Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports

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Rusney Castillo, My U.S. Open Prediction and Some EPL Thoughts

With classes beginning tomorrow morning, I thought I’d get a post up tonight before I’m swamped with back to school meetings and work. This post will be a collection of some sports related thoughts from the last few days.

I’ll start with the Red Sox’s signing of Cuban defector Rusney Castillo over the weekend to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal. Having never seen him play, my gut reaction to the deal is that it seems like an awful lot of money for a player who has yet to prove himself at this level. I know most of the recent Cuban arrivals have worked out, but there is no guarantee that Castillo will do the same. This signing also doesn’t fit the mold of a team that has declared itself a frugal spender on the free agent market. Should he struggle, I expect to hear a lot of  people asking why this money couldn’t have been added on to an extension for Jon Lester earlier this summer.

The new center fielder is described as having a plus bat, but with middling levels of power. He’s a slightly above average defender but he certainly won’t be Jackie Bradley Jr. out there. (For the record, watching Bradley play center field has probably been my favorite part of this season.) And Castillo’s not a speed demon either. All in all, he sounds like a good player, but not a superstar. Yet comparisons are made to Yasiel Puig, and Yoenis Cespedes himself said Castillo is a better player than he. Based on the scouting reports I’ve read, something has to give.

But don’t get me wrong. I do like the deal, as I think it puts the Red Sox in a position of power this offseason, with an abundance of talented players they can use as trade bait in potential deals for the Giancarlo Stanton or Cole Hamels types. The outfield now includes Castillo, Cespedes and Allen Craig, three talented hitters, plus Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. All of these players carry value. My guess at this point is that Craig, Nava and Bradley Jr. won’t be around next year, but it could easily be Cespedes and Victorino making way.

This signing is yet another statement from the Red Sox management that they will make all the effort they can to put a World Series contending team on the field next year. Worst to first to worst to first might be within reach. Adding frontline pitching remains a must, but the offense looks like it will be much improved. It’s not often a team struggling as badly as the Red Sox can have such reason for optimism. I hope we get our first taste of Castillo in Boston soon.

Switching to tennis, the U.S. Open starts tomorrow. I say this about a lot of things, but the event is truly one of my favorites. It will be tough for me to watch a lot of the action in the early going, but I will tune in when I can. Night tennis in Arthur Ashe Stadium is spectacular. And the music on the ESPN U.S. Open commercials gets me every time. It must be love.

I’ll have more to say in the next two weeks about the tennis itself, potentially picking the results of the later matches, but today I’m just going to offer my prediction for the winners. On the women’s side, I like Simona Halep to win it all. She has been climbing the ladder to stardom recently, and I think she will find it in New York.

On the men’s side, I think Roger Federer will finally get another Grand Slam title. Playing in front of the sport’s biggest crowds that will be on his side at all times, Federer will ride the wave of support all the way to title. He will look young again. As long as I’ve followed tennis, it feels like veteran, big name players have performed better in the U.S. Open than in any other major. There might be early upsets, but the stars are always there in the end. Federer has been playing well recently, and he won’t have to play Novak Djokovic until the final in this tournament. Without Rafael Nadal in his way this time, I think we’ll see Roger lifting the trophy in a fortnight.

And now to the EPL. This morning, I tuned in to the Sunderland-Manchester United match to check up on the relegation battle. To me, there was no question that Sunderland looked the better side today. United were sloppy and had no spark to their play. Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney were largely invisible up front, and defensively, the storied side were a joke. I don’t understand why the supposed tactical genius that is van Gaal is forcing the 3-5-2 on his team. They are simply not built for it, as they neither possess any true wing backs at the moment nor any talent at center back. If the defense is so bad they need a back five against Sunderland, how many will they need back against the likes of Chelsea?

Watching United drop points has become as regular as my trips to the grocery store. It’s getting increasingly funny. The seemingly imminent arrival of Angel di Maria adds a fantastic player to their squad, but it doesn’t address any of their problems right now. Van Gaal’s system also will see di Maria moved away from areas of the pitch in which he is most comfortable – assuming van Persie and Rooney remain up top with Juan Mata in the hole behind them. United will have spent an astounding amount of money this summer without addressing any of their biggest needs.

