Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

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Chris Sale Officially Begins Red Sox Career

AP Photo/John Raoux

Tonight at 7:10pm, Chris Sale will throw his first pitch in a game that counts for the Boston Red Sox. Sale was traded to the Red Sox this offseason with the expectation that he will be the ace of the pitching staff for years to come. The Red Sox gave up a big haul to the Chicago White Sox, including top prospects Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada, as well as other minor leaguers Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz. The expectations are high, but not unwarranted.

Early in this season, I’ll do a short player profile for all the new additions on the roster. Since Sale is starting tonight, he’s the perfect place to start.

Player Profile

Name: Christopher “The Condor” Sale

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

Height/Weight: 6’6″, 180lbs

Born: 3/30/1989 in Lakeland, FL

Drafted: Chicago White Sox in 2010 1st round (was drafted by the Rockies in the 21st round of the 2007 draft, but decided to go to college)

College: Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, FL

MLB Debut: 8/6/2010 with the White Sox

Stats:

Sale joins the Red Sox with a career 3.00 ERA, 1,244 Ks and a 74-50 record in 7 big-league seasons, along with 5 consecutive All-Star selections and a top 6 finish in the AL Cy Young voting for 5 consecutive years. Sale has 14 complete games and 2 shutouts on his resume, including 6 complete games and 1 shutout for the White Sox last season. Sale’s K to BB ratio is the best in baseball among active pitchers (4.785) and has the 2nd best active adjusted ERA+ (135), behind only Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

*All biographical information is from www.baseball-reference.com.

Bruins Clinch Playoff Spot

After 2 consecutive terrible late season collapses, the Boston Bruins are back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It felt like the playoffs had already begun on Tuesday night when the Bruins scored a huge 4-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite losing Brad Marchand to an ejection in the first period after he speared Jonathan Drouin in the groin, the Bruins played with a high-level of intensity and urgency. Now, with 2 games left, the Bruins have a chance at home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

Just a few weeks ago it seemed like a 3rd consecutive disappointing finish was a strong possibility, but Bruce Cassidy motivated his guys to play with urgency. In 25 games under Cassidy, the Bruins are 18-7 and have played much better and more consistently than under Claude Julien the previous 55 games this season. There are still a lot of question marks on this team, including some inconsistency on defense, but once you are in the playoffs, anything is possible.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, Marchand decided to be a moron and get himself ejected and likely suspended for the next game or two. The Bruins will be playing for home ice and improved playoff seeding without their leading scorer and assist-man thanks to all his prior infractions and his reputation as an instigator. There is no justification and no excuse, it was just one of the dumbest things Marchand has done in his entire career.

As a fan of the Bruins and the NHL playoffs, the win last night was a huge sigh of relief. There is no more intense and exciting action in sports than playoff hockey, so regardless of seeding and their success in the playoffs, the TD Garden will be rocking deep into April.

Red Sox Opening Day

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. –Rogers Hornsby

The weather in Boston is going to be perfect for the 2:05pm first pitch of the Red Sox 2017 season today. The 50 degree sunshine will light up Fenway Park in anticipation of strong campaign for the hanging socks. The expectations are high and the mood is hopeful as the Red Sox begin their season at home for the first time since 2010 (a 9-7 win over the Yankees). Overall, the home opener has been kind to the Sox, winning 10 of the last 12 and going 69-47 in home openers since 1901. Today, the Red Sox will match up with inter-league foe, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

One can analyze this team and spring performances until blue in the face, but the only thing that matters is what happens between the lines when the games count. Reigning AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello toes the rubber this afternoon as a nod to his 2016 performance and then Wednesday, fans get officially introduced to the biggest addition to this Red Sox club, SP Chris Sale. The lineup will have a different feel from last year without David Ortiz, but they still could be a force in the AL.

Now, for the 2 words we have been waiting all winter to hear…Play Ball!

Catching Up with the Busy New England Patriots

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

In the past week, by my count, the Patriots have signed, re-signed, or traded for 8 different players. This has been an unusually active period for the Pats who historically let the first few days of the free agent signing period settle before jumping in looking for deals. This year, Bill Belichick jumped into the trade market on March 8th and when free agency began at 4pm on March 9th, he made a big splash signing a #1 CB to bolster the defense. For those who haven’t been following the Pats moves as closely as I have, here is a recap of the new additions to the roster (in order of acquisition).

