Tuesday, January 31, 2006

FACING FEBRUARY

The best part of February is the kick-off of spring training. Add in the WBC (World Baseball Championship) and the games are kicking off early. Here is a quick look at where the Boston Red Sox look like right now:

LINEUP:
Coco Crisp: CF
Mark Loretta: 2B
David Ortiz: DH
Manny Ramirez: LF
Mike Lowell: 3B
Jason Varitek: C
Trot Nixon: RF
Kevin Youkilis: 1B
Alex Gonzalez: SS

BENCH:
Alex Cora: INF
Tony Graffanino: INF/OF
J.T. Snow: 1B
John Flaherty: C
Josh Bard: C
Adam Stern: OF/PR
Dustin Mohr: OF (RF vs LHPs)

ROTATION:
Josh Beckett
Curt Schilling
Tim Wakefield
Jonathan Papelbon (?)
Bronson Arroyo (?)
David Wells (?)
Matt Clement

BULLPEN:
Keith Foulke: Closer
Mike Timlin
Julian Tavarez
Rudy Seanez
David Riske
Lenny DiNardo (?)
Manny DelCarmen (?)

Obviously, there may be some wheeling and dealing ahead (David Wells, Tony Graffanino, Matt Clement), along with guys bouncing from the rotation to the bullpen and some guys bounced to AAA for more seasoning (Papelbon, DelCarmen, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, etc).

Last year the Red Sox won 95 games. This season should prove even better. With Foulke back to health and the additions of Riske, Seanez, and Tavarez, the bullpen matches up with some of the best in baseball. Add in the fact that Craig Hansen does not have to be rushed to the majors and the Sox have some serious help to call up for the dog days of summer.

The rotation remains a strength, as Josh Beckett is a major upgrade and takes the load off Curt Schilling and the pressure off of Matt Clement. Tim Wakefield and Bronson Arroyo return as solid back-of-the-rotation hurlers. With kids Jonathan Papelbon and Jon Lester on the horizon (and Abe Alvarez, who could very possibly be the left-handed Bronson Arroyo on this staff in the future), and Beckett only 26 years old, the future is bright. David Wells, if he returns, can only help. If he goes, well, that opens the door for Papelbon and Arroyo to stay in the rotation.

The line-up remains a strength, as Coco Crisp should easily replace the numbers of Johnny Rock Star (I need to find the analysis done by Rob Neyer which showed this), and Mark Loretta is a huge upgrade over Edgar Renteria at the number two spot in the lineup. With Papi and Manny still at 3-4, the offense will remain a juggernaut. Replace the production of Kevin Millar with Mike Lowell (which any sane individual would do) and have Youkilis replace Bill Mueller in the lineup (as those two are two peas in a pod, as they say). Finally, you have the weak link, Alex Gonzalez, who by the way hit 23 two years ago (and 18 the year before).

* * *

Monday, January 30, 2006

WOULD YOU TRADE EDGAR RENTERIA FOR COCO CRISP?

That is what the Boston Red Sox off-season has become. Would you trade Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett? Doug Mirabelli for Mark Loretta (OK, not fair. Kevin Towers obviously owed Larry Lucchino a favor for making him a candidate for the Red Sox GM position and finagling a raise)? And, especially, what basically turned into Renteria for Crisp. For all the Manny Mania, the Johnny Damon second-coming and resurrection, and the wringing of the hands over Theo, the Sox basically had a hot stove winter focused around two (or three) deals.

* * *

OK, I would answer yes, yes, and yes. Everyone who has an argument for keeping Johnny Damon around town has the wrong reasons: loyalty, Yankee-phobia, or that misguided notion the 2004 Red Sox should stay together forever (for the record, they were not exactly Bird, Parish & McHale circa 1982). As the Greatest Coach in the NFL since Vince Lombardi showed with the Patriots roster, the team can be built around a solid core, but turnover is essential as competitive teams need to be getting younger all the time and ready to turn it over to a new core within five years. Bill Mueller, Kevin Millar, Orlando Cabrera, Smellhorn, and Johnny D were not the core. Manny, Papi, and Varitek are the core on offense and Schilling, Foulke, and young guns are the core for the pitching staff.

In a way, it seems silly to think that the Red Sox got Mike Lowell as a throw-in to take on some salary from Florida. Lowell should replace Bill Mueller quite easily at third base, both on the field and at the plate. Forget last season, this is no Edgar Renteria. This is a younger, healthier, better fielder than the incumbent with much more power and a swing that should fit Fenway Park like a glove. Also, it is important to note how much better Lowell has performed in situations where the team is in the race. Some guys just cannot step it up when nothing is on the line and the home stadium is empty. Lowell is good for 25-30 homers, great defense, and 90+ RBIs (or, what Trot Nixon SHOULD produce each season).

Should the Red Sox have traded Hanley Ramirez with Edgar Renteria on his way out of town? Why not? Josh Beckett, for all these nitwits at WEEI and mouthing-off online who have not figured it out yet, is a 26 year-old Curt Schilling/Roger Clemens clone. He is big, he is powerful, and he is without a doubt the ace of the staff for the next three, five, eight, ten, twelve years. He is at the age when a young pitcher puts it together and becomes that special player. Hanley Ramirez, for all his potential, could end up no more than a cannot-miss prospect like Dernell Stenson, Billy Beane, Bobby Mercer, Kevin Maas, Gregg Jeffries, Darryl Strawberry, Ron Kittle or Terry Francona. Beckett has a World Series MVP in his trophy case already (against the Yankees no less). This one was a no-brainer.

Second, the trade of Edgar Renteria for Andy Marte. Agreed, Edgar Renteria let me down along with the other 5 million members of Red Sox Nation. Renteria looked and played old. 2003 was a distant memory. Something was physically wrong and led to psychological issues. The poor guy was never comfortable, and probably never would be playing in Boston. How can you not unload him for a #1 prospect?

Trading Marte was something I still am against. Yes, Crisp fills a need and more than adequately replaces Damon. However, I wish there was a way to have somehow swung the deal with someone else supplying the intriguing young prospect. That said, centerfield is set for four, eight, ten or more years. Crisp is young and on the upside. He should be a great fit in Boston, and the Sox again grabbed a young, established star in the making. Put it this way, imagine settling for Jacque Jones (finding the worst fit and overpaying for him: and that is what being a Cubs fan is all about!).

