Haggerty: Sunday's win a sign of what might have been

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Haggerty: Sunday's win a sign of what might have been

CLEVELAND When the Red Sox season is over and every last statistic has been recorded, parsed and analyzed in the big book of MLB numbers, most may remember Sundays wipeout 14-1 win over the Indians as the last wide smile of the season.

No matter how good that Sunday afternoon drubbing felt,the Sox are still a far sight away from the playoffs and simply treading water.
Despite urgency being the name of the game, the Sox havent gained a single game in the Wild Card playoff standings since the July 31 trade deadline, and they sit 5 games back in the middle of August. They're going nowhere fast with David Ortiz still missing in action with a balky Achilles, and the wonderfully energetic rookie Will Middlebrooks is likely gone for the season.

In a way, a blowout win like Sunday's can be disappointing for the Sox because it is a reminder of how talented this ballclub really is. Its also a harsh reminder of how much theyve truly underachieved.
Sure there are injuries. The Sox have had the most disabled players (25) and DL stints (29) in franchise history since the 1971 season.But theres still oodles of talent on a 180 million payroll thats second only to the Yankees in MLB this season. They should have been better despite all the adversity.
Watching Jon Lester dominate Tribe hitters to the tune of 12 strikeouts in six innings showed that nothing is wrong with the 28-year-olds stuff. He should have been that guy all season for the Sox rather than a mega-talented hurler trying to recover from a bloated 5.20 ERA that will probably look like an aberration when his career is over.

The numbers are so bad that Lester admits hes had to stop paying attention to his stats in a sport where every player knows every one of their own back-of-the-baseball-card breakdowns backwards and forwards.Things could have been much different for this Sox team if Lester had pulled it together before August, but he didn't.

Watching Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia singe a Cleveland rookie hurler is similarly maddening. Ellsbury and Crawford were both MIA for long stretches of the first half, while both Gonzalez and Pedroia never played up to their potential.

Sure, the Sox lead the league in runs scored. But thats like being the prettiest girl at a beer goggle dance contest. Those stats were inflated by a handful of blowout wins in the first few months of the year. Gonzalez was a gloried singles hitter masquerading as a cleanup guy and Pedroia was essentially a .260 hitting second baseman with a good glove when the Sox were at their worst. Now that the season is beyond salvage, Gonzalez has turned back into a home run hitting monster, and Pedroia has pumped his batting average up to .278 for the first time since early June.

Watching the Red Sox lineup do the rumba around the base paths while wearing out the gap in right-center field at Progressive Field was impressive on its face. But it was also a stark reminder that Boston should have been doing this all year, and they should be a team pushing the New York Yankees near the top of the AL East.

Its a season full of coulda, woulda and shoulda and theyll now be four years removed from their last playoff game win, and three years away from even qualifying for the postseason.

Instead theyre sending out feelers to deal veterans like Mike Aviles and Kelly Shoppach before the waiver trade deadline at the end of August. Maybe they're figuring which of John Lackey and Josh Beckett if not both has to find the door this winter. Perhaps theyre even thinking of mercifully shutting down Crawford, who needs elbow surgery and is now starting to feel soreness in his surgically repaired left wrist.

Call it trending downward.

Call it moving in the wrong direction.

But call it also a team that's serving out the final months of its hardball death sentence. Each and every efficient or eye-popping victory moving forward is an example of what this team might have been under different circumstances.

It was feel-good win on Sunday for the Sox, but that just makes it all a bit worse today as the Sox get ready for six games against the Orioles and Yankees.

Texas Hold'em: Noel would interest Celts, but Mavs probably won't let him go

Texas Hold'em: Noel would interest Celts, but Mavs probably won't let him go

The Celtics' two main targets in free agency are expected to be Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin. But what if neither signs here . . . or what if the C's have other plans? This week, we'll look at some of  'The Other Guys' who might interest the Celtics: TODAY: Dallas' Nerlens Noel.

BOSTON -- When the Celtics had trade talks with Philadelphia last season, it was no secret they had their eyes set on Nerlens Noel.
 
The 23-year-old has shown tremendous potential as an elite, rim-protecting big man.