TE Dwayne Allen, Traded from the Colts 

Allen was the first domino to fall for the Pats and fills the #2 TE void that was left behind with the departure of Martellus Bennett (signed with the Packers). Allen is an excellent blocker, which is exactly what Bill Belichick looks for in a #2 TE, so he should fit in nicely. Allen has a history of catching passes in the red zone and will likely have a chance to tally some TDs this season opposite Rob Gronkowski.

CB Stephon Gilmore, Signed in Free Agency

The biggest early splash was the 5 year, $65 million deal Gilmore got in free agency from the Pats. The big payday was warranted given that he was one of the top ranking free agents this off-season, it’s just surprising the Pats were the one paying. After 5 years with the Bills and 5 defensive coordinators, Gilmore is ready for some stability. If he works hard and buys into the system (some question there), Gilmore has the size and athleticism to be an excellent #1 CB, especially since he is just 26 years old. The signing did create some issues with CB Malcolm Butler, who will likely be playing somewhere else next season. If not, a Butler/Gilmore secondary could be dominant against the pass next season.

S Duron Harmon, Re-signed

Harmon is a perfect Belichick player. He’s the 3rd safety on the depth chart and plays mostly in nickel and dime packages, but is also an important special teams player. Bill loves guys who get dirty on special teams and can contribute in multiple aspects of the game. Harmon has only missed 1 regular season game in 4 seasons, making him a nice, stable rotational piece.

TE Michael Williams, Re-signed

Many Pats fans won’t even know the name Michael Williams because he didn’t see the field in 2016. Williams is the definition of a depth piece who can be valuable in case of several injuries. In 2015 he appeared in 15 games of the Pats (started 9) and caught 3 passes for 26 yards over that span – he was primarily a blocker. At 26 years old, the Pats like him enough to keep him around, but don’t expect to see his name called unless something catastrophic happens.

WR Brandin Cooks, Traded from the Saints

One could argue this trade was even bigger than the Gilmore signing and may be the best move of the off-season, period. Cooks has been coveted by Belichick and the Pats for years and now he is a Patriot. The 23-year old WR is one of the best receivers in football and the sky is the limit on his potential. The Pats gave up their 1st and 3rd round picks for Cooks, but he has an expiring rookie contract after this season. My guess is that Belichick and Co. hope he signs a longer term deal and stays in New England for the foreseeable future, although he will not come cheap and likely demand top dollar. Cooks had 75+ receptions and 1,000+ yards in his last 2 seasons with New Orleans, which is up there with only Antonio Brown of the Steelers and Odell Beckham Jr. for the Giants in terms of production. Cook adds speed to the Pats receiving options, making them even more potent this upcoming season.

DE Kony Ealy, Traded from the Carolina Panthers

The Pats looked to bolster their defensive line depth by trading for Kony Ealy from the Panthers. Ealy has played in all 32 regular season games the past 2 seasons for the Panthers, but only started 15 of them total. He can get to the QB and is just 25, so could develop into regular starter over time. Ealy is best known for his dominant performance in Super Bowl 50, when he became the only play to force a fumble, get an interception, and record 3 sacks in a game. The potential is there and the risk is pretty low.

DT Lawrence Guy, Signed in Free Agency

Another guy in his mid-20s with potential. Guy is a journeyman defensive lineman who will add depth to the Pats line. He is 6-5, 300lbs and has 67 games under his belt (20 starts). During the past 2 seasons Guy played for the Ravens and started 17 of their 32 games while racking up 5.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble. He’s a big body inside who stays at home and won’t light-up a stat sheet. A Belichick special: depth.

RB Rex Burkhead, Signed in Free Agency

Fitting the same mold, Burkhead is a 26-year old with potential, but little to show for it in his career. He will have to compete with James White and Dion Lewis for a spot in the backfield, but given past injury history at the RB position, it’s a low-risk signing. Burkhead is looking for a chance to play and will likely be motivated to work hard in practice to prove his value. I doubt he will see the field much this year, but could be a safety valve is White and/or Lewis go down for an extended period of time.

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LB Dont’a Hightower, TBD

As of writing this, Hightower had yet to make a decision on where he was signing, but a return to the Pats seemed likely and a decision was expected Wed. The Jets and Steelers were also reportedly interested in his services, but the needle seemed to be pointing to Foxboro.

