1. NO TAMING THE TIGGERS:
The bullpen meltdown continued: Will the Mike Remlinger who was an all star in 2002 and earned the big money free agent contract from the Cubs for 2003 please stand up? What happened to this guy? For a while I thought he would carry that infinite earned run average all year. As Erasure sang back in the eighties, who needs love like that? (Yes, that is a special tribute for the marrying man Brigs, number one Erasure fan).
Chad Bradford was nasty in Oakland from 2001 through 2003. He was off a bit last year and injured this season. Will he bounce back for the Sox down the stretch? He was always the main set-up man for the Athletics as they made their second half rush into the playoffs (see: what Billy Beane and company are doing yet again this season). Bradford has the ability to fill the role that Ramiro Mendoza never did for the Sox: to come in the game during the sixth, seventh or eighth inning and get that big double-play ground out. With his unorthodox underhand pitching motion, when Chadwick Lee Bradford is on his game and scraping his knuckles on the ground as he fires the ball to the plate. Bradford can make the bullpen a lot better immediately.
2. OTHER ISSUES:
Timely double-plays and assorted poor situational hitting continue to haunt the team against good
pitchers. The real worry with the Sox is what happens when they face someone like Chicago in the playoffs where the games are likely to be low scoring due to the White Sox great starting pitching and inconsistent hitting.
Also, I have to throw out much respect for Alan Trammell for getting what will be anywhere from 72 to 85 wins out of team devoid of talent for the most part. That the Tigers are even, well maybe not in the wild card race, but closer to the race than the worst team in the league is commendable. Especially since they play in a hideous stadium devoid of fans, were the 80s that long ago for the Tigers fans?
Bring on the Royals! It is like 1976 through 1987 never happened in Kansas City, which is sad. Poor Ewing Kauffman must be spinning in his grave. They have no prospects, no players, no fans, and no hope.
3. WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR:
God know I can hardly wait! Here is my hope for the roster for next season:
C: Jason Varitek
1B: Big Papi
2B: Dustin Pedroia/Tony Graffanino
SS: Edgar Renteria/Hanley Ramirez
3B: Kevin Youkilis
LF: Manny Ramirez
CF: Adam Stern/David Murphy/Brandon Moss
RF: Trot Nixon
DH: Free Agent OF/1B type/David Murphy/Brandon Moss/Edgar Renteria
Bench: Gabe Kapler, Joey Cora, and John Olerud or similar backup 1B.
2006 Rotation: Jonathan Papelbon, Jon Lester, Curt Schilling, Matt Clement, and David Wells
2006 Bullpen: Tim Wakefield, Bronson Arroyo, Manny Delcarmen, Mike Myers or similar lefty, Craig Hansen, Chad Bradford, and Keith Foulke
There will be almost $20 million saved on Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar, Alan Embree, Bill Mueller, Mike Timlin, and Mark Bellhorn which can then be invested in the free agent DH. With David Ortiz at 1B, the team can target whatever positional player is the best available fit for the team.
The team is younger, more exciting, cheaper, and the bullpen is loaded with depth with cash available to be like the Billy Beane led Oakland Athletics model and be active in the trade market to address injuries, underperformance, etc.
Renteria, Ortiz, Ramirez, Varitek, Nixon is enough power in the lineup to offset the youngsters breaking into the lineup.
* * *
1. PASS THE FLUTIE FLAKES:
I think my main motivation for watching the Pats in the preseason is maybe the last chance to watch Doug Flutie. I was early on the Flutie bandwagon in the early 80s with Boston College. I will always remember the miracle in Miami game: I desperately wanted to watch the game as I was interested in seeing the match-up with Bernie Kosar. This was when Miami was establishing themselves as a true national power. Of course, my Dad would have no part of me sitting on my duff on a beautiful fall day. So after splitting wood and listening to the game on the radio, I heard the fourth quarter as I shot hoops in the driveway. Right before Miami scored to go ahead, my Dad called me in to watch the end of the game. This was before the Dave Henderson home run, which will still be hard to top as the most unlikely clutch of victory I have ever seen, and as a Boston sports fan, it was just expected that the team will lose.