So Boston stole Marte from Atlanta for Renteria and then turned him around for Coco Crisp. The Sox stole Loretta from San Diego for an overpaid, aging, career back-up catcher. Finally, the Red Sox got the best young power pitcher in baseball for a prospect at least two years away from Fenway who had been passed in the system by Dustin Pedroia. Not too shabby an off-season. Younger, better defensively, deeper in the rotation and bullpen, and they still have the best three-four lineup punch in baseball.

* * *

Friday, January 27, 2006

JINXED AGAIN

On a day when the Boston Globe either could not think of anything Red Sox related to report in their so-called Sports Plus section, the big news was the green. Fan favorite Ricky Davis continued the Bent Family-Celtics curse by becoming the third straight favorite player of my kids to hit the road. From Antoine Walker, to Jiri Welsh, to Marcus Banks and Ricky, the minute I hear Hal or Emma comment during a game that ____ is my favorite player on the Celtics, I am going to send a telegram to that player and wish them well on their travels to a new team.

* * *

I must say that my initial reaction to the trade this morning cannot be repeated as it was a bit colorful and all I can say is that thank goodness the kids were still asleep. Once I settled down to the prospect of Ricky Davis being traded, I remembered that Wally Szczerbiak is a pretty damn good player. Not great, but someone who could be a good fit for Paul Pierce. Listening to Danny Ainge on D&C this AM and thinking about it throughout the day, the reasons for the trade make sense. I can come up with ten valid reasons to make the deal. Here is how I see the rationale for the big trade:

1. Oh my God, the Celtics owed Mark Blount how much more money for no effort? I guess he learned a lot from Vin Baker in the University of Hartford’s second greatest basketball player’s tenure in Boston. (Greatest UHartford b-baller ever? Why Bill Chace aka Chazer, the greatest pick-up basketball point guard ever!)

2. Doc Rivers was actually pretty lucky so far, but how much more time was going to pass until Ricky Davis dropped his shorts at mid-court and Tommy Heinsohn and Red Auerbach keeled over dead from embarrassment?

3. That out of control play on both ends of the court in the final minutes by Ricky must really hurt the Celtics chances of winning those close games.

4. Wally Szczerbiak can stretch the floor (like Raef LaFrentz was supposed to do) and give Paul Pierce room to get his shot without having to try so hard to make his shot.

5. The time has come to play Big Al and Perk until their tongues are hanging out or they foul out.

6. Kevin McHale owed Danny Ainge a favor from way back, so he took Marcus Banks off his hands.

7. Justin Reed had one good game in almost two seasons. I wonder why he was so expendable.

8. Everyone in Boston will love Wally. Just look at Wally the Green Monster. He went from an embarrassment to a marketing icon. Forget Rem-Dawg and his good luck Wally, my kids already worship at the Wally Altar and, if I let them, would have the house packed with Wally paraphernalia.

9. My kids love the original Willy Wonka movie (heck, they loved the new Charlie & the Chocolate Factory as well), so having the Kandi Man on the roster will be a big hit (so since the Candy Man was just throwing candy to the kids during the song and dance sequence, why did stupid Charlie just stand outside? Was there an all you can eat buffet for 2 pounds going on at the time? Why do I think of this stuff anyway?).

10. Wally Szczerbiak can hit free throws, and if anyone on the team could hit free throws, then the team would have about five more wins.
Bonus: Tony Allen and Ryan Gomes, come on down! Playing time is here at last!

* * *

HOT COCO?

Hold on, I am at the edge of my seat in anticipation: will the Red Sox acquire Coco Crisp after all? With as much chance to be right as all the prognosticators covering MLB, let me go to the Magic Eight Ball: All signs point to yes. There it is, a legitimate scoop. The Magic Eight Ball predicts Coco ends up in centerfield for the Red Sox.

* * *

WHO WILL PAY FOR MARTE:

So now the Coco adventure has swung back to the three team trade with Cincinnati. I like this deal with one stipulation: it keeps Marte in the fold. The trade has various permutations leaked out to the press, but basically it involves the Reds unloading an outfielder to Cleveland who ships Crisp to Boston and we send Matt Clement to Cincinnati. Not a bad deal, but I hate giving up on starting pitching, especially one so talented as the erratic Mr. Clement. Of course, the Sox can conceivably sign Jeff Weaver to a one-year contract for less than what Clement was due to earn in 2006. One head case out; one head case in.

Of course, the key to the deal would be keeping Andy Marte in the fold (he can DH while Big Papi plays first base. Sure, it screws over Youkilis, but the kid needs a chance!). Whether Marte plays or not in 2006, there is no doubt that the Sox should be a stronger team in 2006 with a beefed up bullpen, rotation, and defense. Here is why there are so many reasons to ignore the WEEI lemmings and be optimistic about the Sox playing through November in 2006:

Infield Defense: Right now for the Red Sox the entire infield, 3B, SS, 2B, & 1B, are all improved offensively and defensively. 3B: Gold Glove Mike Lowell replaces creaky knees Bill Mueller; Alex Cora or Alex Gonzalez represents a huge step up over Edgar Renteria, who would not even dive for a ball in the second half of the season; Loretta is solid at second base and can turn a double play; and I doubt the Sox can find anyone worse than Kevin Millar to play first base.

No Offensive Drop-off: If Coco Crisp replaces Johnny Damon, fortunately Rob Neyer or another stat-head will come out and give the details of my argument: playing in Fenway Park for 80 games will give Crisp the opportunity to improve upon the stats of Johnny Rock Star. The Red Sox lineup is still strong top-to-bottom, with the production of Bill Mueller replaced by Kevin Youkilis; Edgar Renteria can be matched by Alex Gonzalez; Damon by Crisp; Loretta is an improvement over any second base semi-regular (Smellhorn, for example); and how can Mike Lowell do any worse than Kevin Millar? With Manny & Papi still around, the lineup remains strong.

Bullpen: Let me make this point crystal clear: Keith Foulke will come back and save 30-40 games this season. Even on two bum knees he showed the mental fortitude to do just enough to save a majority of the games he was in during a save situation. That is mental toughness. With the return of health for Foulke, there should be no doubt about his ability to bounce back to his normal and productive levels of the past.

Staying with the bullpen, the depth that is there is so much improved over any of the past three years. With Guillermo Mota (if he stays), Julian Tavarez, and Rudy Seanez joining Mike Timlin, the Red Sox should have no concerns after the sixth inning. Factor in Manny DelCarmen (if he stays), Craig Hansen as a late season call-up, Jermaine (not President Martin) Van Buren, and Lenny DiNardo and suddenly the bullpen looks damned good.

