for the series split (2-2). You'll remember Price from his complete game 5-1 win at Fenway last Wednesday.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

David Price Throws Tampa Bay's Second Gem In 3 Days

There are plenty of reasons for Red Sox fans to fear the Rays: they are fearless, overachievers, energized, they always seem to have great chemistry and Joe Maddon is an outstanding manager. Perhaps foremost on that list is Matt Moore and David Price. When they're right, neither Boston nor almost any other team in the AL has the arms to match them. Coming two nights after Moore blanked the Red Sox (3-0), Price (5-5) almost matched it as he threw a 5-hitter in Tampa Bay's (60-42 overall, 26-23 away) 5-1 win vs. Boston (61-42 overall, 34-19 home).

The win for the Rays guaranteed at least a split in this pivotal series and more importantly, they can vault into first place in the AL East with a victory tomorrow night. Price's only mistake was a solo homer by Mike Napoli (his 14th of the season) over the Monster in the seventh. Other than that, he struck out four and didn't walk anyone in 97 economical pitches. It was his eighth career complete game and second against the Red Sox for the reigning AL Cy Young winner.

Felix Doubront (7-4) took the loss although it was the 13th straight start that he has allowed three runs or less meaning that he has really come into his own now. In 6.2 innings, he allowed three earned runs on six hits with five strikeouts and two walks. On most nights with the way Boston scores runs, that's more than enough.

Wil Myers (2 hits, walk, stolen base) had a two-run single in the third and Luke Scott drove in Ben Zobrist (2 hits, stolen base) for a 3-0 lead. The Rays tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the eighth on RBI singles by James Loney (2 hits) and Jose Molina. Tampa Bay had 11 hits and scored five runs without the use of an extra base hit which is impressive.

Napoli also had a double and Shane Victorino contributed two singles so that pair of guys accounted for 80% (4/5) of Boston's hits.

John Lackey (7-7, 2.95 ERA) faces Jeremy Hellickson (9-3, 4.62 ERA) tomorrow (7:10, NESN) which favors the Red Sox given Lackey's top-notch performance this season.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Jon Lester Proves That He Can Still Bring It, For 1 Game At Least

He hasn't pitched like a top of the rotation guy for months but tonight Jon Lester (9-6) showed that he can still get the job done against a quality opponent in a big game. Boston (61-41 overall, 34-18 home) beat Tampa Bay (59-42 overall, 25-23 away) 6-2 at Fenway Park to improve to 10-4 against the Rays this season and push them back to 1.5 games ahead for first place in the AL East.

In one of his better outings of the season, Lester went 6.1 strong innings and allowed only two earned runs (both on homers) on seven hits with a season-high eight strikeouts and no walks.

Super rookie Wil Myers (double) gave the Rays an early 1-0 lead with a solo shot over the Monster in the second. Boston responded with single runs in the second, third and fifth inning. Mike Carp tied it with an RBI single and Shane Victorino (double) stole home after Dustin Pedroia stole second base and Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar bobbled the throw. The new $100 million dollar man-Pedroia-added a sacrifice fly for the 3-1 Red Sox lead.

Evan Longoria cut it to 3-2 with a mammoth homer to center in the sixth. Boston gave themselves more breathing room in the eighth thanks to Stephen Drew's (run, stolen base) clutch RBI single (yes I really just used clutch and Stephen Drew in the same sentence) and two runs came home on Jose Iglesias' infield single.

The Red Sox bullpen was brilliant as they all completed their jobs perfectly. Matt Thornton got an out against the one batter he faced, Junichi Tazawa recorded four outs (3 on strikeouts) then closer Koji Uehara had a 1-2-3 9th inning with two strikeouts in the non-save situation.

Mike Napoli (2 for 4 with 2 runs, double), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2 for 4 with double, walk) and David Ortiz (2 for 4) all had multiple hits as Boston bounced back from a two-hitter last night with 12 hits this evening.

Tomorrow night (7:10, NESN) should be a good matchup as Felix Doubront (7-3) takes on reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price (4-5) who recently returned from the DL.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dustin Pedroia: Red Sox For Life?

Similar to the extension handed to Bruins star center Patrice Bergeron last week that essentially puts him in Black and Gold for the rest of his NHL career, today the Red Sox have signed second baseman Dustin Pedroia to a eight-year extension reportedly worth $110 million. The interesting part with Pedroia is that he already had a lucrative deal through next season, now this theoretically keeps him in Boston until the 2021 season concludes.

Listen, we all love Pedroia and you couldn't pick a better face of the franchise than him. He's one of the top players at his position, his work ethic for the game is incredible, he's cocky, funny, smart, tough and above all else: a winner. I have to believe that the Red Sox got this done ahead of time since Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, his main rival in many ways, is a free agent this winter so he's going to get crazy money from some club. I guess Boston figured it was better to set a price for Pedroia ($14 million per season) rather than let the market dictate it.

My only request with this move that we can all be very happy about (buy a Fenway brick!) is that the used car salesmen that still own the Red Sox don't take this opportunity to give Pedroia the captain's C that has been gone since Jason Varitek retired. By definition, baseball is not a sport that needs a captain. It is a mostly useless position that only serves team marketing campaigns and over the hill writers that have nothing else original to talk about. So please spare us, we get that Pedroia is the heart and soul of the team. Fair enough, you don't have to put a scarlet letter on his jersey to let us know.

He turns 30 in a little less than a month and coming off another All-Star appearance and well on his way to possibly another Gold Glove this season, Pedroia is in the prime of his career. Despite battling a thumb injury, he's played in every game but one so far in 2013 (are you listening Ellsbury and Buchholz?) and hit .308 with .385 OBP and .422 SLG. He's scored 58 runs with 121 hits, 25 doubles, one triple, six home runs, 57 RBIs, 51 walks (50 strikeouts!) and 13 stolen bases. Plus, he's batted third basically all season which isn't his natural spot. In short, I don't know any Red Sox fan that doesn't love the guy and wish there were many more players with his approach to baseball.

Matt Moore Tosses 1st Career Shutout And Here Come The Rays

Death, taxes and the Rays playing well in the second half: three things you can count on in life. Tampa Bay (59-41 overall, 25-22 away) pulled to within half a game of Boston (60-41 overall, 33-18 home) with a 3-0 win in the series opener at Fenway Park tonight. The Rays have won an astonishing 18 of their last 20 contests and this victory made them 4-9 against the Red Sox in 2013.

