Wednesday, September 28, 2005

THE CLEVELAND BLUES

When exactly is Bud Selig sending in his super-secret agents on loan form David Stern and the NBA to fix the last week of the season so that both Boston and New York (#6 & #2 media markets) are in the playoffs and Cleveland is out? Now do not get me wrong, I want the Yankees out of the playoffs and bawling in the dugouts this weekend if the Sox can beat them up and send them home for the winter. That, in fact, is what everyone wants to see. In fact, they want to see Derek Jeter being struck out by Mike Timlin to end their miserable season. Quick note for the Yankees front office: Jose Contreras, El Duque, Brandon Claussen, Jeff Weaver and Jon Lieber, all with their double-digit wins this year, all look pretty darn good right now, eh?

As much as baseball wants parity and competitive balance with small-market teams competing, they know that the real money comes from the networks, and the networks want Boston-New York in the playoffs. Now, I am not sure how Bud is going to pull this off, but I have some suggestions:
1. All-you-can-eat at McDonalds coupons mysteriously appear in the locker occupied by C.C. Sabathia;
2. Aaron Boone gets a little payment from his former Boss;
3. Travis Hafner gets the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan treatment (of course, he is so good, he probably would keep hitting on one leg!);
4. Victor Martinez is reminded of that little dispute with Pedro Martinez and the Sox a few years back and is informed that Pedro is a man of considerable influence and power, and he has a long memory. Or just ask Curt Schilling about why his ankle REALLY hurt so much last year;
5. Give Eric Wedge a wedgie.


Like I said, I am rooting for the Yankees to be eliminated from the playoffs this weekend, but unfortunately, I think that unless Ozzie Guillen takes the step of his metamorphosis into Mephisto and starts literally biting the heads off of players in Chicago, sinister forces are aligning right now to ensure that the television ratings are going to be there for major league baseball this fall.

* * *

PATRIOTS:

DUCK HUNTING:

Wesley Mallard and Andre Davis, it would have been nice to get to know you. Michael Stone and Famous Amos Zereoue, welcome aboard but do not get too comfortable. Gene Mruczkowski, I am glad to have the Polish Power back on the O-Line depth chart. How much these signings will help is debatable, but I am certainly more comfortable with the O-Line depth with Mruczkowski aboard. He knows the team, he knows the system, and if Koppen goes down (heaven forbid) he can fill-in at center. Stone at least should help initially on special teams, and Zereoue is a great pickup. I may have preferred the unpronounceable Chris Fuamatu-Maafala, but I have wanted the Pats to pick him up every year since he came into the league. Like Marion Butts, I love seeing those fat, wrecking balls picking up steam coming out of the backfield and wearing down the defense that tries to stop them. Still, if they do not pick up Fu, I like Zereoue as well, and he should be solid as a third-string running back.

Of course, I wish the Pats could have kept some of the talent that they were forced to cut, but that is why the league limits the roster. Dex Reid and Chad Morton stepping in would have been nice.

Changes-a-plenty for the Patriots this week, but then again, things could be worse. Fans in Buffalo are actually clamoring for Bledsoe and lamenting the fact he was let go and is in the process of reviving his career to a point where he could retire second only to Marino in many offensive stats (sure, Peyton Manning will pass them both, but still, Drew is only in his early thirties. Six or seven years of 3,750 yards passing could land him in the Hall of Fame!). The Dolphins are, as expected with Nick Saban at the helm, playing above and beyond their talent level, but unfortunately are only a .500 team this year. If they get a QB though, look out next year. The Jets? See below for my opinion on those bozos.

* * *

MY COUSIN VINNY:

One last note on Vinny T and the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS: why in the world did the Jets not sign Rohan Davey? Are they nuts? Is it stupidity? Arrogance perhaps? Davey actually just hooked on with the Arizona Cardinals, which is a great fit since the starter is perennially injured Kurt Warner, the back-up is scatter-shot Josh McNown (or is it Cade McNown, no he was the wash-out with the Bears), and they probably have a third QB who stinks and I could care less if he is on the roster or not. Davey should be starting by week nine and finally getting the break he has been working towards for so long. I always thought Davey would turn out ok, but I understand that with Flutie and second-best QB in college football last year, Matt Cassell, ahead of him it meant that there was no way the Patriots could carry four QBs and, this is very important, Flutie puts fannies in the seats for pre-season games which makes him worth his salary right there.

* * *

BRUINS:

PREPARE FOR THE RETURN OF THE ASS-INDENT ON THE COUCH:


Sonny, get ready for company. Hockey is back soon and the boy & I are ready secure our spot in the Bruins TV sanctuary for the regular season. You get the chips, I will bring the Heinekens. Yee-Hah, it is FINALLY time for hockey in the hub again!

Sonny, of course to all who know me, is my father-in-law and a HUGE Bruins fans. Many of my evenings spent courting his daughter (my beautiful wife, Kat, natcherly) were spent on the couch with Bruins game on and Sonny dozing off in the recliner until the Bruins scored or almost scored where he would leap up, arms and legs flying, shouting GOOAALLLLLLLLL!!! or YES-NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! and scaring the crap out of me as I had assumed he was asleep what with the eyes closed and snoring sounds. Once the game was over, it was always my cue to get the hell out as visiting hours were over.

I am happy as hell that hockey is home again in the hub, because the Bruins are one of those things that bring me back to the good old days and makes me realize, like with the Sox and Pats, that sports are important: if only to bring family together. And Sonny, after opening night, I am drinking all of your Heinekens.

* * *

V-V-V-VINNIE AND THE JETS

Bwah-hah-hah-hah! Testacles makes his triumphant return to the site of his greatest failure. I love it. Beeyooteeful.

Come on Happy Herm,
call on your brothers everybody,
gotta love one another right now.

Well, at least the Jets and Coach Hapless, aka Happy Herm, have their built-in excuse now: Sorry, Woody. We would have beaten the Pats for the division but without the most overrated quarterback in football, we just had no chance whatsoever. Flutie-who? Never heard of him, but I am a big Jay Fiedler fan.

* * *

MEDIA:

WHY CAN NEITHER LEAGUE GET IT RIGHT:

Nothing worse than afternoon games; I said it before and I will say it again. Wait, I will amend that statement: the only thing worse is an afternoon playoff game. With the second game tonight and without Tivo (sorry, but my tv-related expenses are way too high to begin with) I am stuck waiting for baseball tonight to see highlights (as NESN, God bless the smiling face of Hazel Mae greeting me on NESN every morning rather than some bald dude or jolly fat guy, never shows enough of the game on SportsDesk, as a Sox game should be ten minutes and the Bruins ten minute daily report can be toned down). The NFL, with the NFL Network, have ALL of the games on Sunday available broken down to ten minutes of action. Like manna from the heavens, every Tuesday night I catch up on all the games I missed on Sunday and scout out my next fantasy football finds (say hello to Michael Jenkins and my new back-up QB, Eli Manning).

Of course, while baseball has no such life-affirming option like the NFL Network, it at least gives everyone in the country the right to watch their product without limit if you have the cash. The NFL, it one of the biggest mistakes ever made by the league, limits the Sunday package of games to losers with DirectTV.

Hmm, most people have cable, so we want to be perfectly clear that they cannot pay us money to watch whatever games they want. Those people, we have no desire to obtain their money.

Let me guess, this marketing plan was brought to the NFL by Herm Edwards? It reeks of his intelligence and foresight. OK, that was a cheap shot, but the gripe stands: MLB & NFL, you know the problems you face: Now fix them!

* * *

RED SOX:

DOGFIGHT:

So the Big Unit vs. the Bloody Sox showdown is off. What a shame. Personally, I like the idea of the two of them in a steel cage, but I think this was the last window for the showdown. This was it for the colossal showdown. Players over forty are always a major risk to stay healthy and effective (see: Bonds, Barry. Everyone who really believed he would not have passed Ruth by now please raise your hand. Nobody? That is what I thought).

Of course, there is still the chance that either team will dramatically cool off and the final three games will be an afterthought: which I fervently hope is not the case. These two teams on the last weekend of the season for all the marbles is a thought too delicious to let go of right now. Major league baseball needs these pennant races right now after the season of the steroids. My fingers are crossed.

* * *

B-12 BOMBER:

Not for nothing, but if I were Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmiero would be among the walking wounded. Squealing on the best all-around player in the AL about a B-12 vitamin? I would have kicked his Cubano ass right there if I were Tejada. The Island War would be on!

