New England awaits its sports deliverance via Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Gronk, Vince and the Legion of Belichick.
There's only so much NFL training camp news to satisfy our appetite for sports. Sadly, the Patriots don't actually play a real game for another seven weeks.
Meanwhile, the baseball season lingers like a bad cold. The Red Sox begin "Part II - The Purge" Friday against the Royals at Fenway Park. The defending World Series champs begin their post All-Star odyssey nine games below .500, 9.5 games out of first place, and one percentage point out of fourth place. Is there any reason to watch them the rest of the way? Well, if you're looking for a World Series repeat, "No."
But if you're the type to who sees the Red Sox World Series Cup as .453 full rather than .547 empty, here are 10 reasons why you should watch the Red Sox the rest of the season.
1. Jon Lester. He's got anywhere between 11-13 starts remaining for sure in a Red Sox uniform. Lester is one of two Red Sox left-handed pitchers who can claim an ERA below 1.00 in three or more World Series starts. The other is Babe Ruth. That's the type of company Lester is in when it comes to "Potential Stars The Red Sox Lost (or would eventually lose) to the Yankees." He's somewhere between Ruth, Wade Boggs, Sparky Lyle and a post-Toronto, would-be PED-free, Roger Clemens.
2. The Curse of Jenny Dell: The Red Sox have yet to win a World Series since dumping Dell, who now works for CBS. NESN has used a rotating cast of sideline reporters this season before naming Gary Striewski the "primary" sideline reporter in late June. There's always potential for greatness whenever Don and Jerry cut away from the action. Remember the "pizza guy," the "eco-friendly bathroom" or the time Dell dropped the death stare on the hot-dog guy.
Striewski is replacing a legend, in much the same way Andrew Johnson replaced Abraham Lincoln. It's a tough spot. All eyes are watching. A word of warning to Gary: President Andrew Johnson ended up being impeached.
3. Xander vs. Reality: In the aura caused by last year's performance in the World Series, Xander Bogaerts was ticketed for the Cooperstown Class of 2039. In the interim, the man lost his job to Stephen Freaking Drew. Entering Friday night's game, the Face of the Future in Boston is hitting .235/.311/.348 with six home runs and 22 RBIs in 328 at-bats. Hardly the stuff of legends. His long-term success could very well be determined on how he responds in the second half of this season.
4. Christian Vazquez: The Red Sox have not brought up a true catching superstar through their farm system since Carlton Fisk strode up to the plate and took 22 minutes (or something like that) for his first at-bat back in 1969. (Jason Varitek came via a trade with Seattle.) Vazquez gets the next opportunity to be that player. He had been in the minors for parts of seven season before his Red Sox debut last week and is expected to be their No. 1 catcher for the duration. He hit .279 with three homers and 20 RBIs in 66 games at Pawtucket this season. But it's his catching style, ability to handle pitchers and skill in calling a game that most impresses scouts and the Red Sox.
5. Can David Ortiz hit above his weight? The Red Sox web site generously lists Ortiz at 6-4, 230 pounds. Given those numbers, this will not be a problem. But in a metaphorical sense, anything under .285 (his career average) will be considered a disappointment for Big Papi. Ortiz is batting .255/.357/.487. Last year, at the mid-way point of the season, his slash line was .317/.402./606, more than .150 higher. If Ortiz wants to reach that magic number of .285 for the season, expect lots of check-swing grounders down the third-base line.
Inspiration- Jackie Bradley Jr. CF Redsox pic.twitter.com/3g4QbB8HPK— Sheridan Shumpert (@deeamazing28) July 15, 2014
6. The Next Great Play By Jackie Bradley Jr.: While Bradley's offensive numbers are just plain offensive, his speed, range and Fred Lynn-like cannon of an arm has helped Red Sox fans forget about Jacoby Whatshisname when the opposing team is at bat. In the three-day period leading up to and including Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Bradley and Dwyane Wade of the Heat each had the same number of assists: One.
Among Jackie's Gems this season:
Almost worth the price of admission on its own. Almost.
7. Will Mike Napoli ever hit another home run for the Red Sox?: Napoli earned himself a nice two-year, $32 million deal after last season's exploits. Along the way, he won over the hearts and minds of millions.
The party's been over for Napoli and the Red Sox for a while this season. The Red Sox first-baseman has not homered since June 28 and is hitting a paltry .266 with just 10 HRs and 34 RBI. He's also reportedly been the subject of trade inquiries. With "The Purge II" underway on Yawkey Way and the Red Sox looking to clear payroll for future free-agents and/or Lester, Napoli's days here may be numbered. Catch him at Fenway or roaming shirtless in the Back Bay while you can.
8. The Team of the Future: Consider the second half of this season like an extended spring training. The Red Sox will be showcasing new faces to see if players can fit in here, and/or play well enough to be considered as trade material by other teams. Let's face it, you've probably already bought your tickets for those games in August. You're not going to cancel cable or the satellite feed just to lose NESN. And if you're watching through the MLB baseball package, there are no refunds.
The Pawtucket Red Sox at Boston Red Sox prices is an easier sell when many of the tickets have already been sold.
Fenway Park now during this snow storm. For the record, we still would've beaten the Cardinals in these conditions. pic.twitter.com/iSo66hUUd3— Sean Carragher (@seanpcarragher) February 5, 2014
9. It's Summer: Think back to last winter. Polar Vortex. Snow. Ice. More snow. More ice. You would have probably sacrificed your second-born for a nice summer night at Fenway in February. Well, summer is here. Enjoy it. The Red Sox cannot be any more unwatchable than they've been over the first 95 games this season. And they can't get any lower in the standings without ending up in the A.L. Central. Maybe if they fall 15 games out, fans will get a 15 percent discount on game-day tickets and concessions. Those mini $5 beers didn't hurt back in early 2013, either.
10. Miracles happen: You never know. Depending on perspective: the Red Sox have won the World Series three times in the past 10 years, or three times in the past 96 years. While the big-picture focus may be shifting to 2015, you never know if someone might throw a no-hitter, or hit for the cycle, or turn that play of the lifetime.
Then there are other small miracles. The moments you share with those close to you. That first date, taking the kids (or grand-kids) to the ball park, or a night of hell-raising with your buddies. Just because the Red Sox have ruined their season, it doesn't mean you have to ruin yours.
And remember, New England at Miami on Sept. 7 is only 51 days away.
The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
Obnoxious Boston Fan Email Address. Thanks always for reading.