What-If Dirk Nowitzki Beaten Miami In 2006?

Often it’s discussed “who is the greatest to never win the big one?” and we pontificate the various what-if moments, the coin flips that went against them seemingly at every turn. I’m not very big on rings, I often rank Jerry West above Kobe Bryant and think anyone who doesn’t is just valuing his five titles over West’s single championship. It’s fairly vein. But I am not a “Death to Rings” man either. I am the cliché “both sides have a point” advocate. But at some point you have to win the goddamn game. Otherwise sports is just watching a bunch of rich strangers dick around for a couple hours. 

When that player we watched for so many years come agonizingly short suddenly puts all the pieces together it’s sweet – with some caveats of course. While LeBron James and Kevin Durant are among the greatest fifteen to ever play and you can’t devalue their titles in substance, in sentiment you surely could. You can believe they were in the right and that’s fine, the bottom line is they ran from their previous failures into more favorable situations to achieve the accolades the Internet and television people demand they chase. 

It is sweeter when you see someone like Dirk Nowitzki put all the demons to bed in what turned out to be final chance at glory in 2011. And to a lesser extent Giannis this past season. Sure, he’s only in eighth year but modern NBA media landscape makes everything feel longer than it actually is. Giannis’ eight-years are more impressive than LeBron’s and his best teammate throughout it all was Khris Middleton. People poo-poo the final three first era LeBron teams but they couldn’t have been that much worse than the 2021 Bucks. 

It is extremely likely we’ll see Giannis raise one or two more banners before his time is over. But for Dirk him rushing to the locker room to cry tears of joy, defeating the mighty Dwayne Wade and LeBron was the final moment of relevance in his long and storied career. Tasting only better considering the Miami Heat defeated Dirk in 2006, with Wade as their best player getting favorable foul call after foul call from the crooked Tim Donaghy. This was not redemption, this was correcting a dastardly wrong that sent Nowitzki and his franchise into a tale spin of heartbreaking losses three of the following four years while Shaq achieved a higher status having won without Kobe, and Wade was the last superstar to win a championship on a rookie contract. 

2006 could have been a watershed moment for basketball if Dallas won. The makeup of Avery Johnson’s team was the height of the pre-super team era. Since the fall of the Shaq/Kobe Lakers in 2004 the subsequent years were plentiful for teams hoping to overcome their flaws en route to their ultimate goal. You know, what sports is supposed to be? Not just a bunch of buddies teaming up because they felt like it. 

Under no circumstances will you see a team play Dirk next to Erick Dampier and get away with it to the extent the Mavericks did nowadays. But Dampier and his backup DeSagana Diop had their moments despite the idiocy in them playing to begin with. 

Another favorite from the team, in my opinion was Jerry Stackhouse. Classic case of someone you’d like to have in a fight, but had no business being the third best player on a potential championship team. Oh, and Jason Terry was their second best player. God I love this era of basketball. 

Just like in 2011 the Mavericks route to the finals was just as impressive. Overthrowing the defending champion Spurs in a legendary seven-game series, and the Phoenix Suns ya the peak of their powers lead by former teammate Steve Nash. 

While the western conference in 2006 was lead by forward thinking organizations, the East was helmed by stone aged tactics. Detroit played a slow style similar to getting beaten half to death in a bar. The Heat had one real superstar, a bunch of over the hill famous names and a celebrity head coach. While Dirk’s less than stellar cast did complimented him, Wade’s likely did little for him. 

The differences between the two leagues was apparent and while many didn’t care for the diversity I would kill to have this now. 

Dallas could play small, big, slow or fast. For a team that still treated the 3-point line like it didn’t exist Johnson – along with Donn Nelson helmed an extremely versatile roster. 

All Miami did was run everything through Wade in what maybe was the best version of any attempt to copy the MJ-formula of one guy does everything. This was a clear clashing of styles. A battle for the soul of basketball, Bill Simmons framed it as. 

Dirk grew from an awkward, soft inside presence to developing a bonafide post game and seemingly an answer for everything. We forget the table was set for his “arrival” in 2006. Shaq is declining. Kobe is floundering without him and Phil Jackson. The Spurs had just been knocked off. Everyone views the Suns scheme as suspect. 

If Dallas won it usher in a brief golden age Of basketball. An era of enlightenment. 

“Hey, flexibility is awesome. Even if the guys we have are flawed let’s try to find a place for them rather than just quitting on them or making them camp out in the corner.” 

“It be nice to get an extra superstar next to ours, but we can also compliment him with really good role players that’ll be elevated by our superstar.”

“Ah man, we blew this Steve Nash thing. But our infrastructural fortitude can ride this out!”

And Dirk would be the poster child for this era. The post Kobe/Shaq era would belong to Dirk and maybe his teams don’t have those historical meltdowns in the subsequent seasons and maybe win again in not just 2011, but 2007. I know that 2007 Cavaliers team is considered a joking but getting the best of Wade and Bron in back to back years isn’t a small feat. 

Sticking with the idea Dirk just gets the two championships puts him squarely into the top-20 conversion. He’d soar over Kevin Garnett and potentially even Tim Duncan. Dirk would achieve NBA cultural icon status similar to Stephen Curry. A trail blazer for the big forward position. What the Warriors experienced in the mid-2010s certainly happens to Dallas mid-2000s. Right down to the superior team the following season with your best player winning MVP. 

What Miami did was knock an all-timer down a peg. Which is why we like basketball. When there’s nobody else watching your back it’s only you who can defend your legacy, Dirk lost this battle. He would lose many. But he won in the end. It’s just debatable which one was the most impactful. 

This Loss Was Stupid and Dumb

This wasn’t a mixed bag. This was your absolute best case scenario affair culminating in an inexplicable kick to the nuts. From top to bottom the Patriots dominated the contest – and it wasn’t even close. Time of possession, yardage, first downs and third down conversations all Patriots.

But it only takes one asshole to ruin everything. Damian Harris was a workhorse and deserves credit, but in the red zone with a chance to win it in the end you cannot fumble the ball. Mistakes happen. It’s just you never wanna lose a game so abruptly. 

The Dolphins are a legitimate threat, even if their quarterback situation remains suspect. An electric wide receiving core of Jaylen Waddle and Devonte Parker could only deliver the ‘Phins 17. Meanwhile the Patriots and their often dismissed offensive core kept their poise in the face of bad field possession and momentum killer penalties. 

Mac Jones didn’t make a single error today, which is not something I expected to jot down from the rookies debut performance against last year’s sixth ranked defense. The Dolphins sent their best and Jones managed to keep his poise and make key throws. Drives didn’t stall because balls to open receivers were thrown to their shoe laces and not chests. 

Uncharacteristic sloppiness on the part of the Patriots defined the contest, right down to the Harris fumble. Lineman Justin Herron committed two unnecessary roughness penalties, once costing the Patriots seven-points which led to his benching. Rhamondre Stevenson committee a fumble that luckily didn’t amount to any points for the opposing side. But it lead to his benching nonetheless. He only received one carry. Hopefully next week vs New York he’ll be better. 

Otherwise the Patriots played their part of a rush-first team pushing around the opposing side, and Jones chipped in a crisp 29/39, 281 yards and a TD. No turnovers and only one sacks, which is a credit to the line holding even if their was the aforementioned sloppiness. 

Defensively fans have much to be proud of. Got tons of pressure on Tua Tagovailoa, adding two sacks and an interception. The team was melting down in its attempt at a late game execution and the Patriots brought the heat.

It simply hurts to lose this because I feel in my hearts of hearts the Dolphins are not the better team. 

I want to be optimistic but that usually leads me getting knee’d in the nuts. On the bright side you don’t win the Super Bowl in week one of the season. 

2013 Red Sox: From The Dregs To The Brim

Sports in New England has gone under an identity shift the last two decades. While the never ending sense of dread still remains in our DNA we come to also expect success. Anything sort of a championship is considered a failure. This was the consensus during the fifteen-year drought and that is still the overarching belief during our Golden Era (God wilting this era isn’t over).

But in 2013 the tenor of the Boston Red Sox, the only other professional team based in New England to win multiple championships since the Patriots rattled off their first chip in 2001, was dread. Unlike the Patriots the Red Sox have not been a model of consistency and stable management. Mangers and front office men are often fired after a couple seasons and nobody since Terry Francona has managed longer than four seasons. General Manager Theo Epstein, along with Larry Lucchino moved away from the metrics heavy philosophy Bill James pioneered and helped sculpt two world championships. James was frozen out as the team made bad signings, such as retaining Josh Beckett, trading a top flight prospect and signing Adrian Gonzalez, and the coup de grace the driving of the preverbal Brinks truck to Carl Crawford’s house.

Beckett, Crawford and A-Gon combined for $364 million of the Red Sox astronomical salary cap. Beckett averaged $17 million, A-Gon $22 million, and Crawford of $22,285,714. Entering 2011 the Red Sox roster cost approximately $161,762,475 and three players took up thirty-seven percent of it.

While Gonzalez enjoyed individual success his first year in Boston, making the All-Star game, leading the league in hits and winning a Gold Glove, and Beckett also made the All-Star game and finished top-10 in Cy Young voting, Crawford was DOA. Initially wanting to go to Los Angeles to play for the Angels the Red Sox offered him too much green for him to turn down so he mopped around and his sluggish play showed. 2011 me hated Carl Crawford… 2021 me admires him for getting his money and still being pissy.

