Tag Archive | Boston

John Havlicek: Forgotten Basketball Legend

It’s been a while since I posted anything here on this blog. I’ve had my hands full with various work projects and personal stuff. I wish I had chosen something more cheery to write about as my first post in a while. But the news that came down the wire last night is enough to spark my reflection and the memory of Celtics and Ohio State fans with far more experiences than I have. One of Basketball’s most overlooked all time greats has passed and must be remembered as such.

John Joseph Havlicek was born in Martins Ferry, Ohio, on April 8th, 1940. He was a natural athlete and grew to stand 6’5″ and had natural stamina that few in his hometown could keep up with. He was a multi-sport talent and became a legend at Bridgeport High School, the same place that produced famed Arizona State and Iowa State wrestling coach Bobby Douglas, MLB Hall of Fame knuckleball pitcher Phil Niekro, and MLB All-Star pitcher Joe Niekro. All were in attendance at Bridgeport around the same time.

Havlicek starred on the school’s football, baseball, and basketball teams. On the gridiron, he quarterbacked the team to many wins and was voted an all-conference performer. He was recruited by schools like West Virginia and Ohio State.

On the diamond, Havlicek hit .400 as a shortstop and led his team to two conference championships.

His best successes came on the hardwood, where he averaged 27 points a game for his career and led his school to a championship in 1958.

The super-athlete decided to stay in-state, attending The Ohio State University, a hotbed of athletic talent with Woody Hayes leading the football team to National Championships and Jack Nicklaus toiling on the golf course in those days. While at Columbus, Havlicek stopped playing football, but continued time on the baseball diamond. But ultimately, Hondo found his greatest success on the hardwood. In three years playing (freshmen were not allowed to play varsity in those days) the Buckeyes reached three Final Fours and three National Championship Games. Havlicek averaged 14.6 PPG on 50.8% shooting and added 8.6 rebounds per game. Teaming with future Cincinnati Royal and New York Knick great Jerry Lucas, future Boston Celtics teammate Larry Siegfried, and future Indiana coaching legend Bob Knight, Havlicek helped the Buckeyes to a Final Four win over New York University (yes the Violets used to play big time NCAA Basketball) and a National Championship Game win over Cal Berkley. Havlicek scored 12 points and pulled in 6 rebounds in the only National Title Game Ohio State has won in their program’s history. They followed it up with two more Title game appearances and two losses to in-state rival Cincinnati.

After college, Havlicek was drafted by the Boston Celtics with the seventh pick in the 1962 draft. In an enormous credit to his natural athleticism, the NFL’s Cleveland Browns (a model franchise at the time) drafted him in the seventh round, 95th overall, to be a wide receiver despite not playing organized football for four years while attending one of college football’s premier schools. He actually joined the Browns for training camp but ultimately was cut.

Celtics Coach Red Auerbach commented that the decision was a mistake by Cleveland. But, Auerbach wasn’t complaining. When Hondo arrived, the Celtics had won five of the last six NBA championships and the last four consecutive, including a legendary series with the Lakers in the most recent Finals. Bill Russell, Sam Jones, Tommy Heinsohn, and Bob Cousy were the cornerstones of the greatest dynasty in sports, yet they improved dramatically when Hondo arrived.

Auerbach created the role of sixth man by bringing Havlicek as his first man off the bench. His stamina and adrenaline allowed him to lift the Celtics when the starters needed a breather and gave the team a near unbeatable formula. It were as if the C’s had six starters. As Cousy and Heinsohn retired, Hondo (a nickname inspired by the 1953 John Wayne movie and character of the same name) continued to help the C’s win, earning four straight NBA Titles to open his career and getting the Celtics and unfathomable eight consecutive championships. In the middle of all this came Hindi’s defining moment.

On April 15th, 1965, the Boston Celtics hosted the Philadelphia 76ers for Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals. Sam Jones led the Celtics with an astounding 37 points while Bill Russell pitches in 15 points, 29 rebounds, and 8 assists while mostly matched with Wilt Chamberlain. Havlicek had one of his best performances of the season, posting 26 points and adding 11 rebounds. The Celtics led by 11 in the dying minutes and Auerbach lit his traditional victory cigar. But Wilt Chamberlain has none of it. He proceeded to score 10 of his 30 points (some off his game high 32 rebounds) consecutively to bring the Sixers to within 1 point with five seconds left. Auerbach put out his cigar and Russell took the inbound. He made the mistake of hitting a guide-wire that held up the backboard. That meant the ball was out of bounds and possession went to Phili. In the ensuing timeout, Russell pleaded for someone to take the goat horns off his head. Hondo came to the rescue.

Future Hall of Famer Hal Greer took the inbound for the Sixers. The play was for Greer to inbound to Chet Walker (also a future Hall of Famer), who would then pass to Chamberlain in the post. Havlicek knew the inbound timing, with five seconds to put the ball in, and read the strategy based on prior matchups. Auerbach always relied on intel gathered by his players through the course of the game, demanding that the players be ready to coach themselves on the floor. Hondo followed his coach’s direction and read the play perfectly. As he counted the inbound time down to four, Hondo broke toward Walker and looked up to see the inbound pass. The forward leaped and tipped the ball to an awaiting Sam Jones, who dribbled the ball into the front court and killed off the remaining time. The fans at Boston Garden rushes the floor to mob their hero and Celtics radio announcer Johnny Most immortalized the play with basketball’s greatest call.

