Celtics may contend despite issues
It’s important for the Boston Red Sox to sign ace righthander Josh Beckett to a contract extension.
They’re paying $82.5 million over five years for the services of former Angels ace John Lackey and Beckett is worth at least that much.
It may seem like a hefty price tag to have two pitchers making more than $16 million a year.
But it’s a necessity, especially if you’re in the same division with the New York Yankees.
Top-of-the-rotation pitchers are few and far between and that is what Beckett is.
It seems like Beckett has had his ups and downs with the Red Sox but when you look at the numbers, he is 65-34 in his four seasons with them with a respectable 4.05 earned run average. He was 17-6 last season with a 3.86 ERA. He had 199 strikeouts and just 55 walks in 212¤ innings. He gave up 25 homers.
Beckett has a live fastball but he can also throw a two-seam fastball with some sink to it, a nasty 12-to-6 curve, and an improving change-up.
He doesn’t turn 30 until May 15 and he is a workhorse. He has thrown at least 200 innings in three of his four seasons with the Red Sox.
Like Lackey, he is fearless and will brush hitters back to gain command of the inside part of the plate.
Beckett stands 6-foot-5 and weighs in at 220 pounds which means his durability shouldn’t be a problem like it would be with a smaller pitcher like 5-foot-11, 195-pound Pedro Martinez.
Beckett is also a fierce competitor who has a mean streak.
If someone throws at a Red Sox hitter, Beckett is going to retaliate.
That earns him the respect of his teammates.
In addition, he is well-regarded for his charity work and has established the Josh Beckett Foundation that supports programs to improve the health and well-being of children. And the Beckett Bowl is a charity bowling tournament that raises money for disadvantaged children.
I’m looking forward to seeing the two hard-nosed Texans, Beckett and Lackey, in the same rotation this season.
And for future years.
— Larry Mahoney
Celts may contend for title despite problems
Watching the Celtics play the Cleveland Cavaliers while playing pool with a non-sports fanatic buddy Sunday afternoon provided some perspective on Boston’s basketball boys.
The irony of watching Boston go just more than five minutes without scoring in the fourth quarter while literally finding myself behind the 8-ball a couple times did not go unnoticed.
Still, there was a silver lining for the Celtic green-and-white-clad team and its fans.
The bench is deeper and more productive than previous years, so much so that commentators have noted the reserves have been outplaying the starters at many points over the last couple weeks.
After a disappearing act that would make illusionist David Blaine envious, the starters are starting to play more like a unit that has evolved from “The Big Three” to “The Fabulous Four.” Now, instead of taking entire games and even weeks off, they’re down to a few scoreless minutes. Hey, it’s not perfect, but it’s progress.
Unfortunately, Boston’s midseason swoon has likely cost it the No. 2 seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoffs, but that doesn’t mean it can’t make another run:
• Boston is still a veteran team that’s been built to peak at playoff time.
• The Celtics are still one of the league’s toughest and stingy defensive squads.
• Boston may not be explosive offensively, but it is efficient and capable of wearing teams down.
• The team added bench depth with players (Nate Robinson, Mike Finley) who are more than just foul fodder or role players with no offensive capability — although that offense, or lack thereof, was pretty offensive on Sunday.
• Sunday’s offensive blackout aside, the Celtics showed they can still hold their own with a greatly improved Cavs team specifically built to beat Boston — when Boston’s starters aren’t struggling or in foul trouble.
All that being said, the question remains whether the Celtics — specifically Kevin Garnett — can hold up against very physical teams like Cleveland and Orlando for the full 48 minutes. If they/he can, while also getting an offensive spark and some leprechaun luck, the Celtics can surprise.
— Andrew Neff