The MLB trade deadline has come and gone. Before a semi-disappointing three game set with the Yankees in which the Red Sox took only one contest, the Sox shook up their defending world champion roster. In the week leading up to the deadline, the Red Sox abandoned 4/5 of their pitching rotation, 2013 hero Jonny Gomes as well as their everyday shortstop.
All the departures didn’t come without a solid return however, as the Sox got back two starting outfielders and a good young arm from Oakland and St. Louis respectively.
First and foremost the Red Sox said a (possibly temporary) goodbye to staff ace and 2 time World Series champion Jon Lester. After coming up through the system and overcoming cancer in 2006, Lester became a staple in the Red Sox rotation, amassing 110 career wins and a sparkling 2.11 postseason ERA. He was a key part of the 2013 Red Sox and a leftover from the infamous 2011 disaster. The Red Sox acquired Oakland outfielder and home run hitting all-star Yoenis Cespedes who will be under club control through 2015 while also moving Jonny Gomes in the deal.
The Sox also let go of two key cogs in the 2013 rotation down the stretch in Jake Peavy and John Lackey. Peavy was a deadline addition in 2013 and was a huge clubhouse factor during this season and last. Lackey, signed prior to the 2010 season, seemed like a contractual disaster after two subpar seasons and a lost 2012, but resurged in 2013 and 14. In the Peavy deal the Red Sox acquired a couple prospects from San Francisco and in the Lackey deal the Sox acquired outfielder Allen Craig and fireballer Joe Kelly from St. Louis.
NFL Training camp is well underway and as the New England Patriots take to the field for joint practices with the Washington Redskins, speculation increases about the 2014 season.
Today is part 1 of the Patriots season preview and it will detail the offensive side of the football.
Where we left off –
The Patriots 2013 season ended abruptly with an AFC Championship Game loss to the Denver Broncos as many remember. Many might not remember the abundance of injuries that occurred on the offensive line. The group became nothing short of a mash unit by the end of the season and into the playoffs. The defensive injuries were more notable, but there’s no doubt 37 year old Tom Brady will feel a little more comfortable with a healthy line in 2014. Brady was also left with exactly 0 receiving targets above 6 feet to throw to in that playoff game, which brings us to this point.
Yesterday we went over the additions and predictions on the offensive side of the football for the New England Patriots. Today, we’ll take a closer look at the defensive side, and what the new flashy additions mean for the 2014 Patriots.
Where we left off –
Again returning to the AFC Championship game where the Patriots were dismantled by the high octane, record-breaking Denver Broncos offense. Though they only mustered 26 points, the Broncos had their way with the Patriots defense all day and left no doubt that they would represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. The injuries to the offense paled in comparison to the defense, which lost key members of each layer of their attack. Defensive linemen Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly went down early in the season. Veteran linebacker Jerod Mayo suffered a season ending injury later. Finally, shutdown cornerback Aqib Talib was in and out of the lineup in the waning moments of the season and that same AFC Championship game. The struggles on the defense were undoubtedly brought to light because of the attrition they went through, and the losses at each position make the focus that much more important in 2014.
What we added –
The NFL schedule format system has been the same since the league expanded to 32 teams in 2002 (Houston Texans). Each team will face the other 3 division members twice, one full AFC and NFC division once each, and the other 2 same-conference division winners once each. The full division matchups rotate every year, and in the Patriots, Dolphins, Jets, and Bills case, the 2014 season means a matchup against the AFC West and NFC North divisions. In the Patriots case specifically, since they won the AFC East last season, they’ll also have to play the division winners of the AFC North and South, giving each team the closest balance of difficulty possible.
The Division –
The Miami Dolphins took one game from the Patriots and were damn close to taking a second. In the later stages of the 2013 season, the Dolphins stole a game as they usually do in the warm weather of Miami, while they also led for much of the game in their October matchup. The Dolphins led 17-3 at the half before the Patriots offense stormed off to 24 unanswered points for a 27-17 win. The Dolphins return mostly the same roster with another year of experience, and could again steal a week one Florida game against the Patriots.
The New York Jets have always been a pesky rival for the Patriots, especially under the helm of Rex Ryan. In recent years after the departure of Darrelle Revis, the Jets defense has been feeble against the Patriots. However, with the younger players on the defense and the additions of Michael Vick, wide receiver Eric Decker and running back Chris Johnson, the offense could break free a little more often than when Mark Sanchez was running the show. Look for them to give the Patriots one close game this year, probably on the road.