* * *

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

PICKING IT UP

Bahh, I had my picks in the can and never got them up on the site. The good news: they never saw the light of day because they were not pretty! A plethora of Sox and Pats stuff to get to today.

PATRIOTS:

PENALTY? I GOT YOUR PENALTY RIGHT HERE, REF:

Lost in the shuffle with the Pats dramatic win was any debate over the phantom pass-interference call against Chad Scott late in the fourth quarter when Pittsburgh had a fourth down and the game should have been over. There was no evidence of any interference on the play as Scott went up for the ball with the receiver (as he has the right to do). One of the announcers even made a comment during the replay about how the only way it could be a penalty since there was no body contact was if the left arm of Scott was wrapped around the receiver, which it was clear from the replay that is simply was not the case. Of course, next play was touchdown Steelers. Fortunately, the Patriots came back to win and the horrible call by the officials was forgotten by all, except for me.

This was a blatant call by the officials to placate the home crowd. Geez, were they afraid someone was going to throw beer cups and batteries onto the field? I hope whomever supervises and grades the referees calls these bozos out on the carpet for this call, because had the Patriots lost the game it would have been partially to blame on the referees who inserted themselves into the outcome of a game, which should never ever happen. I still do not understand how they could not have huddled and picked the flag up, other than fear of inciting the crowd, which should never factor into making a call.

It was a disgusting and gutless call, and I for one will not forget it.

* * *

SCARY THOUGHTS:

So the Patriots could be without Rodney Harrison and Matt Light for the rest of the season (since no one knows the severity of the injuries, we can only speculate as of right now as to how they are faring. I am high on Guss Scott, but that does not mean I want to see him starting for the rest of the season. Ditto for Nick Kaczur, as no one is criticizing Bill Belichick anymore for rotating him in at right and left tackle the first couple of games of the season. It looks like a very intelligent and prescient decision right now. Of course, having two rookies on the offensive line seems kinda scary, it is hard to find fault with Logan Mankins this season, and Kaczur looks far too good to be a third round pick. In fact, the Patriots draft picks are once again shining bright: Mankins and Kaczur starting on the offensive line; Ellis Hobbs being forced in at nickel back and sparking the kick return game; and James Sanders and Matt Cassell both just making the squad as late round picks is impressive.

Of course, this is the NFL, and no team is ever free of injuries. As the Patriots try to fight through their loss of two key cogs, remember that the Jets are going to likely be without Chad Pennington for the foreseeable future, and the Bills will lose Takeo Spikes for the season. The Patriots have withstood key injuries in the past and come back strong enough to be champions. Now, we will see if Mike Mularkey and Herm Edwards have the coaching skills and chutzpah to guide their teams to the playoffs with the loss of key players. Somehow, I think the advantage still rests with New England.

* * *

RED SOX:

THIS IS WHAT WE WANTED, RIGHT?

Tied with the Yankees, one week to play, winner take all, three games at Fenway, this is what we wanted, right? I know this is what I wanted: a good old-fashioned pennant race. Sox and Yankees, Indians and White Sox, the only way it could be better were if Oakland and L.A./Anaheim/California were in a race as well.

There really have been very few real pennant races involving the Red Sox in the past twenty-five years or so that I remember. I was four in 1978, so my memories of that race are limited (in fact, my first real memories about baseball are from 1979). 1986 was a run-away, and really the most impressive regular season race was in 1990 (I believe) with Bruno making the diving catch in the right field corner with the camera angle obstructed by the wall.

The playoffs and pennant races are so important to me not just because of the Red Sox and games, but the way it brings family and friends together. Everyone follows the Sox, it is on the mind of everyone and they all want to talk Sox. Everyone is into the games and sits together in the living room watching the games with tense excitement in the air.

I remember last year when we were at the condo, watching the games with Kat and I sitting in the same place on the couch. Heck, even David, the most non-sports person in the country, was watching the games. Little Hal, in the divisional series against the Angels became our Rally Weasel (we were trying to think of something that would catch and eat the Rally Monkey), and he would run circles around the living room as we would shout out: Rally Weasel! Rally Weasel! Rally Weasel! I even dragged him out of bed one night because I needed him there for good luck in game seven against the Yankees when Pedro came out of the pen and almost coughed up the game. As I carried him back to bed after that inning, I thought back to the first super bowl the Patriots won, where he laid in my lap most of the game, only four months old, and I remembered how, when the Rams came back to tie the score in the second half, I ran upstairs to pull him out of his crib so I had him with me again, and I thought that this is why sports are so important: for how they make you feel like part of a family and bring you closer to your family.

* * *

Friday, September 23, 2005

OFF DAY

The Sox finally have a day off after the much talked about 30 games they have played over the last thirty days. Is this what the Sox need to recharge and make the playoff push? I doubt it very much. They need pitching, pitching, and pitching. Of course, lost in the panic over the playoff race is the fact that the Sox could have pried away another middle reliever or closer this summer, but wisely resisted temptation and kept their young arms in-house (Anibal Sanchez, Jon Lester, Jon Papelbon, and Manny Delcarmen). I still believe this Sox team is good enough to contend this year as it is currently constructed. If not, at least the large contracts and empty farm system is not the only thing visible in the near future.

Of course, you can bet that no one had the day off in Foxboro today as Bill Belichick and his coaching staff get ready for yet another rematch/grudge match as the Steelers, fresh off of pasting a couple of patsies, get their first true test of the season against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season. The big question is not who is calling plays, but who is paying attention to the details? Is Dante Scarnecchia too involved with the offensive game planning to properly give attention to the o-line? Is Josh McDaniels spending too much time on game plan and not enough time with Tom Brady? I doubt it, but I am sure looking forward to Sunday afternoon.

* * *

BASEBALL PENNANT RACE:

THEY CALL ME DOCTOR LOVE (CALLING DOCTOR LOVE):

I love Bob Ryan. I really do. He is an excellent columnist. Ryan has produced some amazing work for the Boston Globe. Like Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, Ryan may not have the high heat any longer on a consistent basis, but when he is on, he is dead-on and untouchable. Look up the column penned by Ryan this summer on him scoring ballgames over the years. This is what they call an instant classic down in Bristol, CT. Classic? Heck, it was a work of art.

However, (yup, we knew the love-fest could not continue unabated) I take issue with his column in the Wednesday, September 21, 2005 Boston Globe sports section. In it, he looks at the dozen teams still in the playoff race as we head down the homestretch of September.

A quick review of the salient points and my responses:

NO WAY JOSE: San Diego, Philadelphia, Chicago, Oakland. The only two points I have to make are that Oakland has enough pitching to sneak into the playoffs, sneak through the ALDS, and pray for a miracle. Danny Haren is da bomb. Of course, go back to game one of the world series where he came in and demolished the Sox and you can see why Billy Beane gave up Mark Mulder for him. This kid is Mark Prior without the injuries. Also, never bet against Mark Buerhle. EVER!

MAYBE: Atlanta, LA-Anaheim-Cali, Boston, New York. OK, Boston and New York are legitimate world series contenders every single season. Yes, Ryan maybe went for a little drama, but those two are definitely in the next column. Otherwise, I agree.

A RIGHT TO DREAM: Houston, Florida, Cleveland. OK, Florida likely may not even make the playoffs when all is said and done. Houston could go on if they miraculously score some runs. Cleveland is a great story, but even they may not make the playoffs. Sorry but the Yanks and Sox belong here.

THEIRS TO LOSE: St Louis. And lose they will. No way they even make it to the world series with Cris Carpenter and the hanger-ons in the rotation. No way, no how, you heard it here first.

* * *

Thursday, September 22, 2005

TIME FOR A NEW NAME

Some thoughts on the Sox and Pats as I think up different ways to rub it in the face of Chazer while we are visiting this weekend that I knocked his sorry-ass fantasy baseball team (The Reigning Champions are the Raining Chumps) out of the playoffs (that I was subsequently erased by Timmy B. is irrelevant to the hazing planned for this weekend).

BOSTON RED SOX:

OFFENSIVE RESURGANCE:

Not to toot my horn (OK, ONLY to toot my own horn), but I will point out that mere hours before the Sox game the other night I wrote:

Yes, the team is not hitting, but the bats have been there all year and will likely return soon. No worries on the bats, it is the arms that are in question right now.

Bingo. The Sox put up fifteen on the D-Rays.

