Tagged: Boston

Boston Sports: A Study in Struggles

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            2007
was a hallmark year for the top two sports teams in Boston. The Patriots went
16-0 and fell one David Tyree drop away from perfection. The Red Sox, of
course, won their second World Series of the decade. Since then, both teams
have headed for the cellar.

            On
Sunday afternoon, when the Patriots were walloped by the Ravens, they showed
that their capabilities this season revolved around dominating weak teams while
choking or falling to good teams. They lacked talent on defense and a
versatility on offense (the Moss/Welker pair does not count as an abundance of
options) that ultimately put them in their place: on their sofas watching the
playoffs.

            Last
season, the Patriots lost Tom Brady in the first game of the season and still
went 11-5. While that’s all well and good, a team with a 16-0 record the
previous season should be able to win with or without their quarterback. The
Patriots fell short of the playoffs, but instead of raising expectations for
this season, they engaged in a series of inexplicable moves.

            Matt
Cassel’s performance in Brady’s absence was excellent for his stock, yet the
Patriots ended up trading not only him, but also Mike Vrabel for draft picks
that they subsequently traded away. They also traded away all of their first
round picks and passed on highly touted linebackers the team so desperately
needed.

            By
the time the Patriots showed up to training camp, they were missing Richard
Seymour, leaving only Vince Wilfork as a big name on defense. There was no
talent there, and while Belichick is a defensive-minded coach who does have the
capability to build himself a defense, he simply didn’t give himself enough to
work with.

            The
Patriots seem to be in the throes of rebuilding a championship caliber team,
yet they have not taken that last step in finding enough talent to lead them to
glory for unknown reasons. The prices cannot be too high. After all, the Kraft
group just built a majestic shopping plaza in Gillette Stadium’s front yard. So
why the mediocrity?

            Similarly,
since winning it all in 2007, the Red Sox seem unwilling to pay or acquire the
type of players necessary to bring baseball glory back to Boston. During the
summer of 2008, Manny Ramirez forced his way out of Fenway, so the Red Sox
brought in Jason Bay as a replacement. Bay was phenomenal in Boston, the kind
of quiet, team player that everybody needed in the aftermath of the Manny
circus.

            Yet
removing Manny from the roster meant the lineup card would be missing the
hugely important intimidating bat. The Red Sox had a bunch of players who were
good, but none capable of greatness the way Manny was. Ortiz has watched his
numbers drop over the last few years, and while Youkilis, Pedroia, Lowell and
Bay are good hitters, they do not have the power to change the course of any one
game with a single swing of the bat.

            During
the off-season after the 2008 post-season (where the Red Sox played above their
capabilities before eventually falling to the Tampa Bay Rays), the Red Sox
refused to spend the money to upgrade their team. Why? I could not tell you. All
I know is that the Red Sox began the season with a mediocre line-up, a
question-mark-filled pitching rotation, and a shaky bullpen. They exited the
season in much the same way.

            A
line-up where most of the power is coming from J.D. Drew? No thank you. Jed
Lowrie and Julio Lugo platooning (until Julio was traded and Lowrie was injured
. . . again) at short? Shoot me now.

            This
off-season, the Red Sox are starting to spend money. They acquired John Lackey,
Adrian Beltre and Mike Whoever-he-is, which is an improvement over last year,
but they still have not found that much needed bat for their lineup or a
bullpen that looks like it can hold a lead.

            Perhaps
this is just a play-off loss hangover, but it seems that the winning ways from
the first half of the decade are but a distant memory. Sure, I’m lucky that I
was able to witness so many championships in such a short time, so I shouldn’t
complain, right?

            I
wouldn’t complain if I saw a good reason for both teams to low-ball it
financially and put together a half-hearted roster. The Patriots and the Red
Sox have the resources to do more, attract better players, coach stronger, yet
neither team is fully taking advantage of those resources.

            If
I felt the NBA had any redeeming qualities, perhaps I would just move on to the
Celtics, yet I don’t foresee much basketball-worshipping in my future. I guess
for these next 36 days before Spring Training starts, I’ll dwell on my fan-hood
misfortune.

            Wait.
It’s an even numbered year . . . olympics or bust!  

Anaheim night in Boston

Both the Bruins and Red Sox will be battling against teams from Anaheim tonight. The Bruins are playing my boy Nick Bonino’s (Go BU hockey!) team, the Anaheim Ducks. Looch plays for the first time since signing a big, three year deal. The Bruins are also looking to continue their win streak post-Carolina killing.

The Red Sox begin the ALDS tonight at 9:37 p.m. ET. Jon Lester grabs the ace role for the club, taking the hill against Jon Lackey, who the Red Sox faced a couple of weeks ago.

I am feeling most confident about tonight’s game. Lester and Lackey are pretty similar pitchers on paper. Lester has a 15-8 record, Lackey is 11-8. Lester has a 3.41 ERA, Lackey has a 3.83 ERA. Lackey is 0-1 versus Boston this season.

Lester has only pitched once in an ALDS in his career and it was last year against the Angels. He gave up one unearned run, six hits and struck out seven in seven innings. Lester has also not faced the Angels this season. This is bad news for the Angels, as they still have to figure out Lester’s stuff. Lester, meanwhile, will be pitching the same game he always does.

The Red Sox have also ended the Angels season three out of the last five years. Players will downplay this. History does not matter, they’ll say. It’s all about this year. We are only focused on this game.

Nonsense.

Baseball can be a very mental game. If players get an idea stuck in their head, they are bound to play into that idea. Thus, the Angels are bound to have more doubts than the Red Sox. The Red Sox own Anaheim in the playoffs. Of course the Angels will want to put an end to this, but the second something goes wrong, a double play ends a promising inning, a fielder makes an error, a batter strikes out with the bases loaded – those doubts will start to overwhelm Angels’ players’ heads.

The Angels have to wage a battle in their heads and on the field. The Red Sox have only one battle to worry about.

That said, I still do not believe the Red Sox have what it takes to win this series. The first two starting pitching slots are a little shaky but not horrible, yet Daisuke and Buchholz bring up a lot of question marks. Is Daisuke sharp enough to pitch well in the postseason? Can Buchholz handle the pressure of possibly pitching in an elimination game? Will we even get to Buchholz?

All of these questions will begin to be answered tonight. I’m saying Angels in 5.

Three’s company

I’m starting to run out of clever things to say about three Boston teams winning in one night (for the third time in recent history, might I add).

Boston, Carolina and California all personally saw Boston victories last night. The C’s took the magic into their own hands at the Garden in Boston, winning in the last four minutes to take a 92-88 victory out of Orlando’s grasp. The Bruins took Raleigh by storm, winning handily 4-2. Finally, the Sox rallied in Anaheim to win 4-3.

It goes without saying that it still rocks to live in Boston right now. Sportscenter could have 30 minutes worth of fresh material just by showing what is going on right here.
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The time schedule last night worked out perfectly. I turned on the Bruins game right after dinner, watched them sure-handedly force game 7, switched to the Celtics during commercials and then exclusively watched TNT once the Bruins won, witnessing their come-from-behind antics back in action, and finally switched to NESN to see the Red Sox crush the Angels’ bullpen. From 7 PM until 1:30 AM, I watched three different Boston sports teams win three different games in a span of 6 1/2 hours. My TV needed a bit of a break afterwards.

I don’t know what I’ll do if either the Bruins or Celtics lose their series (or both! what a horror show that would be!). Tonight is boring because there’s only one sport on. I resorted to watching the Penguins/Capitals game which wasn’t even that interesting. The Penguins took the Capitals confidence and then whipped their butts.

I can’t wait until tomorrow. The time schedule is a little bit more complicated, as the Red Sox will start the action at 3:30 in Anaheim, the Celtics play at 7 on ESPN and then the Bruins start at 8 on NESN. This means that I’ll probably have to either miss part of the Bruins game to watch the end of the Celtics game (unlikely) or only watch the beginning of the Celtics game, which means I won’t see any of the real action. Additionally, my mother wants me to attend my oldest brother’s graduation ceremony. He got his masters in December and they finally are holding a ceremony tomorrow. A masters degree, though? I don’t think it’s good enough to take the Red Sox’s place.

This is quite a predicament, but it’s one I’m really glad to be in.

picture from bostonsportsmedia.com
 

Sweepin’ up the garbage

On Monday, everything in Boston was a win. Today, everything was a sweep.

On Terry Francona’s 50th birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TITO), the Red Sox swept a doubleheader, taking the first game 10-1 in 7 innings (It’s April. It’s raining) and finishing off the Twins tonight with a 7-3 victory.

Ever since Penny decided last week to give up 7 unanswered runs, I have been unable to trust him. I was surprised that he pitched mediocre-ly today. He really gave Jacoby a lot of 8__1237315106_3551.jpgwork in the outfield, though. I’m still not a fan of Penny (go Masterson and Buchholz!) but I’ll root for him as long as he wears a Sox jersey.

And hello, offense! A big concern facing this club after Manny quit centered on the offense, but the Sox run production through this 7 game win streak has been great. Papi almost went yard today, Lowell is on fire (had a single, double and homerun in the first game), Jason Bay is quietly finding his way on base and into the RBI column, both Youk and Dustin rock, and Jason Varitek is even getting into the action. Obviously. the runs won’t be this easy to come by every game of the season, but it’s nice to see that the boys are capable of wearing out the ball.

 The only loss for the Sox today were their uniforms. I like the green St. Patty’s ones they used to wear where the top was green with white lettering outlined in red. This white top with green lettering looks atrocious. The “Earth Day” hats are almost as much of a travesty as the Red Sox’s road jerseys this year. Talk about ugly.

North of the border, the Bruins completed their 4 game sweep of the Montreal Canadiens. I hate the Canadiens (especially Koivu) and am very glad to see them swiftly out of the running for the cup.

Michael Ryder, former Canadien, had two goals tonight against his old team.bc226f7f00_lucic_1114.jpg

Milan Lucic was back in action and fighting. He took on Komisarek and won in the second, and then Komisarek retaliated, drawing blood in the third. Komisarek got a five minute major for that one, and he still can’t beat Lucic in a fight.

Phil Kessel had a great goal even though he should have been called offsides. Ever aware, Kessel took a pass right out of the penalty box that put him on a one-on-one with Carey Price. Kessel won that battle easily.

Krejci also scored, taking advantage of the fake Chris Higgins to send a pass to red-hot Ryder, who dished the puck back to Krejci and overwhelmed Price for the B’s first goal of the night. It’s always sweet to see fake Chris Higgins get served.

So, the Canadiens are done, the Sox are killing all opposition, my writing paper that was due today remains not turned in and my room looks like something died and vomitted dirty clothes all over the place. It’s all good! 

Pictures from boston.com, bostonherald.com

Odds and Ends before Marathon Monday

Tomorrow here in Boston is a holiday called Patriots Day. It is technically a commemoration of the Battle of Lexington and Concord (Country, say thank you to Boston for starting the Revolutionary War. You’re welcome) but we here in Boston know it more as Marathon Monday. The famous Boston Marathon occurs annually Patriot’s Day. The Sox (because you can’t have a Boston holiday without the Red Sox) play at 11 AM and finish up just in time for fans to go down to the finish line of the marathon. It’s a great way to remember the Revolutionary War. Hopefully, Mark, our resident marathoner, will be running it next year.

Anyways, I spotted a few gems in the news today that are great reads:
Recession-proofed by the Red Sox

This article makes a lot of sense, actually. It discusses how the Red Sox have already killed our hearts many times over, so Sox Nation is pretty much recession-proof.

Yankees’ statistical chances of winning on Saturday

 This features a great graph showing the Yankees’ statistical chances of winning on Saturday. I think the slope of the line circa 2nd inning is great. Seriously, the Red Sox could lose for the rest of the week and I could care less because the Yankees stunk so badly yesterday. Epic fail.

Jon Lester had a great game today. He finally looked like the Jon Lester of last season again. He struck out 9 over 7 shutout innings with a velocity topping off at 96 mph. Last week, Lester was barely reaching 90. Way to go, Les!

Nick Green continued to play great. He had a nice double off of the wall, showing some good speed on the basepaths. Pedey drove him in for the winning run of the game. Saito gets the save, which was nice considering Saito has done little to impress me so far this season. Mikey Lowell got an RBI, which is always nice to see, and Mike Timlin threw out the first pitch. His wife, Dawn, will be running the Boston Marathon tomorrow as she does every year.. 

For the best news of all (well, second to the Yankees stink-fest at their new stadium), the Red Sox have now won four straight. Yay for .500 baseball!

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In other sports news, we have two playoff teams right now in Boston. The Celtics lost a heartbreaker against Chicago yesterday afternoon, which isn’t totallly unexpected considering the team is starting to look like the walking wounded.

The real controversy came from the Bruins’ rout against the Canadiens last night (5-1 win . . . GO Bs!)

In the waning minutes of the third period, Milan Lucic, recognizing the Bs were up 5-1, decided it would be a great time to conduct a science experiment against the Habs’s Maxim Lapierre. The hypothesis was: “If I take my stick and smash it against this hoser’s head, will my stick break?” It turns out that Lucic’s hypothesis was correct, the stick broke, and Lucic celebrated by promptly punching Lapierre in the face.

Now, the league thinks this was a bit over-the-top, calling it “a reckless and forceful blow to the head.” While this is somewhat true, can’t we just categorize this hit as something in the name of science? I mean, it’s kind of common knowledge that hockey players aren’t always the best students, so I feel we should reward them for any type of academic activity, not suspend them for a game.

Nevertheless, the Bruins head up to Montreal with a 2-0 lead over the Canadiens. I’m saying Bruins take this series in 5.

photo from boston.com

TICKLE ME GREEN

Boston has another champion tonight. The 2008 Boston Celtics are the basketball WORLD CHAMPIONS. 


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1213764004_4350.jpgAll pictures from boston.com

The Celtics have a lot of players who deserve to be singled out, but the top three for me (kinda obvious) are:

Most Valuable/Deserving Player – Paul Pierce

Biggest Heart – Ray-Ray Allen

Most Photogenic and Biggest Confidence Booster – KG Kevin Garnett

2007 – 2008 will soon be hanging in the rafters with 1956-57, 1958-59, 1959-60, 1960-61,  1961-62, 1962-63, 1963-64, 1964-65, 1965-66, 1967-68, 1968-69, 1973-74,1975-76, 1980-81, 1983-84, 1985-86

Big Hearts. Big Dreams. Anything is possible.