2016 State of the Boston Sports Union

Every year around this time I write a “State of the Red Sox Nation” report. I’ve never done it for all of New England sports, and since I’m hating on the Red Sox, probably the most I ever have, I’m going to cover all the teams so I don’t write ten thousand words on how much I hate she who will not be named on this blog.

boston-sports-logos-700x

New_England_Patriots

Won their 4th Super Bowl in 2015 and are back in the hunt for another in 2016. They are severely depleted by injuries on both sides of the ball. So the playoff run will come down to their health. As good as Tom Brady is and as good a game planner as Bill Belichick is, if they don’t’ have the bodies healthy enough to implement the game plan and help Brady, they are going to lose.

In the long term they have 3 very important defensive players who are up for new contracts in the next couple of years. Let’s talk about them in order of importance.

  • Jamie Collins, despite his mystery illness midseason, has established himself as maybe the most athletic front 7 defender in the NFL. There is seemingly nothing he can’t do, except maybe sign a team friendly extension? His agent right now is the Bus Cook Sports group. Their client list doesn’t indicate any sort of pattern. Some of his clients have signed early, cap friendly deals, while others have held out for big money. He has 1 year left before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If he gets to that point and he will likely attract lots of attention and plenty of high dollar offers, if the Pats don’t use the franchise tag on him. He is a key cog in the defense, very young and still getting better. I think the most important of these 3 players to sign.
  • Dont’a Hightower, has been a little banged up this season, but has evolved into such a superb player and field general that former all pro Jerod Mayo has been left to fill in and down specific work. His agents are the Sports Trust Advisors and their client roster is peppered with guys who took the most money. None at the same position as Hightower though, so a cap friendly deal is possible, but probably not likely. He is signed through 2016 like Collins so if negotiations aren’t worked out with one of them, they will only be able to franchise tag one of them. If they even do that.
  • Chandler Jones, has had a bad week. In the midst of his breakout year in terms of sack total and QB disruptions, Jones apparently walked into a police station altered and needed to be transported to a hospital. If it turns out he was on a “class D substance,” as has been reported, than that will likely result with him entering the NFL’s substance abuse program. That will hurt his open market value as any sort of issue with substances while in the program will result in game suspensions. Maybe this scares the Patriots away, maybe it means they can get one of the game’s top pass rushers far cheaper than they would have 5 days ago. Jones is, like the 2 list above a free agent in 2017. The franchise tag would likely be ruled out for him anyway as pass rushers cost a fortune and tend not to return that value. Jones is reportedly represented by Athlete’s First, although I’m having trouble confirming that, but if it is true many of their clients have huge deals at the top of their positions. Based on Jones, status as a first round pick, his production levels, his health and age he was likely a top of the market guy, which typically means the Patriots would pass. He could become a bargain now on a short term deal.

The elephant in the Patriots locker room is how long will Tom Brady play? He stands firm in wanting to play well into his 40’s, but how realistic is that and how long can the Pats as an organization wait to get an heir apparent in place? There is no good answer. One way if you cut ties with Brady you run the risk of seeing him in another uniform. The other way is you see Brady stink in a Patriots jersey. You have to hope that he exits on top like Michael Jordan as a Bull, rather than like Michael Jordan as Wizard.

All in all as long as Belichick is in charge, the Krafts are signing the checks and Brady is under center the Patriots are going to be good.

Overall ranking of the state of the Patriots:

tony-the-tiger

Tony the Tiger, They’re GRRREEEAAAT!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


celtics

In 2015 they made a second half of the season progression that gave Celtics fans great hope for 2016 and beyond. Early in 2016 they were producing excellent results and were really only struggling with the close games as opposing teams were putting their best defender on the diminutive Isiah Thomas shutting his game down and no one else was making enough close/late shots. Of late now the team has been struggling with the one thing no one thought they would struggle with, defensive effort. Maybe coach Brad Stevens is struggling, rightfully so, with the death of his former center at Butler. And maybe that is just enough to keep the Celtics a little below where they should be. I expect the team and Stevens to regain their prior momentum and rebound from this slump. Because of their youth and their lack of a single dominant player, I expect them to be susceptible to these slumps until they get one of those guys.