Matt Moore (14-3) was brilliant, showing why he's firmly in the conversation for the AL Cy Young this season by throwing his first career shutout-a two-hitter no less-with four strikeouts and one walk. Brett Anderson (Oakland, 2009) was the only other visiting lefty to throw a two-hit shutout at Fenway since 1990 which shows you how difficult it is.

Brandon Workman (0-1) made his second MLB start and once again, he did more than enough to earn another turn in the rotation. He went six innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and two walks.

Former Red Sox great James Loney drove in the first two runs for Tampa Bay with a sacrifice fly in the first that scored Ben Zobrist (3 for 5, run, stolen base) then an RBI single in the fifth. Desmond Jennings gave Moore an insurance run in the ninth with a sacrifice fly of his own, not the young lefty needed it. Moore wrapped it up in 109 pitches and a tidy 2:52 which was all you could ask for after Sunday's marathon win over the Yankees in 11 innings.

Neither team had an extra base hit and the Red Sox only recorded singles by David Ortiz and Mike Napoli. Another loss by Boston tomorrow night as Jon Lester (8-6) faces Roberto Hernandez (5-10) would put Tampa Bay in first place in the AL East.

Celtics Sign The Perfect Guys To Build Around, I Mean Tank With Next Season

It's long been established that the only way for the Celtics to rebuild quickly is to get into next season's draft lottery. They need to pretend like they are going to win but then rack up the losses (sit Rondo Derrick Rose style) like there's no tomorrow to give themselves the best chance to get an incredible player like Andrew Wiggins.

Today Boston took care of a couple additions that had been rumored since last week: they signed rookie point guard Phil Pressey (who tore it up for them in the Orlando Pro Summer League) and Brazilian center Vitor Faverani. Terms of both deals weren't disclosed but Pressey reportedly will get a three-year deal worth the league minimum while Faverani is expected to get three years and $6 million.

Since he played at Missouri (who were on TV all the time) and I caught a couple of the Summer League games, I can say that Pressey should be a nice fit at backup point guard. And yes, teams are allowed to have two point guards on the same squad, something the C's have seemed oblivious to for years with Rajon Rondo.

I'm not up on Brazilian basketball or teams in Spain-where Faverani played last season-but I do know that most foreigners that come over to the NBA struggle mightily unless they are a freak like Dirk Nowitzki. The leagues in Europe can't compete with the NBA which has almost all the best players in the world in one spot.

This gives Boston 16 signed guys at the moment including Shavlik Randolph whose deal would become guaranteed on August 1.

Monday, July 22, 2013

5 Bruins Named To Summer Orientation Camps For Their Countries Ahead of Sochi 2014

Last week's great news that the NHL will allow its players to compete for their home countries at Sochi 2014 (Winter Olympics) took on a local angle this afternoon as five current Bruins along with head coach Claude Julien and GM Peter Chiarelli could all be involved in the proceedings.

Olympic hockey is the best and obviously we'll all be rooting for Team USA but as a heads up, three Bruins (Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand) were among the 47 players that Canada will have at its orientation camp August 25-28 at Calgary in August. From that group, 23 players will make the Olympic team. Of those three, only Bergeron has played in the Olympics (sparingly in 2010 with the gold medal team). Lucic went to their tryout camp in Vancouver that time around but didn't make it and Marchand has never played for Team Canada at this level.

Bergeron has the best chance to make it out of the Bruins from Canada although I wouldn't be shocked to see Lucic or Marchand also playing in Russia this February depending on the type of player they are looking for. There will be some familiar faces around the team with Julien named an associate coach (under Detroit's Mike Babcock) and Chiarelli on the management team.

Besides the U.S. and Canada, the other teams to name their camp rosters today included Sweden, Russia and Finland. For our purposes, Sweden and Finland are the ones to keep a close eye on. The newest Bruin Loui Eriksson is on Sweden while Tuukka Rask was named for Finland.

For what it's worth, neither Tyler Seguin not Jarome Iginla were named by Canada although that could change with injuries between now and February.

Red Sox Beat Yankees 8-7 In 11 Innings On Mike Napoli's 2nd Home Run of the Game

It took a combined 405 pitches (203 for New York and 202 for Boston) and four hours and 46 minutes but the Red Sox didn't mind at all since Mike Napoli sent Fenway Park home happy with a walk-off solo homer in the 11th off Adam Warren (1-1) for an 8-7 Red Sox (60-40 overall, 33-17 home) win over Yankees (52-46 overall, 24-23 away). Boston improved to 6-4 in extra innings this season and they won their ninth contest in walk-off fashion (tied for 2011 for the most since 2006).

The Red Sox took two of three from the Yankees this weekend to take a healthy seven-game lead over them and tonight it was about their offense coming through just enough to overcome three errors and an early 3-0 lead by the Yankees in the second inning plus a 7-3 led for the Red Sox that they blew. Boston knew that Tampa Bay and Baltimore-their main competitors in the AL East this season-had already won by the time this ended right before 1 a.m. EST so they had to win to keep the Rays 1.5 games behind and the Orioles 3.5 in back of Boston. The Red Sox still have the most wins in MLB although they've played four more games than the Cardinals (59 wins).

With Jon Lester's start getting pushed back a few extra days, Ryan Dempster got the ball and predictably pitched mediocre (5.1 innings, 5 runs, 3 earned runs, 6 hits, 4 strikeouts, 4 walks) but that's more than you can say for CC Sabathia. The former Yankees ace is a shell of himself for whatever reason: 5 innings, 7 earned runs, 9 hits, 5 strikeouts, 2 walks.

Brett Gardner (3 for 4 with run, RBI, 2 walks, stolen base) scored New York's first run on a throwing error by Boston. The Yankees tacked on another run thanks to Vernon Wells' RBI single and Robinson Cano's (3 for 5 with two RBIs and walk) RBI single in the second inning.

Boston got on the board in the third on Dustin Pedroia's RBI single then Napoli put them ahead with a three-run homer over the Monster (his 12th of the season). Shane Victorino's (2 hits, 2 stolen bases) high chopper to left field scored two runs in the fourth and Jonny Gomes cranked a solo homer over the Monster in the fifth (his 8th of the season) for a 7-3 Red Sox advantage. Jacoby Ellsbury was 2 for 4 with a double, run, walk and stolen base in the win.

Gardner and Cano chipped into the lead with a pair of RBI singles in the sixth while Chris Stewart's RBI single cut it to 7-6 and a run scored on a groundout. Eduardo Nunez was 3 for 4 with two runs and a stolen base.