His last two years in Tampa Crawford hit a respectable .306, drove in 158 runs and stole 107 bases. In Boston Crawford batted .255, 56 RBIs and 18 steals. A lot is made about how all the three signings instantly became albatrosses, but Gonzalez remained a great player for multiple years and Beckett had one more good campaign in him. Crawford was the one who didn’t live up to the hype.

Entering 2011 you would have never guessed the end of the First Red Sox Empire was upon us. Stalwarts of the previous championship squad (David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jonathan Papelbon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Beckett, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and Jon Lester) are still All-Star level talents. Added on top of that ownership opened up their pocketbooks to sign World Champion reliever Bobby Jenks as if Papelbon wasn’t already enough. Sure, John Lackey had a horrid 2010 campaign, but surely he’ll rebound and not pitch an entire season on an elbow that needed Tommy John surgery. Right?

Despite an 0-6 start the team put that memory to rest by winning 80 of their next 121 games and a division lead entering September. The Tampa Bay (no longer the Devil) Rays sat in a distant second by a whopping nine games entering the final stretch. Then came the poultry and volatile flammable liquid.

But the sharp decline wasn’t all because the Bros decided to kick back a some brewskis and eat some KFC. Youkilis battled injuries the entire year and grew discouraged and detached from the team.

Francona behind the scenes was made a lame duck when the front office did not pick up his option for 2012. Reasonable to believe he thought this to be his final season captaining the Red Sox. Hard to manage when your future is suddenly murky. Add on to that his medical issues, dealing with multiple knee surgeries and the personal turmoil of having his oldest son stationed in Afghanistan it seemed like the writing was on the wall that Francona wouldn’t be around much longer.

A-Gon was accused of being devoid of energy and passion (that’s what happens when you sign a mercenary) and even the beloved Ortiz was charged with being a clubhouse disruptor.

And Epstein’s judgment in signing Crawford and Jenks, who’s career ended that year due to injury, caused serious doubt in his future as higher ups believed it was time for a change. I’m well aware this is the man who molded three championship teams for Boston and Chicago, but Theo in my mind is the main culprit for this and doesn’t get enough blame.

Even when they were winning I remember this distinct feeling of everything feeling off, for lack of a better term. Remember those NESN commercials in the middle of the season where Don Orsillo said “It took a while, but it’s all good!” making light of the Red Sox earlier season struggles? Well, it wasn’t all good. Lester, Lackey and Beckett struggled late and there performances only waned more so as the pressure ratcheted up with every loss. Funnily enough these were the three often cited in the clubhouse drinking the aforementioned beer and eating the fried chicken during games.

As much as this could be pinned on the players and the suits in the front office, this was a staggering failure of the older heads who failed to manage the chaos. Varitek was the long-standing team captain and couldn’t keep the shenanigans to a minimum. Wakefield was busy searching for his 200th win and cost Boston, by my count, a hundred chances to prevent this mess in order to get it. It’s no wonder why both these guys retired after this season.

As the season wore on the Red Sox rotation grew fatter and out of shape and the losses kept piling up. Suddenly that nine game lead over Tampa became a deficit and the Sox were fighting for their damned lives. A fight they would lose on the 162nd game and the first time I learned that bad things can happen to the teams I root for.

People began to point fingers, heads were chopped off and the people operating the guillotine also needed to put their head under the blade but instead found themselves with more power than before (Cc: Lucchino).

In need of a reputation repair the new general manager Ben Cherington’s arm was twisted to sign the once respected Bobby Valentine to a two-year deal. Here’s a pro tip: when a new manager is signed to a short term deal that’s because the dysfunctional front office was split whether to hire that person and decided on the worst possible route.

Valentine hadn’t managed in the pros since 2002, beating out Tigers coach Gene Lamont who was an active coach during the interview process while Valentine managed in Japan and did analysts for ESPN’s baseball coverage. The decent, most responsible choice was, even to a piss-ant teenager like myself was to hire Lamont. While I knew jack shit about baseball and figured Valentine would be fine because of his pedigree his hiring reeked of a gigantic swing attempt that’ll likely only chomp at air.

Still, I was optimistic. Valentine outperformed expectations wherever he went. Plus he seemed like he knew what he was talking about on TV. That movie where a kid manages the Minnesota Twins wanted to hire him so he must be good. It was also Fenway’s 100th anniversary and maybe those silly dump bricks the team sold at an astronomical price would prove a good omen for the beginning of a new era.

Side note: I made a lot of dumb purchases in my life but the one thing I am proud of in my miserable existence is I didn’t ask my mom and dad to pony up dough for a fucking brick. I think they asked me if I wanted it and I told them “It’s a brick.”

Valentine lost the clubhouse in a months time picking a fight with Youkilis publicly ripping into the third baseman on TV. Pedroia and Gonzalez stepped up to defend their teammate so Valentine relented. For someone who shied away from confrontation Valentine had an act for instigating it. Routinely calling out players during spring training and losing the respect of those all around him. By July Pedroia and A-Gon were having heated team meetings with ownership trying to nudge Valentine out the door.

2013 was the first time i had only modest expectations for the Red Sox. Expectations that boiled down to “please don’t embarrass me again.”

Gone are the high priced, underachievers, as well as the lone high priced talent worth his contract. In came the mildly overpriced, but good chemistry guys to repair the friction in the locker room. Bad chemistry is infectious. Even Pedroia and Ortiz didn’t keep themselves above the fray during the debacle in 2011. Ortiz bitched to Francona over a scorers decisions, something neither of them held the power to fix, because it could have costed him a batting award, and the team leader Pedroia seemed to just let the cancers fester unabated.

For two years we were bombarded with drama as opposed to baseball talk. It felt good to talk about newcomer Jackie Bradley Jr trying to make the 25 man roster, and the competition between left-handers Daniel Nava, Lyle Overbay, Ryan Sweeney, Billy Hamilton, and Mike Carp over who backs up Mike Napoli at first base. People talked about the youth movement with starting third baseman Will Middlebrooks, when is infielder Xander Bogaerts getting called up? Will Ryan Lavarnway and Christian Vazquez crack the backup catcher spot? How’s that young knuckleball pitcher Steven Wright looking?

You’d be surprised what a healthy, competitive training camp does for a team. Backup shortstop Jose Iglesias seized the starting spot in place of Stephen Drew who was sidelined with concussion like symptoms. Iglesias batted a poultry .188 the previous campaign and up until he was traded to Detroit in a large transaction that brought Jake Peavy to Boston, he hit a beyond .330. While he doesn’t get a ring for his contributions what Iglesias provided in the first half of the season shouldn’t be minimized.

It was a return to grit and selflessness that defined past teams. On opening day Pedroia injured his thumb sliding into first base in an attempt to beat out an infield throw, and still hit for .300, finished top-10 in MVP voting and won a Gold Glove at his position. Easily the best year for Pedroia. The year he embodied the heart and soul of the team as their version of Marcus Smart.

Whatever coin flips the Red Sox found themselves undertaking during the season always landed in their favor. Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey are hurt? We got this guy named Koji Uehara who was striking out Barry Bonds back in 2002. Lester looking sluggish in the dog days of the season? Lackey just lost a ton of weight and looks like the Anaheim Angels version of himself.

That was the entire season, having never lost three straight games the Red Sox were on a magic carpet ride of unexpected success. That entire year the 7th, 8th and 9th inning guys were just nails and a guaranteed victory. Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, and the aforementioned Koji shut the door on opponents virtually every night. And the team just rode those three like donkeys and they never broke down. How in the world have we let these names slip into irrelevance??? Koji was 38 pitching 74 innings while sporting an ERA barley above 1.00. Breslow was a nondescript journeymen and here he is being maybe the best set-up man of that year. Go to their baseball reference page it was just them the whole year. The other relievers either got traded or injured.

The much maligned Clay Buchholz looked like a Cy Young candidate his first twelve starts. The team was 11-1 in those starts. 84.1 innings and an opp. batting average of 1.95. Then he began to battle fatigue and didn’t come back until September and then came back a shell of himself.

Fortunately for Boston Felix Doubront for about 19 starts was just magnificent. 114 innings pitched and an ERA of under three he kept the rotation afloat. I honestly thought we were watching the birth of a star with him. My exact thoughts when we traded for Peavy was “Why we do that we already have King Felix!”

Just a bunch of cast-offs considered on the back-nine of their careers. Shane Victorino was thrown away by the Dodgers and considered an overpay at 3 years for $39 million. Victorino was coming off his worst campaign before signing with Boston. His slash line of .255/.321/.383 was pitiful. But Victorino was a smart hitter and made up for his shortcomings offensively by being great defensively and at base running.

Mike Napoli initially signed a multi-year contract with Boston but he failed a physical because of a bad hip so it became a one-year deal at a measly $5 million; costing him over $30 million. Despite being an All-Star Napoli was a tightrope player. Someone who embraced his extremes. Either he was bopping one out of the park or striking out. Absolutely no in between. And that extreme was met in the 2013 when he hit a home run off a dealing Justin Verlander despite batting a below .200 average in arguably a more shocking hit than Ortiz’ grand slam!

Drew was a quiet lunch-pale player. Not bombastic like Gomes or an extremist like Napoli. Drew was going to show up every day and make some run preventing plays at shortstop and it wasn’t going to matter he couldn’t hit. Drew is often talked about as a walking out (which he was, but still). Drew was actually an average hitter, but I never saw it. And I watched a ton of Red Sox games as a kid. This is before the Celtics overtook my interest. Regardless, Drew’s health always remained suspect.

There are so many random players who just have on their Wikipedia page listing their accomplishments as “2013 World Series Champion” and no player am I happier to see that honor given to than Drew.

