Baseball starts when the playoffs end

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Baseball starts when the playoffs end

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

I was talking to my dad on the phone last night when we lapsed into familiar silence. We were both watching TV.

"Beckett's pitching a good one," he said.

"Dad, the Celtics are on," I countered.

"So?"

"It's the playoffs!" I said.

It's a battle we've waged for a few weeks now.

I'm not winning.

Beyond the gavel slam of "I'm the dad, you're the kid; I'm right, you're wrong; I'm big, your small," my father refuses to be wooed by the drama and romance of the playoffs. "The Cup" may as well be the gear Bob Stanley wore under his baseball pants. And Hub hoops? Forget it. There was a multi-decade stretch where the last live Celtics game my dad saw was at The Real Garden, on The Real Parquet, with The Real Big Three. He was more than happy to keep it that way.

So it is baseball or bust in the Paoletti home.

But my dad's not winning either. Last night I didn't watch a single pitch.

The Bruins are off until Saturday. Did it matter? Nope. Big Baby was annoying me and playoff hockey is playoff hockey, so I flipped over to CanucksPredators. When Nashville fans threw a catfish onto the ice, I didn't call back to ask my dad where, exactly, he thinks a person would keep a dead catfish during a hockey game before throwing it. When Shea Weber lifted Ryan Kesler like a bad puppy up and out of the crease by the scruff of his neck, I laughed with a bunch of strangers on Twitter.

Curiosity eventually (impossibly) outweighed Glen Davis and I bounced back to the NBA. Those last five minutes of regulation were more tense than a prison shower. But more fun. I fist pumped and swore and curled into a ball at the edge of my couch.

Though the Celtics lost, I was glad I watched.

My dad tells me I've been missing out.

Beckett did pitch well Monday night. The righty lasted seven scoreless and threw 70 of his 103 pitches for strikes. Alfredo Aceves balked again, which is always funny as long as the move doesn't actually lose the game. Carl Crawford hit his second walk-off just this week.

The cheers went unheard outside of Fenway Park because I, and everybody else, was too busy watching the elderly Celtics get dumped from their wheelchairs by Miami.

Not tonight.

The C's have one night off and the Bruins have four so the Red Sox will have my full attention. For an hour.

The Red Wings will try to force a Game 7 on San Jose at 8 p.m. I like the old, (legally) faithful Wings. Jimmy Howard's years tending net for UMaine only further endears them to me. I won't be ignoring the Sox entirely -- Boston v. Blue Jays is an AL East showdown, after all.

Throw in Jacoby Ellsbury's 18-game hit streak and Jon Lester on the mound, and I can guarantee a flip back to Toronto during Game 6 commercials. Will I catch every pitch? Not even half of them. Will I witness the moment Jarrod Saltalamacchia takes another step away from the Mendoza Line? Maybe in a month.

For now, the sports standoff will continue.

At least until the playoffs shooting stops.

Quotes, notes and stars: Swihart flashes power and speed

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Quotes, notes and stars: Swihart flashes power and speed

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 10-3 win over the Colorado Rockies:

 

QUOTES

"I felt a little cramp. I'm fine. I appreciate John and everybody looking out (for me). We obviously don't want anything to happen like last year, but I'm good.'' - Dustin Pedroia, who left the game in the fifth after experiencing some tightness in his right hamstring.

"It's nice to be able to get deep into the game. That's my goal every time. My goal is nine innings, so if I don't get nine innings, I'm a little disappointed because I want to be able to go out there and pitch as many innings as I can.'' - Steven Wright.

"I think my release point was just a little off. That definitely makes it hard, especially when it's moving, because it's not a consistent release point.'' - Wright on the early-inning unpredictability of his signature pitch.

"Even when I was catching, I pride myself on running. I want to be an athlete back there. I want to run the bases, steal bases, things most catchers aren't known to do.'' - Blake Swihart, who hit two triples.

 

NOTES

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 29 games.

* Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 18 games.

* David Ortiz tied Paul Molitor for 12th on the all-time doubles list with 605.