Some of the more obscure members of the Red Sox bullpen saved them in this game: Matt Thornton pitched a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts, Koji Uehara had a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts, rookie Drake Britton appeared for the second straight day and got a scoreless 10th before Pedro Beato (1-0) held serve for the home team in the 11th.

Tampa Bay (58-41 overall, 2nd in AL East) is the hottest team in MLB: a scorching 17-2 in their last 19 games and they come to Fenway for a pivotal four-game series beginning tomorrow night (7:10, NESN) with rookie Brandon Workman (0-0) facing Matt Moore (13-3). Lester (8-6) takes on Roberto Hernandez (5-10) on Tuesday (7:10, NESN), Felix Doubront (7-3) meets David Price (4-5) on Wednesday (7:10, NESN) and John Lackey (7-7) opposes Jeremy Hellickson (9-3) on Thursday (7:10, NESN).

Friday, July 19, 2013

RIP Andrew Bailey & Boston's Ability To Trade For Good Closers

At this point, the Red Sox deserve an intervention when it comes to their stupid idea to trade for closers on bad teams. My cat could write a detailed paper on how it's so obvious that method has been a disaster. Mark Melancon was awful last season then got traded to the Pirates where he became an All-Star set up man this season. Joel Hanrahan came over from Pittsburgh and got hurt almost immediately. With today's news that Andrew Bailey could be facing season-ending shoulder surgery, what else is there left to say but mercy?

We all thought it was time to let Jonathan Papelbon go when it came time to hit free agency but who wouldn't take him back with open arms (he's never been on the DL in his career) at this point? Boston's biggest issue (besides Clay Buchholz's health) heading into the second half of 2013, beginning tonight, starts and ends with their shaky bullpen. Along with Hanrahan and Bailey, Andrew Miller is done for the season with a foot injury and their former ace setup man Daniel Bard's career has reached Rick Ankiel territory in Portland (Double A).

Getting Matt Thornton last weekend was nice but it's hard to see them surviving while they keep shuttling in all these Triple A nobodies. Hey, no worries though since the Red Sox signed washed up scrubs Brandon Lyon and Jose Contreras this afternoon and sent them to Pawtucket. Haha what is it 2003?

The trade deadline is July 31 so you have to assume that the Red Sox aren't done making moves. I doubt that it'll be anything big involving their plethora of promising prospects (alliteration!) but you never know. It should be an interesting 65 games for the hometown team.

"Who Needs Experienced Receivers?"-The New England Patriots

We are less than a week away from the 2013 training camp starting for the New England Patriots and at the moment, their top three wide receivers are Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Michael Jenkins. Um, holy shit! The news that they released receiver Donald Jones today without ever taking a snap in preseason or regular season wasn't particularly noteworthy on the surface except when you consider all the issues surrounding their passing game. Aaron Hernandez is in jail (bet you didn't know that), Rob Gronkowski had more surgeries than that poor bastard in Operation while Wes Welker is now playing in Denver and Brandon Lloyd is a free agent. It makes you wonder what Tom Brady thinks about all these developments (hint: it can't be good).

This heaps more undue pressure on rookie wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce, who I can't say I know much about either way. The best we can hope is that New England changes its identity to more of a running the ball to set up the pass (something which basically doesn't exist in today's NFL) offense coupled with a good defense. Yikes. Thankfully for the Pats, they still compete in the worst division in the NFL and sports so no matter how bad things look in the preseason, they should still find a way to go at worst 4-2 against the miserable Dolphins, Jets and Bills thus winning their millionth AFC East title (woo!) in a row.

It's hard to remember a time in the past decade (since it never occurred) during their amazing run of consistent success when the Patriots faced this many issues heading into the season. Not what you're looking for when you're coming off the AFC Championship Game and a few steps away from their first title in eight long years.

UPDATE 7/23: The players won't take the field until Friday but today it was announced that Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman will start on the active/PUP list. Rookie defensive lineman Armond Armstead was placed on the non-football illness list. Players on the active/PUP list can be activated any time, whereas if they're on the reserve/PUP list then they miss at least the first six weeks in the regular season.

Bruins' 2013-14 Regular Season Schedule Released

We can all laugh at the NHL's complete lack of good timing, dropping its biggest news in weeks on a Friday afternoon during a heatwave, but there is still something fun with regards to thinking about the Bruins this fall, winter and spring while our minds melt. Thankfully, with a full regular season (forget you lockout), the B's will have a much more interesting slate of 82 games. Plus, they're in a new division (Atlantic) which is the old Northeast plus the Red Wings (yay!), Panthers and Lightning (meh).

Every team in the NHL will meet every possible opponent with the fun starting for real on October 1 and the regular season ending on April 13. The playoffs begin on April 16 and there is a 2.5 week break from February 9-26 due to NHL players competing in the 2014 Olympics in Socchi, Russia. The B's won't be taking part in one of the six outdoor games planned by the NHL this season, more than ever. With an unbalanced Eastern Conference (16 teams) and Western Conference (14 teams), the Bruins will play five games against two teams in their division and four games against five teams in the division (30 games). Then they'll play three games each against the other eight teams in the East leaving 28 games against the West. Hope you got that without picking up an ice cream headache.

Boston's first regular season game is October 3 vs. Tampa Bay. The B's have to be content with their first three games at TD Garden as they host the Red Wings two nights later then the Avalanche on October 10. Assuming he's returned from shoulder surgery, former Bruin Nathan Horton and his new team-Columbus Blue Jackets host Boston for their first road game on October 12. Other highlights of October include the B's welcoming in the Red Wings on Columbus Day afternoon, San Jose comes to TD Garden on October 24 then a great two games in two nights stretch: at Pittsburgh on October 30 then hosting Anaheim on Halloween.

We don't have to wait long for Tyler Seguin's much ballyhooed return to Boston (local bars and clubs should be thrilled) as the Stars play the Bruins November 5 to kick off a five-game homestand (longest of the season) through November 14. The Maple Leafs will be looking ahead to November 9 at TD Garden for a while since it's their first meeting with the B's since their loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last spring. The return of former stars continues as Horton and Columbus play in Boston on November 14. Boston visits the Rangers on November 19 in the first matchup of the season since the B's knocked New York out in five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Jarome Iginla gets his first crack at the Penguins in the Hub on November 25 as Pittsburgh returns to the place where they were swept in the Eastern Conference Finals. Drinking the night before Thanksgiving is always a great tradition and this year it should be even better with the Bruins playing in Detroit. In their usual afternoon game the day after Thanksgiving, the B's take on the Rangers.

