Thoughts on the summer sports scene
In the heat of July, sustained focus and long, reasoned arguments can be difficult to maintain, especially for the easily distracted.
Wait, was that the hummingbird at the fuchsia again?
Oh, right, anyway, it’s time for a sports snippets column.
• As of late last week, the last two baseball games I saw played were an American Legion Addison County team game and a Vermont Lake Monsters vs. Lowell Spinners contest in Burlington.
What struck me at Centennial Field watching the pros was the quality of the umpiring. It’s not that the local guys calling the AC game didn’t do an acceptable job, but in every inning there were a couple pitches we wondered about (if they get 90 percent right, that’s 18 of 20), and an out call at second base on a stolen base attempt was pretty clearly mistaken and was protested.
In Burlington? There might have been two or three pitches the entire game I questioned from behind the visiting dugout, and between both teams only one call the entire game drew even a mild complaint. Impressive work.
• Also in Burlington the visiting team that night, Lowell, is affiliated with the Boston Red Sox and featured Boston’s most recent first-round pick, Deven Marrero, leading off and playing shortstop. Marrero looked smooth in the field, but had a long, loopy swing and went 0-for-7 in the 13-inning game, failing to get the ball out of the infield. As of Monday, Marrero, an Arizona State product who hit .286 as a senior, was batting .274 in the New York-Penn League with 10 strikeouts in 62 at-bats. The jury is out.
• Mixed bag for the Celtics so far this summer. Liked the Jared Sullinger pick in the first round — even if he’s not going to get up and down the floor like a gazelle, the Cs play a lot of halfcourt ball and definitely need a post option, and he should provide that sooner or later. But then Fab Melo? Fewer than six points and eight boards per game for a seven-foot center at Syracuse? I don’t see it.
Jason Terry should be an acceptable substitute for Ray Allen, Brandon Bass returning will help, and Jeff Green, while overpaid at a reported $9 million a year for four years, should be at least a versatile complementary piece. With Avery Bradley about to undergo a second shoulder surgery (on the other, healthier shoulder) and set to miss the start of next season, the key is whether General Manager Danny Ainge can find one more good guard and, above all, a rebounding forward.
• What to make of the Red Sox? Are they just unlucky, with injuries to virtually every outfielder on the roster and last week Will Middlebrooks and Dustin Pedroia, too? Will they bounce back when Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford return?
Did they over-value under-performing players like Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Adrian Gonzalez, or will they start to produce?
Is manager Bobby Valentine the loudmouth who has upset veterans, or the guy who has many players hustling more and who has pieced together a solid bullpen out of castoffs and spare parts?
Is rumored clubhouse discord a cause or a byproduct of the .500 record?
Will GM Ben Cherington shake up the team with a big deal, perhaps one that will package the malcontent Beckett with prospects for an impact player?
Is this all like some soap opera? Will evil twins, amnesia and revenge-seeking scorned lovers be the next Fenway plot twists?
One thing for sure: Big Papi is making $15 million this year. He should just shut up about his contract.
• Keep an eye on the New England Patriots’ negotiations with receiver Wes Welker. If the team and the athlete do not reach a two-year deal before July 16, it is probable this will be Welker’s last season with the team — the Patriots probably do not want to pay a receiver who will be 32 next year more than $10 million. Welker is playing this season under a one-year deal worth about $9 million after which the Patriots can slap another one-year “franchise tag” on him, but it will not come cheap if he plays well.
• Is it actually flying a bit under the radar that two sisters may be the best women’s tennis players in history? It’s an almost unbelievable story.
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