Greer is putting the ball into play. He gets it out deep. Havlicek steals it! Over to Sam Jones! Havlicek stole the ball! It’s all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball! Johnny Havlicek is being mobbed by the fans! Bill Russell comes over to hug John Havlicek; he squeezes John Havlicek.

The play not only stands as Hondo’s iconic moment, but also as an all-time moment for the Celtics and the NBA at large. It’s the most famed play in Celtic history and rightly so. The C’s went on to beat the Lakers and in five and win that year’s NBA Championship, but 1965 will forever be the year in which Havlicek stole the ball.

In the waning years of the 60’s, Hondo became a starter on two final Bill Russell led championship teams, including on the unlikely 1969 edition that saw Russell and Sam Jones walk into the sunset.

Under new Head Coach but familiar friend Tommy Heinsohn, the Celtics retooled and followed Havlicek’s lead to two more NBA Titles in 1974 and 1976. Hondo was voted Finals MVP in an epic struggle between the C’s and the Kareem Abdul-Jabber and Oscar Robertson led Milwaukee Bucks that went seven games. Two years later, his heroics helped the C’s to an unprecedented 13th NBA Championship over the plucky Phoenix Suns, including a famed triple overtime game five at Boston Garden (my dad’s first ever NBA game).

Havlicek continued to play until 1978 when he decided it was time for retirement. When all was said and done, Hondo played more games and minutes and scored more points than any Celtic to ever set foot on the parquet floor. He’s still the Celtics’ all time leading scorer and only Elvin Hayes and Robert Parrish have played more games in NBA history than Hondo. In 16 seasons, Havlicek’s line was 20.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 4.8 APG. He was an All-Star 13 times over and a member of the First or Second All-NBA Team 11 times. He stamped his name on the Celtics history with eight championships. Only Sam Jones (10) and Bill Russell (11) have more rings as a player.

Despite all the success, Havlicek is often not mentioned as an all time NBA great. Of his era, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Hal Greer, Jerry Lucas, Walt Fraser, Kareem, and others earned more notoriety. Hondo never won an MVP and was never considered the best in the League. And when the NBA ballooned in popularity in the 80’s with Bird, Magic, Isiah Thomas, Dr. J, Moses Malone, and the new television deals, then dominated the sports landscape behind Michael Jordan’s Bulls of the 90’s, Havlicek’s legacy was forgotten, cast aside as little more than a relic of a bygone age.

The line became that Hondo was great for his time. Nothing more. I’d argue that John Havlicek is and ought be remembered as an NBA superstar on par with the greats of both his day and the current age. He was an ambassador for the greatest dynasty the sport ever knew, a participant in several moments indelibly marked in NBA history, and a humbly clutch performer who put the objectives of the team before his personal goals. He is everything a professional athlete should be. As far as the Celtics are concerned, Hondo is only outpaced in importance by Larry Bird and Bill Russell. He will forever be linked with the legacy of the Celtic green and white, but also with the Buckeye scarlet and grey.

His passing became real when Doc Emmerich, calling the Boston Bruins vs Columbus Blue Jackets playoff series opener, announced the sad news over the image of Hondo’s retired number 17 hanging in the rafters of TD Garden. The legendary Celtic and Buckeye was 79 years old and will forever serve as a beacon of athletic and leadership excellence and as a model for how a professional athlete ought act in the public eye.

May God rest the soul of the great John Havlicek.

My Favorite Player

On February 15, 2006, I was on February break. I was a sixth grader on the cusp of puberty. I was just getting over the Patriots losing in the postseason to Denver and  Spring Training for the Red Sox hadn’t started yet. I wasn’t yet a hockey fan and I was just starting to like basketball in a big way. UConn was good, but not great that year, and Georgetown, my mom’s alma mater hadn’t captured my attention yet. I was aware of the NBA’s existence but wasn’t a big fan. The night of the 15th, though, that all changed. I watched the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers play. It was a classic game that took 2 overtimes to finish. Cleveland won behind a 43 point triple double by phenom LeBron James. My eyes were glued to the guy wearing 34 for the Celtics giving James the business all night. After a 50 point game against the most hyped player of the day, Paul Anthony Pierce became my favorite basketball player, and eventually, my favorite athlete. 

I watched the Celtics through the abysmal 2006-2007 season, got excited when Paul got help from Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, and celebrated when they won the Celtics’ 17th championship. I followed the team intensely ever since. I watched Glenn Davis hit a game winner in Orlando in 2009, KG and Rondo end the Cavs chances in 2010, and watched the Lakers break my heart the next year. I saw Pierce hit a three in LeBron’s face in 2012’s Conference Finals, and watched the Celtics bow out against the New York Knicks in the 2013 playoffs. 

Once that postseason hit, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were traded out of Boston to Brooklyn. I was crestfallen, but I would still follow the Celtics through the rebuild, seeing my first ever Celtics game in February 2014, with no Pierce. I watched the Nets and rooted for my guys in the playoffs that year, loving Pierce’s block on Kyle Lowry, and being bitter with LeBron James and the Miami heat for beating my heroes again. 