Rotation Depth: Yes, the Red Sox have returned to the land of two Aces. Josh Beckett is all that and a bag of chips, and Curt Schilling should win anywhere from 15 to 23 games. Tim Wakefield is back, as is Bronson Arroyo. David Wells may or may not be back, and Matt Clement could or could not be an integral part of getting Coco Crisp to Boston. Of course, Jonathan Papelbon and Jon Lester are ready to join the rotation as well. Also, if the Sox trade Clement or Wells, they really should take a one-year waiver on Jeff Weaver. Yes, he sucked in New York, but no, he was not as bad as they made it out there. Also, he had to pitch with the handicap all Yankees pitchers have to deal with: No pitching coach (because Mel Stottlemeyer does nothing of value other than mixing the post-game gin and tonic for Regular Joe). Weaver would be a great #4 or 5 starter to eat innings and give Papelbon & Lester plenty of opportunity to slowly break into the location.

Forget the Theo/Larry/John Henry/Ben & Jed show: that has no meaning once spring training begins. Focus on the great pitching staff, the balanced line-up, deep bullpen, and improved team defense that makes the Red Sox the best team in the American League in 2006.

* * *

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

GONNA BE A LONG WINTER

Now, I realize that Dennis & Callahan have a lot of time to kill on their drive-time program, but on a night when Ricky Davis had a superb performance and Tim Thomas made the highlight reel save of the year in the net for the Bruins, D&C could only find time to continue to pretend they know how Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein think, babble on endlessly about 24, the television show that has nothing to do with sports and still cannot lure me in (Kiefer Sutherland? Really, who cares), and then go back to the endless Lucchino bashing. God help me, I cannot stand another couple months of this torture!

I believe! The Celtics and Bruins do exist! I have seen them and they are real!


* * *

BLACK & GOLD:

My gosh, a revival by the Bruins. Tim Thomas is 3-0-2 this season with a GAA under 2.00. Hannu Toivonen will be healthy soon. Andrew Raycroft is a talented young goalie who is suffering from a loss of confidence brought on by injuries, bad defense, and bad luck. He should bounce back soon. The team could not be as bad as they looked earlier this season. Of course, the hot streak could be another case of right teams at the right time, but I must say I am pleasantly surprised with the strong defense and opportunistic offense shown by the suddenly mighty Bruins.

Of course, the highlight last night was Tim Thomas standing on his head in the third period and willing the team to a win. The save he made after Alexander Ovechkin banged one off the post was the best save I have seen this season: full extension dive to his left after spinning around to make a save that no NHL goalie had any right to make. It flat-out saved the game, and hey, who knows, maybe the season. I may be watching because there is nothing else on as far as local sports, but dammit as long as they stay entertaining and win a few at least I can say I am watching again.

* * *

GANG GREEN:

Ahh, if only the Celtics could play against New Orleans/Oklahoma City every night. The good news was that Raef LaFrentz was on fire last night. When LaFrentz is a viable third scorer on the court with Paul Pierce and Ricky Davis. I would love to see the Celtics run off five or six wins in a row, although I doubt that they will.

Otherwise, the Mark Blount trade watch continues. Of course, with the trading deadline a month away, this could/should drag out until the deadline as Danny Ainge trolls the waters for the a team desperate for a big man. Of course, desperate is the word, as Tony Battie, who is actually better than Blount, is likely available for a lot less with a lot less money to pay over the next few years. I say, trade him for anything that breathes, but then again, I have been saying that for years.

* * *

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

PUT ME IN COACH

I'm ready to play
(clap-clap)
Today

Less than a month until pitchers and catchers report, and all the local media outlets show video of the clubhouse boys at Fenway loading up the equipment for the trucks heading south. As we all know, the return of baseball means one thing: plotting to bring down Chazer in fantasy baseball.

OK, maybe a bit more than that, but I guess the Patriots being humbled in the playoffs really puts an exclamation mark on the end of the football season (Seattle versus Pittsburgh. Yawn). So all baseball, all over the place today as I try to empty some of the canisters in my mind.

* * *

I just cannot wait until the first full-speed collision in shallow centerfield between Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon. Jeter running full speed out to centerfield, Johnny Damon running in from the warning track (since his horrific collision in the playoffs in 2003, Damon no longer goes back for the ball like he used to and thus plays so much deeper than he had in the past). Of course, this is good news for A-Rod as he finally will have his excuse to move to shortstop full-time.

* * *

Ooh-ooh, first fist fight in the stands between Michelle Damon and Mrs. A-Rod. That will be the clip of the year as it gets replayed on an endless loop on ESPN.

* * *

If I had Ichiro on my team, I would bat him clean-up.

* * *

If the trade goes through between Boston and Cleveland as a six-person trade and the Sox get back the young catcher and David Riske as well as Coco Crisp, I think that shows that Cleveland, with Bob Wickman at the back of the bullpen and Bullet Bob Howry gone, needs Guillermo Mota as much as the Sox need Crisp.

* * *

Other than price tag and perception in the media, what is the difference between Alex Gonzalez and Alex Cora?

* * *

The Mets best move was signing Billy Wagner. The Phillies (Flash Gordon) and the Braves (umm, maybe Chris Reitsma) have closer issues. Of course, they Mets will still find a way to finish with more losses than wins.

* * *

Pedro Prediction: 12-7 3.59 era, two trips on the DL.

* * *

Can someone tell me why the Yankees spend $50 million plus on Johnny Rock Star and cannot get the one player who can calm their pitching staff and give them a chance next year, Bengie Molina? And, no, the answer is not Mike Piazza.

* * *

I would move Papi to 1B full time and sign Piazza to DH and catch Wakefield.

* * *

Dustin Pedroia had better start 135 games or more at shortstop in Pawtucket this season. I expect he should be the Red Sox starting shortstop for the foreseeable future starting in late 2006 or 2007.

* * *

The White Sox, with their fantastic starting pitching, should be even better in 2006, but I still think Jim Thome was a bad idea and the offense just will not score enough runs to win more than 85 to 90 games.

* * *

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A GREAT PR MOVE

Theo, welcome back. What? You never left? Oh. Whatever. Does it really make a difference? Does it do anything but further relegate the Celtics and Bruins to the back of the sports pages?

I get this image of Theo going into work everyday at Fenway and crunching stats, pulling up charts, and making lists while Lucchino walks by, pokes his head in the office, and wanders off to pull aside the closest person and ask: did he quit, and if so, why the hell is he still here all the time?