CB Malcolm Butler, On roster

One of the bigger stories recently had been the discontent of Butler, the Pats #1 CB and Super Bowl hero. Butler is set to make under $4 million this year if he signs the transitional tag, which is a big raise, but still makes him vastly underpaid (see Gilmore’s deal). The Saints may be interested in his services leading to a potential trade in the near future. Stay tuned.

QB Jimmy Garoppolo, On roster

Will they or won’t they trade Garoppolo? No one really knows, but the Browns remain the most likely landing spot for the Pats back-up. The Pats don’t have a 1st or 2nd round pick this year, so a trade with the Browns could solve the pick deficit for Belichick. My opinion swings daily on if this will actually happen.

Shut Your Mouth & Pitch: The David Price Story

Getty Images

In Tuesday’s Boston Globe, Stan Grossfeld published an interview with Red Sox starting pitcher David Price that has the Boston media market buzzing. The entire purpose of this interview is to ride in the car with Price as he heads to the ballpark in the morning during spring training. The first several questions tell you exactly what the interview is supposed to be: a puff-piece. A quick, easy, get-to-know David Price interview. It starts with questions about karma, bringing coffee to the training staff, and of course, about Price’s dog Astro. Ironically, the question that started to turn the interview dark was “What is your passion?”

A harmless, bullshit question that had an easy answer, “I have a foundation, Project One Four.” It makes total sense, a chance to promote his charity work and talk about what the charity means to him. Simple. What’s the next sentence out of his mouth? “That’s one of the things that honestly chafed me about being in Boston – with the reporters, not one time did anybody take the time to get to know me or my foundation or anything I do away from the field.” What? Really? You’re that self-centered? Oh here we go…

As my father-in-law said when he read the article, “I liked the first half, then the whole tone changed.” It was as if Price was just waiting for the perfect time to start shitting on Boston. When is he going to fucking realize he is getting paid $30 million to PITCH in the MAJOR LEAGUES. He’s not getting paid to be the Executive Director or Director of Marketing for his charity, he’s paid to PITCH. If he wants to promote his charity, he can just hop on the Twitter-machine he’s so fond of and type until his little heart’s content. Practically every freaking MLB player has a charity that they either created or play a significant role in, it’s not unique, and no David, you are not special. You do your job and the reporters will do their job: report on baseball.

Sadly, then shit got real…

Grossfeld asked another ridiculously benign question, “Tell me something about you that people don’t know. Surprise me.” Price’s response, “People in Boston don’t know anything about me. The only thing I have to do is pitch good. People don’t care about what I do or the type of person that I am. That doesn’t matter.” Overlooking the glaring grammatical mistakes, let’s dig in a bit, shall we? YOU GET PAID $30 MILLION A YEAR TO PITCH. Baseball is entertainment and Price is privileged enough to get paid more in one year than our entire extended families will ever even see in our combined lifetimes. And I know I’m a broken record here, but YOU GET PAID $30 MILLION TO THROW A FUCKING BASEBALL.

I feel the need to respond to Price directly, so here it is: If you want people to care about you as a person, David, shut your fucking mouth and perform. Get your ass off twitter and stop being a egocentric dick at every turn. Do you want to know why fans love former players like Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield? They shut their damn mouths and performed. They worked their asses off day in and day out to get better and be the best team players they could. They didn’t fuck around on twitter and shit on Boston to the media. How many Red Sox fans could tell you Jason Varitek’s wife’s name? His kids names? His dog(s) names? Hell, I don’t even know if Tek has a dog and frankly, I don’t give a shit. Why? Because he was paid to play baseball.

The interview just continued to unravel and got worse, but frankly, I’m done. I was in support of the Price contract when he came to Boston. The Red Sox were in need of stability in the starting rotation and he had a track-record of being a workhorse who toed the rubber every 5 days and ate innings. Yes, he had some baggage (*cough* postseason record *cough*), but who doesn’t? if you go out and perform, especially in Boston, no one cares about the other crap (i.e. Manny Ramirez).

I’m going to end with this; a reminder to Price. You were a free agent and signed with Boston, no one forced you to be here. You chased the money into a large media market, a decision of your own free-will, now you have to deal with that decision. For the love of all things good, just shut your fucking mouth and pitch.

Patriots to Sign CB Stephon Gilmore

Mark Mulville/Buffalo News

A busy few days for the Patriots as the free agency period kicks off at 4pm today. Yesterday, the Pats added TE depth in a trade for Dwayne Allen from the Colts and today they are looking to replace the likely opening at #2 CB as Logan Ryan gets a big payday with another team. The Pats are reportedly close to a big contract with former Buffalo Bills CB Stephon Gilmore. Nothing is finalized yet (it can’t be until after 4pm), but it appears Gilmore will get $14 million a year with the Pats and could be a very strong #2 CB. The report was from Adam Schefter on twitter.

Gilmore was the Bills first round pick out of South Carolina in 2012 and has been a good player for them. Some believe Gilmore had a down season in 2016, but by the numbers, he seemed to have a solid campaign. He finished the year with 48 tackles, 12 passes deflected, and 5 interceptions (a career high) in 15 games. In his 5-year career, Gilmore has 226 tackles, 4 forced fumbles and 14 interceptions. The biggest concern is that he has not played 16 games in a season since his rookie year. He missed 1 game last year, 4 in 2015, and 2 in 2014.

Overall, his numbers are good and he is considered to be a top-tier free agent this offseason. The price tag is definitely steep at $14 million a year, but many believe he is worth the money. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com and the NFL Network described the price tag on twitter as “Hefty but worth it.”

Patriots Trade for TE Dwayne Allen

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

A day before the NFL free agency period begins, the New England Patriots made their first move. They traded a 4th round pick to the Indianapolis Colts for TE Dwayne Allen and a 6th round pick. The move comes with the knowledge that TE Martellus Bennett is leaving the Patriots after 1 season in Foxboro to get a big payday from another team (seeking $9 million a year – no thanks). Bennett had a nice year for the Pats, but injuries slowed him down as the season wore on.

Allen is the perfect fit for the Pats. He is primarily a great blocker and an decent receiver, exactly what Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels want in their TEs. It’s clear the Pats need protection for when Rob Gronkowski inevitably gets injured and when Gronk is healthy, they need a strong 2nd TE for deception and blocking purposes. Allen has a solid history of making plays in the red zone, another key area for the Pats.

Like every other TE the Pats bring in, Allen has a spotty, injury-ridden past. Since a breakout rookie campaign in 2012 (45 receptions for 521 yards and 3 TDs), Allen hasn’t played a full 16-game season. He missed nearly the entire 2013 season and has missed 8 total games the past 3 seasons. The upside is that Allen just turned 27 and is under team control through the 2019 season at a reasonable salary ($5 million for 2017 and 2018, then $7.4 million in 2019). If he can stay relatively healthy, he’ll be a solid #2 TE for the next few years.

Overall, I give the trade a solid B. Allen is still on the young end, under team control, and he cost the Pats very little (a 2-round drop in the draft). He has the potential to be a very solid player for the Pats, but there are obviously some question marks. A classic Bill Belichick move.

Birthday Balloons: Jim Rice

AP Photo

Happy 64th Birthday to Hall of Famer Jim Rice! The Anderson, SC native hit 382 HRs and had 1,451 RBIs over a long 16-year career, all with the Boston Red Sox. In 2009, on his final Hall of Fame Ballot (15th year), Jim Ed was given baseball’s highest honor; being enshrined in Cooperstown.

Is the World Baseball Classic Good for Baseball?

On Monday, in the wee hours of the morning here in the U.S., the World Baseball Classic (WBC) began in Seoul, South Korea. The first game pitted the lowest ranked international team in the competition, Israel, vs host South Korea. The game was tied at 1 until the top of the 10th inning when Israel drove in the winning run, upsetting the host nation. That game began a 2-week international competition aimed at engaging other countries in the sport of baseball awhile providing an opportunity for players to represent their home nations. The tournament will culminate with a title game in Los Angeles on March 23rd, but does anyone even care? Should you even care?