Pierce left Brooklyn and joined the Washington Wizards for the 2015 season. I liked the fit. He provided veteran leadership for a young team that was trying to learn how to win. He helped them to a playoff sweep over the Raptors and authored maybe his best playoff moment against Atlanta. In Game 3 of the Conference Semi-Finals, Washington lost a big lead and were tied with the Hawks late in the 4th. In the last seconds, Bradley Beal took the inbound and passed it to Pierce at the left elbow. Pierce called for Beal to clear out, dribbled, waited for the clock to wind down, put up a shot over two players, and banked in the game winning shot. In the frenzy afterward, he was interviewed by Chris Broussard. To end the interview, Broussard asked “Did you call bank?” Pierce answered “I called Game!” and he walked off to hype the crowd more and go to the locker room. 

That play against the Hawks shows exactly why Paul Pierce is my favorite player of all time. He stayed confident through the toughest moments, always giving his team the confidence that they could win the game. He swaggered his way into big time shot after big time shot, on the basis of the ugliest game a superstar has ever played. 

He didn’t have a pretty shot. He wasn’t smooth. Pierce played a brawny, brawly, physical style of game. Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, and LeBron James all played much more aesthetically pleasing games. Garnett was smooth, Dirk’s shot was beautiful, and LeBron’s athleticism was undeniably magnificent. Paul could spin in the post and be effective, but he was not smooth. Pierce had a good shot, but not a pretty one. And Pierce could throw down, but he was not the dominating athlete LeBron is. Instead, Pierce could switch speeds well with quick dribbles and a smart shot. Pierce played a grounded and effective game that depended upon old school confidence. He never wavered with the Celtics and he carried them through hard times. He lived through being stabbed in 2000 to become one of the most respected players of the decade. He represented the old school heart with a dash of modern flash and flair for the dramatic. And he did all of this while brazenly facing off against the best players of the day and being undervalued and underappreciated. He was a model of consistent confidence and he never wavered as an old school player in the modern day. I love that old school mindset that Pierce walked into the league with. 

Despite my admiration for him, I had never seen Pierce play in person in a regular season game. I saw the Celtics played a preseason game at the XL Center before the 2009-10 season, but that was just a preseason game. The first regular season Celtics game I ever went to was the February 12th game of the 2014 season against the Spurs, after Pierce had been traded. I wanted to see him when the Wizards were in town, but I never had the chance. Before the 2016 season, he signed with the LA Clippers. Before this season, he announced that it would be his last. When I saw the Celtics schedule, I made it a point to go to the February 5th game against the Clippers, which would be (in all likelihood) Pierce’s last game in the Gahden. 

When I bought the tickets and got in, I had an odd feeling I had only felt once before, at David Ortiz’s last game ever. I felt nostalgic, almost longing for more time to watch my favorite player in his prime, winning games and making the crowd go crazy. I cried when Pierce checked out, was tributes with a video from the Celtics, and received a standing ovation from the crowd that stopped the game. I yelled with everyone else in the 4th quarter when we wanted Pierce to come back in. And I cheered when Pierce hit a 3 pointer in the final seconds. It was a perfect goodbye to a legend, and a memory that I will hold personally forever. 

Thank you Paul Pierce for representing Boston well. You are an all time Celtic, and my favorite athlete of all time. We’ll see you in Springfield for your Hall of Fame induction in 5 years! 

2016: What a Year

I started this year reflecting on the trying yet rewarding events of 2015 while enjoying champagne with my family in West Hartford. Tonight, I will do almost exactly the same thing. Except I am in Quechee, VT, and I will reflect on the zany events of 2016. I’ll spend time reflecting on the crazy events of the world at large, like Trump, Brexit, the refugee crisis, the shocking terrorist attacks, and all the reactions to them. More than that, I’ll remember how much happened for me.

It was a chaotic year for many, including me. I started with the promise of my final semester of college. I had my best selection of classes and the excitement to get it done. January turned into February, and I worked through my classes, broadcasts, and beat reporting for WTBU. Lent came with the spiritual gifts I needed, and at Easter, I was getting ready to end my college career. 

Late April and early May came with many trips to Fenway Park, and many sweet Red Sox victories. I also hit the hardest stretch of final papers and exams I ever had in college. A few overnights, enough cups of tea to keep me awake for hours, paper writing, and game broadcasts kept me from sleeping.  But I got through it, and after four long years, my collegiate career came to an end. 

I’ve had some time to reflect on my time at BU, and my ultimate perspective on it is generally positive. I had many difficulties and made it harder than it needed to be. I probably made the wrong choice of schools for academic purposes. But for all the rest that college has to offer, I made the best possible decision. I met many of the closest friend I will ever have, learned more about God and faith than I thought there was to learn, discovered what love is and how good it is to love and be loved by someone, and found my passions and interests. When I got to 2016, I learned so much from prior years, and I made my last semester of college my best. 

After graduating and celebrating a hard earned bachelors, I went home for a few days, then went to Cape Cod. I found a job at a coffee and bagel shop within walking distance of my house called JoMamma’s and returned to interning with the Brewster Whitecaps. We hosted players this year too, and what a treat they were. The summer was completely different than early on in the year. I didn’t have school hanging Over me, and I was doing things I loved full time. I loved the JoMamma’s people. They were comedic, introspective, entertaining, and loaded up with cool stories. They introduced me to new movies, music genres, and lines of thought. And I loved the Whitecaps even more. Having Zach and Logan around was like having two more physically fit brothers around. We played so many games on Zach’s PS4, talked baseball, food, girls, movies, hopes, dreams, and were just guys for a summer. It was awesome. And then I got pulled into doing a musical through a JoMamma’s coworker. And I got to dabble in one of my loves by complete accident. 

