Fans of the Boston Celtics have been waiting a long time for the team to make a big splash in the free agent pool, and yesterday they dropped a cannonball in signing all-star Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $128 million deal.
Hayward is a 6'8" small forward who's been with the Utah Jazz since 2010, and has gotten better each year, with last season being his break-out in which he averaged 21 points per game and led Utah to its first playoff appearance since 2012.
The Celtics will need to part with some players to make cap space available for Hayward's contract, and they've already pulled their qualifying offer to Kelly Olynyk, who's been a very good player off the bench and now becomes an unrestricted free agent. It's also likely that another player will need to be moved in a trade, and none of those will be castaways, choosing from a strong core of Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Terry Rozier or Marcus Smart, but Hayward is worth it. He's a true all-star who can take some of the pressure to score off Isaiah Thomas, and was the most coveted free agent left unsigned. He'll also be reunited in Boston with his college coach Brad Stevens, who had Hayward under his tutelage at Butler University when they made it all the way to the NCAA finals against Duke.
Most importantly, the move to get Hayward puts the Cleveland Cavaliers on notice that they won't be able to just roll to the eastern conference title as they did last season.
The longest current winning streak in the major leagues belongs to the Boston Red Sox, winners of six in a row after an 11-4 drubbing of the Rangers in Texas on the Fourth of July. The Red Sox are in that kind of zone right now where one player comes up especially big in a game, but it's a different player every night, so they're not depending on any one contributor, and that's a recipe for success. Back in Toronto it was Mookie Betts driving in eight runs with a two-homer night. In game one of the Texas series Dustin Pedroia made the highlight reel with his four RBI and sparkling defense in a key moment of the game, and last night it was the Andrew Benintendi show, as the rookie went 5 for 5 at the plate, including two home runs, one to right and one to left, and a fantastic leaping catch at the padded wall in left to rob Mike Napoli of extra bases.
The offense has been relentless of late, with 19 hits last night following their 21-hit barrage in Toronto, but perhaps best of all last night was the performance on the hill by David Price, who went six innings without giving up a run and struck out nine, looking much more like the pitcher the Sox paid a hefty price for (pun very much intended) when they signed him to a $200 million deal. Boston goes for what would be a season sweep of the Rangers tonight with the newly acquired Doug Fister getting the start, as he hopes to pick up a win as a starter before most likely heading to the bullpen when Eduardo Rodriguez returns from the disabled list.
The win for Boston also pads their lead in the American League east to four games over the NY Yankees, who lost 4-1 to the Toronto Blue Jays at the Stadium last night. CC Sabathia was making his first start since going on the DL a couple of weeks ago with a strained hamstring, and he retired the first eight batters he faced before losing his mojo in the third inning, when the Blue Jays scored all the runs they would need in support of J.A. Happ, who got the win.
Sabathia walked three batters in the inning and was pulled after a 2-run single by Kendrys Morales made it 4-0 Toronto. Happ, meanwhile, gave up just four hits over six innings, the only real mistake being a home run to Aaron Judge, who has 28 now to lead the major leagues, but the Yankees are still mired in a rough patch as a team, having lost 15 of their last 21 games. Michael Pineda gets the start tonight in the series finale against Toronto, who will counter with Marco Estrada.
The NY Mets fire sale will likely get started after the all star break, but for now it's just a matter of tracking the losses headed into the mid-season pause. The latest was an 11-4 loss to the Washington Nationals, and adding insult to injury was another big game for Daniel Murphy, who always seems to put the hurt on his old team. The second baseman drove in five runs on fiour hits last night to give plenty of run support to Joe Ross, who got the win. Seth Lugo gave up six runs over five innings in the loss for the Mets, who got what amounted to meaningless solo home runs from Jay Bruce, his 21st, Jose Reyes and Rene Rivera.
The Vermont Lake Monsters are hitting their stride, now winners of four of their last five games after a 5-4 win over the Connecticut Tigers last night. Big night for Kevin Merrell, who went 3 for 4 with two doubles and an RBI in the win.
In the NECBL the Upper Valley Nighthawks have been cutting a swath through most of the league this season, but have now suffered back to back losses, including a 14-5 walloping last night at the hands of the Keene Swamp Bats. The Vermont Mountaineers were off yesterday. They host the New Bedford Bay Sox at Recreational Field tonight.
At Wimbledon, the number one ranked men's player Andy Murray is in action later this morning. Big names in action today on the women's side include Simona Halep in second round action and Venus Williams, who's playing a third round match today.
At the Tour De France, a former world champion cyclist has been disqualified from the race, but not for any illegal doping. Peter Sagan was disqualified for causing a serious crash during a sprint finish on Tuesday that left one rider needing treatment for injuries that eventually forced his withdrawal from the world's most grueling bicycle competition.