Saturday, April 30, 2005

THE RIPPING OF THE GREEN

Disgusted. That is the only word to describe how I feel after what went on Thursday night in game three of the Celtics and Pacers tilt in Indianapolis. No energy was displayed on the court other than a brief appearance by Marcus Banks at the end of the first quarter, and no hustle was evident other than Kendrick Perkins in a brief appearance at the end of the first quarter.

Personally, I hope Antoine gets suspended for his scuffles with Jermaine O’Neil. Suspend him the whole series for all I care: I would rather his minutes went to Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins anyway. In fact, the same goes for Gary Payton. I say plant Payton on the bench and throw Banks out there until his tongue is dragging on the court, and then insert Delonte West at the point until Marcus is ready to go back in. Forget about these veterans and their so-called veteran presence. Their presence has been the ability to stand around and watch Indiana kick their behinds.

Here is the list of off-season moves I want to see:

Antoine Walker: Let Antoine go to the Knicks (they already have four power forwards. Isaiah Thomas must think you get bonus points for having them on the roster.), or the Clippers, or anywhere else. Enough of his firing up three-pointers. He was a nice little spark at the end of the season and sold some tickets for Wyc Grouseback and his ownership group. His presence only retards the development of Jefferson and Perkins.

Gary Payton: He is a defensive liability, he appeared hesitant to take the ball to the rim after the five minute mark of the first quarter, and where the heck was the fast break? The point guard position belongs to Delonte West and Marcus Banks. Payton served his purpose, now let the money be cleared off the cap.

Mark Blount: I hate centers who play eighteen feet from the basket and are afraid to mix it up inside. Say what you want about Raef LaFrentz on the offensive end of the court, but the knee-less wonder hits the boards hard. Anyway, since the Celtics already have LaFrentz, why do they need another player whose range limits him to inside the three-point circle? Danny Ainge should cross his fingers and pray that Jim O’Brien and the 76ers are still enraptured enough with Blount to take him off their hands.

Paul Pierce: Danny Ainge, your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to find a trade partner with a superstar on the trading block who is willing to trade for Pierce. Pierce needs to adapt to the Celtics running game, which is a shame that he is so hesitant to do so, because he is pure scorer who would benefit from the style of play. Pierce is taking a pretty short-sighted view as the running game is only going to give him more easy lay-ups and wide-open transition jumpers. Whatever. Just get him out of town if he will not adapt.

* * *

SHORT CIRCUIT:

Who is the number five starter for the Sox now that Schilling and Wells are on the disabled list? I say Abe Alvarez, the impressive young lefty currently pitching well for the Pawsox. Names thrown around have included Jeremi Gonzalez (ugh!) down at Pawtucket or lefty recall Lenny DiNardo who spent most of last season stashed in the bullpen after they picked him up as a Rule 5 draftee (meaning they could not send him down to the minors without offering him back to the team they drafted him from first).

* * *

YANKEE WATCH:

Kevin Brown. What was it the Yankees fans said last year after the Sox traded for Schilling? We have Javier Vazquez and Kevin Brown, so we come out ahead in the deal. We wanted Vazquez and Brown anyway. Yeah, how is that working out for you?

Anyway, I watched Brown lose to the California nee Anaheim nee Los Angeles Angels in his last start. Brown only gave up three runs, but he looked bad. The Angels, if they played smart, could have and should have scored seven or eight runs off of Brown in the first three innings.

* * *

Thursday, April 28, 2005

SINGING IN THE RAIN

Nothing like a late April rainout to keep the panic button firmly pressed in the Boston sports world. The Red Sox are doomed, the Celtics are being exposed as a weak team, and the Patriots screwed up the draft. Take a couple of deep breaths everyone; things are not as bad as they look right now. We can take leave the screamers of nonsense and constant talking over each other to the nitwit sports talk radio crowd and take a look at each of these and see if there is reason for panic.

1. THE SOX STARTING ROTATION:

OK, so we know that Curt Schilling and David Wells are banged up, Matt Clement is struggling a bit in his transition to the American League, and Wade Miller is not quite ready to join the major league team. Umm, why is this no surprise whatsoever? Schilling, as I have constantly harped upon, is still getting his arm and location into regular season form, and anything ankle related should be treated seriously as the Sox are better off letting him go on the disabled list now rather than in September or October. Wells, who was predicted by all to breakdown physically once or twice this year, I for one would rather have them out of the way early in the season. Tim Wakefield and Bronson Arroyo have both pitched extremely well, and Wade Miller will be in a Red Sox uniform before too long making hitters look foolish in the batters box and the Houston Astros looking foolish for giving up on him this off-season. Clement is signed to a four-year contract, so give the guy a few months of leeway before any snap judgments are made about him. The Red Sox signed the underutilized John Halama for this purpose exclusively: insurance for the rotation with his ability to serve as a swing starter. Also, if these injuries mean we get another chance to see future number three starter Abe Alvarez get some work at the major league level, then I am all for it. The Sox have depth in the rotation, let them utilize it and get everyone back to full strength.

2. THE CELTICS GAME TWO SWOON:

The panic is upon us. The rookies and second-years are vulnerable to inconsistency. Paul Pierce, Antoine Walker, and Ricky Davis kept forcing jump shots in the last five minutes. Reggie Miller is too much. Hey, the Celtics played one of their worst games in a while and still lead with five minutes to go. Believe it or not, they are the more talented team this season, and since it is a seven game series, the most talented team (or healthiest team, in this case the Celtics again), will usually win the series. Even if the Celtics drop game three to the Pacers, they still are too good a team to be wiped out by a Pacers squad featuring half of their division champion starters from last season.

What Doc Rivers needs to do is stay consistent with keeping his young players in the rotation and out on the court. To use a boxing analogy, sometimes you need to wear the opponent down before you can deliver the knockout punch. Let the bomb squad get out there and make the Pacers chase them around the court, make them work for every basket on offense, foul them hard a couple of times; wear them down and let Pierce, Walker, and Raef LaFrentz come back in and strike while the Pacers are trying to catch their breath.

3. THE PATRIOTS AND THEIR PICKS:

There is nothing like reading a bunch of pundits spouting off and grading a draft before any of the drafted players have even had a min-camp, let alone even played a season in the league. Despite conventional wisdom that it takes two, three, or even four years to be able to accurately gauge a draft and its impact, the experts and imbeciles online and in the printed pages start grading the draft from the moment the first player is picked.

Was I surprised that the Patriots picked two offensive linemen in the first three rounds? I was shocked; however, I also no that the team of Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick is one of the most prepared, analytical, and organized draft teams in the league. Reading Patriot Reign by Michael Holley in which he had full access to Belichick and the decision-making process was eye-opening and intriguing. Belichick and Pioli will not make the mistake of drafting the big name, or taking the flashy player, or risk taking someone whose presence can be a distraction. Anyone who either person objects to is immediately removed from consideration; a true joint effort based on respect for the other person and their abilities and opinions.

I think the Patriots, like last season, with the luxury of having the best team in the league were able to draft with an eye towards the future. What was further highlighted both before and immediately following the draft was the Patriots ability to find veteran players who can fit into a specified role and make the team stronger in the short term while developing younger players for the long term. Also, there will be veterans available on the free agency market after the June 1 cut down date to get under the cap. If the Patriots get around to resolving the long term contracts for Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri, they should have some money left to go after a few veterans, possibly at nose tackle, backup quarterback, offensive guard, or at linebacker.

* * *

RED EYE:

I read a fascinating article by Stan McNeal in the Sporting News last week about a new contact lens that some major league players are using that protect the eyes from the sun and help with vision. Called MaxSight, these lenses are scientifically tinted and the article refers to them as being performance enhancing. What is likely getting the contacts the most attention is that Baltimore Orioles surprise slugger, second baseman Brian Roberts, is one of the first players to use them. Considering his out-of-this-world performance so far in the month of April, Bausch & Lomb has to be ecstatic about the free publicity they are getting as they prepare for rollout of the product this summer. Obviously, when someone like Brian Roberts, who could not beat out Jerry Hairston for the starting second base position last season, is suddenly leading the league in slugging categories any off-season change is going to garner attention.

What was most interesting to me was that two members of the Red Sox were wearing the MaxSight lenses, and both were pitchers: Bronson Arroyo and Mike Timlin. Timlin actually has a condition with his eyes that he needs the lenses to protect against the sun to keep his eyes from drying out, but Arroyo has no such condition. They are important for pitchers as well as hitters because of the sun-blocking effect neutralizing eye strain. Pitchers are not allowed to wear sunglasses on the field. Just as hitters need to see the ball to pick up the type of pitch and the rotation, excellent eyesight (see Ted Williams back when his head was connected to his body) is often an advantage to hitters. With pitchers needing to locate their target when pitching, the less distraction the better they can lock in.

* * *

GREAT SCOTT:

The Patriots added veteran cornerback Chad Scott to their already deep defensive backfield. Formerly of the Steelers, Scott is a big cornerback who is known for his intelligence on the field and also, unfortunately, for being injured. Reunited with former defensive teammates Rodney Bailey and Mike Vrabel, Scott should in the excellent position of not having to start, providing some veteran leadership in the defensive backfield, and maybe even getting some time at safety in a Eugene Wilson type of coverage safety role. With the draft, trade for Duane Starks, return from injury for Ty Poole, and free-agent signings as well as the maturation of young players last season the defensive backfield is once again a strength as the unit is deep, young, and talented. These are the moves that do not garner much attention, but win championships. Also, Starks, Scott, and the draft picks will all combined cost far less than what they would have had to shell out to resign Ty Law. The off-season work on the defensive backfield is yet another great job of rebuilding a weak area by Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick.

* * *
Nothing like a late April rainout to keep the panic button firmly pressed in the Boston sports world. The Red Sox are doomed, the Celtics are being exposed as a weak team, and the Patriots screwed up the draft. Take a couple of deep breaths everyone; things are not as bad as they look right now. We can take leave the screamers of nonsense and constant talking over each other to the nitwit sports talk radio crowd and take a look at each of these and see if there is reason for panic.

