Tuesday, November 29, 2005

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Boy, you get a promotion at work and they expect you to actually work. What the heck is the deal with that! Seriously, as I write this on the train ride home from the city, I am just past the ten month anniversary for BostonSportPage.com and just want to thank everyone who stops by for some good old-fashioned New England ranting and raving. The number of readers goes up each month and I am totally blown away on a consistent basis by how many people actually stop by the site. So thank you to all of you reading, and especially thanks to the hottest webmaster on the planet, my wife Kathy, for all her hard work on the site design and promotion. I love you, babe!

* * *

And now, a little something that needs a consistent name, but basically is the occasional clearing out of all the little yellow sticky notes stuck to my laptop when I get an idea that I want to comment on, but does not tend to warrant a full extrapolation:

THE BIGGEST FREE AGENT SIGNING OF THE OFF-SEASON:

A.J. Burnett will end up in St. Louis. I have no real reason, just a hunch that the Redbirds realize they are a number two starter away from making the World Series and the window is closing rapidly in front of their eyes.

* * *

4-4-3:

Romeo, oh Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo? Why is the Ravens, with a depleted secondary plays the 4-4-3 (4 defensive linemen, 4 linebackers, and 3 defensive backs) and the Patriots trot out six different safeties? I want Bruschi 15 yards off the ball decapitating wide receivers already! Is there a reason the Pats cannot play a 4-4-3? Exactly, they did not think of it. Get out there and do it already!

* * *

MY MANNY TRADE:

Manny to the Mets via Oakland. The Sox get Barry Zito from the Athletics and Cliff Floyd and his huge salary from the Mets, the Mets get Manny, and Oakland gets Lastings Milledge and a couple more prospects from the Mets and the Sox (not A+ prospects from the Sox, however). So the Sox get Zito and Floyd; the Mets get Manny; and Oakland gets their prospects. Alas, it makes too much sense.

* * *

I WANT CANDY:

But not the Kandi-man. If Michael Olowokandi joins the Celtics, I quit. No more FSN for me. I mean it.

* * *

SORE ABOUT SORIANO:

Hey, I am all for it: Alphonso Soriano in centerfield is a great fit for the Red Sox. Bring on the Rangers GM. I have Trot Nixon and Bronson Arroyo just dying to play in Arlington, TX.

* * *

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

I’ll play Beavis right now: Brooks Bollinger, that guy, like, sucks. Heh-heh-heh.

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MORE TIKI PLEASE:

No, not the email my wife is sending Giants coach and former Boston Catholic coach Tom Coughlin, but rather there is apparently room in the greater New Jersey area for more than one Tiki/Tike as the Flushing Mutts acquired Tike Redman from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sadly enough, in September when the Mutts are coasting into another 82-80 finish and Pedro is already in the Dominican eating plantains, Tike Redman will be looked on as the best move of the winter by Omar Minyana.

* * *

YANKEES OFFSEASON OF JOY:

No B.J. Ryan. No Billy Wagner. No Flash Gordon. No Trevor Hoffman (likely). No bullpen bridge to Mariano Rivera to hold off the charging Blue Jays and Red Sox. Sweet.

* * *

WILL YOU BE MY FANTASY:

If Heath Miller had been held to 2 receptions for 24 or less yards in the Monday night game, I would have won my fantasy league head-to-head match-up with my brother-in-law Tim. Miller’s stats: 4 receptions for 26 yards. Yes, that was me that woke up the neighborhood with the GOD-DAMMIT FREAKING ROETHLISBERGER FIND A WIDE RECEIVER ONCE-IN-A-WHILE YOU OVER-RATED CHUMP screaming last night.

* * *

THE SAD STATE OF HOCKEY IN THE HUB:

The amazing thing is not that Jumbo Joe has 23 assists for the Bruins, but that the team has scored 23 goals this season. I expected this team to come out of training camp flying down the ice and putting 40+ shots on goal each game. I thought that visiting goalies would be circling the Bruins game as the one where their hamstring would be a little tight and they would throw the back-up out there to face the barrage. Instead, I see a team that is horrible on defense, cannot mount any type of attack unless they have a power play, and cannot score with consistency unless they have a two man advantage.

Twenty-five games into the season, and other than Jumbo Joe and Sergei doing their usual quiet and consistent non-leadership roles, everyone else, AND I MEAN EVERYONE, has been a disappointment. Glen Murray is inconsistent and appears to be playing with the ghost of Ulf Samuellson hanging onto him, Brian Leetch has been injured, the kids have played like kids on defense, Hal Gill is the equivalent of a orange cone on the ice, does anyone know if Zhamnov is actually on the team or off in a bar in Russia counting his rubles, and what ever happened to Patrice Bergeron? This team needs to be ripped apart and rebuilt immediately. The good will is gone. Come March, with these same bozos on the ice, the Garden crowd is going to look like that of a Pee-wee hocky game: a bunch of fans massed around the red line and a few stragglers out in the cheap seats.

Fire the GM. Fire the Coach. Trade off the players like Thornton, Samsonov, Murray, Leetch Gill, and Slegr. Rebuild the franchise on the fly is what I say.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN

Ahh, vacation: always ruined by returning to work and the pile that accumulates on the desk while you are gone. Six cups of coffee later, I am finally ready to get to work. A quick review of everything that went on since I last checked in on the old BostonSportPage:

BARTENDER, SEND ME OVER A BECKS:

An early Christmas present to the fans of Boston and particularly my wife Kathy as her favorite fantasy league pitching star, Josh Beckett, joined the Sox along with a gold glove third baseman with twenty-five home run and fifty doubles power at Fenway Mike Lowell, and just for good measure, set-up man extraordinaire, Guillermo Mota. What did the Sox give up? Three fringe prospects and a twenty-one year old shortstop who may, or may not, be the Nomar. Was it worth it? Hell yeah, baby! I would have given that package up, plus Arroyo and Nixon, just for Beckett. Heck, I would have given that package up just for Lowell and Mota!

Beckett, outside of Mark Prior, Johann Santana, and MAYBE Kerry Wood and Dontrelle Willis, is the type of young, stud #1 pitcher you give away the store for in a heartbeat. Yes, I would say Prior and Santana are the only two pitchers I would take ahead of Beckett if I were building a team around a young #1 starter. I mean, this guy has the ring already, has the swagger, and just needs Moises Alou to send over some of his patented blister prevention concoction i
Ahh, vacation: always ruined by returning to work and the pile that accumulates on the desk while you are gone. Six cups of coffee later, I am finally ready to get to work. A quick review of everything that went on since I last checked in on the old BostonSportPage:

BARTENDER, SEND ME OVER A BECKS:

An early Christmas present to the fans of Boston and particularly my wife Kathy as her favorite fantasy league pitching star, Josh Beckett, joined the Sox along with a gold glove third baseman with twenty-five home run and fifty doubles power at Fenway Mike Lowell, and just for good measure, set-up man extraordinaire, Guillermo Mota. What did the Sox give up? Three fringe prospects and a twenty-one year old shortstop who may, or may not, be the Nomar. Was it worth it? Hell yeah, baby! I would have given that package up, plus Arroyo and Nixon, just for Beckett. Heck, I would have given that package up just for Lowell and Mota!

Beckett, outside of Mark Prior, Johann Santana, and MAYBE Kerry Wood and Dontrelle Willis, is the type of young, stud #1 pitcher you give away the store for in a heartbeat. Yes, I would say Prior and Santana are the only two pitchers I would take ahead of Beckett if I were building a team around a young #1 starter. I mean, this guy has the ring already, has the swagger, and just needs Moises Alou to send over some of his patented blister prevention concoction (I am sick already just thinking about it. Readers, NEVER shake hands with Moises if you run across him at a ballyard. The blister prevention method of Mr. Alou? Soaking his hands in his own urine. I kid you not.).