Tomorrow’s Liverpool-Manchester City match should be a fascinating one. Neither team was particularly impressive in their wins last weekend, and each will be looking to lay their claim as the league’s best side. With Mario Balotelli joining up with Liverpool, Daniel Sturridge has a point to prove. He and Balotelli would make an odd pairing up front, one I don’t expect to succeed long term. Sturridge has been on fire in the last year and should have the starting spot locked down going forward should Liverpool elect to play with a lone striker. But he’ll need to do a lot today to quiet all of the Balotelli fans out there. My prediction for this match is a 2-2 draw.

And lastly, the more I thought about the Arsenal game yesterday, the more satisfied I became with the result. We are incredibly lucky to be at four points after these first two Premier League matches. Things could easily be a lot worse. It was always going to be a tough stretch with players coming back late due to the World Cup. But as long as they get through Wednesday’s vital Champions League match, the team should come out of it fine. Arsene Wenger could be breathing a large sigh of relief soon.



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A Great Day for the Sports Fan

I don’t know if I’ve stopped smiling since I woke up. I swear I even heard Ian Darke’s melodious voice in my sleep last night. It’s finally here. In just a few short hours, all that will matter will be soccer. For a few hours each day, we can all sit back and watch the best theater there is.

My plan as far as content goes for the World Cup will be as follows. In the morning, I will post my predictions and preview and for that day’s games (see yesterday’s post for the Brazil-Croatia preview) hopefully by 9 or 10 a.m. eastern time. If I have time, I will write a second article in the evening after the games, offering my analysis on what has occurred. If I don’t have time, the analysis will accompany the next day’s morning predictions. I might add other content to these posts, but that is what you can expect going forward.

However, today is not only about soccer in the sports world. One of America’s best events, the U.S. Open, also begins today. I don’t claim to be the world’s biggest golf fan. Nor am I the best golfer for that matter. But there is something about the U.S. Open that gets me every year. It’s not that it makes for great television necessarily, or that it’s incredibly impressive athletically, but rather it’s the tradition involved and the grace with which the event is held that make it stand alone.

Golf won’t be my highest priority for the next few days, but I will make sure I don’t miss it. Especially if Phil Mickelson is in contention, the U.S. Open deserves attention for being such a classy event.

And that’s not all today. After you’ve had your fill of golf and soccer, we head to Miami for game 4 of the NBA Finals. Tonight could potentially mark the beginning of the end of the big 3 era in Miami should San Antonio pull out the win. For a 3-1 lead would be nearly insurmountable for the fragile Heat. If things don’t go their way early, LeBron might very well have to win tonight’s game on his own. His teammates have not been holding their weight lately, and it makes me wonder whether LeBron will look elsewhere sooner rather than later.

Tonight’s key for Miami has to be Chris Bosh. That he only touched the ball 12 times on the offensive end in Game 3 is an embarrassment for both the Heat organization and Bosh himself. Chris Bosh is a great player. There’s no doubt about that. But his legacy is on the line as this series winds down. He needs to show that he rightfully deserves to be mentioned alongside Lebron and Dwyane Wade as a lead in their story. Should he disappear again tonight, people might forever think of him as merely a sidekick. His contributions to the previous championships will be written out of the story and replaced with tales of the disappearing acts when his team needed him.

It is in the best interest for LeBron to get Bosh going early tonight. Because LeBron can’t win three games on his own. He can take over one or two more, sure. But not three. He needs his teammates to start playing like champions. And Chris Bosh is the key.

I’ll be at Fenway Park tonight to see the Red Sox take on Terry Francona and the Indians – if I’m lucky the Red Sox might score a run tonight – so I won’t have time to do analysis of the Brazil game until tomorrow. Have a great day watching sports, everyone. If ESPN doesn’t get turned off all day I won’t blame you. Enjoy it. I know I will.

Thanks for reading, and please offer your comments on NBA Finals, golf, or whatever else you find interesting.