* * *

I remember watching re-runs of Rowen & Martins Laugh-in as a kid (imagine having a huge crush on Goldie Hawn as a 13 year old and then realizing in the here and now she was about 40 and doing bad movies with jokers like Mel Gibson and that Kurt Russell and the show you I was watching was 20 years old. I was warped for life right there I tell ya) and they would always do the news (sort of what Saturday Night Live ripped-off for the Weekend Update) and they had one segment called the Quickies. Well, it is time for the quickies, or as I call them in honor of Mr. Jimi, Crosstown Traffic.

CROSSTOWN TRAFFIC:

Now I may not be as big a Bronson Arroyo fan as my wife, Kathy, but I consider myself a fan of his if only for the way he persevered after being cut by Pittsburgh and not only got back to the majors and fills a key role for a playoff team. He has worked hard to get where he is and I admire him and support him for it. Moreso, as a fan, I appreciate him even more for giving up his arbitration years for a long-term contract. Sure, he could have made more money going to arbitration three times, but why? Like Johnny Damon, he became a celebrity in the only city that treats its athletes like they were Hollywood Royalty. Johnny Damon will miss that. Just ask Mo Vaughn.

However, kudos to Bronson for making the smart decision. He has the contract. If he performs well with 13-16 wins a year for the next three years, he can look forward to really breaking the bank. Arroyo, remember is not as young as most pitchers in baseball with three years of arbitration remaining. If he were 23, I would call him a fool. But he is not, he knows what he wants to do where, and I think it is a positive step for all of baseball that a player actually wants to stay somewhere instead of chasing dollars. Plus, you cannot buy that kind of positive PR.

* * *

So Big Perk stepped up and gave Paul Pierce a stern lecture at halftime. About time, I say. Great sign for the Celtics that one of the kids stepped up to the plate and dished some to the sullen superstar. I still remain on board with the fact that Big Perk & Big Al do not play enough, but in no way am I going to pull a Bill Simmons and call for the firing of Doc Rivers. The team underachieves, but that is expected this year. A Boston sports team is rebuilding. Get used to it and get over it. Doc is following the Danny Ainge plan, which sure beats the Rick Pitino, Chris Wallace, and M.L. Carr plans we have been subjected to in the past.

* * *

Finally, I get to mention the Bruins! I have been sneaking peeks at them, if only to see how the nicest guy in hockey, Tim Thomas, is making out between the pipes. Thomas, with a tie (sorry, an overtime shootout loss) and two wins has for some reason given this team a long missing spark. Of course, my father-in-law, Sonny (one of those hardcore Bruins cult members you read about in the papers, y’know, one of those hockey fans who never misses a game), is no doubt pumped and jacked at the development as he has been bitching about the Bruins not bringing up Thomas to play goalie since they got him three or four years ago. Looks like Harry Sinden should have listened to Sonny all along.

* * *

Not that I am a big fan, but the Australian Open is a favorite of mine if only for headlines like: Martina Hingus shows no sign of rust down under. God, I devolve right back to the Beavis & Butthead mode (or as my son calls them, Wheavus & the Butthead. Yes, I let my four year old watch Beavis & Butthead, and yes, hold the emails, I know I am going straight to hell). Of course, you can add Down Under to any headline and it is instantly hilarious. I read it and I hear the voice of Quagmire, the oversexed and overcharged neighbor from Family Guy saying: Oh Yeah!

* * *

Last, but certainly not least, a big welcome to the world to Max Oberacker and the proud Papa (because we dads do the fun work and then hit cruise control for nine months). Obie, congrats to you & Kristen! Welcome to the fraternity of fatherhood, my friend. Eric, Bill, & I all understand the pain & suffering, umm, I mean the joy of parenthood, that awaits you.

* * *

Thursday, January 19, 2006

NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS

Another day passes without anyone making a serious move towards changing the balance of power in the American League East. Sure, Toronto made some moves to add salary with some crazy-ass deals like A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan (talk about paying for potential!). The Yankees have made one move of significance, signing Johnny Damon, and basically exchanged Flash Gordon for Kyle Farnsworth in the bullpen. I guess Aaron Small & Shawn Chacon are both being counted on to win 20 games each. Or maybe the time-warp that scientists in the Bronx and Tampa are frantically working on will come about and the Moose and the Big Eunich will return to their 1999 performance levels. Baltimore is not worth mentioning as 80 wins would be a jackpot season and Tampa, while improving, is in the midst of trying to build a starting rotation out of fairy dust, construction paper, and elmers glue.

Red Sox. 100 Wins. Division crown hands-down no contest after August. You heard it here first.


* * *

NO RUSH:

No, I am not talking about VH1 Classic and their constant attempts to fill my television screen with the ugliest man in Rock & Roll: Geddy Lee of Rush. Never was a big fan. Anyway, I think the Red Sox front office has to be applauded for taking their time and not rushing and making knee-jerk decisions regarding shortstop and centerfield. I think they made a great move unloading Edgar Renteria for Andy Marte and also grabbing Josh Beckett and Guillermo Mota (along with Mike Lowell) for Hanley Ramirez and Anibel Sanchez. Josh Beckett has the capability to turn the tide in the AL East. Despite all the moves by Toronto and the lack of moves by the Yankees, the AL East will be won by pitching (since EVERYONE in the division can put up double-digit runs any day of the week). No one has a staff as balanced and deep as the Red Sox.

OK, maybe the White Sox can match the rotation depth, but their bullpen is shaky. The Angels have the bullpen depth to compete with the Sox, but there are still questions regarding the starting rotation. Within the division, the Blue Jays are improved, but cannot compete with the starting seven and back ten the Sox presently have for a pitching staff. The Yankees rotation is held together with baling wire and duct tape, while the bullpen looks like it always does: pray they can score enough runs to keep it close for Mariano in the ninth. Baltimore needs yet another deconstruction and rebuild. Tampa has a great young lineup, but a severe shortage of major league pitching talent.

Since the Sox can run out Alex Cora at shortstop and a cheap alternative in centerfield (Adam Stern anyone?) there is no reason to panic and make a deal they will regret later. They have a huge chip still available for trading in David Wells. Someone is going to lose a starting pitcher in spring training or the first half of the season. Having Wells available as trade bait puts the Red Sox in the position of power to name their terms and get the centerfielder or shortstop they want. Like Billy Beane constantly does in Oakland, the first months are a time to evaluate some players who may or may not work out. By the trading deadline in July, the team is ready to make a huge push into the playoffs by restocking the team and being ready to pull the trigger when teams are desperate for the players you have on the roster.

