Things Rattling Around My Head – Friday, July 2nd

We survived another heatwave here in the Northeast and it’s on to a rainy, cooler 4th of July weekend. Since the lawn can’t be cut until things dry out, what better time to clear out the dome than now? So, let’s get right to it!

After a perfect 7-0 homestand with sweeps over the Yankees and Royals, the Red Sox head out West for six games against the A’s and Angels. They’ll take a 3.5 game lead over the Rays in American League East with them. With the Blue Jays and the Yankees 8.5 and 9 games back respectively as well, it’s a good chance for Boston to continue to get some breathing room as they head to the All-Star break. Before the break, they’ll host the Phillies while after the break, they hit an 18-game stretch gauntlet against the Yankees, Blue Jays and Rays that will really help determine their 2021 fate. With 51 wins, the most in the Majors, the Red Sox have the second-best winning percentage behind the Giants. So, how have they done it? Boston has scored the second most runs in the AL (401), trailing only Houston (441), the third best batting average (.263) behind Houston and Toronto. As of late, they’ve done a much better job being patient at the plate, taking more walks and not chasing pitches, something that’s helped them climb out of the cellar in BB, now 26th in MLB. On the pitching side, they’re 3rd in the AL in ERA over the last 15 days (3.03), giving up only 39 runs. It also doesn’t hurt that All-Star starters Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, along with JD Martinez are getting hot again. The same can be said about Kiki Hernandez and Hunter Renfroe. There’s even been signs of life again from Bobby Dalbec, Danny Santana and Marwin Gonzalez.

Now, even with all the positives, there are things that could improve. The Red Sox still lead the league in errors at 59. That has to get better to help a pitching staff that can’t afford to be giving outs away and moreover, be throwing more pitches. Surprisingly, the Red Sox starters, despite early inning trouble from Martin Perez and Garrett Richards of late, still have thrown the 8th most innings (428) while putting up a 31-22 record with a 4.50 ERA, not terrible at all. They could use another arm in the rotation and that could come in the form of Chris Sale depending on how his comeback from Tommy John surgery continues and Tanner Houck from Worcester. Could we see a 6-man rotation after the AS Break? The bullpen could use some help as well, maybe replacing Matt Andriese as he continues to be only a mop-up man in the pen. Ryan Brasier could fill that spot possibly if the trade winds don’t blow Boston’s way. Hernandez seems to have caught fire again in the leadoff spot, but until this past week, that’s been a concern as the Sox have been the worst in the Majors from the top spot in the line-up, hovering around the Mendoza-line for much of the season.

All-in-all, it’s been a very good season for Boston as we hit the July 4th weekend. Having competitive games in the second half of the season is all I asked when we started the 2021 season, but now that they’re in first place, it’s time for Chaim Bloom and Alex Cora to make sure they don’t let the opportunity slip through their hands.

BTW: a thought on the Yankees. What ever happened to the power-hitting lefties they always had in their line-up in Yankee Stadium? New York is so right-handed dominant with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu, Gary Sanchez, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar that Brent Gardiner and Rougned Odor are the only offerings from the left-side. Very surprising and a problem for Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman. So is Aroldis Chapman giving up 9th – inning grand slams! I couldn’t resist that one!

The Celtics have a new head coach in Ime Udoka and now with that done, it’s time for President and former head coach Brad Stevens to shape the roster. I, for one, hope he doesn’t trade Jaylen Brown. To me, Brown could and should be the emotional leader of this team. Jayson Tatum doesn’t want to be that and Marcus Smart and the returning Al Horford shouldn’t be that so it falls on Brown’s shoulders. It’s a role that Brown has not turned away from when it comes to social issues in the league and it looks like the team could benefit from that voice in the clubhouse when it comes to enforcing culture, urgency and effort. The question for Stevens is who you surround your young studs with. Is it go for broke with a third star or with veteran role players? The team needs a true point guard that can make Tatum and Brown’s life easier night-in and night-out. Whether that’s Payton Pritchard, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Lowry (my pick!) or someone else remains to be seen, but it’s a must-have for the 2021-22 season. It can’t be Smart. Otherwise, I’m confident Udoka can bring back effort and urgency on a nightly basis, something the 2020-21 club sorely missed which led to very bad losses against very bad teams like Sacramento, Chicago and Cleveland amongst others.

NBC closes the book on its latest NHL run as they take over the Stanley Cup Final from NBCSN starting with Friday’s game 3 in Montreal. I always thought NBC did a good job in coverage but with them closing the door on NBCSN at the end of the year, the Peacock Network didn’t want to spend the money on hockey anymore, hence the league’s move to ESPN and Turner Sports next year. Don’t forget to check in for the Mike “Doc” Emrick pregame intro tonight!

Today’s the last day that NFL players can opt out of the 2021 season due to COVID (or other reasons). Would Aaron Rodgers call the Packers bluff and opt out? Surely not, I suppose. Remember at this time last year, the Patriots were just getting the news that a league-high 8 Pats were not playing in 2020. It’ll be nice to have Dont’a Hightower back on the defense this season in Foxboro. This year’s latest drama in New England is two-fold. First, it’s the obvious QB competition between Cam Newton and Mac Jones. Secondly, it’s the contract situation with CB Stephon Gilmore, who doesn’t want to play for the $7 million salary he’s on the books for in 2021 ($16M cap hit) after getting an advance last season before ending his season with a partially torn quad. In the end, I expect the two sides to meet in the middle during training camp on a contract extension.

Kudos the fans for getting the MLB All-Star starters right. I was pleasantly surprised to see guys like Marcus Semien, Jesse Winker and Adam Frazier get rewarded for stellar first halves.

For more wrestling fans out there, July’s a huge month as WWE returns to live crowds on a regular basis as do other promotions like AEW, ROH, NJPW, Impact and others. I hope WWE fans take one thing from the crowds at AEW’s Daily Place in Jacksonville – be involved, put away the cell phones and have FUN! All Elite Wrestling does a great job at making sure every show has the “FUN” vibe throughout.

3 weeks until the Tokyo Olympics. Are you going to watch? BTW: why do we continue to test for marijuana? Does anyone really care when it’s legal in so many places now? Should Sha’Carri Richardson be banned? I think not.

What a bizarre news week – 100+ temps on both coasts, Bill Cosby released from prison, Britney Spears can’t be freed and the former President’s organization gets whacked with criminal charges. What’s next? Yikes!

If you’re looking for a very quirky, oddball series to watch, check out “Bojack Horseman” on Netflix. Beware though, it’s not for the kids, Will Arnett is fabulous in the lead role but the mature language and plot lines can be a bit much for some. Keith Olbermann is in it too as a news anchor!

Isn’t it ironic that Hurricane Elsa, the season’s first hurricane, could hit Florida?

Two big returns this upcoming week: “Big Brother” on CBS and “Atypical” on Netflix. Can’t wait for both! There’s even a local tie-in for BB with Cranston native Brent Champagne being on board.

Happy Birthday Troy Brown!

Stay safe all! Get vaccinated if you haven’t already and keep wearing your masks when needed and where you’re not comfortable!

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