July 07, 2013
A Week Later, No Aftershocks After Ghastly Events
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
Over ten years, all four Boston teams won championships. Over seven days, you might feel that all those championships are relegated to an afterthought.
It might be hard for you, especially those of you with a long perspective on things in general, to fathom what all happened during the week of June 23-29. In one week, the Bruins lost a Stanley Cup in 17 seconds, the Patriots lost one of their most productive offensive weapons for good, and the Celtics lost their head coach and the remainder of their second Big Three. The first place Red Sox really didn't lose anything other than trying to prevent their closer from losing games.
Seven days have passed, our nation turned 237 years old, a heat wave has overtaken the northeast (never mind that it was pushing 120 degrees in Phoenix and 130 degrees in Death Valley, California), and we have been able to digest the mind-numbing events of late June. Here is more or less where we stand with our beloved teams now that we're pretty certain that there will be no more tectonic plate movements, sports style.
Patriots moving forward, you should too
Many parents bought their children Aaron Hernandez jerseys, and now don't want them to wear them. Even some kids themselves, according to some reports, realize what happened and don't want them anymore. The Patriots offered a jersey exchange at Gillette Stadium this weekend, allowing fans to trade in those jerseys for new ones of a different player. Of course, it only applies to jerseys ordered online through the pro shop (and good luck to the fans who have to try and prove that that is how they bought the jerseys), in which case they get a voucher to go into the shop and exchange the jersey. That's probably okay if you try and pawn off a jersey you bought at Dick's Sporting Goods or Target or something like that.
But for some factions of the media, that's not enough. There has been no official "public statement" from Bob Kraft, Bill Belichick, or any Patriot official since the arrest a week ago Wednesday of Hernandez, who is charged with first degree murder and weapons violations and is being linked to a double homicide in Boston a year prior. There is no question that Hernandez is in a heap of trouble and is looking at likely spending the rest of his life in jail. But the fact that there has been no statement from Patriot officials other than his immediate release 90 minutes after his arrest is seen by some as a bad thing.
Enough already. Who cares if Kraft or Belichick say nothing? As Belichick would say, it is what it is. We don't need Kraft to tell us what we already think they know or are thinking. As for explaining why the Patriots didn't do their homework on Hernandez, try and produce any person who will claim that they could have predicted that Hernandez was capable of murder, and maybe multiple murders. Nobody could have seen this coming. The Patriots took some major salary cap hits by releasing him when they did instead of waiting for Roger Goodell to suspend him like Atlanta did when Michael Vick was going through his legal issues. That right there should be good enough for everyone.
Don't look for Rondo to stay, either
The Celtics finally got their coach. This week, the Celtics signed Butler head coach Brad Stevens to a six-year contract. Stevens went to two consecutive NCAA championship games, losing both times to behemoths (Duke, UConn) with a mid-level major school. Observers noted that Stevens, who is 36 but looks like he's 16, is a few months younger than Kevin Garnett, who now is a Brooklyn Net along with Paul Pierce. The track record of NCAA coaches who try to make it in the NBA isn't good (just ask guys like Rick Pitino or John Calipari), so Stevens is bucking long odds on trying to make it in the pros, being talented and smart but needing to learn how to connect with pros instead of college kids.
Job one will be the unenviable task of trying to "connect" with Rajon Rondo. If Doc Rivers couldn't deal with the high-maintenance point guard, how in the world will Stevens deal with him? Rondo is on the record as saying he will have an "open mind" in working with Stevens. Friends of Rondo are on the record as saying that Rondo is aware of what Stevens did at Butler and looks forward to working with him.
This is all nice and sweet until the first issue comes up where Stevens has to put the hammer down. Then Rondo will test Stevens and probably become a clubhouse cancer. With a team full of young players for whom Stevens will be exactly what they need, getting rid of Rondo would be beneficial for Stevens to succeed. In a league where veterans win you championships, the veterans will probably have to come later. Stevens needs to get guys like Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Kelly Olynyk better prepared to play in the NBA while he learns the league as he goes, and doesn't need to deal with Rondo and his fits of pique.
