Trying to find the brightside for the Red Sox

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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 rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Haggerty: Marchand signing is Bruins' biggest win in years

Haggerty: Marchand signing is Bruins' biggest win in years

BOSTON -- It’s no understatement to say that Brad Marchand's eight-year, $49 million contract extension is one of the Don Sweeney's and Cam Neely's biggest recent victories.

It’s also undoubtedly a big win for Marchand: He gets what he wants; i.e., staying with a Bruins team that drafted and developed him from a rookie fourth liner into an impactful 37-goal scorer over the last six seasons.

“Boston has become my second home. I absolutely love it there. I’m very excited about what’s ahead for our team,” said Marchand to reporters in Toronto, where he's still representing Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey. “I really believe in our team and our group and what we’re working towards. It’s a place that I’m very excited about being for the next number of years and potentially my whole career.

“We’ll talk more about everything after the tournament, but for now I just want to thank everyone who’s involved in the negotiations, my agent, and their team. I’m just very happy that everything’s done now and we can move forward.”

Marchand, 28, clearly gave the B's a hometown discount. Had he gone to free agency, he probably could have gotten $1 million more per season than the $6.125 million average annual value of the deal he agreed to.

As for the Bruins, they were able to lock up one of their most important core players for the balance of his career.

Marchand scored a career-high 37 goals and 60 points last season and is continuing his ascendency toward elite player status by tearing up the World Cup of Hockey this month on a line with Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron. The threat of him being wooed to Pittsburgh by Crosby, a fellow Nova Scotian, could have been very real had the Bruins dragged their feet in negotiations. But that wasn’t the tenor of the talks.

Let’s be honest: The way things have gone the last couple of years, it was very easy to envision the Bruins massively overpaying Marchand, given his expected value as a free agent. Or seeing Marchand and his agent, Wade Arnott, stringing them along before jumping to the highest bidder with the B’s left holding nothing, as was the case with Loui Eriksson.

Instead, Sweeney and Neely closed the deal . . . and at a team-reasonable rate. For that they deserve the kind of credit they haven’t enjoyed much of over the last couple of years as they've essentially dismantled an aging former Cup team while still trying to stay playoff-caliber.

“You’re going to have [free-agent defections] at every team," said Sweeney. "There will be [exiting] players. That’s just the way the league is built, parity, and being able to fit people in and out depending on how their roles are, and what you have in the pipeline to be able to take the place of players that are going to depart. That’s just forces of nature of the league itself.

“[But the] motivation was there from the get-go to try and find a deal with Brad . . . [You] realize that other players have left and the opportunity could be out there for him, and he’s very cognizant. He makes you very cognizant of it when you’re going through it.

“It’s a process that takes a long time to get through things. Great communication with their representatives -- with Brad’s representatives -- and it just felt like we would try and get to a good end point. The timing was obviously hard on Brad today, wanting to focus on the World Cup but, when you have a chance to get to the finish line you have to cross it. But it’s rightfully so not to take any attention away from what he’s doing right now because it’s important to him, but as was the contract to have it in place for all the parties. We got to the finish line and it’s really good for Brad and it’s really good for the Boston Bruins.”

It’s true Marchand might be a much different player by the time he’s 35 or 36 at the end of the deal. But it’s also true that a rising NHL salary cap will make this contract much more palatable as the years go by. The duo of Bergeron/Marchand is the most important, meaningful asset the Bruins have, and they needed to keep them together as a scoring, defending and special-teams threat every time they take the ice.

Marchand might not ever score 37 goals again like he did last season, but it’s no stretch to expect him to be around 30 or the foreseeable future. He has more short-handed goals than any other NHL player since joining the league in 2010-11, and the attitude and charisma he plays with on the ice is the kind of things that puts butts in seats.

Those players get paid and they get teams into bidding wars in the rare instances that they make it all the way to unrestricted free agency. So the Bruins scored a big victory in not allowing it to get to that point with a homegrown player who's come a long way from his early days as a detested agitator around the NHL.

C's players mull how to utilize platform as athletes for social commentary

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C's players mull how to utilize platform as athletes for social commentary

WALTHAM -- The national anthem protests by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick have had an undeniable ripple effect on professional sports teams across the country. And that includes the Boston Celtics.
 
“We as an organization know what’s going on,” said Marcus Smart. “We read and see and hear about it every day. It’s a sensitive subject for everybody.”
 
While it’s unlikely that Celtics players will do something similar to Kaepernick taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem, there’s no question some are figuring out the best way to utilize their platform as athletes to express their views on current social issues.
 
“Us athletes have to take advantage of the stage we’re on,” said Jae Crowder. “Try to make a positive out it. You can’t fix negative problems with negative energy. I don’t want to do anything negative; I want to do something positive, shed light on the situation.”
 
Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, and a number of professional athletes have tried to have more attention paid to recent killings of African-Americans by police officers where, based on the video footage, it appears excessive or unnecessary force was used.
 
It is a topic that has brought a wide range of responses from many in the sports world, including the dean of NBA coaches, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich.
 
During the Spurs’ media day this week, he was asked about the Kaepernick’s protests.
 
“I absolutely understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, and I respect their courage for what they’ve done,” Popovich told reporters. “The question is whether it will do any good or not because it seems that change really seems to happen through political pressure, no matter how you look at it.”
 
As examples of the political pressure he was referring to, Popovich mentioned Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ability to galvanize group, as well as the NBA and other organizations pulling their events out of the state of North Carolina because of its legislation as it relates to the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.
 
“The important thing that Kaepernick and others have done is keep it in the conversation,” Popovich said.
 
And while there may be differing opinions as to whether Kaepernick or any other athlete should be protesting, the one common thread that seems to bind the Celtics players and the front office is them having the right to speak out not only as professional athletes, but Americans.
 
“The biggest thing is we all really value the freedoms that we have and that we’ve been allotted,” said coach Brad Stevens, who added that he has had individual discussions with players on this subject. “We certainly support an individual’s freedoms. It’s been great to engage in those discussions. It’s been really fun for me how excited our guys are about using their platform.”
 
And that more than anything else is why Crowder feels the Celtics have to have a united front as far as the message they present to the masses.
 
“If we want change we have to do it together,” Crowder said. “I feel like those guys (other athletes) used their platforms well. I think more athletes should do the same. You can’t do it with any hatred; you can’t do it with any negative. You have to do it with positive energy.”