Red Sox Report: First Half Struggles Have Sox In Unfamiliar Position

Last season at this time the Red Sox were 19 games over .500 and heading into the All Star break with a division lead. Fast forward to this year and the Sox are on the opposite end of the spectrum with not many highlights this season. The offense has been a major problem, not coming up with key hits with runners in scoring position, which last year’s team did so well time and time again.

Jon Lester Boston Sports Then & Now

Jon Lester could command a hefty contract if he reaches free agency.

The topic at the forefront of Sox right now is Jon Lester and will the team extend him in season? Lester, has had arguable is best season with the Sox this year, a season in which is ERA is under 3.00 for the first time at 2.65. Max Scherzer last offseason turned down a deal for 6 years and $144 million, Lester will be pitching tonight in the All Star game figuring to get in the second inning, Scherzer is also on the American League roster. Cole Hamels is comparable to Lester as they are both lefties, and both have lead their respective teams to World Series titles. Hamels signed an extension with the Phillies two years ago with the exact figures Scherzer got offered. If Jon Lester’s starting point in negotiations is that figure who could blame him?

Lester has long said he would love to stay in Boston, but the longer the Red Sox the wait to make him an adequate offer, the closer he gets to free agency. Teams need pitching and free agent pitchers like Lester rarely hit the open market. Would Lester walk to the first team that threw big money at him, or would he come back to the Sox giving them a chance to match? Ben Cherington has a job to do by the end of this season and that is to make sure Lester does not reach free agency.

Clay Buchholz has looked strong since his return for the disabled list. This past Sunday he pitched a complete game shutout against the Astros in Houston, allowing only three hits. Buchholz, can hardly be counted on when it comes to the top of the rotation, as every year he seems to be really on at points, and really off at others. The Sox would like to see some consistency from him in the second half of this season, and hope to build off that into next season. If Lester does not return Buchhloz or John Lackey would be elevated to the number one starter, which I feel neither are at that level this point in their respective careers.

If the Sox want to get back in contention this season, it should be by letting their young players lead the charge. 9.5 games behind the first place Orioles seems like a stretch at this point in the season with this offense, they are 8 games back for the second wild card which Seattle would claim if the season ended today. No one in the division has really jumped out and taken charge while each team has been hit by the injury bug. Most recently the Blue Jays saw home run leader Edwin Encarnacion go down with a quad injury and the Yankees only consistent starter, Masahiro Tanaka came down with the ever popular elbow soreness.

A.J. Pierzynski's stint with the Red Sox was short and unsuccessful.

A.J. Pierzynski’s stint with the Red Sox was short and unsuccessful.

Last week the Sox cut off one of their veterans in A.J. Pierzynski. Pierzynski was designated for assignment and thrown under the bus upon his exit. He was only a one year stop gap player, but he seemed to wear out his welcome, while not having a good command of the pitching staff and swinging at too many first pitches. The next veteran figuring to be on his way out could be pitcher Jake Peavy who has been involved in trade rumors with both the Cardinals and Braves. Peavy, who is only three years older than Lester is also a free agent at the end of the season, and his spot in the rotation could easily be filled by Brandon Workman.

Will the Red Sox sell off any of their other veterans who figure not to be a part of next year’s team? Only time will tell. The trade deadline is only two weeks from Thursday and thinking two weeks of good play against the Royals, Blue Jays and Rays can turn things around and make them buyers is way too naïve. Teams have come back from large division deficits at the All Star break before, but this Red Sox team has not proven they canscore runs on a consistent basis all season. The Sox are 25th in runs scored, 26th in home runs, and 22nd in batting average as a team. When was the last time the Red Sox offense was this bad? Not many can remember.

The Sox are not mathematically eliminated, but they do have the 3rd worst record in the American League. Ben Cherington has not given a definitive answer on whether the team will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, but it would be irresponsible trading high potential prospects for veterans, in hopes of just making noise in the postseason race. It is time to start focusing on 2015, and hopefully that is with Jon Lester still anchoring the staff.

B’s Beat: Zdeno Chara & The Bruins’ “Window”

Zdeno Chara Boston Sports Then & Now

Is Zdeno Chara’s Championship Window Closing?


The Bruins’ “win now window” is a hot topic in the hub, and I myself think it is a myth. It is propaganda shoved in our faces by the many “hot take” media guys that cover the B’s. It is everywhere you look, it is on the radio, it is on the TV, and it is utterly insufferable.

How does this move help them “win now”? What is Peter Chiarelli doing? Seriously, if I hear somebody ask either of those questions again I am going to climb to the rafters in the TD Garden between Orr and Clapper and take the plunge onto the spoked B.

The Bruins’ window is generally considered to be based on captain Zdeno Chara’s age, level of play, and inevitable decline. There are a number of reasons why this is both ridiculous and completely devoid of facts. For starters; Chara isn’t even the best player on this team anymore. He is their best defenseman for sure, but he isn’t the elite workhorse he once was. Having said that, Z at age 37 is still a better defenseman than about 90% of every other defenseman in the NHL right now.

“But Matt, he has gotten slow and it showed against Montreal last year, and Chicago the year before”. That is a fair point, but don’t you think it is a little irresponsible on the coach’s end to play a 37 year old play for 25+ minutes a night, even though he is a freak athlete? It is really easy to blame the player, but then again I would love to see anybody who calls him slow lace up skates and face the best players on the opposing team every night.

The Bruins plan for last season was to limit his minutes. Dennis Seidenberg tore his ACL and screwed that one up royally (not his fault obviously). So the team was forced to overuse their big man and he was unfortunately exposed. If Seides hadn’t gotten hurt, would that of happened? Who knows, and there isn’t any use in speculating. Hopefully it won’t come to that next season either.