THE OTHER GUYS: POTENTIAL CELTIC FREE-AGENT TARGETS


The Dallas Mavericks saw those same qualities, which is why they engineered a trade for him last season despite knowing he would be a restricted free agent this summer.
 
And while he would certainly be the kind of player Boston would absolutely love to add to the mix, seeing the Mavericks go in a different direction seems highly unlikely.
 
But until he signs with the Mavericks or any other team, the Celtics can’t be totally discounted as a possibility if they strike out on Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin.
 
WE LIKE HIM BECAUSE . . .
 
His proven body of work and his potential. Noel has shown flashes of being a decent player offensively, but he’s going to get paid handsomely this summer because of his defense and rebounding.
 
According to Basketball-reference.com, Noel has been among the NBA’s top 10 in defensive box plus/minus two of his three NBA seasons.
 
During the 2014-15 season, his defensive plus/minus was +4.5 (fourth in the NBA) and the following season it was +3.4 (eighth in the NBA).
 
And while his upside is viewed primarily through a defensive prism, his presence on the floor seemed to provide a much-needed jolt to the Mavericks offensively.
 
In his 22 games with Dallas, he averaged 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds with a solid offensive rating of 106.1.
 
NOT CRAZY ABOUT . . .
 
You love Noel’s length and athleticism, but you wish he would add some weight to withstand the physical rigors of playing primarily in the post. In an ideal world, Noel will add another 10-15 pounds, which would put him weight-wise similar to another standout Maverick from a few years back, Tyson Chandler. But Noel’s narrow shoulders and pogo-stick thick legs will likely result in his current 228-pound frame not changing much in the near future. He will still be a factor defensively, but there will be nights when stronger, more physical centers will give him problems. Fortunately for him and the Mavericks, big men whose strength is well, their strength, are becoming scarce in this new age of position-less basketball in the NBA.
 
IN CONCLUSION . . .
 
Noel would look really good in a Celtics uniform, but there’s little to no chance the Mavericks allow him to get away. They've made it clear that re-signing the 6-foot-11 big man is their top priority. And short of Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry saying they want to become a Maverick, it’s highly unlikely Dallas will change course.
 
PRICE TAG
 
Four-year, $106.4 million. That’s the most a team outside of Dallas can offer the soon-to-be restricted free agent. Noel knows the Mavericks won’t hesitate to offer him a max contract, which would give him more guaranteed years (five), better raises (eight percent versus five percent) and a total package of $143.55 million, which is more than $37 million beyond what other teams like the Celtics can offer.
 
Again, something would have to go unexpectedly wrong for Noel to wind up on any roster other than the Mavericks.

Bruins sign restricted free agent Acciari to two-year deal

Bruins sign restricted free agent Acciari to two-year deal

The Bruins have locked up a potential fourth-line piece for next season at a bargain basement price.

The B's signed Rhode Island native and Providence College alum Noel Acciari, a restricted free agent, to a two-year deal worth $1.45 million, a contract that breaks down to a very affordable $725,000 cap hit for each of the next two seasons. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound bowling ball of a forward finished with two goals and five points in 29 games for the Bruins last season, and has appeared in 48 games at the NHL level over the last two seasons in Boston. It was also encouraging that Acciari seemed to be tapping a bit more into his offense toward the end of the season, and was building some confidence for whatever modest offense he’ll end up bringing to the NHL table once he’s reached his potential ceiling as a player.

Clearly the two-year, one-way deal portends that Acciari, 25, will be counted on as a high energy, hard-hitting fourth-line player who does a good job of aggravating opponents while playing at full tilt. The real question is whether his body can hold up with his maximum effort style of playing, and whether he can avoid serious injuries with some of the car-crash level of violence he puts in his hitting.

Acciari has battled several different injuries over the last couple of seasons, but managed to be healthy enough to log time in the playoffs for both Boston and the P-Bruins.

Either way it’s a low-risk, affordable contract for the Bruins for a young player who, if healthy, will be a large piece on their fourth line as a diligent worker and excellent teammate. So that’s a good proactive signing for Don Sweeney as he continues to work on a more complicated contract for a higher profile player like David Pastrnak.