Usually the person I would feel for in this situation is Yankees GM Brian Cashman, but since he signed the deal with the devil just a month ago, the blasting he has likely been receiving from Herr Steinbrenner is well-earned and deserved. He had his chance to run to San Francisco or Boston, and chose the almighty dollar. All pity for the man has evaporated. I just want to see the Yankers trade for Javier Vazquez again and then tell everyone this is the guy we really wanted all along just like they did when the Sox stole Schilling from under their noses.

Now the Sox have to deal with the disgruntled veterans: Manny and Boomer. Somehow, I do not see Manny being traded. Mike Scioscia, after dealing with Jose Guillen in 2004, likely wants no part of the Manny Show. Cleveland has already said no thanks. The Dodgers, Mariners, and Giants want no part of that outrageous contract, which leaves the Mutts, who already have Carlos Delgado playing the role of disgruntled star. Besides, what are they going to send over to the Sox that they would want back? David Wright? Sure, we will take him but he is untouchable. Anna Benson? Sure, I would say yes in a heartbeat, but does she include Derek Lowe Jr, I mean her husband, Kris the Underachiever and his huge salary? Carlos Beltran? Umm, no thanks, we are trying to unload the overpriced contract, not pick up a new one for the next six years.

Boomer, on the other hand, wants to go to San Diego. Too bad Kevin Towers does not have much interest in making a move to bring him back. San Diego has some good young pitching and Dave Roberts or Jeff Burroughs kid Sean, but why would they part with it for Wells who is likely a one-year and out starter. Sure, the division title is theirs to claim again with less than 90 wins, but do they think they can compete with St. Louis, Houston, Philly and Atlanta with Wells? If the Padres wanted him so bad, Wells would never have left the World Famous San Diego Chicken behind and come to Boston in the first place.

Becks, Schilling, Papelbon, Lester, Clement, Wells, Arroyo, and Wakefield. That is a good looking staff right now. Figure Lester in AAA this season, Wells eventually traded or on the DL, and that leaves Arroyo as trade bait to package with Trot Nixon for a power-hitting outfielder to bat fifth or sixth in the lineup behind Ortiz, Manny, and maybe Lowell.

* * *

THE MINUTEMEN MAKE THEIR STAND:

The Poor Patriots: losing games like it was 2002 all over again. For all those people jumping off the bandwagon, remember that this team reloaded in 2003 and got back on their winning ways. I see no reason why this team cannot do the same. Here is what I see the Patriots needing most this off-season:

1. An infusion of youth, speed, and playmaking at linebacker. No more Monty Beisel or Chad Brown to temporarily fill a gap. A high draft-pick on a playmaker in the middle will make a difference.

2. A run-stuffing veteran for the defensive line. Where is Keith Tractor Traylor when you need him? The Pats need a wide-body to put next to Big Vince and play a 4-3 to stop the run when necessary.

3. A replacement for Rodney Harrison in the secondary. Somewhere, somebody will make the same mistake San Diego did by releasing Harrison this offseason. Now, the Patriots need to be ready to leap and grab this guy immediately. No more letting John Lynch slip out of their grip and get to Denver. The Pats would be 8-3 or 9-2 with Lynch in the secondary.

4. A real wide receiver to go along with Deion Branch. Not a collection of 3 or 4s, but a legitimate number two receiver via a high draft pick (and not a raw reach like Bethel Johnson) or free agency.

5. A few healthy guys next season. Now, with no one to blame for injuries, it could be a blessing in disguise for 2006 as Nick Kazcur, Ellis Hobbs, Michael Stone, Roosevelt Colvin, Heath Evans, and Russ Hochstein are all ahead of development for next season. With Matt Light, Randall Gay, Guss Scott, Duane Starks, Dan Koppen, Kevin Faulk and Corey Dillon all back later this season or next season, these players out on the field today are the reserves who will provide the team the kind of depth they need next season when they get back to playing Patriots football: i.e., taking away the big plays and explosive players and managing the game so they can pull away in the fourth quarter.

* * *

SEND IN THE CLOWNS:

Yes, the Celtics are rebuilding. Yes, they are a mid-season acquisition from winning the Eastern division. Yes, Mark Blount deserves to be thrown in a pit or hung from his thumbs. Yes, the Celtics need a legitimate scorer off the bench and I still think it can be Ryan Gomes if he gets a chance out there and a little more confidence.

No, I do not want to trade Paul Pierce. No, I do not think that Dan Dickau is going to last the season in green. No, I do not believe we have seen all that Big Al Jefferson can be this season.

Their wins (outside of Houston a few weeks back) have been ugly. Their losses have been discouraging: ranging from not even showing up to play or suffering a heart-breaking loss at the end of the game. There has been a disturbing tendency to play down to their competition, but that is normal in such a young team. Whether Peter May of the Boston Globe wants to believe it or not, Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers have this team on the right track. It may take a couple of years, but the Celtics are going to be worth the wait.

* * *

Au Roy-voir

It's sad to see the demise of the Roy Keane-Man United relationship. Roy was officially and unceremoniously given his walking papers recently by Man United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. While there is no question that Keane is an abusive, volatile, arrogant hothead, we must also not deny that he was a phenomenal football player, bossing the midfield for Man U for 12 years. Right before United's match with Charlton Athletic, Keane visited with Ferguson to find out why he was not going to be offered a contract for the next part of his career. What occurred was a shouting match culminating with Keane being given immediate dismissal from Old Trafford (a place where I would LOVE to take in a game someday).

It is sad because Keane's numbers on the pitch were so stellar. He is a great player and, arguably, a solidifying force in the Manchester midfield. However, his temper and lack of decorum provides a circus-like atmosphere in the clubhouse. It's the same story with Terrell Owens, which is why I made the parallel last time I talked about Keane. Talented player shoots his mouth off one too many times, gets canned. Keane is allowed not to pursue a career and enter into a long-term deal with any club he chooses now that he's a free man. Where will he go? Who has the cash to splash for him? Who will put up with his big yap? I'm betting it will be either Arsenal or Chelsea since neither team seems to have any scruples at all. However, both teams are managed by what I call "adult babies" and almost certainly if rough seas hit with Roy Keane, we'll see the fireworks fly.

Wolves 3 - Derby 0

I'm going to focus for a bit on the Coca cola English Championship League. Why, because nobody else cares about it. Who has heard of The Wolverhampton Wanderers or the Derby Rams? Who even realizes that you pronounce "Derby" like "Darby?"

Wolves striker George Ndah made a storybook comeback as Wolves handed Derby their 13th of 14 non-win. This non-win was a big loss, as Derby looking to join the likes of Bristol Rovers and Hartlepool FC in the wicked-obscure League 1 next season. Back to Ndah. After sitting out the last two seasons with a career-threatening injury, Ndah came on as a sub and scored his first goal in a long while for Wolves, and it turned out to be all the help they would need. Former Derby am Tom Huddlestone also added a goal in the 80th minute and Vioran Ganea added the coup de grace in the 86th minute. It was a rough time for Derby supporters seeing Huddlestone in the orange Wolves uni. The youngster helped Derby reach the playoff semis last year. A scrappy first half gave way to a goal scoring festival for Wolves when Glen Hoddle substituted the largely ineffective Seol Ki-Hyeon for the comeback George Ndeh. The theme of the day was definitely comeback and win for Wolves and pathetic record for the Rams.

Shorts

Hal, there's only one player I dislike more than wonderchump Landon Donovan, and that's his teammate and homey Kobe Jones. Jeff Agoos of the Metrostars would be in there, but he's too insignificant to have any strong feelings towards.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

THE ELLIS HOBBS EXPERIENCE

With Randall Gay added to the injury reserve this week along with Dan Koppen, the Patriots secondary took another shot to the gut. Fortunately, the tenth and eleventh members of the defensive backfield from training camp, Ellis Hobbs and Hank Poteat, are available to fill in, as well as Artrell Hawkins, fresh from the scrap heap. This is an interesting game for Ellis Hobbs, as a rookie coming off a week of high praise has a tendancy to have a major letdown the next week. Of course, there is no margin of error on the Patriots now and Mr. Hobbs needs to build on his encouraging performance last Sunday.