You also can’t avoid the hypocrisy regarding Chara and the “window” too. Most people in Boston consider Big Z ineffective and slow right? If you were to type his name into twitter right now you would see a ton of “trade Chara” people. What I don’t understand is that if people feel as if Zdeno is too old and slow, than why is this “win now window” attitude based on him and the remaining years in his career?

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Red Sox Bullpen For Sale

We have now come to the undeniable truth that the Red Sox are a team in transition, with a bunch of moving pieces potentially in play on the trade market. With the team looking to liquidate some of its assets in the next month or so, there is some curiosity over which players will still be wearing white in Fenway Park come August. While not a certainty, there is a good argument to be made that the bullpen is the area of most use to the Red Sox on the trade market. The bullpen has been the most consistent and productive area of the Red Sox in 2014, and most of the current relievers have relatively little (if any) team control left following the 2014 season. Relievers are always in demand at the trade deadline, and there could be some very useful pieces available to the Red Sox if they were to make their relievers available.

Koji is wondering where he will be pitching for the stretch run

Koji is wondering where he will be pitching for the stretch run

All-Star Koji Uehara leads the list of Red Sox relievers who could be on the move this month. He has a very affordable contract, and he has been absolutely incredible this season, as supported by his 1.65 ERA, 2.70 FIP, 11.75 K/9 and 1.24 BB/9. Koji has pitched in multiple roles since coming over from Japan, so he could be a potential fit even for clubs that already have established closers. Since he would undoubtedly be the top reliever available should he hit the market, Koji would also command a good return. Teams like the Tigers and Angels that are desperate for bullpen help would likely pay a pretty penny to add a pitcher of Koji’s caliber to their playoff run.

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Change Finally Coming For Red Sox

It has taken until just before the All-Star break, but thankfully change is finally coming for the Red Sox. And no, cutting ties with Grady Sizemore last month does not count. We are talking about substantial, impactful change; the kind of change that might not lead to the playoffs in 2014, but will lead to a sustained period of success. While Ben Cherington and the front office have known for some time that the current group would not be enough to get the job done, the time has finally come to act on that knowledge and start moving the pieces.

 

Vasquez gives the Sox some life behind the plate

Vasquez gives the Sox some life behind the plate

The first domino to fall was with the catching corp. After a season of aggravation and underperformance, A.J. Pierzynski was designated for assignment in order to clear a spot on the major league roster for Christian Vasquez, who immediately found his way into the starting lineup. The writing seemed to be on the wall for Pierzynski, and it was really only a matter of time before he found his way out of Boston one way or another. The Red Sox figure to be a better team with Vasquez behind the plate, a sentiment with which fellow catcher David Ross seems to agree. All reports on Vasquez praise his defense behind the plate, with good hands and a laser arm, even though he might not be a massive threat at the plate. However at this point no one on the Red Sox is providing much offensive production so they might as well incorporate some superior defense into the lineup.

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Celtics Circuit: Celtics’ Trade Opens Possibilities For Future

Tyler Zeller

Celtics Trading With The Nets Again

For the second time in a year, the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets were involved in a trade on Wednesday.

The interesting difference is that this time there was a third team in the mix. The Cleveland Cavaliers wanted to create space in their cap to sign LeBron James.

The Celtics received Marcus Thornton from the Nets. Tyler Zeller and a protected 2016 first-round pick were sent by the Cavs to Boston.

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Bruins Development Camp Gets Under Way

bruins development camp

The Bruins Development Camp Is Off & Skating


Welcome back, Bruins fans!

The time has come to start really looking at how the team’s prospects are shaping up. This year’s roster includes a few expected guys, such as first-round draftee David Pastrnak, second-round draftee Ryan Donato, and current P-Bruins Matt Lindblad, Anthony Camara, and Malcolm Subban.

There are a few notable invites added to the camp this year, as well. Casey Bailey and Ryan Carpenter are both collegiate-level forwards who skated out with the P-Bruins guys for the hour long skate today. Carpenter was signed to a one-way contract back in March with the San Jose Sharks, and will be playing with Worcester of the American Hockey League next season. He and Bailey fit in well playing with the Bruins players, as did fellow invitees Alex Cord, Derek Docken, and Garnet Hathaway.

The development practice, which was held at the Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass, looked positive and promising for those watching. According to Mark Garbino of BruinsLife.com, it looked like ‘Pastrnak and Donato are already shaping up to be good friends’. He went on to describe a friendly shootout held between the two after the practice, saying that everyone seemed to be laughing and getting along quite well.

Despite all the incredible forwards who skated around together today, though, Boston newcomer Linus Arnesson seemed to be the breakout star of the practice with his clear, solid defensive play. He made some amazing passes to Pastrnak, suggesting that the two will make a good team when they finally hit the Bruins lineup together. Arnesson, who was drafted by the Bruins in the second round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, was signed to a one-year entry-level contract this June. The Swedish blue-liner spent one final year playing in the SHL before signing his contract with Boston, but we can expect to see him on this side of the pond come September.

As far as goaltending went, all three of the Bruin’s netminding prosepcts- Zane Gothberg, Adam Morrison, and Malcom Subban- were in attendance at the first day of camp. While Subban showed up an hour late due to dehydration issues, both he and Gothberg made solid showings for the practice.

If Bruins fans weren’t excited about next season yet, it’s doubtful they feel the same way now. Preseason is unofficially under way, and I personally can’t get enough of it. I can’t wait to see how the newest prospects measure up against the already formidable lineup the P Bruins have to offer, and I’m curious to see where more veteran players such as Camara and Arnesson will end up come September. Who will be in Providence? Who’s going to be skating out on the ice alongside Chara and Bergy?

Keep following the development camp, because it’s a great way to find out.

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