Obviously, the return to health of a few prominent pitchers is paramount to success for the Red Sox this season. A healthy Curt Schilling making 25 to 30 starts along with Josh Beckett gives the Sox a 1-2 punch akin to Manny and Big Papi give to the lineup. Also, adding Guillermo Mota, Julian Tavarez, and Rudy Seanez to the bullpen gives the Sox the depth they missed last year when Keith Foulke was out and Mike Timlin stepped in as closer. This year, Foulke can take his time to get up to speed and resume his role as stopper for the crimson hose.

* * *

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

COLOSSAL BLUNDER

Ahh, I love the Patriots being in the same division as the Jets. The Jets unload the worst coach in the NFL to an unsuspecting Kansas City Chiefs team, and what do they do to replace him? Sign the overmatched defensive coordinator of their division rivals. Let there be no doubt that Eric Mangini may one day be a great coach in the NFL, but he will not be one in 2006. Maybe with another year or two of experience as defensive coordinator he would be ready, but I doubt he is right now.

The Patriots defense was in disarray until Bill Belichick stepped away from the offense at mid-season and took over control of the defense. This was a year for on-the-job training for Mangini. The Jets, however, panicked and grabbed Mangini minutes into this off-season without a thought for whether he was the right man for the job. The Jets are reeling from knowing they made a huge mistake by not jettisoning Happy Herm two years ago and grabbing Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, or Nick Saban when they were available. They realize now the nature of their mistake.

Is it me, or does anyone else see this move as a repeat of the Bill Belichick-Cleveland Browns disaster in the nineties. Mangini, like Belichick was at the time, is not ready to take the next step. He just has not had the opportunity to learn on the job how to be a leader. Working with a secondary dominated by Ty Law and then transitioning to defense based on the Romeo Crennel blueprint still lying around is not enough to make someone head coach material. The Jets may say they would rather hire Mangini now before he is ready rather than risk losing him, but I think that is bull.

The Jets are in desperate need of discipline and a coach with the patience to rebuild a squad with major salary cap issues and an offense with no healthy or talented quarterbacks, a rapidly aging star running back, a patchwork offensive line, and overpaid and underperforming receivers (offense, of course, which Mangini has never coached). The defense will likely undergo a radical shift from the Happy Herm cover-two scheme to the attacking 3-4 favored by the Belichick Disciples. Will John Abraham return? Can they afford him? Can Dwayne Robertson play the 3-4 nose guard? Other than Vilma, are there any linebackers with any talent on the Jets? Will Ty Law come back to play for his old coach at a discount or just take the biggest pile of cash (last year the answer was: Go for the Cash. Why would it be any different this year)?

Of course, Mangini has to decide what to do with the current Jets coaches and then try to pry some coaches from Belichick (that is when the border wars will really heat up). Romeo Crennel had enough time in football to nurture numerous relationships outside the Belichick tree, so he was able to staff his coaching ranks without pilfering the Pats coaches, and ditto for Charlie Weis. Mangini, I am not so sure will be able to get enough talented coaches in New York without messing with the Pats staff.

Mangini also has the added pressure of coaching in New York. The Jets are competing with the Giants for the back-pages. How Mangini will handle the glare of the spotlight is an unknown as Belichick keeps his assistant coaches far from the glare of the news cameras. Weis is a natural in front of a camera, but that was obvious way back. Crennel, while not as glib as Charlie, is a commanding presence in front of the team and in front of a microphone, and handled the transition seamlessly. Mangini is still an unknown. Replacing Happy Herm, who was always so happy to hang with the media, should be an interesting sub-plot in the transition to Jet-land.

As far as who will take over at defensive coordinator for the Patriots, I am guessing Rob Ryan will come over from Oakland (since they are yet again in a position to clean house) and return to take the position that was likely promised to him if he had been patient and stayed with the Pats rather than taking over the Warren Sapp led mess in Oakland. If not him, I am sure Bill Belichick has disciples floating around both in the NFL (Cleveland, Miami, and other locales) and in the college ranks (LSU, Iowa, Fresno State, and other locales).

Do not get me wrong, I would much prefer that Mangini had stayed in New England as it would have been best for the defense and he is without a doubt one of, if not the best, secondary coaches in football. The jury is still out on him as a defensive coordinator, however, let alone as a head coach. But, the Jets should be applauded for trying. There is no doubt that Romeo Crennel will have the Brown respectable next season, that Nick Saban has already worked miracles in Miami, and that Charlie Weis is the best thing to hit Notre Dame since Tim Brown signed his letter of intent back in the eighties. The Belichick tree is ripe for the plucking, but the question remains if the Jets plucked an apple that was not quite ripe.

* * *

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

NO APPLE IN THESE TURNOVERS

I admit it, I really thought this was the year again for the Patriots. Sure, I overlooked their lack of a consistent running game; the idea that maybe they were asking too much out of Tom Brady considering how many times he stood back in the pocket and got pounded; the big wins against bad teams; the alarming number of red zone trips ending in a field goal; the defensive backfield without Rodney Harrison; and the fact that the polish was just a little faded on the 2005 New England Patriots. I overlooked it all, and they still should have won in Denver and been at home against the Steelers next weekend.

* * *

JUST HOLD ONTO THE DAMNED BALL:

Yeah, that phantom interference call on Asante Samuel changed the whole demeanor of the game, but to say the Patriots lost because of that one call is ludicrous. Now the Tom Brady interception in the end zone was inexcusable. Instead of a 10-9 game, the score was 17-6. That changed the game. Yes, I thought that the call by the official that the ball did not pass into the end zone when Ben Watson made the amazing play of catching Champ Bailey at the one yard line after a 100 yard return was the wrong one. Heck, I may not know much about physics, but for the ball to move ten feet to the left without moving 9 feet forward seems implausible, but to complain about that is silly. Brady should have thrown the ball six inches off the ground or sailed it out of the end zone. He made a very bad decision at the wrong time.

All of the turnovers killed the Patriots. Troy Brown fumbling, Ellis Hobbs fumbling, Kevin Faulk fumbling, the Brady INTs, it all adds up to rookie mistakes. And with rookies in there as offensive and defensive coordinators, maybe this really was 2002 all over: a year to step back, re-evaluate, get it right, and come back stronger the next year. The nucleus is there, and while they certainly have holes, maybe an extra three weeks of rest is just what the doctor ordered for this team. One thing is for sure, even if they lose David Givens and Adam Vinatieri (their marquee free agents) and defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, the team still has the depth to be a perennial contender in the AFC.