Now, whether that resurgence will continue with Scott Kazmir on the mound is up for debate, but I will say that if Manny gets on one of those Look-out world, here comes Mr. Manny rolls that we have been waiting for all season long, then all bets are off and the final three games against the Yankees will be just for setting the rotation for the ALDS.

* * *

STRANGE BREW:

Speaking of the Yankees series, lost in the shuffle of the Yankees storming back into contention is the question of what do the Sox do if they have clinched the division or a wild card spot by the time they play the Yankees in the last three games of the season. Although the Yankees have wreaked through the dregs of the American league into a virtual tie with the Sox, there is nothing to say that they will not cool off as quickly as they heated up (see Oakland, Athletics, extended winning streak to get back in contention and subsequent .500 play since).

If the Sox have clinched the division, I think you will see, regardless of what the fans may want to see, Frnacona will likely run out the AAA squad and try to determine the final roster spots for the playoffs. No starter will go longer than five innings and maybe we will get a chance to see Jeremi Gonzalez pick-up another start. Yippee. Once the division, or even a wild card spot, is clinched, the Sox are wise to rest as many players as possible to get their niggling injuries cleared up before the ALDS starts.

Of course, if the Yankees have a chance to win the division, I have no doubt that Regular Joe Torre will have his Sons of Sheffield whipped up into a veritable tizzy and attack the field in a whirling dervish of pinstriped players pushing to keep their manager. If the Yankess do not make the playoffs, expect Regular Joe and his sidekick Scotch and Soda Mel Stottlemeyer to be kicked to the curb so Torre can finish his days in baseball with dignity: managing the Devil Rays.

* * *

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

THE LOST WEEKEND

PATRIOTS:

It was not pretty for the Pats this weekend as the Carolina Panthers, unlike the Oakland Raiders the week before, did not simply fall at the feet of the champions and beg for mercy. Instead, the Panthers, like the Steelers next week, and the Colts, and Bills, and Jets, and Dolphins and others on the schedule, are if anything motivated more than an average regular season game due to the fact the Patriots have whupped them good in the near past and these teams feel the need to exact a measure of revenge.

That said, this team still has a solid core of veteran players and a young crop of talented and inexpensive players ready to take the next step forward in their development. The team is still finding its footing, and a sloppy loss is probably the best thing for them in the long term. This gives Belichick the opportunity to work them hard and drive home his mantra of all the team on one page working for the team and not the individual, the whole is stronger than the individual, blah, blah, blah. The team was overconfident and uninspired. Much like the Steelers game and the second Dolphins game last year, the Redskins game and the first Bills game the year before, the Patriots learned a lot more in those losses and gained long-term strength and cohesiveness after these debacles. I would never root for them to lose, but the loss should do them good over the long-term. December and January are far off in the distance, and the first two games, heck the first four games are hardly a measuring stick.

RED SOX:

What the heck is going on with the starting pitching? All of a sudden, Matt Clement and David Wells have turned into Carl Pavano and Jared Wright. OK, maybe not that bad, but still, the staff is looking ragged. It all starts with the starting rotation. Once that is right, the bullpen falls in line. Yes, the team is not hitting, but the bats have been there all year and will likely return soon. No worries on the bats, it is the arms that are in question right now.

Injuries and wear and tear are hurting the Sox now, which is odd considering all the grief Francona has received for giving players days off during the season. How soon the fickle forget. Anyway, with Tony Graffinino, Trot Nixon, Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Bill Mueller, and Kevin Youkilis all banged up in some form or another, and factor in that Jason Varitek and Edgar Renteria are likely hurting but too prideful to make mention of it, this team is in desperate need of some energy and enthusiasm. Alex not Joey Cora looked like a breath of fresh air the other day, as did Adam Hyzdu. The Yankees even took advantage of fresh legs in September, stealing the game from the D-Rays on the power of a Bubba Crosby home run (Bubbba!). Unfortunately, the Sox do not have much else to plug in anywhere on the diamond. I wish Adam Stern had stayed healthy because with Damon out, he could have injected some speed and aggression into the lineup.

The Red Sox Nation is in full panic mode as the lead has shrunk away, but unlike the tight sphincter teams of the past, this group just may be able to ride it out to October. Unlike last season where the Sox were struggling to make it as the wild card, what true baseball fan does not want to come down to the final weekend and beat-up the Yankees to take the division and knock them out of the playoffs? It is too delicious a possibility to pass-up: three free playoff games.

* * *

Thursday, September 15, 2005

DR JECKYL AND MR HYDE

Great article in the Boston Herald recently by Gerry Callahan in which he expands on a subject brought up by touchingallthebases blog writer Chad Finn; Callahan throws out the interesting subject of how buff and powerful Mr. Jason Giambi appears to have become yet again this season. After a year and a half of physical weakening, Giambi is suddenly once again showing New Yorkers the tainted love they love so much.

In contract, now that everyone in the greater Boston area has heard the profanity-laced 4:30 AM tirade at Ryen Russillo by John Dennis, is there any reason Mr. Metco Gorilla himself is skating free and clear on this? Oh yeah, WEEI thinks this is cool and it serves as free publicity for them. Dennis seemed to really have no point, other than Russillo talking adown about him (boo-hoo, Johnny Boy.) Most laughable about the whole thing is John Dennis feeling the need to jump up and defend his 25 year-old from a rival sportscaster and his crude advances. Twenty-five? I hate to say it, but no wonder she is still single what with Daddy still threatening her sutors.

I usually give Dennis and Callahan a listen on the way into to work, unless they are way off topic or engage in a WWF-style way over the top screaming match, in which case the radio search is on for music in the morning between all the talk. Callahan is a better fit in the paper compared to the right-wing shouting nut he plays on the radio.

* * *

FOOTY:

REV ME UP!


God I love that first place team from New England. You know, the one owned by Robert Kraft? They have the genius coach, the stud young star of the league, and are a model for every other team to follow. Yeah, the New England Revolution kick ass!

Of course, I am not going to say that the general sporting population in New England does not watch soccer, but I am sure there a bunch of readers who open their Boston Globe sports page and see a picture of Taylor Twellman and think: Why is a picture of Jay Mohr in the paper today? Did they release a special-edition Jerry Maguire DVD?

But I digress. The Revs are exciting footy. Yes, I said footy like the Brits not soccer, as the Revs are exciting. They play fast-break soccer, which is what NASL tried to do in the seventies. They have more scoring, more opportunities, more jump-out-of-your-seat chances than anyone else I have seen playing on ESPN2.

Of course, more offense is usually thought to be what drives an audience, but that is not right. More action drives the audience. There can be action without scoring. Action needs competition and fast-pacing and they have a winner. The Revs are winners.

* * *

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

WAITING TO EXHALE

There is one great thing of beauty about baseball that never changes: late-season games that help determine the pennant race. These games are actually the first round of the playoffs today, the pre-post-season if you will, as the teams finish waging an epic 160 game battle just to get into position to play in the postseason. With multiple fantasy football and pick leagues kicking off this weekend, plus a hunger for football that had built all off-season, I thought nothing would tear me away from the joy of the Jets being stampeded by the Chiefs (Who said the J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets were vulnerable to the run without Jason Ferguson in the middle of the defensive line? Damn straight that was me!) and during commercial breaks flipping to the emotional game of New Orleans versus the Patriots next opponent, the Carolina Panthers. However, as much as one could try to stay away, the great playoff caliber contest between the enemies for over 100 years, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees pulled me in. Two senior citizens (in baseball playing terms) allowed four hits between them, struck out twenty, and allowed one measly pop-up home run. Forget who won and who lost, the game was the thing; and it was a game of beauty.

* * *

RED SOX:

FOLLOWING THE LEAD OF THE PATRIOTS:

Red Sox fans and media amaze me: the team is in first place and they all act like they are chasing the Yankees for a playoff spot. The Sox are the defending World Champions. They are in first place by three games. In two weeks of September, the Yankees have been unable to make any sizable dent in their lead. The Yankees and Sox have essentially flipped positions: last year the Sox were desperately trying to cut into the lead and hold off challengers for the wild card, this year the Yankees are in that role. Like the Sox last year, they needed to sweep the division leader or the series really had no effect. When the Sox won Sunday, I let out a deep breath and smiled. The Yankees, at best would come in and pick up one game in three days. Had the Yankees swept, slight panic would be appropriate. They did not, however, and that leaves the Sox in position to take of business.