There are lots of contract questions. Evan Turner, Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger are all in contract years. Personally I’m only interested in bringing back Turner and Zeller. Sullinger has been far too inconsistent and has never seemed to put in the amount of work the team has asked in order to control his weight. (Which is very pot kettle because I haven’t put in the effort I should to control my weight either, but I’m not paid for it.)

Long term there is some nice pieces signed for a long time. Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Isiah Thomas are key starters signed for a couple more years, plus the draft picks that are young, raw and going back and forth between the Celts and the D league right now.

The big long term piece is the player they have yet to draft, see the Celts have the Brooklyn Nets first round pick, unprotected. Meaning that no matter where the Nets pick is the Celtics can have it and draft the best available player. Oh and the Nets stink. Their Russian billionaire owner doesn’t get it and recently fired another coach and GM. As of January 14th here are the bottom of the standings for the NBA.

76ers 4-36
Lakers 9-31
NETS 11-28
Timberwolves 12-28
Pelicans 12-26
Suns 13-27

Now that doesn’t mean the Celts get the third pick automatically because the NBA does the lottery system, but they would have the 3rd most ping pong balls in bingo ball cage. Which would give them somewhere in the range of a 15.5% chance of landing the first pick. For context here is the 2015 list.

Timberwolves 25%
Knicks 19.9%
76ers 15.6%
Lakers 11.9%
Magic 8.8%
Kings 6.3%

So it’s not sure thing, but the Celtics haven’t had lottery odds anywhere near this range since 2007 and in 2007 they ended up dropping as low as possible, from the 2nd spot to the 5th. The Celtics lottery history certainly seems cursed.

Year Pick Record Odds Chances Pre-Lottery Pos Pick Change Player Taken Team
2014 6 25-57 10.30% 103 5th -1 Marcus Smart Celtics
2007 5 24-58 19.90% 199 2nd -3 Jeff Green Celtics
2006 7 33-49 5.30% 53 7th 0 Randy Foye Celtics
2001 10 36-46 1.10% 11 10th 0 Joe Johnson Celtics
2000 11 35-47 0.90% 9 11th 0 Jerome Moiso Celtics
1999 8 19-31 3.70% 37 7th -1 Andre Miller Cavaliers
1998 10 36-46 2.01% 14 10th 0 Paul Pierce Celtics
1997 3 15-67 27.51% 200 2nd -1 Chauncey Billups Celtics
1997 6 15-67 8.80% 64 6th 0 Ron Mercer Celtics
1994 9 32-50 1.50% 15 9th 0 Eric Montross Celtics
1986 2 67-15 14.29% 1 5th +3 Len Bias Celtics

I copied this chart from basketball.realgm.com and wow is it a great chart!

It has been 30 years since the Celtics saw their lottery position improve. The odds tell me that that has to change sooner or later. My gut tells me that sports curses in this town last 86 years. So the fact that the last pick was Len Bias, who died of an overdose the night he was drafted, doesn’t strike me as coincidental. It could be another 56 years before the Celtics draft lottery odds become ever in their favor again.

I’m a glass half full guy and I’m also confident that while the 76ers are likely to end with the best odds, I think the Lakers could easily jump the Nets leaving the Celtics with the second best odds and a chance at LSU’s Ben Simmons.

Overall ranking of the state of the Celtics

sbtbJesse Spano, “I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it” excited.

 

 

 

 


NewEnglandRevolution

Kidding! I don’t know enough about professional soccer to comment, other than to say that it exists.


bruins

I barely know enough about professional hockey to comment so I’m going to keep this brief. I think the Bruins screwed up in a couple of ways. Trading Tyler Seguin being the first, and trading all sort of other pieces to end up with the 13th, 14th, and 15th picks in the first round. Like with most drafts mid first round picks are like shooting craps. Maybe all 3 of those guys will be great, and maybe all 3 will suck, but for all the pieces dealt to acquire those picks the Bruins needed a more immediate return.

Right now the Bruins are on the fringe of the playoffs, they would be in if they started today, but that’s not a real accomplishment because out of 30 NHL teams 16 make the playoffs. So it’s not exactly an elite club. And while i’m a firm believer in “just get into the tournament, and anything can happen” I don’t find this Bruins team capable of making a significant playoff run or even particularly compelling.

