Late last week, it appeared that the Boston Red Sox had successfully completed a three-team trade to send Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return, the Red Sox would be receiving outfielder Alex Verdugo and Minnesota Twins pitcher Brusdar Graterol. The deal seemed to be in place, but after receiving the medicals for both players, the Red Sox got cold feet when realizing Graterol projected to be more of a reliever than starting pitcher.
Now, to the naked eye, a young 20-something-year-old that can throw 101 MPH and weighs close to 300 pounds should raise some red flags, but in typical Red Sox fashion, don't ask questions and let the baseball guys be baseball guys (right?). Fast forward a few days, and it appears the Red Sox are getting cold feet. According to multiple reports, the Red Sox are looking to restructure the deal to either include more prospects, eat more of Price's horrific contract, or tear it all up and start over again.
In recent days, the Red Sox were hoping to renegotiate the deal, asking for another top 10 prospect from the Twins in addition to Graterol. In the past 24 hours, I think it is fair to say the entire baseball world really has no idea what is going on. It was first being reported that the Twins were completely out of the trade, leaving the Red Sox and Dodgers to figure things out for themselves. However, recent reports suggested that the Twins are not officially out, but will more than likely bow out of negotiations quickly unless the original deal is accepted.
What does this mean for the Red Sox, Dodgers, and the fate of Betts? Could he end up in a Red Sox uniform come opening day?
Well, not so fast.
If the trade somehow falls through and the rest of the baseball world does not jump on the opportunity to trade for Betts, I believe the idea that not only himself, but Price, hop on a flight to Fort Meyers and report to Spring Training like nothing happened is absolutely ridiculous. The Red Sox made it abundantly clear their future plans do not include Betts, so it is up to Chaim Bloom, who is losing my trust by the second, to pick up the pieces and maximize the return that he gets from this trade, whether it be with the Dodgers or another team.
At this point, it is kind of sad that four World Series victories are almost completely overshadowed by the mess that is Red Sox ownership. Whether it be dumping Terry Francona in horrific fashion, signing Bobby Valentine, Pablo Sandoval, Carl Crawford, Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Sale, or David Price (shall I go on?) to massive, underperforming contracts, or committing then quickly firing Alex Cora, I think it is safe to say that the Red Sox are in shambles.
How can one of the most lucrative and successful professional teams in North American sports be so inept?
Again, this is just my opinion, but I believe it starts at the top. After their second World Series championship, I think it became pretty clear that John Henry and company shifted their attention from their baseball team to, lets just say, other ventures. Winning and strategy became less of a priority, as the Red Sox would throw massive amounts of money at sexy names, hoping they could solve their problems quickly.
That brings us to the Betts trade. How can ownership let one of their best homegrown talents leave simply because they do not want to pay him? Whether you think Betts is overrated (I tend to lean this way) or not, if a player can be argued as the second best in the game, they deserve to never hit free agency. Now, I fully recognize that Betts has always stated he wants to hit the open market. However, if reports are true and he offered the Red Sox a deal to lock him up long term, whether it be realistic or not, then it was at least showing he was ready to play ball. Rather than negotiate, the Red Sox balked and decided just to trade him. How?
As I sit here, I am realizing that this ownership group, and this team in general, need a reality shock. Maybe a 100-loss season or an ownership change is exactly what the doctor ordered. All I know is what the Red Sox are doing now is not working. Their mindset and philosophy are alienating fans and it is quickly becoming apparent that perhaps those World Series trophies are more so from deep pockets rather than knowing what they are doing.
By Peter Packowski
With the regular season in the rearview mirror and the Patriots set for a wildcard collision course come Saturday night, I thought it may be a good time to reflect on a crazy 2019 season. There were many lows, some highs, and a whole lot of questions left unanswered as Bill Belichick and company try to pull off one of their greatest Houdini acts yet again this year. This question was recently posed by NBC Sports Boston on their Patriots pregame coverage and I find it quite interesting: What was the biggest mistake made by the Patriots this year?
As we all know, there has been quite a few of them, despite their 12-4 record. At the start of the season, people were proclaiming this to be the greatest Patriots team of all time, with an undefeated season more than on the table. Fast forward a few months, the Patriots have the #3 seed and most believe they have an early playoff exit in their foreseeable future. However, what takes the cake? Lets examine a few posed on pregame coverage and deliver our verdict. For the sake of clarity, we will start in chronological order and make our way throughout the season.
Signing and Releasing Antonio Brown
Tale as old as time, True as it can be, Barely even friends, Then somebody bends. Unexpectedly.....
