One game does not a season make…
Hearken back to the most recent of the darkest days in New England Sports History…no, not the 19-8 shellacking in Game Three of the 2004 ALCS…wait, check that, not the forever tainted 2003 ALCS Game Seven loss by the Red Sox to the Yankees either, but let us go back about seven weeks earlier.
Wait, tainted you say? Further explanation needed? Well, of course, I am more than happy to spin my two cents on the subject of Grady day. Forget Grady leaving Pedro in the game too long; forget about Posada’s single dropping in front of a woozy Johnny Damon in center field (he had that violent collision earlier in the playoffs with the journeyman second baseman, Rey Sanchez, I believe); forget about the Sox bats going silent way too early in the game; remember that the Red Sox lost by one run and that two runs for the Yankees were provided by Jason Giambi home runs. Jason Giambi, the poster boy for cheaters everywhere. The admitted steroid user who had yet to confess pounded out two home runs that were no doubt the product of science, of illegal substances that, while not illegal in baseball, are illegal substances to use when not prescribed by a doctor. So the 2003 American League Championship Series victory, if it were the NCAA, would be taken back from the New York Yankees, the banner removed from the stadium, the fines levied, sanctions imposed, etc.
Anyway, back to the legitimate crushing defeat in New England Sports History I was referencing before going way off on a tangent, and that was the opening game thrashing the New England Patriots received from the Buffalo Bills in September 2003. That was the whole Lawyer Milloy episode. Released the week before the first game of the season, Milloy signs on with Buffalo and former QB Drew Bledsoe. The expatriate ex-Patriots humiliated New England with a 31-0 defeat. Adding injury (literally) to insult was all-pro center Damien Woody being injured on a touchdown return by 350 lb. defensive tackle Sam Adams (why is this guy not playing in New England? His agent is flushing money down the drain that could be in his clients pocket if he were a Patriot. Hi, this is Patriot Sam Adams saying drink the beer favored by real Patriots, Sam Adams. How do these people not see these opportunities?). This was after the first super bowl victory was followed by a 9-7 season in which the team finished in a three-way tie for first with the Dolphins and the Jets and lost out on the playoffs due to tiebreakers. Bill Belichick was not yet a genius; in fact, Ron Borges at the Globe and Kevin Mannix at Herald were having a field day with Belichick in the press, playing him off as the village idiot.
Now that was a dark day. Of course, history tells us that the Patriots went 14-1 the rest of the way during the regular season and waltzed off with the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season. Why do I bring this painful era up in light of the Red Sox getting spanked by the Damn Yankees on opening day? Because the football season is 16 games, not 160 like baseball. A loss in the NFL is akin to a ten game losing streak in baseball (well, not exactly with the number of teams represented in the playoffs, etc. but rather than argue this point, I am just saying it is out there as a way to illustrate a point).
So do not put too much stock in the first day, the first week, the first month of the season. Baseball is nothing if not a marathon. The team knows it from the front office to the under-appreciated manager, to the players. No one should be panicking about a loss to the most dominant left-handed pitcher in baseball not named Sandy Koufax.
Is this the year of the Empire Strikes Back? Well, I guess that the Yankees fans are looking at 2004 as Episode IV, A New Hope, believing that 2005 is Episode V, the Empire Strikes Back. Of course, my question is does that mean that in 2006 I’m going to be subjected to Ewoks again? Uggh.
Well, I hate to give the Sox some false hope, but I think this year, like last year, the Sox have a huge advantage in the brains department. As nice of a guy as he is, and as good as he is with the media, Regular Joe, as in Regular Season Only Joe Torre, is not nearly as good a manager as Terry Francona. Yes, I know that in this era of the media forming our opinions for us that it is sacrilegious to float that idea, but I firmly believe it to be true. Francona out-managed and out-maneuvered Mike Scioscia in the ALDS, Joe Torre in the ALCS, and to an extent Mark McGwire loving Tony LaRussa. Francona is not an idiot. He protects his players to such a degree that the media may make him out to be thick-headed, but he has a reason for every move that is backed up by the numbers he has with him, or his years of experience. I have no idea what Torre was doing with his line-up, bench, and bullpen in the playoffs last year, and if George Steinbrenner hadn’t been replaced with a check-writing robot, he may have made the wise move of replacing Torre with Willie Randolph. Of course, Torre is well-liked, and Regular Joe knows that he will not be fired if he wins the division, so Regular Season Only Joe pushed his team to the division title and blew his championship chances to protect his job. Great job, again, Joe. We here in Boston are counting on you to keep up the good work.
SEE LESS SEYMOUR:
Is Richard Seymour in his last days with the Patriots? That is a legitimate question that Patriot fans have to face with the clock ticking on his current contract and no sign of an extension in the future. Seymour likely will be offered the largest contract ever offered a defensive lineman in NFL history if he hits the open market because he is simply the best defensive lineman in football. He can play the run, rush the passer, play defensive end in the 3-4, defensive end in the 4-3, nose tackle in the 3-4 and inside lineman in the 4-3. He has been playing for peanuts for the Patriots, and despite their best efforts, they probably cannot and would not compete in the high stakes poker game for Seymour.
That said, as history has shown us, other than possibly Tom Brady, the Patriots do not have irreplaceable players. They have accumulated talent on the defensive line despite the media protesting that they are wasting draft picks on more linemen when they have enough, and I would not be surprised to see the team pick another down lineman early in the draft this year as well.
They win for a reason: they prepare for every likely contingency. This is a contingency Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick are no doubt well aware of and deep into planning for the day it will become a reality, in 2006.
FINALLY WE GET HIM:
Speaking of Richard Seymour, the Patriots signed fellow 2001 first round draft pick wide receiver David Terrell. Terrell, as I had mentioned in an earlier blog, was the flashy receiver from Michigan that Rick and I wanted the Patriots to draft instead of Seymour. Will we finally be justified for our proclamations to bring aboard the receiver we wanted all along? Is it a case of having horrible quarterbacks in Chicago such as a Cade McNown, Craig Krentzel, and Chad Hutchinson throwing the ball all over the field nowhere near the receiver being the biggest problem for him?
The good news is that the Patriots (as usual) brought him in on their terms, in this case a one year deal. If he can reach his potential with his college quarterback (Brady) he can set himself up for a big payday in the future. At worst, he’s a cheap experiment.
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