Taking care of business is what the Patriots do best. They do not concern themselves with the record of the Jets, Dolphins, or Bills. They do not concern themselves with Pittsburgh or the Colts unless they are playing them that week. They are focused on winning. Win one game, move on to the next. They have no control over a Jets-Dolphins match-up, so they do not concern themselves with it. Bill Belichick knows that if his team takes care of what they can control, everything else will fall into place.

This is what the Red Sox need to do: think like Belichick. The Yankees are unlikely to run the table here down the stretch. The Sox need to keep winning, beating the Orioles, Blue Jays, Athletics, and Rays that show up to oppose them. The Yankees are not their concern. They Yankees need to be concerned with their opponents and the fact that they still trail Cleveland in the wild card. They Yankees, like the Sox last year, need to concentrate on just getting to the playoffs, and that involves forgetting about Boston and focusing on winning more than Cleveland and Oakland.

Think like the Patriots and act like a first place team. That is what Sox fans, management, and the media following them need to remember.

* * *

STARTING PITCHING:

Of course, the most encouraging news for the BoSox continues to be the great run by the Sox starting pitchers. Wakefield, Clement, Schilling, and Wells is looking pretty good for October, mere weeks after the media spent countless pages frantically wailing about Pedro this and D-Lowe that. Speaking of Pedro, the Mets are finding out what all the money they spent on Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez gets them: about an eight game improvement over the previous season. Following up their 72-90 campaign, new GM Omar Minyana emptied the pockets of the Mets ownership and imported the two biggest names out on the open market. Now, the Mets are coasting to the finish on pace for a whopping 80 wins as they struggle to stay above .500. The Sox are doing just fine without him, and the Mets still stink with him.

Not to toot my own horn (OK, expressedly to toot my own horn), way back in February I wrote the following about the Sox starting rotation right at the start of spring training:

Finally we get into who is going to replace Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe in the starting rotation. Following the Bill Belichick 2-for-1 plan of building depth, the Sox imported four starting pitchers this off-season to offset the turnover in the rotation.

First, let’s be frank: Pedro Martinez was the #2 man in the rotation - not #1, not #1A or 1B, he was number two behind Curt Schilling; furthermore, at the end of last season, Derek Lowe was the #5 man in the rotation. Schilling, Martinez, Arroyo, Wakefield, and Lowe - that was the post-All-Star break rotation in order of effectiveness.

So how do you replace one of the best #2 men in the league? Not to segue, but I don’t want to bash Pedro’s performance on his way out - his me-first attitude, surliness, and general “diva of the clubhouse” routine, yes, I will bash - but not his performance on the mound. He wore down in September, no doubt, but that was in part due to pitching so many innings. When he got his rest in the playoffs, he did fine.

Back to my question of replacing Pedro: You make the rotation #1, #2A, #2B, #2C, & 3. After Schilling, the Sox can trot out crafty lefty David Wells; fire-balling Matt Clement; ERA under 4.00 while pitching injured Wade Miller; and journeyman lefty John Halama. Also, they still have holdovers Tim Wakefield and Bronson Arroyo.

Now, I may have expected a lot better performance from Halama-llama, but Clement, Wells, Wakie, and Arroyo have been the bomb lately and all have ten or more victories. That looks like a 2A (Wells), 2B (Wakefield), 2C (Clement), and a 3 (Arroyo) to me. Of course, no one could predict the year Curt Schilling has had, but if he continues to round into shape and get sharper as September progresses into October, the Sox are looking pretty set at the top of the rotation. Arroyo still scares me, but he can punch his playoff ticket to the bullpen where he becomes a vital set-up man in the seventh and eighth innings along with Papelbon, Bradford, and Myers. If Foulke can give anything this fall, even better, but the bullpen looks fairly solid with Timlin holding down the closers role.

* * *

FOOTBALL:

Tomorrow I will have the picks recap, and going forward I will pick all the games as this weekend I just ran out of time and energy.

QUICK HITS:

Drew Bledsoe + Bill Parcells + Terry Glenn = Dallas Renaissance? Well, maybe not. But if Myron Guyton comes out of retirement to play safety next to Roy Williams, all bets are off.

J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets. They were debating on ESPN Gameday whether the Jets were the most overrated team in the league, and other than Steve Young, no one had the guts to say that they were. Of course, I was screaming at the TV in the Laundromat while folding clean laundry about Jason Ferguson being missed and Laverneous Coles as being the anti-christ, so I had no problem with Young making the point for me. A Methodist and a Mormon in agreement: what could be next, world peace?

Add Minnesota to the overrated list, and Denver and St. Louis while we are at it. Of course, the season is still young and the Pats won the Super Bowl after being pasted 31-0 by the Bills in the opener a few years ago during the Lawyer Milloy fiasco. Of course, that was one of those moves that in the short term stunk but in the long term paid huge dividends. It showed the team that Belichick and Pioli would cut anyone for any reason to improve the team, friendship, loyalty and contract be damned. Those players started playing after that, and other than the occasional reminder (Shawn Meyer being cut after the Pittsburgh game last year where he whiffed a few tackles on special teams), the players got the message.

Do you think there a few teams that wish they hired Charlie Weis (Oakland, Detroit, Chicago, Washington, Minnesota, and Arizona). He clearly has learned from Little Bill Parcells and Big Bill Belichick.

It will be interesting to see how Carolina responds to losing to New Orleans and then facing the Pats. Can they score any points if the Pats double team Steve Smith and put seven or eight in the box? Where is Muhsin Muhammed when you need him?

* * *

SOCCER:

I NEED MORE TOFFEES:


I am still in withdrawal without the Fox Soccer Channel not part of my already ridiculously priced Comcast cable package, and with the boy starting fall soccer soon, I guess it is time to check in with the best soccer in the world: the English Premier League. A quick side note, yes that is my brother-in-law Tommy who just started cursing me out loudly in Portuguese yet again for making this claim. Soon I will hear how Porto and Benfica can beat anyone in the EPL, but, like him, I will stick with my heritage and go with who stirs the passions of the homeland four generations removed.

Anyway, my adopted Everton Toffees (with a striker named Marcus Bent, how could I root for anyone else save ManU and whoever is playing Everton?) are struggling mightily out of the gate scoring one goal in four games and looking up at nearly everyone (yes, even West Ham) with a 1-3-0 record. Meanwhile, Chelsea, the best team Russian Mob Money can buy, is 5-0-0 without having allowed a goal yet. ManU is up near the top (3-0-2) though they tied surprising ManCity. Arsenal has started slowly, but will likely heat up soon as it is early and most teams have only played four or five matches.

I like EPL soccer not only because of the high quality of play, but because the league has a very American-ish soap opera quality to it (even with Mr. Posh Spice riding the pine for Real Madrid). ManU is the team loaded with tradition and always near the top of the league while Arsenal boasts similar credential without the national love-fest for the team (Personally, I detest the bastards!). Everton is the Oakland Athletics of the league, having sold Wayne Rooney, the most exciting young player in the league to ManU (This is the common way players move around the league), yet young Mr. Bent stepped in and put up stats very similar to Rooney while leading the Toffees into the upper half of the division after having been written off before play began. Chelsea is the 1977 New York Yankees, except with a Russian owner instead of a Cleveland shipbuilder. Chelsea was a run-of-the-mill team until the flamboyant and media-loving owner started throwing money around like mad buying players until he assembled an all-star squad. Like I said, sounds very familiar to a team in the Bronx.

It is a long season with lots of time for my toffees to recover, and there is still much entertaining footy to be played (if only I could get it without paying another arm and a leg to freaking Comcast!).

* * *

Sunday, September 11, 2005

QUICK PICKS

Since I had so much fun predicting the outcome of the Pats game last night (I said 34-13; final was 30-20 with a cheezy blocked punt and cheap touchdown to give the Raiders their last touchdown), I think it is time to make the picks a weekly event. For the record, I am in two pickem leagues: one for dough with the mob-connected paper recycling industry (so if you find me in a paper bale in China, you all know why) and one for pride with friends and family. For the record, Rickles and Brigs rule the friends and family league; I am .500 at best, but no more leading with my heart and believing that this could be the year Joe Gibbs turns around the Redskins. From now on it is analysis, statistics, and gin and tonics.

* * *

NFL WEEK ONE (Sunday 9/11):

Thursday, 9/8: Oakland at New England (-7.5):

Yes, I, and every single person east of Nevada picked this one. Anyway, it is nice to be 1-0.

