Vacation's over: Catching up with reality

Vacation's over: Catching up with reality
August 12, 2013, 12:45 pm
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This slab of Internet real estate was on vacation last week, but for some reason the rest of the world kept turning. So, I’m using today to review what went down in my absence, and then we’ll pick everything back up in real time tomorrow.

In that light, think of today like an opening scene from Breaking Bad (only unlike last night, we’re in the past instead of the future). Or don’t think of it that way at all. I only made that comparison in accordance with the new law that every sports writer in America has to work a Breaking Bad reference into every sports column from now until the final episode. (Which I’m pretty sure culminates — SPOILER ALERT! — with Junior beating Lydia Rodarte-Quayle to death with his crutches, yelling “Fooled you!” and then sprinting off into the night in search of pancakes).

Either way, here we go:

Last Monday, the Sox kicked off a 10-game road trip with visits to Houston and Kansas City (sorry, beat writers). Tomorrow, they’re up north for a three-game set against the Blue Jays before returning to Fenway for a weekend series against Alex Rodriguez, Gustavo Fring and the Yankees.

In review of what’s happened so far, let’s play a little game of Good News, Bad News. And since people always want the bad news first . . .

Bad news: The Sox are 3-4 on the trip, barely eking out a series win against the Triple AAAstros and then dropping three of four this weekend to the suddenly rolling Royals.

Good news: They’ve actually increased their lead in the AL East by two games, and now lead the Rays (losers of five straight) by three.

It’s too early to count Tampa out, obviously, but keep an eye on the Matt Moore situation. As of now, the lefty is still working his way back from elbow soreness. He threw a successful bullpen session yesterday, is slated to go again tomorrow, and will then be reevaluated with the hope that he can rejoin the rotation at the end of the month in Oakland. But I wouldn’t count on it. We’ve seen this before. A young pitcher plus a heavy workload plus soreness in the elbow almost always equals a hot date with one of James Andrews’ surgical beds. You hate to see any pitcher suffer that fate, but if that’s what lies ahead for Moore, his bad news is good news for the Sox.

Bad news: Mike Napoli continues to unravel.

Nap Time went 0-7 this weekend with six strikeouts. In all, he’s 3-23 on the road trip, dropping his average to .249 (lowest since mid April). There was a time when Napoli represented the closest thing the Sox had to any semblance of Papi Protection, these days he’s Rob Deer 2.0.

Good news: Remember all the criticism we piled on the Sox last winter after they backed out of their original three-year/$39M deal with Napoli and ignited a month-long stand off?

Well, the one-year/$5M pact they eventually settled on sure looks good today. All things considered, between his early production, his positive presence within the revamped clubhouse, his better than expected (although still not great) defense and his potentially valuable postseason experience, the Sox have gotten their money’s worth. But obviously, to really make something of this season, they’re going to need more

Bad news: No Xander Boegarts.

He’s just taunting us with potential down in Pawtucket. The X Factor experience is so close that we can taste it. And it tastes so damn sweet. But barring injury, it looks like we’ll have to wait until September for the 20-year-old Aruban to make his Major League debut.

Good news: Will Middlebrooks is back, and that’s probably a good thing. Had the Sox gone with Boegarts over Middlebrooks, they would have most definitely risked losing WMB (from a mental standpoint) for the season, and maybe longer. This way, Boegarts continues to play and build his confidence every day in Pawtucket, meanwhile, Middlebrooks finally gets his chance at redemption. And to this point, although it’s insanely early, he looks to be on the right track. There’s no doubt that his extended stay in Pawtucket brought him back down to Earth, restored his focus and appreciation for life in the big leagues, and you know he’ll do whatever it takes to never find himself back on a AAA bus.

Middlebrooks was 3-7 in his two games backs in the big leagues. He looked patient and confident, and who knows? Maybe he’s finally ready to put all the nonsense behind him. At the very least, let’s have a moment of silence for the end of the Brandon Snyder/Brock Holt experiment . . .

And OK, now let’s pop some Champagne. Thank God it’s over.

Bad news: Sox are still struggling against lefties.

Last Monday, they were silenced by the Astros Brett Oberholtzer, who was making only the second start of his career. On Thursday, they were abused by the Royals Bruce Chen, who somehow still has a career. Since the All-Star Break, they’re 4-5 in games started by lefties and in the five losses have scored a total of three runs.