For the Patriots, their division is still weak. Without a top-flight quarterback, the Dolphins will continue to stay around .500. The Jets and Bills are in such disarray that they are exhibits one and two as the league laughingstocks. The AFC East crown is theirs to lose. Their offensive line should be stronger than ever, with Matt Light and Dan Koppen returning. They still need some young, fast linebackers to stick on the outside and a big young mutt to groom to take over in the middle, but they are still strong up the middle and in the trenches. They will win a lot of games in the near future. As much as people would like to kick them when they are down, they are still a deep team that can compete for the near future every season.

* * *

NEW RULES:

When did being a media member mean the spotlight went on you as you become part of the story? And how do I get some of that action? Bruce Allen of BostonSportsMedia.com & the Big Dawgs over at coldhardfootballfacts.com (incidently, two of my favorite sites, see links on the right hand side of my page) have come out together and called for the mass e-mailing to the Boston Globe to call for the firing, or removal from the Patriots beat, of Ron Borges. Ron Borges has his faults, no doubt. He has a personal issue with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick which is evident in his writing. Borges should have been removed from football coverage back at the turn of the millennium. However, he is a very good writer, has some legit sources in the league, and is the best boxing writer on the planet right now. Thus, it is kind of hard to throw him out with the bathwater. I may not send any emails, but I will play King Solomon say this: he is worth keeping, but not covering the Patriots. Let him move over baseball and cover the Red Sox and keep him in the boxing notes.

Of course, on Sunday after the Patriots loss, Borges goes out and writes a beautiful article about how the season ended in disappointment but the team still had much to be proud of in 2005. I had to re-read the article to be sure it was Borges who wrote it. Maybe he took this latest criticism to heart, maybe his editor stood over his shoulder and made sure it was done, but it was simply a great article.

I was expecting venom, and found only the sweet water of a trickling brook in the summertime.

* * *

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

BUSTING BRONCOS

There really are few surprises left out there about the Broncos and the Patriots. Both teams are familiar with the other and both teams are playing at a high level. Las Vegas always gives the home team three points to play with just for being the home team. So with the Broncos up 3-0 already, is there any razzle-dazzle or tricks on defense the Patriots can sprint on them? No, what the Patriots have to do is be an efficient machine on offense and defense. Make plays on offense to sustain drives and on defense dictate the speed and timing of the game by stopping the run early and keeping Denver in second and third and longs where they will not be able to attempt those quick-hit passes downfield that worked so well for them in the first meeting.

* * *

CROSSTOWN TRAFFIC:

I definitely have too many loose thoughts bouncing around my head right now. Time to get them out:

Someone needs to tell the Boston College Basketball team that Seton Hall, Miami, and St. John are no longer on the schedule and if they do not start winning some conference games they will be at a huge disadvantage in March. Top ten team: what a joke!

* * *

J.T. Snow: he is like Doug Mienkiewicz, except he returns the ball. Seriously, in the mold of Mienkiewicz and John Olerud, Snow should be a great fit at first in Fenway.

* * *

Rickles, where is the Marion Butts jersey? Tell me you still have it! Still my all-time favorite Patriots backfield: Marion Butts at HB and Sam Gash at FB. Let me throw it up to Gil and Geno in the booth:
Gil: Pats offense is out on the field talking over at the 27. Scott Secules at QB, and they Gash n Butts in the backfield.
Geno: Gash n Butts? Someone better run a towel out onto the field!
Gil: Go back to sleep Geno.


* * *

Even on FIFA 06 for Xbox my brother Marcus Bent sits on the bench. No wonder Everton is second division! I propose the new slogan for the Toffee fans: Get Bent on the Pitch!

* * *

I should be in marketing. I really should. I just crack myself up.

* * *

Six weeks to spring training and Andy Marte is still on the Red Sox roster. This kid just needs a chance to shine. I still see no reason to turn this kid around for a joker like Julio Lugo or part of a package for Jeremy Reed.

* * *

Beckett, Schilling, Wakefield, Wells, Clement. Arroyo, Papelbon, Hansen, Delcarmen, Timlin, Mota, and Foulke. Nope, still do not see anyone in the A.L. East able to match-up with that pitching staff. That is a balanced group of veterans and young kids who throw some serious smoke.

* * *

Great job by Jumbo Joe Thornton, throwing a hard check for the first in his career and getting escorted off the ice. All those fans who bought tickets must have loved hanging around for the rest of that stinker.

* * *

The Celtics this year have redefined waiting until the last two minutes of the game to tune in.

* * *

What gives with Big Al and K-Perk sitting on the bench three-quarters of the game? Danny Ainge needs to send a memo to Doc to keep the big gruesome twosome in the game until they both foul out.

* * *

Bill Simmons is all concerned about Kobe not making a run for 80 or 100 points after having over 50 at halftime, but sitting out the entire fourth quarter. Come back to Boston where no one cares about pro basketball, Bill! Of course, that could be half the reason to leave.

* * *

Did anyone else watch Orgazmo and wonder why no prominent pro athletes who are also Latter-Day Saints made cameo appearances? Were Steve Young and Danny Ainge too big-time to star with South Park creator Trey Parker? Heck, if Ron Jeremy stars in it, you know it is crammed with, uh, quality.

* * *

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

YES, THE BRUINS EXIST (KIND OF, WELL, TO SOME I GUESS)

Jumbo Joe is coming to town. Wow, the excitement is building: The San Jose Sharks are in town! The local papers have headlines screaming about his return (buried behind pages of Patriots analysis and will Jim Rice make the Hall - which he did not, unfortunately). Joe Thornton is expected to skate out of the Garden on a bed of roses as he is finally loved by the Boston fans as he pots a hat trick against the lowly Bruins. I know one thing, we are finally going to see Joe Thornton on the ice playing with a spark!

* * *

RUNNING THE BALL THE KEY (FOR THE PATS):

Forget Denver, we know that unless they fall behind by 20 points, they are going to run, run, and then run some more. But the key for the Patriots is being able to run the ball and staying with the running game. Even if Dillon and Faulk are averaging 2 or 3 yards per rush, they have to keep John Lynch up at the line of scrimmage so as to attack the middle of the field with the tight ends and the wide receivers. The threat of the run is important to the Patriots because of the ability of Tom Brady to play-action and have the middle of the field wide open. One point I have not heard made enough is how the effectiveness of the running game has hinged on one factor for the Patriots this season and last: Daniel Graham. Graham, who has been injured much the season, would be a huge addition to the offensive line if he is healthy enough to play at his old stomping grounds in Colorado.