* * *

RED SOX:

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD:

Jim Beattie? Jim Bowden? An internal candidate? A mystery candidate? My cat Slim Mimit? Does it really even matter anymore? I liked the recent discussion on Dennis & Callahan on WEEI about the Sox having their excuse to cut payroll and get younger. Of course, being WEEI, the two hosts had their debate topics in front of them with talking points to highlight the salient points of the side of the story they were to take and debate.

Anyway, the point they made is the same point I have been making for for years that the team has never been able to consistenty have the patience to implement: Hold onto your prospects, keep the payroll flexible and manageable, supplement (do not build, but SUPPLEMENT) the young players coming up through the farm system with mid-range and inexpensive free agents and quality trades, and get younger, faster, and more dynamic.

After all these years of media critics lambasting the Sox for not having the home-grown talent to bring up and of getting overpriced, oversized and one-dimensional free agent power hitters, the team finally comes up with an on-base machine of a team, a dynamite farm system stocked with prospects for today and the near future, and people have the audacity to complain?

A few off-season observations:

Forget about Johnny Damon - the three year offer effectively tells the Damon camp that the Sox are not getting in a bidding war for the aging star. Defense is a liability, post-concussion symptoms are still a concern, media-whoring is an issue, bulking up with loss of speed, and significant drop-off in the second half should be enough to keep his market down, but I am sure some team will jump off the turnip truck and sign him for five years and fifty million plus and deal with him injured, old, and almost forty in 2010.

The Renteria Renaissance is due: I am sorry for all the Edgar detractors out there, but having seen Renteria perform over the last five plus years, the 2005 version of Edgar Reneteria was obviously pulling a Duane Starks and playing injured and taking the slings and arrows from the media. Renteria is not a bust. He will hit .300 with 15 home runs, 40 doubles, score 100 runs, and play great defense in 2006. Yes, I am serious!

Keep Manny & Unload Trot Nixon: talk about a drain on the team finances! Trot Nixon is the party which deserves to be run out of town on a rail, not Manny. As long as Manny keeps hitting .300 with 40 homers and 120+ RBIs, I think the team can deal with his eccentric mannerisms. It could be worse: we could have Hamburger Helper on the squad for four more years and his Mommy making excuses for him after he stinks out the joint in the playoffs.

* * *

MISCELLANEOUS:

RAPID FIRE:

* B.J. Ryan will not go to New York.

*Did anyone ever tell Ugueth Urbina that having won Fireman of the Year does not give him the right to set yard workers on fire?

* The Colts will finish the season 12-4. Too many tough games in the second half.

* Are Pittsburg Steelers fans bracing themselves for their first round playoff loss yet?

* Remember, the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets were built to win THIS season, as their salary cap hit goes nuts next season.

* This time, definately, certainly, maybe J.P. Losman is the answer in Buffalo. Of course, the question might be: Who could we get at QB worse than Rob Johnson was in his time here?

* Speaking of the Bills, the Football Gods punished them with the Music City Miracle back when in the playoffs as punishment for benching Doug Flutie for Rob Johnson. Never forget that.

* Yeah, Raymond Berry is still haunted by the Ghosts of Football Past for benching Flutie in the playoffs in 1988 against the Broncos and going with Tony Eason.

* Eason was a great college QB. Lost to Bear Bryant in his last college game. Eason was knocked out of the game three times, his replacement through an interception each time, and then Eason dragged himself back in. In my opinion, he was damaged goods after the Bear got through with him.

* I am still waiting for the Tuna to pull a Woody Hayes and tackle a ball-carrier running down the sidelines one of these days.

* Anyone seen the Bruins defense lately? Someone call Don Sweeney for gods sake!

* * *

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

THEO GO HOME

Just end the madness. I no longer want to hear the same story debated endlessly over and over and over and over and over again on WEEI. Can we move on? Someone tell Larry to just hire Jim Bowden and move on (and Trader Jim, when you get the job as GM in Boston, definately make the first move and trade Trot Nixon and a few non-prospects to Cincy for Wily Mo Pena and park him in right field for the next ten years). Is that what it is going to take? Just move on, the sooner the better, and let the Theo talk die down for a while.

* * *

RED SOX:

MVP FINAL NOTE:

Sorry to beat a dead horse, but there are two stats that tells the whole story (since some people may complain I did not back up my argument yesterday with enough stats): In late innings of close games with runners in scoring position, which is only the most clutch situation there can be, David Ortiz batted .313; A-Rod hit a whopping .176. In clutch situations (FYI, all these stats are courtesy of STATS, Inc) Ortiz led all of baseball with 33 RBIs; A-Rod tied for 66th with only 12.

End of story, case closed, and thank you Jim Henneman Mel Antonen, Ken Davidoff, John Delcos, Carter Gaddis, Larry Millson, Mark Gonzales, Paul Hoynes, Andy Call, Jeffrey Flanagan, Bob Dutton, Joe Haakenson, Susan Slusser, Josh Suchon, John Hickey, and T.R. Sullivan for providing Big Papi with that extra motivation for 2006. Kansas City (well, in their defense everyone looks like an MVP against that pitching staff), Cleveland, New York, Baltimore (what, that gigantic home run in August against BJ Ryan had no impact on them?), and Oakland had best be on special alert next season as both writers from those locales picked A-Rod over Ortiz, so do not be surprised to see Papi bring a little extra-extra against those chumps.

* * *

SOCCER:

ANOTHER FAILED REVOLUTION:

No, I am not ignoring the failures of the Revs on Sunday. I am just still smarting from having to watch that smarmy bastard Landon Donovan jumping like glee around the pitch after the final whistle. Too bad the Revs ran out of gas at the end of the season, as they were so good for so much of the year. At least they still have a chance to come back in March and play in the 06 CONCACAF Champions Cup and kick some Costa Rica ass.

* * *

CELTICS:

FACING THE PRINCE IN THE PALACE:

Once more this young season the Celtics tip-off against the mighty Detroit Pistons, who are simply the New England Patriots of the NBA. The Celtics should have been the first team to beat the Pistons this season, as they had the game won for the first 59 minutes and 59.2 seconds at the Garden on the 4th of November. I would love to think the Green could go into the Palace and whip the Pistons butts, but somehow I just see the Celtics a year or two away from doing that on a regular basis. Of course, there are plenty of ifs that could swing it to the Celts.

IF Ryan Gomes, Al Jefferson, Delonte West and Kendrick Perkins step it up, the Baby Celtics can win anygame, anywhere, anytime.

IF both Ricky Davis and Paul Pierce are hot, no one can stop this team for any one night.

IF Raef LaFrentz throws in seven three-pointers and 32 points, it bodes well for victory.

IF Mark Blount pulls down double-digit rebounds, I might pass out from disbelief.

IF Tommy Heinsohn's head exploded while he screamed about something during the game, I bet he would not skip a beat and keep talking.

IF someone puts superglue on Rip Hamilton's face shield and he spends the entire game in the lockeroom with an industrial size bottle of nail-polish remover, the Celtics suddenly become favorites.

* * *

PATRIOTS:

KOPPEN WITH MORE INJURIES:

How many more players can they lose? Word is that Dan Koppen could be done for the season with a shoulder separation. Losing a center is no small matter: it is akin to losing a left tackle (whoops, already lost him) or your inside linebacker(s) on defense. This is the heart and soul, the guts, the brains of the line in most cases. Centers make the calls and Koppen, who stepped in two games into his rookie season, has been a rock for the Pats. Of course, most teams do not have a reserve who has started in the Super Bowl to take over. Russ Hochstein is an OK guard, but can he hold up for the second half of the season? I guess that like with Michael Stone at strong safety, Ellis Hobbs at starting cornerback, Hank Poteat at nickleback, et al it is a matter of just showing up and playing your role one play, one series, one quarter, one half, one game at a time.

AMAZING STATS OF THE DAY:

Tom Brady has four fourth quarter game-winning drives already this season. The amazing part? In those four drives he is 20-20 passing. That is clutch!