The bad news is that we'll have to wait over two months for our first installment of Bruins-Canadiens (December 5 in Montreal) but that means they'll be backloaded which will be enjoyable enough. Speaking of Iggy, he gets to make his first return to Calgary on another team December 10 with the B's as part of a four-game road trip in Canada (December 8-14) which is the longest of the season. That holiday in Canada will be followed with another reunion as the B's head to Edmonton on December 12 to face former Bruin Andrew Ference. Boston wraps things up North of the border in Vancouver on December 14 where they can beat up some more on the Sedin sisters. The NHL is nice enough to gives everybody a break from December 24-26 (take that NBA!) so the Bruins' last game before Christmas is December 23 in Nashville then they return on December 27 vs. Ottawa. I hate New Year's Eve so I'm happy that I already have a built in excuse to beg off the sure to be lame plans and watch the Bruins play the Islanders that night at TD Garden.

The first game of 2014 for the B's will be January 2 vs. Predators. Bruins fans on the West Coast will be treated to what should be three great games in California: January 7 at Anaheim, January 9 at Los Angeles and January 11 at San Jose. Seguin is sure to welcome his old team with open arms in Dallas on January 16 aka Loui Eriksson's glorious return. The Bruins-Blackhawks renew their delicious new rivalry on January 19 in Chicago, sure to be a national broadcast since it's a Sunday afternoon. Boston faces a brutal back-to-back as they return home the next afternoon (MLK Day) to take on the Kings. Boston travels to Philadelphia on January 25, those are always entertaining games. The influx of clowns from Montreal will take place on January 30 with the Canadiens in town.

For all he did for the community, the B's and Boston should do something for Ference when he returns with the Oilers on February 1. With the break for the Olympics, the B's only play five games in the shortest month of the year. They host Ottawa on February 8 in the last game before then and return on February 26 in Buffalo.

It'll be another crazy March for the B's with 17 games (8 home, 9 away). The toughest ticket of the season at the Garden for the Bruins is sure to be March 27 vs. Chicago. For the Bruins, seven games in April ends on the 13th in New Jersey. With training camp beginning on September 11 (rough timing once again), we are not that far away from what should be another excellent season with the defending Eastern Conference champions.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Red Sox Lose 3-2 In 11 innings To A's In 1st Half Finale But There Is Plenty To Be Excited About

Technically we're well past the halfway point of the 2013 MLB regular season but this afternoon in Oakland represented the unofficial end of the first half as the A's (56-39 overall, 30-15 home) snuck away with a 3-2 win in 11 innings over the Red Sox (58-39 overall, 27-23 away) thanks to Josh Donaldson's walk-off bloop single. Despite losing the series to the A's (2-1), Boston only needs to go 32-33 after the All-Star break to reach 90 wins which is a good marker for possible playoff squads.

With the most wins in MLB, Boston is up 2.5 games on Tampa Bay and 4.5 games on Baltimore for first place in the American League East. Nobody expected them to play this well so far and I mean absolutely nobody. Losing the final two contests in Oakland and scoring a grand total of two runs in those games means that the Red Sox hit the All-Star break at the perfect time.

In his first MLB start, Brandon Workman had a no-hit bid ended in the top of the seventh and no outs when Coco Crisp legged out an infield single. Workman's day was over soon after that but he should be proud of what he accomplished: 6.1 IP, 2 ER, 2 hits, 5 strikeouts and 1 walk. Former Red Sox legend Bartolo Colon (6.1 IP, 2 ER, 8 hits, 4 strikeouts) was nearly as sharp which is impressive since the 2013 All-Star must have been daydreaming about all the food he'll throw down in New York this week.

Boston was 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position and they left nine runners on base so it's not hard to figure out why they lost. Jacoby Ellsbury (3 for 5, run) wrapped up an excellent (minus the vanishing power) first half with another three-hit game. Dustin Pedroia (2 hits, double, walk) put the Red Sox up 1-0 with an RBI single in the sixth and Brock Holt made it 2-0 with an RBI single of his own in the seventh.

The A's only managed five hits as a team with Donaldson providing all the thunder: he tied it with a two-run bomb (438 feet) to dead center off Workman in the seventh.

Fittingly, the Red Sox bullpen was busy. Craig Breslow got five outs and Koji Uehara pitched two scoreless innings with two strikeouts. Matt Thornton's (0-4) Red Sox debut was not a memorable one, at least for the right reasons, as he walked two and allowed Donaldson's game-winning single.

Sean Doolittle got five outs for Oakland then Grant Balfour struck out the side in the ninth. Ryan Cook (2-2) was shaky but he ended up with two scoreless innings after striking out Holt (looking) to end the Top of the 11th with the bases loaded.

I wouldn't say this about many teams in MLB but the Red Sox definitely earned a four day break. Clay Buchholz (still on the DL), David Ortiz and Pedroia head to New York for the All-Star Game at Citi Field while the rest of the team gets a short vacation.

Boston just survived a 10-game road trip (5-5) so when they return to action on Friday, it'll be the start of two series at Fenway Park: three vs. Yankees (51-44 overall, 4th in AL East) and four vs. Rays. Their next home game isn't until July 26 at Baltimore which is only five days before the trade deadline.

Enjoy your time away from baseball (I'm not counting the silly Home Run Derby and All-Star game) although these next four days have to be the worst in the sports calendar every single year with so little going on of any importance.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Red Sox Beat A's 4-2 In Series Opener With More Help On The Way-Matt Thornton

You couldn't possibly ask for anything more (within reason) from the Red Sox at the moment: thanks to their 4-2 win tonight against the A's at O.Co Coliseum, Boston (58-37 overall, 27-21 away) moved to a season-high 21 games over .500 while also opening up a 4.5 game lead over the Rays for first place in the AL East (Tampa Bay lost 2-1 to Houston). Oh by the way, they also flipped something called Brandon Jacobs (not the former Giants running back) and cash to the White Sox for reliever Matt Thornton. Damn.

Thornton will be 37 in September but he's still one of the better lefthanded relievers in MLB and a more than suitable replacement for Andrew Miller. He was an All-Star in 2010 and has a career line of 32-41 with 23 saves, 169 holds, 3.53 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. Keep in mind that it's hard to gauge numbers for setup men, especially ones that have been on some really bad teams-like this year's edition of the White Sox. He is a big guy (6-6, 235 pounds) that throws in the mid-90s and should be a welcome addition to Boston's ragtag bullpen that only had one lefty (Craig Breslow) remaining in it since Miller got hurt on Saturday.