Overall ranking of the state of the Bruins

maxresdefault (1)Han Solo, “Uh, we had a slight weapons malfunction, but uh… everything’s perfectly all right now. We’re fine. We’re all fine here now, thank you. How are you?” excited.

 

 


BostonRedSox

I’ve been dreading writing this (hence why they are last) because of one of the Red Sox most recent announcements.

I hate the concept of Wally the Green Monster, but it’s good for the kiddos and he is constantly active at games and interacting with fans and helping to grow the game. (It hurts to admit all that.) And it is a bit of a unique concept, creating a mascot out of a feature of the ball park rather than the nickname of the team. So I give them that, but the abortion that is she that will not be named in this space, isn’t simply a step too far it’s a huge leap off a cliff straight into hell.

I couldn’t be more confused
But more than that I’m upset
We once stood side by side
We were young when we met

We’d always stand together
That’s how we had it planned
Now where do we stand
I can’t stand the pain
I guess I don’t understand
Stand OffThe Mighty Mighty Bosstones

Some of my most serious baseball/Red Sox fans that I know best are seriously considering changing allegiances because of this fiasco and they aren’t kidding. I’m not kidding either. If the team isn’t significantly better or at least ‘fun’ to watch, I’m retiring as a Red Sox fan with David Ortiz. So with that news here is what could potentially be my final state of the Red Sox union.

Catcher
There’s a boy who fogs his world and now he’s getting lazy
There’s no motivation and frustration makes him crazy
He makes a plan to take a stand but always ends up sitting.
Someone help him up or he’s gonna end up quitting.
Who wrote Holden Caulfield?Greenday

  • Christian Vazquez is coming back from a season ending injury and when he will be ready is really the only question.
  • Blake Swihart proved he will be a solid MLB player when he was called into action probably 3 or 4 months before he was really ready for that jump. The key with Swihart was seeing him get better, he peaked in August, with a slight fall off in September, but that’s not uncommon for a minor leaguer in their first major league season, especially for the grueling nature of a catcher.
  • Ryan Hanigan is the veteran of the group, and likely the odd man out when Christian Vazquez proves he is healthy.

First Base
If each can be redeemed with the courage by which he confesses
Redemption SongFrank Turner

  • Hanley Ramirez is the answer, I guess. He had an up and down year in his come back to Boston. He was miserable as an OFer and once he ran into the wall he was never the same hitter. But he did hit 10 home runs in April with an OPS of .999. If he can regain that form as a hitter, his miserable 2015 will be a distant memory. If he can’t, and he can’t field at first the loathing from Red Sox nation will only become exponentially worse.
  • Travis Shaw showed some very nice ability to play not only first base, but third base as well and insulates the Sox at both corner infield positions where questions abound. I’m not Shaw is ever going to elevate his game to All Star level, but he certainly proved that he can hit MLB pitching, and do so at a pretty consistent pace in August and September.

Second Base
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
TimePink Floyd

  • Dustin Pedroia has been here 10 years now. Wow. The former MVP debuted in August of 2006. The question when it comes to Pedroia isn’t about effort, it’s about maintaining ability. He played in 135 games in 2014, and only 93 in 2015. After his first 5 years of having an OPS over .800, in his last 4 years he hasn’t reached that number again. He is under contract through 2021, but it’s starting to look like he isn’t going to be able to consistently be the elite second baseman that we expect him to be.

Third Base
Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole
Not like you
Pablo PicassoThe Modern Lovers

  • Pablo Sandoval was called an ass hole an awful lot in 2015. I’m not sure there is a lot of hope for dear Pablo here in Boston. His contract is untradeable, at least right now. Even if the Sox paid more than 50% of it for him to play for another team, you would have to find another team that wants him, and I’m not sure that team exists. He needs a great regular season, something he has really never had, in the worst way and far more than Hanley Ramirez in my opinion.

Shortstop
Everything is great, everything is grand
I’ve got the whole wide world in the palm of my hand
Everything is perfect it’s falling into place
I can’t seem to wipe this smile off my face
Life’s A Happy SongThe Muppets

  • Xander Bogaerts has settled not only into shortstop, but as the 3rd hitter. Or at least he better stay there. I mean look at these stats batting third for 80 games, or basically half the season.
G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
80 80 361 340 80 119 22 0 4 48 3 1 18 61 .341 .375 .441 .816 .406

Those stats aren’t just good, they are great. Is there hope he develops more power? Sure, but an .816 OPS is nothing to sneeze and 80 runs, and 48 RBIs in 80 games is serious run production so even if the round trippers don’t come, as long as he continues to produce runs at that clip he will be an excellent 3 hitter.

