Hackett: Random thoughts on Red Sox and what to look for in Patriots opener

Jim Hackett
August 09, 2018 - 10:27 am
Drew Pomeranz

Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports

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I usually write a lot about a little, but this week I'm changing course as I have a little to say about a lot as it relates to Boston sports.  So without further ado…

Red Sox sweep of the Yankees: Before moving ahead I have to take a quick look back at the dynamic and muscle-flexing sweep of the Yankees.  Sweeps like that are rare these parts. In four games we damn near saw everything a baseball fan could possibly experience, all at the expense the evil rival. Good times.

Last Thursday night's 15-7 drubbing can best be compared to what the Globetrotters typically do to the Washington Generals in the fourth quarter. The Sox absolutely annihilated the Yankees. Moreover and more impressively, they toyed with them. It was akin to what the residents of Elm Street must've felt when Freddy Kruger was haunting their dreams. The only difference is that the Yankees were wide awake for their nightmare, one that saw the Red Sox run all over them like the 82' Cardinals and dictate the script at every moment of an unforgettable eight-run fourth inning.

The eight runs were literally the least of the excitement, as the Red Sox made fools of a sloppy and resigned Yankees defense that looked like it would have happily forfeited if the umpire signaled for mercy. It was Mike Tyson vs. Peter McNeeley II or Cosmo Kramer in the karate class, whichever your reference of choice, it was an absolute ass-kicking and felt damn good.  

One more thing on Thursday's night's chicanery -- if you have any friends or relatives that are of the heavier and rounder variety and have spent any time with them on a stinking hot day then you know what happened to CC Sabathia that night. It was hot as blazes and he was simply too fat to pitch. Hot fat and good pitch location are not synonymous, they are mutually exclusive.

Brasier & Workman: Now with a winning percentage over .700 and standing a whopping 47 games over .500, the Red Sox have enough cushion to take some calculated risks. I'd like to see more of Ryan Brasier and Brandon Workman in late and close situations. I know who Joe Kelly is. I know who Matt Barnes is and I know who Heath Hembree is. They are all pretty good, not great. When he's on, Barnes can be near lights out, but he's not always on (see Tuesday night in Toronto). However with Brasier and Workman, I'm still left to wonder if they can do more. I like their stuff and my sense is that at least one of them may be able to handle it. Let's find out.

David Price: If you're not feeling better about the Red Sox' chances in October after Price's outing Sunday night, then you should.  Like I mentioned last week, Price has changed his approach and is pitching with the objective of keeping hitters off-balance. For six innings, that's what he did and in October, performances like that from him could be enough. As a known Price dissenter, I'm optimistic he's turned a corner. Sunday night was big.

The Cardinal: Outside of hard to find streaming radio in a galaxy far, far away, the "Imus in the Morning Show" has long since been put out to pasture, but I was reminded of it Tuesday night watching Drew Pomeranz.  If you listened to that show back in its heyday, you may remember cast member Bernard McGuirk's classic bit "Which doesn't belong and why?!" With a 9 1/2-game lead on the Yankees, a record of 81-34 and endless smiles from every end of the dugout night after night, I'd like to submit the picture atop this story as evidence of someone who certainly does not belong and why.

Need I explain why? Perhaps a trip to Pawtucket could cheer this chap up a bit and offer him some much needed success. The cracked and steaming cement of northern Rhode Island is beautiful this time of year. I think a trip to Pawtucket is in order for Pomeranz.

Derek Rivers and Harvey Langi: Thursday night signifies Patriots preseason game one, which around these parts is typically an annual non-event. However, this year there are a couple of things I'll be looking for.

Plenty of fans left the 2018 NFL Draft feeling a little empty. Linebacker and the edge rush have been big offseason concerns post Super Bowl LII and outside of the acquisition of former Atlanta Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn, not much has been done to address it.

Well, Thursday night offers a first look at two hopefuls from the 2017 draft class, defensive end Derek Rivers and linebacker Harvey Langi. I'm hopeful to see these guys get some extended run this preseason to see if they can contribute. Both came in last season offering glimpses of hope to inject youth and talent at their respective positions. A healthy and productive camp from either or both could go a long way in helping the defense work through these gaps.  

Completions if Brady plays: Brady may not play, but if he does, no matter the types of throws, I'll be looking for completions. Short, mid-range, outside the numbers or down field, it matters not; I just want to see evidence that the pass catchers are getting to the right spot. When balls are rolling downfield after falling incomplete, it's less about Brady and more about people not being in the right spot. It'll be interesting to see where they all are week one.

Mike Gillislee and Jeremy Hill:  Not the sexiest battle in camp, but it's an interesting one. With Dion Lewis in Tennessee and Sony Michel nursing an injured knee, the role of the between-the-tackles ball carrier looks to be a more prominent feature of the offense at least at the outset of the season. With a new and depleted receiving core, you can bet that Rex Burkhead and James White will be heavily featured in the passing game, so a reliable, inside runner could be a feature of this offense just as LeGarrette Blount was a couple of years ago. During the often vanilla flavored games of the preseason, this is something worth watching.

Danny Etling:  Outside of some brief LSU highlights, I don't know much, hence I'm fascinated to see if there is something of value here. Belichick drafted him for a reason. Maybe it was spite, maybe it was a dart throw or maybe he sees something, I'm interested to know.

The wide receivers: With Edelman suspended for four games, Jordan Matthews out of town, Kenny Britt hurt and unproven in the offense, it's a light group. However, remember that the Patriots thrive on positional versatility. Meaning, it's more about 'pass catchers' than wide receivers, per se.  With Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, James White and Rex Burkhead, you have four players right there who can line up in multiple formations and positions.

Each has proven pass catching chops. Gronk is the best in the business. Add Phillip Dorsett or Eric Decker to the mix as a contributor and they'll have more than enough pass catching prowess and positional versatility to make it work. Is it perfect? No, but they can make it work until Edelman returns and the newbies start to get it.

One more thing, don't forget Cordarrelle Patterson. Talk about versatility! Much was made of him coming as a special teams force, which he is. However, Belichick knows what this guy can do and I'm anticipating them finding ways to get this guy the ball in space. If you're not familiar with what that looks like take a look at this college highlight film and enjoy. It's tantalizing.

Lastly, I hope you'll join Pete Davidson and me this Sunday at 8 a.m. for the 2018 return of the WEEI Fantasy Football Hour kicking off our live football content on-air. Check Pete out on Twitter and keep up to date with his rankings and insights here. The man knows his stuff.

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