1. THE SOX STARTING ROTATION:

OK, so we know that Curt Schilling and David Wells are banged up, Matt Clement is struggling a bit in his transition to the American League, and Wade Miller is not quite ready to join the major league team. Umm, why is this no surprise whatsoever? Schilling, as I have constantly harped upon, is still getting his arm and location into regular season form, and anything ankle related should be treated seriously as the Sox are better off letting him go on the disabled list now rather than in September or October. Wells, who was predicted by all to breakdown physically once or twice this year, I for one would rather have them out of the way early in the season. Tim Wakefield and Bronson Arroyo have both pitched extremely well, and Wade Miller will be in a Red Sox uniform before too long making hitters look foolish in the batters box and the Houston Astros looking foolish for giving up on him this off-season. Clement is signed to a four-year contract, so give the guy a few months of leeway before any snap judgments are made about him. The Red Sox signed the underutilized John Halama for this purpose exclusively: insurance for the rotation with his ability to serve as a swing starter. Also, if these injuries mean we get another chance to see future number three starter Abe Alvarez get some work at the major league level, then I am all for it. The Sox have depth in the rotation, let them utilize it and get everyone back to full strength.

2. THE CELTICS GAME TWO SWOON:

The panic is upon us. The rookies and second-years are vulnerable to inconsistency. Paul Pierce, Antoine Walker, and Ricky Davis kept forcing jump shots in the last five minutes. Reggie Miller is too much. Hey, the Celtics played one of their worst games in a while and still lead with five minutes to go. Believe it or not, they are the more talented team this season, and since it is a seven game series, the most talented team (or healthiest team, in this case the Celtics again), will usually win the series. Even if the Celtics drop game three to the Pacers, they still are too good a team to be wiped out by a Pacers squad featuring half of their division champion starters from last season.

What Doc Rivers needs to do is stay consistent with keeping his young players in the rotation and out on the court. To use a boxing analogy, sometimes you need to wear the opponent down before you can deliver the knockout punch. Let the bomb squad get out there and make the Pacers chase them around the court, make them work for every basket on offense, foul them hard a couple of times; wear them down and let Pierce, Walker, and Raef LaFrentz come back in and strike while the Pacers are trying to catch their breath.

3. THE PATRIOTS AND THEIR PICKS:

There is nothing like reading a bunch of pundits spouting off and grading a draft before any of the drafted players have even had a min-camp, let alone even played a season in the league. Despite conventional wisdom that it takes two, three, or even four years to be able to accurately gauge a draft and its impact, the experts and imbeciles online and in the printed pages start grading the draft from the moment the first player is picked.

Was I surprised that the Patriots picked two offensive linemen in the first three rounds? I was shocked; however, I also no that the team of Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick is one of the most prepared, analytical, and organized draft teams in the league. Reading Patriot Reign by Michael Holley in which he had full access to Belichick and the decision-making process was eye-opening and intriguing. Belichick and Pioli will not make the mistake of drafting the big name, or taking the flashy player, or risk taking someone whose presence can be a distraction. Anyone who either person objects to is immediately removed from consideration; a true joint effort based on respect for the other person and their abilities and opinions.

I think the Patriots, like last season, with the luxury of having the best team in the league were able to draft with an eye towards the future. What was further highlighted both before and immediately following the draft was the Patriots ability to find veteran players who can fit into a specified role and make the team stronger in the short term while developing younger players for the long term. Also, there will be veterans available on the free agency market after the June 1 cut down date to get under the cap. If the Patriots get around to resolving the long term contracts for Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri, they should have some money left to go after a few veterans, possibly at nose tackle, backup quarterback, offensive guard, or at linebacker.

* * *

RED EYE:

I read a fascinating article by Stan McNeal in the Sporting News last week about a new contact lens that some major league players are using that protect the eyes from the sun and help with vision. Called MaxSight, these lenses are scientifically tinted and the article refers to them as being performance enhancing. What is likely getting the contacts the most attention is that Baltimore Orioles surprise slugger, second baseman Brian Roberts, is one of the first players to use them. Considering his out-of-this-world performance so far in the month of April, Bausch & Lomb has to be ecstatic about the free publicity they are getting as they prepare for rollout of the product this summer. Obviously, when someone like Brian Roberts, who could not beat out Jerry Hairston for the starting second base position last season, is suddenly leading the league in slugging categories any off-season change is going to garner attention.

What was most interesting to me was that two members of the Red Sox were wearing the MaxSight lenses, and both were pitchers: Bronson Arroyo and Mike Timlin. Timlin actually has a condition with his eyes that he needs the lenses to protect against the sun to keep his eyes from drying out, but Arroyo has no such condition. They are important for pitchers as well as hitters because of the sun-blocking effect neutralizing eye strain. Pitchers are not allowed to wear sunglasses on the field. Just as hitters need to see the ball to pick up the type of pitch and the rotation, excellent eyesight (see Ted Williams back when his head was connected to his body) is often an advantage to hitters. With pitchers needing to locate their target when pitching, the less distraction the better they can lock in.

* * *

GREAT SCOTT:

The Patriots added veteran cornerback Chad Scott to their already deep defensive backfield. Formerly of the Steelers, Scott is a big cornerback who is known for his intelligence on the field and also, unfortunately, for being injured. Reunited with former defensive teammates Rodney Bailey and Mike Vrabel, Scott should in the excellent position of not having to start, providing some veteran leadership in the defensive backfield, and maybe even getting some time at safety in a Eugene Wilson type of coverage safety role. With the draft, trade for Duane Starks, return from injury for Ty Poole, and free-agent signings as well as the maturation of young players last season the defensive backfield is once again a strength as the unit is deep, young, and talented. These are the moves that do not garner much attention, but win championships. Also, Starks, Scott, and the draft picks will all combined cost far less than what they would have had to shell out to resign Ty Law. The off-season work on the defensive backfield is yet another great job of rebuilding a weak area by Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick.

* * *

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

CELTICS - WHERE WAS THE BOMB SQUAD?

So what Celtics team are we going to see? The fired-up young guns of game one who ran circles around the Pacers or the half-court hosers who gave up easy lay-ups and missed easy lay-ups and shot wild three point attempts from in game two?

Doc Rivers will no doubt be trying to ascertain the same as the Celtics head to Indiana having dropped not only game two of their first round series, but have given away home court advantage in what has become a best of five series. Although Ricky Davis shot horribly, Antoine Walker was off his game, and Paul Pierce disappeared at the end of the game, game two falls on the shoulders of Doc Rivers for giving up on the bomb squad way too early in the game. Game two was a chance to force feed the youngsters a lesson on bucking up in the face of adversity. Of course things were not as easy as they were in game one: Indiana was ready for the Celtics and eager to disarm the bomb squad. (I have been calling the second team of the Celtics the bomb squad for their ability to come into a game and defuse any momentum the opposing team has been able to create. I do not think the media has picked up on it yet, but hopefully they will before the end of the first round. People love rooting for units and teams with nicknames.)

Rivers left Marcus Banks, Al Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen, and Delonte West on the bench for far too long, and almost exclusively on the bench for the second half. Of course they were not going to go off on a 20-2 run or anything, but can anyone deny that Walker, Davis, or Pierce were not suffering form heavy legs in the last five minutes of the game when they could not hit one shot that could have buried Indiana? Pierce, Walker, and Davis are going to win or lose the game, but give them enough time on the bench to be strong at the end of the game. Let the bomb squad do their thing and at minimum run the leg strength out of the Pacer starters.

* * *

RED SOX – THE AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY:

May first is officially the day the honeymoon ends for the 2005 Boston Red Sox. No more excuses of Curt Schilling and Wade Miller not being ready to pitch, no more crap about integrating the newcomers, no more whining about playing the Yankees so many times in the first weeks of the season. From this point forward the notice is served that there will be no more series lost to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. No more implosions by the bullpen. No more nagging injuries slowing down the hitters.

The residual feel-good hangover leftover from the 2004 playoffs will officially have worn off. The dropped pop-ups by Manny in left field will not be tolerated any longer. David Ortiz had better perform when he is put at first base or stop complaining about being the full-time designated hitter. Kevin Millar had better shake off his early season power slump because Jay Payton is no Gabe Kapler, Payton is a full-time starter who is going to steal at-bats all season long from anyone not strong enough to hold him off.

It is finally a new season, with all the trappings of 2004 behind the Sox now. So they better start performing, because I think Theo has an itchy trigger finger.

* * *

PATRIOTS – STAYING GLENN FREE?

Is Aaron Glenn on his way to Foxboro? Rumor has it that the Patriots are one of three teams interested in acquiring the veteran cornerback who is likely to be released in the next few days by the Houston Texans. Aaron Glenn previously spent many a year with the New York Jets, and I fondly remember him sparring with Drew Bledsoe at the old Foxboro Stadium during the Tuna Bowl. The Tuna Bowl featured Bill Parcells as Jets coach for his first game against the Patriots after deserting the team at the super bowl. Despite the presence of a pumped and jacked Pete Carroll on the sidelines, the Patriots somehow managed to defeat the Jets on an Indian summer Sunday night game in what was arguably the beginning of the anti-Jets feelings that I have since passed on to my son.

Alas, Parcells is rumored to have the inside track on acquiring Glenn and reuniting him (at least on the practice field) with former nemeses Drew Bledsoe and Terry Glenn. Glenn versus Glenn; those were the end of the bad old days. Belichick returned the favor by spurning the Tuna and resigning as HC of the NYJ and leaving his old pal the Tuna grasping straws as the Jets went from dominant team to playoff hanger-on. Pete Carroll is now pumped and jacked to be the two-time defending national champion in the NCAA at USC. Except for the Jets who got stuck with Happy Herm, everything worked out quite well.

* * *

BRUINS:

Do they still play hockey in Boston? Wow, that joke just is not funny anymore. The only thing owners and players can agree upon is that they have dug their own graves for the sport. If this lockout-strike bologna lasts past October the league may as well go back to the original six.

* * *

Monday, April 25, 2005

DRAFT DAZE

Another magical weekend concludes with all thirty-two teams marching in lock-step as they tout how satisfied they are with how they improved their team. Well, duh, it is pretty hard to make your team worse on draft day (but give the Jets credit for trying). The next question becomes, did the Patriots improve themselves enough through this draft to continue their dynasty into the future? Of course, since you cannot accurately judge a draft until at least a year or two later, it is hard to see who came out as winners and losers (not like 2003 when the Baltimore Ravens traded a high pick and a future number one to the Patriots, which became Man Mountain Vince Wilfork, for all-time chump quarterback Kyle Boller, I mean, everyone but Baltimore at the time saw that for the supremely stupid move it was).