Sunday, 9/11:

Chicago at Washington:

This is Howard Cosell coming to you from RFK Stadium. This afternoon we bring you a classic gladiatorial battle of yesteryear. A test of two coaches who are resplendent in the genius of their towering football intellect. Joe Gibbs, the professor of the pigskin and Iron Mike Ditka, chewing on nails as we speak. Oh sorry, I went back in time to when I actually might have been excited about this match-up. OK, I love the Redskins, but this year my picks are no longer based on emotion alone. This year I am examining the teams and watching games and coming to the conclusion that both these teams have horrific offenses and great defenses. With the amount of turnovers created, I expect the score to stay low. Though I will root for the Redskins, I expect their offense to struggle too much to pull it out.
SURVEY SAYS: Chicago 10 Washington 9

NY Jets at Kansas City (-3):
First off, it is difficult for any team to win in Kansas City at Arrowhead stadium. Second, it is hard for any team to win with Hang Em Out to Dry Herm at the helm. Jets Coach Herm Edwards, who happily deflected blame away from his poor coaching and onto a kicker trying to kick 40+ yard field goals under pressure in less than stellar weather, is not the type of coach who is going to out-plan, out-teach or out-think the opposition: Happy Herm likes to throw these guys out on the field and out-motivate the other guys every time out. Must be a reason why Happy Herm falls flat on his face each season in the second-half or playoffs. Finally, Jets rookie kicker Mike Packed with Peanuts and Gooey Nugent must feel confident knowing that his coach will throw him under the bus after the first missed kick. Without Ferguson at the nose in NY, the Priest will be running wild with Jonathan Vilma a half-second late or over-pursuing and the Jets start off their march to mediocrity in fine fashion. The Chiefs should cover the spread handily.
SURVEY SAYS: Kansas City 31 NY Jets 13

Cincinnati at Cleveland (+3.5):
Look, I love Romeo. Crennel is a great coach and tactician who deserved his own shot at running a franchise, but like Belichick in his first season in New England, this is going to take some time. Normally, the Battle of Ohio would interest no one outside the Buckeye state, but Cincinnati is a team with legitimate talent to make the playoffs this year. The UsedToBeGirls sport a very solid defense, a strong offensive line, some backs who can haul the rock, a young QB, and some speedy receivers. There is nothing not to love about the team, other than whether Marvin Lewis is a good enough coach to coax the ten wins out of Cincy that will be required to make the playoffs in the AFC this season. Romeo will have his kids put up a strong fight, but Cincinnati fans will be partying all Sunday with Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap at WKRP.
SURVEY SAYS: Cincinnati 27 Cleveland 20

MONDAY NIGHT 9/12:
Philadelphia at Atlanta (-2.5):

Philly is still a better team than Atlanta, just like last season. I am still not on the Michael Vick bandwagon. What will Atlanta be able to do on the ground without Corey Simon in the middle of the Philly defense? How old and slow will Jeremiah Trotter look without the big bodies in front of him? For one game, it will make no difference.
SURVEY SAYS: Philadelphia 31 Atlanta 10

* * *

CELTICS:

ONELASTTHINGBEFOREIQUITINEVERWANTEDANYMORETHANICOULDFITINTOMYHEAD

ISTILLREMEMBEREVERYSINGLEWORDYOUSAID:

OK, two things: First, a prayer for the patriarch of Boston basketball, Mr. Red Auerbach who may not make it past this weekend. Conflicting reports abound about the basketball legend, but most reports seem to be in agreement that the 88 year-old Auerbach is not, and has not been, doing well. Without Auerbach, there would never have been a Boston basketball dynasty whose era of greatness could only be matched by Otto Graham and the Cleveland Browns of the AAFC and NFL of the late forties and fifties. Red should be remembered not only for his role in winning games on parquet and lighting stogies, but also for his integrating blacks into the game and advancing race relations in Brahman Boston by not speaking at a pulpit but by giving Bill Russell, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, et al the opportunity to show that they were superior basketball players, intelligent human beings, and simply people just like us, except with a different pigment defining their skin color, amazing skills with a large round ball, and a stronger will not to strike back against stupidity and the ignorant racism they endured.

Second, I have to check in on the silliness of Tony Allen, in another case of a professional athlete putting himself in a situation that breeds trouble. Of course, these athletes have the right to go anywhere they want and I would never begrudge them that basic right, but heading out with your posse and brawling is just insane. Like Paul Pierce getting stabbed, there are particular situation sit is most advantageous not to put yourself in. Like Bronson Arroyo no doubt learned this winter; just because Northeastern freshman girls will invite you to their room and to keg parties, does not mean that you should avail yourself of these inopportune opportunities.

* * *

Thursday, September 08, 2005

THIS KOOL-AID SURE IS YUMMY, MR BELICHICK

It is official: I am drinking the kool-aid and I am proud of it. No more, I wonder if we can win the Super Bowl again this year; no more, Ooh, that match-up in week three sure looks ominous. Nope, one game at a time, all the time. That goes for the Pats, the Sox, the Celts, and the Bruins. I am looking at the Raiders, the Angels with Angles, and not even the season, just training camp for the Bruins and the Celtics.

* * *

QUESTIONS APLENTY:

RAIDERS:


QUESTION: Forget about Randy Moss for a second, will LaMont Jordon know what to do when he gets the ball since he probably has not seen one in real game action in five years?
ANSWER: I think LaMont Jordon will likely jump out of his shoes in anticipation of getting the ball. After he finishes his I must kill Herm Edwards (Think Reggie Jackson in the Naked Gun) pre-game routine to get jacked up, he will be trying to run over, around, under, and through anyone in his sight once he gets his hands on the ball just out of sheer excitement about having the ball for once in his career. I understand the Jets needed a back-up for Curtis Martin, but spend a fourth-round pick on someone and trade Jordon in 2003 or 2004 when you get a second-round pick back for him. Jordon sat, sat, sat, and sat some more before leaving via free agency. Ooh, maybe the Jets will a compensatory pick in the fourth or fifth round for losing Jordon. Hoo-freaking-ray, Herm.

QUESTION: Who the heck beat out Ron Stone on the O-line? Stone was da bomb! I heard he was replaced by a badger?
ANSWER: Too true, Ron Stone was the da bomb, back in 2003. Since then, the big guy has gone down hill in a hurry. He was replaced by Brad Badger, of whom I nothing about except for that he is not a badger, but actually Max Lane in disguise. OK, I do not know that for a fact, but damn it someone has to start these ridiculous rumors on the net.

QUESTION: Is Kerry Collins for real?
ANSWER: No, he is as real as a Mr. Spock: only in the minds of the deluded who cannot separate fantasy from reality. I have not believed him ever, and am not likely to start now; that said, James Commander Cook, my #2 Middleboro Mexican, did draft Collins in the first round in our fantasy draft this year for no logical reason whatsoever that I can discern. With Oberacker not there to draft Drew Bledsoe in the first round this year, I guess someone needed to step-up once and for all.

QUESTION: No one cares about your sissy-boy fantasy football team, Bent, especially since you will get trashed this year by the all-powerful Pittsburg Gorillaz.
ANSWER: Sorry, that one must have been through a time-warp. My apologies for the inside joke that Kat, Gallagher, Brigs, Chazer, maybe Rickles and no one else will get. And no, there will be no explanations.

QUESTION: What will you do without Chazer trading away Shaun Alexander this year?
ANSWER: Draft him!

QUESTION: Get back to the subject of the Raiders, you idiot.
ANSWER: That is not in the form of a question. Therefore, I will continue to babble about fantasy football for the next twenty minutes or so. [Editor Note: The following content was deleted due to total lack of relevance, coherence, and for devolving into a mush of swearwords directed at writer himself for apparently drafting two receivers from the Arizona Cardinals which he tried to communicate to the reader in a Scottish dialect ala Groundskeeper Willie or James Doohan. Please accept our sincerest apologies and consider yourself lucky not to have had to read that drivel.]

QUESTION: Are you OK enough to continue?
ANSWER: Yes.

QUESTION: One last Raiders question: who the heck is Nnamdi Asomugha?
ANSWER: A first round pick last year, Asomugha is one player who will be toasted with a Tetleys every single time his name is said and I will shout out Keep throwing at AssMugger! until Kat throws me out of the room/house/town/county/state/country. [Editor Note: One word, and the apple gets shoved in his mouth so hard he looks like the main course at a Hawaiian Pig Roast and Luau.]

