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Thursday September 21, 2017
Posted: Feb 27, 2015

Dyer’s Look Back: Time to show hockey some love

Sidelines: Central Maine Sports Blog

370790_343011-20150224-elhs-lshs-hSome random thoughts as the winter season (thankfully) winds down….

Shine the spotlight on hockey: Since it doesn’t take very long, I would like to somehow see the high school hockey tournament stand out — from beginning to end — on its own after the basketball tournament ends. Some playoff hockey games have to be played on the same day as a playoff basketball game, which for some schools means having to choose which game to attend. It’s unfair for both the kids and the fans. If it’s playoff time, teams deserve to have as many fans attend their games as possible. Hockey and basketball are the two biggest high school sports during the winter season so they should have their tournaments stand on their own. I understand it may push the end of the winter season very close to the beginning of spring season, but there can be ways around it, one being starting the season a week earlier.

Props to the MPA: As the Maine high school basketball tournament winds down, credit needs to be given to the Maine Principals’ Association. People will never truly understand how difficult it can be to run such a large tournament, in three different locations, and plan around winter storms (especially the ones that hit this winter). It runs as good a tournament as you can run under the harsh winter circumstances.

Reasons to pay attention to spring training: If you’re a Red Sox fan, this is not a boring spring training. Multiple questions need to be answered before the Sox hit the field for the first game of the season against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 6.

• Who is the right fielder? Manager John Farrell has already said Shane Victorino — provided he’s healthy — is the starting right fielder to begin the season. But it’s hard to keep prospect Mookie Betts on the bench. Betts, only 22 years old, had a .291 average in 52-game audition last season, along with five home runs and 12 doubles. Don’t count out former top prospect Jackie Bradley, Jr., who has Gold Glove defense but has struggled immensely at the plate. Bradley hit .198 in 127 games last year for the Red Sox.

• Who’s the ace of the pitching staff, and who is where in the rotation? It’s not a question of who will be in the rotation. Rick Porcello, Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Wade Miley and Joe Kelly will be the five starters entering the season. Brandon Workman, likely the long reliever out of the bullpen, can fill in for a spot start if needed. And even with the trading away of prospects Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo during the offseason, Boston still has good organizational depth. Their top pitching prospect is lefty Henry Owens, who went 17-5 with a 2.94 ERA between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket last season. Owens struck out 170 batters in 159 innings. Because of his success last season, it seems likely Porcello — a free-agent signee from the Detroit Tigers — will get the first crack at being the ace, with Buchholz, Masterson, Miley and Kelly rounding out the rotation. With Buchholz’ history of injuries, it’s almost a given a change or two will be made throughout the season.

• It’s Christian Vazquez behind the plate…..for now. The Red Sox have been searching for a long-term starting catcher since the retirement of Jason Varitek. Jarrod Saltalamacchia couldn’t hold down the job. Neither could AJ Pierzynski. Now the job goes to Vazquez, a 25-year old with a rocket arm that can nail any potential base-stealer. It’s a weapon Boston hasn’t had since Varitek broke his throwing elbow early in his career. Like most Major League catchers, the only knock on Vazquez is his bat. He hit .240 with only a .308 on-base percentage in a 55-game audition with the Red Sox last season. Many consider Vazquez a placeholder for the job until Blake Swihart — Boston’s No. 1 rated prospect — is ready. Swihart, almost 23 years old, is the opposite of Vazquez. Swihart can hit, he had a .293 batting average with 13 home runs and 64 RBIs last year between Portland and Pawtucket. Swihart still needs some work on his defense and adjusting to calling a Major League game. Whoever finishes as the starter, Ryan Hanigan will stay firmly as the No. 2 catcher. Much like David Ross and Doug Mirabelli before him, Hanigan is a good veteran sound board but his bat hurts the lineup.

There’s other questions to be answered, but those three stand out in Fort Myers.

The female Ali: It’s no joke. If Ronda Rousey defeats Cat Zingano on Saturday night at UFC 184 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, she can arguably lay claim as the greatest female fighter of all-time.

Rousey, the UFC women’s bantamweight champion, has a 10-0 fight record. Eight of those fights have been won by submission, all done by her trademark armbar. The other two wins were straight knockouts. None of Rousey’s opponents have really come close to defeating her. Zingano, owner of a 9-0 record, is the only fighter currently active who can compare in skill to Rousey. Even with Zingano’s undefeated record, Rousey is the 12-to-1 betting favorite heading into the fight.

The ultimate dream fight as far as female fighters go would be Rousey against her idol, Gina Carano. Now an actress, Carano had a 12-1-1 kickboxing record and a 7-1 mixed martial arts record before heading off for greener pastures. Her last fight was in 2009, meaning she is now six years removed from active competition. But with enough training, a fight between Rousey and Carano could easily be not only the greatest female MMA fight of all-time, but one of history’s greatest MMA fights, period.

 

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