Thursday, April 28, 2005

SINGING IN THE RAIN

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

1. THE SOX STARTING ROTATION:

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

2. THE CELTICS GAME TWO SWOON:

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

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

3. THE PATRIOTS AND THEIR PICKS:

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

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

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

* * *

RED EYE:

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

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

* * *

GREAT SCOTT:

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

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

1. THE SOX STARTING ROTATION:

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

2. THE CELTICS GAME TWO SWOON:

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

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

3. THE PATRIOTS AND THEIR PICKS:

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

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

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

* * *

RED EYE:

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

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

* * *

GREAT SCOTT:

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

* * *

FullPressCoverage.com: New England Patriots’ Top 2019 NFL Draft Picks Show Evolution on Both Sides of the Ball

The New England Patriots may have tipped their hand with their first two 2019 NFL Draft picks. Choosing a bigger, more aggressive outside-...