But these guys had experience and stepped up in their own ways when the stage became its brightest. Because that was their pedigree. Victorino played on two pennant winning teams in Philly, including a championship. Napoli was a part of the Texas Rangers squad that was one misplayed fly out by Nelson Cruz away from a title. Drew was the lesser known brother of J.D, the hero of the 2007 title team. While Stephen wasn’t an albatross to later justify his contract with one swing of the bad in October, he did prove more than his modest worth of $9.5 million deal with his glove.

Another low-key signing that ended up paying gigantic dividends was Jonny Gomes, 2 years, $10 million. Gomes reputation was wherever he went the team made the playoffs, so he must be a good guy to have in the locker room. That broad statement turned out to be spot on.

Gomes’ batting swing earned him the moniker “Hacksaw Jonny Gomes” and it’s a thing of beauty to witness when he actually connects with the ball and it flys over the fence. Though he batted just .200 during the playoff run the team was 6-0 when he started in left field, and like Napoli hit the series momentum swinging home run over Trevor Rosenthal in Game 4 of the World Series.

The hits kept on coming. In a dry free agent pool for pitchers, only young future Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, the Sox deviated from their philosophy of spending like drunken sailors once given wiggle room and splurged modestly on 36-year old Ryan Dumpster… I mean DEMPSTER!

Two-years, $26.5 for a pitcher coming off a career year to be your backend of the rotation starter with an ERA of 4.33 didn’t scream “help is on the way!” for the 69-(not nice) win team. Plus, to add to the shenanigans, Dempster never pitched against the AL East. Which means he never pitched in the uber hitter friendly parks of Fenway and new Yankee stadium. His fast ball topped out at around 90 so he’d likely be a sitting duck facing A-Rod. But the Sox got 171 innings out of him and he held firm, even cracking the postseason roster despite the team having next to no use for him. Must have been as a favor for not sucking. 2013 would turn out to be Dempster’s final season in the majors, wishing to spend time with his family and forgoing his hefty $14.5 million salary. He did get a ring and went out a champion. For that I’ll always love Dempster for that.

On opening day the expectations were low and fans just wanted to have fun. Their focus was on JBJ who did crack the 25-man roster. The future was here and he was wearing number 44. I always liked that number. Watching the post game after, I believe it was Tom Carron and Jim Rice, you would have thought Bradley hit three home runs. Bradley drew three walks, which isn’t anything to sneeze at. But they broke down his at-bats pitch by pitch. But nobody complained. I was happy to see Bradley play well and I was doubly glad to see a healthy discourse. Just seeing fans and talking heads actually enjoy watching and discussing Red Sox games was an experience I didn’t have for about two years.

Bradley turned out to be a work in progress, as all top flight prospects turn out to be. Look at Jarren Duran it just takes time and you need reps to work through shortcomings. The only crime for JBJ in 2013 was the Red Sox exceeded expectations and couldn’t afford to play the rookie as they initially intended. But even though he didn’t make the playoff roster in 2013 his presence at the beginning was a purveyor of good things to come.

There aren’t many Red Sox games from the 2013 season on Youtube. I did watch the opening day game vs New York. What’s funny is how the pitchers were managed vs how the rotation would turn out later in the year. Koji was pitching in relief during the sixth inning. Hanrahan got the save. Lefty Andrew Miller walked two, struck out two. He was a guy I forgot we had, then remembered he’s the man we flipped for Eduardo Rodriguez the next season.

Still nursing his achilles injury Ortiz missed the opening series, making Gomes the designated hitter. Soon he’d take JBJ’s job in left field.

You think of all the anomalies the Red Sox had to benefit from to even reach the playoffs, its jaw dropping!

John Lackey getting into shape and healthy after coming off Tommy John surgery causing him to miss 2012 and returning to form

David Ortiz defying Father Time and not declining even slightly in production

Being able to flip Iglesias for pitching depth

Surviving the long series with a bullpen of mostly just three reliable guys

That last point makes me admire this team so much more. The Red Sox this year just ran Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino and Garrett Whitlock into the ground to the point they are starting to get diminishing returns. Ottavino might be fine because his best stuff is more finesse than velocity, but Barnes is in a huge load of trouble because he’s a flamethrower on the mound with not much in the way of elusiveness when it comes to his pitching style. Fortunately for the 2013 team Koji’s fastball topped out at 88, Taz at 93 and Breslow at 92. Those three guys had a curveball they could get by on.

After beating Tampa in the ALDS next up on the docket was the mighty Detroit Tigers an their pitching rotation of death. “Surely we won’t get shut out by Anibal Sanchez of all people?” I thought… oh how stupid am I. This set the stage for the heavyweight fight between Max Scherzer and Buchholz… the worn down Buchholz needs to save our Cinderella season. Oh, my God we’re going to lose!

How are we going to win? Makes no sense. We’re gonna drown in a sea of Ks courtesy of Scherzer’s heterochromia iridis eyes, and Verlander’s unnatural ability to grow stronger the more pitches he throws.

Sanchez had a no-hitter going into the ninth inning giving up no runs the previous game, and Scherzer picked up right where his predecessor left off. Striking out thirteen in 7 and giving up just a charitable run to the hapless Sox lineup. I was so happy when Jim Leyland showed us mercy and pulled him after the seventh. I would have let him finished the whole game if I was Detroit.

Whereas the Sox bullpen needed to support the starters, the Tigers starters needed to support their bullpen. Buchholz did fine the first five innings of work but Farrell was asleep at the wheel and didn’t get his relievers warming up before the sixth. By then Buchholz’ pitches were essentially on a T-ball stand begging to be pelted. He gave up five, but I remember being more enraged at Farrell for letting Buchholz hang himself. To make matters worse, when Farrell did take him out he went to Brandon Workman the weakest link in the pen… In an unrelated occurrence Workman got three outs, giving up only a walk in his outing before being replaced by Doubront. Shows what I know, which is nothing.

Instead of sticking with Scherzer, Leyland called upon Jose Veras, who gave up a double to the slumping Middlebrooks after getting Drew to groundout. In comes lefty Drew Smyly who was brought in to face the left-hander Ellsbury and immediately walked him. Al Alburquerque then took over, striking out Victorino and walking Pedroia. For the fourth and final pitching change of the schizophrenic inning was the hard throwing Joaquin “Don’t Call Me Chris” Benoit. Ortiz said earlier in the year he’s had an inability to hit the curveball and change-up recently, but stated defiantly he could still hit the fastball and that’s what he promptly did on the first pitch that was right down the middle, over the wall tie game and Red Sox rise from their deathbeds and walk into a new life.

No one has ever explained to me why this was the preferred management of pitching rather than just let Scherzer put the death kneel in Boston for the eighth where it’s likely the bottom half of the order would have been up in the ninth with a four point lead how could you go wrong?

In the end future Red Sox Rick Porcello gives up the game-winning hit to Jared Saltamaccia, after Gomes beat out a Iglesias throw to first and the ball bounced out of play placing him at 2nd. An interference wasn’t called when Prince Fielder couldn’t corral a pop-up to first and a wild pitch sent Gomes to third. The disaster was capped by a slow roller into the outfield. It be the last bit Salty would get in Fenway Park.

Heading into game five is when Lester earned his big game status. Series tied 2-2 the Sox stole game 3, and were promptly throttled the next day by Pretty Ricky. Lester got himself into trouble early on, giving up three hits in the first inning. If Miguel Cabrera did not run through the third base coach’s stop sign and get tagged out at home the Tigers likely start the contest ahead.

Napoli smacks one over the center field wall the next inning, followed by two doubles by Xander, then David Ross and a single by Ellsbury to give Boston a total of three runs. The Red Sox previously couldn’t buy a run off Sanchez his last outing now suddenly had 3.

Bogaerts getting the starting nod over Middlebrooks was a smart Farrell choice for tonight. While everyone pulled their hair out over Drew, I was busy wondering why Salty and Middlebrooks were still playing. Especially since Bogey was a ready replacement and an improvement.

Playoffs:

Middlebrooks – 25 ABs, .160/.250/.240, 4 hits

Bogaerts – 27 ABs, .296/.412/.482, 8 hits

An underlying subplot to this series was not only the bad managing on the part of Leyland and Farrell, but the errors of Iglesias that caused Boston to climb back into games they really shouldn’t have. In the NBA if a team traded away a good rotation player and faced that player in the playoffs that year i’d imagine there’d be quite a lot written about the subject, but in baseball not a peep was uttered about it. In game six Ellsbury hit what should have been a double play ball and he mishandled it leading to a Victorino grand slam the very next at bat. He was absolutely the scapegoat of the series.

Just like in game two the Tigers bullpen murdered their teams chances. Ironically, Leyland wasn’t wrong to sub out Scherzer. He gave up a double to Gomes and walked Bogaerts, and Smyly did get the ground ball he desired only the shortstop didn’t come up with it. Veras took over and hammered the 0-2 pitch over the Green Monster. Doubly ironic is Ortiz was on deck.

Meanwhile Farrell didn’t do much better either. While Buchholz pitched five scoreless innings, Farrell let him stay in the game too long as the sixth inning once again being the culprit. Walking Torii Hunter, a single to Cabrera, and then Buchholz is replaced with the undisciplined Franklin Morales who promptly walks Fielder and gives up a single to former Red Sox Victor Martinez so he gets the hook for unexpected savior Brandon Workman, who gets Jhonny Peralta to ground into a double play and Alex Avila to strikeout.