I didn’t figure out a full time job, so I decided to go into the freelance broadcasting world and return to class. This time at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting’s campus in Needham, MA. At that point, life got interesting. 

I had gigs with Tufts, MIT, the Boston Pride of the NWHL, JWHL events, and writing for InsideHockey. I had class in the morning, but my classes were spent in studios and drafting rooms. It was so wildly different from what I knew school to be. And work was tiring, but kept me entertained. 

I never had a gig I didn’t find good in, and never had a class I hated. And while I was tired, and felt more on my own than I had in many months, I had nothing but good things to discuss and think of. 

I have come so far. Graduating, writing, broadcasting, driving all over New England, flying to Green Bay, meeting and saying so long to amazing friends, testing myself in the classroom at BU and CSB, and finding God’s hand in all of it. I feel like I’ve lived a decade in the space of 366 days. I cannot say enough good things about the path I’ve been on this year. 

It’s been trying. I’ve shed many tears and had sleepless nights along the way. I said goodbye to many meaningful people and there are pieces of my life that were very good and are no longer there. I also watched my childhood end. I’m no longer in the standard educational world, which is a bit unnerving. It’s all I’ve known since 1999, and the working world is different than what I’ve known so far. I’m enjoying it, but it’s still different. Symbolically, when David Ortiz walked off the field at Fenway for the last time, my childhood was done. 

But after the madness, I have many more positives than negatives. I had too much fun to be mad, and made too many memories to be angry. 

If there’s one way I would describe my year, its with a phrase coined by my friend Tomás when we played basketball one day. He described his game as “consistently inconsistent”. That phrase sums up my year extraordinarily well. I didn’t know what exactly was coming next. One day I was writing a paper. Next day I was pondering the universe and the nature of love with a friend. Then I was driving to New York to call a basketball game. Or maybe traffic on route 6 going to Bourne for a game was up next. I rarely knew what was up next for me. I just knew I would be entertained. 

Thank you to everyone who made 2016 unforgettable. Let’s make 2017 even better! 

Hard at work

Summer with the Whitecaps

Graduation Day!

Yeah that’s me and Mookie Betts.

Me with Brockstar! (Brock Holt)

Senior Week with the guys.

Me and my roomie.

Prequel characters (and Artoo) at Fenway

Storm troopers at Fenway

Me and my bro at Fenway

The CC Grad Group goes Apple Picking

The Joker

The Grease Cast

Back on the stage.

The JoMamma’s crew

BUCC graduating class of 2016

Me and the Ballplayers.

BUCC Broomball. I was the goaltender!

On skit team for my last retreat of Undergrad

Retreat small group for my last undergrad retreat

Ash Wednesday

There Goes Papi

I’ve been attending and watching sporting events for almost my whole life. I’ve had almost every emotion possible. I’ve been at ease watching my team annihilate the opposition, dejected when my team stinks, shocked by heartbreaking losses, tense in close and meaningful games, and thrilled by exciting victories late. The one emotion I haven’t had before is being sad. I’ve been dejected, but I’ve never had a sense of true sadness while at a game in my life. That was, until last night at Fenway Park. 

I waited until the first inning started to buy tickets, knowing that they would drop like a rock, and picked up seats for fairly cheap. After that, I went with my friend, another life long Sox fan, and off we went to the tense atmosphere of playoff baseball in Fenway Park. We knew the potential for the Red Sox to stage a stellar series comeback, given their history in the 2000’s. We also knew that if they lost, the last active player from our youths would retire and our childhood sport fandom would in essence be over. 

Sure enough, the Red Sox found themselves down two in the bottom of the 8th inning with a runner on base, two out, and David Ortiz up to hit. Naturally, we felt pretty good about it. And then Cleveland pitched around him with an unintentional intentional walk. Hanley Ramirez singled in a run, and then Ortiz was taken out for a pinch runner. He left to upraorus applause and adulation. Unfortunately, he was denied a proper happy ending. The Red Sox failed to tie the game in the eighth and got two more runners on in the 9th and failed to score then. When the game ended, I had this crushed feeling of, “It’s over. The season, the chance for a championship, the fun times at the ballpark, but especially the career of a legend. It’s all gone.”

At that moment, I sat down in my seat and was the saddest I’ve ever been at any game I’ve ever gone to. I filled out my scorebook with what had happened, and looked around the ballpark. There were so many people standing in shock. They all knew, as I did, that we would never watch David Amèrico Ortiz Arias step to the batters box ever again for the Boston Red Sox. We didn’t want it to end. We stood and waited. We chanted at the top of our lungs: “We Want Papi!” And “Thank you Papi!” and best of all “We’re Not Leaving!”. We waited for what felt like an eternity. 

And then a tall, looming figure stepped out of the Red Sox dugout and took the field. The Fenway Park sound guys played this music from The Natural, and every person there watched this legend as tears filled every eye in the yard. Surrounded by reporters, he looked around the park with tears in his eyes. He didn’t care about the people taking pictures a few feet away from them, he wasn’t there for them. He walked out to the pitchers mound to say thank you to the people in the stands. He tipped his cap to us, and we cheered and yelled “Thank you David!” until we just couldn’t speak or make anymore noise. We all knew what this man did for the Red Sox, the region, and ourselves. We could do nothing, but applaud the efforts and heart of this champion. And then he stepped off the mound and off the field, back through the dugout and into the clubhouse to remove his equipment for the final time. 