I will say, however, that I am kicking myself for not realizing that Fresno State is the new LSU. Obviously, Belichick had to find a new pipeline of late round talent from a respected former assistant coach currently in the college ranks. I assumed it would be Iowa, but these chumps who are paid to cover the Patriots should have been able to find out this new pipeline of cheap, multi-purpose draft picks.

All-in-all, it was a highly surprising draft for the Pioli and Belichick as he did, to an extent, what outside observers all agreed they should do: draft help on the offensive line, defensive backfield, and find a linebacker. What I liked best about the picks is that they were all productive college players. When a team tends to reach and draft on skills rather than performance they often get burned (see: Bethel Johnson, a second-round pick who cannot sniff the field as a regular member of the wide receiver rotation). I do not know a lot about these players, nor do I pretend to. But from what I have seen and heard about them, they appear to be, while not big names, players who will fit into the team structure created by Pioli and Belichick.

Logan Mankins and Nick Kaczur are both flexible offensive linemen who can play guard or tackle and have started over thirty college games. What I like most about the both of them is that all reports list them as intelligent and a mean streak: two attributes that separate good offensive linemen from the bad. They can work on footwork and skills while adding muscle and bulk like any other lineman, but the ability to learn from the coaches and to be the one who wants to beat the player on the other side every play is what makes great offensive linemen.

Ellis Hobbs and James Sanders, the two defensive backs selected, both share a similar trait: they make plays. Hobbs is noted for his aggressiveness going after the ball while it is in the air in numerous scouting reports, and Sanders is a hard hitter who creates turnovers. Sounds like a perfect fit to slide into the Patriots defensive backfield.

The Patriots took a linebacker in the fifth round with an eye on 2007. Who knows, in 2007 fifth-round pick Ryan Claridge could be starting inside with Dan Klecko. Of course, they could both be working in Home Depot in 2007 as well. This is another reason why it is so hard to predict where a draft choice will end up and if he can make an impact. No one thought Dan Koppen would make Damien Woody expendable, and Guss Scott, not Dexter Reid, was to be the rookie safety opening eyes in the defensive backfield.

* * *

NO CREDIT FROM FELGER:

The Monday sports section in the Boston Herald features Michael Felger and his Patriots Notebook which includes mention of free agent linebacker Chad Brown being a possible target for the Patriots…a full week after I mentioned the same thing when Brown was released by the Seahawks. Not a word of acknowledgement from Felger either. Hah, just kidding. Felger steals his material from legitimate news sources, not little old me.

* * *

J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS:

Can anyone tell me just what the heck Happy Herm and the Jets are doing? They trade their first round pick for TE Doug Jolley Green Giant and a second round pick, then waste that pick on a kicker who likely would be available in the fourth or fifth round. I guess the Jets feel no particular urgency to replace their best defensive player, NT Jason Ferguson. (John Abraham does not count as their best defensive player because he only played in half of their games.)

I understand their kicker missed two field goals against Pittsburg to cost them in the playoffs, but the blame falls to Happy Herm for not trying to get them closer rather than playing afraid and making the kicker take a 40+ yard field goal.

* * *

Friday, April 22, 2005

BOOMER

It was nice to see David Wells finally rounding into form. His performance last night pitching eight shutout innings against an Orioles team that had been averaging seven runs a game for the past week and a half was simply electrifying. For all the nitwits who had been writing and blabbing on air about how bad Boomer was and that he was the next Ramiro Mendoza (Yankee Double Agent) were left speechless. Wells was not overpowering and was not about to strikeout fifteen batters, but his performance was exactly what you would expect from a proud lefty with more than a few innings left in his arm and more than enough guile and pitching acumen to make up for the fact his fastball is no longer 96 mph.

Wells was a savvy move by Epstein and as long as his back stays loose, the Red Sox have a legitimate number two post-season left-handed starter not seen in these parts since the days of Bruce Hurst. The Red Sox have long needed a lefty starter, and as evidenced by his freefall through the outposts of the National and American league these past few seasons Casey Fossum was never going to be the one.

The key points with the Wells and Matt Clement signings involve 2007 and beyond. There is no way that the Red Sox front office and ownership had any intention of paying Pedro Martinez to pitch beyond 2006, it was far too risky. If the Mets are willing to take that risk, so be it. Did the Sox want Martinez for 2005 and 2006, of course, but I cannot blame them for not wanting to be stuck with his contract in 2007 and 2008 with his potential health issues. With Wells signed for only two years, it is a best of both worlds scenario for the Sox as Wells should pick up some of the slack with Pedro gone.

As for Lowe, the Red Sox front office and ownership saw his track record and that track record is very good when on his game, but maddeningly inconsistent and unreliable. Again, why would they want this guy around for four years with that track record? Replacing him with Clement has obvious advantages. Although their track record appears similar, Clement is a strikeout pitcher who is looking for direction on the mound and young enough to be coached by Dave Wallace, mentored by Wells and Curt Schilling, and work with Jason Varitek. Strikeout pitchers are so valuable because they can put out fires without the risk of something quirky like a groundball with eyes or a bloop single or a fielding error. If the ball is not put in play, nothing bad can happen.

* * *

SH-SH-SH-SHAKING:

Speaking of Derek Lowe and shaky performances, I saw for Sox pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim pitch the other night for Colorado. He survived the inning with no runs allowed but he looked very shaky and could not get his fastball into the nineties nor could he get anything remotely off-speed over the plate. For a pitcher who was all but unhittable with Arizona early in his career, the change over the past few years is nothing less than shocking. I do not blame the Red Sox front office for taking a flyer on Kim the past few years; there is just too much talent in him for him to continue to squander it away. I was a big fan at the time of the acquisition of Kim, but wonder what is going on in his head that can cause such a downward spiral in his career.

* * *

BAD CHAD:

I would love to see the Patriots take a flier on former Seahawks and Steelers outside linebacker Chad Brown who was just released by Seattle. A high-motor quarterback chaser, the veteran would look great as part of the OLB rotation with McGinest and Vrabel.

* * *

Thursday, April 21, 2005

NFL DRAFT PROGNOSTICATORS ARRIVE IN DROVES TO ADMIRE THE HAIR OF MEL KIPER

It is the most wonderful time of the year…Everybody and their grandma are putting out their latest draft prognostications. The Globe, the Herald, ESPN.com, SI.com and a billion specialty football sites are posting who will go where and why. I do not have all day to muse on the draft (I do have to work and try to watch every baseball game on MLB Extra Innings between having a life), but have certainly made every attempt to focus on how I believe Belichick and Pioli are preparing for Saturday afternoon.

Earlier musings had me writing: I expect that there will be no offensive line help drafted early (maybe in the 3rd round or later), no linebackers picked early (Tully Banta-Cain & Dan Klecko will pick-up the slack outside & inside this season), and I'd say we can expect to see development-type linebackers like Banta-Cain and Klecko picked later in the draft (around rounds 5-7). Also, I expect more defensive line help to be drafted early (somehow I do not think that the Patriots can afford to keep Richard Seymour)but I hope I am wrong!), some more secondary help if there is a cornerback Belichick likes available in the second or third round, or possibly an offensive skill position (WR/RB/QB) in the first round if Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick see someone drop who is in their top ten (like Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork, who inexplicably fell into their laps on draft day the past two seasons like a giant-sized Christmas present).

I continue with that party line. The Patriots have addressed the huge hole at inside linebacker by picking up Monty! and will no doubt give Dan Klecko and Matt Chatham every chance to play a big role on defense this season. I simply do not see Belichick and Pioli picking up an offensive lineman in the first three rounds of the draft unless there is a stud tackle high on their board sitting right in front of them where they never expected him to drop. Depth at offensive guard and maybe even tackle is most likely to be addressed after the traditional June 1 salary cap cuts. Also, expect Gene Mruczkowski to get a long look at guard this summer. Mruczkowski has been groomed to step in at guard and back-up at center and should get every chance to win the starting guard spot vacated by Joe Andruzzi this year.

Despite the lack of talent at defensive tackle, I expect the Patriots to address this position if only because defensive tackles are hard to find, need to be groomed for the system and for the rigors of the NFL, and that after Vince Wilfork the position is thin with only Keith Traylor (thirty-six years old) and Ethan Kelley (seventh round pick practice squad nose tackle) at the position. If anything, a back-up for Wilfork at nose tackle almost makes too much sense.

* * *

ALERT THE PRESS: SOX BULLPEN…FALTERS?

Poor Bronson Arroyo. Despite a nice start in which he stranded baserunners all game, Bronson left the game with a two run lead only to see Alan Embree cough up the lead and Keith Foulke cough up the ballgame with uncharacteristic wildness. This, however, should be seen only as a small bump in the road. The Sox bullpen is one of their strengths, and with the addition of Wade Miller in the starting rotation it will only get deeper as Arroyo or Wakefield will join the pen. Also, if Matt Mantei continues his steady progress, he could become the setup man who acts as the early closer, coming into games when the Sox need strikeouts with runners on base, whether it be the sixth, seventh or eighth inning.

Overall, the bullpen is strength of the Red Sox, as Foulke is a very effective closer and Mantei, Timlin, and Embree are excellent set-up men. With Myers as the lefty specialist and either Arroyo or Wakefield joining the pen, they are in the unique position to be able to hold a lead from the sixth inning on going forward. If the starters remain effective and consistently pitch into the sixth or seventh inning, it will only increase the effectiveness of the bullpen as they will be safe from being overworked.

* * *

WHY MIDDLE-AGED, OVERWEIGHT GROWN MEN SHOULD NOT DIVE FOR A BATTED BALL:

My god, my ribs, back and shoulder are all sore today! Someone alert my brain that I am not seventeen anymore and diving around the field like I am some ersatz Orlando Cabrera is only going to result in pain.

* * *

CELTICS VICTORY TOUR:

One game left until the playoffs. One note on strategy, however, for Doc Rivers: just leave Big Al Jefferson in the game for as long as possible until he fouls out, and then insert Kendrick the Real Deal Perkins for him Perkins fouls out. Then, if there is anytime left in the game, feel free to bring in Mark Blount.

* * *

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

SHAKEY WAKEY

The good news is that Tim Wakefield finalized his long-deserved extension that will keep him pitching for Boston well into his forties. The great news is that the public will not be subjected to anymore horrible articles like what Steve Buckley wrote in the Herald the other day where in a fluff piece profile of Wakefield he ended with the line: If the Sox don't pony up, the Yankees gladly will do so. Puh-leeze! What kind of idiot writes something like that? Oh yeah, the type that builds up his reputation as a sportswriter, radio commentator, and television talking head by following the lead of Dan Shaughnessy and trying to whip up the Red Sox fans over nothing by playing off their insecurities as perpetual losers. Um, memo to Dan and Steve, the Sox won the World Series last season. Get over it and do some real writing.

* * *

SCHILLING REHAB STARTS:

For the second time in two seasons Curt Schilling was thrown to the wolves (well, the Yankees) when he was injured and had no business on the mound. Sure, he is healthy right now, but his conditioning is in no way or form ready for the major league level and as I have harped on endlessly, he is still in spring training mode as far as where he should be physically and arm-strength and stamina-wise. By May, his April struggles will be a distant memory.

The performance against Toronto by Schilling truly looked like something you would see in spring training. Fortunately the Sox bats picked him up. For Toronto, they looked real tough against the Sox, and if they only had one or two more quality arms and another power hitter in the lineup, they could be making some serious noise in the division.

What will be interesting is to see who out of Wakefield or Arroyo goes to the bullpen when Wade Miller is healthy. No matter who goes it will be interesting to see how they react. Both have pitched well this spring, and both can come out of the pen without much transition. Personally, I would keep Wakefield in the rotation only because I think Arroyo would do a better job out of the bullpen (I still have nightmares about Wakefield coming out the bullpen against the Yankees in the ALCS and Varitek not being able to catch the ball and Yankees base-runners running all over the place).

* * *

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL:

Well, the NFL has again shown why for entertainment bang there is no bigger sport in the US. The amount of money paid out by the networks is staggering. One important thing to note is that they have not sold the rights to the Thursday night games post-Thanksgiving. Probably the smartest thing they could do in terms of long-term growth would be to award the games to their own NFL Network. This would have the cable companies and satellite providers scrambling to ensure the network is available to consumers because as the NFL brand has repeatedly shown, it is not a wise decision to get between fans and their football games.

The actual numbers are staggering, as the yearly value for the NFL and its network deals will increase from $2.45 billion to $3.74 billion presently with the Thursday night pushing it into the $4 billion range. Most importantly, however, is the fact with Monday Night Football moving to ESPN where there is already a well-respected broadcast team in place, this could be the end of the John Madden announcing games on TV. For all the faults of Madden, he was at one time a great announcer who helped keep interest in the NFL strong. I think his best fit right now should be as an NFL Ambassador. He could drive the Madden Cruiser out to a different game each week, tailgate with the fans, roast up a turducken, and hand out NFL paraphernalia and promote the league.

* * *

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

26.2? HERE IS ANOTHER TEN FEET COURTESY OF MY FOOT

I will reward myself for my restraint this year and for not knocking down any stumbling, bumbling, sweaty marathoners who tried to keep me away from the Arlington T stop and getting home after work.

Hooray for you. Kudos, I say, you all run this race in some deluded attempt to impress someone or some other deep-rooted need for attention, so here are your kudos. Now get the hell out my way!

For those of us working on Patriots Day and relying on public transportation there is no day more despised than this day full of drunk college kids clogging Newbury Street, sweaty, incredibly thin, tin-foil wrapped runner who smell like the ran through the sewers pressed up against you on an overcrowded green line, and chuckleheads aplenty on the commuter rail. For all this I get the honor and privilege of working. Happy, happy, joy, joy.

* * *

HOT SOX IN THE MORNING:

Moving on to happier thoughts, I got the joy of missing yet another Red Sox game as the truly bizarre 11 AM start for the Sox game meant I had to follow it on ESPN Gamecast. At least NESN is smart enough to replay the game tonight.

Really, do 33,000 people really want to end a truly wonderful day in the sun at Fenway Park by walking over to Boylston street to watch a bunch of bozos running a race? At least an American made the top five. I equate watching marathons to watching handball at the summer Olympics. No normal person would watch it even if it was on continuous loop on ESPN2, nor do they really care who wins since it will always be someone no one knows or cares about. But, since it gives the BC, Northeastern, and BU toolbags an excuse for daytime drunkenness, it draws big crowds from the assorted colleges and universities. But what really blows my mind is how many people bring their kids into the city, stand and watch these people run by, and think it is some wonderful event. How exciting can it be for the average viewer? Here comes someone I do not know, here comes another I would not know even if I ran them over with my silver Audi A4 tomorrow morning, wow, this guy weighs 63 lbs, here comes a heavyweight, 87 lbs, ooh more Kenyans coming.

* * *

FANTASIES:

Yeah, Chazer kicked my butt in fantasy baseball. I sit in second-to-last-place after two weeks of the season. But lookout, C.C. Sabathia is healthy! (OK, that only scares cheeseburgers and an all-you-can-eat buffet).

The good news (for me, not for you poor saps reading these blogs) is that starting this week I can bore you with my exploits in modified fast-pitch church league softball. Last year, after taking a season off (OK, I was not invited to play), I brazenly lost my religion. Yes, in a move that sent shockwaves all the way to Vatican I left the Catholic team for the Methodist squad. Imagine my quandary, the philosophical implications, the fact I have not regularly attended church since fourth grade and I played church league basketball for the Congregationalists. What does it all mean? Well, not much I guess.

* * *

CELTS:

Congrats to the Celtics for wrapping up the Atlantic Division. I know I ran to the mall to get the championship caps first thing this morning. Yeah, right.

* * *

FINIS:

Wow, nothing like a holiday spent at work to bring out the angry cynic in me, or maybe it was just because Theo Epstein-bashing Cross-Eyed Scott Hatteberg had four hits.

* * *

Friday, April 15, 2005

DRENCHED IN BEER, PUNCHED & SLAPPED AROUND: WELCOME BACK TO FENWAY, SHEFFIELD

What a game, what a travesty, what a night, what a knucklehead, what a finish. That about sums up last night and the final game for a month of the emotionally taxing April series with the Yankees.

I would first like to say to everyone and anyone who sits or has sat in the front row at Fenway Park: IF THE BALL IS NOT FOUL SIT DOWN AND DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT TRYING TO GRAB IT. There is nothing more humiliating as a Boston sports fan than watching the supposed intelligent Boston fans trying to interfere with a ball in play. If it is foul, then by all means lean over the barrier and try to scoop it up, I could care less and when you fall on your head it is extremely amusing. But for these yahoos to attempt to interfere with the ball or the fielder when it is in play? That is bush league to put it politely.

Also, would someone tell Gary Sheffield that as I learned playing waffle-ball in the front yard, you pull the ball out of the mouth of the dog first, then you throw the ball in to the fielder, and then you chase off the offending dog. That applies to yahoos trying to get the ball, hit you in the face, or knock your hat off.

Second, overlooked by all accounts of the game was a very good job by Bronson Arroyo on the mound. Yes, he lost a bit of composure after the ridiculous non-strike call on ball four to Gary Sheffield (everything was about Sheffield yesterday!), but I was very impressed how he bounced back and retired the next five batters in a row. Kudos to Terry Francona as well for sticking with Arroyo after that one bad inning. Many managers are so quick with the hook that the pitchers never learn to deal with adversity. For Bronson to have a total meltdown inning and then come back and respond by retiring the next five batters is a great sign for his future development as a front-line pitcher.

Finally, a great job at the end of the game by Keith Foulke. No doubt lacking his signature sharpness and control, Foulke gutted out the last two innings to pick up a well-earned victory. More kudos to Terry Francona (even though he was ejected at this point, I am sure he had made the decision) for pitching Foulke the final two innings. First, Foulke needed the work. Without steady, consistent work Foulke, as evidenced by last night, needs to pitch a lot to be effective. In addition, Foulke showed why he is one of the elite closers in the game, not just by keeping the Yankees off the scoreboard, but also by working out of situations with runners on base. Even without his best stuff, Foulke did what needed to be done to get the win.

* * *

THE NEW JERSEY GENERALS WILL RIDE AGAIN:

Nice catch by Doug Flutie on a foul line drive in the Sox-Yankees game. Someone sign this guy to a contact. Patriots, Red Sox, who cares. He is an athlete!

* * *

EARLY BIRDS:

Amid all the complaints about the Sox and Yankees playing in April as being too early, I say hogwash. Start the season off with a bang. I say get the competitive juices flowing early in the season. Really, who would rather watch the Sox play the Kansas City Royals instead of the Yankees? It is good for baseball in general (national television and media picking up the Sox and Yankees games), it is good for Sox as it assures a sell-out at the only time of the season they have to worry about the games being 99% capacity (those cold spring evenings), and they have to play nineteen times anyway, why not spread the games out over the course of the season?

* * *

THE BIG EUNICH:

The Randy Johnson honeymoon in New York is officially over. Two sub-par performances in a row? Giving up three home runs to the dreaded Sox? I would go on, but I am trying to turn my attention away from the Yankees and towards the spunky Devil Rays who roll into town this weekend. As Mark McGwire said, I am not here to talk about the past.

* * *

WHERE WAS MY DASHING HERO?

I was extremely disappointed this morning. I was crossing Newbury Street on my way to work and A-Rod did not jump out and grab me and save my life. What, he only saves Yankees fans?

* * *

OH NO, MORE T.O.

Terrell Owens, one season after signing a seven year, forty-nine million dollar contract has the audacity to claim he is severely underpaid, signed the contract under duress, and now that he has leverage wants a new deal done. Wow, some people just do not get it. Philadelphia made it to the Super Bowl without Owens while he was injured, and could have lost the game without him. Obviously, ala Ty Law a few years ago, his new agent is trying to get him a new contract because the agent understands he gets nothing from having Owens as a client without a new deal. What will be interesting will to see if Owens is stupid enough to hold out this summer. I hope that Andy Reid is smart enough to ignore T.O. and let him come crawling back with his tail between his legs once he loses a game check or two.

* * *

BLOODY SOX

BLOODY SOX:

Why is it that for the second time in so many weeks I am coming out of a loss to the Yankees with a smile? Much like game two of the previous series in New York, game two in Boston saw the accursed Bronx Bombers taking a victory from the Sox in a game they had no right winning. Still, I was pleased with the outcome. Am I suffering from World Series and Super Bowl Hangover, still dazed from the beating I am taking from Chazer in fantasy baseball this week, or just finally not dying a slow painful death at each Sox loss?

The earlier loss was the game where Varitek took Rivera deep in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game before it was lost when Timlin gave up a home run to Derek Jeter in the bottom of the ninth. The home run obviously rattled Rivera who was dreadful the next game. Last night the silver lining was Curt Schilling’s performance through the first four innings of the game. Sure, he should have been out of the game after five innings with the score tied at two after Trot Nixon homered. Of course, the Sox should have scored eight runs in the first six innings as Jaret Wright was simply horrible, but the Sox and cold bats saved him inning after inning by not taking advantage of their opportunities with runners on base.

I think the reason I was satisfied despite the loss was that Schilling looked so good in what was basically his third preseason start. No ankle problems, no lingering injuries, just his usual dominant self for the first four innings. I think I rested easy due to the fact I did not have to worry about whether Schilling would have this lingering ankle problem all season long. I am not worried that the Sox left a ton of runners in scoring position. They will hit, they are just too talented and too deep not to turn it around in a hurry.

* * *

GEE-WHIZ TIME AT THE HERALD:

If anyone has not seen the hilarious Red Sox press corps flap this past week let me give a quick recap. First, Seth Stevenson of Slate Magazine (Slate.com), part of the mob of outsiders who descended upon the Fenway Park to cover the cultural significance of the Ring ceremony (personally, I was extremely upset that Gallagher never returned my call so he could dress up as Frodo Baggins and I could dress in a Gollum costume and run out on the field during the ring presentation ceremony and wrestle the rings away from the Sox ownership group shouting, My Precious! My Precious!), reported that a Red Sox beat writer (name withheld to protect the guilty) was visibly agitated that the game was dragging on and leaving him scant time to finish his column before deadline, even at times cursing because a Red Sox player got a hit to extend an inning. Well, I, along with 99% of the readers from the Boston area, just assumed it was Dan Shaughnessy and did not give it another thought. But, David Scott, a writer at independent online media blog or site or page or information source or article linker and collector Boston Sports Media was kind enough to out the complainer as Boston Herald writer Michael Gee. Gee then responded via emails to the site Editor and his emails and the responses from David Scott were later posted to the site. It was simply hilarious stuff.

* * *

GET OFF MY THRONE:

Of course, none of all the above is as funny as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays owner having a sportswriter thrown out of the park for using his private bathroom. That is almost too funny to be true. It sounds like something out of an old Seinfeld episode. I can just picture Steinbrenner having Costanza throw the offending sportswriter out of Yankee Stadium and then the rest of the show has Costanza obsessed with getting into the Steinbrenner executive toilet.

* * *

SNL? SORRY, I THOUGHT YOU SAID S&M:

Tom Brady on Saturday Night Live? Well, it cannot be any worse than Johnny Damon prancing around in his underwear for those hideous Puma commercials. Sorry, but that is way too much Johnny for anyone to be exposed to. At least we do not have to wonder about steroids. I thought it was only guys playing in softball leagues that were allowed to have those beer bellies and pretend they are athletes. Of course, I am sure that his new wife was very supportive of the commercial. I mean, she danced around in her underwear and she is the wife of a millionaire now.

Well at least with Brady there are no worries about him humiliating himself or the team while on SNL. Personally, I think it would be great television to just put Brady and musical guest Beck together in a room for the hour and a half; talk about pairing apples and oranges.

Of course, I am on the wrong side of thirty and have two kids. The next time I watch Saturday Night Live will be when I get a Tivo (which, sadly, is not going to be for some time. I watch too damned much television already).

* * *

Thursday, April 14, 2005

CONSULTING THE MAGIC EIGHT BALL:

The Red Sox have legitimate questions about their future in various positions and the pitching staff. Today I want to look at what the future potentially holds for the infield:

Shortstop: Edgar Renteria should have the position secured until 2009. He is a legitimate all-star. Unless the Sox management plans to move him to third base in a few years to let Hanley Ramirez take over, the position is his.

Second Base: Mark Bellhorn is either loved or hated. There is no in-between. He strikes out way too much, yes that is well documented. Yes, his OBP is far above average and he certainly makes the pitcher work to get him out. However, Bellhorn cannot be long at second base with Renteria at shortstop and Hanley Ramirez should eventually take over for him at second base.

Third Base: Bill Mueller, god bless him, is not going to play third base forever. Kevin Youkilis is the heir apparent and as soon as next season could be the regular at the hot corner. Youkilis, AKA the Greek God of Walks, is a patient hitter like Mueller, not much more power, and not as smooth a fielder yet. But not only is he good and young, Youkilis comes cheap. More money for a slugging first baseman!

First Base: Well, maybe they will re-sign Kevin Millar. Other than that prospect, there is little in the minor leagues as an option. Keeping Mueller at third for another year or two and moving Youkilis to first base is about the only other option. Well, signing a free agent is always an option. Who knows, maybe the Twins will release another power hitting first baseman like Big Papi for us to scoop up.

* * *

YANKEE OVERLOAD:

OK, enough already. I admit it. Looking back over the blogs for the past week or so, I have a serious case of Yankee overload. I have seen too much, read too much, and listened to too much Yankees related material. I can recite the deficiencies of their bullpen (inconsistent, lacking power pitchers, too much emphasis on Quantrill and Gordon), their starting pitching (untested in the big market, gave up too early on Vasquez, Leiber, and Loaiza, Wright is a chump, Mussina is over-the-hill, where is El Duque?), defense (top SS at 3B, CF with knees declared clinically dead, LF plays too deep, SS has no range, Giambi at first equals YIKES), and their line-up (top RBI man batting second, too many question marks like Giambi and Bernie, is Posada losing bat speed, why is Womack hitting in the nine hole instead of lead-off?). It is sick. Is it that after finally watching the Sox defeat the Yankees that the obsession with their team is even stronger? Enough of the Yankees, more on the Red Sox, please.

CONTACT:

The Celtics were not pretty against the 76ers. They did not hit the glass particularly well, nor did they move the ball enough on offense. They were sloppy on defense, but they made a few plays when they needed to. Mark Blount was still on the court for reasons that elude me. How can that chump take minutes from Kendrick The Real Deal Perkins or Big Al? (I have officially anointed Kendrick Perkins as The Real Deal. Someone alert Tommy Heinsohn. The more I watch him play, the more I like Perkins. He has size, he is maniac on the boards, and he likes to play rough underneath the basket. True centers like that are few and far between.)

What the Celtics did throughout the game to stay in the game and at end of the game (I will conveniently forget that the middle of the fourth quarter even happened where they could have put away Philly and instead fired threes and watched Philly run past them) was to create contact by driving to the basket and getting to the line or being able to find someone open for an uncontested mid-range jumper. Paul Pierce is at his best driving to the hoop and getting to the line. Antoine Walker, as it has been well established, should be nailed down in the paint and not allowed to stray past fifteen feet from the hoop while on offense.

Finally, he did not get mentioned at all in the papers recapping of the game, and his stat line was barely noticeable, but Marcus Banks submitted another solid effort last night at point guard. He played good defense, moved the ball well, and hit a big basket at the end of the game. Nothing spectacular, but a solid, steady performance, which for someone as inconsistent as Banks is a huge step-up.

* * *

DRAFT IS A PROSPECT:

Apparently the Globe and Herald have discontinued coverage of all things Patriots that do not directly involve Tedy Bruschi. I know I am hungry for any and all Patriots news available, especially less than two weeks before the draft. Fortunately, Mike Reiss of the MetroWest Daily News is still reporting, and with his inside contacts with the Patriots media relations department he consistently reports on and breaks Patriots news throughout the off-season. His latest bit of linebacker-related news is that between entertaining draft prospects, the Patriots brought in another free agent linebacker, Chris Draft formerly of the Atlanta Falcons, for a visit. Draft, though not a star, has played in the 3-4 and 4-3 and could join Monty! as another cheap veteran to help fill in the gap in the middle of the defense with Bruschi likely out for the season.

* * *

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I WISH THERE WAS MORE SOX ON TV

Midway through the second week of April and the Red Sox are 2-2 against the Yankees, and 1-2 against the Toronto Blue Jays. I hope that the win on Monday against the Yankees convinced a few of the over-anxious, over-caffeinated, and over-bearing callers and hosts on WEEI. The Sox are 2-4, cancel the World Series plans, take the women and children to the bunkers, and bitch and moan about what a mistake it was to let Pedro and D-Lowe go. Enough already!

Pedro on a two or three year contract is a decent deal. Anyone who is paying Pedro in 2008 is going to be the loser in the deal, end of discussion. The Mets were willing to take that chance. The Red Sox made a calculated business decision and let him go for the long-term future of the team. Good choice, in my opinion, whether Pedro goes 45-2 over the next two years or not, still a good choice not to give him the fourth year. Lowe is finally realizing that he is going out on top, and it is difficult to top that. Forever in Boston he will be remembered for winning the 2004 World Series. Imagine how tarnished his image would be if he followed up his post-season accomplishment with three years looking like 12-15, 9-16, and 8-14.

Letting Lowe and Pedro walk and signing Wells to an incentive-laden contract, picking up Matt Clement, who just needs a few nuts and bolts tightened by Dave Wallace, and taking a flier on Wade Miller and saving enough money to lock-up Varitek long-term and not have to trade Manny to get under budget makes good business sense. That is how the Patriots have had success, and the Red Sox would be fools not to follow the model laid-out before them. Sure there are inherent differences between the football and baseball management, structure, philosophy, etc, but it sure beats throwing a ton of money at Jack Clark and Matt Young.

* * *

NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE:

OK, no more Twisted Sister references anymore, ever again, I promise. In the American League East this season, I firmly believe that the Baltimore Orioles, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and the Toronto Blue Jays have improved enough to be stiff foes for the Red Sox and Yankees this season. Toronto is an exciting young team with a staff ace (Roy Halladay, some young power hitters (Vernon Wells), and a great general manager (J.P. Riccardi, a Billy Beane Moneyball disciple). Baltimore, though lacking in starting pitching, has a very strong bullpen and power galore in their lineup. They may win a lot of 9-7 games, but they will win more games than last season. Finally, Tampa Bay continues their youth infusion that will eventually show some dividends. Lou Piniella is inexplicably managing Tampa Bay, not managing the Yankees (Ok, they cannot fire Regular Joe until they lose the Division, we have established his death grip on the position). Piniella is exactly what they Yankees need, but I will be glad to continue to watch Regular Joe wear his team down as they race for the all-important division crown.

The improvement of these three teams, and the fact they each play the Yankees and Sox (and each other) nineteen times this season sets up an exciting division race the entire season. I cannot imagine anyone from the Central stealing the wild care away from the Yankees or Red Sox, but Oakland or the L.A./Anaheim/California Angels could threaten.

* * *

DANNY AINGE SPOTTED WITH ACCELERANT:

The Celtics are heading for the home stretch in need of a spark. Without the number three seed in the playoffs they are destined for an early exit. They must win four of their last six at minimum, as their lead over Philadelphia is precarious to say the least. With New Jersey playing better than anyone but the Heat (Disclaimer: with Shaq) since the All-Star Break, the Celtics have some work cut out for them over the next two weeks. Personally, the spark is going to come from the Young Guns, and anytime they can get Marcus Banks and Delonte West on the floor together, or Tony Allen and West, or Kendrick Perkins or Big All with Raef LaFrentz and Ricky Davis they are an exciting team. Rest the veterans, give the kids some minutes, and see what good can come from youthful exuberance and energy.

* * *

MASTER-FUL!

Tiger on 16…I am still speechless. What a chip, what a roll, what a match.

I saw the Sunday paper when I got up and checked the masters.org site to see where Tiger was in the standings. Imagine my surprise when after getting home from the wedding shower for Jen and Tim that Tiger had stormed back into the match and was up three strokes.

Hal was watching the Masters with me in the living room and when Tiger chipped it and it sat on the lip of the cup before dropping in and the crowd roared, He shouted out: That is the way we like it! And when he saw Tiger high-five his caddy he ran to the TV and smacked the screen to give him a high-five.

Credit Chris Dimarco for taking that body shot from Tiger on sixteen and still hanging in there to force a playoff. I think Tiger was obviously a little too pumped and jacked (as Pete Carroll would say) after sixteen and that accounted for his wildness on seventeen and eighteen. Great drama for what had started out as soggy mess on Thursday and Friday and looked like it was going to be a dismal showing.

* * *

WILD SOX:

Opening day and I get stuck in the office. It is nice to get home to watch the replay on NESN and flipping to the Marlins-Phillies game on the MLB Extra Innings package (an early Fathers Day gift). Of course, the first year I do not have Brett Myers on my fantasy team, and there he is pitching great.

Lost in all the ring ceremony hoopla was the fact that it was a nice win for the Sox in their home opener. It was nice to see the Sox bats finally wake-up; Wakefield looked very comfortable out on the mound reprising his recent Yankee-killer role; and Hamburger Helper A-Rod making another key error for the Yankees. I thought the tears were going to flow there for a minute or two as H.H.A-Rod stood at third dejected after the error and the jeers rained down upon him.

It would be remiss not to mention the class shown by the Yankees, especially Regular Joe for getting the troops out to watch the ceremony. Kudos to closer extraordinaire Mariano Rivera, who showed class and good humor by accepting his standing ovation from the Fenway faithful with a smile and good grace. In honor of his classy showing, I will shelve my classless comment about not wanting to be the pool boy at his estate.

* * *

JORGE DE LA ROSA:

Now, you cannot argue against the move, because the kid was traded from the Red Sox as part of the Curt Schilling package, and Arizona cannot complain, because they turned him around in the deal for Richie Sexson, but I saw De La Rosa this weekend pitching for the Brewers, and WOW! They lost the game to the Cubs, but De La Rosa, a fire-balling young Mexican lefty, struck out five in two innings. This was on the heels of his first win two days before when he went two hitless innings. Future closer or future starter, either way, the kid looked alright.

* * *

ERRATA:

A quick correction: Rick pointed out to me this weekend that in my Johnny Damon Must Go rant last week, I misidentified the skinny little utility second baseman that leveled Damon in the 2003 ALCS. It was not Rey Sanchez, it was Damien Jackson. With my memory, I guess it was good that I was close. I could have said Manny Alexander.

* * *

Monday, April 11, 2005

BRING ME THE HEAD OF VERNON WELLS

The Sox should take two of three from the Blue Jays this weekend, even though the Jays are a much better team than last season. Good young hitters with power potential, young arms, and a vastly improved pipeline of talent coming up from the minor leagues. General Manager J.P. Riccardi has done a heck of a job rebuilding this team. They should win 85 games this year and finish in third, ahead of the D-Rays and Orioles.

I would say the Sox should sweep, but that Roy Halladay is really a great pitcher.

The Masters will be on this weekend, but I have a hard enough time making time for baseball, I think random Tiger updates and Golf Channel recaps on ON-DEMAND are the viable alternatives.

It will be strange not to have Sean McDonough on the UPN38 Sox broadcasts on Friday night this season. I do not understand to this day why the Sox did not bend over backwards to get McDonough on at least half of the games. He is simply one of the best, pure sportscasters out there today.

I think the biggest problem Mariano Rivera has to deal with is the fact that the Yankees pitching coach is a joke. I believe Mel Stottlemyre is around only to share a few drinks with Torre after a tough loss. Otherwise, he seems to nod his head a lot, slap the pitcher on the butt, and say Go get them a lot. But he helps them win in the regular season by staying out of the way of the pitchers on the staff, so that is all that matters to Regular Joe…well, I bet he also mixes a great martini.

* * *

MICHIGAN EAST:

Since the Patriots are signing Michigan Wolverine teammates of Tom Brady who were underachieving high draft picks of the Chicago Bears, can we expect the A-Train to rumble into town soon? Anthony Thomas, aka the A-Train, is an unrestricted free agent. Thomas fits the Belichick running back profile, as his between the tackles, downhill running style makes him similar to a younger Antoine Smith.

If Thomas is still available after the draft, and the Patriots do not address the running back position, Thomas could fit in on the cheap as a backup to Corey Dillon.

* * *

MONTY! FAN CLUB IS CALLED TO ORDER:

Sorry, Oberacker, this is not the fan club to the daily comic strip formerly known as Robotman, but rather that the Patriots finally acknowledged their gaping hole at ILB and signed former Kansas City Chief Monty Beisel. I will from now forward refer to the Patriots new linebacker only as Monty! or Beisel the Diesel.

Monty! is viewed as a Bruschi Lite. Having moved to linebacker from defensive end upon joining the NFL, Beisel the Diesel spent time at special teams and back-up before becoming a starter, and performing very well, for Coach Cries-a-lot, Dick Vermeil, and the woeful Kansas City Chiefs defense.

Belichick apparently likes what he sees out of the Chiefs linebackers, having attempted to sign current KC inside linebacker Mike Maslowski back when he was a restricted free agent a few years back.

* * *


FREE ADVICE FOR REGULAR JOE:

In the name of defense and decency, what kind of idiot does not have the common sense to move A-Rod to shortstop and Jeter to centerfield and put Bernie Williams on the bench as the designated hitter. Jason Giambi and Tino Martinez can then create the first lefty-lefty platoon at first base. Or bench them both and play Horsehead Posada over at first and make John Flaherty the full-time catcher. He cannot be any worse defensively than Posada.

THE DEIFICATION OF JETER:

Let me first say that I have nothing personal against Derek Jeter. I respect him as a baseball player. He is one of the only players in the league who actually hustles. He was the only Yankee player with a pulse in game seven against the Sox last year. But he is not a great player. He is a good player who plays the game right in the largest media market in sports that was desperate for a marketable star when he arrived in the Big Apple. If he played in Pittsburgh, he would be Jack Wilson.

Here is how the Yankee fans argue about how Jeter is the greatest:

He has intangibles.
That means we love him but his stats do not back up what we say. Tom Brady has intangibles and they translate into statistics and championships.

He is a winner.
That means he has played on the team with the largest payroll his entire career. I guess Luis Sojo had better prepare his Hall of Fame speech.

Remember the flip!
If Roids Giambi had slid into home plate the play would be fondly recalled in Oakland as Jeter was a half second slow.

He is the best baserunner in baseball.
You mean he goes from first to third on a single just like every other base-runner under 240 pounds?

No one goes back on pop-ups better than him at shortstop.
That means his centerfielder has no cartilage in his knees and his leftfielder plays twenty feet too deep on every hitter. It must be a byproduct from playing in those undersized Japanese ballparks for so many years. Check out Bobblehead Matsui in the field at Fenway, you would think that if he thought the coaches would let him, he would stand out there with his back to the Green Monster. Besides, catching pop-ups further strengthens my argument that he belongs in centerfield.

Bill James works for the Red Sox now, so his defensive zone rating analysis statistics that show Jeter as one of the worst defensive shortstops in baseball must be biased.
Right, and because he worked for the Royals in the mid 1980s he must be biased towards Angel Berroa.

A-Rod is a choker, Nomar has never been the same since his wrist injury, Omar Vizquel cannot hit, and Miguel Tejada is a roids poster boy.
Hey, who am I to deny this rant? Finally this is one argument that actually makes some sense, except for not having anything bad to say about Edgar Renteria.

He is comparable to Hall-of-Famer Wade Boggs in offensive categories, well, except batting average.
Right, because there really is no big difference between hitting .287 and .345 is there?

* * *

Friday, April 08, 2005

MICHAEL VICK: GIVING A LITTLE EXTRA EACH TIME OUT

MICHAEL VICK: GIVING A LITTLE EXTRA EACH TIME OUT

Michael Vick. He was accused of passing on herpes. Heh-he-heh.

I liked the line that Vick denied the allegations of knowingly passing on herpes by clarifying that everyone knows from his play that he is a runner, not a passer. Alas, a version of my joke was in print already today (SI.com Scorecard) so I guess I cannot pass it off in good conscience without crediting the source.

I can, however, in bad taste and questionable humor, offer up some more originals:
This is yet another reason why no one in the NFL can or would want to tackle Vick.
He thought his agent said contract it, instead of sign the biggest contract.
Hey, Mike Ditka does pharmaceutical commercials, now Michael Vick can too!
That is like saying Magic Johnson knowingly passed on HIV to all those groupies and hookers he slept with.

And finally, the imaginary statement to the media:
Sure, I got herpes, I understand that. But what about Tom Brady? How the heck is he clean? He went out with Tara Reid! Somebody tell me how that boy is clean!

* * *

FAMILIAR NAME IN NEW ENGLAND?

Here is a familiar name who could join the Local 53 on draft day: ILB Lofa Tatupu of USC. Son of Mosi the Moose, a former Maine Black Bear.

Right now, Projected to be a fourth or fifth round pick. The scouts say he has good speed, but his 40 times are not fast enough; he is quick, but not quick enough; he is athletic, but his times running around cones and doing shuttle runs shows he is not athletic enough; and his weight lifting at the combine shows he is not strong enough to make it as a starter in the pro game.

They say that he is undersized, but could latch on as a special teams animal. However, based on how he has actually played while on the field, he is one of those players who does not appear to have the physical tools but always makes the plays. Based on how he played the game, he should be a first or second round draft pick. But, as we all know, that is now how players make it in the NFL draft.

I look at him, and I see another Zack Thomas, and the Patriots could really use a Zack Thomas kind of inside linebacker right now. He would appear to be a great fit for the Patriots. Besides, who would not want the team to have a Tatupu again?

* * *

THE MARCUS STROUD WATCH:

Marcus Stroud has been a no-show at the Jaguars' voluntary offseason conditioning program and remains far apart in talks with the team on a long-term contract extension. Stroud, who has made the Pro Bowl each of the past two years, has said he wants to be the highest-paid defensive tackle in the NFL and reportedly is seeking a signing bonus of between $15 million and $20 million. -- Jacksonville Times-Union

Does anyone think that the Patriots are shelling out $15 to $20 million just for a signing bonus for Richard Seymour? Jarvis Green, your long-term contract will be finished in short order. Rodney Bailey, whoops, two year extension quietly taken care of already. Ty Warren still locked up. Hmm, why did the Pats draft Marquise Hill, a defensive lineman, in the second round last year? Richard Seymour and his contract situation, that is the reason why.

* * *

CELTICS STORM BACK TOWARDS RELEVANCE:

It was another impressive win for the Celtics against the Milwaukee Bucks. Yes, it was the Bucks, not exactly a powerhouse team, but the Celtics were without Antoine Walker. The bench came up big again, and the development of Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins took another step forward. Hopefully, Coach Jimmy and the 76ers will trade a bag of practice balls for favorite big man, Mark Blount, this off-season. Blount is useless. How this chump played so well last season during his contract push is mind-boggling.

The young point guards, Marcus Banks and Delonte West, both showed flashes of potential last night. West was on his game on the offensive end, looking very comfortable at shooting guard. Marcus Banks did not play much, but when he was in at the end of the third quarter, he made a great pass to Pierce and added a huge shot of his own.

Good signs from the boys in Green. It is a big game Saturday against the New Jersey Nets. The Nets having been playing great lately and are pushing hard for the right to the eight seed and a spanking by Shaq and the crew in the first round of the playoffs.

* * *

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

AGAIN!

Question: When is it that the team winning two games out of a three game series feels like it was the loser?
Answer: Today.

What a rousing victory for the Red Sox. After their game one letdown (hold on, after the post-season celebrations to end all post-season celebrations, raise your hand if you did not see that coming), the Sox lost the second game in what must be one of the best feeling losses ever in Red Sox history. Sure, Foulke coughed it up, but we all know he takes awhile to get in a groove during the season. But no one doubts Foulke. But to have Mariano Rivera blow a save against the Red Sox again after his game four and five debacles in the ALCS? Then to read about his angry comments to the press about how the Red Sox are not inside his head, all I could do is think to myself, Man, I hope the Sox get to face him again in game three, because they are so inside his head to make him come out and say the Sox are not in his head!

I really would hate to be a Yankees fan today. No, I mean it; I actually feel bad for them today. To feel like Randy Johnson arrived and ripped the monkey off their backs on opening day much like Dmitiri Da Meathooks Young hitting three home runs on opening day gave Detroit fans hope that their Sausage Smacking Tuffy Rhodes imitating slugger would usher in a 35-5 run like the 1984 Tigers had on their way to a dominating season.

The sarcasm drips like ink from the quill today!

Let me make a quick interjection about the Big Unit: he is not playing the role of Curt Schilling for the Yankees. He is playing the role of Roger Clemens on the Yankees which was not filled last year. Last time I checked, the Yankees lost the World Series to the Diamondbacks in 2002 and to the Marlins in 2003 with Clemens before choking last season. Having Roger Clemens did not guarantee them a world series victory, so why do they feel that having Randy Johnson will allow them to make plans to suck up to Rudy Giuliani so as to get free World Series tickets?

I wish I had a chance to watch the game against the Yankees (damned 1pm games) rather than trying to listen to it on the radio while at work. But to get to Rivera like they did in the ninth inning, it was amazing. The walks, the hits, the general discomfort of Rivera on the mound against the Red Sox was a sight not seen before with the Yankees erstwhile closer. This is not to say I expect the Sox to get to Rivera every time he pitches and score four or five runs off of him.

What a game! What a shame there is no game tomorrow.

* * *

Best wishes to manager Terry Francona. He has had enough health issues in the past, he does not need any more. Of course, bench coach Brad Mills saw his honeymoon end before the end of the game as I hissed at him through the radio for not pinch hitting for Doug Mirabelli with the game on the line.

Of course, in retrospect, maybe I just wanted Varitek in the game because I desperately need some offense for my fantasy league team.

* * *

The Celtics, with or without Antoine Walker, are still not a bad team. Their win Tuesday night was impressive, even if their opponent was not very impressive. The Wizards are a good team, but they stunk at home against a banged-up Celtics team. Although foul-prone, the Celtics young bucks, Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins, were aggressive on the boards and both showed good touch around the basket.

Although management probably feels otherwise, I would much rather see the team develop the young players at the expense of this season. However, I do not pay the bills, and, in retrospect, trading for Antoine put the Celtics back on the map-and that cannot be understated.

* * *

THIS AND THAT, A POTPOURRI OF STUFF UNSAID IN MY HEAD

It is nice to be able to watch baseball, not just the Red Sox, but baseball. Kids out playing on the soggy fields, chasing balls hit off the tee by the fourth after work, looking at my cleats and glove stored in the basement while doing laundry and smiling ever so slightly as I think of getting back out on the field. Better writers than I have pondered the meaning of baseball and springtime. I will just say that as seasons turn to spring, and the green life springs into being, the crack of a bat and the thump of the ball hitting a leather glove is as much a part of nature as the song of a robin and bubbling echoes of a brook.

* * *

The joy of Pedro Martinez giving up a three run bomb to Adam Dunn and then the bullpen blowing the game for him was tempered by the fact that Adam Dunn, for the first time in three years, is not on my fantasy team, and Braden Looper, a.k.a. the chump who gave up the two home runs in the ninth and now has an infinite ERA for the season is on my team.

* * *

Of course, twelve strikeouts in six innings by Pedro is quite impressive. Then again, this being the first week of April, I think that it moves the over/under for Martinez blowing out his shoulder up from August first to about July 15.

* * *

As far as I am concerned, the clock is ticking. I really do not see Johnny Damon in a Red Sox uniform for long. He is on the wrong side of thirty, his media hound routine has got to be wearing thin to ownership and the front office, and he is pricing himself out of Boston. Really, why did the sox trade Dave Robert and not Johnny Damon when there really is not much difference in their role? Simply put, Damon and his $8 million dollar contract had no where to go, while Roberts, at less than half that price, was much easier to move. If they can move Damon at the all-star break, I think the Sox will not hesitate to send him on his way. More than likely, they will be content to let him walk at the end of the year and recoup a first round pick in the amateur draft for him.

* * *

Follow-up to the note on Richard Seymour: Watch Jacksonville DT Marcus Stroud and his negotiations, as Stroud, who teamed with Seymour with the Georgia Bulldogs in college and were both number one picks in 2001, is expected to sign a contract extension soon that will make him the highest paid defensive lineman in the game. What Stroud gets is likely going to be the starting point for negotiations with Seymour.

* * *

Slow news day, I guess. The Boston Herald, who have plans to layoff or phase out over thirty editors according to the front page of the Boston Globe business section, has the front page headline of FENWAY FLEECE: Outpriced Sox lead league at $276 for family of four. Umm, is that considered news? The Sox have been number one on the list of priciest tickets and accoutrements for some time now. Of course, having sold out over seventy-five straight home games, is this a point worth a front page banner? Personally, I think it was incredible restraint showed by the Herald with only a small picture of the long-suffering Pope above the banner. For some reason, with the Herald, I was expecting CORPSE EXTREME CLOSEUP splayed across the entire cover.

* * *

Speaking of the Pope, this is truly the end of an era. For the past quarter-century, my Dad has been able to insult not only the heritage of my mother (Polish), but also her religion (Catholic) with a good Pope joke. Truly, it was a two-for-one special. Alas, those were the glory days.

* * *

Monday, April 04, 2005

CALM THE MOBS

One game does not a season make…

Hearken back to the most recent of the darkest days in New England Sports History…no, not the 19-8 shellacking in Game Three of the 2004 ALCS…wait, check that, not the forever tainted 2003 ALCS Game Seven loss by the Red Sox to the Yankees either, but let us go back about seven weeks earlier.

Wait, tainted you say? Further explanation needed? Well, of course, I am more than happy to spin my two cents on the subject of Grady day. Forget Grady leaving Pedro in the game too long; forget about Posada’s single dropping in front of a woozy Johnny Damon in center field (he had that violent collision earlier in the playoffs with the journeyman second baseman, Rey Sanchez, I believe); forget about the Sox bats going silent way too early in the game; remember that the Red Sox lost by one run and that two runs for the Yankees were provided by Jason Giambi home runs. Jason Giambi, the poster boy for cheaters everywhere. The admitted steroid user who had yet to confess pounded out two home runs that were no doubt the product of science, of illegal substances that, while not illegal in baseball, are illegal substances to use when not prescribed by a doctor. So the 2003 American League Championship Series victory, if it were the NCAA, would be taken back from the New York Yankees, the banner removed from the stadium, the fines levied, sanctions imposed, etc.

Anyway, back to the legitimate crushing defeat in New England Sports History I was referencing before going way off on a tangent, and that was the opening game thrashing the New England Patriots received from the Buffalo Bills in September 2003. That was the whole Lawyer Milloy episode. Released the week before the first game of the season, Milloy signs on with Buffalo and former QB Drew Bledsoe. The expatriate ex-Patriots humiliated New England with a 31-0 defeat. Adding injury (literally) to insult was all-pro center Damien Woody being injured on a touchdown return by 350 lb. defensive tackle Sam Adams (why is this guy not playing in New England? His agent is flushing money down the drain that could be in his clients pocket if he were a Patriot. Hi, this is Patriot Sam Adams saying drink the beer favored by real Patriots, Sam Adams. How do these people not see these opportunities?). This was after the first super bowl victory was followed by a 9-7 season in which the team finished in a three-way tie for first with the Dolphins and the Jets and lost out on the playoffs due to tiebreakers. Bill Belichick was not yet a genius; in fact, Ron Borges at the Globe and Kevin Mannix at Herald were having a field day with Belichick in the press, playing him off as the village idiot.

Now that was a dark day. Of course, history tells us that the Patriots went 14-1 the rest of the way during the regular season and waltzed off with the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season. Why do I bring this painful era up in light of the Red Sox getting spanked by the Damn Yankees on opening day? Because the football season is 16 games, not 160 like baseball. A loss in the NFL is akin to a ten game losing streak in baseball (well, not exactly with the number of teams represented in the playoffs, etc. but rather than argue this point, I am just saying it is out there as a way to illustrate a point).

So do not put too much stock in the first day, the first week, the first month of the season. Baseball is nothing if not a marathon. The team knows it from the front office to the under-appreciated manager, to the players. No one should be panicking about a loss to the most dominant left-handed pitcher in baseball not named Sandy Koufax.

STAR WARS:
Is this the year of the Empire Strikes Back? Well, I guess that the Yankees fans are looking at 2004 as Episode IV, A New Hope, believing that 2005 is Episode V, the Empire Strikes Back. Of course, my question is does that mean that in 2006 I’m going to be subjected to Ewoks again? Uggh.

Well, I hate to give the Sox some false hope, but I think this year, like last year, the Sox have a huge advantage in the brains department. As nice of a guy as he is, and as good as he is with the media, Regular Joe, as in Regular Season Only Joe Torre, is not nearly as good a manager as Terry Francona. Yes, I know that in this era of the media forming our opinions for us that it is sacrilegious to float that idea, but I firmly believe it to be true. Francona out-managed and out-maneuvered Mike Scioscia in the ALDS, Joe Torre in the ALCS, and to an extent Mark McGwire loving Tony LaRussa. Francona is not an idiot. He protects his players to such a degree that the media may make him out to be thick-headed, but he has a reason for every move that is backed up by the numbers he has with him, or his years of experience. I have no idea what Torre was doing with his line-up, bench, and bullpen in the playoffs last year, and if George Steinbrenner hadn’t been replaced with a check-writing robot, he may have made the wise move of replacing Torre with Willie Randolph. Of course, Torre is well-liked, and Regular Joe knows that he will not be fired if he wins the division, so Regular Season Only Joe pushed his team to the division title and blew his championship chances to protect his job. Great job, again, Joe. We here in Boston are counting on you to keep up the good work.

SEE LESS SEYMOUR:

Is Richard Seymour in his last days with the Patriots? That is a legitimate question that Patriot fans have to face with the clock ticking on his current contract and no sign of an extension in the future. Seymour likely will be offered the largest contract ever offered a defensive lineman in NFL history if he hits the open market because he is simply the best defensive lineman in football. He can play the run, rush the passer, play defensive end in the 3-4, defensive end in the 4-3, nose tackle in the 3-4 and inside lineman in the 4-3. He has been playing for peanuts for the Patriots, and despite their best efforts, they probably cannot and would not compete in the high stakes poker game for Seymour.

That said, as history has shown us, other than possibly Tom Brady, the Patriots do not have irreplaceable players. They have accumulated talent on the defensive line despite the media protesting that they are wasting draft picks on more linemen when they have enough, and I would not be surprised to see the team pick another down lineman early in the draft this year as well.

They win for a reason: they prepare for every likely contingency. This is a contingency Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick are no doubt well aware of and deep into planning for the day it will become a reality, in 2006.

FINALLY WE GET HIM:

Speaking of Richard Seymour, the Patriots signed fellow 2001 first round draft pick wide receiver David Terrell. Terrell, as I had mentioned in an earlier blog, was the flashy receiver from Michigan that Rick and I wanted the Patriots to draft instead of Seymour. Will we finally be justified for our proclamations to bring aboard the receiver we wanted all along? Is it a case of having horrible quarterbacks in Chicago such as a Cade McNown, Craig Krentzel, and Chad Hutchinson throwing the ball all over the field nowhere near the receiver being the biggest problem for him?

The good news is that the Patriots (as usual) brought him in on their terms, in this case a one year deal. If he can reach his potential with his college quarterback (Brady) he can set himself up for a big payday in the future. At worst, he’s a cheap experiment.

* * *

Sunday, April 03, 2005

CLEARING OUT THE LOOSE ENDS IN MY MIND

Let’s clear one thing up right now before the season starts: Pedro had to go. Here are the five key reasons:

He could not beat the Yankees.
He could not beat the Yankees.
He could not beat the Yankees.
He could not beat the Yankees.
He could not beat the Yankees.

I could go on, but I think the five reasons above pretty much clear up any confusion.

* * *

D-LOWE

The number one reason to keep Derek Lowe was the number one reason to let him go: sentimentality. Jus because he finally perked up and pitched well in October does not excuse his inconsistency in 2003 and 2004, and his historical inconsistency in 2002, 2000, 1999, etc. Lowe is a huge gamble. He is not a strikeout pitcher who should command the big bucks because they have the one thing that makes them most valuable: a big strike-out in the seventh inning with runners on base in a close game. Lowe does not have that. Curt Schilling has that. Randy Johnson has that. Pedro used to have that. Roger Clemens has that. Johann Santana has that. Matt Clement has the stuff to be able to have that. So does Carl Pavano. That is why they were in demand. The starting pitcher who can rear back and blow away hitter will always be in demand and warrant the big bucks.

Lowe is no doubt going to do very well in Los Angeles where he can hang out with fellow head cases Jeff Weaver and Odalis Perez and win fifteen games in front of fans who show up in the second inning and leave in the seventh inning. But even he if wins twenty games, it does not mean the Red Sox made the wrong decision. They knew that Lowe would never be what they needed him to be in Boston. For that reason he had to leave.

* * *

WHY THE SOX WILL WIN

First, let me clarify that by win, I mean win the division, win the ALDS, win the ALCS, and win the World Series.

1. The best bullpen in baseball, from long reliever to closer, no other bullpen is close.
2. The best lineup in baseball. They hit for average, hit for power, hit in the clutch, have some speed, and get on-base consistently from leadoff to number nine.
3. The best big-game, big-money pitcher in baseball (Sorry, but in October, I would take Curt Schilling over even the Big Unit if there was a one game winner-take-all Game Seven type of contest. Maybe not two or three years ago, but in 2005 I would take Schilling.
4. Excellent depth on the bench and in the pitching rotation and bullpen.
5. They have young prospects who they hopefully will not have to trade at the deadline, but whom they could trade if they needed to in order to make a big deal to put them over the top. (Note: see Yankees, New York, as an example of a team without this luxury).

* * *

GIMME A BRUSCHI

Let me just say that, yes, for purely championship-hungry, team-betterment reasons I sincerely hope Tedy Bruschi is back on the field with no ill effects sooner rather than later or not at all; however, for purely personal reasons, I want to make it clear that I think he is a loon if he comes back to play this year. Too many NFL players have already abused their bodies in the name of making money playing a game, and I would hate to see a person who seems like such a genuinely good person (heck, I would not want to him to suffer just because he is a good guy. Whoever it is, I would not want to see an a-hole like Deion Sanders have to go through such an experience…OK, bad example. Let me just say I would not want Terrell Owens to have to suffer needlessly…no, another bad example…whatever, you get my point) go through something that could possibly cripple or kill him prematurely.

I just hope Bruschi is wise enough to take the season off, go get the cleanest bill of health there is available, and then goes out in 2006 and kicks some Jet, Dolphins, Bills, and the rest of the NFL butts all over the field.

* * *

A-ROD MAY NOT HAVE THE EYEBROWS, BUT HE IS A JUICEMAN’

Yes, I believe A-Rod was on the juice. I have no proof, but I think all those Yankees fans waiting for him to hit fifty homeruns are going to be waiting a long time. Thirty-six home runs and one-hundred and six RBIs are about where he is going to be at best, post-steroid, post-Kingdome, post-Arlington, TX bandboxes.

* * *

IS THERE A TRADE ANTOINE MOVEMENT AFOOT YET?

I think if the Celtics lose to the Hawks Greg will be on GoDaddy.com registering tradeantoinewalkernow.com.

* * *

IDIOT:

As in, what is Johnny Damon. Good luck with the Yankees next year you self-promoting media whore. Why Damon had to write an idiotic book, potentially damage team chemistry, blast his ex-wife, and then blab about how he’d be such a good fit next year for the Yankees just makes me sick. As a father, seeing him cheating on and then dumping his wife while she is at home with young twins makes me sick to my stomach. Dealing with a child at home is never easy. Dealing with that with no support is unimaginable to me. Damon lost a ton of points right there in my eyes. I take fatherhood seriously. There is no greater purpose for us on earth than to prepare our children to live and lead in the future. I hope Johnny gets his money in free agency next year. I just hope it is not here in Boston.

* * *

New England Patriots: On Vacation as Free Agency Begins - Full Press Coverage

The 2019 NFL year has begun with the advent of free agency and as usual the New England Patriots are one of the quietest teams. While teams ...