In came the more reliable arms and the Sox suddenly went from worst to American League champions. A season that seemed destined for the Tigers to finally put all the pieces together, Leyland managing the All-Star game hellbent on the AL winning and gaining home-field advantage for the World Series only served to assist the team that would thwart them.

Opposite Boston in the Fall Classic was their National League doppelgänger in St. Louis. Like Boston they also attributed their run to an act similar to cutting teeth. But instead of cutting loose salary, the Cardinals let their franchise superstar walk after he just helped them win a championship. But management correctly projected Albert Pujols wasn’t worth the money he was demanding and they’d be better off using his money elsewhere. A year later they’d make the NLCS all the way to game seven. A season late they’d make it back to the World Series. Two well run organizations seemingly on fire. A combination of lucky signings, home ground talent and redemption stories.

The Cardinals were the cleaner version of the Red Sox. When their first era of dominance came to a close it was much more ceremonial. Tony La Russa retired after winning his second championship for the team two-years prior. The new heads was a mixture of the young and old, Molina carrying the torch for the original group, and youngsters like Kolten Wong and Michael Wacha leading the successful youth movement. Guys who won before, carrying themselves with the utmost professionalism but still fielding players with that needed hunger.

A pitching rotation of a rejuvenated Adam Wainwright, rookie sensation Wacha, and hard throwing Joe Kelly made up for a lackluster Cardinals batting lineup missing their key contributor in Allen Craig who was still hobbled from a Lisfranc injury suffered on September 4. A quick read on Wikipedia the injury was one of the metatarsal bones in his foot became displaced. All Craig could do was hit. He couldn’t run for shit. Carlos Beltran scared me but he always gonna let the bat rest on his shoulders in the big moments.

After drubbing the Cardinals in game one 8-1, I remember being pissed at Beltran robbing Ortiz of a grand slam. In his attempt at robbing Ortiz Beltran did damage his ribs considerably so I consider it an act of karma.

In game two Ortiz hit what should have been his most famous World Series home run time give the team a lead late. But Farrell continued to mismanage the pen. And this I definitely called at the time. While Lackey’s pitch count was low entering the seventh inning I wanted Breslow to have a clean inning. But since right-handers Craig and David Freese were the first two up, Lackey stayed in. Now here’s where past me was wrong. Farrell was right to keep the rightie in, but he should have deferred to Workman or Tazawa. That mistake cost us the game. Carpenter ties the game with a bases loaded sac fly, Breslow makes a throwing error causing another run to come in completing the self destruction.

Two games gifted to St. Louis thanks to throwing errors late. In what was a monumental test of their fortitude the Sox bent plenty times in game three, allowing 12 base runners and minimized the damage to the point they had a shot to steal it just as the Cardinals did the night before.

Peavy gives up two early in the first and the Sox claw back managing only a run off Kelly and then tied the game against Seth Maness. In the seventh Farrell AGAIN trusted Breslow this time with a clean inning and he promptly fucked it up. A single by Carpenter and a hit by pitch from Beltran, Taz inherited a mess he couldn’t clean up and a Matt Holiday double returned the lead to the home team. For the love of God, Breslow isn’t up to the task! The Cardinals are clearly feasting off left-handers!!

But, miraculously, Carlos Martinez paid the Sox back by opening up the eighth by giving up a hit to Ellsbury and then hitting Victorino.

After getting Pedroia out, he walks Ortiz and is replaced by Trevor Rosenthal who was in the same spot as Taz was just in, tasked with cleaning up his predecessors mess. The struggling Daniel Nava and the rookie Bogaerts were next. Nava drives in a run via fielders choice, resulting in an out and Bogey is clutch for a single scoring Victorino. Instead of pinch hitting Salty for Ross, or Middlebrooks or Gomes, Farrell stays with the catcher who was downright miserable at the plate and grounded out to end any threat of Boston taking its first lead of the long night.

Workman and Rosy get through the next innings and in the bottom of the ninth it seemed the game was heading into extras. Fun fact: Workman batted in the top of the ninth for Boston… on second thought Farrell wasn’t a good manger. After getting the first out, Molina hit for a single bringing in Koji. Craig doubled putting runners at 2nd and third. Jon Jay hits to Pedroia at 2nd base and easily throws out Molina, then Salty decides to do something that’ll staple him to the bench the rest of the series. He makes a risky throw to third to get the running Craig, which is idiotic because Craig can’t run to begin with and there are now two out so it’s not like you’re sending him home via sac fly. Middlebrooks couldn’t catch the wild throw. Despite Middlebrooks laying face in the dirt Craig stumbles over him as he rushes home and is thrown out at the plate but is saved by an obstruction call rewarding them game to St. Louis.

Bedlam. Just bedlam. The last time a game would get me that mad was game five vs Toronto in 2020. It was a bullshit call them and it’s still a bullshit call. Thank God it didn’t matter in the end.

I was at a wedding watching this. The dad of the bride was giving a heart felt toast during this sequence of which I interrupted by screaming “BULLSHIT” the dad promptly turns around and says “the Red Sox lost. I don’t know what happened.”

Once again the season rested in the fading arm of Buchholz. Christ! Buchholz has been in so many high leverage games I’m starting to consider the only reason we did win in the end was because of Devine intervention.

And if Craig couldn’t trudge around the bases before he certainly couldn’t do anything beyond just standing in the batters box. The spill he took at the end of game three limited him immensely. To the point where he was an afterthought. Someone who lurked in the shadows as a possible pinch hitter when the chips were down. Let’s just hope Mike Matheny is a fool and doesn’t use him.

Farrell had seen the light and decided Middlebrooks and Salty’s missions were complete, more or less, and it was time for Bogey and Ross to take over. While Ross wasn’t any more of an upside at the plate he’d at least connect the ball with his bat, whereas Salty just whiffed.

Buchholz only went four innings and gave up one run. Farrell knew he couldn’t play around and was quick with the hook when it looked like Buchholz was too vulnerable. In the four innings he only gave up one run.

In the fourth inning there was a chance for St. Louis to really turn the screws in. With Buchholz on the ropes, he intentionally walked Daniel Descalso to get to Lance Lynn who up until that point was pitching a gem. Would have been the perfect time to sub in Craig and put the game in the hands of your usually reliable bullpen. Two on, two out, high leverage chance to maybe win this thing now. But Matheny elected for the conservative route and let Lynn bat and promptly fail to score the runs.

Next inning, Red Sox tie it with a Drew sac fly, and the inning after Gomes hits a deep ball over the wall for three runs. By then Lynn’s night was finished and Maness had to take the heat for the three run shot.

Another time when the Sox were seemingly at the end of the road only to be given new life. This time it was Gomes who was the hero. The man who was heralded as bringing about a winning attitude wherever he went. First in Tampa in 2008 when they crashed the World Series, then Cincinnati in 2010 when they made it back to the playoffs after a long hiatus, then Oakland in 2012 in a feel good story for that year. The bombastic professional willing to sacrifice to win just hit a series altering slam. It’s only fair.

In a series where no one was hitting, besides Ortiz, it makes sense the spark came from Gomes in hindsight. Whenever he started the Sox coincidently found themselves in the winners circle. When he didn’t they lost. Besides game one, the Cardinals pitchers threw smoke and when they figured out they could just pitch around Ortiz it left Boston more impotent than ever.

Gomes only batted once in the previous game, it was a fly out that dropped his postseason average to a pitiful .125. If Victorino didn’t have back spasms prior to first pitch Gomes wouldn’t have never seen the field. As a last minute substitution Gomes first at bat in the 2nd inning was a 5-4-3 double play. Little did we know what we witnessed beyond the surface. As St. Louis looked poised to tighten their grip on the series Gomes exhibited, as Gomes brother puts it, a confident at bat. Not many in the Red Sox lineup had that. Passively accepting them playing catch-up vs St. Louis.

Before this moment a 3-1 deficit was to be expected. “Maybe Lester can stretch this thing back to Fenway” I thought “But no way does Lackey or Peavy win the next two.” That hit, according to Gomes, wasn’t even supposed to happen. He’s confessed he doesn’t hit righties particularly well, and with the young Maness riding a hot rookie campaign throwing 66 innings and a 2.32 ERA (and a ZERO ERA for the postseason). Gomes knew Maness trusted his sinker, he believed he could hit it if it was put in the correct spot. Lady Luck again smiled down on us and WHAM! Three-run shot. The Impossible Dream team once again cheat death.

When I saw that golf-like swing i repeated “GO GO GO GO GO!” if it was any other team besides my own I would have know from the moment it left the bat that it was over the wall. But the fan in me couldn’t allow myself to ever feel comfortable.

Farrell learned to not trust Breslow anymore. Remember that tangent I had about left-handed pitches not performing well vs St. Louis? Well, Doubront shoved that right up my preteen ass throwing two and a third scoreless innings… wait. Who is that coming out of the bullpen? Farrell you piece of shit!!

So Breslow is back and quickly puts two runners on despite needing just one out to escape the initially clean inning he inherited. Once again Taz had to clean up his mess. Holiday fails to make the Sox pay and they escape allowing just one run.

In comes Lackey. Now keep in mind I’m just a kid, so seeing a starter in a relief role is very foreign to me I believed Farrell lost his damned mind. Instead, Lackey gets Matt Adams to ground out by a great charge by Bogaerts. Molina hits a hot liner to Bogaerts, who makes a great stop but the arm strength isn’t there and lazily is out of Napoli’s reach and Molina is on 2nd. Two pitches later a wild pitch during the Jay moves Molina to third. Lackey appears to be disintegrating before our very eyes. Just a sac fly or a grounder will drive Molina home. But Jay pops it up to Drew in the infield so crisis averted.