Of course, Bill Belichick knows that the Broncos will expect this, and with Darrent Williams not completely healthy, the Patriots may instead attack the Broncos with the four-wide set and Kevin Faulk catching passes out of the backfield if he can get locked up with an Ian Gold or Al Wilson who are great pass rushers but not the kind of guys you want covering a speedy scat-back out of the backfield. Also, any chance of get Ben Watson or any of the receivers with John Lynch in coverage is a huge advantage for the Patriots.

On defense, the Patriots should be hoping that Denver runs Mike Anderson most of the time. Running backs like Tatum Bell give them fits, while slower and stronger RBs who plow more north-south tend to be the backs the Patriots can hit and gang-tackle without much of a problem. Speedsters with jukes and moves like Bell make the defense crazy because they cannot hit him and slow him down. Expect the Patriots to try to protect the secondary by only leaving the front seven in the box rather than cheating up a safety.

Stopping the run and controlling Jake Plummer falls into the hands of the Patriot outside linebackers: Willie McGinest and Rosie Colvin. Colvin and McGinest need to seal the outside and direct the running backs towards Vrabel, Bruschi, and the front three. In pass defense, they need to seal the outside and keep Plummer in the pocket, where his happy feet are likely to get him in trouble as he bounces around the pocket uncomfortably. Expect Denver to run some planned roll-outs to give Plummer a chance to get out of the pocket and show off his strong arm on the deep passes. If the Pats get some pressure on Plummer out of the front seven, expect to see the old Plummer emerge and try to force the ball to Rod Smith. Rod Smith being Rod Smith, he will likely still make the catch, but if the Patriots can garner a strong pass rush without calling all-out blitzes, they have a chance to create enough turnovers to pull out an upset against a tough opponent on the road in the playoffs.

* * *

DAMMIT!

OK, so Jim Rice is not going to make the Hall of Fame. To counteract this transgression, I propose that Tony Perez be immediately removed from the Hall. If Rice was not good enough, then in no way should Tony Perez have his plaque hanging in Cooperstown. Now, the worst part is I love Tony Perez. I remember in 1980 at all of six years old jumping up and down when the Sox got him. I remember telling my Dad I thought he could hit fifty homeruns playing in Fenway. If the Sox got Perez in the mid-seventies instead of 1980, people would be comparing Big Papi to Big Tony right now.

Now count me tickled that Bruce Sutter got in the Hall, and color me pissed off that Lee Smith and Goose Gossage somehow joined Rice on the outside looking in. Why are relief pitchers undervalued by the Hall of Fame voters? Heck, the Goose was not getting any of these sissy saves pitchers now get. He was pitching two, three, or more innings and earning them. Bert Blylevin and Jack Morris are both much better than Don Sutton and even my favorite pitcher from the late seventies and early eighties, Gaylord Perry. Is there a reason Alan Trammell gets less than 20% of the vote while George Brett gets over 90% on the first ballot? I always thought they were pretty similar and equal as players (Brett with a pinch more power, more marketing behind him and more post-season showtime). None of these guys stand a chance with Cal Ripkin Jr and Tony Gwynn coming up for the vote next season.

Back in the pre-Internet days when I was just a dork with the Baseball Encyclopedia, I sat down and created an A List of Hall of Famers, about 25 total. Then I divided up the players in to B and C lists. Is this really a bad idea? A tiered and leveled structure to the Hall of Fame? I think it is a great idea. Have players get elected into the C level and earn their way up higher. Too bad it will never happen.

* * *

INSERT CRAP ABOUT CRAPPY BRUINS HERE:

Aww, forget it. No one cares about these losers. The front-office took a chance and miscalculated. Blow-up the team and start over, I say.

* * *

ROLLIN

You know it is the Patriots in the playoffs and Bill Belichick is rubbing off on the denizens of New England when they win 28-3 and all anyone can talk about is how the defense gave up too many completions and the dropped passes and lack of a Cory Dillon running game in the first half.

* * *

At best, it was a solid win. At worse, it was an inconsistent victory. While the Patriots did not dazzle by any stretch of the imagination (four fumbles, dropped passes, no running game, spotty pass defense in the first half), the team, as they tend to do in January, did enough to win. Remember that in 2001 and 2003, the first game played in the playoffs proved most difficult for the Belichick Boys. 2001 was the snow bowl against the Raiders (or the Tuck Rule game if you prefer), and 2003 was the Windchill Game against the Titans where the Pats had to hold-off an upset-minded co-MVP named Steve McNair (The other Co-MVP that year, Peyton Manning, proved to be a much easier game to win.).

The Jaguars, for all the disrespect that they claimed, really were, a one-dimensional team with a good, but not great, defense. Small wonder that the teams that beat them were the ones with the quarterbacks who can air it out and take on all comers (3 of 5 losses to Manning or Brady). The Jaguars are a young running back and a stud young receiver away from being a serious threat. Fred Taylor and Jimmy Smith are going to run out of gas soon, and one has to wonder if David Garrard or Byron Leftwich can carry a team past the first round or two of the playoffs, which where quarterback play really becomes a major factor in whether a team advances or not.

Seriously, other the fluke of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, when was the last time a team with a worse quarterback reached the super bowl? Neil O’Donnell? Kordell Stewart in the AFC Championship? Defense takes you so far in the playoffs. Eventually the offense needs to make big plays to win a game. The Jets and Steelers both suffered from young QBs who could not make the big throws in the playoffs last year (although I expect Roethlisberger, though not as good as the media proclaims him, will be a super bowl caliber QB in the future). When Jake Plummer actually takes the next step in a big game, it will be the first time (and I hope and doubt that time is Saturday night). Peyton Manning, if the defense does not rest, is running out of chances to make the leap, although there are no doubts about his ability, leadership, and skills.

* * *

Friday, January 06, 2006

HOOK EM, LONGHORNS

You would think going to the Longhorn chain of Steakhouses in a Texas Longhorns hat, jacket, & t-shirt would garner you a little discount on the bill, or at least a free beer. Alas, the marketing department just does not have that much imagination. Here are some random thoughts bumping around in my head.

* * *

GAME OVER…WAIT!!!

I admit it, with the score 38-26 USC and the kids finally asleep, I shut down the TV and muttered, game over. Imagine my surprise seeing Hazel Mae narrate the highlights of the Vince Young Extravaganza as he ran wild during the final four and a half minutes of the game after I had shut off the television. Easily the second best college football game of the season (no way, no how was anything going to top the USC-Notre Dame game earlier this season), it was, as ESPN Classic would say, an instant classic. Young and on the USC side, LenDale White, upstaged Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart. Young, who really could use another year to prep for the NFL by staying and continuing to work on his passing game, and Leinart both looked great.