Are you asking yourself if Pete just used Beauty and the Beast lyrics in one of his first articles in months? The answer is yes. After being released by the Oakland Raiders, the Patriots swooped in and signed the troubled, yet talented former Pittsburgh receiver in September to a one-year contract worth up to $15 million with a $9 million signing bonus. From almost the moment he signed in New England, there was drama. Rumors of sexual assault started to surface and the Patriots felt the need to cut the 31-year-old.
In his only game for the Patriots, Brown hauled in four receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown in a 43-0 blowout in Miami against the Dolphins. He showed flashes of brilliance and chemistry with Tom Brady almost instantly. Fast forward to the end of the season and the Patriots are struggling to move the ball with any type of regularity. I'm not sayin'...but I'm just sayin'....
This is still somewhat under investigation, but we can still talk about the general premise of sending a video crew to Cincinnati to film the Bengals a week before the Patriots play them. Regardless of what the Patriots were actually doing there, that is next-level stupid. Given the Patriots' history and the national obsession with the success of this team, Belichick and the coaching staff have to be smarter than this. There is nothing that goes on down in Foxboro that Belichick does not know about, including this. The video crew was reportedly filming what an advanced scout's schedule was like the week before having a new opponent, but they were caught filming the sideline of the Bengals for an extended amount of time. While it was just the Bengals, many, myself included, have suggested that if the Patriots were doing it against this team, chances are they have done it against most, if not all, the teams they have played this season. The Patriots were simply caught this time. Some have said this is no big deal, others are furious. We will wait to see how this plays out, but this was another massive mistake made by the Patriots.
Brady's Appearance on Netflix's "Living With Yourself"
In February of 2019, Robert Kraft faced prostitution charges following a human trafficking sweep in Jupiter, Florida. Kraft was recorded in Orchids of Asia Day Spa, where he allegedly "received sexual acts." (ew.) Fast forward a few months and one Tom Brady appears coming out of Top Happy Spa in Netflix's "Living With Yourself." Is it a big deal? No, not really. But the timing could not have been worse for the Patriots. The scene was reportedly written and filmed before Kraft's allegations surfaced, but the setting of these events puts Brady against Kraft and the Patriots, furthering the speculation that TB12 could leave at season's end.
Without a doubt, I believe the biggest mistake of the Patriots' 2019 season was releasing Antonio Brown. Is he an absolute head case? Yes. Is he a liability on social media and, at times, off the field? Yes. However, when he is on the field, he is the best wide receiver in all of professional football. Even in the short amount of time here, we saw how he shined with Brady.
Specifically in regard to his demeanor off the field, there is no denying that he is not a good person. However, that is very different than being a criminal. The allegations that were against him have quieted down to a mere whisper since he was released by the Patriots. Do we really believe that is a coincidence? There were rumblings that he was going to be placed on the Commissioner's Exempt list, but given the amount of money that he was being paid, the Patriots should have at least kept him on the roster to see how things played out. After all, the Patriots kept Aaron Hernandez on their roster for a longer amount of time. There was a deep connection between Brady, Belichick, and Brown that I believe could have blossomed into something special on the field.
Time will tell, but there is no denying the void the Patriots have at wide receiver because of the Brown fiasco. Diving into this even deeper, the Patriots traded away Demaryius Thomas when they were able to acquire Brown on the free agent market. I am not implying that Thomas would have been a 1000 yard receiver, but he was able to put up nearly 500 yards with the New York Jets of all teams. Thomas clearly has something left in the tank and wanted to be in New England, re-signing with the team after they released him. No matter how you cut it, this was not a good look.
The Patriots went from having Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, James White, and the aforementioned Brown and Thomas, to having a gimpy Edelman and a non-existent White. Rumors surfaced that the Patriots were interested in re-signing Brown later in the season, but it appears that Kraft again shot these down, after Brown's comments about Kraft and his allegations. In this scenario, I believe that Kraft's ego got in the way and, quite possibly, cost the Patriots a chance at yet another Super Bowl.
By Peter Packowski
NASCAR is unlike any other professional sport in that it's the only one where upsets are really unexpected. There's an old saying in Major League Baseball that says even the worst teams managed to win 60 games. And even the worst NFL teams can win 2 or 3 games every year. (Well, most of the time. Here's to you, Buccaneers, Lions, and Browns.) NASCAR's upsets are few and far between. Let's take a look at the greatest upsets in NASCAR history.