2011 World Series hero David Freese grounds its softly to Drew and is easily thrown out. A big load is off my back, I sigh “Koji time.”

First batter: Descalso, is out. Second batter the dangerous Craig hits one over the head of Nava and is immediately taken out for the speedy Kolten Wong. Craig could have reached second but his legs were failing him. Carpenter continues to be useless and flies out to Pedroia, setting up Beltran.

A dominate, grizzled veteran slugger with the chance to rip the heart out of Boston vs the dominate grizzled veteran pitcher. This is what baseball is all about because no matter what it comes down to your best players facing off in a….

Sorry, I must’ve turned away from the TV while I was on my diatribe. Koji threw Wong out at first and the game was over. The rookie took one step too many away from the bag and paid the ultimate price. Seeing Wong take his lead Napoli stayed near the bag expecting a throw and got it. Even the Fox cameraman was shocked as his sights was set on a pretty blonde woman in the stands.

What’s funny is while blunders like this usually haunt athletes until they’re six feet under, everyone’s forgotten this moment and Wong has enjoyed a solid career since. The next season he finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, won two Gold Gloves and has secured a place for himself as one of the best second basemen in the National League.

But to have a World Series game end on a pick-off play, right after we had one end on an interference call this was if baseball was played if all the participants were secretly drugged.

Games five and six were less hectic. The series turned into a tug-a-war match that Boston eventually won. But unlike game four the moment when it definitively ended for St. Louis was less grand.

Boston struck first with an Ortiz double into left sending Pedroia home. Lester was crushing until the fourth when Holiday smashed one over the wall to knot it up. From then it became a war of attrition.

It culminated in the top of the seventh, a dealing Wainwright facing Boston’s bottom of the order Nava – Bogaerts – Drew – Ross – Lester. Nava went down easily, but the late season call-up Bogey hit a ground ball single, followed by a Drew walk. Quite improbable considering Drew up until that point had an on-base percentage of barley over .100. So to say Wainwright fucked up would be an understatement. Because Ross would hit a ground rule double the next at bat driving in Bogey, meaning Farrell could let Lester bat to keep him in the game. If there was two out maybe Farrell thinks about favoring the offense.

But Farrell didn’t have to put his thinking cap on. Ellsbury drove in an extra run and the Sox had seized complete control. St. Louis manages only a Freese double as Lester and Koji shut the door and promptly throttled the birds in the sixth and final game of the series. While winning the World Series on the hollowed grass of Fenway it didn’t feel like a gigantic weight was lifted from Boston fans shoulders, but more of a once in a lifetime sight to behold.

It was the climax of the long journeys for Koji. It was revenge for Napoli for the Cardinals stealing the 2011 title from him. It was validation for Drew proving to be just as, if not more useful than his older brother for the same team he won a championship on just six years earlier.

The mercenaries like Victorino, Gomes, Drew, and Napoli exceeding expectations. Homegrown guys like Bogey, Nava, Middlebrooks, Salty and Ellsbury reaching the apex of their potentials. The stalwart veterans like Lester, Pedroia, Buchholz, Ortiz and Lackey redeeming themselves for their arrogance destroying the first Red Sox Empire and birthing a new one in the grand year of 2013.

And of course, cemented Ortiz’ legacy in Boston as a fucking hero.

The relievers who day in and day out didn’t let up when the workload only increased. Utterly an improbable turn of events. From the dregs to the peak in a dizzying two-year span the subsequent years felt like an epilogue even as owner John Henry ran two Red Sox greats out of down in a five-year span.

2013 is special because it was never supposed to happen. The lone championship Boston can truly call a Cinderella tale – besides the 2001 Patriots. This likable bunch saved the Red Sox reputation. Their crown rolled into the gutter and the Beards picked it up with their bats.

The Off-Season of Good Feeling

Fittingly the Celtics are dedicating nights to seven decades one by one for the upcoming season, as Brad Stevens locking up one of the faces of the 2010s era Celtics (if not the face) and perhaps what’ll hopefully be one of the standouts of the 2020s. 

Marcus Smart was offered a four year extension worth $77 million earlier in the summer. I believed initially the price to retain Smart’s services would be heftier than that. Buddy Hield is on a four year, $94 million contract for Sacramento, and he isn’t better than Smart. Fred VanVleet is on a four year, $85 million deal with a player-option on Toronto, and, again, he is not better than Smart. 

If Smart isn’t receiving a player-option that means he’s getting some sort of compensation for forgoing this crucial bullet in a player entering his primes chamber. Right? No. Instead he signs for the initially reported offer, no player-option and merely a 5 to 15 percent trade kicker. If Bradley Beal isn’t coming to Beantown, and if Stevens doesn’t want anything to do with Zach LaVine, that trade kicker will never matter because that’s the only way Smart doesn’t finish out this new contract in Boston. 

Followed up by the Robert Williams $54 million extension, locking him into Boston’s grasp until 2026, in my opinion this is what’s best for both sides. Williams gets his money, as he’s never been able to consistently stay on the court despite his upside that fact still lingers when assessing his value. Boston managed to take advantage of the situation by signing him to what either will be a tradable contract or an absolute heist.

While it’s clear Smart will start at point guard and dictate the offense this upcoming year, Williams is in a contest with veteran Al Horford for the starting gig. The Celtics possess many more capable bodies they did not have previously, so hopes are high Ime Udoka does not, if ever, turns to the dreaded double-big lineup. For all the talk about how this is a “make or break” year for the established stars on the roster a name that’s seldom mentioned that’s going to matter sooner rather than later is Jabari Parker. Being the lone natural power forward on the team he’s likely to beat out third year tweaner Grant Williams for the backup four spot. A contest I think he’ll win. 

While there are issues with the team, no roster is perfect, I feel we’re in for a better season than last year. I harp on how Covid depressed the value of last years’ team, but really their ceiling was 40 wins. If we’re able to dodge Covid entirely I think the Celtics will win over fifty times. 

In an off-season of utter uncertainty and reshuffling the new regime locked down their face of their franchise on a generous contract, and perhaps the face of their next generation.

This off-season is a palate cleanser similar to the Sixers the previous year. Dumping the fat and centralizing the offense around their best assets and rebuilding a defense first identity. If Ben Simmons wasn’t such a coward I believe Philadelphia would have won it all last year.

It’s a good thing we don’t have any cowards wearing green. 

Boston’s New German Friend

Is that… could it be? The familiar, yet all too rare feeling of optimism creeping into my mental state? 

No, Schroder is not the big fish that’ll dramatically change the Celtics fortunes by himself. Until today I realized I’ve been spelling his last name wrong. But by his mere existence, providing his contributes positively, is a major net gain for a team I believed to be thin once Evan Fournier inked his contract to the Knicks about a week ago.

After Fournier was no longer an option Boston’s main five seemed to be Smart – Richardson – Jaylen – Jayson – Horford, their sixth man being Robert Williams. Boston faced a potential roster crisis similar to last season where two of their best players play the center position leading to no better option but to trot out the dreaded double-big lineup. In my opinion the double-big lineup was fine on small doses; Williams and former teammate Daniel Theis did well together, but it isn’t a formula you want to rely on when playing Brooklyn. Opposing teams typically launch three-bombs and make them at an extraordinary clip thanks in part to God hating the Celtics. With the double-big lineups minimized that weakness hopefully vanishes.

We’ve all heard the story about Schroder and told our fair share of jokes. Not even twelve months ago he was Laker’s GM Rob Pelinka’s greatest find in free agency. Before playing a game for the purple and gold the team believed in him so much they wanted to preemptively sign him to an extension worth $84 million, roughly over $20 million per season. He turned it down, either due to his agent or himself believing there was more capital to be extracted from the market, and saw his value plummet as the Lakers lost LeBron James and Anthony Davis for the majority of the season to injuries. 

From the promising 2019-20 campaign in Oklahoma in where he shot 46/38/83 splits to the dregs of a 43/33/84 Schroder, in the most simplest way I can put this, made a mistake and lost a lot of money. Boston is his best chance to recoup his lost capital and re-enter free agency the next season where either Boston will retain him if Beal doesn’t sign or elsewhere. 

Why he didn’t work in L.A could also be chalked up to he didn’t fit next to LeBron. Someone who needs the ball in his hands, but isn’t an elite scorer to deserve the needed shot attempts doesn’t usually work well next to the equally ball-dominate James. I’m aware it is contradictory to say the stats for Schroder are better with LeBron out of the picture than with him in, it also tells the story that maybe he wasn’t a good fit in L.A and in Boston with more pass friendly players like Tatum and Jaylen he’ll flourish. 

Thirty-Six games with LeBron: 11.9 FGA, 43.7 fg%, 3.2 3PA, 31.6 3P%, 4.1 FTA, 82.9 ft%, 14.8 pts, 4.7 ast, 3.4 reb.

Following March 20th, when LeBron started coming in and out of the lineup: 13.3 FGA, 44.4 fg%, 4 3PA, 37 3P%, 3.6 FTA, 87.8 ft%, 16.4 pts, 7.6 ast, 3.3 reb.

Schroder is a fine playmaker, a decent defender and the best off the bench shooter this teams had (not counting the Covid stricken Fournier) since James Posey. For the first time since 2018 the Celtics field of a team predominantly of actual basketball players. By my count they have seven reliable bodies, potentially that can be upped to nine or even eleven; Payton Pritchard, Aaron Nesmith, Romeo Langford and Yam Madar looking mighty fine first two Summer League games. I know Summer League success rarely translates to the regular season, I fondly remember the fantastic summer campaigns of Carsen Edwards and R.J Hunter BUT THIS TIME WILL BE DIFFERENT. 

