Trying to find the brightside for the Red Sox


Trying to find the brightside for the Red Sox

With 1.8 percent of their season in the books, the Red Sox are already beyond repair.

They've got no bullpen. No starters. No heart. No chance. They've picked up where they left off in September, and it's only a matter of time before the clubhouse explodes and ownership plants pills in Bobby Valentine's locker.

We're only three games in, but the Red Sox yacht is already sinking!

Everyone abandon ship!

But please be careful on your way out the floors can get slippery.

Ahhh . . . isn't it amazing what one weekend can do?

Isn't it amazing what one team can do?

In only three games, the Red Sox have turned Boston into an asylum. They've driven us mad; certifiably, Julian-Tavarez-after-10-tequila-shots insane. They've left so many fans without hope. Inspired so many snarky eulogies and bad beer and chicken jokes. They've taken any chance there was to leave last season in the past, and replaced it with forecasts for an excruciating summer filled with bickering, backstabbing and weekly visits with Michael Kay.

Ladies and gentleman, the Red Sox are back!

Ladies and gentleman, the Red Sox are dead!

In lieu of flowers, please send charitable donations to Liverpool FC.

OK, I'm done being an idiot.

Because the truth is that I don't believe it.

I don't believe the Red Sox are screwed. I don't believe they're a pathetic bunch of overpaid saps who aren't worthy of our time andor respect. I don't believe that they don't have heart.

Could I be wrong on every single count?

Yup, but one bad weekend on the road against one of the best teams in baseball is not enough to convince me otherwise.

Do they have problems? Yeah, sure. They've got problems. First of all, the back of their bullpen is a mess. They haven't found a reliable closer.

But at the same time, if we're going to write off Alfredo Aceves and Mark Melancon as viable options, don't we also have to assume that Franklin Morales will be unhittable against lefties, and that Vincente Padilla will be the most devastating long-reliever in baseball? Doesn't it have to work both ways?

Yes, it does. So on every level, let's just wait and see.

Especially with Aceves. After all, it wasn't too long ago that he was the most reliable guy in a bullpen that included Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon. No one exuded and inspired more confidence than Aceves did last season. You felt like he had the physical and mental makeup to do anything that the Sox asked of him. And for the most part, he did. Now, obviously things couldn't have started off any worse for him this season, but are two outings enough to convince you he's not worthy to handle the ninth for a few months?

On Thursday, he was put in an awful position, hit a guy, and then gave up a choppy walk-off single that barely snuck by Boston's drawn-in infield. Yesterday, he came in and gave up a single, then a weak infield single and then a home run to Miguel Cabrera. It was unfortunate and beyond frustrating. But it was also pretty unlucky. And no matter how awful he was, you can't judge a guy's season on 14 pitches. If so, Franky Mo might not want to make any plans for this year's All-Star Break.

So, if the bullpen is one problem, the starters are another.

Now, I'm not saying we give Clay Buchholz a complete pass, but considering it was his first start in almost 10 months, that it came against a devastating line-up and that if Jacoby Ellsbury holds on to that ball in center field, the entire trajectory of Clay's afternoon would have changed, I say we give him one more try before throwing him to the wolves.

And as for Beckett? If you want to throw him to the wolves, that's fine. I can't defend him, and don't really want to, but I will say this: He's no stranger to slow starts. In fact, Saturday marked his fourth awful "first start" in the last five years.

2011: Five innings, five hits, three runs, four walks, four strikeouts.
2010: 4.2 innings, eight hits, five runs, three walks, one strikeout
2009: Seven innings, two hits, one run, three walks, 10 strikeouts
2008: 4.2 innings, three hits, five runs, four walks, six strikeouts

Is that incredibly uplifting? Not really, but I'm just saying that some guys are slow starters, and Josh Beckett is one of them. The reasons why are up for debate, but the facts are the facts.

And here are a few other facts from these past three games. On Opening Day, your heartless, worthless Boston Red Sox erased a two-run deficit in the ninth inning against a closer who hadn't blown a save in over a year. Yesterday, they fell behind 4-0 in the first inning, before fighting back to take a 10-7 lead into the ninth. And then, after that comeback was wasted, they fought back again to take a two-run lead in the 11th.