It has gotten to the point where I'm actually expecting a good start from John Lackey (7-6) every time out. He went seven innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits with five strikeouts and four walks. Don't be surprised if a pitcher pulls out of the All-Star Game for the AL in the next few days that Lackey could be heading to Citi Field. Seriously.

Oakland (54-39 overall, 28-15 home) got a fine outing from Jarrod Parker (7 innings, 2 earned runs, 3 hits, 3 strikeouts) but reliever Sean Doolittle (3-3) was the weak link as he gave up a two-run single to Dustin Pedroia (2 hits) that made it 4-2 in the eighth. Former A's closer Andrew Bailey pitched a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts for his eighth hold and Koji Uehara struck out the side for his eighth save of the season.

Boston never trailed as Brock Holt opened the scoring with a two-run single of his own in the second. The A's chipped away with an RBI single by John Jaso in the fifth and former Red Sox great (stop laughing) Jed Lowrie tied it with a solo homer off Lackey in the sixth.

Mike Napoli was 2 for 4 with a triple and run in the win, the fourth straight for the Red Sox who improved to 5-3 on this endless West Coast road trip.

Tomorrow night (10:05, NESN) Jon Lester (8-5) tries to end his first half on a good note as he takes on A.J. Griffin (7-6).

Friday, July 12, 2013

Patrice Bergeron: (Hopefully) A Bruin For Life

In a sports crazed region like New England, it's almost impossible to find an athlete, coach or team that is universally loved by everybody. One of the reasons that makes our area so special is that we all have deeply ingrained views on all of these things. I submit that Bruins center Patrice Bergeron is an exception to this because, who doesn't love everything about him? The B's are incredibly lucky to have him for everything he brings on and off the ice: toughness, leadership, professionalism, humility, character, etc. Today, the Bruins signed him to an eight-year extension worth $52 million ($6.5 per year) through 2021-22.

Coming on the heels of Tuukka Rask's eight-year maximum deal signed earlier this week, Boston locked up another one of its core players. In pro sports, you can never say that someone will be a "(team name) for life," but this puts Bergeron right on the cusp of spending his entire NHL career in the Hub. He needs no introduction since the assistant captain has blossomed into one of the best two-way players in hockey and the litany of injuries he went through in this last postseason run is the stuff of legends already. His consistency is robotically good.

Bergeron had 10 goals and 22 assists in the abbreviated regular season with a plus/minus of +24 but what we'll all remember is his postseason: nine goals and six assists including game-winners against Toronto in Game 7 (OT) and vs. Pittsburgh in Game 3 (2OT). He won a Cup two years ago and came two wins away from another this past season against the Blackhawks. He'll never lead the NHL in goals or assists but he's already put up 20+ goals in four seasons with a career-high of 31 in 2005-06. A gifted passer, he had three seasons of 30+ assists and three seasons of 40+ assists with a career-high of 48 in 2006-07.

His plus/minus was positive in eight of his nine pro seasons, with +20 or higher in the last three (+36 in 2011-12!). He's great defensively, on the power-play (an oxymoron for the B's these days), shorthanded and he's one of the best in the NHL at the face-off dot. There is no hole in his game and he is the type of player that you can truly appreciate when you get to watch him every day. He might not be flashy or the most interesting guy but in a lot of ways he embodies so much of what has made the Bruins one of the premier franchises in the NHL (again). It's a cliche but if you had a team of Patrice Bergerons, you'd never lose. The guy is an absolute winner that will do anything to give his team the best chance to come out on top.

Feel free to go buy that Bergeron jersey you've been eyeing for a while, that is a safe and recommended purchase with this latest expected but still excellent news regarding the Bruins.

Red Sox Rally For A Great Win In Extra Innings, Take 3 Out of 4 in Seattle

Ranking wins is always a useless exercise but I think most Red Sox fans would agree that today's come-from-behind 8-7 win over the Mariners in 10 innings at Safeco Field was one of Boston's (57-37 overall, 26-21 away) best victories of 2013. For starters, they rallied when they were down 5-1 in the third inning and took three of four in Seattle (40-52 overall, 22-25 home) to ensure that whatever happens this weekend in Oakland, they are guaranteed to lead the AL East at the All-Star break.

I'm not joking when I say that it feels like the Red Sox have a new hero nearly every game and this afternoon/early evening was no different as Steven Wright's (1-0) second career MLB appearance was a doozy (in a good way of course): 5.2 scoreless innings, three hits, three strikeouts and two walks. He bailed out Ryan Dempster who was terrible: 3.1 innings, seven runs (four earned) on nine hits.

Boston took this wacky series by scoring 34 runs including 30 in the past three games (all wins). The Red Sox had 10 hits and seven walks. Daniel Nava contributed the most important one with an two-out RBI single that scored Jackie Bradley Jr. in the 10th. Koji Uehara-who got snubbed in the Final Vote for the All-Star Game-shrugged it off to get a 1-2-3 10th with two strikeouts for his seventh save of the season.

Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits, 2 RBIs, 2 walks) extended his hitting streak to 19 games with a leadoff homer-the eighth of his career and the third home run of the season. Seattle put up four runs in the second on Kyle Seager's (2 hits, 2 RBIs) solo homer, a ground-rule RBI double by Billy Butler and two-run single by Endy Chavez. An RBI single by Michael Saunders in the third gave the Mariners a 5-1 lead which the immortal Erasmo Ramirez promptly coughed up.

Brock Holt (2 hits, 2 RBIs, run), Jose Iglesias (2 hits, 2 RBIs) and Ellsbury all kept the line moving with two-out RBI singles that cut it to 5-4. Dempster couldn't do anything right as he allowed RBI singles to Kendry Morales and Seager for a 7-4 Mariners lead in the fourth.

From then on thanks to Wright's incredible relief and Uehara, the Red Sox were able to shut down Seattle's mighty (haha yeah right) batting order. Boston tied it with three runs in the fifth on Mike Carp's sacrifice fly and more RBI singles from Holt and Iglesias.

Beating up on shitbums like the Mariners is all well and good but I'm excited to see how Boston reacts to playing a great team like Oakland (54-38, 1st in AL West this weekend at that dump Coliseum. The A's are one of the best teams in baseball but don't ask me to explain how that's possible with their mostly unimpressive roster. The sum is greater than the parts I guess.