I’ve been following the Red Sox since 2003, a diehard fan since 2005, and a Boston area resident since 2012. In that time, David Ortiz went from a mediocre left handed hitter to productive hitter on a record setting offense to postseason folk hero to legendary slugger worthy of record alongside the greatest to ever play the game. I grew up watching him play every single day for six months of my year every year from 2003 on. I was 8 when he took over the DH spot from Jeremy Giambi. I’m now 22 and I’m watching the last of my childhood baseball heroes walk away. And when David walked out and tipped his cap to us, I cried. I’ve never shed a tear at a game before. But that was the end of my childhood baseball fandom, and I was so sad to watch it end. 

As I’ve explained before, David Ortiz is the most important Red Sox player ever. Not the best, but the most important. He took the Red Sox from being a team that would be just good enough to entertain and just bad enough to fail spectacularly in the biggest game of the season to being a champion. The 2004 World Series is the most important trophey in the history of all Boston sports without any hesitation. And David Ortiz was at the heart of it. When we cheered David, we were thanking him for his efforts on the field and his transformation of the organization we root for. He turned us into winners. And I mean that line quite literally. 

Athletes can only do so much to directly impact our day to day lives. They play a game and entertain people. They aren’t doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers, or anything that directly helps a city in that manner. Any impact that can be is up to the person watching the game and athlete in question. Athletes can inspire fans and make them realize their own potential. They see the exploits on the field and think: “If they can handle all this pressure of all these expectations and perform like that, then I can handle my issues and do it the way they do.” 

Watching the Red Sox from 1919 to 2003 was to expect failure. You follow a team for so long and see so many failures while that guy (in this case the Yankees) gets every break and does so well, and it rubs off on your psyche. When David showed up and played with his swagger and championship mindset, he changed the Sox from fearing the big moment and the Yankees to wanting that pressure. That rubbed off on the fan base too. It rubbed off on me. I looked at Ortiz as an inspirational figure for my youth, looking to his triumphs for inspiration to deal with personal struggles and problems. He gave me the confidence to handle my issues with a championship swagger and attitude. I’ll always have him to personally thank for that. And me tipping my cap to him was my way of saying thank you. I’m sure I’m not the only person with that sense of gratitude or impact given by him. 

Thank you David Ortiz, champion, hero, and Boston Red Sox legend. You’ve changed a city, a team, a fan base, and filled our lives with so much joy. One standing ovation from all of us Red Sox fans would not be enough to thank you for all that you’ve done. But it’s all we could give you last night. Thank you. We will miss you, and love what you gave us forever. 

Division Series Previews and Predictions

After two outstanding Wild Card games over the last few days, the Baseball Postseason is ready to get started tonight! We have eight teams starting the division series in both the American and National League over the next two days, and this is when the best baseball is played. Let’s take a look at each series and see what I think will happen! And for the record, I’m not going to predict more than just the Division Series. We’ll start with the American League. 

Toronto Blue Jays vs Texas Rangers- Rangers in 5

This is the series I look at with the most excitement. After last year’s matchup between these two teams, capped by this Jose Bautista homer and bat flip, and the bad blood spilling over into a regular season match early this year, I am excited for this matchup! There is bad blood, animosity, and something that baseball has missed for a long time: menace. There’s a sense of competition that the sport desperately needs in the postseason, and I am excited for that. There also are talented baseball players on both teams, so we should get good play in addition to the competition. Both teams have strong lineups, good to well above average starting rotations, and shakey bullpens so I see that as a close matchup.

The Blue Jays lineup can make minced meat out of the best pitching in baseball. Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Troy Tulowitski are all able to hit homers off any pitcher in any ballpark, let alone band boxes in Texas and Toronto that will lead to more offense. Their defense is also capable, with the fifth best fielding percentage in the AL. Russell Martin is an underrated defensive catcher, and their starting rotation is talented, if a bit unproven. They have the AL’s ERA leader in Aaron Sanchez, who is coming off a masterful performance in Fenway Park against the best offense in baseball, in which he held the Red Sox to one run over seven innings. Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, and JA Happ are also talented pitchers who will hold their own. Toronto’s weakness comes in the form of their bullpen. They have only a 4.40 ERA and despite holding the Orioles offense to only 2 runs in the wild card game, there is no clear closer or obvious stopper in the Jays bullpen. Roberto Osuna is questionable for game 1, and that will mess with the bullpen big time. 

Texas can match the Canadian offense. Adrian Beltre continues to make a Hall of Fame case for himself after a .300, 30 homer, 104 RBI season at 37 years old. Elvis Andrus hit .302, Rougned Odor provides some punch (no pun intended), and Ian Desmond is a capable all around hitter. After Prince Fielder retired, the Rangers picked up Carlos Beltran, a playoff tested future Hall of Famer to bolster the offense, and he has done just that. Unfortunately, the defense is only pedestrian, with the 9th best defense in the American League. Their starting rotation on paper is also only pedestrian without the names of the pitchers being considered. Cole Hammels and Yu Darvish are talented pitchers with huge name recognition, but age, attrition, and injury have slowed them down. Hammels has the lowest ERA on the team at 3.32, and Darvish is just getting back to full strength after Tommy John surgery, pitching in only 17 games this season. But these guys, along with Colby Lewis and Derek Holland, are skilled players with postseason experience that will show up against Toronto. The reason I’m picking Texas in this series is the bullpen. The teams are even in all positions except the closer. Osuna isn’t ready to play this series right now, while Sam Dyson (2.43 ERA, 38 saves) is ready to go for Texas. I think the Rangers have a slightly better bullpen and will scrape by the Blue Jays in 5. 