* Ortiz has driven in multiple runs in three straight games

* Dustin Pedroia has a career batting average of .340 in interleague play, the highest ever for someone with 500 or more at-bats.

* Travis Shaw drove in three runs and now has 68 RBI in his first 111 games since Fred Lynn and Jim Rice in 1974-75.

* Blake Swihart became the third Red Sox hitter this season to post two triples in the same game.

* The Red Sox clinched their fifth straight home series win.

* The Sox are 21-8 since April 24 and are 13-2 in their last 15 home games.

 

STARS

1) Steven Wright

Backed by some rare run support, Wright evened his record at 4-4 with seven-plus innings and his eighth quality start this season.

2) Travis Shaw

Shaw produced two hits and knocked in three runs, making him the fourth Red Sox player this season to reach 30 RBI.

3) Blake Swihart

Swihart got to flash both his power and his speed by hitting two triples to the triangle, motoring around the bases.

 

Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

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Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

A day after the Bruins announced a much-maligned four-year contract extension for defenseman Kevan Miller, B’s general manager Don Sweeney held court with the media to equal parts explain/defend the $10 million deal. Sweeney pointed to the very high character of a hardnosed player in Miller, and the relatively low mileage given that he’s played only 159 games at the NHL level.

There was also mention made of the room to grow in Miller’s game, though it’s difficult to imagine a much higher ceiling for a 28-year-old player than what the former UVM produced showed in 71 games last season.

“Kevan brings incredible character. His signing provides us with the necessary depth on our defense that all teams need. His relative low-mileage, having just played 160 games, we identified that we think Kevan has room for continued growth and development,” said Sweeney. “We certainly saw that in his play this year when he had an expanded role. Relative to the free market place, very, very comfortable with where Kevan fits into our group, and this provides us with the opportunity to explore the marketplace in every way, shape, or form, in having Kevan signed.”

Here’s the reality: Miller is a 5-6, bottom pairing defenseman on a good team, and a top-4 defenseman on a team like last year’s Bruins that finished a weak 19th in the league in goals allowed. The five goals and 18 points last season were solid career-high numbers for a player in the middle of his hockey prime, but he barely averaged 19 minutes of ice time per game as a front top-4 defenseman. Miller struggles with some of the fundamental needs in today’s NHL if you’re going to be a top-4 D-man: the tape-to-tape passes aren’t always accurate, there’s intermittent difficulty cleanly breaking the puck out of the defensive zone and Miller was exploited by the other team’s best players when paired with Zdeno Chara at points last season.

Certainly Miller has done some good things racking up a plus-55 rating during his three years in Boston, but executives and officials around the league were a bit surprised by the 4-year, $10 million contract extension. It’s viewed as a slight overpay in terms of both salary and term, but it’s more the redundancy of the contract that’s befuddling to some.

“Miller is certainly a rugged guy, but you already had one of those at roughly the same value in Adam McQuaid. I believe that you can’t win if you have both McQuaid and Miller in your top 6 because they are both No. 6 D’s in my mind,” said a rival NHL front office executive polled about the Miller contract. “You look at the playoffs and the direction that the league is headed in, and you need to have big, mobile defenseman that can quickly move the puck up the ice. You have too much of the same thing with Miller and McQuaid, and I think you can’t win with that in this day and age.”

The one facet of the four year Miller contract that might make it okay for some Bruins fans: the tacit connection to the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes. According to several sources around the league, the Bruins taking care of Miller now will very likely have a positive impact on their chances of landing Vesey when he becomes a free agent on Aug. 15, and makes them the front-runner for the Harvard standout’s services. Both Miller and Vesey are represented by the same agent in Peter Fish, and those are the kinds of behind-the-scenes connections that many times factor into free agent signings and trades around the NHL.

So many, this humble hockey writer included, may owe Sweeney a slight apology if paying a $10 million premium for a bottom-pairing defenseman in Miller now pays dividends in landing a stud forward like Vesey that’s drawing interest all around the league.