Must-click link: do fans care more about the hot stove than the game action?

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This Will Leitch piece in New York Magazine begins with LeBron and the NBA, but it gets to a general point about sports I’ve thought about for a long time: whether fans care about the off-the-field, free agency/hot stove aspects of sports more than they care about the actual games.

After noting that he can’t ever hope to put himself in the position of a star athlete competing for a championship, Leitch talks about what he and other sports fans can comprehend:

What I can grasp is what happens off the court. Draft lotteries. Salary-cap maneuvering. Free-agent negotiations. Roster construction. And not only grasp: Like just about every other sports fan in America, I’ve been doing all of those things in fantasy sports for two decades. Also like just about every other sports fan in America, I’ve started to think I’m pretty good at it. We all have. Which has made the action on the court, or the field, feel somehow like the subplot.

A friend of mine is fond of saying — and has been saying for years — that there once was a time when kids grew up wanting to be star athletes. Now they grow up wanting to be general managers. I think that’s an overstatement, but there is some essential truth there. There is something driving fantasy sports, sabermetrics and the conversation in and around blogs like this one that is way more informed by off-the-field, team-building considerations than the actual kinetic aspects of sports. HardballTalk’s best month, traffic wise, is always December. Every single year.

Obviously the games are why we’re into sports. It all starts there. But it certainly doesn’t end there. And those games may not be what engage us most about the sports we love.

Astros, Red Sox announce lineups for ALCS Game 5

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The Red Sox are looking to punch their ticket to the World Series in Houston on Thursday night Game 5 of the ALCS. If they do, they’ll return to the Fall Classic for the first time since 2013, knocking out the defending champs in the process.

Red Sox

RF Mookie Betts
LF Andrew Benintendi
DH J.D. Martinez
SS Xander Bogaerts
1B Mitch Moreland
2B Ian Kinsler
3B Rafael Devers
C Christian Vázquez
CF Jackie Bradley, Jr.

SP David Price

Chris Sale is still feeling weak after his brief stint in the hospital earlier this week, so Price is getting the start instead. If the series goes to a Game 6, Sale would start.

The lineup is a little different than it was when they faced Verlander in Game 1. Moreland and Kinsler are new additions. Devers draws another start with Eduardo Núñez banged up.

Astros

3B Alex Bregman
RF George Springer
DH José Altuve
SS Carlos Correa
1B Yuli Gurriel
2B Marwín González
LF Tony Kemp
C Martin Maldonado
CF Jake Marisnick

SP Justin Verlander

Bregman hits leadoff again. He hasn’t hit for average — just .182 — but he has drawn seven walks across four games. González handles second base again as Altuve’s right knee remains sore. Marisnick is getting his first start of the postseason. He’s had just one plate appearance, coming in Game 2 of the ALDS and he struck out.