Boston Red Sox vs Cleveland Indians- Red Sox in 4

As a Red Sox fan, after the last week of the season, I am quite nervous for this series. I don’t have a ton of faith in the Red Sox bullpen and I don’t want to face Terry Francona’s team giving up home field advantage. That all being said, I’ll put my fandom and fears aside and try to be objective about this series. 

Boston comes in with the best offense in baseball. Mookie Bette, Dustin Pedroia, and David Ortiz all have cases to be MVP this season, while Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Hanley Ramirez all provide stronger bats than most can offer. Cleveland is no slouch offensively, but they lack the diversity of weapons that Boston has. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are the two .300 hitters on the team, and Mike Napoli has given a spark of power, but the Indian’s offense is ultimately a far cry from what Boston can bring. 

Boston also carries a talented pitching staff. Rick Porcello is a viable Cy Young candidate, and David Price picked up his play later in the year. Clay Buccholz and Eduardo Rodriguez are wild cards but if they come up strong, they can put Boston over the top. The rotation is shortened after the absurdly stupid decision to have All Star Steven Wright run the bases in Los Angeles on August 5th which resulted in his shoulder injury. He could return to the team for the ALCS, but he can’t help the team against Cleveland. The Indians carry a pitching stud in Corey Kluber, but he is injured and so is the rest of the starting rotation. Kluber is starting game 2 after a late season quad injury, and game 1 starter Trevor Bauer isn’t a pitching ace. Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco are also injured, and will not play in the series. Cleveland’s starting rotation is not in good shape. The bullpens are more comparable, but the injured Indians starting rotation will be their downfall. Kluber will win his start in Cleveland, but Boston’s offensive depth will take on the rotation and win the series in four games. 

Now onto the National League. 

Chicago Cubs vs San Francisco Giants, Cubs in 5

By leaps and bounds, this is the hardest series for me to predict. On one hand, the Chicago Cubs are the most talented team in baseball, have the NL MVP in Kris Bryant, one of the best pitchers in Jake Arrieta, a bevy of young talent, championship veteran guile in players like Jon Lester, John Lackey, and David Ross. On the other hand, it’s the Cubs. This is the most cursed team in baseball facing the team that turns into a golden team in even year Octobers, the San Francisco Giants. More so than the stigma of “It’s the Cubs”, these teams match up extremely well. 

Chicago clearly has the better lineup from top to bottom, but the Giants still have weapons in Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, and Brandon Crawford. They don’t have the power of the Cubs, but they can make the Cubs rotation work and throw a ton of pitches. The real matchup is in the starting rotations. Madison Bumbgarner, the best postseason pitcher throwing right now, won’t start until game 3, but Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija are capable pitchers and can make life difficult for Chicago. The Cubs will have to face a difficult rotation, and Chicago’s bullpen will have to hold up better than the Mets’ bullpen did last night. With Aroldis Chapman in the closers spot, they can shut down the Giants in the 9th. If the Cubs are to win, the Cubs MUST win both games 1 and 2 in Chicago and the bullpen must be better than the Giants. 

I see this series as a toss up. The Giants have a winning culture and attitude that the Cubs have not proven to have and they have the pieces to take down the Cubs. The Cubs have talent and the burden of expectation from baseball fans and the longest suffering fan base in all of sports. If the Cubs are to win a championship, they must win games 1 and 2 at home. 

Washington Nationals vs Los Angeles Dodgers- Nationals in 4

This series is simultaneously interesting and boring for me. These teams are talented and Fun to watch in the regular season. However, they are horribly disappointing in the postseason. The Dodgers were supposed to beat the Cardinals in the 2013 NLCS and 2014 NLDS, the Mets in the 2015 NLDS behind the performance of Clayton Keyshawn, Justin Turner, Yasiel Paige, and others, but lost every single series, never reaching their postseason potential. The Nationals are just as disappointing, with a lost championship in 2014 and missing the playoffs last year. I expect both teams to eventually fold, if not in this series then later in the month. But I will still watch and see which of these “Next Year’s Champions” will continue to tease their fans. 

Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Turner, and Corey Seager lead a potent lineup against the Nationals and Howie Kendrick, Josh Reddick, and Yasiel Puig look to improve on disappointing regular seasons and help the team get a boost. For DC, Daniel Murphy takes his .347 average into the postseason with the intent of another trip to the Fall Classic. Wilson Ramos also hit .300 and is the other well performing hitter for DC. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, two long standing DC hitters, had very disappointing seasons and look to step up in October. Harper’s season was especially disappointing. The reigning NL MVP went from hitting .330 to only .243 this season and he struggled to get into any kind of rhythm this season. If anything, the fact that Washington won 95 games this season with Harper performing so poorly is reason for more confidence. Imagine how well they’d play if Harper picked up his average.