PATRIOTS:

QUESTION: Can Corey Dillon handle the awesome defensive line of doom of the mighty Oakland Raiders?
ANSWER: Umm, was it my bad memory, or was the defensive line of for the Raiders the one that doomed them last season? Warren Sapp, Ted Washington, Bobby Hamilton, and that other guy who no one knows what his name may have a few championship rings among them, but it does not change the fact that they are fat, old, slow, fat, old, slow, fat, old, slow, and I really have no idea who this fourth guy on the line is and if he is any good or just another fat, old, slow wide-body. The biggest plus for the Raiders is that the three fat, old, slow guys will be fresh and ready to play, at least this week.

QUESTION: What happened to Charles Woodson?
ANSWER: Injuries, loss of confidence, decline in ability, and the shame of the head-slap during the famous tuck play.

QUESTION: Will you ever give it up about the Woodson head-slap? You babbled enough about it yesterday!
ANSWER: No, I will not. I have the wild-boys at coldhardfootballfacts.com behind me now, and I will not be silenced.

QUESTION: Is Chad Scott going to be the secret weapon devised by Belichick to stop Randy Moss and shadow him over the field and lead him into vicious hits by Eugene Wilson and Rodney Harrison?
ANSWER: Wow. What a great question. I wish I had thought to ask it. [Editor Note: he did. No one e-mails the loon these questions. He is some kind of multi-personality, bi-polar fruitcake if you ask me.] No, at cool an idea that is that Belichick has this secret ace up his sleeve, I think the Pats zone defense will be enough to give Moss his stats, keep him out of the end-zone more than once, and give the Pats a comfy win.

QUESTION: Did you, or did you not, just say yesterday you thought that Oakland could possibly upset the Pats in the first game of the season as it is the most difficult to game-plan for and tells the least about a team.
ANSWER: Yes, but I also believe that I could possibly wake-up some morning with the winning MegaMillions ticket and have lost forty pounds in my sleep. All things are possible, young grasshopper.

QUESTION: Are there any real football questions left?
ANSWER: Yes, but just one.

QUESTION: What do you predict as the final score?
ANSWER: Patriots 34 Oakland 13

* * *

RED SOX:

FROM CURSES TO ACCOLADES:


The swearing the neighbors heard yesterday in the greater East Taunton, MA area was directed at none other than Bronson Vedder of the Red Sox as he quickly built a three-zip lead for the Angels with Angles. I thought for sure that Jeremi Gonzalez would be in the game by the fourth inning and, as I had dreaded, the string of good pitching and bullpen rest would come to an end with Bronson on the mound. Fortunately, he found his change-up (where has that pitch been all year?) and started getting outs. Lots of outs, in fact. Lots and lots and lots of outs to be precise.

Bronson, now that the music career is on hold and he is not renting rooms at the Radisson with Northeastern freshmen, appears to finally be getting ready to get on a hot streak.

MISC:

REQUIRED PEDRO BASHING IN THREE, TWO, ONE:


God, I hate the Mets. I hate their logo, their stadium, their colors, their players, their history, their fans, their sportswriters, and especially their mascot. And this is no recent, Pedro-defecting hate. This hate goes back. Not to 1986, oh no. Before then, back to the early eighties when the go-go St. Louis Cardinals were the most exciting team in baseball and captured my 8-year old affections.

Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Howard Johnson, the Miracle Mets, Gregg Jeffries Rookie Cards being bought by the case by Link Jarvis; no, this Mets hatred goes back and runs deep.

So, now is great time to ridicule a move by the Mets brain trust that will likely keep them from the playoffs as they resisted using their best pitcher due to a dispute he had with the pitching coach. No, not Pedro, but Jae Seo, of the 7-1 record and 1.79 ERA has been the Mets best pitcher. He was sent down in May after pitching seven shutout innings. He only returned in early August. So the Mets, keep their best pitcher in the minors while they fade from the pennant race in the dog days of summer because their so-called genius pitching coach gets in a feud with a kid who barely speaks English. Classic.

* * *

ROBINSON CANO, A GOOD FRIEND TO THE FENWAY FAITHFUL

I remember when the Yankees had Alphonso Alphonse and Garcon Soriano at second base and he would destroy the Red Sox, game after game after game, especially at Fenway Park. Now, the mighty Robinson Cano paddles around second base and continually comes up with a big play to help the Red Sox. Too bad he plays for New York.

* * *

PATRIOTS:

MOSS GROWS ON THE NORTH; SO TY POOLE PLAYS LEFT CORNERBACK:

Is there anything more laughable than the hype surrounding the Patriots secondary being unable to handle Randy Moss? Good job, Bay Area journalists, get Rodney Harrison worked up to the Frothing at the Mouth/Mad Dog on the Loose Level. Patriots fans everywhere appreciate it.

Do these writers even watch the games they cover or do they wrestle each other for the last roast beef sandwich on the lunch buffet? The Patriots play very little man-to-man defense against anyone. Heck, the Bill Belichick/Romeo Crennel/Nick Saban/Bill Parcells model is in and of itself a 3-4 base zone defense. Man-to-man is the call when a team is desperate for a sack and starts blitzing everyone. It does not tend to happen too often. Unlike the Jets and Colts, who employ the cover-two at almost all times, the Patriots do attempt to stop the run and take away more than just the deep pass. Yes, they force teams to make the dump-offs and the short-outs, but they do not just stand there and let the teams gouge them on the 10 and 12 yard routes like the cover-two teams of the AFC tend to allow. Of course, with Jason Ferguson in Dallas instead of New York, and Corey Simon with the Colts, expect the Colts defense to be superior to the Jets if only because they will no longer be gouged on first down. As for the Jets defense, Jason Ferguson was the most important player on the defense. Ty Law had better be in good shape, because the Jets defense will be on the field for extended periods of time.

Back to my point (if I ever even had one, oh yeah, the Patriots secondary!), Bill Belichick is unlikely to put any of his secondary in position to cover Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, or anyone else one-on-one with no help. Expect the coverage to be similar to that of the defense against Moss in the past and what they did to slow down Terrell Owens in the Super Bowl (hit him in the face early, rotate help to his side, do not let him get past the corner without a safety there to help, and hit him hard if he goes over the middle). Yes, T.O. caught a few balls but nothing significant other than the catch-and-run which was aided by the illegal pick by the other Eagles receiver where he went for forty yards or so. Had the official not missed that call, just imagine all the spouting off Owens would have been able to do about his quarterback not being able to get him the ball.

* * *

LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND STATISTICS:

One of my favorite football stats sites, Coldhardfootballfacts.com, finally backs up a point I have been railing about for years. On the infamous tuck play during the final game at Foxboro/Sullivan/Schaefer Stadium against the Raiders in the divisional playoffs in the 2001 Divisional Playoffs (aka the Snow Game); Charles Woodson should have been slapped with a 15 yard penalty for slapping the quarterbacks helmet. Check it out at http://www.coldhardfootballfacts.com/Article.php?Page=370.

* * *

BUDDY; NO, REX; NO, ROB:


How will the Patriots offense do versus the Raiders defense coached by former Patriots linebacker coach Rob Ryan? Surprisingly well, I would think. Remember, Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch will be on the field for Mr. Brady. Also, the offense will not be juggling players in and out. The Raiders defense was old, slow and over-rated last season. Unfortunately for Oakland, switching schemes does not change the fact they remain old and slow, especially upfront. Look for Corey Dillon to have a big day, especially in the second half.

On that vein, I may be the only one, but I like the idea of the Patriots possibly running the ball more with Charlie Weis in South Bend, IN. At times the last few seasons I thought Weis was auditioning for a job by getting a little too pretty with the play calling and leaving Brady vulnerable to getting hit with too many spread offense calls and not enough protection. Give me three tight ends any day of the week! It may not be pretty, but you can not beat it.

* * *

RED SOX:

PAPI, PAPI, PAPI:

Ho-hum. Another game, another walk-off home run from David Ortiz. Seriously though, that was a dramatic, timely blast from Ortiz. And, really, what kind of option does the pitcher have? Walk Ortiz and pitch to Manny? Walk them both and put a pinch-runner into scoring position? Sorry, this is not LA/Anaheim/California or San Francisco where you walk Vlad Guerrero or Barry Bonds and you are out of trouble. The main reason not to unload Manny is the fact that their one-two punch is what creates these opportunities at the end of games.