Super Utility
And if I know you you’re doin’ that thing.
Every day just doin’ that thing.
I can’t take you doin’ that thing you do.
That Thing you Do!The Wonders

  • Brock Holt has come to fill the relatively new position, or newly appreciated position, of Super Utility player. A guy who doesn’t have a ‘home’ on the diamond, but fills in all over the place, and still excels at the plate. The older super utility players lacked in plate productivity. Holt has become especially valuable in filling in for Pedroia at second when he has inevitably gone down with an injury.

Outfield
Right, Right, Now, Now
What is goin’ on?
We, We, Gotta, Gotta
Get it goin’ on
Be, Be, Fore, Fore
It’s Too Far Gone
We gotta work together, it’s been too long
Right Right Now NowBeastie Boys

So before I get into the players, this group almost HAS to work because next year’s outfield free agent class sucks and moving Hanley back to the outfield isn’t going to work…

  • Mookie Betts has evolved into a strong leadoff hitter and strong defensive outfielder. I think he should play right field going forward.
  • Jackie Bradley Jr. is maybe the best defensive center fielder in major league baseball so let’s put him there and forget about Mookie. Sure it was a great story how fast Mookie picked up playing center, but it is effortless for JBJ. To me defensively, and defensively alone, he looks like Griffey Jr. because he makes it look so easy. He has flashed some nice ability with the bat and looked much better at the end of 2015 than he did during the entirety of 2014, and while the numbers didn’t look great, he was hitting the ball the opposite way, on ground or on a line. If he improves on that just a little bit he will be a fine offensive 9th hitter. And because his defense is so good, that’s more than is necessary.
  • Rusney Castillo it is now or never for the Cuban defector. I know he hadn’t played organized ball in a long time before signing with the Sox, and I know it takes a while to get that feel back, but it’s time to show he is a major leaguer or it will prove out the Sox paid way too much for a AAA player.
  • Chris Young if Rusney stinks Young is a nice insurance policy. Against left handed pitching he is amazing. I mean his OPS against lefties was .972 in 2015 while it was only .585 against righties. That’s a great piece to face lefty starters and as a late game pinch hitter. He isn’t a plus defender, because he lacks the spectacular play skill now, but he is damn good and extremely consistent.

Starting Pitchers
Can’t buy me love, love
Can’t buy me love
Can’t buy me loveThe Beatles

  • David Price is the new sheriff and town and I don’t care about his playoff record because anything can happen once you get into the playoffs, but you can’t win shit if you don’t get it. The Red Sox can’t buy my love with just this signing, he has to be a 200+ inning ace for the 3 seasons prior to his opt out. If he isn’t it will be extremely disappointing.
  • Clay Buchholz is he ever going to be healthy? Not friggin likely hey I’ll take the team winning 10 of his 17 starts, but you can’t count on him and thankfully this should be the last year of having to even think about him.
  • Rick Porcello had a disappointing first season in Boston, but wants to be here and wants to be good. In the second half of the year he got back to getting ground ball outs instead of trying to strike everyone out and it showed.
  • Eduardo Rodriguez had a great little rookie season. He was reliable and kept the Sox in more games than they likely deserved to be. His inning count was very high, so it will be interesting to see how he does in adding to that total again, but his minor league history shows no signs that it should be a problem.
  • Henry Owens had a rookie year that was an dichotomy of highs and lows. At points he looked like a future Cy Young award winner and at others he looked like a kid who shouldn’t ever have pitched above class A. He likely begins the year at AAA, baring an amazing Spring Training and/or injury to one of the other 5 starters.
  • Joe Kelly I still contend they should transfer Kelly to the bullpen and make him a setup man. He throws about as hard as anyone in the game, but it’s not a particularly ‘live’ ball with a lot of movement. means that if you can time it, you can hit it. Big leaguers can hit fast and straight. But if he could just rare back and only need to face 3 or 4 batters an outing he could be potentially lights out. I mean he had a very nice stretch as a starter in 2015, but I feel it’s more an outlier than an omen of what’s on the horizon for Kelly.