The other reason I was big on the Flutie bandwagon was that my cousin was attending BC at the time and, as a ten year old, that was a huge personal connection to the program. I still remember BC failing in all the bowl games until Cotton Bowl.
Of course, the Flutie express was derailed right out of the gate as he ended up playing with Hershel Walker for Donald Trump and the New Jersey Generals (I firmly believe the USFL would still be in operation today if Flutie had played for the Boston Breakers instead of New Jersey). I loved the USFL, as the thought of spring football seemed to be a great idea. Of course, I loved the XFL as well, so I may just be too much of a geek. The XFL, by the way, would have succeeded had they emphasized football, let the teams have an extended training camp, and also de-emphasize the WWF aspect of the league.
Flutie finally joined the NFL and was immediately stuck with the Chicago Bears where Mike Ditka started Mike Tomczak over Flutie, which may be part of the reason he never held another head coaching position again. He was traded to the Pats in 1987 where Raymond Berry never gave him a shot. All Flutie did was win, but Berry insisted on sticking Tony Eason in there and cemented his position, like Iron Mike, as one who would never be a head coach again in the NFL.
When Flutie returned from the CFL, where he only was the greatest player ever in the league, the Bills again kept trying to replace him with an inferior quarterback (gee, that sounds familiar) as Wade Phillips burnt his final NFL head coaching job as he benched Flutie for the playoffs (just like Berry) and lost with Rob Johnson at quarterback. With Flutie at QB, they Bills would have been up by 14 points and there would be no Music City Miracle.
Finally, Flutie shepherded in the Drew Brees era in San Diego, finally dismissing the notion that he could not co-exist with another QB. It goes to show that the problems were likely Rob Johnson, not Flutie. Now, he is finally back home where he belongs, and I for one will cheer lustily and for Flutie all pre-season as this is truly the end of an era in the life of Flutie, and also, myself.
2. UNNECCESARY CONCERN:
The Tom Brady Throwing Shoulder Non-Story. Repeat, that was a NON-STORY. The Patriots, like many other teams, need to rest the QB during the preseason so that there are no sore arms during the season. It is a waste of time to revisit the conjured controversy any longer.
3. RUNNING THE LAW OUT OF TOWN:
The Patriots were once again able to subtract a negative clubhouse presence in order to improve the team (See: Milloy, Lawyer). In reality, the Jets got Law for one year at $3 million. That is really all that Law got, regardless of how the press reports his deal from the Jets. He will be protected by playing underneath in the cover two until he falls asleep out of boredom, or gets hurt trying to tackle the running backs who will be tearing through the front seven on their way to big gains. That is assuming Law is not slowed too much to begin with as he tries to recover from a serious foot injury.
This team now belongs to Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, and Rodney Harrison on defense. Eugene Wilson, Asante Samuel, Rodney Bailey, Jarvis Green, Vince Wilfork, Roosevelt Colvin, Monty! Beisel and Guss Scott are the players to watch as they blossom into the young studs on the best defense in the NFL (Baltimore? Not in the past five years! Buffalo? Sure, a couple years ago maybe)
4. MAJOR CONCERNS:
Richard Seymour, Adam Vinatieri, and David Givens contract situations. Ummm, not much else. Who plays fullback? Are there enough passes and punt returns for everyone at WR/third string RB? Seriously, this team remains the most well balanced team yet.
* * *
I am watching the US versus Trinidad and Tobago in World Cup qualifiers on da deuce as I finish up the article from the couch in beautiful East Taunton. Brandi Chastain, easily the homeliest sideline reporter on television, and I am including Pats exhibition season channel five sideline reporter Mike Lynch.
GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!! 1:32 into the match and Brian McBride has the USA up one zip in the center of the universe, a.k.a. East Hartford.
* * *
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