A quick recap of the past week and a half or so:
1. Ray Allen won a second NBA Title with that stupid boring dream team thing known as the Miami Heat.
2. Doc Rivers left the Celtics to work for Donald Sterling and the LA Clippers because he didn’t want to be around for the rebuild.
3. Aaron Hernandez has been released by the Patriots and charged with murder and several other gun-related charges.
4. The Bruins lose the Stanley Cup to the Chigaco Blackhawks despite playing really hard. There will be more turnover than we’re used to for the Black and Gold this summer.
5. The Celtics traded away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets for a bunch of players nobody cares about and a bunch of draft picks. It’s the end of an era and it will take some time before the Celtics are a championship contender again.
While all this was going on, the Red Sox have been quietly playing 1st place baseball through the first half of the season. What a difference a year makes. Last year, the Bobby Valentine experiment was going poorly, the players seemed indifferent, and there was nothing to get excited about. The best news Sox fans got all year was that the overpaid malcontents Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and new owner Magic Johnson (yes, that Magic Johnson) was willing to pay for those guys. In the entire 162 game season, the Red Sox managed a whopping 69 wins, but they seem to have turned it around now.
The Sox went with short term, high character free agents this winter, and they have gotten solid contributions from Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, and Ryan Dempster as a result. We’ve started to see young talent from the Red Sox’ farm system make its way to the big club in the form of Will Middlebrooks, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Allen Webster, but the most pleasant surprise has been 23 year old Cuban-born shortstop Jose Iglesias. Thus far Iglesias, who was touted as a stellar defensive player for years but had been less than impressive at the plate, is batting .414 with an OPS of 1.000. There is still plenty of time for his numbers to fall back to earth, but he is so good in the field (playing both shortstop and third base when needed) that as long as his batting average stays above .200, he deserves to be an every day player.
The American League East division is one of the toughest in baseball. The Toronto Blue Jays are in last place, but are only one game below .500 and had a winning record before playing the Red Sox this week. The difference between the best team and the worst team is not that great. Injuries could be a factor in the division race as well. Clay Bucholz, the best starting pitcher on the Red Sox, is currently on the disabled list and may not pitch again until after the All Star break. Without Bucholz, the Sox’ pitching staff is not nearly as formidable, though they do have some other solid pitchers. The back of the bullpen has had more questions than answers as well. Despite that, the Red Sox have continued to win games. It should make for an interesting summer for baseball fans. Even if the Red Sox miss the playoffs, it’s great to see that they are heading in the right direction and their young talent is improving. It’s good to have Red Sox baseball to fall back on considering the way the other three teams in Boston have been making headlines lately.