Andy Kirkaldy: Boston teams have questions — and promise
Time for a year-end look at the sports teams of my youth. Hey, I’ve seen Bobby Orr, Michael (best cornerback ever) Haynes of the Patriots, Carl Yastrzemski and Larry Bird live. (OK, Larry was in street clothes sitting with Red Auerbach at Boston Garden the day before he signed, but that counts, right?) So I’m going to stay loyal.
As of this writing, the Boston sports team owning the longest winning streak is your hockey Bruins — two in a row heading into a Wednesday tilt with the Detroit Red Wings.
In fact, Da Broons have won eight of 10, something I never thought we’d see from the rebuilding Bs this season. And that comes despite injuries of varying severity to key players like Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Adam McQuaid and youngster Anders Bjork.
At 14-9-4 they are outperforming their 77-74 goals for/against ratio, but decent defense and goaltending will do that.
And some of the youngsters are panning out, like Bjork, Charlie McAvoy, Danton Heinen, Jake Debrusk, Brandon Carlo and, of course, high-scoring David Pastrnak.
For the Bruins’ future, players like that are going to have to continue to get better. And some had better become all-stars, because the team’s best players remain Zdeno Chara (age 40), Patrice Bergeron (32) and the relatively younger Brad Marchand (29).
Those three easily lead the team in plus/minus while on the ice. The Bruins outscore the opposition by 12 with Bergeron skating, and Chara and Marchand each record plus-11s.
Keep an eye on the kids, Bruins fans. Their future will dictate the team’s.
By the time this column reaches readers’ hands, via the newsstand or Intertoobz on Thursday or snail mail on Friday, maybe the Red Sox will have signed or traded for a badly needed free agent slugger or two.
Either path is a challenge. Thanks to poor signings — two more years of paying big money for Pablo Sandoval and at least one more of Hanley Ramirez — the Sox are over the luxury tax threshold and have holes at first base and designated hitter.
Meanwhile, the time is coming due when the Sox will have to start ponying up for their younger stars — Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr.
So, the Sox need a couple hitters.
Free agents will cost money the Sox need to pay those guys.
Trades will cost whatever few prospects the Sox have left after trading for Chris Sale, Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg.
This is what you call a rock and a hard place.
I’ve been reading volumes about this problem. My 2 cents worth:
1. Waive Hanley. If Hanley amasses 487 plate appearances next year, the Sox will owe him $22 million in 2019. If they don’t let him bat that much, he will not be happy. I like Hanley. He has played hard and in 2017 he hit well. But he was awful at the plate last year. Eat the first $22 million and thank him for his service. Save the second $22 million.
2. Use the second $22 million toward signing free agent DH JD Martinez, if his price doesn’t exceed $25 million a year for six years. Give him a signing bonus that for bookkeeping purposes can be spread out over the length of the contract and a low 2018 salary to offset Hanley’s salary next year. Did I mention that Martinez hit 45 homers in 489 plate appearances a year ago? And that his combined on-base average and slugging percentage was higher than that of new Yankee acquisition Giancarlo Stanton?
3. Sign or trade for a low-cost first baseman. Matt Adams from the Braves or Justin Bour from the Marlins both hit from the left side and could be platooned with Sox prospects Sam Travis or Michael Chavis.
4. Sign a good righty reliever to match up with the righty-heavy AL East lineups. Steve Cishek would be ideal, and Brandon Morrow might be worth a shot.
5. Light a candle for pitcher David Price’s elbow.
That brings us to the Patriots. Pin Monday’s ugly loss at Miami to Gronk’s one-game suspension or the Pats looking past the Dolphins to this week’s game at Pittsburgh if you want, but the Patriots were playing third-stringers on both the offensive and defensive lines and linebacker.
New England’s injured reserve list includes all-stars like linebacker Dont’a Hightower and receiver Julian Edelman, starters like receiver Malcolm Mitchell and linebacker Shea McClellin, and valuable role players like defensive lineman Vincent Valentine.
Out at least temporarily are the first- and second-string right tackles, Marcus Cannon and LaAdrian Waddle, defensive linemen Trey Flowers (the team’s best pass rusher) and Harvey Langi, and starting linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
Sure, all NFL teams deal with injuries, but this is over the top.
It’s going to be a tough road for the Patriots to repeat as Super Bowl champs. And the best way to assess their chances is to follow their injury reports.
To an extent injuries are also defining the Boston Celtics. New acquisition Gordon Hayward, the C’s second-best player, went down with a gruesome ankle injury five minutes into his Boston career. He will almost certainly miss the rest of the season.
His injury forced the Celtics to play second-year forward Jalen Brown and rookie forward Jason Tatum, the No. 3 picks in the past two NBA drafts. They have proven worthy, working with another acquisition, amazing guard Kyrie Irving, and underrated holdover forward Al Horford to help the Cs to the most wins in the NBA as of Tuesday at 23-6.
The team plays good defense, and other players have been helpful, like athletic guard Terry Rozier; Aussie center Aron Baynes, a determined rebounder and smart defender; and guard Marcus Smart, a dogged defender and guy who drives you crazy but always seems to end up doing something useful.
But the Cs tend to go flat on offense, especially when Irving, who can create his own shot and draws defenders to him, and Horford, an excellent passer, aren’t in the lineup. Chicago on Monday thumped the Celtics, 108-85, when Irving was hurt, in part because no one else on the team can create their own shots (and also because they were playing for the second night in a row, to be fair).
In the NBA eventually players have to defeat defenders. As Tatum, Brown and Rozier learn how to do so the Celtics are going to get better and better. It might take until next year, when Hayward also will return.
Given that, it just might be the Celtics, and not the Patriots, who win the next Boston championship.
The Fresh Air Fund, initiated in 1877 to give kids from New York City the opportunity to e … (read more)
BRISTOL — A memorial service for Mark A. Nelson of Bristol will be held 1 p.m. on Saturday … (read more)
See when your favorite high school team is competing in the fall sports playoffs.