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Four for thought

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  July 5, 2011 03:53 PM

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Now that the hamburger, hot dog and fireworks-induced haze of the holiday long weekend has lifted here are four post-Fourth of July declarations while wondering what happened to the plague that was surely going to befall Adrian Gonzalez in right field.

1. John Lackey is pitching for his season on Saturday: Lackey has an earned run average that only Boeing could love (7.47). He has allowed five or more earned runs in four of 13 starts this season and 16 of 46 since joining the Red Sox while compiling a 19-19 mark and 5.17 ERA. It's enough to make one long for Matt Clement.

The only reason the struggling righthander is even in the rotation at this point is because of Clay Buchholz's balky back. But if Lackey blows up again against Baltimore the Sox have to remove him from the rotation. Alfredo Aceves and Pawtucket pitchers Kyle Weiland, Felix Doubront, and Kevin Millwood are options to fill the spot. It's not fair to Lackey or to the team to keep sending him out there.

You feel for Lackey because his wife, Krista, was diagnosed with breast cancer during the offseason and he has endured a horrendous season on the field that included an elbow strain that has generated speculation about eventual Tommy John surgery. His frustration with his current lot in life is palpable, and it boiled over following a water-logged whipping by the Padres on June 22. His next start, against the Phillies, offered a flicker of resurgence that was doused yesterday, when he was lit up by Toronto.

If Lackey falters against the Orioles, the best thing is to put him on some sort of sabbatical before his Red Sox career spins irrevocably and irretrievably out of control. This season might be a lost cause, but he's on the books for three more.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury equals Carl Crawford: After being tagged with the pusillanimous label last season because fractured ribs reduced him to 18 games, Ellsbury is making a lot of people eat their words . He has been exactly what the Sox thought they were getting with Carl Crawford at a fraction of the cost. The first-time All-Star has been the Sox' best offensive player after Gonzalez and David Ortiz.

After being restored to the leadoff spot April 22, Ellsbury has the third-most hits in baseball with 93, trailing only Gonzalez (100) and Jose Reyes (97). He has batted .336 during that time with a .391 on-base percentage and been on base as many times as Reyes (119). With a career-high-tying nine home runs and an American League-leading 27 stolen bases, he has been the most dynamic leadoff hitter in baseball this side of media darling Reyes. Joke about Ellsbury missing a game over the weekend with the flu, but he has played in 83 of the Sox' 84 games this season.

There was a school of thought that Ellsbury was a bit overrated because baseball observation has devalued batting average and the stolen base to convince you of the "value" of Jack Cust. He can't steal first base, they said of Ellsbury. But Ellsbury's .370 OBP this season would be higher than any Crawford has ever posted in a season.

3. The Bruins are spending the offseason shining their Stanley Cup: Am I the only one underwhelmed by the Bruins' offseason? Benoit Pouliot is the big signing. Would it have been too much to ask for Simon Gagne, who went to the Kings for Michael Ryder money? I understand the Bruins have to re-sign Brad Marchand and plan for next season when David Krejci is a restricted free agent and Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley and Gregory Campbell are all unrestricted. But the Bruins came into the offseason with approximately $12 million to play with and NHL teams pawn off unwanted salaries on other clubs all the time (see: Chicago and Brian Campbell).

The Bruins run to the Stanley Cup was magical and memorable, but it's a mistake to assume you're going to be able to duplicate it without improvements, especially when you were one goal away from a first-round exit and you won it all in a year that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were hors de hockey.

The Bruins need a top-four defensemen because outside of the Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg pairing and Andrew Ference they were bailed out by an unconscious Tim Thomas a lot this postseason. Blueliners are a pricey commodity, and Steven Kampfer is cheap labor. Perhaps, Tomas Kaberle returns at a discount (gritting teeth, now). Kaberle cashed in with the 'Canes.

Carolina then traded defenseman Joe Corvo ($2.25 million cap hit) to the Bruins. Truthfully, I don't know Joe Corvo from Jose Cuervo, but this seems like a shrewd, if unspectacular, move for a cost-effective puck-mover. But now is not the time for the Bruins to pocket their winnings and push back from the table.

4. The All-Star game should not be like a cruise -- all-inclusive: It's ridiculous that Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates and CC Sabathia of the Yankees didn't make the All-Star game. It's even more absurd that baseball is still sticking to the edict that every team must have an All-Star representative, or as I call it the Scott Cooper Rule.

As colleague Nick Cafardo pointed out it's antithetical to say that the All-Star game is meaningful because it determines home field in the World Series, but then not let the American and National Leagues take their best players regardless of team. This time it counts...as long as the Royals have Aaron Crow in Arizona.

Are Nationals fans going to make the game appointment viewing because Tyler Clippard might take the mound for an inning? No. It's been 10 years since the Midsummer Classic scored a double-digit rating. The 2001 game in Seattle pulled an 11.0. That was the first All-Star game for Ichiro and the last for Cal Ripken Jr., who retired at the end of the season. Last year's game scored a 7.5 rating, the lowest ever.

My brother, Stephen, had a great idea. Change the rules so only the team hosting the All-Star game must have a representative. Outside of that, it's strictly the best of the best and not some Little League-esque enterprise.

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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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