Speaking of all non-A-Rod things, I mean clutch, Adam Vinatierri has not missed a field goal attempt in the fourth quarter since December 2002.

* * *

BRUINS:

Huh?

Do they still play hockey in Boston? Did the lock-out end and no one mention it to me? Amazing what a slow start does to a team competing for lines with Theo-gate for the Red Sox and the writers drooling all over themselves in an attempt to call for the end of the Belichick Dynasty in New England.

* * *

Monday, November 14, 2005

END THE CHARADE

It is time to end the charade. Since when did the most valuable player voting turn into the most impressive statistics? Has it always been that way? Why is the award not given to the 1988 Kirk Gibson every season? Are the baseball sportswriters so pressured by public perception and so insulated within their own beat that they have to have to just vote on meaningless and empty statistics rather than form an actual opinion based on research, perception, and knowledge?

I know how this looks to everyone reading: bostonsportpage.com is upset that a Boston player did not win the MVP. I admit, it seems like Yankee-hating to the max again, but having watched David Ortiz day after day for the past three years can make one think that this is what it was like watching Ted Williams or Babe Ruth or Willie Mays or Hank Aaron or Frank Robinson in their prime.

Just based on the past three years, I can confidently state that David Ortiz is the greatest clutch hitter in baseball today, if not ever. For what is the definition of the most valuable player? I would say it is for the player who is so indispensable that without him, the team would not be contending for a playoff spot (voting closes before the playoffs begin). Vlad Guerrero rightly won the MVP in 2004 simply because he picked up his team on his back and carried them to the finish line the entire month of September. I thought Ortiz should have been MVP that year, but I had no problem with it going to Guerrero as he was the most valuable player at the end of the regular season. Ortiz made the pick look foolish by simply having a surreal post-season.

So Guerrero is rewarded for having a monster September, but Ortiz has a monstrous August and September and still is denied the award? A batter’s value is reflected by his role in the lineup. Outside of Ozzie Smith, Mark Belanger, or Brooks Robinson, no player has ever made a case for MVP candidacy with their glove. The playing in the field excuse is just that: an excuse.

Withou David Ortiz, the Red Sox do not make the playoffs, and likely are just a .500 team. A-Rod, on the other hand, barely cracks the top five in most valuable on his own team:

1. Gary Sheffield: Sheffield is the Yankees MVP, as he was in 2004.
2. Mariano Rivera: Take away Mo, and the Yankees drift to mediocrity.
3. Hideki Matsui: When the Yankees needed a big hit, Bobble-head Matsui and his patient hitting stroke would strike fear into the hearts of relievers.
4. Derek Jeter: Over-rated, no doubt. But he leads by example and is the Yankees third most dangerous hitter in the clutch (although watching him strikeout or meekly ground out so many times this season to end the game was priceless).
5. Big Unit: In the second half of the season, forget Aaron Small or Shawn Chacon (here is a bold prediction: combined in 2006 Small and Chacon win 13 games), the Big Unit was the ace in the hole that allowed the Yankees to climb to first and keep Regular Joe, king of the A.L. East crown in town.
6. A-Rod: Old Puffy Lips himself finally makes a showing, and I could almost put steroid-abuser Jason Giambi here ahead of him. Yet this bozo wins A.L, MVP? A tragedy. A travesty. Where is Jesse Jackson for this crisis?

Herr Steinbrenner said in a statement to the AP: A-Rod demonstrates the talent, hard work and dedication of a true winner. I look forward to great things for many years from A-Rod as a Yankee. I like that: he demonstrates the talent of a true winner, but in reality he is selfish, stat-obsessed loser, the type whose team improves when he leaves. And as a great Yankee manager, Casey Stengel, once said: You can look it up!

* * *

PATRIOTS:

VICTORY!


A win is a win is a win. The Dolphins are far from a contender, but they are tough at home and there is no doubt no one wants to go into the Orange Bowl, or Joe Robbie Stadium, or whatever they call the stadium and play a tough, physical team that smacks you around on defense and runs over you on offense.

It is actually mind-boggling that the Patriots are still standing at this point, let alone in position for a home playoff game (although it says a lot more about the hideous quarterbacks in the AFC East not named Tom Brady). Starting all-pro running back? Gone. Starting left tackle and right tackle? Gone. Starting wide receiver (who was top ten in the AFC in receptions)? Gone. Starting tight-end who doubles as the best blocking tight end in football? Gone. Starting center? Gone (in the third quarter). Starting strong safety, back-up strong safety, starting cornerback, nickelback and top backup cornerback? All gone. Starting all-pro defensive end? Barely able to play for the first time in six weeks. Yet amazingly the team is still standing.

Of course, the most amazing part of all those injuries is that the Patriots actually had money available under the cap to sign six or more players (minimum salary only, but still, that is a lot more than most teams have available who are lucky to have money for one player). This point is the least-reported, never shouted about on WEEI, but easily why the Belichick-Pioli combo deserves so much praise. They could have re-signed Joe Andruzzi and Ty Law and ate up the cap and had no money to pick-up an extra DB or four when they had injuries. All you bozos who were shouting about spending to the cap this off-season to sign these over-priced veterans need to take a seat and shut-up (oh wait, that is right, you are all conspicuously quiet!).

* * *

CELTICS:

FRIENDS OF LAFRENZ:


Big Raef made the most of his opportunities with the ball in his hands to show once again why Danny Ainge made the right choice to get rid of Antoine and pick-up Raef (Jiri Welsch, who brought us a number one in a few years, I believe) and another #1 pick which turned into their starting point guard, Delonte West. Of course, they got Antoine back again for next to nothing and traded his ass again, but that is another article for another day.

It was nice to see the Celtics win a laugher for a change.

* * *

Friday, November 11, 2005

VIVA LA REVOLUTION!

Thank God for the Revolution. Hopefully New England will add to the local championships here with a big W on Sunday against the L.A. Galaxy. L.A.? Hey, they are EASY to hate.: Kareem, Magic, Cooper, Rambis, Jamaal Silks Wilkes. Now that I am built up to a frothing lump of hatred, I just need to transfer that to that cocky Landon Donovan and the rest of the Galaxy crew. BRING IT ON! CHAPIONSHIP TIME ON SUNDAY!

* * *

WHAT IS IN MY HEAD OTHER THAN THE LION KING SOUNDTRACK:

Javier Vazquez wants out of Arizona and wants to go to an east coast team. Hmmm. Who is the GM out in Arizona? Josh Byrnes? Time to call in the favors. How sweet would that be: ending up with Vazquez and Schilling. (I can picture the grimace and the veins popping on the forehead of Georgie Porgie Steinbrenner).

* * *

Pats were 4-4 (and 5-5) in 2001 before winning the Super Bowl - in case anyone is out on a ledge.

* * *

Dear Bill: Time to call T. Buck. -Hal

* * *

Nick Kazcur: Not too shabby for a third-round pick out of Toledo starting at left tackle. I do not care how much help he had, he pitched a shut-out against the most overrated defensive end in football, Dwight Freeney.

* * *

The camera phone is simply the greatest invention of my lifetime.

* * *

Anyone skipping out on the Celtics have no idea what they are missing right now. This team is so much better than anyone seems to realize and should win the East easily this year, adn be a force to be reckoned with down the road.

* * *

Speaking of the Celtics, my Princess, Emmalee (all of 2), just LOVES Ricky Davis. Not qute as excited about the Celtics as my boy HalDawg, the ONLY member of the Jiri Welsch Fan Club when Jiri played in Boston, but she LOVES Ricky.

* * *

Brigs, if Bob Kraft buys into Liverpool FC are we required to support the local team?

* * *

My best guess right now is Jed Hoyer. But I really like the idea of Wayne Krivsky. Do not get me wrong, I have no problem wiht Dayton Moore or Dave Wilder. (If you have no idea about these potential Next Theos have no fear. Heck, most people before 2003 probably thought Theo Epstein was the old guy they sat next to on the Red Line.)

* * *

Really, considering what the New England Patriots franchise went through in the seventies, eighties, and early nineties, we should be reaching out to all the Minnesota Vikings fans out there.