These starting rotations are both top heavy. Clayton Keyshawn and Max Scherzer are the undisputed aces, but the rotations beyond those two are a little short. Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strausburg both have talent but have been inconsistent this year in the nation’s capitol. Kenta Madea and Scott Kazmir have some good innings in them, but they are secondary to Kershaw and not quite ace level. The Dodgers have a decided advantage in their bullpen. Washington released their closer, Jonathan Paplebon, before the signing deadline in the middle of the season, and have given Shawn Kelly the closing job. He and the rest of the Nationals Bullpen has plenty to prove. LA has a bona fide closer in Kelley Jansen, sporting a 1.83 ERA and 47 Saves. The rest of the bullpen is more dependable as welll. However, because of slightly better pitching, and the potential for Bryce Harper to break loose, I’m picking Washington to win the series. 

So there are my predictions. Onto the playoffs! 


Patriots Day/Marathon Monday Facts

Today is a day off for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In Boston, it’s Marathon Monday, a day for people to run a long ways to test and push themselves while the spectators down as much beer as physically possible, because Boston needs another reason to drink. Ok it’s not that simplistic, but many people seem to think it is, for some reason. So I’m taking a little time to write up a few things to know about Patriots Day itself, why the day is celebrated, and why it’s important. And I’ll also throw in a few things to know about the Boston Marathon, both this year’s race and the history of it. 

Patriots Day

  1. What is actually celebrated on Patriots Day?

The first battle of the American Revolution. On the night of April 18th, 1775, Paul Revere made his famous midnight ride to warn the countryside of the military’s attempts to sieze the colonists’s storage of militia weapons at Concord. And no, Revere did not say the famous words “The British are coming”. He had to ride quietly through the night and the colonists thought of themselves as British already, so there are no grounds for claiming he said this. Revere was captured before he finished his mission, but others got the word out, and the British were met by armed resistance on the village green of Lexington. A small skirmish ensued. Then the Redcoats marched to Concord before being pushed back at the Old North Bridge. The Redcoats responded by locking down Boston, and the American Revolution began.

There is one other event also commemorated: The Baltimore Riot of 1861. This is considered the first blood shed in the conflict of the American Civil War. On April 19, 1861, members of the 6th Massachusetts Militia were traveling to Washington DC for federal service after the fall of Fort Sumter and the beginning of the American Civil War. Maryland was a border state and was even though it did not actually succeed to the confederacy, it was still not friendly to the members of the Northern military. When the 6th Massachusetts Militia arrived in Baltimore on April 19th, tensions boiled over. A riot broke out when confederate sympathizers and anti-war Democrats, the largest political entities in Maryland at the time, recognized military from the Republican north. The riots were ended, but not before 4 Massachusetts soldiers were dead and 36 others were injured. 

    2.   When was Patriots Day first celebrated?

There were long standing municipal days of remembrance called Lexington Day and Concord Day in Massachusetts and Maine, which until the Missouri Compromise in 1820 was a part of Massachusetts. There were not any large scale celebrations though. Then in 1894, the governor of Massachusetts, Frederic T. Greenhalge, abolished the long standing Fast Day, and announced a new holiday for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Patriots Day. The day was set up to commemorate people who gave their lives for the freedom of Massachusetts in both the American Revolution and the American Civil War. Maine followed in 1907 and replaced its Fast Day with Patriots Day. The holiday was celebrated on April 19th, the actual date of the battles, until 1969, when the schedule was changed to Patriots Day being celebrated on the third Monday of April, which is what we have now. 

     3.    Is it officially recognized as a holiday anywhere else?

Well, yes actually. It is primarily a Massachusetts and Maine holiday, but other states do recognize it. Wisconsin lists the day as a “Public School Observance Day”. It is recognized as an important day in American history. There is still school, but time is taken to recognize what happened on that day. Florida law also encourages people to acknowledge the events of the day, but does not treat the day as a holiday. Massachusetts and Maine are the only states that recognize Patriots Day as a holiday.



  1. When did the Marathon begin?

The first ever Boston Marathon was run in 1897. It was inspired by the success of the 1896 Olympics in Athens, the first modern Olympic competition. Patriots Day was selected for the marathon because of the symbolism found in the Olympic marathon. The race is called a “marathon” because it was supposed to recreate a famous event in Greek history: the run of Pheidippides from the site of the Battle of Marathon to Athens to announce victory to the Athenians. The Boston Athletic Club modeled their own race of 24.3 miles, same as the 1896 Marathon, to commemorate the spirit of the Patriots in the Colonial age. The original plan was to have the route run from Concord to Boston, but the distance wasn’t enough for a regulation marathon, so the starting line was placed in Ashland. A field of 15 amateurs ran the first ever Boston Marathon, with John J. “JJ” McDermott winning the race with a time of 2:55:10. 

     2. How does the Marathon work now?

The sarcastic answer to this question is “Well people run a long ways and other people watch.” The more technical answer is that the route has changed significantly since 1897. For one, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) changed the distance of an official marathon from 24.3 miles to 26.2 miles. To bring the Boston Marathon up to standards, the BAA changed the distance to 26.2 miles, and changed the starting location to the Hopkinton Green. This has been the starting line since 1924.

The other major change is the process of qualification. The Boston marathon is the oldest continuously run marathon in the US and is the most famous race in the American runners community. The people who qualify to run are among the most skilled runners in the American and international community. The first marathon had a field of only 15 runners. This year’s race has 30,000 runners competing! So how does one qualify for the marathon? Well the race is open to any runner 18 years and older, but they have to have completed a full length marathon before with an official time that fits in the qualification times for each age group. These are the qualification times. 