Call me crazy, but is that not heart? Does that not take a little bit of fight, and pride and determination? Does that not give us a little glimmer of hope that this season will not play out as painfully as last September and that these universal declarations of death are wildly immature?

I think so.

I think they've played 1.8 percent of the season, and that giving up and jumping to grand conclusions is easy, but overall, pretty stupid.

As stupid as I'll look if the Sox don't turn this around.

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

UConn falls to Central Florida, 24-16


UConn falls to Central Florida, 24-16

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -McKenzie Milton threw for a season-high 317 yards and three touchdowns to lead Central Florida to a 24-16 win over UConn.

The freshman completed 29 of 45 passes and the Knights (4-3, 2-1 American) moved over the .500 mark by scoring 17 unanswered points and holding the Huskies (3-5, 1-4) scoreless in the second half.

Arkeel Newsome ran 21 times for 101 yards and Noel Thomas had his fifth straight 100-yard receiving game for UConn, catching nine passes for 165 yards.

But Thomas dropped a pass in the end zone on a third down with just over 3 minutes remaining, and quarterback Bryant Shirreffs came up short on a fourth-down scramble.

The Huskies got the ball back near midfield with just over 2 minutes left and drove to the 21, but failed to convert a fourth-down pass.

The Knights took the lead on the first drive of the second half, when Milton hit running back Adrian Killins over the middle for a 39-yard touchdown. It was the third consecutive drive of more than 70 yards for UCF.

A career-long 50-yard field goal by Matthew Wright early in the fourth quarter pushed the lead to eight points.

UConn scored the game's first 13 points, capped by a 3-yard touchdown run from Newsome.

The Huskies final points came on a 35-yard Puyol field goal, one of three he kicked in the first half.

The lead was the first at halftime this season for the Huskies.


UCF: The Knights have apparently found their quarterback in the freshman Milton, who started again over senior Justin Holman. It was Milton's fourth start this season. His 317 yards passing were the most since Holman threw for 336 yards against Temple in 2014.

UConn: The Huskies have two offensive weapons in Newsome and Thomas and need to find a third. Shirreffs was again the team's second leading rusher with 49 yards. Alec Bloom was the team's second-leading receiver. He had two catches for 20 yards.


UCF: The Knights visit No. 11 Houston next Saturday

UConn: The Huskies travel south to face East Carolina.

© 2016 by STATS & The Associated Press

Still wait-and-see on Smart's status for Celtics' opener


Still wait-and-see on Smart's status for Celtics' opener

BOSTON – Marcus Smart’s sprained left ankle injury continues to heal, but the Celtics remain in wait-and-see mode when it comes to his availability for the season opener on Wednesday against Brooklyn.
Smart sprained the ankle in the second quarter of a 121-96 preseason loss to the New York Knicks when he stepped on the foot of Knicks guard Justin Holliday.
He was helped off the floor by teammates Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas along with head trainer Ed Lacerte.
Since the injury, the Celtics have been pleased with the healing progress of the ankle, the same ankle he sprained as a rookie which kept him out for several weeks.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Smart is no longer in a walking boot and continues to be day-to-day as he receives a steady diet of treatments to help speed up the healing process.
Smart will undergo a series of tests to determine the ankle’s strength, prior to getting any kind of clearance to play.
That’s why Stevens isn’t worried about Smart returning to the floor too soon.
“I trust our staff. Our staff and Marcus will make that decision well,” Stevens said. “Then I play guys, if they are available.”
Smart has established himself as one of the Celtics’ top reserves, with the ability to play both guard positions and some small forward depending on the lineup on the floor. The Celtics have to prepare for the possibility that he will not be able to play in the opener (or the first few games considering Boston opens with three games in four nights.

His absence would create more playing time for Terry Rozier in addition to likely resulting in extended minutes for starters such as Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder.
As eager as Smart is to get back on the floor, he and the Celtics are mindful of the big picture.
This team wants to make a deep playoff run and they’ll everyone – Smart included – to do so.
That’s why as much as Smart wants to get on the floor immediately, he has to remember – or be reminded of – that this is an 82-game season and his long-term value to this team and its goals can’t be taken for granted.