* * *

T.O. to the Raiders to line up with fellow head-case Randy Moss just makes too much sense.

* * *

Things not so Keane in Man U

The trend seems to be towards a lot of EPL personalities acting like babies. First, I'll talk about Roy Keane. Roy, whom you may or may not remember threw a temper tantrum when his world cup manager for Ireland declared he "was just happy to be in the elimination field," has lost it again and gone ranting and raving about members of his own team and their poor play.

An interview of Keane, the Man United captain, on MUTV had to be pulled by Sir Alex Ferguson because Keane's criticisms were so venomous. The Terrell Owens of EPL publicly criticized fan favorite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for his missed goals in recent matches, and has also criticized Dutch phenom and prettyboy Ruud van Nistelrooy saying he should concentrate on scoring instead of "fiddling with your hair." This behaviour is nothing new to the whining Irishman. In Man U's past swoons, he has accused his colleagues of complacency.

Well, first of all, I don't see Roy Keane lighting up the pitch either. Also, old man mouth ought to realize that he is up for contract soon. Putting himself out of favour could put him on a one-way bus out of Old Trafford. However, it seems as Keane has carte blanche to rail on and on about his teammates as history has shown that he ain't gettin' disciplined for these outbursts, other than having his interviews pulled from MUTV.

It's too bad a team brimming with talent has to endure such attitude and such arrogance from their captain. But, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said in reply to Keanie's comments, "he's the skipper" which I guess means Keane is getting away with his mouth again.

* * *

Arsene the Arse from Arsenal

Childlike behaviour isn't limited to the players of top English clubs. The Arsenal Gunners manager, Arsene Wenger and Chelsea's manager, Jose Mourinho have been trading words back and forth as often as their teams have been trading goals back and forth. Mourinho was quoted as saying that Wenger is "a voyeur" and that he has "a sickness" regarding his supposed obsession with Chelsea. There's a new twist to this which has the potential to take it above just two child-like managers bickering. Wenger has threatened to sue Mourinho over his "personal attacks." This seems a bit extreme does it not? I mean did John Chaney threaten to sue John Calipari during the days of Temple and UMass rivalry? No, Chaney just threatened to beat the heck out of Calipari, that's all. Perhaps Wenger and Mourinho could take a page out of the book of our finest college basketball coaches.

* * *

In EPL non-tabloid news

Birmingham's manager Steve Bruce is on the hot seat for his squad's dismal start which finds them at the bottom of the table. It is a shame, as injuries have riddled the club this year. Bruce has asked that the board reserve its judgement until after the match vs. the Bolton Wanderers in a week. He feels the squad should be closer to full strength by then.

* * *

Man City, the city of men

Hal, in answer to your question, "Are Man City for real?" The answer is a resounding no. Look at their wins so far this season. Probably the most impressive run started with consecutive wins away vs. the struggling Birmingham and the Coca Cola Championship league luckys Sunderland Black Cats. They were lucky to escape with a draw against Man United. Your Toffees have since put Man City in their place. I make the prediction that Man City will be relegated to the Championship league and battling Cardiff and Plymouth by 2007. And that's me being conservative with my estimations...

- Christopher J. Brigham, Footy Senior Writer & Head Columnist

Thursday, November 10, 2005

NO DEFENSE FOR THIS OUTCOME

Eerily familiar to Pats fans; similar to the 2002 season as it unfolded; the Patriots defensive unit sprung more leaks than a sieve Monday night as the Colts had their way with the Pats like they were a paying customer at the Bunnyland Ranch.

When one stop, one turnover, or one forced punt could have turned the tide, there was no big play evident from the depleted defensive corps. Where was the big sack-and-fumble play from the defensive line. Where was the big third-and-short stop by a linebacker? When was a defensive back actually going to make a play other than tackling a receiver after a fifteen yard gain?

All I could think of was the frustration of 2002. No Super Bowl march, only a 9-7 record and a three-way tie with the Jets and Dolphins and a trip home after they lost the tie-breakers. Everyone was afraid from the get-go that this year could be like 2002. The need to find the right coaches, to get the younger players the playing time for developmental purposes, to identify who had lost a step and needed to be booted out the door, and to scour the NFL for the next batch of veterans who can help the team rebound and reach the Super Bowl in 2006.

Of course, despite the pitiful showings, this team still should finish first in the AFC East, they should still beat-up on the Bills, Jets, and Dolphins (five games remaining) with regularity, and they should win a few games courtesy of Tom Brady. Last year in the playoffs the Pats offense scored 20 points. This year they scored 21. It is pretty simple, Einsteins: the difference was the defense.

The defense had a few plays where Manning was uncomfortable, hurried, made bad decisions, and made mistakes. For the most part, the entire defense was beaten down. The young defensive line screams for a veteran presence, the linebacking corps needs an infusion of talent, speed, and playmaking ability, and the defensive backfield needs help, and lots of it.

Will the Patriots make the playoffs? Sure. Can they win in January? Maybe, but they need a turnaround on defense not seen since the 2001 season. Could they do it? Of course. Will they? Well, in Bill we trust, so we will have to be patient and wait and see.

* * *

CHEERLEADER COMPLAINTS:

If it were 1988, this would have happened to the Patriots. By now, everyone has heard/seen/read the news of the two Carolina cheerleaders busted for having sex in the bathroom while angry female patrons waiting to use the can grew agitated enough to call the cops. I have a few questions:

1. Were there any hotel rooms in the area or was a bathroom stall just so much more exciting?
2. Why not use the men’s bathroom where no one would have complained?
3. Where was Fred Smoot and the rest of the Vikings?
4. Details, details, details: just what kind of sex was going on in there?
5. In this day and age when everyone and their brother has a picture phone (heck, even I just got one!), all these angry ladies were waiting in line to pee and not one got a picture for the National Enquirer?

* * *

RED SOX:

THEO-LOGIANS:


So the rumor du jour is that Theo could maybe just possibly be on his way back to the Red Sox? Umm, right. That is why Larry Lucchino is at the GM meetings interviewing with his short list of candidates. Also, it was interesting to read some of the national press (Jim Caple at ESPN.com for example) ripping into Theo for leaving the Sox because he could not get along with Larry. Since the local press is all so anti-Larry, it was refreshing to read an outsiders view of the whole episode. The Sox move on, Theo heads to wherever, and hopefully the payroll will finally get under $100 million.

* * *

TRADE PARAMETERS:

One, none involving Manny Ramierez that do not include two twenty-somethings who throw in high nineties in addition to a solid outfielder (i.e., not Mike Cameron, he of 150+ strikeouts, health issues, and a huge contract of his own).

Two, none involving Kevin Youkilis, Abe Alvarez, Jon Lester, Jon Papelbon, Craig Hansen, Dustin Pedroia, Anibal Sanchez, Kelly Shoppach, or Hanley Ramirez.

Three, all trades are made with the provision that there is
a. no way in hell the team will even bother to make an offer to Johnny Damon,
b. pay more than $1.5 to $2 million a season for two or three years to Bill Mueller,
c. pay one red cent to Kevin Millar who should pay the Sox back for last season,
d. pay more than $1 million for one year for Graff, and
e. at least one trade must include the most bizarrely popular rally killer in Red Sox history, Trot Nixon.

Four, David Wells brings back equal value if he goes.

Five, arbitration eligible pitchers Wade Miller and Bronson Arroyo have value. Do not give either away.

* * *

Monday, November 07, 2005

NEW LOOK NOTHING!

If the 2005 Indianapolis Colts want respect from me, they are going to have to earn it on the field tonight at Mach3 Park. Beating up on the aging defense and no offense Baltimore Ravens; crunching the pitiful San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, and Houston Texans; barely edging out the offense-less Jacksonville Jags and Cleveland Browns; and outlasting a defense-less St. Louis Rams is hardly awe-inspiring. The Jags are a potential wild card team...next year. The other six are all but guaranteed to be at home in January.

