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Touching 'em all ...

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff  July 11, 2012 09:54 AM

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Hitting on the big four while wondering what the translation for Yo soy fiesta is when you are naked ...

Ray Allen officially will join the Miami Heat today, and the right to choose was something Allen earned through a career filled with production and hard work. That is what free agency is. It is the right to choose. But in this case, the reasons behind Allen's decision to leave the Celtics may be as critical as the choice itself.

Why is as important as whom.

In a column written on Yahoo.com last weekend, NBA guru Adrian Wojnarowski quoted a source close to Allen as saying that Allen "felt he was getting respect [from the Heat] that he hadn’t gotten from Danny [Ainge] and Doc [Rivers] anymore." Privately, some Celtics officials believe Allen is making an emotional decision based on ego and spite, which seems like a terribly childish way for a soon-to-be 37-year-old Hall-of-Famer to act.

How, exactly, did the Celtics fail to show Allen respect? By offering him less money, as they did with Kevin Garnett, whose salary has been nearly cut in half? By including him trade discussions, as they have done with Paul Pierce, who has spent a lifetime in the organization? Or by offering him a no-trade clause to ease his concerns as the Celtics extend their three-year plan even further?

Basketball is business, Ray. Business is basketball. You've been around far too long and are far too smart to get caught up in the politics. If you chose Miami because you feel the Heat have a better chance to win, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. (And you're right.) If you chose the Heat because you wanted to stick it to the Celtics, then you are probably going to end up unhappy.

From the beginning, we all knew how this arranged marriage in Boston would work. The Celtics used the players. The players used the Celtics. They all got a championship. In retrospect, we should have known Allen was gone the moment the Celtics signed Jason Terry, who is a better fit for this team now anyway. Owner Wyc Grousbeck hinted at as much on an interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub earlier this week, suggesting that Allen was stringing the Celtics along while Terry acted.

And so now Allen is gone, which is certainly his right. But suggesting the Celtics disrespected him? Please. This relationship, after all, was never about the love.

The Bruins have deftly positioned themselves to be patient and selective, which is a credit to how general manager Peter Chiarelli has built the roster.
But for them, too, the question is the same as it is for everyone else.

Are they getting better?

Barring some sort of shocking development, the Bruins are likely to have a relatively quiet summer, unless the club does something wildly out of character and takes on Rick Nash and the remaining $47.4 million due him over the next six seasons. And if the Bruins make that deal, they will do so on their terms, which is to say that they will have won the trade because the Columbus Blue Jackets will have nowhere else to send Nash.

The good news? The Bruins can sit tight, at least for now, because they can still improve from within. Tyler Seguin should continue to get better. Dougie Hamilton could be a factor by the second half of the season. And then, assuming that the departure of Tim Thomas has not created some kind of crisis in goal, the Bruins can always add pieces before the trading deadline shortly after the New Year.

In the interim, let's all agree that the Bruins are about to embark on an important season. Both Milan Lucic and David Krejci seemed to have a reach a plateau, and short of Seguin and Hamilton, there are not many players with significant room left for growth. From Lucic, Seguin and Brad Marchand to Rask, Nathan Horton and Andrew Ferrence, the Bruins have a significant number of free agents (restricted and unrestricted) next summer. Keeping them all will be a financial impossibility, which is why the Bruins might be best served to deal as soon as the NHL has a new collective bargaining agreement.

For now that is all just something to think about.

As colleague Greg Bedard pointed out in the Sunday Globe, the Wes Welker contract situation is rapidly reaching a boil. If the Patriots do not sign Welker by Monday, he must play the season under his franchise tag of $9.5 million. If the patriots intend to keep Welker beyond this season, he would stand to earn roughly $11.5 million under the franchise tag in 2013.

That's 21 million total in guaranteed money. According to Bedard, the sides are still roughly $6 million apart on guaranteed money, which suggests the Patriots are hovering somewhere around $15 million guaranteed.

Based on what wide receivers earned this summer in free agency, purely from a business perspective, Welker does not really need to settle here. So long as he stays healthy, he will get his money now or next summer, be it from the Patriots or anyone else. The only major draw for him is to stay connected with Tom Brady. If the Patriots do not sign Welker by Monday, we will know one of two things:

A.) The Patriots have no intention of using the franchise tag on him again and they will let him walk, or;

B.) The Patriots needlessly cost themselves more money by failing to lock up Welker now.

Certainly, we can all debate Welker's value to the Patriots offense from the slot position. But the matter is now reaching a critical stage. How the Patriots proceed in the next several days will go a long way in telling us how they view Welker, particularly when the Patriots have taken the steps to lock up so many others (Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, Jerod Mayo, Rob Gronowski) in the last couple of years.

Theo Epstein recently referred to "The Monster" that is the balance between business and baseball in Boston, and the Red Sox are once again caught in the teeth of the issue. The trading deadline approaches. The Red Sox have a sellout streak and television ratings to consider. And they might be best-served to sell off some overpriced, underachieving veteran pieces.

But will they?

Between now and July 31, the Red Sox will face, in order, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Toronto, Texas, New York and Detroit. Combined those teams are 52 games over .500 and include three division leaders. General Ben Cherington may have little choice but to start casting off pieces by the time the Sox reach the end of this month, particularly when one considers that the Sox are just 26-36 this season against teams with winning records.

Tame out the Atlanta Braves and the Sox are 24-35 against winning American League teams.

Here's the point: if the Sox can get anything of substance for Josh Beckett right now, they need to pull the trigger. (Possible exception: if they've already decided to trade John Lackey before the start of next season - in which case the Sox might consider doing both.) The Red Sox can cite injuries all they want -- and injuries undoubtedly have been a factor -- but Beckett and Jon Lester have pitched like middle-of-the-rotation starters at best during a time when the game is going back to the pitchers.

Do the Red Sox have the guts to do this? Time will tell. Under this ownership, until the Kevin Youkilis deal, the Sox had never really sold off a piece with their emphasis placed squarely on the future. The Nomar Garciaparra deal was a short-term gain. The same was true of the Manny Ramirez trade. Dealing someone like Beckett for prospects would be among the boldest moves the Henry group has made, which is saying something given their history of transactions.

If the Red Sox fear that such a move would send a bad message to their players and fan base, they might be surprised.

It would actually send the right message.

Tony's Top 5

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The final chapter on Teixeira and How Red Sox pitchers work the strike zone Jan. 7, 2009 and July 17, 2009. Some actual reporting – an obsession with Mark Teixeira and the art of pitching.
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Behind Garnett and James, Celtics and Heat are digging in June 4, 2012. Improbably, the Celtics pushed the Heat to the limit.
2
Thrill is back for Patriots Jan. 30, 2012. Another Super Bowl has even Bill Belichick musing.
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You’ve got to believe June 15, 2011. On the morning of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, we all had reason to believe.
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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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