The best part of the Papi homer was while I was watching it in bed with Kat, I said Just blast it out of here so I can go to sleep, Papi. Unbelievable.

Another key from the game was the great pitching by Tim Wakefield. Shaky Wakey went nine solid innings and picked up a big win. More importantly, he gave the bullpen another well earned day off. Nine innings from Wells, eight from Clement, (six from Schilling) and nine from Wakefield is more like the Red Sox need and expect from their starters. The main problem with the bullpen was the number of innings they were forced to work over the season. The more the bullpen works, the more the bullpen suffers.

* * *

MISC NOTES:

CANO CANNOT:


Switching back and forth between the Sox and Yankees game, I got to see rookie second baseman Robinson Cano make a huge error in the top of the ninth inning to lose yet again to the dreaded Devil Rays. Poor Cano, you know those arrogant, blithering idiots A-Rod and Sheffield gave him hell after the game. I hope Jeter protects the poor kid from those idiots.

* * *

A WORD FROM MISS EMMALEE BENT:

Kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkosoooooooooooooooooooooo
ooooooooo66666666666666666kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkknmmmmmmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzxzeeeeeeweesszzzssssssssssssssssssee
eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeenbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbvbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb
bbbbbbbbbbbbb

* * *

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

THE LABOR MOVEMENT

It was not the burgers and dogs that did me in this weekend; it was the loaded nachos Monday night that put the capper on a long weekend. It was the best of times, but Tuesday morning creeping like a Monday was the worst of times.

RED SOX:

SICK OF THE ARGUMENT:


OK, I am sick and tired of reading about how the Red Sox have no chance in October because of their pitching. Countless scribes have been hammering the keyboards to the tune of the 2004 Red Sox had the pitching and hitting balance that the Red Sox miss this season. Let us clear up one thing for all the starry-eyed folks who forget just where this team was in 2004: second place. In fact, at this point last season, the wild-card was far from a sure thing, and there were questions in the bullpen and starting rotation.

Pedro Martinez was an inconsistent ace in 2004 during the regular season, and as good as Schilling was, he was injured in the playoffs and his status was uncertain. Derek Lowe was relegated to mop-up man in the bullpen, Bronson Arroyo failed to pitch well for most of the playoffs, and Tim Wakefield, much like his knuckleball, was maddeningly inconsistent. This starting rotation scared no one in September or October 2004.

The bullpen was a little stronger than now, but Timlin and Embree were uncertain considering age and wear and tear thorough their excessive usage over the season. No one knew what they would get out of Lowe and/or Arroyo, and all anyone heard about was the dominant bullpen the Angels had and how the Yankees were unbeatable anyway since they had Mariano Rivera.

What is the big change? The Yankees, while weakened, are as dangerous as the Red Sox were last season. Cleveland is an exciting young team with a few good pitchers, Oakland and Anaheim/LA/California are still legitimate threats in the post-season, and Chicago is solid if unspectacular on offense and have a great starting five and inconsistent bullpen. There is no one head-and-shoulders above the competition this year, and whoever peaks in October will win the right to face the Cardinals in the World Series (it is amazing how one pitcher can make such a difference on a team. Without Chris Carpenter last season, they lacked that one true ace to shutdown a team and steal that first low-scoring in a series.)

The Red Sox this season still have very good starting pitching, or has no one been paying attention to the Sox and their big three of Wakefield, Matt Clement, and David Wells? Not for nothing, but those three have been consistent and good. Add in the regaining health of Curt Schilling, and I would wager on the Sox pitching staff sticking with the White Sox in the post-season. Also, add Arroyo to the pen, subtract Wade Miller, add Jon Papelbon and Manny Delcarmen as power arms in the bullpen to complement Mike Timlin, the improving Keith Foulke, specialists Chad Bradford and Mike Myers and the bullpen looks pretty good. The offense, of course, speaks for itself.

Time for the so-called pundits to take a breath and not get caught up listening to the blowhards on sports radio and the regular moron callers who call in for no reason other than to placate their need for any human conversation. A lot can happen, good or bad, in a month before the playoffs start.

* * *

MORON OF THE MONTH AWARD EARLY CONTENDER:

Yes, it is only the sixth of the month as I ride home on the train and crack the keys, but Murray Chass of the New York Times has dug up a winner. Former Red Sox security supervisor Charles Carroll can no longer root for the Red Sox because they dared to only present him, a part-time security worker, who got a free ride to St. Louis for the World Series and received, along with all the other part-time employees who worked less than 1,000 hours, a personally-engraved World Series watch instead of one of the five-hundred World Series rings. The link is: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/06/sports/baseball/06chass.html

No matter that hundreds are dead in the worst natural calamity in US history, thousands upon thousands have lost home, property, possessions, and more in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but Charles Carroll only got a personally-engraved World Series ring. Oh the humanity. The poor, suffering old fart! How could the Red Sox be so heartless?

I guess these tragedies just show that as much as we get caught-up in and invest so much personal energy in these games, there is so much to be thankful for and we need to step back, tell our loved ones how much they mean to us, and thank God that we have a roof over our heads, loved ones nearby, and a future with a semblance of certainty.

Of course, Moron of the Month Charles Carroll, aka Gollum, is so obsessed with the ring right now that he does not see how his actions appear to the world at large. Cursed Bagginses, I mean the Red Sox, are the object of his narrow view of the world as he focuses his energy onto this one material object that he was denied. People in the world are worried sick about their loved ones, their property, their possessions, their pets, their infirmed, their sick, their life as they once knew it, but Charles Carroll cannot see beyond the end of his own nose as he threatens the Red Sox with curses and babbles about how he is very upset, infuriated and devastated.

Hey Moron of the Month, try being a former resident of Louisiana before you throw around words like devastated.

* * *

POSTSCRIPT:

Just a note about the disaster in the New Orleans area, as I know not much has been said about it in the blog: One, the devastation is so horrible and the poor people affected are in such a tragic site that I am overloaded by the coverage and the guilt is so strong that I dare not watch too much of it. Second, I think baseball, football, and all the other sports have a place as, like in the case of 9/11, people need the distraction. Finally, God Bless the American Red Cross and other charities and individuals who have made such an effort to help the people in the affected area. These catastrophes are always in Sri Lanka, or somewhere thousands of miles away with foreign people, not in our backyard as they turn parts of the country into third-world nation status. Again, God Bless to all who helped and picked up the slack because the national government and politicians dropped the ball big time. Troops can be mobilized to Iraq overnight, but it takes four days to get to Louisiana? I am sick to my stomach at the thought.

* * *

PATRIOTS:

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?

Crank up the Young Bocephus, baby. Football season is here and I am ready! Unlike the Boston Red Sox owned Boston Globe or the financially strapped Boston Herald, BostonSportPage is never lacking in Patriots coverage. With my most loyal reader, Greg Cabana, hungering for all things Patriots, I pledge not to leave the best sports franchise of the century bereft of proper attention and coverage.

For whatever reason, the Patriots seem to be sneaking up on the general sporting public this year. Sure, part of it is Bill Belichick and his limited media access ways (as compared to say, Jon Gruden in Tampa who cannot get enough of the camera on him and never met a microphone he did not like), or perhaps that the team as built by Belichick and Scott Pioli appears to be a fine-tuned machine humming along at full speed for the second straight season.

I am sure the media misses the days of the Lisa Olsen controversy, Victor Kiam and his idiotic statements, Irving Fryer and Hart Lee Dykes crashing cars on their way home from the Foxy Lady, and quarterback controversies between Steve Grogan and Tony Eason. Ahh, the bad old days: The snowplow game; Squish the Fish; Buried by the Bears; Cocaine scandals; power plays in the front office; coaches fired for firing the defensive coordinator only to have the owner fire the coach and replace him with the defensive coordinator (who then went 1-15 and got fired); owners bankrupted by allowing their son to finance a Michael Jackson tour; the same son getting beat up in the tunnel following a game after foolishly taunting two of the toughest men in football at the time: Howie Long and Matt Millen; the Tuna and Drew show coming to save the day; the Tuna and the late Will McDonough conspiring against Bob Kraft; the Border Wars with the Jets; the Pete Carroll era (or error, as some would say); and the defection of Little Bill from Big Bill (funny how those roles are now reversed). Yes, the Patriots history is full of mistakes and missteps that made for great theatre, but the teams were inevitably not quite good enough.