In comparison, the Pats outlasted the Raiders on national tv (not that it would jack-up the opposition or anything to open the season against the Super Bowl champs on a Thursday night); simply outslugged the Pittsburgh Steelers; outlasted the Atlanta Falcons; almost came back against the Denver Broncos; and lost to San Diego and Carolina. Hmm, I count five playoff teams with Buffalo and Oakland being superior to at least five if not six of the teams the Colts played this year.

Trade schedules, and the Pats are 7-0 and the Colts are 4-3.

* * *

MORE PATRIOTS:

BRING DA FUNK/BRING DA NOISE:

There is the one thing that the Patriots do to the Colts to beat them. It is not exotic defensive schemes, it is not psychological head games, it is not out-smarting, out-lasting, or out-anything the Colts other than one thing: they out-slug them. To use a boxing comparison: the Patriots are Rocky Marciano; the Colts are Ezzard Charles. (OK, not a good example. Note to self, boxers from the 1950s are not good to make a point to a modern audience.) Let me elaborate and educate:

Rocky was tough. He was not the biggest (in fact, today he would be a cruiserweight or light-heavyweight), he was far from the fastest (Cassius Clay he was not), nor was the strongest; but he was relentless. He never stopped coming at the other guy. You could hit him, pound him, bloody him, bruise him, knock him down, but he got up and kept coming at you. He would hit you in the head, the chest, the stomach, the arms, it did not matter. He knew that for 45 minutes in the ring there was no place to hide and he would find you and keep hitting you until you fell down and did not get up. That is what the Patriots do. From the opening kick-off until the final whistle they keep pounding away at you. The Colts are the quick, fast, speedy, exciting, fast-strikers. They do not hold up well to a pounding. That is why the Patriots have been able to beat them.

* * *

DAVE RAYNOR, THAT'S WHY!

A kick-off specialist? Talk about the height of arrogance in the NFL. The Colts carry Dave Raynor, a rookie kicker, as their kick-off specialist. 53 spots on a roster, and the Colts do not need another special teams gunner, or antoher back-up defensive back (they do have former Pat safety Dex Reid, after all), and who needs another running back (what with Pats practice squad runner Kory Chapman riding the pine): nope, the mighty Colts need to make room for a kick-off specialist. And people wonder why I root against the Colts.

* * *

JIBBER-JABBER:

HEART-RACER/HEART-BREAKER:

You know it is a good footy match when Kathy is interested and it's on the radio. On the way home Sunday afternoon, the Revs were on WEEI-FM 103.7 (Providence) and I was trying to get the score and minutes of the match (note to the announcers: people tuning in should not have to wait 15 minutes to find out what minute the match is in and what the score happens to be). Of course, it was the last minutes of regulation and stoppage time when I had tuned in. With the almost tie waved off by the offsides in stoppage time, it was easily the most exciting footy on the radio of my lifetime (Note: yes it was the only time I have listened to a New England Revolution match on the radio but it does not change the fact it was exciting).

On the flip side was the Celtics weekend. They played a spectacular game against the Eastern Conference champion Detroit Pistons only to see the Ripper hit a twenty-footer with 0.8 seconds on the clock. Fortunately, I missed the Bobcats meltdown in the fourth quarter. I caught bits and pieces of the game earlier and kept thinking to myself: Why do they let these losers stay in the game? They could blow it by not running them out of the building now. Unfortunately, it appeared I was right on in my analysis. The Celtics did allow the Bobcats to sneak out a win in the end. Disgustipating!

* * *

THIS IS A CALL:

Since calling out my Toffees of Everton in this space a couple of weeks ago, they have won three matches including trouncing my hometown's sister-city, Middlesbrough. The most note-worthy event was the big zero put up by Chelsea this weekend.

Hey Brigs, is Man City for real? They lost to freaking Fulham!

* * *

RED SOX HOT STOVE:

FREE AGENTS WORTH A LOOK-SEE:
Kevin Millwood - SP - Indians (Best free agent pitcher, but will likely cost too much)
Paul Byrd - SP - Angels (Solid #4 man to replace Arroyo when he moves to the bullpen full-time)
Jarrod Washburn - SP - Angels (My favorite American League left-handed pitcher)
Jacque Jones - OF - Twins (Johnny who?)
Pokey Reese - INF - Mariners (OK, a little bit of the old senimental feelings are ok)
Kenny Rogers - SP - Rangers (Yes, I know. But the man can pitch!)
Kyle Farnsworth - RP - Braves (This would be the signing to take some heat off Craig Hansen and Keith Foulke)
Jeremy Burnitz - DH - Cubs (Because slow, right-handed power-hitters are the Red Sox birth-right)
Nomar Garciaparra - 3B - Cubs (And he turns to Larry Lucchino and says: Thanks, Beautiful!)
Byung-Hyun Kim - RP - Rockies (What the hell...)
A.J. Burnett - SP - Marlins (Because John Henry loves him more than Theo)
Elmer Dessens - SP/RP - Dodgers (Check the stats...check the stats. Besides, Brigs loves Elmer. Picks him up every year in fantasy baseball)
Wes Helms - 3B - Brewers (Young, talented, and cheaper than Nomar)
Braden Looper - RP - Mets (Since you never know what former closer will bounce back with a huge season...)
Mike Piazza - DH - Mets (See: Jeremy Burnitz comments above)
Todd Pratt - C - Phillies (Dammit, we should have never let him get away in the first place!)
Matt Morris - SP - Cardinals (like my farts, silent but deadly)
Joe Randa - 1b/3b - Padres (Everyone loves Joe)

* * *

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

When will I get my Sunday afternoons back? Sunday night last week, a bye the week before, and this week it is a Monday night game against the mighty Colts. I am not even mentioning the 4:15 games. Of course, looking back, it seems silly to complain about this as when I was younger, I remember the black-outs for the home games on Sundays and lamenting that the Patriots were never on Monday Night Football.

* * *

PATRIOTS:

REVERSE THE CURSE:

Do you think Peyton Manning will wear a reverse the curse shirt under his jersey this week? All the Colts need is to lose one more time and then have Dan Shaughnessy write a Colts are Cursed article Tuesday morning. Of course, the Colts have suffered from the curse of bad coaching. The problem has been an unwillingness to stick to the running game and a case of the Patriots defense being in the right place at the right time.

Another advantage that has not been alluded to enough is that Romeo Oh Romeo Crennel and his lowly Cleveland Browns completely shut down the vaunted Colts offense earlier this year. Of course, the cupboard is completely bare on offense in Cleveland, so they still lost. But try to tell me Coach Bill did not have a few conversations with Romeo and has the game film on continuous loop. Further proof that good coaching on defense will beat razzle-dazzle on offense.

Of course, the legions of Colts fans will protest that this season the Colts play defense and run the ball. I will counter that it is easy to run the ball and look good on defense against teams with offenses three levels below anemic. Cleveland? Texas? Baltimore? San Francisco? This is like playing against the Korean War Veterans! Of course they would run the ball and get great defensive stats.

The key to the game for the Colts is if the always overrated Herm Clone Tony Dungy can match wits with Bill Belichick. (Hey, has anyone ever seen Herm Edwards and Tony Dungy together? And if so, is there any evidence that Dungy was not being played by a robot?)

* * *

KIBBLES AND BITS:

Here is my list of things I am done listening to and talking about:

Patriots: The Colts record against the Pats, like the five or ten remaining players on each team are influence by games back in 2002.

Red Sox: Theo (duh!). Also, I must add the whining players who need to blab their opinions about the state of the team without Theo. Note to MLB: 95% of all free agents go to the team that offers the most years and money. Period. Mickey Mouse could be the damned GM for all they and their agents care.

Celtics: The whole Paul Pierce Maturity Issue. Give me a break. Paul Pierce is no different than 90% of the NBA: he needs a solid kick in his ass every now and then. Since these pituitary freaks have been treated like they shit silver and gold since they were teenagers, they tend to need a little time to get used a coach who is not a lapdog (especially if they have been brought up with kowtowing coaches). Pierce is finally growing up a little bit: back off and let Doc keep him working.