Last season, besides the whole covid-19 issue, Boston possessed merely three good non-center players which crunched the roster significantly. Now the talent is evenly distributed between the guards, wings and bigs. Truly this hasn’t been seen since 2018 and the only reason nobody remembers how stacked that roster was is because that season was defined by their injuries. But look take a gander at the 2017-18 team and weep if you’re a Celtics fan wanting to reminisce at what was robbed from you.  

Before today I did worry about where that extra scoring threat would emerge, crossing my fingers Romeo or Nesmith would take that leap, with Schroder the need becomes less apparent. 

I’ve heard for years how the Celtics need to bring back Rajon Rondo. For what it’s worth: Schroder’s initial claim to fame was being nicknamed the “German Rondo.”

Shameless Ring Chasers

To be honest, I don’t mind the off-season the Celtics are having. Yeah, I’d love to have kept Evan Fournier. Perhaps if Brad Stevens did not feel it necessary to clear up money for Bradley Beal he would have ponied up the dough for him. But sitting on your hands and crossing your fingers Mr. Covid to not come to your door leaves you alone so that you can finish top-3 in the conference and impress a soon-to-be free agent all-star shooting guard isn’t the worst plan in the world. Of course they’ll be other suitors. Golden State will be at the door. The demons that run the Miami Heat always find a way to free up salary. Boston beat back the opposition for Al Horford, Gordon Hayward and Kemba Walker in the past. Maybe they can do it again.

The positives are in what Boston did so far, and the negatives are based around “they didn’t spend money in free agency” which is true. Besides signing Enes Kanter to $2.7 million the Celtics sit on what’s left of their MLE ($3.2 million) on what potentially is going to be used on Dennis Schroeder? Hard to tell. Everything you read on Twitter is 99% scuttlebutt.

It sucks to see everyone else sign someone and achieve that new car syndrome that is all too fun to experience in the moment, but come Christmas time they sour on. It’s like clockwork. I’m sure the Knicks won’t regret paying out the ass to keep Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks. I’m certain the Chicago Bulls won’t pull their hair out over DeMar DeRozan’s one dimensional offensive scheme that only works against the Celtics on a consistent basis. 

What Stevens has done was move off a negative asset in Walker for Al Horford. Many lauded the Thunder at the time for this deal and still do, despite the fact they’ve essentially paid $60 million for the sixteenth pick in the draft and paid Walker to fuck off. Yet another win by the immortal mastermind Sam Presti.

Those who are mad it took a first round pick to get off of Walker are the same people who get mad when the Celtics draft anyone in this range of the draft. They’re simply prone to anger and should be ignored. The team isn’t perfect. But the proper authorities on the matter of how the team is run are not them. You wanna get anywhere in this god forsaken landscape of sports media you usually tie yourself to a team and cry about how poorly they are run and run down the players, no matter how accomplished, in an almost sabotage effort. Like you want to run your stars out of town. We have a lot of wannabe Dan Shaugnessey’s on Twitter and that goes for not just Boston.

Tristan Thompson, one of my favorite players because you all hate him so much, traded to Atlanta or Sacramento (I don’t really care to check) for Kris Dunn and a 2nd round pick. Another negative asset the Celtics moved for positive value. A brief description of Dunn is he is Brad Wanamaker beat by beat. Quick, passable as a ball-handler, can get steals on defense and that’s about it. If he stays healthy he’s fine.

Josh Richardson is a solid scorer, and contrary to popular belief was good in Philadelphia two seasons ago, but horrid in Dallas last year. My  submission is he needs to have the ball in his hands and be allowed to cook. He isn’t an off-ball player. Perhaps Ime Udoka put in a good work for him and figured that was the cause for his recent struggles. While a starting backcourt with Smart and his mini-me will make the hallow FleetCenter sound like the Battle of Gettysburg, I can only shrug and say “maybe it’ll all work itself out.”

Look at what the Lakers and Nets did and flatly assume it’s all superfluous. One team signed the best available free agents over the age of thirty thanks to their geographical location. The other picked up shameless ring chasers. But both of them could have ran it back with the same rosters and enjoyed similar success they are likely to embark on this upcoming season. It’s all predicated on health. Health is why these two assholes didn’t meet in the finals last season.

Miami is the perfect combination of location and shameless ring chasing. 2020 hurts despite myself seeing the outcome from a mile away as it happened, because it inflated their reputation beyond the admirable above-average label. Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson shot the lights out in the bubble and showed how much of an anomaly that was the following season, yet we insist on the former version of themselves being true. It isn’t. They are fine supporting cast pieces. Pat Riley should look to cash in on them rather than keep drinking the kool-aid. Just like DeRozan you can’t say the Heat are overrated because once every two weeks they meet their expectations against the Celtics and everyone forgets the previous contests where they played like hot garbage.

Attention spans similar of that to a moth attracted to a flickering lightbulb. 

Wait and see is all I can say right now. Wait and see. We don’t know what awaits us. Yes, Covid-19 is still here and wrecking havoc on even grander scale than it did the previous year thanks to the influx of the Delta variant. Many players have refused to be vaccinated and the league seems apathetic towards the matter. Fans and writers are too stupid to understand they are drawing their grandiose conclusions due to how their season related to the virus. 

Outside of that we don’t know what will be of Marcus Smart or Robert Williams. The former is due for an extension and expects around $20 million annually for his services. Williams is less of a concern due to his restricted free agent status next summer. He is also prone to injury and it isn’t a horrible idea to see what’s out there for him now so you’re not saddled with his aching body combined with eight figure salary. 

More Like Dumb Agency

Repetition defines our lives. The ability to stave off mental decline as we watch yahoos cheer the very people who’ll destroy life as we know it isn’t one to take lightly. To be so far from the levers of power, especially since once upon a time you believed we were so close to them, only to never grasp them is a cruel game we play on ourselves as much as our overlords do.

Sports and politics are intertwined in suffering. It’s differences stems from the kool-aid drinkers of the latter being more joyous and less questionable of authority than the former. If I can pinpoint what ills the American psyche in the briefest terms it be a misplacement of emotions. Nobody in sports is truly happy, those who are come across as sycophantic weirdos. Everyone on team Democrat currently is delirious with joy as they’ve returned to brunch. They are also guilty of being sycophants, but that leads them to admire people and never (and I mean never) question them. 

After a while you grow accustomed to the bad news, sometimes you even grow numb to it. It depends given the circumstances of your relationships to the event. The defeat of Nina Turner breaks my heart. Toss this L in with the others. Brent Welder, Allison Hartson, Ihssane Leckey, and of course Bernie Sanders. They’ll always be another progressive running in some area of this God forsaken country to get wrapped up in. Soon we’ll forget the pain and ready ourselves for more hurt. It’s like when the Celtics break my heart, they’ll be back and soon I’ll get wrapped up in whatever silly obstacles they find in their way pondering whether God really is toying with my delicate mental health. 

All I wanted this summer was the return of shooting guard Evan Fournier so we could perceive our flexibility in our rotation and, in my mind, be the second best team in the conference baring health. I do admire the Milwaukee Bucks in what they accomplished recently, but I was confident the Celtics could handle them. Maybe they still can, seeing as they stole two out of three from the Bucks prior to the Fournier deal happening. But out of respect I give Milwaukee the moniker of second best over my favorite team.

The contract for Fournier doesn’t seem one Boston would not do in a normal situation. Four years, $78 million ($19.5 per) isn’t very much. It’s right where experts pinned his value being. But Boston didn’t match. My guess is it’s either because ownership is being cheap or they believe Bradley Beal is coming next off-season so just let the chips fall as they may this year and keep the books clean.

“But what if he doesn’t sign?” is a question I seen bounced around by the wonderful people on Twitter.com. That’s the risk you run, unfortunately. It is encouraging to see Beal nip trades in the bud, meaning he isn’t interested in entertaining suitors for his upcoming free agency beyond his own team and Boston. 

What hurts is I do not know how we achieve this without cutting loose Mr. Celtic Marcus Smart. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have broken the bank, and Smart is due an extension. Either we’ll see him moved this season for assets or we’ll feel obligated to play this season out if, for once in our lives, we enjoy a clean bill of health. 

That’s the other sticking point: we’re wrapping ourselves up in a potentially doomed season given how the situation regarding the leagues handily of Covid-19 has been laughably poor. It is very likely the Celtics experience the same woes they did previously and the team appears worse than they actually are. But the discourse dictators are so stupid they took it at face value making the pill all the more bitter to swallow. 

Covid lays in the grassy knolls waiting for the perfect opportunity to upend our season the moment we gain any sort of momentum. Hey, remember we started last season 8-3 before Tatum was diagnosed with Coronavirus? Seems like ages ago. 

For all and all, despite all my doom forecasting the roster remains solid and even as Brad Stevens has let Fournier walk, and elected not to overpay the parade of free agents that are a dime a dozen, the team will gel better if their health persists. 

It just never dose persist. 

Henry Clay and Good Ole Catholic Bashing

I did the impossible I won at something

There was not one prominent party more devoid of vision than the Whigs. If they could not nominate Henry Clay, or a plethora of favorite son candidates, they loved to elevate the generals (they loved their generals, folks!). They also loved nominating people that were old as shit. William Henry Harrison 67-years old at the time of his nomination, Henry Clay was sixty-five at the time of his nomination, Zachary Taylor was sixty-four when he came out of nowhere to become the party’s candidate, and lastly Winfield Scott was sixty-five when his fat ass was the party’s sacrificial lamb to the immortal Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire.