5. Jamie McMurray, 2002 UAW-GM 500
The story of Jamie Mac that night in Charlotte begins with another driver: Sterling Marlin. Marlin was having a career year in 2002. In fact, with only ten races left in the season, Marlin led future Hall of Famers Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Rusty Wallace, and Bill Elliott in the point standings. His season would end prematurely following a neck injury during a wreck at Kansas later that season. In comes the 26 year old Jamie McMurray to replace him. Following a 26th place finish at Talladega, McMurray shocked the NASCAR world by leading 96 laps at Charlotte and getting the win in only his second start. Jamie Mac would go on to win six more Cup races in his career, including a Daytona 500. Today, he's a NASCAR analyst on Fox.
4. Trevor Bayne, 2011 Daytona 500
Bayne flashed a little potential before running a majority of his Cup races. In his 2010 Nationwide Series season, he won three poles, recorded six Top 5s and 11 Top 10s with a highest finish of third, which he did twice. Wood Brothers Racing tapped him to drive the legendary #21 car in the Great American Race, and the rest, as they say, is history. Bayne would become the youngest Daytona 500 winner at only 20 years old.
That would be it for a long time.
While he was solid in Nationwide races, Cup success past that win eluded him. He couldn't finish higher than 8th until the 2016. He would be released from Wood Brothers, and he'd end up with Roush. He'd post 13 top 10s and four top 5s in his three full seasons in the 6. He'd be demoted then released in 2018, and today he is no longer in the sport.
3. Justin Haley, 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400
The most recent one on this list, Haley's career is just getting started. He's only 20, and he's been racing in NASCAR since he was only 15. When he was 16, he posted 13 top 5s, 14 top 10s, and he also won two races in the K&N Pro Series West. That same year he'd run part-time in Trucks, and when he turned 19, he'd put up 18 top 10s, nine top 5s, and three wins, at Gateway, Canadian Tire, and the fall race at Texas. This season he's competing full-time in the Xfinity Series, posting 12 top 10s and two top 5s so far. However, his upset came in Cup. He's only made three Cup starts so far, running part time in the Spire Motorsports #77 car, finishing outside the top 30 at both Talladega and Sonoma. Of course, he closed the book on a part of NASCAR history: winning the final 4th of July weekend race at Daytona. How did he do this? He was just able to avoid The Big One that took out 18 cars with only 40 laps to go. That put him in third as the yellow flag waved. Kurt Busch and Landon Cassill, both believing the race would go back to green, pitted to hand the lead to Haley. He'd lead one lap, the only lap led off his Cup Series career, before the race was red flagged due to lightning. After over two hours, NASCAR called the race, giving Haley the win.
2. David Gilliland, 2006 Meijer 300 Presented By Oreo
The only non-Cup Series race on this list, it was such a big upset it had to be included. Gilliland was a late bloomer in NASCAR. He didn't make his NASCAR debut until he was 21, in the K&N Pro Series West. That's not too out of the ordinary, but he wouldn't run a full season in that series until he was 28. While most drivers were well into their national series career, Gilliland's regional career was just starting. He'd make his Trucks debut the next year, and in 2005, he'd begin running part-time in the Busch Series with Clay Andrews Racing. In 2006, he attempted to qualify for nine races, missing two. His equipment just wasn't up to par, only finishing top 30 once in his first four races that season. Then he shocked everyone. The Busch Series back then was dominated by Cup drivers, even worse than today. Gilliland became the first Busch Series regular to win in the 2006 season with his win at Kentucky. He couldn't back it up, being unable to finish higher than 26th the rest of the season. Clay Andrews would close its doors before the end of the season, and Gilliland would move up to Cup in 2007, where he would race until 2018. Today, he owns a Truck Series team named DGR-Crosley, where he still races on a part-time basis.
1. Alan Kulwicki, 1992 Cup Series Championship
Imagine you and a few of your buddies decide to start your own football team. You're athletic enough and you understand the intricacies of the sport, so why not, right? You pay for a lot of it out of pocket and then, somehow, you manage to beat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl. This actually happened in NASCAR, and it was done by Alan Kulwicki. Kulwicki was a genius. I'm not just saying that, he legitimately was. He had an engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee under his belt. He used this to build the fastest racecars he could at the cheapest cost he could. And he had talent. He won the Cup Series Rookie of the Year in 1986. Four years later, he'd be offered a top tier Cup ride by the best owner in the garage, Junior Johnson. Kulwicki turned him down. So Johnson replaced him with one of the best drivers available: Awesome Bill From Dawsonville, Bill Elliott. Heading into the last race of the season, it was a three man contest for the Championship. Both Kulwicki and Elliott entered this race at Atlanta Motor Speedway trailing Davey Allison in points.
