Vin Sylvia: Boston's teams in transition
THREE SWINGS from the heels at Boston sports topics in an Aaron Hernandez-free zone:
I REALLY don't care what Tyler Seguin does as a Star. Regardless of what he achieves in Dallas, it wasn't going to happen in Boston. If Seguin does fill his potential, it will because the trade that sent him to the Lone Star State hastened the maturity that's been sorely lacking in the former first-round draft pick and because he found himself in a system that better suited his game.
What's infinitely more important from a Boston perspective is what the new acquisitions mean to the Bruins. I know about Loui Eriksson only what I've heard and read, but I'm convinced he'll be a great fit with the B's as a person and a player, particularly as the right wing on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Eriksson will be 28 next week. Bergeron will be 28 the week after that. Marchand turned 25 in May. This is a line we could be watching for the next three to five seasons, and I have a feeling Bruins fans will be very happy about that.
And the benefits of the Boston-Dallas trade don't stop there for the B's. The young forwards the Bruins received in the deal that also sent winger Rich Peverley to the Stars — forwards Matt Fraser, 23, and Reilly Smith, 22 — are immediate contenders for third- or fourth-line playing time. Defenseman Joe Morrow, only 20 and good enough to have been the compensation in the deal that sent Brenden Morrow (no relation) to Pittsburgh this past season, projects as a top-four blue-liner — probably not this year, but in the not-too-distant future.
The B's newly reconstructed first line, meanwhile, isn't going to produce long-term dividends as a unit, but the short-term return on investment should be more than satisfactory. There's a reason the Bruins pursued Jerome Iginla before settling on Jaromir Jagr last spring, and Iginla's suitability to Boston hasn't changed — his decision to opt for a March trade to the Penguins rather than the B's notwithstanding.
Count on the rest of the Bruins to let bygones be bygones and welcome him to Boston, where he'll fit nicely as a replacement for Nathan Horton as the third member of the David Krejci-Milan Lucic line. And if you're concerned about what Iginla has left after his virtual no-show in Boston's four-game sweep of Pittsburgh, consider this: The future Hall of Famer was out of position with the Penguins, stuck at left wing rather than skating in his natural right-side role. At 36, Iginla won't be the player he once was, but he'll be better with the Bruins than he was against them in the playoffs.
AS IF Will Middlebrooks didn't have enough troubles already this season, now he has to try hitting while looking over both shoulders. To his left in the infield at Triple-A Pawtucket is the Red Sox' top prospect, Xander Bogaerts, currently playing short for the PawSox but projected by many to be a major-league third baseman, especially with Jose Iglesias looking more and more like a long-term fixture at short in Boston. Coming up rapidly from behind is Garin Cecchini, who's batting .414 with a 1.107 OPS in 16 games with Double-A Portland after hitting .350/1.016 in 63 games with Single-A Salem.Bogaerts, who started the year with Portland, and Middlebrooks, who opened the season with Boston, have comparable numbers at Pawtucket: Bogaerts a .269 average with five home runs and a .795 OPS in 26 games; Middlebrooks a .270 average with six home runs and an .860 OPS in 19 games.
But Bogaerts, who doesn't turn 21 until October, has come on strong during his last 10 games entering last night, batting .375 with a .956 OPS. Middlebrooks, who turns 25 in September, during that same stretch hit .268 with a .904 OPS — and that included a game in which he went 4-for-5 with two homers and a double.
What's particularly telling about those 10 days is the difference in the players' walks-to-strikeouts ratio: 7-3 for Bogaerts, 3-8 for Middlebrooks. Those numbers underscore how much more advanced a plate approach Bogaerts possesses, despite his young age.
Ten days obviously is a limited sample size, but walks-to-strikeouts ratio was the biggest indicator of Middlebrooks' troubles this season at the major-league level, where he fanned 60 times and walked just nine while batting .192 with a .228 on-base percentage in 53 games. That's not a small sample size. In fact, following an otherwise impressive rookie season in which he totaled 13 walks and 70 whiffs, it's a sign of a long-term problem.
Like Bogaerts, meanwhile, Cecchini is known for his advanced plate approach, exemplified by his 2013 walks-to-strikeouts ratio, 56-48 between Salem and Portland.
So, if the Sox find themselves in trade talks with an option to give up Bogaerts, Cecchini or Middlebrooks in the deal, you know who's going: the guy who was the team rookie of the year in 2012.
HERE'S MY concern about the 2013-14 Celtics: They're not going to be that bad and might even be pretty good — not championship-contender good, but good enough to make the playoffs.
And that would be bad.
If you want the Celtics to get back to championship contention, you want them to be terrible next season — bad enough to miss the playoffs, bad enough to get a high lottery pick for what promises to be an excellent 2014 draft class.
But what if Rajon Rondo is sufficiently healed to start the season and the Celtics decide to keep him rather than complete the dismantling of the 2008 championship team? What if Avery Bradley returns to his 2011-12 form? What if Jeff Green puts it all together on a consistent basis? What if Jared Sullinger returns fully healthy? What if top draft pick and summer-league sensation Kelly Olynyk is NBA Rookie of the Year?
Well, then, the Celtics will be in the neighborhood of .500, make the playoffs and wind up with a mid- to late-round draft pick, which will make it likely they'll remain a 35- to 45-win team for the foreseeable future.
No, thanks. Give me bad — 20- to 25-win bad — and the shot at landing a franchise player in the draft, with a bunch of other first-round draft picks to build around that player and the likes of Sullinger and Olynyk in the years to come.
Vin Sylvia is a New Hampshire Union Leader deputy managing editor. Email him at email@example.com.