The Patriots have a tough draw for the opening game against the Raiders, and I plan to have a bit more analysis in the next posting as we rev up for Thursday night against Randy Moss and the Raiders. The Pats may actually drop this game, but to paraphrase Bill Belichick: the game that reveals the least about a team is the first. After the Buffalo debacle with Lawyer Milloy two years ago, it is easy to see how that proved true.

* * *

Saturday, September 03, 2005

WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?

Let the word go forth from this day forward: enough already with the monotonous NFL pre-season games. Sorry for invoking the Baha Men and distorting a JFK quote (likely the only time you see JFK and the Baha Men in the same sentence) but there are just too many pre-season games, too much risk of injury, and no need of four games to evaluate players. Why is it that NFL teams cannot cut down from 80 to 65 after two scrimmages and one preseason game. Then, they play just one more preseason game to get the roster from 65 to 60. Yes, I said 60, not 53. It is time to do away with the practice squad and just give the teams 60 players. While they are at it, they can get rid of these stupid rules that require only 45 players can be active, plus designating a third-string quarterback with stipulations on when he can play. It is rubbish, plain and simple.
Of course, the answers to all of the above questions: money. Charging season ticket-holders full price for two home preseason games generates additional revenue. Also, limiting the number of players on the team reduces the amount of money paid out in contracts. Money, after all, makes the world go around.

* * *

RED SOX:

FIRST BASE WONDER TWINS UNITE:


Wednesday night Kevin Millar hits two home runs; Thursday night John Olerud swats out two dingers. Quick, someone order up some steroids tests!

Seriously, sweeping the Tampa Rays is hardy any reason to book the duck boats and call Mayor Tommy Menino to block off the streets for another championship parade. However, it is September and the Red Sox season is winding down to a last days of summer as leaves are already so close to changing and the allure of football on cold, crisp days is in the air late at night when the temperatures drop.

The Sox need to take care of business in September in order to have a chance in October. If Bronson Vedder and Blondie Schilling can keep improving the Sox are in good shape throughout the rotation. As a wise man once said: Momentum is tomorrows starting pitcher.

* * *

SOCCER:

WHY YES, I AM TALKING SOCCER, SUCKER:

USA versus Mexico on Saturday night: Kat, tell Juan I will be talking trash all day Saturday. It is time for the Big Bad USA to ride into Mexico like Teddy Roosevelt and win the North-Central America region with some flair.

* * *

MISCELLANY:

ADVENTURES ON THE TRAIN:

Train cancelled going into work: one hour late. Train delayed going home: 20 minutes late. Listening to a 30 minute conversation about cockatiels, cable channels, balloons, and other aspects of the lives of boring people crammed onto single-decker cars talking much too loudly on the train: the cap on a truly marvelous day on the ever efficient commuter rail.

* * *

Thursday, September 01, 2005

LATE, LATE, LATE

As those who know me are aware, I usually write the blog on my way home from work on the train, but today I had loaded up some pics of the kids on the laptop and spent the ride laughing at the antics of my little monkeys. Anyway, I get to write while flipping between the Sox and Pats and listening to Hakuna Matada.

* * *

GOOD NEWS / BAD NEWS:

This is an idea I came up with this morning, so bear with me if it truly stinks.

Good news: Shawn Chacon is finally starting to look like his old self.
Bad news: So is the Big Eunich.

Good news: Kevin Millar dyed his hair blond and hit two home runs.
Bad news: Curt Schilling dyes hair and gives up five runs to the Rays in first two innings.

Good news: Sox sweep the Rays.
Bad news: Sox had a 5.50 ERA in the four games.

Good news: Bethel Johnson off the PUP list and playing tonight.
Bad news: Now he has to make the team or else another recent high draft pick is off the team.

Good news: We are now twenty years removed from the most disgraceful game ever in Patriots history: Super Bowl XX.
Bad news: Click on the ad for the Super Bowl Shuffle DVD to see the horror that the Pats should have smacked down and made Buddy Ryan and Jim McMahon into regional footnotes in NFL history.

Good news: Sox game lasted less than 3 hours so I can get to bed early tonight.
Bad news: Pam Anderson Roast on Comedy Central!!!

* * *

All right, now I remember why I do not write late: I am old and get tired too easily these days. Sox win, Yankees lose, and all is right in the little world of the American League East.

* * *

THE ACE OF SPADES

A little Motorhead brought you by Tony Hawk ProSkater3 today, where my wife grinds Hal Dawg into pieces on the half-pipe while Lemmy screams out:

If you like to gamble, I tell you I'm your man
You win some, lose some, it's all the same to me
The pleasure is to play, it makes no difference what you say
I don't share your greed, the only card I need is
The Ace Of Spades


Well, fortunately for the Sox, the ball was in the win some category last night when the stars definitely did not look like they were aligned for a victory over the pesky Devil Rays.

* * *

RED SOX:

Again, much props to Billy Mueller, who as you readers know has long been in my crosshairs as the one standing in the way of the ascension of Kevin Youkilis. Mueller, although the box score will not show it, had two big-time at-bats that put the Sox in position to eventually pull the game out against Rays closer Danys Pass the Pork Chops Baez.

In the fourth, with the Sox down by two with one out and much-maligned Kevin Millar at third, Billy Ballgame lifted a deep sacrifice fly to center to score Millar. A pop-up or infield grounder would not be enough to score the speed-challenged Millar from third, but the long fly was the perfect at-bat for the situation. Mueller knew it as well at the time, as he pumped his fist on his way up the line. A perfect example of what a ballplayer should do with a runner at third and less than two outs. Mueller had on job at the plate: get Millar home.

Later, in the eight inning and now down by two runs with no one out and runners at second and third, Mueller again, although not listed in any box score or on the highlight reel, drove in Damon from third and allowed Nixon to move to third on the play (where he would eventually be singled in) and cut the deficit to one run. By hitting the ball on the ground to the first base side of the infield, Mueller allowed each runner to move up a base. Had he popped out, struck out, or flew out without driving the ball, it is likely that Damon would not have scored from third base.

Those two at-bats should be shown to every kid in Little League today as examples of how the game should be played. There is a word for the kind of player who sacrifices like Mueller did for the team: Professional.

* * *

SCHILL-ZILLA:

There is not a lot to say about Curt Schilling and his uneven performance on the mound. Otherwise, be certain to note that Theo and the Triumvirate have a lot of faith in this team to make the playoffs one way or another. September is time for Schilling and Foulke to ready themselves for October and the playoffs. I do not expect to see Schilling start to look good enough to win in October until another two or three start are in the books. Curt from the Car has a lot of pitching to do, not just to stretch himself out to pitch seven innings or so, but to get back where he needs to be mentally as well. He needs time, and fortunately time is still on his side.

* * *

PATRIOTS:

ALL THE RICHES, BABY. THEY DONT MEAN ANYTHING:


The man is peerless, if only in name rather than ability. The Atlanta Hawks finally had enough and released big money wide receiver and former Buffalo Bills star Peerless Price. For their big money investment, the hawks certainly did not get their moneys worth. I had heard in the past that part of the problem with Price was that with scatter-armed Michael Vick tossing around the pigskin it is no wonder he had such difficulties getting to the football, but while I believe Michael Vick is overrated to the point of reaching Derek look at him go from first to third Jeter status, Price had his best season in Buffalo on the end of passes from Drew Bledsoe, who as we New Englanders are well aware, is far from accurate on any pass that goes beyond eight yards.

Would Price be a fit in New England? I cannot imagine it. Andre Davis is in position to take the job of resident speedster from the injured Bethel Johnson, and David Terrell is still on the squad (for a little while longer) and is likely as good as Price and much cheaper if there is a need on the roster for underachieving wide receiver.

* * *

SCANNING THE WIRES:

Not a lot of interest out there on the waiver wire after the first cut-downs. Peerless Price, Peter Warrick (look, a party for washed-out, under-achieving, high first round picks at wide receiver) and Maurice Clarett are garnering attention along with the Patriots three fourth-round picks recently released.

There are some recognizable names, but no one anyone should be clamoring for the two-time defending champions to pick up. The Patriots have enough problems trying to whittle down their squad and there certainly are a number of good players already cut and on the bubble. Chad Hutchinson strike the fancy of anyone? Big Luther Ellis? Patrick Hape? Greg Favors?

* * *

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