Bruins: Injuries. The Patriots have them: life moves on. No excuses for the Big Bad Bruins who need more games like Thursday night where they just shut up, put up, and put up a win. Be like the Patriots! That is a lesson the Red Sox can latch onto as well.

Revolution: Nothing comes to mind since NO ONE covers them! One or two articles a week in the Globe and Herald; forget about the News or Sports shows. Some major media outlet in the city needs to say something about them sometime!

* * *

Thursday, November 03, 2005

HEAD OF THE PACK

Your Boston Celtics are all alone in first place. Yes, it was only the first game of the season; yes, it was the Knicks, a team with 29-53 written all over them, but it does not change the fact that the green Green are on their way to fifty wins (yes, I said fifty as in 50), first place in the East, a chump first round playoff team at #6 in the first round, and a huge upset of Indiana in round two before falling to the Pistons in the Eastern conference finals (My that kool-aid sure is tasty, Mr. Ainge. Could I have another cup?).

* * *

PATRIOTS:

I LIKE BIG BUTTS AND I CANNOT LIE:


Give me a full-back every single time. I know I am not the first to mention this, and I am sure I will not be the last, but for the sake of a running game, LEAVE THE FULLBACK ON THE FIELD FOR EVERY SINGLE FIRST, SECOND, AND THIRD DOWN (If 5 yards or less). I need to see if ColdHardFootballFacts or FootballOutsiders has this info, but just from watching the games, the Patriots seem so much better running the ball with a fullback. You can trot out five tight-ends for all I care, but they will never block the inside linebacker coming through the line if they are not in the backfield. Forget about defensive linemen and linebackers in the backfield, just get a big body like Heath Evans, line him up back there, and let him crack some heads until the defense rolls over.

I have nothing against the one-back set with three wide receivers, but to line-up two tight-ends with two receivers and expect to run the ball inside without a fullback is simply foolish. Two back, two tight-end, one receiver is acceptable. I am not sure if this is left over from Charlie Weis or is some idea hatched by offensive play-calling team, but it needs to go away for good. File it under failed experiment and move on.

* * *

THE DEBATE RAGES ON:

Peyton versus Brady. Is there really any need for this debate? The real debate is Tony Dungy versus Bill Belichick. The Colts just throw money at Dungy and keep him around for what reason? So he can get out-coached in the playoffs again? Every year there is some horrible decision that screws the Colts over made by Dungy while Belichick makes all the right calls. Of course, Dungy just got a huge extension from the Colts, so someone must like him over there. Why, I have no idea.

The match-ups that the Patriots need to win are on offense and special teams. If the offense moves the ball and the special teams keeps the Colts needing to drive 75+ yards all day long, the Patriots should squeak out another win at the mercy of the Colts. Both teams desperately need the win: the Pats for some momentum going into the weak part of the schedule; the Colts to add some legitimacy to their unbeaten streak against the dregs of the league.

But the Manning-Brady nonsense needs a break. They are the two best Qbs in the game right now. Brady has the better coach; Manning has the better offensive personnel. Both are winners, both are fighting to keep the sliver of hope to win the big game alive. As the Pats struggle to stay healthy enough to get to January, the Colts are struggling to make one last dash for the Lombardi trophy before the salary cap begins to tear the team apart. The window of opportunity is slowing closing: who will grab their chance at glory now?

* * *

CELTICS:

THE PRICE OF SUCCESS:


I want to watch the games, I really do. The team is talented, young, and exciting, but Tommy Heinsohn announcing the games on FSN makes watching unbearable. So what is the option? Put on 680-AM and listen to Mad Max quacking like a duck? Umm, no. I think I made the right choice last night: game on FSN, no sound.

* * *

Now weighing in on the Sox: Euripides

many things we thought could never be,
yet the gods contrive

The one thing Theo taught us in his brief reign was that no one on the team was irreplaceable. Pedro: Who needs him? David Wells can win the same amount of games.
Todd Walker: We have a Smellhorn to replace you.
Smellhorn: We have a Graff to replace you.
Graff: We have Dustin Pedroia to replace you.
D-Lowe: Say hello to Matt Clement.
Nomar: see the OC: see Edgar.

For the past three seasons, the mantra of the Red Sox has been that, unlike the bad old days at Fenway, no one is going to hold this team hostage: Take what is offered or take the next cab to Logan.

Why anyone is surprised that this happened in the Red Sox front office is beyond my scope of imagination. The team that treats everyone the same: no divas, no Pedro or Roger or Jim Rice or Yaz above the team, why are we surprised that they not only followed through but extended the philosophy throughout the entire operation? Take any office/work situation: the only person ultimately who cannot be replaced is the person who is signing the checks. Outside of those with significant equity in the team, EVERYONE will eventually be replaced.

Is this some Ted Williams/Yaz/Jim Rice phenomenon where Sox fans expect everyone to stay forever? I gave up that notion in 1981 when Don Zimmer got canned. Why is everyone else so hung-up on this?

Theo is gone, but the franchise remains. I loved the Sox pre-Theo, pre-Larry, pre-John Henry, pre-Dan Duquette, pre-John Harrington, pre-Lou Gorman, etc and that will not change. Someone needs to inform the media that not all change is bad and sometimes it is the best thing for the franchise.

So please, for the love of God, stop the wailing, the rending of garments, the self-pity, the agony, the gnashing of the teeth accompanied with yet another simple case of management turnover. In fact, leave the Greek tragedies in the past and instead embrace what Steven Tyler of Aerosmith sang in No More No More from the great Toys in the Attic album:

Times they're a changing
Nothing ever stands still
If I don't stop a changing
I'll be writing my will

* * *

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

Glad to see the riveting Theo Epstein-John Henry press conference was full of oh-so-insightful information. This can be wrapped up pretty quickly: bring in Paul DePodesta or Kevin Towers or promote Ben Cherington or whatever the plan works out to be, but just do it quickly and let this nonsense fade. Theo was great, but now he is gone. I think the major problem with Red Sox fans is that they do not know how to let go. Pedro? Forget about him. Johnny Damon? Who cares? Nomar who? People here cannot let go of the painful past or even 2004 (Had the team adopted a Bill Belichick like attitude they may have cut down on distractions and unrealistic expectations. Instead, you had the team still thinking about the year before). There is a new season, with new players, new management, new optimism and enthusiasm. Embrace change. Embrace the excitement of the unknown. Get over the coulda-beens and shoulda-beens of the past.

* * *

SPEAKING OF NOT LETTING GO OF THE PAST:

Hey, the Celtics season kicks off tonight! Hooray! Uh, muted enthusiasm. Um, no mention on the scream and shout about the Sox radio network. Here is a team that is young, talented, athletic, and most importantly, they look like they will be entertaining. A few veterans (and even they are young veterans) and a solid GM with a plan and a coach willing to execute it make for a season where optimism overflows. Time to play the IF game:

IF Paul Pierce continues his good spirits, ball movement, and aggressive moves to the hoops, the team has a legitimate star to build around rather than a moping, childish lout.

IF Ricky Davis continues his jaw-dropping transformation into a role model for younger players and becoming the legitimate #2 scoring option he has always had the potential to be there is no need to bring in veteran junk like Gary Payton and Antoine Walker again.

IF Raef LaFrentz stays healthy and strong, he can put up 15-10 numbers on a nightly basis and be that third option on offense so desperately needed.

IF Mark Blount continues to rediscover the Mark Blount of 2003-2004 rather than the over-weight, disinterested 2004-2005 version, then the Celtics have a legitimate starting center.

IF Delonte West stays healthy for 75+ games the Celtics have a sparkplug point guard who knows how to run the floor, dictate the tempo, distribute the ball and even make a few jump shots every once in a while.

IF Al Jefferson gets healthy and continues his growth and maturation, the Celtics may have the sixth man of the year on their roster.

IF Kendrick Perkins learns a few offensive moves and learns how to avoid a few whistles on the defensive end the Celtics may have their big guy in the middle for the future.