Relief Pitchers
Save us, save us (Save us, save us)
Save us, save us (Save us, save us)
Save us, save us (Save us, save us)
Save us, save us (Save us, save us)
Man With The HexThe Atomic Fireballs

  • Craig Kimbrel has arrived in a nice little trade with the Padres and immediately enhances the bullpen, even if he isn’t the completely dominate guy he has been the last 6 years. The bullpen roles get clear because of Kimbrel’s presence.
  • Koji Uehara now becomes the primary setup man and will serve as the Kimbrel off day closer. He is reportedly fine with this and just wants to win as he finishes his career.
  • Junichi Tazawa was never really a great option as an 8th inning guy, not that he wasn’t effective, but he doesn’t throw quite hard enough to be a strikeout guy and his breaking stuff didn’t always drop off the table either. Pitching more in the 6th and 7th inning will be a boon the his stats and the bullpen.
  • Robbie Ross Jr. amazed in the second half of 205 and was more than a lefty specialist, he was a legitimate set up man. Continued success in that regard will only improve the Sox bullpen.
  • Carson Smith is a flamethrower who comes to the Sox in the Wade Miley deal and he is another guy that can make that bullpen dominate the late innings and help bail out the Red Sox starters when needed and finish games regularly.

Designated Hitter
Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain, we all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow
Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on
Lean on MeBill Withers

  • David Ortiz announced that this will be his final season and in Red Sox history he is on the Mount Rushmore of reliability. The Red Sox invented an award for him in 2005, dubbing him the greatest clutch hitter in Red Sox history. I mean it was a bold statement and I made a lot of fun of it in 2005, because he had been a Red Sox for 2 seasons at that point. The title though has become prophetic. The Red Sox have leaned on him and he has delivered time and time again. In 2004, his first season as the Sox full time DH, we had pain, we had sorrow and his playoff performance was a key cog in overcoming an 86 year old curse, and forever altering the fates of Red Sox history.
G AB R H HR RBI BB AVG OBP SLG OPS
14 55 13 22 5 19 13 .400 .514 .764 1.278

That is one amazing post season.
In 2007 he again dominated the postseason.

G AB R H HR RBI BB AVG OBP SLG OPS
14 46 16 17 3 10 14 .369 .492 .696 1.188

Then 2013 rolled around. The famous Boston Marathon finish line was attacked on April 15th. The Red Sox and the marathon are uniquely linked to the celebration of the Massachusetts State Holiday Patriot’s Day that celebrates the beginning battles of the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord. The Red Sox were left for a road trip right after their game on april 15th, but when they came back they had to do something. So on April 20th the Sox affable elder statesman Ortiz took the mic.

The city leaned on the Red Sox hard in those following weeks and months and they and specifically Ortiz delivered in epic fashion winning the World Series. The celebratory parade took a moment to stop at the marathon finish line and remember those you were lost, celebrate those who were working hard to triumph over injury and thank those who worked so hard to in a million different ways to bring normalcy back to the city.

2016-01-20

Ortiz jogging to the Marathon finish line during the Red Sox 2013 Victory parade

Unsurprisingly Ortiz had the biggest hit, a grand slam in game 2 of the American League Championship series, but that was hardly his only contribution.

G AB R H HR RBI BB AVG OBP SLG OPS
16 51 12 18 5 13 16 .352 .500 .706 1.206

It was vintage Ortiz in a time where we lean on him the most. I hope he goes out with a bang this season, another World Series would be great and a perfect career topper, but I’ll take a single game where the Sox are down, he lumbers up the plate in that way that does when he knows he is about the do something magical and then launches a ball high into the Boston skyline and deep into the bleachers at Fenway Park. He has lived up to the impossible to earn title of greatest hitter in Red Sox history and I’m going to miss him when he is gone.

Overall ranking of the state of the Red Sox

27_retainer1.w1200.h630Chuckie, “You’re suspect! Yeah, you! I don’t know what your reputation is in this town, but after the shit you tried to pull today you can bet I’ll be looking into you. Now the business we have, heretofore, you can speak with my aforementioned attorney. Good day, gentlemen; and until that day comes, keep your ear to the grindstone” excited.

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