What happened next was the greatest race in the history of NASCAR.
It was Richard Petty's last race. It was Jeff Gordon's first. All Kulwicki had to do to clinch the Championship was go stride for stride with two Hall of Famers.
Davey Allison had a bad wreck on lap 254. It effectively eliminated him from Championship contention. Kulwicki needed to finish with the most laps led for bonus points, and he had to finish at least third. On lap 310, he clinched the most laps led with 103. Bill Elliott led every lap from there on out, finishing with 102 laps led. Elliott ended up winning the race. Kulwicki ran second, the Cup Series Champion.
Unfortunately, not even six months after his Championship, Kulwicki would lose his life in a plane crash. He was 38. He left behind a legacy beyond his years. Five wins, a Championship, the iconic Polish Victory Lap, and, of course, the greatest upset in NASCAR history.
(Via Tony Gutierrez/AP Photo)
It wasn't too long ago where Mike Minor looked to be, for lack of a better term, a bust. He had all of the potential in the world, but couldn't live up to it. He just kept getting injured, he couldn't even start games, and somehow in 2019, he was named an American League All-Star. How did he get here?
Out of high school in the town of Chapel Hill, Tennessee, Minor was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 13th round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He would turn down Tampa Bay in order to attend the college baseball powerhouse that is Vanderbilt University. He was a consensus Freshman All-American and named the SEC Freshman of the Year for a Vandy Boys team who won a then-school record 54 games as well as both the SEC Regular Season title and the SEC Championship before losing in the Regionals of the NCAA Tournament. How did Minor do? Well, how about 90.0 innings pitched, 88 strikeouts to only 19 walks, and a 3.09 ERA. The rest of his college career wasn't as good for both Minor and the Commodores (save for his performance at the 2008 World University Games) however that didn't stop the Atlanta Braves from taking him seventh overall in the 2009 MLB Draft. He'd rise through the minors, making the All-Star Futures Game in 2010, and on August 9 of that same year, Mike Minor made his major league debut. It was nothing to write home about, six innings pitched, five strikeouts, a walk, four runs allowed (three earned) on five hits in a no decision, but his next three starts would show the Mike Minor the Braves saw when they took him seventh in the draft: a combined 17.0 innings pitched, seven runs allowed (all of which were earned) on 19 hits with 21 strikeouts to only six walks. The Braves went 3-0 in those games. While he would get shelled in the remainder of his starts that season, there were still reasons to believe that Minor couldn't have become a good pitcher, or even a great pitcher, if just given the time. After a couple more meddling seasons, it looked like he broke out in 2013: 204.2 innings pitched, a 3.21 ERA, a career-high 181 strikeouts to only 46 walks for a Braves team that would win 96 games and the National League East before losing to the Dodgers in the NLDS in four games. He'd pitch 6.1 innings of one run ball in his only postseason appearance to date, and helped the Braves win their only game of that series.
Both Minor and the Braves would take a major step back the next season. For Minor, his ERA would balloon to a monstrous 4.77, his highest in a full season. His strikeouts and innings pitched would both be down. The Braves would go from the playoffs to 17 games out of first and a 79-83 record. It is worth noting that Minor would pitch through pain for much of the 2014 season, but this toughness would actually accelerate his downfall. In 2015 Spring Training, Minor would report discomfort lingering from the previous season. It turns out that Minor had actually tore his labrum, and he'd be immediately put on the 60 day disabled list. His season was done, and so was his tenure in Atlanta, given that the Braves would choose to non-tender him. He'd end up in Kansas City, signing with the defending World Series Champion Royals. They'd have to defend their title without him, however, as Minor would miss his second straight season recovering from his surgery. He'd make his first appearance as a Royal on Opening Day 2017, out of the bullpen. He hadn't pitched out of the bullpen since his rookie year. And that was mop-up duty in game 160. The former seventh overall pick was no longer considered good enough to start.
