The sporting seasons collide. No longer governed by the whims of any old equinox, they rattle around mindlessly. Where does one begin and another end? Actually, old Sport, they don’t do either. They merely revolve. It’s what perpetual motion looks like.
Thus we have the Red Sox stalking and the Patriots plotting and the Celtics rising and the Bruins crashing. All at once! It used to be the sun never set on the British Empire. Now the sun never sets on the baseball season. How to sort it all out?
The Red Sox: With spring training trickling away, who has a fix on these 2015 Red Sox? All we know for sure is their starting pitching is mediocre, Shane Victorino will no longer bat left-handed, and David Ortiz will soon turn 40. The richest, deepest, most fabulous farm system in all of baseball seems about ready to graduate no one new to the big league roster and Rusney Castillo sightings, however flashy, are only slightly more frequent than that of swallows in the Back Bay.
But the manager pronounces the glass half-full and says he’s satisfied while the sphinxlike owner claims to be positively gleeful. Teams that stammer their way through spring training always insist it’s meaningless, which makes you wonder why it takes nearly two months to do it. Odds remain high they’ll not return without another pitcher of alleged quality, once they conclude all their brilliant prospects are not destined for the Hall of Fame.
Yoan Moncada, the mysterious superstar in waiting from Cuba, remains their biggest story of this camp and could prove one of the juiciest of the era if all the rave notices prove justified. But so far they’ve kept him under wraps. What might have been the harm of letting the kid cavort with the big guys in some throwaway game staged in Polk County? Seems they are proceeding cautiously for whatever reason. While he says he’s determined to make it to The Show by next season, he will begin this season deep in the minors somewhere in the Carolinas where he’ll quickly learn the distance to the big leagues cannot be measured in miles. One vaguely senses he will not be charmed by the bus trips.
What remains puzzling about the Moncada story remains not his promise. Agreement on that hasn’t wavered, remaining off the charts until proven otherwise. What remains baffling is why the Yankees passed on him. If he’s even close to what he’s said to be, their need for him was desperate.
It’s ridiculous to accept the line – now being peddled furiously – that the erstwhile Bombers let what amounts for them to chump-change scare them away in the end. For what they wasted this season on Chris Capuano, a journeyman lefty already down for the count, and Stephen Drew, a burned-out infielder currently hitting .111 in Florida after hitting .162 all last season, New York could have bested Boston’s offer. There’s more to this story. What do the Yankees think they know about Moncada that the Red Sox either don’t know or don’t believe? Stay tuned!
The Patriots. What a difference a single odd play out of the thousands that constitute a season makes. Were it not for the Seahawks’ largesse in gifting the Patriots a championship we’d be pounding now on the NFL to deliver its promised pronouncements on “Deflategate.” Looks like the inquiry into that mindless little caper, still most quietly on-going under the direction of estimable solicitor Ted Wells, will take as long as the Paris Peace talks, which seems almost as crazy as the incident itself.
But who cares now? That’s resoundingly the message. Super Bowl redemption sure took the wind out of that once-bloated sail for your profoundly blessed football team. As Coach Lombardi might also have said, winning is not only the only thing, it is everything.
Interestingly, the NFL is also weighing changes in its laws to prevent the highly questionable stunts that rescued the Patriots in their dramatic come-from- behind playoff win over Baltimore that essentially saved their season. You’ll recall that Boss Belichick was able to confuse the Ravens with cleverly deceptive pass-receiver substitutions leading to a string of receptions that were instrumental on the key drive that spared them disaster. Some believe those wily ploys were much sneakier and objectionable than mere “Deflategate.” But they got away with it at a crucial moment, so changes in the rules should merely amuse them. For the NFL, policing the Patriots is no easy task. But then in the NFL, winning makes everything right. Even when it’s wrong.
Meanwhile, they continue to rebuild their roster with an emphasis on pruning salary even though they are in no cap jeopardy and really don’t need to go there for any reason other than to further beef up the profits of Clan Kraft. Worthy as that goal may be, it seems especially callous of them to jettison so rudely the admirable Vince Wilfork just to save the owners a couple of million more after such a rousingly lucrative season in which Wilfork – gallantly rebounding from a horrible Achilles injury – played his usual substantial role.
In an uncommonly moving tribute, Boss Belichick spoke of the departing Wilfork as if he were more a Gandhi or Mandela than a mere 300-pound mass of immovable will, strength, guts, and pure protoplasm.
Belichick, exhibiting an unsuspected sentimental streak, lavished huge and near weepy praise on the big fellow calling him “a great champion” and “one of the classiest people” he’d ever known. And then he said, abruptly, “Goodbye”! No one in Foxborough is indispensable save, of course, the Boss.
The Celtics. Harking back to last October, how much would you have laid on this scenario? As April approaches, the Celtics are bracing for the playoffs while the Bruins look to be heading for the golf links. The seasons can end and twist and sometimes it happens overnight.
It’s hardly in the bag for the Green. Their grip on a playoff post as of the writing is fractional as they vie with three other contenders for the East’s last spot. But in a season totally devoted to rebuilding, and featuring the endless shuffling of the deck by Danny Ainge and the grooming of raw kids by Brad Stevens, the Celtics have already made an impressive statement.
Maybe even too impressive, some say, arguing that in the Celtics’ overall scheme of things the making of a cameo appearance in the playoffs might mess up their draft strategy, not serving well their long-term interests. A New York tabloid in praise of the fast rising-in-stature Stevens asks in a headline, “Do the Celtics have a Brad Stevens problem?” In other words, is this young guy too good for their own good?
Methinks the Celtics being the Celtics. it’s a problem they don’t mind having.
The Bruins. Fast fading and looking almost demoralized, the Bruins are running out the string. In the end, it may be a blessing if they spare us the agony of a quick and ugly expulsion at the hands of Montreal or Tampa in an opening playoff round they have no chance of surviving; that is if they do sneak into the post-season – increasingly a remote possibility as they return from arguably their worst road-trip in 49 years.
It doesn’t come as any surprise here. The vibes from the start of this season have been lousy. But there’s no denying some surprise in the decline’s rapid pace. In the end, they are unraveling, with the gamut of problems swelling with only the most disconcerting of them being in goal where the alleged mainstay, Tuukka Rask, was in the entire season’s most important stretch of games quite horrible. But then no one is exempt. There will be time enough to get into the details, but the task ahead looks formidable.
So let’s get one bit of nonsense out of the way right off. Rising cries for the scalps of GM Chiarelli and Coach Julien are silly. Given what they’ve done, and it’s well-documented, they deserve the chance to clean up the mess, hardly entirely of their making. Scapegoating them would only compound the problem. In the turmoil of the seasons, there’s no time for poppycock.