IF Orien Greene continues his impressive and fearless play at back-up point guard, the Celtics have the steal of the draft.

IF Ryan Gomes develops into a solid scorer off the bench for the second unit, the Celtics will have two solid contributors from this year’s draft.

IF Brian Scalabrine grew his hair out like Big Bill Walton in the mid-seventies, that would be pretty sweet. Oh, umm, if he does anything at all to contribute, he exceeds expectations. Seriously, if he hits a few three-pointers and keeps hustling, Scalabrine officially replaces Walter McCarty on the Tommy Heinsohn love-fest.

IF Justin Reed plays half as well as he did in the pre-season, the Celtics have a second-team defensive stopper who can score a little.

IF Gerald Green gets playing time in the developmental league, the future inches closer for the next Green star for the Green.

IF I forgot anyone, they must not be too important (Marcus Banks! Whoops.).

Well, I will be one of the few watching the Green tonight: ok, maybe the only one. But in three years when they raise banner number seventeen, I will have the satisfaction of knowing I hung in there through these lean rebuilding days.

* * *

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

One down...

Well, so much for Young Theo pulling off a Rocky and making it in Philly. Yes, no cheezsteaks for Theo (Brigs will have to give you the cheesesteak report as he spent four years cruising and bruising in Philly while at Nova), as Pat Gillick has just been announced as the new General Manager for the Phanatical Phillies.

Now, no one can argue the hiring of Gillick, who only built the early nineties juggernaut in Toronto, rebuilt Baltimore in the late nineties into a contender again, and then dumped the Big Unit, Ken Griffey Jr., and A-Rod while in Seattle - improving the team substantially with each departure.

So one more destination to cross off for Theo; one more GM candidate to cross off for the Red Sox. Like they say, this is looking to be a situation where both sides lose (unless, this is a situation not unlike Oakland where manager Ken Macha resigned at the end of this season when a deal could not be worked out, and then a week later reconsidered and came aboard. To dream the impossible dream!).

* * *

FREE, FREE, SET THEM FREE

Theo, Theo, Theo. What a staggering turn of events: whiz kid GM turns back on mentor to strike out on his own. Where now, Theo? Los Angeles? Yeah, nothing like going to work for an owner who dumped the most recent GM before he had time to do anything but start deconstructing the mess he inherited. Philadelphia? Hmm, I think Mr. Francona may have some stories to tell about the Phillie Phanatics in the area that may make the position a little less desirable. Tampa? The mind reels at the possibilities.

First off, I have no doubt that somehow Theo was offended by something major by Larry Lucchino, be it leaking negotiations info to the Boston Globe, or something personal said in the negotiations. I doubt Lucchino ever thought that Theo would take his ball and go home. Why would he? Theo has been with him for the duration, Lucchino is absolutely correct about he fact that he played a large role in shaping Theo the GM.

As far as all the nay-sayers, panicked mobs, screaming idiots on the radio, and smug writers, the Red Sox are going to be perfectly fine. Yes, Theo was very, very, very impor tant to the franchise. Yes, I still think he is a great GM and will be an asset to any organization he goes to in the future; however, not to underscore what Theo has accomplished in three years, but the Sox philosophy and operations are controlled by the triumvirate (especially Larry Lucchino) and the GM and Manager are put in the position to execute the plan. Are we to believe that Lucchino was worrying about the RemDawg hot dog stand instead of shaping the team when Nomar was traded? Did Lucchino have nothing to do with identifying and signing David Ortiz and Curt Schilling?

I am not a huge Lucchino fan, do not get me wrong, but nor do I subscribe to the theory that Theo walks on water. My main adulation for Theo is for what he did not do, which was he did not trade off a lot of the prospects. I think it is safe to say that for every hit (Ortiz, Schilling, Foulke, Mientkiewicz, Milllar, Mueller, etc) there was also a miss (Renteria, Jeremy Giambi, Foulke, Closer-by-Committee, A-Rod, Nomar, Millar, Jay Payton, Scott Sauerbeck, Jeff Suppan, etc). No GM is perfect, but I admired Theo for holding on to the prospects and not being afraid to pull the trigger and make a big move.

The triumvirate is going to get a large amount of grief and a lot of flak for letting Theo walk away, but the situation is in no ways bleak: Dan Duquette is not coming back. All joking aside, the ownership group is the biggest change in the Red Sox: from Tom Yawkey to Jean and Buddy and Haywood, to John Harrington, it was poor planning, strategy, and vision at the top that continually doomed the franchise. The Red Sox front office has had some good people running the show the past twenty years or so. The triumvirate has done so much more for Red Sox fans than just the product on the field: it is the field itself, the keeping of the charm of Fenway intact while making enough money to as a market team should compete, and for keeping the team in a situation where there is talent in the farm system, in the farm system coaching ranks, and in the front office so that no one is irreplaceable.

Time will tell: the Red Sox are so much more than Theo. They are an organization built from the top down like the Patriots are as well: built to absorb defections and to promote from within. I know in the short term it looks bleak, but this organization is built to contend for the long-term.

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OPTIONS:

So what are the options for the Sox? Kevin Towers of the Padres is no doubt the front-runner as he is on his way out in San Diego and has worked with Lucchino in the past. I would put the recently fired Paul DePodesta of the Dodgers, who cut his teeth under Billy Beane in Oakland, on the very top of any list. In fact, I would say that it is a no-brainer to grab DePodesta. The Dodgers gave him a crappy team with a bloated payroll of underachievers. For trying to work with that and keep the team competitive while trying to turn them around on the fly he is given the boot after only two years. Say what? Nothing like making a plan and sticking to it, eh? The Dodgers will rue the day they ran DePodesta out of town. Someone at the top of the Dodgers organization obviously did not like Moneyball by Michael Lewis (which, as anyone who reads this blog knows is only the most important baseball book written since Jim Bouton wrote Ball Four).

If DePodesta does not come aboard, then turn to Towers. If not Towers, then it is likely time to turn to the next whiz kid in the organization. There is talent within to run the operations.

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PATRIOTS:

YEE-HAW, ROUNDING UP SOME CATTLE:


What a night, what a game, what a source of frustration. Of course, if you look at it objectively, the Patriots are playing exactly the way they played last season, save for the crippling injuries, game-turning mistakes, and sloppy red-zone defense. Exactly how many blow-out wins have the Pats had in the Belichick era? Not that many, that is for sure. The Bills, for the most part, were forced to drive the length of the field and made a few turnovers, made a few strange calls, and had to settle for three in the red zone. The game was close and the Pats pulled it out late in the fourth. That is atypical Patriots football, folks.

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The Revolution will not be televised

Well, maybe the Revs are on cable. The New England Revolution looked to extend their season Saturday night at Gillette stadium in the snowy mess that was New England weather. Their opposition: those hated guys from New York...or New Jersey...or both. The Metrostars were in town to finish off with a win or a draw to win the aggregate. First blood went to NY/NJ, as 70-year old Frenchman and former Blackburn Rover Yourii Djorkaeff bent a goal past the New England pipes. With the aggregate at 2-0 in favor of the bad guys, I figured we were looking at another Revolution choke-n-fold. However, the Revs have been a second half team all year, and they shot three goals past the 71-year old Tony Meola to win the aggregate 3-2. Goals from Jose Cancela, Khano Smith and Pat Noonan provided the spark to send the Revolution to the next playoff round.

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MLF?

No, I'm not acronym-ing something rude. I'm just wondering why MLS insists on referring to their Dallas club as "FC Dallas." FC, as all followers of EPL football know, means "football club" (speaking of which, I saw a kid with a Fulham Cottagers hat on the T this weekend, what's up with that?). Last I checked, we in the good ol' US of A referred to it as "soccer." My question becomes, who are the MLS trying to fool with "FC Dallas" and "Real Salt Lake." There's only one "football" in Dallas, and it's got Jerry Jones' money and Parcells' sweat all over it.

Next week, I may actually talk about European football.

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- Christopher J. Brigham, Footy Senior Writer & Head Columnist

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