Good news: First of all, three of the five lefty losses came against Moore and David Price. You can’t get bent out of shape over being dominated by those guys.

Second of all, Bruce Chen sighting!

What would a season be without a cameo from cousin Brucey?

Bad news: Over his last 100 at-bats, Dustin Pedroia is hitting .190 with a .287 OBP and .280 slugging percentage.

Good news: He’s Dustin Pedroia. Chill.

One of the biggest stories from last week was John Henry’s purchase of the Boston Globe, and even though he hasn’t been in charge for very long, Don John has wasted no time making his presence felt over on Morrissey Blvd.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the five most intriguing policy changes from JWH’s first week calling the shots:

1. Any writer who doesn’t meet Henry’s standard of “sexy” (as defined by intense marketing research) will be dropped before the end of the calendar year. Sources tell me that Dan “Pure Sex” Shaughnessy is the only Globie expected to survive the cut.

2. Properties in the Globe’s real estate section are now broken down and searchable by four distinct categories: Elegant ($20M+), Modest ($10-20M), Adequate ($5-10M) and “Eww, really?” (less than $5M)

3. In a nod to Fenway Park’s storied history and in attempt to instill more of an old school journalistic mentality, all the urinals in the Globe news room have been replaced by giant troughs

4. The paper’s annual list of “25 Most Stylish Bostonians” has been renamed: “25 Most Stunning Linda Pizzuti Charity Ball Ensembles” and will be written and edited by Linda Pizzuti.

5. The Globe’s new mascot? Wally the Gray Ink Smudge

I think that one needs some work.

Every time I write one of these all-encompassing Boston sports posts, I invariably receive a tweet or e-mail from an enraged Revolution accusing me of all kinds of bias and essentially questioning my worth as a human being. So, on that note, last week the Revs signed New Hampshire-native and former Boston College stand out Charlie Davies.

It remains to be seen how much of a factor the 27 year-old forward will be, but if you’re unfamiliar with his story, it’s an interesting one. Familiarize yourself over here.

The Celtics hiring of Brad Stevens helped inject a load of optimism into what should have been the most depressing offseason since the death of Reggie Lewis. But last week’s release of next year’s NBA schedule was a heavy-handed reminder of what lies ahead.

They open the season in irrelevance up in Toronto. They’ll be home for Christmas. They only have one home game against the Heat. They’ll make zero appearances on TNT. They’ll make zero appearances on ABC. They have only three national TV games all season. Hell, Doc Rivers return to Boston wasn’t even good enough to make the cut.

But the saddest part of the schedule is the beginning.

Here are the Celtics first five home games:

Nov. 1: Milwaukee

Nov. 6: Utah

Nov. 11: Orlando

Nov. 13: Charlotte

Nov. 15: Portland

Yeeikes. On one hand, that puts them in a position to pick up a few early home victories, but on the other hand, is that even what they’re looking for?

Regardless, as Jeff Foxworthy once said: “If the biggest storyline of the early season home schedule is Brad Stevens facing off against Gordon Hayward, you might be in a rebuild.

And finally, two big Patriots stories from last week:

1. Wes Welker became the national spokesman for post-traumatic Belichick disorder: “When I'm answering questions from the Denver media, I'm not worried about what the Broncos' people are going to think,” Welker told Sports Illustrated in a story that ran last week. “I'm worried about what Belichick will think. Isn't that crazy?”

Yes, Wes. It’s a little crazy. But more than understandable. I’d say you’re OK, but the moment you start accidentally screaming out Bill’s name during sex, it’s definitely time to consult a doctor.

2. It was only preseason game, but it’s always great to see Tom Brady back under center. It’s still the most comforting and satisfying sight in this current Boston’s sports landscape. And while his rookie receivers and arsenal of running backs all put on a show, the bottom line remains the same: As long as Brady is healthy the Patriots offense will be all right.

It’s still the defense that will ultimately decide this team’s fate, and we’ve got a ways to go before making any profound statement on that side of the ball.

And OK. That’s it. We’re all caught up.

See you tomorrow.

Until then, tread lightly my friends.

Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine