Tuesday, August 30, 2005

BOOM! HERE COMES THE BOOM!

Kudos, many props, words of admiration, and other accolades and superlatives aplenty for David Wells and his unmatched ability to speak his mind with no restraint whatsoever. Seriously, a good Bud Selig bashing is needed every so often to remind him that the game has survived his leadership, it has not prospered from his leadership.

A quick opinion on Selig: I do not think he means harm or is indifferent to the game (see: Ueberroth, Peter), but I think he truly cares for the game, but understands he is a shill for the owners. He knows his role and plays it well. He takes the abuse and goes out in public. Like the monarchies of old, he is figurehead, as the true power resides behind the crown. Unlike Fay Vincent, who actually tried to be a real commissioner and not fall in line with the will of the ownership groups, Selig has one goal, and that is to increase revenue for all teams.

Now Bart Giamatti, he was a commissioner who could have saved baseball and was like an angel from the skies appearing to the game at the time of its greatest need. Alas, he was taken from the game he loved far too soon and before he could make a meaningful impact. I can only imagine the baseball utopia that could have come to pass had Giamatti had a few years to shape the game as he saw fit. To say the man loved the game of baseball is akin to saying the ocean is larger than a grain of sand.

* * *

REDSOX:

RAYS OF SUNSHINE:

All praises to the scheduling gods who decreed upon us the mighty Tampa Bay Rays for this mid-week series at home. Granted, the Scott Kazmir match-up is no doubt fretted upon by certain Sox bats, but Seth McClung and his one inning of work was a nice gift as the good guys (wait, how can the T-Bay Rays be bad guys?) pounded away on the shaky middle relief of the Tampa Twenty-five.

Since most of my conscious time was spent with the game in a rain delay and the Yankees game not on the MLB package, I was diverted by the quality HBO On-Demand Late Night line-up. When I finally got back to the game, it was what I imagine living with Tivo must be like, as I had missed absolutely nothing but NESN replays of Theo and his reaction for the umpteenth time to the Sox coming back to beat the Yankees in the playoffs last year.

* * *

CONFUSED, BEWILDERED, A LITTLE SCARED, AND POTENTIALLY SCARRED FOR LIFE:

At least, that is how I feel when I watch Snoop selling Chryslers four-hundred times a night with Lee Iacocca. This commercial really, really bothers me. It is like it is a sign of the collapse of civilization or something. Foshizzle.

This is a situation BEGGING for Berkeley Breathed to take aim at and skewer in Opus, or Outland, or whatever he calls his once a week Bloom County wanna-be. Just what audience is the target that for that advertisement? Young, suburban white kids who will buy and Snoop Dogg album? Thirty-something yuppies who balance the line between remember that Lee Iacocca was in the news in the eighties and think they are still hip to listen to the D-O-double G? Laid back (with my mind on my money and my money on my mind).

* * *
SPEAKING OF PAINFUL TO WATCH:

Can we just put the jester hat on Millar, give him a pet monkey, a couple of baseballs to juggle, and get him the heck off the field for the last few months. This guy is almost as painful to watch as Smellhorn.

Speaking of Smellhorn, rumors abound that he is the next double-agent to be planted on the Yankees. Since Alan Embree has brought his incredibly hittable fastball to New York and been such a good double-agent (a little payback for Ramiro Mendoza), apparently the Sox need more information into just what goes on in a certain Bronx clubhouse.

I can just picture Embree recording coded messages for Theo and the Triumvirate:
Agent Embree: 5:47PM report form behind enemy lines: A-Rod is eating a Powerbar. Repeat, a Powerbar.
Commander Theo: Can you make out the flavor?
Agent Embree: It is banana yogurt flavored.
Commander Theo: I am forwarding the information on to Bill James and that whacky statman Gimbel-whatever freak the Duke hired who still lives in the vents in the stadium and fights the mice for leftovers from the post-game spread. This could be vital in determining what pitch to throw on a 2-2 count with less than two outs and no runners on base. Keep up the good work, Agent.
Agent Embree: Aye, aye, Commander. Over and out.

* * *

PATRIOTS:

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS:

Yes, the cuts are coming, the cuts are coming. Here is how I see it (and much thanks to Mike Reiss of the Globe for the inspiration to get me to go beyond babbling about them and actually figuring out how to get to 53):
QBs: Brady, Flutie, Cassel - (They would have to have three--it is anti-Belichick not to be prepared, unless Troy Brown can play QB too!)RBs: Dillon, Faulk, Pass, and Chapman or Morton. (Chapman to the practice squad if Morton is on the PUP, otherwise it is likely Morton when healthy. Eckel to the practice squad or back to the Navy and back in camp next year.)TEs: Graham, Watson, Fauria and Weaver - (Weaver may sneak in just for special teams depth.)WRs: Branch, Givens, Davis, Brown, T. Dwight, Sam (Bethel Johnson is almost certainly a PUP; Terrellis gone for sure, I think. I expected more from Terrell, but when he dropped that long pass from Flutie the other night when he was wide open on the sidelines, I could hear Belichick scratching his name off the list)OL: Light, Mankins, Koppen, Neal, Ashworth, Kaczur, Mruczkowski, Hochstein, Gorin (Yates could make it if they PUP Gorin, otherwise he is practice squad. I have to say, their line looks very solid with Light and Ashworth both healthy.)Total offensive players: 25DL: Warren, Wilfork, Seymour, Bailey, Green, Hill, Klecko - (What is most amazing about this bunch is their age. Seymour and Bailey are the only 25+ year olds, if my memory serves.)LBs: McGinest, Vrabel, Colvin, Banta-Cain, C. Brown, Beisel, Izzo, Davis. (I think it is between Davis and Chatham for the last position with Davis pulling it out and Chatham joining the ex-Patriot bus to Cleveland.)CBs: Samuel, Poole, Gay, Starks, Hobbs, C. Scott - (again, great depth. I had heard some rumblings about letting Poole go and saving $, but that seems counter-productive) S: Harrison, Wilson, Sanders, G. Scott- (better than having Antwan Harris and Dex Reid back there as backup) Total defensive players: 25Specialists: K: VinatieriP: MillerLS: Paxton

Total: 53
PUP: Bethel Johnson, Chad Morton, Tedy Bruschi, Brandon Gorin(?),
Practice Squad: Eckel, Yates, a couple wide receivers, some unknown linemen who will likely start in the Super Bowl, etc. This team is so good they are just giving away good players simply because they do not have enough roster spots.

* * *

Monday, August 29, 2005

RUNNING DOWN A DREAM

The over-caffeinated brain just does not want to respond today. Nothing worse than having one of those realistic dreams and waking up exhausted because you spent the whole dream at work working like a dog and then you wake up and feel like you are facing back-to-back workdays with no sleep in between? Back me up here, someone else has had this happen, right? Anyway, someone tell Oberacker to put down the Spin Doctors album and crank up the classic Tom Petty:

Yeah running down a dream
That never would come to me
Working on a mystery
Going wherever it leads
Running down a dream

* * *

RED SOX:

HANGING WITH THE DREGS:

Detroit. Kansas City. Tampa Bay. Baltimore. Not exactly the world beaters or high powered franchises that should strike fear into the hearts of Boston (i.e. NY Yankers, AnaheimCalifoniaLosAngeles Angels, or the ChiTown Black Sox). Not that this would be an issue, but Regular Joe Torre (as in Regular Season Champion, because George cannot fire him if he finished first) has his steroid boys (Sheffield and Giambi) swinging hard as they come roaring through the above dregs making a push to catch the Sox.

Deep breath, everyone. The season is 162 games and the Sox will bounce back. They are a much better team than the tired, road-weary warriors who limped into Fenway this past weekend. Also, the Yankees are not as good as they look right now. These things even out over time. The Yankees just happen to be hot while the Sox are cold. They still face each other six more times this season, so there is plenty of time to see who is for real in the A.L. East.

JURASSIC PARK:

Should there be a curse of Carl Everett? I simply cannot imagine how a team can win with this divisive character on the roster. Add in Frank Thomas, and the White Sox, despite their amazing starting pitching, are looking like the team everyone wants to face in the post-season.


* * *

PATRIOTS:

C-C-C-COLD-HEARTED S-S-S-SNAKE:

Apologies to Paula Abdul and my favorite video when I was fourteen, but Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick certainly know how to keep business as business and personal favoritism separate from fielding a championship team. Rohan Davey, Dex Reid, and Cedric Cobbs received their visit from the turk (that is, the coach that informs them to bring their playbook to the coach, not the hilarious character played by Donald Faison on Scrubs: Dial 916-CALL-TURK and you get Turk!). I was a bit surprised, although Belichick certainly dropped enough hints about players on the trainers table not sticking around because he could not evaluate them (Call for C. Cobbs from B. Belichick).

Reid, a good special teams player, in retrospect, probably had his ticket punched for Palookaville back in the Super Bowl where he proved once and for all that he did not belong on the field. I mean, he could not even beat out Don Davis for playing time at safety last year. I guess I was blinded by Reid because he did such a good job for me in NFL 2K5 for Xbox last franchise season when Wilson went down for the year. Lesson learned: performance by a player in video games do not always correlate with performance on the field.

Cobbs, I just cannot figure out. Belichick was obviously enamored enough to take him with a fourth-round pick, which as we know he treats late round picks like rubies and gems. Who can blame him: Tom Brady - round six; Dan Koppen - round five; Asante Samuel - round three; Tully Banta-Cain - round seven; Patrick Pass - round seven; Randall Gay - undrafted free agent. That is a lot of value in picks that often considered throw-aways.

Back to Cobbs, I have heard from reliable sources that he likely had problems in the passing game, not only receiving but blitz pick-up, which is highly valued by Belichick. I had high hopes for Cobbs. Oh well, onto the bus for Cleveland to join Romeo. You too, Reid and Davey! Pretty soon, they will be called the Cleveland Expatriates (expatriates, ex-Patriots. Get it? Buh-dum-dum. I will be here all night. Try the fish. )

* * *

MISCELLANEOUS:

SCRUBBING UP:


Yes, if you really dial 916-CALL-TURK, as the number was given out on Scrubs, you really do get Turk (or at least a recording). I missed some episodes and am catching up on them on repeats this summer (because the funniest show on TV should be on Tuesday night. Gee, I wonder why NBC is falling in the standings faster than the Orioles in the A.L. East), but the fact that the number they gave out is a real number: too funny! Now I have something else to do other than dial 867-5309 (uh, is Jenny there?).

* * *

Sunday, August 28, 2005

ROLLERCOASTER

No, it is bad enough I have the Red Hot Chili Peppers Love Rollercoaster stuck in my head, but the real rollercoaster is the one the Red Sox have put their long-suffering fans through this season. Where is the California Sports Guy, Bill Simmons? The Sox get a five-year grace period for winning the World Series? Puh-leeze, a five minute grace period is more like it. Maybe the fair-weather fans can handle it that way, but anyone who grew up watching the Sox on channel 38; listening to Ned Martin and Bob Montgomery ramble on; drifting off to sleep right about when Bob the Steamer Stanley would come out of the pen to get that ground-ball double-play to get the Eck out of a tight spot in the seventh inning and waking up at 2 AM as the test signal came on; listening to Gil Santos on WBZ for the final score in the pre-WEEI, pre-ESPN days, we have no grace period. We lived and died with each season, each game, each inning, each at-bat, and each pitch.

* * *

RED SOX:

SCHILL SHELLED:

Ugh. Thank God that it was a Thursday and Scrubs was on so I did not have to sit through another ass-kicking courtesy of the mighty Kansas City Royals. With George Brett, I mean Mark Teahen, roughing up Schilling along with Willie Wilson, I mean David Please Do Not Call Me Ivan DeJesus and Hal McRae, I mean Mike Sweeney, it was not a pretty restart for Mr. Schilling. Willie Mays Aiken, I mean, Emil Brown, smacked a monstrous home run off of Little Papi (quick note: there is no way I will EVER call Jonathan Papelbon Super Bon Bon. Let me throw this over to Comic Book Guy real quick. CBG: Worst nickname ever.) and TV sets, including mine, switched off or over to TLC for The Science of Sex (No nudity? This is an outrage!).

All kidding aside, Schilling is going to have a few rough outings and we will have to deal with them. I think the reasonable hope is that he will work out the kinks and get his stamina back enough to give the Sox six or seven solid, although not dominating, innings. Schilling is good enough, as he showed in Bloody Sock I: Curt Comes Alive and the sequel, Bloody Sock II: A Stitch in Mine Stops the St Louis Nine, that even if he is not at full strength and does not have his best stuff, he is a dangerous, prepated, mature pitcher with a nasty splitter: sometimes that is enough.

OLD FRIENDS:

So maybe the A-Rod deal was a possibility, as, almost two years and $52 million dollars in lost salary later, Nomar finally is moving to third base. Word is that he actually volunteered to move to third base. This is one of two things: Dusty Baker is a heck of a manager to play for, or else Nomar is getting a wee bit worried as another season without any 4 year - $60 million offers on the table. Poor Nomar, from the Pantheon of Boston Sports with Larry Bird, Yaz, Teddy Ballgame, and Bobby Orr to the fringes of Red Sox nation with Jackie Jensen, Walt Dropo, and Hawk Harrelson.

THE YAWKEY TRUST IS IN GOOD HANDS, RIGHT?

Of course, we all remember the bad old days before the Triumvirate and Theo the Kid? It was John the Caretaker Harrington and the Duke, who had people dreaming of the glory days which were, sadly, Heywood, Buddy, and Jean. The Harrington/Duke leadership were always spewing out facts about how they needed a new park to compete with the Yankees and afford contracts like those of Pedro Martinez and enough money to keep young stars like Nomar, Big Mo Daddy, and Irishman Troy OLeary around for the long haul.

Tear down Fenway they said, and the championships will roll in. Of course, as the White Sox and Tigers have learned, tearing down historic venues and replacing them with pieces of crap do nothing to increase revenue. Sure, it worked for Cleveland and Baltimore, but their stadiums were not historic bandboxes and needed to be torn down for safety and aesthetic reasons to begin with. As if not bad enough, Harrington wanted a multi-sport facility in Southie. Right, because all stadiums should be modeled on Three Rivers Stadium. Great thinking.

Fortunately, Boston politics being what they are, there just was not enough lips to kiss all the asses needed to grease the skids for this project of monumentally bad taste. Harrington moved on to simply cashing out the Sox and dropped the plans of destroying a national landmark. Well, it should be a national landmark, and it is encouraging to read that the Triumvirate is applying for landmark status for Fenway Park. Fenway is saved. Peel the Save Fenway stickers off your bumpers greater Boston.

* * *

PATRIOTS:

WHERE HAVE ALL THE ANTUANS GONE?

Dex Reid, you are one tough son-of-a-gun, you special teams madman. Start filing the injury settlement paperwork, because Antuan Edwards is out the door and Reid keeps his roster spot. Sure, he was horrible on defense, unable to beat out Don Davis at safety last year (Davis is a linebacker), but his stellar special teams play should keep him around at least another year (or until he screws up on special teams and J-Rod Cherry is back in the fold).

Of course, this means Guss Scott needs to get healthy and out on the field as well. Or at least, I certainly hope so!

* * *

RANDOMNESS:

POLONIUS BRIGS:

In honor of a wonderful friend and all-around great human being: the Squire of Cambridge, Lord of Chinatown, Big Sack of the Sackler Lab, Christopher J. Danforth Brigham aka Brigstah aka Polonius Brigs aka Brig-Yum tying the knot last weekend with his perfect match and soulmate, I have to relate one baseball-related story about the big lunk. Early in April a few years back, when everyone was still on top of their fantasy baseball league with dreams of smacking around Chazer and his collection of Morgan Ensburgs and other Phil Plantier wannabes, Derek Jeter had his first major injury, hurting himself sliding into third base and being knocked out of action. Watching the game on ESPN, I was reveling in the bad fortune of the Yankees when I remembered that Brigs had Jeter on his fantasy team. Springing into action (which is not that easy as I am not the most nimble) I grabbed the phone and dialed up his cell: BRIGS! I shouted into the receiver, Your season is over. Jeter is down. Writhing in pain! Here comes the cart to take him off the field.

He later relayed to me that he got the message while sitting down to dinner after a hard day at the lab, no doubt putting a crimp into his evening and all-around ruining his day. What can I say, what are friends for? Adding injury to injury, in fantasy football that season, his first round pick was none other than Michael Vick. Yes, that was the year he broke his leg in a preseason game and was ostensibly lost for the season.

Brigs, if you cannot be lucky in fantasy sports, at least you are lucky in love. Congrats again, my friend. All my best wishes for many happy years for you and Katie (and stay away from drafting scrambling quarterbacks this weekend!)

* * *

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

BRUSHES WITH CELEBRITY

For a sports geek like myself, that means emailing two of my favorite, yet inexplicably unheralded, sportswriters who both now work at the Globe: Mike Reiss and Chad Finn. It may not be good business to shout-out to other bloggers who could take my fifteen readers, but, doggoneit, they both are so consistently excellent that it is a disservice of the Boston Globe not to have them up in the spotlights with Chris Snow and the other young talents recently brought on-board. These young writers are the ones who will hopefully replace the 1970s & 80s stable of writers who helped make the Globe Sports section a must read but appear to be losing their fastball. Check out two of the best: Reiss, with his Pats Q&A found at and blog soon to be joining it at: http://www.boston.com/sports and Finn: http://touchingallthebases.blogspot.com/

RED SOX:

ROYALS & TIGERS & DEVIL RAYS, OH MY!

If there was ever a time for the Sox to rip off seven or eight wins in a row and create some breathing room between themselves and those never-give-in Yankees, it is now. With a schedule in the next week consisting of the door-mat Royals and underachieving Tigers of the AL Central, and the weak sister of the AL East, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Sox need to get their pitching staff some confidence by letting them pitch seven or more innings with an early lead and let the bullpen be well rested by limiting them to two or three innings total per game. More than anything else, having their starting pitchers go seven innings and leave with an 8-2 lead will do more for the Sox postseason prospects than anything else. If they can get their lead over the dreaded New Yorkers up to seven or eight games then it will be most beneficial to the entire organization and allow a deep breath before October.

I am sick of reading all the crap about how the Red Sox are in no shape to contend in October. Boo-hoo, the team has a few holes, and no one was slow to point them out last year when they won the wild card; moreso, no one hesitated to point out the flaws the team had when they were down 3-0 against the Yankees in the ALCS. Yes, Schilling and Foulke are unknowns heading into the postseason and Pedro Martinez has taken his stale act to the big stage for the underachieving Mets, but this team has no less holes than anyone else when looking at the teams still in contention.

The Sox need to have Curt Schilling slowly ease his way into the number one starter role by having him get two quick and easy wins right out of the gate; none of this silly facing A-Rod with the game on the line with his bags still on their way back from Pawtucket. A couple of easy wins over some inferior opponents may be just enough to get Curt back the swagger everyone has been looking for since his time on the disabled list this spring. With Foulke, as long as this sore elbow is minor, he should get a few save chances against some lesser opponents as the schedule moves into September.

Getting Matt Clement, David Wells, and Tim Wakefield ready to pitch in October will be a priority in September. A bunch of wins over some weak competition will do wonders for their mental well-being. I see no reason why the sox should hesitate to move Bronson Arroyo to the bullpen where he will spend a majority of time during the playoffs. Let Wade Miller get one more chance to show he can win a few games this season.

OUT, OUT, DAMNED PINSTRIPES:

Will someone fill me in on how the Yankees are still lurking way too close to be comfortable? Mike Mussina has been their only semi-reliable starter. The Big Unit has been hurt and his inconsistency has been baffling. Carl Pavano, Jared Wright and Kevin Brown were all ineffective and injured. Chieng-Ming Wang was their best pitcher before being injured. Shawn Chacon, Al Leiter, and Aaron Small are not exactly the type of pitchers you want in the rotation as August turns to September and then the playoffs roll around.

Despite all that, they are still inexplicably nipping at the heels of the first place Red Sox. Certainly, having Mariano Rivera at the end of the game helps more than most people realize as it gives a team a lot of confidence to be able to steal a few wins that normally they would have written off as a loss. Of course, the fact the team can slug out some 9-8 wins helps immensely, but even so, it is mind-boggling that they are still in position to win the division or steal the wild card slot. Hats off to Regular Joe Torre as he keeps on questing for that elusive regular season crown that will keep him around another year.

* * *

PATRIOTS:

RETURNING THE FAVOR:

Somehow I have a feeling that a few teams are going to leave a few open roster spots just to pick-up some Patriots cast-offs. There are some well-coached players who are going to be cut loose by the Patriots simply because there are not enough roster spots available to keep all the players. Teams like Miami with coach Nick Saban, Cleveland with Romeo Crennel, and Dallas with Formerly Big Bill Parcells who are going to grab some players who are coached in their style of defense who can likely step in and contribute right away.

* * *

MEDIA:

PAYING THE BILLS:

Is there any worse commercial than Burger King and those hideous chicken fries commercials with their chicken-head Slipknot wannabes called Coq Roq? Am I so old as too see that these are tasteless, inappropriate, and horrific commercials? A band call Coq Roq is singing Bob Your Head??? That is beyond obscene.

* * *

FREE FALLIN

This long-distance dedication for the Tom Petty classic goes out to the idiot in the rafters in Fenway Park for the stones concert the drunken teenager at Yankee Stadium two weeks ago.

* * *

RED SOX:

YOU GIVE ME THAT FUNNY FEELING INSIDE MY TUMMY:

Although it would be an appropriate sentiment for the pastrami sub I had for lunch, I believe in this case it applies to the Boston Red Sox bullpen. The pen starts at the back-end and works forward to the middle and long relievers. Stability in the closer role is where it all begins. The reason the Red Sox will win or lose the American League East is Keith Foulke. If Foulke comes back anything at all similar to the closer who was a rock for the Sox in 2004, the playoff outlook is much rosier. Look at the Yankees as an example of what a solid closer can do for a team. As horrid as their starting pitching and bullpen has been, knowing that any lead in the eighth or ninth means the game over has allowed the Yankees to stay in contention and linger around near the top of the A.L. East and near the lead for the Wild Card.

With Foulke in the ninth inning role, Timlin becomes the eighth inning set-up man (to clarify: he starts the eighth inning, he does not come in with runners on base), and Chad Bradford and Mike Myers provide the righty-lefty bridge in the seventh inning. Any starter not giving six plus innings risks losing his cheapo win by having Jeremi Gonzalez, Mike Remlinger, and whomever else the Sox dig up for the transitional innings.

Foulke coming back is a huge question mark, as it is not as if he was pitching like Chad Cordero before he landed on the disabled list.

BELLHORN HELPS TEAM ONCE AGAIN:

What a team player that Mark Bellhorn has turned out to be. Although I doubt he intended to or not, he has given the Red Sox a huge lift in the dog days of August; no, not by returning to the lineup, but by being designated for assignment despite a fairly hefty salary on the books, he has given Kevin Millar the splash of cold water in the face that he truly deserved. Amazingly, there is no Mount Millar erupting because he has taken a seat on the bench where he can think up ways to entertain Manny as John Olerud mans first base. No sir, Kevin Millar is a humble bumble, a goodnik at long last after being such a nogoodnik last season when his precious playing time was impinged upon even for one game.

By having Bellhorn designated for assignment without so much as a second thought, Kevin the Krazee Klubhouse Klown has finally realized that Theo and the Brain Trust are not going to put up with his petulant me-first attitude and chemistry killing whining and moaning. They will shut up if you put up, the numbers ala Manny, but not for a first baseman hitting .270 with four homers in almost 400 at bats and a Mark Belanger-esqe OBP. So a big thank you to my main man Smellhorn: see you September first and thanks for the assist.

* * *

PATRIOTS:

THAT SMELLS LIKE SOME NASTY CHEESE:

The over-under on Big Vince Wilfork landing on Brett Favre and seriously derailing his season, his consecutive game streak, and the season for the Pack is at about 8-1.

The over-under on the game is Pack as 2 point favorites going into the early part of this week.

Oh, by the way, if you bet on preseason games, you really do need professional help. Just the thought of money being in the hands some of the fodder that is out on the field in the fourth quarter is downright scary.

* * *

CELTICS:

WHAT A DICK:


Dickau that is, Dan Dickau, the newest point guard in the mix for the Men in Green. Not that you would know about it from the media in Boston. Dante Bichette Jr gets a lot more press than the Gang Green this week. Well, so much for all that Boston Celtics goodwill from acquiring Antoine Walker and making the playoffs. At least they still have February and half of March to share the spotlight with the Bruins as the only games in town.

* * *

Monday, August 22, 2005

EDGAR HATERS

All I have to say: How do you like them apples?

RED SOX:

EDGAR BABY:

Well, everyone loves Edgar Renteria, if only until the next game. Renteria took advantage of the incompetence of Los Angeles of Anaheim of California Angels manager Mike Scioscia who hung a six inning starter out to dry in the eighth inning. Maybe Scioscia was confident that Paul Byrd was going to pitch a complete game shutout, but when the Sox got two guys on immediately in the top of the eighth of a scoreless game, what was Scioscia doing leaving Byrd in the ballgame? Byrd is the number five starter on the Angels staff, not Curt Schilling. Heck, what am I saying, even with Schilling or Pedro working on a shutout, someone was always up in the pen in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning. Did these guys not receive the SABR memo about a starting pitchers effectiveness after 90 pitches?

Renteria finally socked out a home run, officially handing the torch to Kevin Millar as the homer less old maid leading gorillas into hell. Of course, Millar plays a position that is frequented by power hitters (first base and corner outfield positions), and frankly I cannot figure out why Millar is on the roster while Adam Hyzdu, who would fall out of bed and hit twenty homers in a regular role, toils in Pawtucket. At least Millar is off the books for next season. It will be interesting to see if Millar gets one of those minimum salary free agent non-roster invitations to spring training. Either that or he is finally taking his junk on a junk to Asia where he will continue to be an outspoken curiosity.

I hope this is a turning point for Renteria, as he has worked hard to get out of his slump this year, perhaps too hard putting too much pressure on himself. Whether it was nerves, playing in Boston, or an unmentioned injury, Renteria has shown up everyday and taken the abuse. Renteria, of course, is/was in a situation where he could only lose. No matter how good he did, there are still two factions of fans who believe that either Nomar should be at shortstop, or they bow down and worship at the temple of the O.C.

* Yes, the number five club is still strong, but silent, in Beantown. There are many fans wearing number five jerseys to bed where they watch the Cubs on ESPN and try to figure out what caused the departure of the most prominent profile on Yawkey Way this side of Yaz. This Nomar loving contingent needs four or five drinks to admit it, but they hate Renteria (and Cabrera before him) because they usurped the throne between second and third.

* The O.C. contingent is the vocal group, as Cabrera was the shortstop who was on the field as the Sox won the world championship as compared to the shortstop who made the last out. Despite the fact that Cabrera was maddeningly inconsistent in Montreal (I know, he was my shortstop for too many seasons), he also has a contract as out of whack as the one the Sox handed Renteria, as the O.C. was fortunate the LA/Anaheim/California Angels were desperate to replace David Eckstein. Seeing Cabrera and his .308 on-base percentage this weekend was enough for me to feel that Theo and the brain trust made the right, if expensive, call.

Renteria is nothing if not a clutch hitter: likely the best clutch hitter this side of David Ortiz. The worst knock I can think of for Edgar is that he is comparable to Derek Jeter, in which case he is a bargain at almost half the cost of Mr. Yankee Captain.

LITTLE PAPI:

Someone tell me that the Sox are not seriously considering taking Jon Papelbon out of the starting rotation. No one can be objective and think for one second that Bronson Vedder or Shakey Wakey is a better option than Pap. Heck, I would move David Wells to the bullpen before I sat Papelbon. This kid is the first homegrown stud starter for the Sox since Roger Clemens in 1984, and unless he has reached the organizational pitch count for pitchers under age 26, he should be starting early and often.

Arroyo, Wakefield, and Wade Miller have been so frustratingly inconsistent that they have no choice but to ticket one of them to the bullpen and let Papelbon get some experience for 2006. In fact, none of the non-dynamic duo has shown any reason to keep them in the rotation: Miller is either ineffective, hurt, or both; Arroyo needs to put down the guitar before someone goes Bluto on him; and Wakefield is still Wakefield.

* * *

PATRIOTS:

DR DRE:

Well, just when you think the wide receiver rotation cannot get any more crowded, the Pats pull a surprise and dish a late round draft pick for speedster Andre Davis. Davis is basically a Bethel Johnson clone: super speed, inability to put it all together, constant nagging injuries, and the occasional amazing display of athleticism. I have no doubt that Kat is stewing that Davis has made his way to the Pats as he earned time in her eternal fantasy football doghouse last season.
Thinking about the wide receiver log-jam and Michael Felger and his roster analysis in the Herald made me think about where the cut-downs are going to have to be made. With an homage to the geezers invading Fenway:

19TH NERVOUS BREAKDOWN OF ROSTER CUTS:

QB:
On the Team: Tom Brady, Doug Flutie, Rohan Davey.
Practice Squad: Matt Cassell. Yeah, I know I am not a fan of Davey, but Belichick must have seen something in the guy to keep him around. Flutie is pretty much a lock whether it is the two or three QB, but Cassell just needs too much work to even consider putting him in a position to win or lose a game. Of course, Belichick carried a fourth QB once, some kid named Brady from Michigan, so anything is possible here, especially since Cassell has played tight end in college. God knows that kind of versatility is admired by Bill.

RB:
On the team: Corey Dillon, Kevin Faulk, Patrick Pass, Cedric Cobbs.
Practice Squad: Kory Chapman, Kyle Eckel.
Physically Unable to Perform List: Chad Morton
Dillon is the starter, Faulk is the third down back, Pass is the fullback, and Cobbs is going to be the backup. Kory Chapman has some potential, but likely will get picked up by someone as the Patriots try to sneak him onto the practice squad. Eckel should make the practice squad and is insurance for an injury to Pass.

TE:
On the team: Daniel Graham, Ben Watson, Christian Fauria, and Jed Weaver.
The Patriots expect their tight ends to block like linemen and go across the middle like a rag doll, so, amazing as it is to believe, there is risk of injury. I think Mr. Fauria may expand his role on special teams this season.

WR:
On the team: Deion Branch, David Givens, Troy Brown, David Terrell, Tim Dwight, Andre Davis.
Practice Squad: Bam Childress, Jason Anderson, Cedric James.
Physically Unable to Perform List: P.K. Sam and Bethel Johnson
This one is cut and dried as long as they keep six receivers. After Branch and Givens, the receiving corps looks remarkably thin and unproven; this explains why the team grabbed Andre Davis for next to nothing. Hopefully Brown and Dwight have something in the tank still, and David Terrell can be a decent possession receiver. It will get interesting when Sam and Johnson get healthy and hard choices are to be made, but I think the Patriots will be able to stash them away until these decisions ultimately through injuries and underachievers work themselves out.

OL:

On the team: Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Stephen Neal, Tom Ashworth, Nick Kaczur, Russ Hochstein, Brandon Gorin, and Gene Mruczowski.
Practice Squad: Billy Yates and Victor Leyva
Physically Unable to Perform List: Anyone left over.
The offensive line is pretty well set unless Leyva or Yates all of a sudden starts playing like a star; they will be fighting for a spot on the practice squad. The main battle will be for the starting spots, as Gorin, Hochstein, and Ashworth, Super Bowl starters all, could end up on the bench, which is an indication of how deep the line has become this season.

DL:

On the team: Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, Jarvis Green, Dan Klecko, Marquise Hill, and Rodney Bailey.
Practice Squad: Maybe some fodder will make the squad.
Physically Unable to Perform List: Let us hope no one ends up on here.
The defensive line is stacked and although there is a lack of depth at nose tackle, Klecko, Warren, Seymour, Green, and Bailey could all fill in there for a few plays, series, halves, games, or weeks.

LB:

On the team: Mike Vrabel, Roosevelt Colvin, Willie McGinest, Chad Brown, Monty! Beisel, Larry Izzo, Matt Chatham, Wesly Mallard, Tully Banta-Cain, and Don Davis.
Practice Squad: Eric Alexander?
Physically Unable to Perform List: Eric Alexander.?
I do not see them carrying eleven linebackers, but considering that Eric Alexander should be on the roster, I imagine he will be snuck through to the PUP list or they will try to squeeze him onto the practice squad.

CB:

On the team: Ty Poole, Randall Gay, Asante Samuel, Duane Starks, Ellis Hobbs, and Chad Scott
Practice Squad: Hank Poteat
Physically Unable to Perform List: Nada
Yet another deep group, they lost Ty Law yet return four Super Bowl starters and Chad Scott, a solid veteran. Ellis Hobbs has looked like a rookie with a lot of potential and will be slowly brought along in contrast to Randall Gay last season. Yawn, yet another deep, talented unit.

S:

On the team: Eugene Wilson, Rodney Harrison, James Sanders, Dex Reid, and Antuan Edwards.
Practice Squad: Ray Ventrone.
Physically Unable to Perform List: Guss Scott.
I was really hoping to see Guss Scott play this preseason, but he has been injured again and will likely start on the PUP list. Edwards is a veteran without much in the tank, but it may be enough to get him through the first six weeks of the season. Wilson and Harrison are both Pro Bowl caliber, and Sanders has looked good, though Dex Reid stunk last season (not being able to beat out linebacker Don Davis at safety) but earns his spot by his special team play.

Special Teams:

On the team: Adam Vinatieri, Josh Miller, Lonie Paxton.
Practice Squad: N/A
Physically Unable to Perform List: N/A

The hope here is that Paxton stays healthy, Vinatieri signs a long term deal, and Miller shows some consistency.

This gives us 54 players (someone else will likely be hurt), and a lot of questions come week six when the PUP list players are ready to step in and contribute; however, this sure beats the Dick MacPherson/Rod Rust era when no one had any idea beyond 20 players who was good enough to play in the NFL, let alone hard decisions on who to cut.

* * *

Saturday, August 20, 2005

SNOOZEFEST

Patriots on at 8 PM; back-to-back episodes of Scrubs on at 9 PM; and the Red Sox on at 10 PM; too bad I could not stay up past 10:30 PM. Anyway, off with the mask, and on with the show!

* * *

PATRIOTS:

DOUG IS MY FEEL GOOD DRUG:

Is there a more perfect fit at back-up quarterback for the Patriots in the Bill Belichick era than Doug Flutie? Flutie is simply the classic overachiever in a game that eats up feel good stories and spits them out. In a Hollywood script, Robert Edwards would have come back from his debilitating Pro Bowl beach football injury with a bionic leg and been leaping over linebackers like he was the six-million dollar man (complete with the cool boi-wongggggg sound effect that to this day I hear in my head when someone mentions Lee Majors); however, in the NFL, most players end up like Edwards actually did: a failed comeback, a limp, and dreams of what could have been.

Flutie relieved Tom Brady and immediately made his presence felt as he led the Pats to two quick touchdowns and injected some real excitement for the fans into a meaningless exhibition game against a team that will once again underachieve and finish out of the playoffs. Just seeing Flutie in the number two jersey lined up behind center is enough for me. To see Flutie at QB for the hometown team one last time was a pure, unadulterated joy

ITS ELECTRIC, BOOGIE-WOOGIE-WOOGIE-WOOGIE:

I refer to the two players who really improved their stock and made folds sit up and take notice: Tim Dwight and Ellis Hobbs III:
* Dwight was shining bright on special teams returning a few kicks and at receiver, where, in addition to hauling in an underthrown bomb from Brady by making a great adjustment, he hauled in a few more catches as well and looked quick and slippery.
* Hobbs looked better at cornerback where he looked faster than Deion Sanders by getting to Aaron Brooks for a sack, and although he gave up a touchdown on the play, he nearly picked the pass off as he got up to get his fingertips on the ball. In the return game, Hobbs was electric.

All of this is not a good sign for Troy Brown and Chad Morton as they fight for a roster spot that likely would include return duties.

* * *

RED SOX:

ROCK-A-BYE BABY:

I officially have no comment, having lasted two innings before finding the blissful ignorance of sleep; however, I did flip to the Pirates game against the Mets and must say that Zach Duke is one heck of a pitcher as the Mets cold not touch him in his seven innings of work. The lefty is 6-0 and the only reason I still have a shot at the playoffs in Fantasy Baseball this year.

WAKES:

Another game, another crappy performance by the pitching staff. Oh, there are the usual caveats and excuses that you usually hear after they suck it up yet again, but I am getting sick of subpar performances. Forget the bullpen, if the starters give up so many runs that the team is in a deficit to begin with, what does it matter.
* * *

SCRUBS:

BRAFF-TASTIC:

Zach Braff is the man. Nuff said.

* * *

Friday, August 19, 2005

DROPPING BOMBS ALL OVER TOWN

INTRO:

Hold on, I need to take a quick break as Tom Brady just sent me an instant message about a hot pic at worldsex.com. Of course, after seeing the picture of him with a goat, I am almost afraid to click through to the link.

OK, now that the bad jokes are out of the way, we can get down to work:

* * *

CELTICS:

PATIENCE:

need a little patience, yeah
just a little patience,
some more patience, yeah
need some patience, yeah
could use some patience, yeah
gotta have some patience, yeah
all it takes is patience,
just a little patience
is all you need - Guns N Roses, Patience

What is going to happen with the Boston Celtics this season? Other than the marketing department trying to come up with a slogan that incorporates seventeen for the twentieth straight season although I am sure they will be realistic and go with some time-honored slogan from classic rock like: The Kids are Alright!, the key question regarding the Celtics is if they are a 30 win team or ready to take the next step up to the fifty win area. A key question will be where the veteran leadership is going to come from? Is Paul Pierce going to step up and act like a veteran scorer on a young team, or rather is he going to be playing the role of the petulant and spoiled child who acts like an idiot and damages the development of the young and exciting players on the roster?

Second, not to sound like Roger Daltry, but are the kids alright? Will Delonte West be healthy enough to last a full season? Will Marcus Banks continue his slow improvement? Is Tony Allen going to be ready to play 82 games? Will Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins take the next step or have the proverbial sophomore slump? How much impact will Ryan Gomes have at the 3 and 4 spots? Will Green or Greene contribute at all this season? Is there enough playing time for all the kids?

Of course, we will not know those answer until the season gets going this fall. Finally, there are still more questions that the Celtics face:

Is Mark Blount tradable? They need to dump the salary and not even worry about getting anything back for him as long as it is not an albatross of a contract. Is the Ricky Davis of last season the norm or an aberration who will again taunt the team with his considerable talents? And finally, who, outside of the big three in the East (Indiana, Miami, and Detroit) is better than the Celtics in the East?

* * *

PATRIOTS:

OH WHEN THE SAINTS, COME MARCHING IN:

As I write this there are only a few hours until game time. The only question anyone seems to be concerned about is how long will Tom Brady play? But I am more concerned about the question of have we sent the last of Riders of Rohan Davey? Do they give him away for nothing, or do they at least get a late round draft pick for Davey? I have seen nothing from Davey that gives me any confidence in his abilities at quarterback.

To me, the other big issue that affects the roster in preseason centers on Cedric Cobbs. With a chance to take a big step forward and assume the backup running back, Cobbs has been invisible. In his absence, Kory Chapman has looked good in his attempt to find a role. Also, one has to wonder if Chad Morton is going to slip in and make the roster at the expense of another running back. Is Patrick Pass going to make the team? Can Dan Klecko be a full-time fullback in the Patriots offense with the limited role of the fullback and emphasis on tight end? Does releasing Pass open a roster spot for four tight ends, therefore giving the Patriots the flexibility to run two or three tight end sets rather than have a fullback?

The defensive line is so deep that they should dominate teams all season long at the line of scrimmage. Keeping linemen away from Mike Vrabel, Monty! Beisel, Rosie Colvin and Bad Chad Brown will only increase the number of big plays by the linebackers. One of the keys of the success of Tedy Bruschi in the middle was his ability to run at the ball-carriers and backs out of the backfield without having an offensive lineman laying his hands on him. Give that opportunity to Monty! Beisel or Chad Brown, and they will look very, very good filling in for Bruschi.

* * *

MEDIA:

ELLIOTT, I WILL BE RIGHT HERE:

Mike Reiss has landed at the Boston Globe at long last. Lauded on this page for his MetroWest Daily News work and Reiss Pieces Patriots blog at bostonherald.com, Reiss is part of the Boston Globe staff (ostensibly for the Globe West, but here is hoping we see more of him in the sports pages), and long has been one of my favorite writers. Reiss has consistently scooped every other Patriots writer, and here is hoping Reiss Pieces comes to boston.com in the near future. Just this week the Globe has Mike taking over for Nick Cafardo on the Patriots weekly mailbox, so I hope this is a sign of more to come from the talented Mr. Reiss.

INMATES RUN THE ASYLUM:

On that same vein, the Boston Globe has to know that I cannot be the only one who would rather read Chad Finn, the underutilized talent they have on staff, and his Touching All the Bases Blog anytime before being subjected the angry vitriol of Dan Shaughnessy and the two good columns a year that come from Bob Ryan. As a long-time subscriber, I can tell you that the Globe sports section needs a tune-up. Chris Snow is a step in the right direction, but Mike Reiss should be on the Patriots beat full-time and Finn is the breath of fresh air they lack. Jackie MacMullin, does she still write for the Globe? I can remember nothing remotely memorable from her in a long time. Ron Borges is the best boxing writer there is, but does not shine on the Patriots beat.

* * *

BRUINS:

ARE THEY GOING TO PLAY THE GAMES OUTDOORS NOW?

OLN for the NHL? Is this going to help the league? Is there a national audience tuning into the Outdoor Life Network? OLN is owned by Comcast, which means there definitely is some synergy with the other cable stations and some cross-pollinating of advertising. Of course, this below-average television deal makes me wonder if the NHL is officially on the level of the soccer, tennis, and lacrosse leagues in the US?

ARE THEY THE PATRIOTS IN BLACK AND GOLD OR JUST ANOTHER TEASE?

Some question that need answering by the Bruins brain trust:
Why were the Pittsburgh Penguins able to sign the superstars that eluded the Bruins despite their roster flexibility?
Did Boston do the right thing and emphasize depth and hungry young players for the third and fourth lines?
Are the young goaltenders ready to be a factor on the ice and allow the team to win some 1-0 and 2-1 games when the offense is held in check, especially in the playoffs?
Is Joe Thornton really worthy of a top three salary in the new and improved NHL?

* * *

RED SOX:

SOMEONE TELL DA MEATHOOK THAT FENWAY FRANKS ARE NOT FREE FOR PLAYERS:

The recent bump in the road versus the mighty Tigers is no reason to get upset, but since the world championship last season has done nothing to dull the pain of losses this season I will get agitated anyway. The Sox simply should have wiped the Tigers off their shoes and hit the road with a neat little sweep. Well, the offense does need to be cut some slack, but the starting pitching has been abysmal. Until the rotation straightens itself out, the Sox are a .500 team down the stretch regardless of how the bullpen performs.

THE ANGELS ANGLE:

The Sox should take 3 of 4 from the Angels and really need to start putting some space between themselves and the Yankees before September arrives. The Angels have inconsistent starter pitchers, and a bullpen that has been showing some leaks lately, and outside of Vladi Guerrero, the offense is not as overpowering as they once were.

Of course, having said that, the Sox will be swept and the painful late August swoon will turn towards September as Greg will sit in his box seat screaming at Tito to bring up Jon Lester and Anibel Sanchez to add to the rotation and put Shaky Wakey and Bronson Vedder in the bullpen.

V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N, IN THE SUMMERTIME:

If Manny hits .435 with a day off every other week, then for chrissakes give him a rest every other week. How hard is that to figure out? It is easy for a manager to pencil in the same nine game after game after game, but Terry Francona has done a good job of keeping his starters fresh and his bench players ready to contribute by giving them ample opportunities.

CAN SOMEONE TELL ME IF DA MEATHOOK ATE ALL THE YANKEE FRANKEES?

I try to resist writing about the Yankees, as every time I laugh at their foibles they proceed to win eight in a row, but even when they do get a good start out of their who-dat rotation (You look at their probable starter in the paper and say: who dat?), the bullpen is so overworked or lacking of talent that they have trouble closing the game out.

Of course, they have a fantastic top six of the batting order and now that Jason Giambi is back on the juice, they can out-slug some teams when the pitching falls apart. Being in a more comfortable position (i.e. NOT first place) has allowed A-Rod to relax and hit, even late in the game. The long lost brother of Jurassic Carl Everett, Gary Sheffield, is also murdering the ball. Jeter is putting up his usual Edgar Renteria numbers at short stop and causing all the New York writers to cream themselves every time he bunts a runner over a base (Just amazing baseball instincts, Suzy!). I would like to see the Yankees buried in the standings, but that is up to the Red Sox. The Sox need to take a page from the original pirate, Al Davis: Just win, baby.

* * *

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

MISC THOUGHTS

REDSOX REPORT:

1. NO TAMING THE TIGGERS:

The bullpen meltdown continued: Will the Mike Remlinger who was an all star in 2002 and earned the big money free agent contract from the Cubs for 2003 please stand up? What happened to this guy? For a while I thought he would carry that infinite earned run average all year. As Erasure sang back in the eighties, who needs love like that? (Yes, that is a special tribute for the marrying man Brigs, number one Erasure fan).

Chad Bradford was nasty in Oakland from 2001 through 2003. He was off a bit last year and injured this season. Will he bounce back for the Sox down the stretch? He was always the main set-up man for the Athletics as they made their second half rush into the playoffs (see: what Billy Beane and company are doing yet again this season). Bradford has the ability to fill the role that Ramiro Mendoza never did for the Sox: to come in the game during the sixth, seventh or eighth inning and get that big double-play ground out. With his unorthodox underhand pitching motion, when Chadwick Lee Bradford is on his game and scraping his knuckles on the ground as he fires the ball to the plate. Bradford can make the bullpen a lot better immediately.

2. OTHER ISSUES:

Timely double-plays and assorted poor situational hitting continue to haunt the team against good
pitchers. The real worry with the Sox is what happens when they face someone like Chicago in the playoffs where the games are likely to be low scoring due to the White Sox great starting pitching and inconsistent hitting.

Also, I have to throw out much respect for Alan Trammell for getting what will be anywhere from 72 to 85 wins out of team devoid of talent for the most part. That the Tigers are even, well maybe not in the wild card race, but closer to the race than the worst team in the league is commendable. Especially since they play in a hideous stadium devoid of fans, were the 80s that long ago for the Tigers fans?

Bring on the Royals! It is like 1976 through 1987 never happened in Kansas City, which is sad. Poor Ewing Kauffman must be spinning in his grave. They have no prospects, no players, no fans, and no hope.

3. WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR:

God know I can hardly wait! Here is my hope for the roster for next season:

C: Jason Varitek
1B: Big Papi
2B: Dustin Pedroia/Tony Graffanino
SS: Edgar Renteria/Hanley Ramirez
3B: Kevin Youkilis
LF: Manny Ramirez
CF: Adam Stern/David Murphy/Brandon Moss
RF: Trot Nixon
DH: Free Agent OF/1B type/David Murphy/Brandon Moss/Edgar Renteria

Bench: Gabe Kapler, Joey Cora, and John Olerud or similar backup 1B.

2006 Rotation: Jonathan Papelbon, Jon Lester, Curt Schilling, Matt Clement, and David Wells
2006 Bullpen: Tim Wakefield, Bronson Arroyo, Manny Delcarmen, Mike Myers or similar lefty, Craig Hansen, Chad Bradford, and Keith Foulke

There will be almost $20 million saved on Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar, Alan Embree, Bill Mueller, Mike Timlin, and Mark Bellhorn which can then be invested in the free agent DH. With David Ortiz at 1B, the team can target whatever positional player is the best available fit for the team.

The team is younger, more exciting, cheaper, and the bullpen is loaded with depth with cash available to be like the Billy Beane led Oakland Athletics model and be active in the trade market to address injuries, underperformance, etc.

Renteria, Ortiz, Ramirez, Varitek, Nixon is enough power in the lineup to offset the youngsters breaking into the lineup.

* * *

PATRIOTS:

1. PASS THE FLUTIE FLAKES:

I think my main motivation for watching the Pats in the preseason is maybe the last chance to watch Doug Flutie. I was early on the Flutie bandwagon in the early 80s with Boston College. I will always remember the miracle in Miami game: I desperately wanted to watch the game as I was interested in seeing the match-up with Bernie Kosar. This was when Miami was establishing themselves as a true national power. Of course, my Dad would have no part of me sitting on my duff on a beautiful fall day. So after splitting wood and listening to the game on the radio, I heard the fourth quarter as I shot hoops in the driveway. Right before Miami scored to go ahead, my Dad called me in to watch the end of the game. This was before the Dave Henderson home run, which will still be hard to top as the most unlikely clutch of victory I have ever seen, and as a Boston sports fan, it was just expected that the team will lose.

The other reason I was big on the Flutie bandwagon was that my cousin was attending BC at the time and, as a ten year old, that was a huge personal connection to the program. I still remember BC failing in all the bowl games until Cotton Bowl.

Of course, the Flutie express was derailed right out of the gate as he ended up playing with Hershel Walker for Donald Trump and the New Jersey Generals (I firmly believe the USFL would still be in operation today if Flutie had played for the Boston Breakers instead of New Jersey). I loved the USFL, as the thought of spring football seemed to be a great idea. Of course, I loved the XFL as well, so I may just be too much of a geek. The XFL, by the way, would have succeeded had they emphasized football, let the teams have an extended training camp, and also de-emphasize the WWF aspect of the league.

Flutie finally joined the NFL and was immediately stuck with the Chicago Bears where Mike Ditka started Mike Tomczak over Flutie, which may be part of the reason he never held another head coaching position again. He was traded to the Pats in 1987 where Raymond Berry never gave him a shot. All Flutie did was win, but Berry insisted on sticking Tony Eason in there and cemented his position, like Iron Mike, as one who would never be a head coach again in the NFL.

When Flutie returned from the CFL, where he only was the greatest player ever in the league, the Bills again kept trying to replace him with an inferior quarterback (gee, that sounds familiar) as Wade Phillips burnt his final NFL head coaching job as he benched Flutie for the playoffs (just like Berry) and lost with Rob Johnson at quarterback. With Flutie at QB, they Bills would have been up by 14 points and there would be no Music City Miracle.

Finally, Flutie shepherded in the Drew Brees era in San Diego, finally dismissing the notion that he could not co-exist with another QB. It goes to show that the problems were likely Rob Johnson, not Flutie. Now, he is finally back home where he belongs, and I for one will cheer lustily and for Flutie all pre-season as this is truly the end of an era in the life of Flutie, and also, myself.

2. UNNECCESARY CONCERN:

The Tom Brady Throwing Shoulder Non-Story. Repeat, that was a NON-STORY. The Patriots, like many other teams, need to rest the QB during the preseason so that there are no sore arms during the season. It is a waste of time to revisit the conjured controversy any longer.

3. RUNNING THE LAW OUT OF TOWN:

The Patriots were once again able to subtract a negative clubhouse presence in order to improve the team (See: Milloy, Lawyer). In reality, the Jets got Law for one year at $3 million. That is really all that Law got, regardless of how the press reports his deal from the Jets. He will be protected by playing underneath in the cover two until he falls asleep out of boredom, or gets hurt trying to tackle the running backs who will be tearing through the front seven on their way to big gains. That is assuming Law is not slowed too much to begin with as he tries to recover from a serious foot injury.

This team now belongs to Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, and Rodney Harrison on defense. Eugene Wilson, Asante Samuel, Rodney Bailey, Jarvis Green, Vince Wilfork, Roosevelt Colvin, Monty! Beisel and Guss Scott are the players to watch as they blossom into the young studs on the best defense in the NFL (Baltimore? Not in the past five years! Buffalo? Sure, a couple years ago maybe)

4. MAJOR CONCERNS:

Richard Seymour, Adam Vinatieri, and David Givens contract situations. Ummm, not much else. Who plays fullback? Are there enough passes and punt returns for everyone at WR/third string RB? Seriously, this team remains the most well balanced team yet.

* * *

SOCCER SUCKER:

I am watching the US versus Trinidad and Tobago in World Cup qualifiers on da deuce as I finish up the article from the couch in beautiful East Taunton. Brandi Chastain, easily the homeliest sideline reporter on television, and I am including Pats exhibition season channel five sideline reporter Mike Lynch.

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!! 1:32 into the match and Brian McBride has the USA up one zip in the center of the universe, a.k.a. East Hartford.

* * *

Friday, August 12, 2005

CINCINNATI USED TO BE GIRLS

Cincinnati, that pesky young team that all but tore down the goal posts after beating the defending Super Bowl champions in a preseason game last year and then were the only team that consistently located Earthwind Moreland and his fellow off-the-street-to-the-defensive-backfield club on the field last season, are the first opponents against the two-time defending world champions who are again on a quest for the elusive three-peat. The Bengals have Carson Daly Palmer at QB and some slick receivers to throw the pigskin at all game long. They have Rudi Johnson and recently spent an early round pick on Chris Perry at running back.

Cincinnati has one trump card, and that is Marvin Lewis at head coach. The man who made the Baltimore Ravens into one of the greatest defenses of all time and made the Murderer Ray Lewis into the icon he is today. While Marvin Lewis has yet to make Cincinnati into a defensive juggernaut, let it be said here that the problem is not with the coach. Marvin Lewis is the type of defensive mastermind you want coaching if Bill Belichick is not available.

Of course, this being preseason, the majority of the game is going to consist of QBs Riders of Rohan Davey trying to make the squad and Matt Cassell trying to shake off the rust of not playing in a game for five years. Tom Brady may or may not throw a pass, and Corey Dillon will be lucky to get three touches. Health is the main concern for the 35 of the 53 roster spots already cemented in stone. Tonight belongs to the other 45 players trying to latch on to the world champs.

* * *

THREE-PEAT:

Speaking of the three-peat, do I have to pay royalties to Pat Riley? Did he trademark that or what? How about Slick Rick Pitino, do I remember him copyrighting or trademarking some inane three-peat phrase like The Quest for Three?

* * *

SHOCKING:

I will admit it, I am shocked and amazed Joe Thornton is back with the Bruins. The fact that he decided on a three year deal versus a five year makes sense for both sides in the negotiations, as the Bruins protect themselves from over-paying Thornton if revenues decline and the salary cap shrinks and Thornton is a free agent again at the age of 29 and if revenues increase he could earn millions more than his current contract. I thought for sure that Jumbo Joe would be playing on his one-year tender offer and bolt at the end of the year. That is best case scenario, as Thornton would likely have been traded in the next thirty days as there would have been hope to get some kind of value back for him.

Thornton is an uncomfortable superstar in the media glow of the Boston press. Much like players in other sports who were visibly uncomfortable playing in Boston (Nomar Garciaparra, Jim Ed Rice, and Paul Pierce to name a few), Thornton seems like the type of player who does not have the wide shoulders of a Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier or Mario Lemieux. Gretzky and Lemieux were born leaders who commanded the locker room, on-ice, and post-game presence that installed confidence in their fellow players and fans alike. Jumbo Joe is just Jason Allison in the eyes of many here in Boston: he is good, an all-star maybe, but not THE FRANCHISE. He is not the guy who stands up like Larry Bird did and make his point on the court, in the locker room, and to the press.

Of course, hockey being hockey here in Boston, Thornton does not have the opportunity to shine in the spotlight like David Ortiz and Mo Vaughn did by playing for the Red Sox and garnering huge appreciation and adulation from the fan base, media, and business communities (see: peripheral earnings via endorsements). Joe has popped up in a few Dunkin Donuts ads, but even Tim Wakefield can shill for Bernie and Phyls just like Robert Parish did before him.

A good comparison to Joe is Tom Brady. Both are young, athletic, and better looking than the average schmutz writing a blog online. Brady is very careful about his public persona, much like Jumbo Joe. While Brady turns down more endorsement opportunities than all the NHL players receive total, he is still universally adored and admired. What is that Tom Brady has that Joe Thornton does not? Simply put the confidence that comes from winning consistently in the post-season. Imagine if the Bruins had won the Stanley Cup on an overtime goal in game seven: that is the only thing which can elevate Thornton to legitimate superstar status in Boston.

Win, or be a loser. Unfortunately, that is the way it is right now.

* * *

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

NEW YORK BOZOS

Flipping between the Sox games and Yankees games has become an obsession of mine, and the other night was no exception as the Sox blew a five run lead against Texas I flipped to the Yankees-White Sox game that featured Jose Contreras on the mound just wrecking his former team. After double-agent Alan Embree gave up a tater to Paul Konerko (double-bonus points as he is my first baseman for my fantasy team), the Yankees inexplicably wasted an out having Jeter sacrifice Tony Womack to second. During the pitch Jeter bunted, some idiot New York bozo leaped from the upper deck onto the screen behind home plate. After sitting there dazed for a few minutes, he finally climbed up to the upper deck where security escorted him out. Hopefully, they threw in a couple jabs to his ribs when they were off camera as the Greg Louganis without a pool held up a close game at a critical moment for, according to the New York press this morning, a dare from his other, presumably underage and drunk, teenage buddies.

Speaking of bozo fans interfering with play, it was nice to see the Sox fan on the right field wall who deftly stuck his hand out to grab a bouncing double against the Rangers was quickly escorted from the premises by security.

One last New York Bozo note: Pedro Martinez gave up five runs in five innings. But with Petey it is not about winning, the imortant thing is respect he receives from his teammates and dwindling fans who have already given up on the season.

* * *

THE OTHER REM-DAWG:

Who was just calling Mike Remlinger a good pickup? Oh yeah, me. Of course, in his defense, if Renteria turns the double-play instead of it being bases loaded and no one out, it may have been a less auspicious opening scene in the start of his Red Sox career for the Pride of Plymouth and distinguished alumni of Dartmouth College (like Red Rolfe, late 30s early 40s Yankee 3B & Jim Beattie, late 70s Yankee pitcher).

* * *

ROHAN DAVEY:

Riders of Rohan Davey is finished, or at least if you believe every sportswriter in New England. Of course, as a fourth round pick entering fourth season on the team who has yet to throw 20 regular season passes, who knows what he can really do for the team. Davey has an electric arm and good size, but he has no track record and no one who has not watched him on the practice field daily can really offer any meaningful analysis. It is like the battle for the guard and right tackle positions: if no one is out there getting overwhelmed by defensive linemen, you have to leave the analysis to Dante Scarnecchia and Bill Belichick and take comfort in the fact that they have proven track records.

* * *

JUMBO JOE THORNTON

Well, we will soon find out how desperate Jumbo Joe is to depart the Hub. Five years and over thirty million bucks is a top five contract in the NHL today. Jerome Iginla is the seven million a year man and rightfully the top of the NHL money list. Personally, I am certain Thornton wants out. However, this is a ton of money for Joe in this new NHL. If he wants to stay, he signs. If he really wants out, he will be playing for someone else next year for a very similar contract.

* * *

BULLPEN HELP

The Sox made a couple of decent, under-the-radar type moves that may pay off down the stretch by picking up a couple of veteran relievers: Ricky Bottalico and Mike Remlinger. Bottalico took over as the closer after Philadelphia dumped Heathcliff Slocumb off on the Sox way back when (I believe…I am too lazy to do the research to see if it is true). He will pitch in Pawtucket for a few appearances before he comes up to the big club or goes on his way. Remlinger has bounced around as a situational lefty for years and had some success in the role with Atlanta in the middle of their decade-plus division title runs. Neither is going to wow anyone, but it certainly beats picking up Alan Embree and Hideo Nomo.

* * *

BELL-WHO?

Tony Graffanino took a huge step towards keeping his stranglehold on the starting second base job. With arguably the best all-around game by anyone in a Sox uniform this year, G flashed the leather at the keystone, knocked one over the monster in left, and showed some heady moves not once but twice on the base paths: scoring from third on a mad-dash home on a passed ball, and then stealing second and scoring from second on an infield out.

Granted, Francona loves Bellhorn and the stoic sox second-sacker had a huge October last year, but as Bill Belichick (aka the modern-day Vince Lombardi) is quick to point out, last year was last year. This is a whole new season and everyone starts with the same record. Bellhorn is likely to reach the full twenty games on his rehab assignment and then either be designated for assignment or else slipped through the cracks until September 1.

* * *

I-95 SHUFFLE:

Youk returns! Now, I understand that Terry Francona is never going to start Youkilis at third base without a direct order from Theo, but throw him a bone for goodness sake. He can hit. He is not a total spaz in the field. He gets on base. He is a peripheral character from a best-selling book (Moneyball). He is the third baseman of the future. Play Youk now!

* * *

I DON’T KNOW WHY YOU SAY GOODBYE I SAY HELLO:

Jose Cruz Jr. was designated for assignment. Here is hoping he takes the assignment to AAA, gets his back in some order of shape, and contributes in September when the rosters expand or next year. Cruz has too much natural ability to continue to struggle as he has done for his entire career. Of course, I was burnt by Cruz one year in fantasy baseball and would never make that mistake again, so I can understand Theo having the quick hook.

* * *

WADE INTO THE DEEP END:

There is no bigger Wade Miller fan than I, having ended up with him on my pitching staff every year in fantasy baseball, but there is definitely something not right with him. Even last year before the Astros shut him down, he was still pitching well. If I were running the Sox, I would attempt to get him on the 15-day DL with some phantom shoulder soreness and let him rest the wing and get his marbles together. With Jon Papelbon, Curt Schilling, Jon Lester, and Abe Alvarez available to step in for two or three starts, I think that is the most prudent decision.

* * *

DOUBLE THE PLEASURE, DOUBLE THE FUN…

…with Sunny and Byung-Hyun. Yes those wild and crazy former Fenway farmhands, the unknown Sunny Kim and the unloved Byung-Hyun Kim started both ends of a double-header for the Rockies against the Florida Marlins yesterday. I think I will turn this one over to Beavis and Butthead:
Beavis: Kim, Kim, Kim, Kim, Kim…
Butthead: Shut-up, fart-knocker. Huh-huh.
Beavis: Colorado sucks. They started Sunny Kim. He-heh-heh. Sunny.
Butthead: Yeah, now they have to go out and sign Juan Pena and Brian Rose.
Beavis: He-heh-heh.
Butthead: Huh-huh.

* * *

BORDER WARS REVISITED:

Ty Law to the Jets? Sure, and why not pick up Terrell Buckley, Chris Canty, and Willie Clay while they are adding former Patriots secondary players who peaked years ago? Think back to the Patriots first Super Bowl win: CB Ty Law, currently with the Jets; SS Lawyer Milloy, currently with the Bills; FS Tebuckey Jones, currently with the Dolphins; CB Otis My Man Smith, currently retired as a New England Patriot. Hmm, makes for some interesting divisional match-ups for Mr. Brady, no?

* * *

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

UGLY WEEKEND

Not exactly the weekend anyone expected out of the Red Sox in their three game series with Minnesota. A few quick hit plusses and minuses from the weekend series:

PLUS:
Tim Wakefield strikes out eleven batters on Sunday.

MINUS:
Mini-Manny Delcarmen nearly coughs up a seven run lead in the ninth inning, leaving with two runs in and the bases loaded before a not-quite-warmed-up Curt Schilling walked in a run before ending the game.

PLUS:
The Sox rip out 17 hits on Sunday.

MINUS:
For most of the first few innings of the game they allow the Twins to hang in there, as they continue to leave runners on base.

PLUS:
Roberto Petegine hits a big double to drive in Manny and Papi for his first major league hit in seven years.

MINUS:
The hefty first baseman is gunned out at third trying to stretch the two-bagger into a triple.

PLUS:
The Sox jump out to a 3-0 lead Saturday night on reigning Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana.

MINUS:
David Wells tires in the sixth inning (too many cheeseburgers?) and gives up three runs to tie the game, which Minnesota goes on to win.

PLUS:
Mike Timlin pitches well in the eighth inning of a tie game on Saturday night.

MINUS:
Two errors doom the Sox in the ninth as they hand the game to the Twins.

PLUS:
Bronson Arroyo prepares to join the bullpen to shore up the shaky pen when Curt Schilling returns to the rotation.

MINUS:
Getting bombed on Friday night in a game they go on to lose 12-0 prepares Arroyo for the inevitable trip to the bullpen where he can bring his guitar to entertain the bleacher fans in the early innings.

PLUS:
They Yankees only gained one game in the standings over the weekend.

MINUS:
The Blue Jays had a chance to thrust a dagger into the Yankees and failed to do so this weekend.

* * *

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS:

Hard to believe, but the last time the Patriots were on the field, they were knocking Donovan McNabb around so much he could not even spit out the plays in the huddle. Since then, the team has had to deal with the stroke and one-year (at least) hiatus of Tedy Bruschi, the surprise retirement on the eve of camp by fellow inside linebacker Ted Johnson, the hold-out of defensive end Richard Seymour, the return of Doug Flutie to New England, the pick-up of wideout David Terrell (the famous shoulda-been pick where Bill Belichick initially proved that he was right and we were all wrong by him choosing Richard Seymour instead of Terrell), and finally the draft which once again appears to be another home run, providing two future starters on the offensive line, secondary depth, a young linebacker with promise, and Matt Cassell, who one wonders how Pete Carroll left him on the bench for his college career (oh yeah, two Heisman trophy winners ahead of him at QB at USC).

The Patriots return to action with an incredibly deep roster that will have some very interesting cut-downs as camp goes on. Will Cassell and Flutie force the departure of Riders of Rohan Davey? Who is going to end up playing inside linebacker? How do you fit six starter-quality cornerbacks into four significant roles? Will Bethel Johnson not make the team due to the emergence of P.K. Sam or the receiving and special teams prowess of Tim Dwight? Who is going to start on the offensive line? Where does Chad Morton fit on the roster? Is there anyone who can play safety if Eugene Wilson or Rodney Harrison goes down?

Friday night: football is finally back in New England.

* * *

JOE MUST GO:

Someone inform the Bruins front office that the time to trade Joe Thornton is upon them. Find a team with a more mature star center and make the deal. Much like Stan Papi, Skip Lockwood, Jack Clark, Matt Young, and countless other athletes, the Boston media and expectations as a top pick is far too much pressure for Jumbo Joe to endure. Get rid of him no: just be sure to get some value back for him.

* * *

Friday, August 05, 2005

UH-Os

As the one dissenting voice in the wilderness stating that the Orioles should be able to hang in there and compete for the division title and at least contend for the wild card: um, screwed that one up big time, eh? Well, maybe not. Yes, I did forget to factor in the Lee Mazzilli factor (How did this guy ever get hired in the first place? Oh yeah, like Willie Randolph of the last place New York Mets, they are part of the Friends of Joe Torre club. The theory goes something like this: Joe Torre wins World Series in New York; therefore, his first base coach must be able to replicate that success. Sure, that is a sound theory.)

Anyway, I still say the Orioles will jump start themselves as soon as they settle down their pitching staff and Javy Lopez starts hitting as he works his way back to full strength. Yes, the Rafael Palmiero steroids incident is a drag for the team, but it is not their only problem, and if anything it can distract them from obsessing over their other problems and let them relax and play. Good teams can still get hot after a managerial change, and since the Orioles still have Ray Miller as their pitching coach it is hard to bet against them making a run for the wild card in the second half of the season.

Of course, the Blue Jays, going into a weekend series with the Yankees, have a chance to make some serious noise in the wild card race. Just as Cleveland made a statement by nearly sweeping the Yankees to announce that they were in the wild card race and would not be intimidated by anyone, the Blue Jays have that same opportunity this weekend. The Blue Jays are maddening to me. They are young, exciting, and working as a true underdog in a division with the two MLB heavyweights: in short, the type of team I LOVE to back. Unfortunately, they are in the AL East where one of the heavyweights is the Red Sox, and, to injury to insult, the Blue Jays have been beating up on the Red Sox all season long. So as long as they stop beating the Sox, I am hoping the Blue Jays make a positive statement this weekend because nothing beats an underdog beating the big, bad Yankees.

As I had stated earlier, the Indians this week nearly swept the Yankees. Short of an implosion by closer Bob Wickman in the final game, the Indians had their foot on the throat of the five years removed world champs. The Indians have to come out of that series with just a ton of confidence and just enough anger to be a factor in the wild card race in the second half of the season. Good for the Indians, I say. Anyone beating up the Yankees is a good thing in my book.

* * *

D-LOWE = D-VORCE

So Derek Lowe appears to be adjusting to life on the West Coast without a hitch. Forget about his hideous stats after a decent start to the season, but now its splitsville for D-Lowe and his wife after his affair with the Fox Sports LA sports anchorwoman was exposed in the press. What a cad.

In comparison, it would be similar to a married Sox star hooking up with Hazel Mae. Of course, being in L.A., the effect is muted. In Boston, it would be front page news for a week, but out west it is business as usual. Of course, in Cauli-fornee-yah, with der Gropinator as Governor, this is hardly news at all.

I truly thought Lowe would thrive in L.A. outside of the distractions of the Boston press; however, I never considered the oft-distracted Lowe would tank the season in pursuit of a TV bombshell. Now add Lowe to Rafael Palmiero as the chump-of-the-year candidates who somehow end up on my fantasy teams.

* * *

Thursday, August 04, 2005

WE LOVE MANNY! TAKE TWO

Yeah, I knew I would have to check in on this topic for real. Manny Ramirez is first and foremost not one of the Theo Epstein/Larry Lucchino/John Henry players. He was inherited from the previous regime. Yes, he is exorbitantly overpaid, but then so is A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jason Giambi, Kevin Brown, Chan Ho Park, Darren Dreifort, Albert Bell, Mo Vaughn, and countless others in baseball right. No one in their right mind is ever going to turn down the money offered by the team, and if they try, they have their agent and the players association there to strong-arm them into taking the cash.

The contract aside, how are these numbers? .304 33 HRs 104 RBIs? Not a bad season at the plate, but those are the lows for Manny while in Boston. The impact of Ramirez and Ortiz back-to-back in the lineup is stunning. The main reason the Red Sox are never out of a game is due to the threat of those two coming to bat in the eighth or ninth inning. There is no closer in baseball immune to the threat those two present late in games, and with good OBP hitters in front of them (Bill Mueller, Johnny Damon, and Edgar Renteria) and often on base, it makes them all the more dangerous.

Yes, I believe that Manny will be on the trading block again this off-season, but as the front office has repeatedly shown, they will not unload Manny for another payroll-busting contract: they will give him away for nothing, but they will not trade one headache for another. Personally, I think the headaches are worth the production. Forget about unloading Manny, instead focus on finding a 1B/DH to replace Millar next season (what will it take to get Justin Morneau away from Minnesota?) and see if Alfonso Soriano is available cheap from Texas to play second base.

* * *

BRUINS SIGN PLAYERS, BUT DOES ANYONE NOTICE?

Hooray for hockey. I am not really sure if anyone really cares about hockey outside of the hardcore fans in Boston, but there are still enough of them around to put their anger aside and support the team. Of course, if the Mike OConnell/Harry Sinden/Jacobs family troika can convince Joe Thornton to be locked up long-term (my opinion: Jumbo Joe will not be happy until he is playing in an outpost like Atlanta, Florida, Anaheim, etc), and Mike Modano can be persuaded to center the second line, the fans will come roaring back into the Garden to cheer on the Black and Gold. A winning team cures many ills.

* * *

ADIOS EMPLOYEE NUMBER EIGHT:

Does this mean Big Al is back to number eight? Of course, Antoine was gone the moment it was leaked that Brian Scalabrine was being signed to be the part-time power forward to play when Big Al is in foul trouble. For all the excitement generated by Antoine returning to Boston, it was obvious at the time that Danny Ainge was trying to sell tickets per the ownership group and would rather have acid tossed in his face, wear pin-striped suits, flip a coin repeatedly, and battle Batman than bring back Antoine. Scalabrine is a good fit because he will not try to control the team like Walker, and will be content to play 10-25 minutes a game, throw his body around under the rim, shoot some threes (unlike Walker he can actually make them!), and dive around the court after loose balls and earn Tommy points.

I can just picture Heinsohn sitting at home trying to come up with a new catchphrase for Scalabrine:

I LOVE BRIAN! No, does not have a good ring to it.
SCALABRINE AND PASTA FOR DINNER! What does that mean? Dang it, what else can I shout?
LOOK AT THAT HONKY GO! No, might be offensive, besides, I think Charles Barkley trademarked that phrase.
SCALABRINE IS NO WEENIE! Yeah, that might work if I cannot come up with something by October.


* * *

PALMIERO AS SLIPPERY AS PALMOLIVE:

As far as I was concerned, Palmiero was already using performance enhancing drugs: spokesman for Viagra after all. Other than the NASCAR dude in the Viagra-mobile who at least is know only as the dude in the NASCAR Viagra-mobile to the general population, Palmiero talking about Viagra (it just needed an announcer saying: look at Palmiero waving his long stick as he stands in the batters box, Mel) was more painful than seeing Bob Dole telling everyone that Bob Dole knows that Bob Dole needs help getting Bob Dole Jr ready and at attention.

* * *

GIDDY:

Can you imagine the ovation at Fenway when El Guapo wobbles out of the bullpen in the seventh inning of a late August game? I am so giddy at the prospect that my kidneys hurt just thinking about it. Of course, I would still rather see every reliever brought into the game in a baseball-shaped golf cart, but that is probably just some weird quixotic quest for the purity of baseball of my youth, when the fields were astro-turf and the players were hopped up on coke and amphetamines.

* * *

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

WE LOVE MANNY!

Delcarmen, that is. Does he throw cheese out there or what? If Dave Wallace can get his location consistent he is going to be a solid bullpen performer down the clutch. A live arm in the pen from the minors? We have not seen that in Boston since Jeff Grey and Calvin Schiraldi (oog, that is a bad, bad example!)

* * *

YOUNG GUNS:

It was nice to see Jon Papelbon and Delcarmen pitching well on Sunday. I think the best move made by the Sox at the deadline was simply keeping the young horses in the pen. Papelbon, Jon Lester, Delcarmen, Anibel Sanchez, Abe Alvarez, Henley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, Kelly Shoppach, Brandon Moss, et al are still in the organization and give the Sox an exciting future. Papelbon showed why everyone has been so high on the kid, as he came out throwing gas at the Twins. Having Curt Schilling and Jason Varitek around to get Pap (is it official yet? Is he to be called Pap. We already have Papi, why not Pap?) ready mentally to be a top of the rotation starter is a huge plus.

* * *

SANTA NO TRADE CLAUSE:

Phil Nevin sure got the screws from San Diego? Use your no-trade to block the deal with Baltimore so you have to catch a couple games for the first time in years and then get shipped out to the hot sun in big Tex. Maybe it is just me, but I would rather spend August chilling with Eric Friedman in Bawlmer than under the hot sun in Arlington, TX.

I imagine that the trade market will heat up as the waiver deadline approaches at the end of the month as there were a number of teams ready to deal who just could not get the sellers down to reasonable deals. Also, the 4 pm deadline for trades is crapola. I like the old midnight deadline. Some of those general managers probably start making deals at the hotel bar after 10, and then you get a couple of interesting deals right before midnight (and right after the fifth gin and tonic).

The Sox, of course, did not really have to go overboard at the deadline because unlike last year, they have their speedy outfielder (Adam Stern), they have bullpen and rotation help from the minor leagues they did not have last year (Delcarmen and Pap), Schilling should return to the rotation by September as Keith Foulke works his way back to the closer role, and Trot Nixon hopefully will be back to full strength in a few weeks. A second lefty reliever is their big need? Those are the kind of problems that are the type you want to deal with at the trade deadline.

* * *

ROIDS:

Oops, there goes the automatic hall of fame induction for Rafael Palmiero. What a jackass. Bend over let Jose inject steroids in your ass-cheek again, you chump.

* * *

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

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