After the first preseason game in which the Patriots were routed 23-6 there were some people taking to social media complaining and whining about how the team played horribly. First of all, what they probably didn’t even think to do was look at the box score and note the amount of missing players from the Patriots starting lineup. Even the regulars that did play only did so for a quarter at the maximum. Second of all, the preseason means literally nothing. There is far less game planning going on against each team and coaches will do as little as possible to give away potential regular season threats.
Regardless of the outcome and how poorly some substitutes did play, there were some bright spots. Backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo shined in his preseason debut albeit against the Redskins third team. He made some pinpoint throws and while he is nowhere near ready to start in an NFL game, he doesn’t need to be. Receiver Brian Tyms looked surprisingly in sync with the rookie. If he were to somehow continue to perform and make the roster out of camp, it wouldn’t be that much of a surprise considering the 2013 Patriots receiving group. Ryan Mallett was on the other end of the spectrum going just 5-12 through the air for a whopping 55 yards (compared to Garoppolo's 9-13 157 yard 1 TD performance). The running game was abysmal amassing just 63 yards on 24 carries, good for a 2.6 average gain. The defense, missing many key players was equally bad if not worse.
The fact remains that this is preseason, and the win-loss column does not translate into regular season success.
One more side note – This really is a beautiful sight for Patriots fans
The weekend was relatively slow in terms of Boston sports, but the week ahead will prove important for the Patriots. A few key items are as follows.
The Red Sox 2 out of 3 against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim this weekend. Deadline acquisition Yoenis Cespedes hit his first home run in a Red Sox uniform Sunday (an 8th inning 3 run home run that put the Sox in the lead). The loss came Saturday in a 19 inning marathon in which the Sox took the lead in the top of the 14th inning, only to have it ripped away in the bottom half. They have a tough series in Cincinnati coming up followed by a home series against the Houston Astros. At this point in the season they're just playing out the schedule but the Sox mixing in some wins will help the team in the future.
Quotes from ESPN Boston article written by Mike Reiss
So Tom Brady was on WEEI yesterday and he had some pretty interesting things to say about free agent acquisition Darrelle Revis.
Brady said “It’s been so fun to go against him because he challenges every throw, he challenges every play, he’s really just so smart and so instinctive.”
After comparing those instincts to former Baltimore Raven safety Ed Reed, he went on to say “That’s a lot how 'Reeve' is. You don’t know what he sees, or what he knows, but he always is in the right place and has incredible instincts for a corner when sometimes he runs the routes [before] the receivers.”
video from MLB.com
Cespedes for the rest of us indeed. For the second game in a row Yoenis Cespedes crushed a go-ahead home run and practically supplied all the offense in a Red Sox win. In case you’re keeping score at home, that’s 2 homers and 5 RBIs in 2 games in which the Sox have only scored 6 runs. This guy is a monster and he’s only going to become more comfortable through the rest of this season and next. Also after getting buzzed up and in with a fastball you have to love the attitude by just ripping the next pitch to shreds and sending it 700 feet into centerfield. That’s the attitude this desolate lineup needs.
All the Red Sox need to do now is get Giancarlo Stanton someway somehow and the outfield and middle of the lineup will be as powerful if not more powerful than the days of Manny and Ortiz. Not to mention the powerful arms in the outfield. Either way, it looks like another Ben Cherrington is paying dividends already and as of now we’re still in the running for Jon Lester in the offseason.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has officially taken the internet by storm. Now that the buzz has died down just a little bit, it’s time to recognize what a great cause the effort is going towards.
The ALS Foundation benefits the many who have been affected by the deadly disease. It can strike at any time, and took on the nickname Lou Gehrig’s Disease after the Hall of Fame New York Yankee great died from it in 1941. Today, many battle the disease that has yet to be cured, and one man, Pete Frates, has made an invaluable effort to raise awareness and donations to the cause.
Frates was a star athlete playing three sports in high school and earning captaincy of the Boston College baseball team in college. After being diagnosed in 2012, he and his family have made a remarkable difference in the ALS community. The Ice Bucket Challenge is yet another example. His website, http://www.petefrates.com/ , is a great place to research the disease and even make a donation.
Since the videos have become wildly popular, some of Boston sports’ best athletes and coaches have taken on the challenge. Here are a few –