The crazy part is Minor was good in Kansas City. He wasn't just good, he was their best pitcher out of the bullpen. He'd lead all Royals relievers in innings pitched (77.1), strikeouts (88), WHIP (1.017), and batters faced (307) while finishing second in FIP (2.62), ERA (2.55), and ERA+ (176) as well as having the second fewest walks (22). Despite this performance, the Royals would decline his option, leading Minor to sign with his current team, the Texas Rangers. The Rangers put him back in their starting rotation even though he seemed to have found his calling in relief. His return to the rotation seemed to be a return to his past self: an ERA of 4.18, an ERA+ of only 112, all for a 67 win Rangers team. Was he that team's best pitcher? Well, maybe, but they had a terrible rotation. Their #1 was Cole Hamels, who would get traded to a real team in the Cubs at the deadline. Outside of Minor and Hamels, they didn't have much. 45 year old Bartolo Colon, Martin Perez, Yovani Gallardo, Matt Moore, and Doug Fister all made double digit starts for the ballclub. In 2019, once again, Minor turned around. And this time, it might just be for good. At 31 years of age, Mike Minor is finally fulfilling his potential. He's recorded the lowest ERA of his career at 2.54, his season in the pen included. He's leading the American League in ERA+ with 199. In other words, he's 99% better than the average American League pitcher. This is essentially unheard of for a guy who never recorded an ERA+ over 117 as a starter. The Rangers have turned it around as well. They've gone from last place in their division, finishing 36 games out of first in 2018, to being only a half game out of the second Wild Card spot in 2019. And by the way, through all this, Mike Minor was named an American League All-Star. While he won't play in the game due to starting the last Rangers game before the Break, making the team is an incredible accomplishment in and of itself.
Mike Minor is one of the greatest single-season turnarounds in recent baseball history. And only time will tell if he continues this comeback.
NBA Free Agency still does not officially get under way until 6 PM tonight, but the rumors and commitments have been running rampant for the past couple of days. Kyrie, Kemba, Jimmy, and Kawhi, among others, have been at the center of the NBA world as everyone is anxiously awaiting to see where these superstars end up for the upcoming 2019-2020 season.
All of these rumors are subject to the player signing on the dotted line, and we all know "commitments" mean essentially nothing (Looking at you, Kyrie), but it appears as if Kemba Walker has all the intentions of signing with the Boston Celtics. The 9th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft has spent his entire career in Charlotte, but looks to be moving on to greener pastures. All signs point to Walker signing in Boston to the tune of a four-year, $141 million deal come July 6, when players can officially start signing with their respective teams.
Walker has been one of the better players in the NBA for these past couple of seasons, but had perhaps his best in his contract year. While playing in all 82 games, Walker averaged 25.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 5.9 assists, while shooting 43.4% from the floor. Walker isn't a great shooter, but he can attack the basket, has a fantastic motor, and suits up for essentially every single game.
Looking at this move strictly from a basketball standpoint, there is not a significant drop-off between Kyrie Irving and the aforementioned Walker. They are different players and most certainly have different personalities, but the Celtics are replacing Irving with perhaps the next best thing on the free agent market.
Off the court is an entirely different issue. Irving is perhaps one of the worst teammates in the entire NBA, and I do not say that lightly. Irving had the unique ability to completely destroy a team that had arguably the brightest future in the entire NBA. I am not blaming Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens, or any of the young guys. I am blaming Irving. Not only did he tear the team apart, but this was on the heels of Irving committing to sign with the Celtics at the end of this past season. All of these character issues for Kyrie could possible be negated if the Celtics were winning, but they drastically underperformed. To be perfectly honest, I have serious doubts if the Celtics would even entertain bringing Irving back if he suddenly had a change of heart.
Why do I talk about all of this? After all, this article is supposed to be about the newest prospective Celtic, Walker, not Irving. However, I only mention this because Walker is the complete opposite of Irving. All he wants to do is win. He is leaving Charlotte because he wants to go on a deep playoff run and win a championship. Walker is such a good character guy, he even entertained the idea of taking less money to stay in Charlotte if they were able to bring in another star. But Michael Jordan is, well, Michael Jordan.
At points in this past season, people entertained the idea that the Celtics had too much talent and not enough chemistry. I truly believe that bringing in Walker helps this immensely. Are they losing a bit of talent? Sure. Are they improving their locker room with a true leader that only wants to win? One that won't be making stupid movies and getting nose jobs during playoff runs? You bet.
Not only does this help the locker room issues that plagued the Celtics last season, but I think it also makes them a better team on the court, even if they are losing some talent. The Celtics have enough talent to win a NBA Championship. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Kemba Walker, and a decent big man can win a NBA Championship. But they need to mesh on the court. Walker can be effective without the ball in his hands for 15-20 seconds per possession, unlike Kyrie. This will allow Tatum, Brown, and especially Hayward to be more effective.
Moving forward, I would love to see this team get a solid big man. The Celtics could and should get back to their roots of being a gritty team that the fans love. They got away from this last season and it was detrimental to not only the team, but the fan base.
What else does Ainge have up his sleeve?