The youngest candidate the Whigs nominated was the fifty-four year old Daniel Webster (also of New Hampshire, but also Massachusetts). 

The party founded on anti-Jacksonian democracy continuously linked themselves to poor man’s versions of the man they despised. While having opinions of his own Andrew Jackson’s right-hand man was the Martin Van Buren, the real brains of the Democratic Party. If A-Jax was all about that action, MVB was the often overlooked bean counter without him Jackson doesn’t accomplish virtually everything he set out to do during his presidency. Granted everything Jackson accomplished was demonic, but he to give credit to the great Satan he had to win many legislative battles to do so. 

By the time 1844 rolled around Jackson’s rival and punching bag Clay was his party’s nominee (like Clay literally birthed the Whigs). Looking to rebound from losing the election of 1832, the Bank War, opposing the Indian Removal, not winning his party’s nomination in 1836, losing Harrison thirty-days into his presidency in ‘40, and having Democrat turned Whig John Tyler reject his platform at every turn, the heroic loser hoped that this time would be when all the stars aligned to achieve an epic narrative changing victory.

Spoiler alert: he didn’t. DAMN BIRNEY BROS!

Former slave owner turn abolitionist James G. Birney compiled over 17,000 votes in the critical state of New York thereby giving the state and the election to “Young Hickory” James K. Polk. 

But Clay obviously deserves blame here. The Great Compromiser proved once more he was not adaptable on the main issue of the election, that being Texas Annexation. Polk saw the independent nation bordering the fledgling Mexican Empire, it’s founding based around Anglo-Saxons wanting to practice slavery where it was ruled illegal thus causing a irreparable rift between sides, as ripped for expansion of the horrific practice. 

All Clay offered was an ineffective moderate solution to the issue. Once in office Polk did everything in his power to provoke war with the Mexicans. Clay took the sails out of the anti-slavery “Conscience Whigs” by tepidly supporting expansion, whilst also angering the “Cotton Whigs” as rumored swirled that the slave owning Clay was secretly an abolitionist thanks in part to a letter by his cousin Cassius Clay stating Henry was in accord with the abolitionist movement. 

I stole Tennessee and later New York for the slimmest victory in electoral history

Funnily enough a similar issue would pop up for the Democrats in the next election, northern Lewis Cass would be linked with the fervent slavery faction of his party, while his running mate William O. Butler would be dogged by rumors of being an abolitionist despite being a southern slave owner. 

This era was defined by nut-jobs continuously driving the ship into the ice berg, whilst crying they did not have enough control in the government. 1844 would be the last time the Democrats united behind a candidate with little reservations or conspiracy. His successors the aforementioned Cass, Pierce, Buchanan, Douglas would be subjected to hotly contested conventions, partly held together with duck tape and even in victory enraged both sides of their own party constantly.

Eat shit Birney Bros

Just like his mentor what Polk sought to accomplish was demonic and God willing he’s in Hell for all of eternity as payment for his crimes against basic human decency. But he also did everything he promised to do. Annexed Texas, expanded the country’s borders and slavery. It’s a shame that considering the water in the White House was contaminated with human feces Polk didn’t bite the dust as quickly as his predecessor or even his successor. 

James K. Polk pulls an Al Gore

Nope. History dictates any person that could remotely be a force of even marginal positive change need to die and pass the torch to a mediocre successor. Polk was a talented politician, but also a horrible person so he got to serve his entire term in relative good health. 

Playing the game Campaign Trail on AmericanHistoryusa.com you can take control of the Clay campaign, pick from three options for Vice President and try to rewrite history. If you want Clay to steal southern states, you’ll have to be pro-annexation and come out strongly against abolition when Cassius’ letter comes to light. Keep in mind you’re doing this while inflaming New York, but they aren’t essentially anti-annexation or supportive of abolition they are moderates and their wants are complex and downright infuriating in their vagueness.

Democrats advantages in New York is the inroads to Irish arrivals, and to combat that the Whigs nominated nativist Theodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey to shore up the opposing side. It’s likely fools errand to try and soften your anti-immigrant stances, and Frelinghuysen split the baby as he was anti-expansion of slavery and voted against the Indian Removal Act. 

If you pick a more progressive option in former congressman and legal counsel for the Second Bank of the United States John Sergeant, if you want a retread of the horrific defeat from twelve years earlier. Sergeant is more strong in his hostility to slavery and ousting of the American Indians from their ancestral land. Sergeant also voted against the 1820 Missouri compromise which allowed Missouri to become a state despite being above the 36 and one-half degree line and tipping the balance of power in Congress in favor of the “Slave Power.” 

If you pick this guy you’ll have to spit in the face of immigrants to shore up nativist support in your party as it’s unlikely the Irish will swing to your side. Nativist will be easier to win over if you pick Frelinghuysen and you won’t have to be so toxic when answering questions. Regardless you usually start off with a lead in either play-through, one you’ll certainly bleed of once you start answering questions and, hopefully, form a coherent ideology that splits support in your big tent party. 

Had he won it’s chief attribute was to be that Clay found a way to dissuade people from engaging in abolition sentiments and channeled their rage against an other scapegoat the Irish Catholic. Seeing as one of the main successors to the Whig Party was the Know-Nothings was premised on anti-Catholic sentiment it is feasible to see that the party of Clay survives longer upon his victory and veers closer to anti-immigration and away from domestic policy. The elections of this era were defined by slavery and an abundance of social issues, not much about domestic policy is to be found. Course the likes of Abe Lincoln had his guiding principal be Clay’s “American System” and the Homestead Act as his main legislative accomplishment outside of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Prior to Lincoln the Whigs/Republicans struggled to engage with southerners in an alternative to their wishes of rampant expansionism. Never understanding all they wanted was land and cheap labor. Seeing as the government wasn’t going to give them land that was held by the planter elite they went after the American Indians to secure themselves a plantation of their own. 

A little known fact about the Whigs is their candidates did promise to run for only one term. They believed the president existed solely as a figurehead, a sort of rubber stamp for the congress and senate where the real power laid. If Clay did serve only one term it’s likely the sixty-six year old does not survive his entire four-years as drinking the poo-water did Zachary Taylor in by his second year in the office. So you’ll likely get Frelinghuysen as your president. Since he was not much of a departure from Clay in terms of policy you only lose the best deal maker in 19th century American politics at a time of great and constant strife, with the threat of succession looming. No biggie.

Clay probably acquires Texas, but not by war. It probably doesn’t even achieve full statehood until a Democrat takes office. The issue that killed the Whigs as a party was Millard Fillmore signing the Fugitive Slave Act; in this timeline it could have been the statehood of Texas that did them in if Clay or his Whig successors sided with the Democrats in granting them the status cretans like John C. Calhoun lusted. 

If there is no war, and Clay is dead, Frelinghuysen is the party’s de facto nominee in 1848 facing either Lewis Cass or Martin Van Buren. With no Texas to stick in his craw Van Buren doesn’t anger Jackson and potentially keeps his place at the table after being a good solider in the previous election supporting Polk. Van Buren ran a third-party campaign on the abolitionist ticket known as the “Free-Soilers” despite never once being an abolitionist a day in his life. He’d like to see slavery curtailed but never thought of it being expunged from the nation. 

His campaign was rooted in showing his party how they were playing with fire constantly wavering to the south, expanding slavery and flaring up the north. Seeking only to deny Cass the office Van Buren accomplished his modest goal and sent war hero Zack Taylor to the White House instead. Taylor was more unapologetic towards the south, demanding California be admitted as a free state and if the south tried to secede he wouldn’t hesitate having all of them killed. It’s likely the Civil War kicks off then and there if he hadn’t kicked the bucket and Fillmore signed the Fugitive Slave Act, something Taylor also vehemently opposed. 

The only reason Fillmore found himself in presidential bullpen was the party’s attempt to reconcile with the Clay faction unhappy his party nominated a candidate so closely associated with slavery. All anyone knew about Taylor’s upbringing was he descended from a class of rich Virginian planters and owned plentiful amounts of slaves. Fillmore, a slavery agnostic was installed to secure balance on the ticket. Little did people know just how little did that Alec Baldwin looking motherfucker cared about the issue of slavery. 

But in TL Frelinghuysen is the nominee (maybe Georgian rep. Thomas King Butler would be his tuning mate), and either him or Cass or Van Buren are the president. But I see Clay/Frelinghuysen  merely being able to kick the can of Texas down the road and ‘48 being a redux of the issue. Maybe Frelinghuysen wins, still signs the Fugitive Slave Act and kills the party as despite his previous history as an anti-slavery proponent he like all politicians is guilty of cowardice. 

Or maybe Cass wins and he does what Polk did only four-years later. 

I think Frelinguysen wins. My nativity wants to believe he’ll veto the Fugitive Slave Act, make California a free state, continue to drag his heels on Texas annexation, and try mightily to shift the focus of slavery to hatred of Irish Catholics and maybe with expansion halted, for a brief time that’ll work and the Civil War is kicked down the road. Maybe Abe Lincoln runs for president but on the Whig ticket? Maybe Lincoln’s defining moments isn’t the war with the south to end slavery and preserve the union, but his war in the west to secure land for poor whites at the cost of Native Americans.