If you're going to gut the Celtics and rebuild, then finish the job and lose Rondo. The next great Celtic team will eventually come.
Oh, so now you want to play for us, Jarome?
Changes have been racking the Bruins since losing the Stanley Cup to Chicago almost two weeks ago. Right off the bat, Nathan Horton tells the Bruins he will test the free agent market and says farewell, then signs with Columbus and gushes over the fact that he and his family will now live in a quiet city. Horton will never get a whiff of the Stanley Cup in Buckeye Town, and it doesn't seem to bother him in the least.
Then came the trade. Tyler Seguin, the number two draft pick three years ago, is now in Dallas. He was dealt to the Stars in a seven-player trade that brings right wing Loui Eriksson to Boston. Seguin, ridiculed for underachieving this past year, can now become the next Phil Kessel (or maybe the next Joe Thornton) as he will be returned to his natural center position in Big D. Maybe a center cannot be expected to play hockey in the corners with much success, but Seguin must also face issues regarding maturity and a propensity for parties and women.
Also gone are Nick Peverley, who went in the Seguin trade, and Andrew Ference, who signed with Edmonton as a free agent. The Bruins intend to go with youth on the blueline, as Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug figure to get upgraded roles next year.
Then came some comic relief on Friday. The Bruins announced that they had inked Jarome Iginla to a one-year contract with incentives. Iginla famously spurned the Bruins at the trade deadline, got dealt to Pittsburgh, and wound up getting embarrassed by the Bruins in the East Finals. Iginla is 36 but will take the place of Horton on the Bruins' second line. If he can do better than another former Penguin, Jaromir Jagr, this will be a good get. But Iginla eventually coming to Boston anyway is a cute story, no matter how good or bad he does.
The ninth inning is harder than you think
Some media types think the Red Sox will make a run at bringing Jonathan Papelbon back to the Red Sox around the trade deadline. It may not be that far-fetched if Philadelphia makes him available.
The Red Sox are currently in first place in the AL East and have the best record in the AL. Many players have been playing better than expected, from John Lackey to Jose Iglesias to Koji Uehara to Daniel Nava, and the Red Sox are making New Englanders smile.
But it's July, not September. If the Red Sox are going to actually take this thing into October, they need a closer. Uehara has been the latest to step up and try his hand, and for the most part, he's done well. Joel Hanrahan's season is over and Andrew Bailey gave up way too many hits and bombs to be reliable. But Uehara is not invincible, is 38 years old and could break down physically as the season heads towards Halloween.
Uehara blew a save on June 30, giving up a ninth inning home run to Jose Bautista of Toronto, but wound up winning the game when Shane Victorino reached on an error in the bottom of the ninth. Then on July 6 at Anaheim, he had to clean up a horrid mess that Alex Wilson left him. With the bases loaded and nobody out and the Red Sox up 7-3, Albert Pujols fought off a good pitch low and away and flicked it into centerfield for a 2-RBI single to make it 7-5. A clean single by Jeff Hamilton brought in another run, then what should have been a game-ending forceout saw third baseman Brandon Snyder airmail a throw over Dustin Pedroia's head into right field, and the Angels tied the game. Hamilton would homer in the 11th to win it for the Halos.
Some observers think John Farrell may be overusing Uehara. Though the last regular and postseason games Papelbon pitched for the Red Sox resulted in blown saves, the Red Sox should try and bring Pap back home if they can without mortgaging the future. Though Uehara should have been bailed out Saturday night, he is not automatic and is best used as a setup man.
Pap was there at the final out of the last World Series win. He can bring home the big prize. The Sox should see what they can do at the trade deadline. In a year where there is no real dominant team in MLB, this could be a difference maker.
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