      3. Random Pieces of Marathon Trivia

These are just a few pieces of interesting trivia regarding the marathon. 

  • The first 35 marathons saw an American or a Canadian win. The 36th saw the first winner from outside North America, Paul de Bruyn of Germany, triumph in 1932. 
  • The race has seen huge diversity in its victors over its history, but not much recently. In the Men’s Open Division, 19 of the last 25 winners have been Kenyan. Though the last time a Kenyan won was in 2012 when Wesley Korir won. 
  • The most recent American victory was in 2014, when Meb Keflezighi became the first American victor since 1983 when Greg Meyer won. 
  • Women were not officially allowed to run the Marathon until 1972, though women had been unofficially running since 1966. Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb is recognized by the BAA as the first woman to complete the marathon course. Katherine Switzer, who registered as K.V. Switzer, was the first woman to finish the race with an official number, though race official Jock Semple famously tried to rip off her number. All female finishers from 1966 to 1971 have been recognized by the BAA. 
  • The Boston Marathon was he first in the world to add a wheelchair division. The first male winner was Robert Hall in 1975. The first female winner was Sharon Rahn in 1977. 
  • The course record for the men’s open division was also the world record for a time. In 2011, Geoffrey Mutai ran a staggering 2:03:02, the fastest marathon ever run at that point. It has since been topped by Dennis Kipruto Kimetto’s 2:02:57 at the 2011 Berlin marathon. 
  • Walter Brown, who was the founder and longtime owner of the Celtics and has a hockey arena at my school, Boston University, named after him, served as the chair of the BAA from 1941 until 1964. His most famous and negative moment came in 1951, during the height of the Korean War, when he banned Koreans from participating in that year’s race. 
  • Two runners have actually died while running the race. An unnamed 62 year old Swedish man died in 1996 because of a heart attack. And Cynthia Lucerno, 28, died of hyponatremia in 2002. 
  • The marathon goes on about the same time as the Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park, who have been scheduled to play every year at home since 1959 on Patriots Day. The Patriots Day game starts at 11:00 AM, the only scheduled morning game on the major league schedule. 

So there are a few things about the meaning of Patriots Day and the history and workings of the Marathon itself. I hope people take some lessons from it! If you’re in Boston today, enjoy the marathon! And don’t get too crazy today. Happy Patriots Day everyone! 

Celtics Trades: Maybe None are Needed

I’ve written here many times before about how big a Boston Celtics fan I am. I came of age with the Pierce, Garnett, and Allen team from 2008-2012. I saw the team struggle mightily before Allen and Garnett came to Boston, and for the year after that unit was dismantled. This season, everyone in Boston has had the pleasure of watching the Celtics become a high seed in the East. The team as constructed now stands as a testament to true team basketball. Its a unit of people who are not star talents, and all have limits and issues keeping them from being great. Isaiah Thomas is an All-Star, and a high volume scorer, but he’s also 5’9″, quite a small man in the land of giants that is the NBA now. Jared Sullinger is too rotund to be a big man in the NBA. Jae Crowder is too thin to hang in the league. Marcus Smart can’t shoot well enough to stay in the game. Tyler Zeller isn’t skilled enough to play.Avery Bradley is paper thin. All of these are critiques of players on the Celtics roster that I have heard and listened to. The only thing that no one has argued about is how outstanding a coach Brad Stevens is.

As good as the team is, they lack a true superstar to take them over the top and win a championship. No team in the NBA has ever won a championship without a superstar to head up the unit. As such, the Celtics are looking for that player to get them back into the winner’s circle. Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Love, and Al Horford are all names that have been floated and discussed as trade targets for the Celtics. With the NBA trade deadline approaching, Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge will try to live up to his moniker “Trader Dan” and get a player to bolster the depth and roster. But should he?

As necessary as a superstar is, perhaps even more important is outstanding chemistry. In order to be a fully functioning team, the players have to at least have a certain respect for each other. If the talent level is high but the team unity doesn’t exist at all, the players will lock horns and leave the team in shambles. See the Lakers following the Shaq/Kobe feud for evidence there.

The chemistry of the Celtics is a beautiful thing to watch. It is true team basketball in a way that is rarely seen today. Anyone on the roster can step in and contribute immediately, with good results to show for it. Evan Turner is coming off the bench and has hit numerous clutch shots, including in the last game before the All-Star break against the Clippers. Tyler Zeller can come off the bench and get a double double, like what he did against the Knicks in January. Everyone on this roster, with the exception of David Lee for some reason, has contributed greatly to the team and is happy to be a part of Boston.

So is it imperative for the Celtics to make a trade? Well, not really. Sure, getting a talented player would make them a bonafide contender for a championship. But it isn’t impossible to see this team making a run as currently constructed, and then improve through free agency and the draft, especially with a high draft pick coming this year from the Brooklyn Nets. Al Horford is likely not going to be traded by Atlanta this season because their asking price has been too high. No one in Boston wants Dwight Howard in a Celtics jersey, and opinion is still torn on DeMarcus Cousins. There doesn’t appear to be a big trade to be made that’s a clear positive move for the Celtics, and in those scenarios, the best thing to do is to hold your cards and not be rash. Also, meddling with the outstanding chemistry of a good team seems to be problematic.

If the Celtics do make a trade before the 18th (tomorrow) at 3pm, I won’t be surprised. But I’m not rooting for them to make just any trade.