In history we see great men falter, we see blood soaked generals rise to power, and sometimes useless or thought to be irrelevant individuals secure an eternal place in our textbooks and more often than not leave a mark whether we know it or not. Accidental presidents like John Tyler authorized the annexation of the Lone Star state six-days before Polk took office, Millard Fillmore did the bidding of the south and destroyed their only opposition to their political project in the process,  Andrew Johnson brought unspeakable apocalyptic nightmarish atrocities, Chester Arthur existed, Theodore Roosevelt blissfully ended the Gilded Age, Harry Truman flushed all the Communists in the work force down the toilet and lead us to the Hell world we currently inhabit, Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty and expanded civil rights…

And the little thought senator from New Jersey, later mayor of Newark, would Bible thump and catholic bash to comical extremes. 

He Has Us By The Balls

It’s Just As Much Smart’s Team As It Is Tatum’s

In many ways the landscape of Boston sports is virtually unrecognizable compared to twenty-five years ago. While the Celtics fell on some rough times in the late-1990s the mystic remained. It was never uncommon for behemoths to succumb to regression for a decade. The New York Yankees from 1982 to 1995 were the dregs of the Major League’s. The basement is inevitable, it’s the prolonged stay that is the bigger concern.

Since 2008 the Celtics have not been in a funk by any stretch of the imagination. Experiencing only one season without a playoff appearance (2014), six conference finals appearance, two NBA finals trips and one championship is nothing to sneeze at. But we are impatient and demand the moon. The feeling around the league when Giannis secured his first championship was an overwhelming “FINALLY!” despite the fact he is only 26. But to many he’s been around forever and his chances were plentiful prior to this season. Failure is unacceptable to the people who’ll never amount to much in life as they tie themselves to complete strangers in a one-way symbiotic relationship. 

My Twitter timeline is flooded with “You’re next” tagging Jayson Tatum. No. No he isn’t. The NBA is a silly league governed by happenstance and elitism. The only reason the Bucks are here is thanks to Covid-19 attacking the NBA’s best players, and benefiting from untimely injuries. Otherwise we’d be treated to a soul crushing Lakers-Nets series. The talking heads glee would make me vomit. Thankfully they did not get wha they wanted. Giannis, the man they’ve tried to goad out of Milwaukee for the better part of three-years is likely to remain in his small-market, acting as the road block to Kevin Durant and the aforementioned Tatum for years to come. More piranhas in the tank is preferable than just one or two. 

If the Celtics are to be where Milwaukee is the explanation lies in Marcus Smart. With Kemba Walker in Oklahoma point guard duties are solely his. Second year man Peyton Pritchard likely his backup baring a trade. People have linked the Celtics to guards like Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills and I don’t see it. We don’t have the financial capital nor the resources to swing those kinds of deals. We are a team caught between eras, one where we looked for talent to prop up the Jays and the future one where we build wholly in the image of Tatum. 

For this year (and possibly the next) the offense is Smart’s to handle. His chief responsibility is to feed his all-star forwards and do so often. Smart’s gotten the reputation as a shot chucker and personally I understand how that’s come to be. His wildly confident in his shot that often betrays him and even when that is apparent he is undaunted. That is something I can admire from afar about him, though it is maddening when your season hinges on it. 

But little do people know he is very responsible when in a distributor role versus when casted as one of the offensive forces. Smart has the brain of a Mike Conley during the stretches where he is the one, concerning himself with getting others involved. When the floor general isn’t him he is one of the marksmen in the trenches waiting for the command to fire. As much as not bringing back Walker is a sign this team will go as far as Jaylen and Jayson will take them, this was a bigger vote of confidence in point guard Smart.

How will he do? God knows. Dude is a fine ball player coming off a sluggish 2021 campaign that is forgivable given how virtually everyone on the roster had a season they’d like to forget and can chalk it up to the unsettling backdrop it took place under. Sadly, it seems Covid will remain in the background for at least one more season and we’ll have to wait and see how Boston handles the issue.

Again, 2021 wasn’t pretty. But blame players being in and out of the lineup for the entire season. Nothing about 2021 seemed to be real. A respectable 45-win team was cut down to 36, in my opinion. And for what it’s worth, Smart says his sluggish play on both sides of the ball was due to personal issues off the floor. Those are complicated matters I cannot comprehend. I think we should respect it and hope he is able to be in a better place mentally this upcoming season.

According to Chris Forsberg, in the 2019-20 season in the limited reps Smart received at point guard (23 percent of his 1,919 minute) he enjoyed a positive 9.9 net rating, ranking strongly in the 93rd percentile of combo-guards. The year before, you know the worse year to be a Celtics fan, he did even better with a plus-10.6 net rating logging a mere 8 percent. 

It is very likely Smart is on the track to becoming a Kyle Lowry type player. Both struggled to find their shot for many years, but were renown for their defensive prowess. 

If this experiment works Boston could then search for that illusive shooter off the bench they haven’t had since James Posey. Hell, if Tristan Thompson enjoys a renaissance the Nets in need of a center could for deal him giving back Joe Harris in my dream scenario. 

All our hopes and dreams hinges on our streaky shooting guard now playing point guard. 

Overachieving Cheapskates

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and the Red Sox going from worst to first (*KNOCKs ON WOOD*)

Little was expected of the Red Sox this season. Still stinging from the Mookie Betts trade, one made wholly to placate cheap ownership, the general manager Chaim Bloom was saddled with the unenviable task of moving a homegrown, five-tool superstar adored locally and nationally. The return was a starting outfielder, a backup catcher who has recently begun his major league career, and a second baseman that’ll be seen in the Bigs next season most likely. 

Not an impressive haul. But Bloom wasn’t trading Betts to shore up positions in need of addressing. Many teams in all sports fear what is called the luxury tax, crossing this threshold comes with penalties worth around $13 million for 2021 and potentially more until the team is out of the red.

John Henry is incredibly rich and could afford to pony up the dough. This is simply money he doesn’t want to part with for various selfish reasons. This was a salary dump. Only in baseball can a Gold Glove caliber outfielder, MVP and World Series champion in his prime is treated so unjustly.

Bloom did not move Betts more for the players given in return, it was to free up money to appease his owner, but also to get back to spending to replenish their depleted farm system. The money saved by not paying Betts, and trading David Price to the Dodgers leads to the signing of prospects like Jarren Duran and Connor Seabold. What Bloom hopes to set in place is a profitable minor league affiliate that’ll funnel a long term competitive pro team, similar to the earlier era Theo Epstein teams circa 2003 to 2009 when the Sox missed the playoffs only once. Consistency since then has been hard to come by. Mixed between four AL East titles and two world championships are last place finishes. 

Not limited to spending on the farm, Bloom paid Hunter Renfroe, Kike Hernandez and Adam Ottavino. Bloom has put the money that should have been in Betts’ bank account to incredible use. 

Right now they are in first place, albeit in an incredibly tight contest with the Rays hot on their heels. The two teams have traded first place a couple of times during the course of the season. While the Rays lost their ace Tyler Glasnow in June for the foreseeable future, the Red Sox hope to have theirs (Chris Sale) back and a young arm (Tanner Houck) returning too. 

The soldiers have braved the perils of many games played on extremely short rest, many arms in their rotations haven’t been relied on this much in their careers. Hard throwing Nathan Eovaldi never was so relied on to go six or seven innings every outing. Eddie Rodriguez is battling fatigue and inconsistency. His fastball speed waxes and wanes his body healing from the ravages of Covid-19 of which he was diagnosed with last year and missed the entirely of the 2020 season. Garrett Richards lost his faithful sticky stuff and was forced to reinvent himself on the fly, throwing pitches he couldn’t have conceived of in his worst nightmares, a sixty-eight mile an hour curveball(?!) is not what the team paid for him to throw, but as John Adams once shrugged “Them’s the breaks.”

On the backend Nick Pivetta and Martin Perez have sometimes overachieved, rarely throwing out stinkers fourth and fifth starters in the rotation are expected to. Pivetta was a Bloom transaction after cashing out on Brandon Workman having an immaculate 2019 campaign, then traded to regain the relief pitcher a season later. Ironic considering the team Bloom fleeced (Philadelphia) is lead by former Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski. 

But as things stands, the Red Sox are one bat short and one or two arms short of minimizing their greatest flaws: durability and versatility. Their ninth inning man is someone who previously explicitly said to management he doesn’t want the ball in such a high-leverage situation, but the hard throwing Matt Barnes has been dominant and a lightning rod, making his first All-Star team this year. It was expected the former Yankee Ottavino would serve as the closer, but as an eighth-inning reliever he’s done more than admirably; plus he can double as a closer too. But the Red Sox need more. 

Hirokazu Sawamura, Darwinson Hernandez and Brandon Workman are inconsistent and haven’t pitched well as of late. Josh Taylor and Garrett Whitlock are the only other reliable relievers. In the postseason having four arms is fine. But as we enter the dog days we need better stopgaps than the first three names I mentioned to keep the Red Sox from plateauing. This is why I’ve circled Craig Kimbrel. 

The Cubs are sellers this year and while the Red Sox do not want to commit salary, Kimbrel’s 2022 is a team-option. If gotten Kimbrel adds flexibility and a much needed extra bullet in the chamber. His 0.59 ERA and 20 saves means the hard throwing 33 year old still has a lot to give. This’ll ease the workload on Barnes and Otto. 

This division race is poised to go down to the wire barring a losing streak. The Red Sox are beyond fatigued and are looking forward to the break. Their arms are in need of reinforcements but the promised cavalry likely isn’t enough. Today the Red Sox are title contenders, this deadline will be a referendum on what one can really expect from Bloom. He’s never been a buyer before at this point in the season. Will he be cheap and trade for cost effective backend relievers or will he go for a big fish?

Perhaps a bigger question: will John Henry open up the checkbook?