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Random Boston Sports Takes




In the first of what I hope to be a weekly column, I offer a few semi-hot takes, general observation, and other random thoughts on what’s going on in Boston Sports and the sports world in general.

Photo Courtesy of  Odyssey
Patriots

The Draft:  One thing has been consistent in the Bill Belichick era with respect to his approach to the NFL Draft – he usually does the exact opposite of what the so-called “experts” thinks he should do.  This year was no different.  Despite what appeared to be a glaring need to improve the defensive front seven, Belichick instead chose to keep both first round picks (also a surprise) and drafted an offensive lineman and a running back. 

With Tom Brady’s future in doubt, Belichick passed on former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson with the 31st pick and waited until the last round to select unheralded quarterback Danny Etling.  He may not have been enamored with Jackson, or any of the quarterbacks the Patriots passed on over the next five rounds.  But the drafting of Etling in the last round looks to this author like Belichick’s way of sending the message to owner Bob Kraft that he had already drafted and groomed Brady’s heir apparent (you know who) and was forced to trade him.

Brady:  Has there ever been a more overblown story than Tom Brady choosing not to attend Optional Team Activities.  That’s right, the “O” in “OTA” stands for Optional.  More than any other player, Brady has earned the right to miss OTAs and go to events in Qatar or attend the Met Gala dressed like an extra from a Michael Jackson video or whatever he wants to do.  He will undoubtedly follow his workout program and be ready for the start of training camp, where he will have plenty of time to develop a rhythm with his new cadre of receivers.  Let it go.

Red Sox

Jackie Bradley Jr.:  As I am writing this story while watching the first game of the Red Sox – Yankees series,  Jackie Bradley struck out for the third time in his three at bats.  Bradley is an elite level defensive outfielder.  Truly one of the best in the game.  But there is more than enough of a sample size to come to the conclusion that the man in not a major league hitter.  He has had one true hot streak in the early part of 2016 that carried him to his first and only All-Star appearance.  Prior to the 2016 All-Star game, Bradley’s was hitting a very respectable 0.293, though his average was briefly in the 0.350 in early June.  Bradley also logged in with 14 home runs and 51 RBIs in the first half of 2016.

In the 206 games he’s played since that All-Star appearance, Bradley has hit a weak 0.232, albeit with some pop (31 homers).  However, this season he has bottomed out with a paltry 0.177 average coming into the Yankee series and is striking in almost a quarter of his plate appearance.  Bradley looks both confused and overmatched at the plate.  

Bradley is killing too many potential rallies with unproductive outs at the bottom of the order.  With the catcher spot generally hitting behind him in the lineup, that creates two easy outs for opposing pitchers.  While the Red Sox don’t have other options behind the plate (Blake Swihart is not a long term solution there), they do have other options in the outfield.  J.D. Martinez can play a serviceable left field with Andrew Benintendi shifting to center.  This will also allow more playing time for Mitch Moreland, who has been extremely productive in a limited roll. 
Bradley needs time to retool his swing to utilize the entire field.  He could still be useful to the Red Sox as a late inning defensive replacement and occasional fourth outfielder facing a right handed starter.  If he can’t figure it out at the major league level, he still has options, and may benefit from a stint in Pawtucket.

David Price:  Just when you thought Price had figured it out and could work his way into the hearts of Boston fans, he comes down with a condition that causes numbness in his hands.  It may be legit, but the optics aren’t good when he’s begging out of pitching against the powerful Yankee lineup.  If there ever was a true Price bandwagon, it can now be traded in for a bicycle.   

Other Random Thoughts:

Launch Angle: The new buzz word in baseball this season is “launch angle”.  It’s a fancy way of saying to swing with a slight uppercut to drive the ball in the area.  Is this a brilliant new approach?  Hardly.  It’s the same principal Ted Williams preached in his iconic book The Science of Hitting.  His theory, swing slightly up at the ball to match the downward plane of the pitch and increase the time the bat in in the hitting zone.  It made sense in the 1930's.  Who knew it would be all the rage in 2018?

Ted’s book is famous for William’s classic chart of his batting average for pitches within the strike zone.  Williams also mixes in great anecdotes about his playing days, with some colorful metaphors mixed in.  A good read and interesting look into the mind of one of the greatest hitters of all time.

NHL Playoffs/Doc Emrick:  While I have never been a hockey fan, I must admit that there is a certain electricity and tradition that comes with the NHL Playoffs that is unlike anything in professional sports.  Hockey fans are relatively small in comparison to the other major sports, but what they lack in numbers, they more than make up for with enthusiasm and passion for the game. 
These playoff games are further accentuated by the lively play-by-play calls of NBC’s Doc Emrick.  Emrick’s descriptive style is unique and unmatched on network television.  There is an old saying that people don’t watch games to listen to the announcers.  Emrick is the exception to that rule.

Follow Bill on Twitter @BTravers_BSoT. 

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