John Lackey (6-6) faces Jarrod Parker (6-6) tomorrow night (10:05, NESN) in the series opener. Jon Lester (8-5) will try to bounce back from an awful few months on Saturday night (10:05, NESN) against A.J. Griffin (7-5). The unofficial end of the first half comes on Sunday afternoon (4:05, NESN) as former Red Sox great Bartolo Colon (12-3)-who is an All-Star-faces TBA.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

David Ortiz: Greatest DH In MLB History? He's Got the Hits To Back it Up

One of the best parts about baseball is the history, none of the other major sports in America can instantly conjure up so many memories of past legends like MLB. That's what makes routine 11-4 blowout wins for the Red Sox (56-37 overall, 25-21 away) like tonight against the Mariners (40-51 overall, 22-24 home) at Safeco Field more memorable than you'd think.

David Ortiz was 2 for 3 with a two-run homer, double, sacrifice fly and two runs as he became the all-time leader in hits (1670 after tonight) for a designated hitter. He passed Harold Baines while former Mariners great Edgar Martinez is generally regarded as the best DH even though he's not in the Baseball Hall of Fame (he should be). Let the endless debates begin!

Ortiz's amazing season and by extension career was the obvious individual storyline but for the Red Sox as a team, it was the continued improvement of Felix Doubront (7 innings, 1 earned run, 5 hits, 6 strikeouts, 2 walks) who notched his third quality start in a row. Like John Lackey, Boston really needs Doubront (6-3) to pitch well since Jon Lester has been awful after April and Clay Buchholz hasn't pitched for over a month now.

It always helps when the Red Sox score double-digit runs (for the second straight game and the 11th time this season) with 12 hits and seven walks. In fact the winning team in the first three games of this series has scored 11 runs each time.

Jacoby Ellsbury was 3 for 4 with two runs, a double and RBI, extending his hitting streak to an MLB-best 18 games. Shane Victorino went 2 for 4 with two RBIs and a run.

Boston went up 9-0 by the sixth inning so they were able to comfortably withstand rookie reliever Brandon Workman's shaky MLB debut. He allowed three runs in the eighth including a solo homer to light-hitting Brendan Ryan-the first batter he faced. He rebounded nicely though to get a 1-2-3 ninth and more importantly, save Boston's patchwork bullpen.

The Red Sox will try to win the series (3 out of 4) tomorrow afternoon (3:40, NESN) as Ryan Dempster (5-8) faces Erasmo Ramirez (0-0) who's making his first start of 2013.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bruins Make Tuukka Rask The Highest Paid Goaltender In The NHL

Ever since the Bruins' 2013 season ended a few weeks ago with a loss in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks, it's been assumed that Boston would load up the brinks truck and deliver it to Tuukka Rask's door. Today, he got paid in a major way to the tune of an eight-year contract worth $56 million. That annual cap hit of $7 million ties him with Nashville's Pekka Rinne as the highest paid goaltender in the NHL.

Handing out any monster deal, especially to a goaltender, is a scary proposition but I think Rask is as close to a sure thing as you'll find at hockey's most important position. He's young (turned 26 in March) so he's just starting to enter his prime and he doesn't have many miles on his body so far in the NHL plus he's very fundamentally sound (unlike Tim Thomas) and he's skinny to begin with so I don't think you have to worry about him getting fat and out of shape. The great unknown is if getting set for life like this will make him complacent and lose some of his edge. I hope that is not the case since he has only been the starter for two seasons in the NHL and he finally got to show everyone what he was all about in 2013.

The B's smartly let last season play out to see if they should hitch their wagons to Rask or perhaps move in another direction since he became a free agent last week. I don't think you could have reasonably expected a better performance from him: 19-10-5 in the regular season with 2.00 goals against average, .929 save percentage and five shutouts. I'd argue (and most would agree) that he stepped it up even more in the postseason: 14-8, 1.88 goals against average, .940 save percentage and three shutouts. If Boston was going to upset Chicago and win the Cup, they needed him to play great and for the most part he did. Nobody expected Corey Crawford to match him but don't get that twisted, the Bruins didn't lose because Rask fell short. The Blackhawks simply were a better team from top to bottom so there's no shame in losing to a juggernaut like that.

Moving forward, the pressure from this contract is another factor on Rask that we'll have to watch out for the next few seasons. When you get paid like this, you are fair game for much more criticism by fans, media, coaches and teammates. Also, Rask will become the face of the franchise with Zdeno Chara being much older than him and not at the absolute peak of his career anymore. Scoring is so low in the NHL which in some ways means that you can stick any schmoe in there and be OK for a while (James Reimer anybody?). However, one of the reasons that Rask was rewarded like this is because he can be one of the top goaltenders (if not the best) in the league and that still counts for something. He showed the ability last season and now he'll be expected to be that guy for the duration of this contract (fair or not).

The Bruins are in great shape for the next decade, starting with the fact that they have Rask locked up for the near future. This is a great day for Rask and Bruins fans, next up will be a long-term extension for Patrice Bergeron-another huge part of the franchise. They need to decide on a suitable backup for Rask in 2013-14 as well because Anton Khudobin is now on the Hurricanes.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Angels Tame Red Sox 3-0 In Series Finale To Take Two Out of Three Games

For one of the few times so far this season, it was a very frustrating couple days for the Red Sox. Boston (54-36 overall, 23-20 away) choked away a 7-3 lead in the ninth on Saturday night (the same day that Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Clay Buchholz were named AL All-Stars) en route to a 9-7 loss to the Angels (43-45 overall, 24-25 home) in 11 innings while they came back tonight and were blanked 3-0 by the Angels in the series finale at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

Los Angeles won the series (2-1) and this is the last time the teams will see each other in the regular season; I doubt they'll meet in the postseason, don't let the Angels' recent strong play fool you-they have a bad mix of players or something that cannot sustain success for long at all.

Jered Weaver (3-4) got the best of his former teammate John Lackey (6-6). Weaver went 6.2 scoreless innings, allowing five hits with six strikeouts and two walks. Lackey went seven innings and allowed five hits with nine strikeouts and one walk. The Angels got all the runs they needed on solo homers by Mike Trout in the first and Hank Conger in the fifth. Mark Trumbo added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

Dane De La Rossa got the final out of the seventh for LA before Scott Downs pitched a 1-2-3 eighth for his 17 hold and Ernesto Frieri struck out the side in the ninth (thanks to some generous strike calls) for his 22nd save of the season.

Boston was held to five hits (only one for extra bases-a double by Jacoby Ellsbury) with two walks and they went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

Usually seeing four games against the Mariners (39-49 overall, 4th in AL West) on your schedule is a good thing but for at least the next two nights, the Red Sox face a pair of 2013 American League All-Stars so they'll be sure to have their hands full. Jon Lester (8-4) takes on Felix Hernandez (8-4) tomorrow night (10:10, NESN) in the series opener. Allen Webster (1-2) gets Hisashi Iwakuma (7-4) on Tuesday (10:10, NESN), Felix Doubront (5-3) meets veteran Aaron Harang (4-7) on Wednesday (10:10, NESN) and the last game is Thursday afternoon (3:40, NESN) with Ryan Dempster (5-8) opposing Jeremy Bonderman (1-3) who is trying to resurrect his career.

UPDATE 7/8: Jonathan Diaz was sent back to Pawtucket. Andrew Miller is going to have surgery on his left foot (ligament damage) so he could possibly miss the rest of the season. Tough news for him and the Red Sox, he's been very good in 2013.

UPDATE 7/9: After last night's debacle (an 11-4 loss to the Mariners), reliever Alex Wilson was put on the DL and Jackie Bradley Jr. was recalled from Pawtucket. Brandon Workman was called up from the PawSox as well with Jose De La Torre returning to Triple A.

UPDATE 7/10: Alfredo Aceves and Allen Webster were optioned to Pawtucket with knuckleballer Steven Wright and reliever Pedro Beato getting called up.

Hey Jarome Iginla, No Hard Feelings Right Buddy?

I am sure that you've already heard the news since it happened on Friday but I thought I'd wrap up the Bruins' moves from this weekend since many of us (myself included) were in a Fourth of July/long holiday weekend haze. The Bruins and right wing Jarome Iginla agreed to a one-year deal worth $6 million while Nathan Horton signed a seven-year deal in Columbus, Andrew Ference is off to Edmonton for four seasons, backup goaltender Anton Khudobin is now a Carolina Hurricane for at least the next season and Aaron Johnson signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Rangers.

We don't have to rehash all the drama with Iginla a few months ago but you have to admit that it is pretty funny that he ended up in Boston after getting swept by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals in June. It's all about timing and despite the fact that he's slowing down (he turned 36 last week), he has a good chance to end up on Boston's top line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci now that Horton is officially gone.

Iginla's resume speaks for itself, there is a reason that he'll be in the Hockey Hall of Fame after he retires: he has the third most goals of active players (530) with 576 assists and he's +48 for his career which is great when you consider all the poor teams he played on in Calgary. He has 165 power play goals and 206 power play assists with 13 shorthanded goals and nine shorthanded assists.

The former Flames captain put up seven 30-goal seasons, two 40-goal seasons and two 50-goal seasons with a career-high 52 in 2001-02. Showing how well rounded he is, Iginla has six 30-assist seasons, two 40-assists seasons and two 50-assist seasons with a career-high 55 in 2006-07. He's never had 100 points in a season (who does anymore in the NHL?) but he's come close with 94, 96 and 98 in 2007-08.

You can't expect Iginla to still be the player he was in his prime since he showed signs of age between Calgary (9 goals, 13 assists in 31 games) and Pittsburgh (5 goals, 6 assists in 13 games) last season. Still, he missed four games in the regular season but he played in all 82 for five seasons in a row (2007-08 to 2011-12). It's also easy to forget since he had a goose egg (0 goals, 0 assists) in the Bruins' sweep of the Penguins but before that, he notched four goals and eight assists in 11 games. In 69 career NHL playoff games, he has posted 32 goals and 29 assists.

My guess is that with a full training camp, no worries around the trade deadline over if he'll get dealt and a regular season with the B's, he should be a nice fit at a very reasonable price and the fans will totally forget about all the old drama provided that he plays well. It'll be strange to see Horton and Ference in other jerseys next season. I'm happy that they both got long-term deals since they are good guys that gave everything they had to the Black and Gold. Losing Khudobin was a little surprising but I'm confident the Bruins can find a comparable backup for Tuukka Rask in 2013-14.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Red Sox Have The Most Wins In MLB, Because America!

Today the Red Sox celebrated the Fourth of July exactly like our forefathers would want them to: by pummeling the hapless Padres 8-2 at scalding hot Fenway Park. With the win, Boston (53-34 overall, 31-16 home) swept the three-game series from San Diego (40-46 overall, 15-28 away), completed an impressive 8-1 homestand and head to the West Coast for a 10-game road trip heading into the All-Star break with the most wins in MLB (sorry Pirates).

There were many subplots in this victory for the Red Sox that could prove to be more important down the road later this season. Rookie Allen Webster (1-2) finally picked up his first career win in MLB: six innings, two earned runs on five hits with four strikeouts and four walks. He will be in the rotation for at least a couple more turns so this should help his confidence. Jacoby Ellsbury (3 hits, 3 runs, 14-game hitting streak) hit his first homer since April 7, haha seriously only his second of 2013. Last but not least, Andrew Bailey pitched a 1-2-3 seventh with two strikeouts when Boston led 7-2. He might not close again this season but the Red Sox need him to be productive to help their bullpen survive the dog days of summer.

To move a season-high 19 games over .500, Boston had 18 hits. All nine guys in the lineup had hits and Brandon Snyder was the only one with just one hit but it was a solo homer (his 1st of the season) so he's forgiven. Shane Victorino was 2 for 4 with a double and run, Dustin Pedroia was 2 for 4 with two RBIs and a double, David Ortiz was 2 for 5 with two RBIs and a double, Mike Napoli was 2 for 5 with two runs and a double, Jonny Gomes was 2 for 4 with double and RBI, Ryan Lavarnway was 2 for 4 and Jose Iglesias was 2 for 4 with a double, run and RBI.

San Diego has lost six games in a row and it's not difficult to figure out why they were swept: they scored a grand total of four runs in the three games. Ouch babe. The Padres two run explosion today came on Chase Headley's sacrifice fly and an RBI single by Jesus Guzman (3 for 3, double, walk).

Without question, these next 10 games are the toughest stretch of the season (so far) for the Red Sox: three at the Angels (40-44, 3rd in AL West), four at the Mariners (37-47, 4th in AL West) and three at the A's (50-36, 1st in AL West). Putting aside the fact that the Angels have been really disappointing again and the Mariners are awful as always, playing 10 games in a row on the other side of the country presents plenty of challenges.

Red Sox fans should get some rest since two games against the Angels, three against the Mariners and two against the A's will be 10:05 p.m. or 10:10 p.m. starts on the East Coast. Felix Doubront (4-3) faces C.J. Wilson (8-5) tomorrow night in Anaheim (10:05, NESN), Ryan Dempster (5-8) takes on TBA on Saturday night (10:05, NESN) then Boston gets the Sunday Night Baseball treatment (8, ESPN) as John Lackey (6-5) returns to face his former team and Jered Weaver (2-4)-storyline that they'll hit you over the head with alert!

Tyler Seguin's Run In Boston Comes To An Unexpected End On The Fourth Of July

Odds are that the Bruins very notable trade with the Stars today caught you by surprise since it's the Fourth of July so hopefully you were beating this merciless heat at a pool, beach or on a boat. For once, I wasn't on Twitter so the news that Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and prospect Ryan Button (great name) were dealt to Dallas for winger Loui Eriksson and prospects Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow first came to me the old fashioned way-via texts from a couple hockey loving buddies.

After digesting this move for a couple hours and swimming multiple times in the Atlantic Ocean, I have come to a couple conclusions: 1) Boston had to be really sick of Seguin's shit to give away the No. 2 overall pick in 2010 after only three seasons; 2) Eriksson is an underrated player that should shine with the B's in Seguin's spot on the second line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand; 3) don't ask me about the prospects since I can only keep up with so much, check back if they make the NHL.

We had all heard rumors of Seguin's hard partying ways and even though he's only 21, the Bruins were clearly fed up with it and something had to change. Why else would they publicly acknowledge as much last week at the NHL Draft? From the start, Seguin was never a good fit in terms of playing style. He's totally a finesse guy that hates to go in the corners and battle for the puck (a Bruins staple) plus he constantly gets knocked down and relies on one stupid move that rarely works to get by defensemen. Of course he's also wildly talented and has probably only reached a tenth of his potential (relatively speaking) in the NHL.

Seguin led the Bruins in points in 2011-12 (29 goals, 38 assists) so it's hard to explain how the same player (uninjured) was held to 16 goals and 16 assists this season (in 48 games) but even worse only one goal and seven assists in 22 postseason games. It got so bad that he was put on the third line and basically wasn't heard from again save for a couple pretty assists. Peverley had a nice season in 2011-12 (11 goals, 31 assists, +20) and he helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011 with four goals and eight assists but he was beyond useless this past season: six goals and 12 assists in the regular season then two goals and no assists in the postseason. See ya later, with a cap hit of $3.25 million through 2014-15 (another awful contract by the B's), Boston can find somebody much cheaper to do similar work.

Ultimately you can't judge a player by a single moment, game or season but I can only guess that Boston predicted the future of Seguin with the Bruins wouldn't improve enough to justify his overpriced contract (salary-cap hit of $5.75 million through 2018-19 season) that they handed out way too soon. Perhaps playing for the Stars, with much less of a spotlight and pressure will do wonders for his on-ice production. Worst case, he continues to be a mess in terms of having a productive lifestyle, doesn't take his job seriously and this past postseason was a precursor of things to come except Dallas won't be in the playoffs!

In terms of Eriksson, I'll admit I know about him mostly from fantasy hockey since the Stars last made the playoffs in 2008 and they are never on national TV. He'll turn 28 on July 16 but he's already played seven seasons in the NHL amassing 150 goals, 207 assists, 82 points in the power play (36 goals, 46 assists), 11 shorthanded points (7 goals, 4 assists) and a plus/minus of +31. He's scored 26+ goals in four seasons with a career-high of 36 in 2008-09. He also racked up 71+ points three years in a row (2009-10 to 2011-12). He only put up 12 goals and 17 assists in 2013 but I can't blame him since playing for a bad team for so long takes the life out of you plus they traded away most of Dallas' best players like Jaromir Jagr and Brandon Morrow. I know he's not physical but you have to be impressed that Eriksson has only missed three games in the past five seasons (all in 2010-11).

It's doubtful that Boston will pick No. 2 again for a long time which of course is a good thing. Still, only time will tell if they simply whiffed on Seguin (assuming he falters with the Stars) or didn't give him enough experience in the Black and Gold to get comfortable and become the star (no pun intended) that we thought he would be.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

You Know Things Are Going Well When Jonny Gomes Is Hitting Walk-Off Bombs

So have you jumped back on the Red Sox bandwagon yet? If not, you're missing out on a fun team that seems to get better by the game. Tonight, Boston (52-34 overall, 30-16 home) delivered its MLB-best (tied with Giants) eighth walk-off win of 2013, 2-1 over San Diego (40-45 overall, 15-27 away) at Fenway Park on Jonny Gomes' solo homer just over the Monster.

Gomes pinch-hit to start the bottom of the ninth and came through with his sixth homer of the season. It was also his third walk-off hit of 2013 (2 homers) which is pretty remarkable for a guy that I thought was completely useless when they signed him. He's not a great player by any means but he obviously has a clear role as a clubhouse leader and pinch-hitting specialist. In the last two nights alone, I've had to admit that John Lackey is pitching really well and Gomes is the perfect fit for a squad like this.

Jon Lester got a no-decision but that shouldn't hide the fact that this was his best start in a month and a half. He went seven innings, allowing one run on six hits with five strikeouts and one walk. He threw 31 pitches in the first inning and gave up an RBI single to Kyle Blanks in the frame so lasting that long and getting into a rhythm was key.

The Padres had been playing well up until a few weeks back but now they've lost five in a row and haven't scored more than two runs in any of those contests. Edinson Volquez (6 innings, 1 run, 7 hits, 6 strikeouts, 1 walk) was good and Nick Vincent pitched a scoreless seventh but Luke Gregerson (4-4) choked when Bud Black tried to coax another inning out of him.

The Red Sox tied it at one in the fourth on Jarrod Saltalamacchia's RBI single which drove in Mike Carp (2 for 4, double). Dustin Pedroia was 2 for 4 with a double and stolen base while Carlos Quentin was 3 for 4 with a double and run in the loss.

Junichi Tazawa had maybe his best outing of the season as he struck out the side in the eighth and Koji Uehara (2-0) continued his magical first half with a 1-2-3 ninth including a strikeout for the win.

Boston is 7-1 on this excellent homestand and they'll try to close it out tomorrow afternoon (1:35, NESN) with a sweep of San Diego on the Fourth of July. Red Sox rookie Allen Webster (0-2) looks for his first MLB win against Eric Stults (6-6).