The WBC is an attempt to expand the reach of baseball internationally and for that alone I give it the tip of my cap. Any increased interest in baseball internationally is a great, but how does this impact those in the U.S. and Canada who already have easy access to the sport? Ultimately, it may hurt. Let me explain…

The timing of the WBC is squarely in the middle of spring training. Top stars from around the world have now left their MLB teams to practice and play in high-leverage games around the world with just 2 weeks of training behind them. Normally, these players ease into competition for a month before even thinking about really pushing themselves hard in games that matter. Throwing off the rhythm of a big league ball player could spell disaster as the very long baseball season wears on. It could result in injuries during the tournament or injuries caused by playing several more meaningful games very early in the year, especially for those on teams who reach the finals. The last WBC was in 2013 and the MLB saw a spike in DL stints during the season (521) compared to the season prior (485) and the season following (476)*.

Injuries are bad for baseball, especially if the injured players are stars or well-known commodities. The majority of ticket buyers pay to see their favorites players on their field, not to watch their minor league back-up get some MLB action (even if that young kid is the future). An unknown player won’t sell jerseys and apparel that make the MLB a boatload of money; ultimately reducing revenues, hurting baseball. Realistically the impact is likely small in the scheme of things, but if for example Andrew McCutchen gets injured in the tournament and can’t play for the Pittsburgh Pirates for awhile, that hurts the game of baseball.

I’m sure the WBC really does increase the interest in baseball globally and allows fans in places like South Korea, Mexico, and Japan to see MLB players play live, but for me, a fan of the MLB in the U.S., it feels unnecessary and potentially harmful to the overall product.

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If you are a crazy baseball person like me and want an underdog story to follow, look no further than team Israel. Ranked 41st in the world, they made the 16 team tournament as tremendous underdogs. The next lowest ranked team is 19th ranked Columbia. As of writing this post, they are 2-0 in group play, beating host South Korea and Chinese Taipei. They have 1 game left in pool play vs. powerhouse Netherlands and are almost assured a spot in the final 8 with their first 2 wins. Their roster is filled with mostly minor-league prospects and just a few somewhat familiar names (Ryan Lavarnway, Sam Fuld). Just making the tournament was an accomplishment, forget finishing in the top-half. I’m a sucker for a good underdog story!

*DL stint information provided by www.baseballheatmaps.com.

Way To Early Red Sox Spring Training Predictions

Christopher Evans/Boston Herald

After a week of games, I finally had some time to sit and watch the Red Sox play on Sunday. The eye test can be a powerful tool in evaluating players because stats in the spring can lie (see my thoughts on spring stats here). It is still very early in spring training, but I have some quick observations and predictions.

Kyle Kendrick – Mark my words, before the All-Star break the Red Sox will be leaning on Kyle Kendrick in their starting rotation. With David Price‘s status uncertain at best, the Red Sox are already thinning out in the rotation. The three starters at the end of the rotation, Steven Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Drew Pomeranz, have all had injury issues and raise serious concerns around durability. If one of them goes down, then the Red Sox will be looking at the likes of Brian Johnson, Henry Owens, and Roenis Elias to fill the role; or Kyle Kendrick. The Red Sox took a low-risk flyer on him, but with a strong spring training, he may be the next in line to stabilize the rotation.

Mookie Betts – It never gets old watching Mookie Betts swing the bat. He cleans out the inside fastball like very few can and just looks smooth, whether it’s March or September. Betts had an excellent breakout 2016 campaign and I don’t expect him to fall off in 2017. He hit .318 with 31 HRs last year and finished 2nd in the AL MVP race. Betts is poised to be the next in a long line of superstar outfielders for the Red Sox.

Mitch Moreland – When the Red Sox signed Moreland, I thought he was a low-risk bench player. Unfortunately, Moreland is going to play more than he should in 2017. He’s a mid-.200 hitter at best and frankly, my early impression of his defense is disappointing at best. He feels like a roster-filler for a shitty team that just needs bodies, like the Red Sox opponent on Sunday the Atlanta Braves. Instead, a team that is a legitimate contender has him playing first base several times a week.

Deven Marrero – For a few years now Marrero has looked like an excellent prospect waiting for his chance in the big leagues. My prediction: he will be in the Red Sox lineup by mid-season and never look back. For everyone’s sake, I hope he is playing 1st or 3rd base and not SS. Marrero made a few sensational diving catches and showed off his cannon of an arm on Sunday while playing SS. Given the big question marks at the corner infield spots, this might be Marrero’s best chance to break into the majors.

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