With the success of Carson Palmer in the NFL and the ease at which Matt Leinart has showed he is a worthy choice for a team to pick and build around, the Patriots have to feel great with Matt Cassel on the roster knowing he was a coin-flip away from taking the starting QB position away from either of them while at USC. The Patriots have Cassel in the perfect position anyway, letting him practice with Flutie and Brady and learn the offense. Just watching Leinart and Palmer excelling gives hope that the Patriots have a legit backup and valuable potential trade bait.

* * *

* * *
DAMMIT, EVERTON, PUT BENT BACK IN THE LINEUP:

Not that anyone in the States really cares, but how sweet is it to see Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur still ahead of Arsenal?

* * *

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

BATTLE IN THE TRENCHES

The most intriguing aspect of the Patriots-Jaguars wild card tilt this Saturday is likely the battle in the trenches between the offensive and defensive lines.

When the Patriots offensive line clicks, they open holes for Corey Dillon & the running game, which in turn helps keep pressure off Tom Brady. Operating in the pocket without any kind of pass rush is like shooting fish in a barrel for Brady. Those are the occasions that you see Brady completing those 25 yard passes over the middle. Of course, the Jags have a pretty healthy gruesome twosome in the middle of the defensive line in Richard Seymour’s college running mate, Marcus Stroud, and big John Henderson.

Like all football games, the standard cliché applies: this game will be won in the trenches. If Dante Scarnecchia gets his patchwork offensive line able to execute and open some creases for Dillon and keep Brady standing up, it could be a long day for the Jags. In addition, with the Jags secondary looking only a little healthier than the Pats (Donovan Darius is the Rodney Harrison of the Jaguars. Jacksonville is a totally different defense with Darius on injured reserve.), look for the Patriots spread formation early and often. It can slow the pass rush and allow the team to take advantage of mismatches, especially Kevin Faulk coming out of the backfield.

The Patriots front seven has proven to be the barometer of success this season and last. Hank Poteat is never exposed by an offense when the front seven stops the running game and the linebackers are allowed to tee off on the quarterback. The secondary is an issue when they defense has a safety cheating up near the line of scrimmage and there is only one safety deep in the middle. Of course, the Patriots really do not have any safeties, with cornerbacks manning all four defensive backfield spots. Of course, while this can be seen as a liability in the running game, they do hit hard and make it easier to match up to spread offenses.

Once Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, and Richard Seymour were all healthy and able to play with cohesion, the run defense took a giant step forward. Of course, having Willie McGinest and Roosevelt Colvin on the outside gives the Patriots basically a 5-2-4 defense. If Tedy Bruschi can play close to as well as he has this season, then he and Mike Vrabel should be able to keep the Jags running game contained and allow the team to start blitzing whoever shows up for Jacksonville at QB: the inexperienced David Garrard or the immobile Byron Leftwich.

The playoffs are almost here;The Patriots are still in it; the fun starts Saturday.

* * *

WHERE WILL YOU RUN TO BABY/WHERE WILL YOU HIDE:


So now the rumors leak out that Manny will accept a trade to Baltimore if, and only if, they pick up the two $20 million per year options on his contract. OK, when the pigs start flying, let me know. Tejada for Manny straight-up is probably fair, if only because the position played by Miggy makes up for the drop-off in production. Giving anyone else to Baltimore is senseless. Somehow, I doubt the Sox will fall for the Orioles attempts to stand firm.

The other trade rumor I hope is dismissed immediately is the Andy Marte to Tampa Bay for Julio Lugo deal. Now that, I hope, is only wishful thinking on the part of the Devil Rays. I would not make that deal if I were a co-co-GM for Boston unless it included Rocco Baldelli or Carl Crawford in addition to Lugo for Marte. Marte is a big bopper: Lugo is nickels and dimes. No way no how that deal should be made.

Finally, it appears that David Wells is well on his way to nowhere. With the Sox main attraction in San Diego (Adam Eaton) already gone, I doubt the Padres will dangle much for a one year rental of Wells. The best bet for the Sox is to keep Wells and Clement (since someone will get hurt sometime) and bring Papelbon and Lester along slowly. Arroyo can help bolster the much improved already bullpen like he did in the playoffs and be a swingman if necessary.

Trades made solely for the sake of making a splash never seem to work out. The Sox can stay pat and be in a good position to win.

* * *

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

BACK TO LIFE/BACK TO REALITY

Nothing like a snowy mess in New England on the first day back from a long, holiday weekend. Shoveling slush at 6:15AM and pulling muscles I had no idea existed in my back is surely the way to kick off the new year.

* * *

A SPORT FAN’S NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS:

I resolve to try to refrain from swearing at the television during football games:
It is same resolution every year, but it so difficult when the idiot announcer doing the Patriots - Dolphins game refers to Bill Belichick as Bill Cowher sixteen times! I mean, one has the chin of Prometheus and the Dave Wannestadt approved Lip Hampster of Indecision on his face, and the other is the greatest football coach in the modern NFL. How hard is it to confuse the two? New Years Day and I blew this resolution already!

I resolve to no longer throw objects at the television:
See, this resolution is tough to break, because as a kid watching TV I would try to catch the penalties during the action and I would throw an old dish towel when I saw a penalty against my beloved Ron Meyer led Patriots.

I resolve to refrain from punching morons on the train who talk loudly about sports and have no idea what they are talking about at all:
See, I write this blog, so that automatically makes me a freaking genius. That, and I get my ass handed to me in fantasy sports on a regular basis. Oh yeah, my wife hustles me at poker as well.

I resolve to defend Larry Lucchino from the Theo-is-God crowds who have forgotten 2004 and need an excuse to return misery to their sad lives.
Nuff said!

I resolve to be in a good mood the next day when I wake up no matter how the Patriots, Celtics or Red Sox perform the previous evening:
This is one is easy to keep, if only because I put in the qualifier when I wake up. After I am awake, I can remember all the hideous details and get pissed off again.

I resolve to read the Sports Guy at ESPN.com and not mutter about what a west coast, pop icon sell-out he has become:
If only because I, like every sports blogger, wants nothing more than the same ESPN Page 2 contract that the Formerly Known as the Boston Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, worked his ass off to get.

I resolve to eat healthy and exercise while watching sports on television:

Yeah, right. That will be the day.

I resolve to increase the number of articles posted on this site, publicly thank Big Brigs for squeezing footy articles into his incredibly demanding schedule, thank my gorgeous webmaster wife, and give a little extra love to the kids:
Happy New Year, all!

* * *

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