July flew by, and as we hit August, we are now in a rare time when all four of Boston’s major sports teams are participating in some kind of action. Let’s take a look at where they stand and how they should proceed.
Red Sox: Prepare the White Flag
It’s not looking pretty for the Red Sox. While we are at it, it’s not looking pretty for the whole MLB.
As you’ve heard, the shortened season means that every loss roughly counts for about 3 in the normal setting (2.7 if we’re getting technical). It’s no secret that the Sox have struggled to find ways to win after a promising opening day. The team is usually in a hole by the third inning, thanks to subpar pitching. Questionable lineup decisions haven’t helped matters.
The upcoming slate against Tampa Bay and Toronto is incredibly important. If things don’t turn around quickly, say taking at least 6 of the next 9 games, then it’s time to wave the white flag. A shortened season is the perfect time to lose games. The team can quickly inject some life into a desperate farm system, with high picks, and without forcing fans to hate-watch 162 games. This, of course, assumes that we even get to 60 games.
It doesn’t matter if you blame the players, the owners, or even just the Miami Marlins. Either way, the league is heading for a shutdown without drastic improvement. If the MLB determines that enough games have been played by the time there is another shutdown, the Red Sox want to make sure they are as close to the top of that draft order as possible. They also need to hope the season lasts past the August 31 trade deadline so that the luxury tax resets.
The Red Sox need to either be good or bad, just not mediocre. They need to figure it out soon before another shutdown leaves them high and dry.
Celtics: All In
As much as we love the NBA, there’s a level of predictability to the standard postseason format. Usually, the team with the better stars and the home-court advantage is coming out on top. Even if you get an upset here or there, it all evens out for the finals. The 2020 bubble takes this script and puts it through the shredder.
This Celtics team was on the precipice before, and now their youth and enthusiasm have them fighting with the big dogs. You heard them talk about being motivated in pressers, and saw them back it up from the very first game against Milwaukee. The restart has leveled the playing field, and that is of huge benefit for the C’s.
Jason Tatum looks like he can recapture his form from before the shutdown after his performance against Portland, and Jaylen Brown looks like a legitimate second star. If Kemba Walker’s knee can hold up, there aren’t many teams in a better spot.
The 2020 Celtics have a legitimate shot to steal a title in the bubble. They should be all in.
Patriots: Time To Tank?
I know, but hear me out on this one.
The Patriots are going through an unusual amount of uncertainty for even a normal season. This is not the time to be installing a new offense. This is not the time to have QB questions after 20 years of stability.
8 players and counting have opted out, by far the highest number in the league, and key veterans like Patrick Chung and Dont’a Hightower are among them. Two of the most important players on offense are on PUP. You can also add in the need to depend on young players with the tight end group and the linebacking corps. There simply are too many issues and not enough time to solve them.
As with the Red Sox, the Patriots would be better served hitting the full rebuild button instead of trying to manage a flying reset. Come back in 2021 as strong as ever with your high draft pick (maybe Trevor Lawrence?) and a complete offseason of workouts and exhibition games to address the concerns.
If you still aren’t sold on this idea, consider the state of the league. If you think the MLB is bad, at least they had a COVID plan. The NFL still wants to believe everything will be alright in September. There is no plan, and players have real concerns. I don’t blame them, considering the league couldn’t even decide on its opt-out date.
Sure, it probably won’t happen. All you read about is how the Patriots are motivated to be better than Tampa Bay, and that tanking is out of the question. If there is a season, they won’t tank. But they should.
Bruins: Go For It
Lackluster games against Columbus and Philadelphia don’t exactly support this outlook. Neither does the absence of Tuukka Rask. The play over the weekend looked sloppy and not like the same Bruins we saw before the shutdown. Whether it was the ice, the round-robin format, or just shaking off the rust – it will look better than last weekend.
It’s legacy-defining time for this group. You know it and they know it. A COVID asterisk on a championship won’t bother them in the slightest. Rask desperately needs a cup to prove his worth in the big games. You’ve heard all about how Bergeron, Chara, and Krejci are nearing the end. They are too good to only win one of three.
Fortunately for the old guard, the role players look sturdy. Jack Studnicka was a bright spot against the Flyers. Anders Bjork looks worthy of his new contract. Matt Grzelcyk has been flying around the ice and getting to the puck. Combine this with the consistency of regular contributions from the top lines, and the Bruins will be in good shape.
The key will be setting a physical presence to match the tone of these other teams. The Bruins don’t have to fight, they just can’t turtle when the opposition starts knocking them around. This was their biggest downfall last summer against St. Louis, and those not in the round-robin haven’t been afraid to get physical.
The bottom line is, it’s now or never for the B’s. We were all happy to see them avoid a finals hangover, but now the sense of urgency needs to come back.