Tuesday, February 28, 2006

DEPTH CHARGES

As the prognosticators and media preachers at their pulpits on radio, TV, the papers and the net decry the demise of the Red Sox in 2006 before the season has even begun. The whining about losing Johnny Rock Star, and the whining about other major losses like, um, er, eh. Who did they lose again? Doug Mirabelli? Kevin Millar? Bill Mueller? Edgar Renteria? My, a veritable modern day Murderers Row right there. I think it is important not to look at replacing offense by position (since no one can argue against defensive changes, since the team as currently constituted is far superior to the error-prone 2005 edition):

1. Coco Crisp versus Johnny Damon: Crisp had a higher OPS than Damon last year. One on the way up, the other on the way down. One will be in the friendliest hitters ballpark in the game, the other in Yankee Stadium.
2. Mark Loretta versus Edgar Renteria: Excuse me, I just spit out my drink all over the laptop laughing. Renteria just fit like George Muresan into my carry-on bag.
3. Papi
4. Manny
5. Mike Lowell versus Kevin Millar: One is a former all-star, the other is a likely cut down victim this spring. Lowell at his worst equals Millar. Somehow, I think friendly Fenway can only better.
6. Varitek
7. Nixon
8. Kevin Youkilis versus Bill Mueller: See Coco Crisp versus Johnny Damon.
9. Alex Gonzalez versus Alex Cora/Tony Graffanino: Yeah, like anyone cares about the number nine spot.


The offense is going to be fine. The pitching is much improved. Way, way improved. But other than Chad Finn at Touching all the Bases everyone else is hedging their bets, talking up the Yankees and Blue Jays and White Sox and Oakland and Anaheim and the Twins, but the Sox won 95 games last season and are much better than they were last season.

* * *

Thursday, February 23, 2006

DAYTONA 500 DREAMS

Yes, I admit, the race was on both Saturday (the minor-league race) and the big one on Sunday in the Bent household. Of course, all the blame falls on my teenage nephew Andrew who was over for the weekend and, considering the abuse, lack of privacy, and constant annoyance he good-naturedly takes from my two little monkeys, how could I deny him such an escape?

Of course, other than the crashes, I was about as excited to watch as I was when he put Olympic curling on earlier that morning (sure, as a good uncle I made sure to kid my teenage cousin about the fact that the most exciting reason to watch curling was the two blond twins on the US female team). In fact, after his parents picked him up, I somehow failed to stay tuned to see who won the race. Sorry, I just cannot find the enthusiasm to watch the cars speeding along the track at 180 miles per hour.

OK, here is what threw me for a loop: Why do the guys racing on Sunday race on Saturday in the minor league circuit. Number one, they are taking money away from these guys that probably need it more than they do. Second, what about levels of competition? I mean, the Sox do not send their guys down to Pawtucket to wrap up the International League title, do they? Also, what is with the restrictor plates? Am I wrong, but is that like making LeBron James wear 5 lb ankle weights during a game so Tony Allen can guard him?

* * *

STILL FIGHTING THE LAW:

Yes, it is early to get into football talk, but the massive exodus out of the New York Jets complex certainly raises some eyebrows. Is Ty Law coming back to New England after his one year exile to the only team in the NFL that plays in a stadium named for a different NFL team? Sure, he says he wants to play in Miami, but does Miami have the cash or desire to cough up the dough to Law? Jason Fabini would be a great swingman backing up LT and RT on the offensive line. Back-up veteran QB if Doug Flutie retires? Jay Fiedler certainly is familiar with the AFC East. Sure the Patriots have pressing concerns signing their own free agents and restructuring and reworking contracts (more to come on that later, I promise), but these are intriguing possibilities courtesy of the hideous Jets.

* * *

LOOSE ENDS

Manny Being Manny: Manufactured controversy. Or, gee, I wonder why Manny wants out of Boston. I hope the Boston Herald sells lots of issues with its NY Daily Post-sque front page stirring up controversy where there was none. That goes double for the knights of the keyboard Dan Shaughnessy at the Globe, Steve Buckley at the Herald, and the last bastions of ridiculous and staged arguments, Dennis and Callahan at WEEI. Let me repeat: No MLB player has to report to camp before March 1. Why did anyone think that Manny would show up before that date? Is he a sado-masochist looking to be attacked by the press earlier rather than later? Is Dan Shaughnessy going to camp out by his car so he can jump out and ask him questions like he was Lois Lane trying to get a scoop from Lex Luthor as he did with David Wells earlier this week? As Terry Francona said earlier in the week (and I paraphrase since I am stuck up in cold New England while the Red Sox players frolic in Florida): would you like to take the bet that Manny does not show up and drive in 140 runs?

* * *

Ricky Williams: Bwah-ha-ha-ha. What a chump. If this reported one year suspension is for real, then it should be the last time anyone sees this idiot in the NFL. He and Terrell Owens should be sent home to commiserate with Dennis Rodman and the other idiots who blew their fantastic opportunities available to them by being egotistical and selfish morons.

* * *

Tom Brady: the most famous groin in New England. Only in Boston would the media complain that Brady skipped the Pro Bowl due to injury and then played golf before his surgery. Gee, no thanks, I would rather be at the most freaking useless excuse for an All-Star game than spending time with my family playing a low-impact game.

* * *

Frustrated Incorporated: I must be frustrated with the Boston media here in the Nothing Going On in Sports Days of February. I am starting to sound like Bruce Allen at the Boston Sports Media Watch page. Not that I promote competitors, but it is a great site that is really useful to me since I kicked my Boston Globe subscription to the curb.

* * *

Boston Globe Follies: Oh man, do not get me started on the Boston Globe and their idiotic credit card information scandal. Subscriber for my entire adult life, and how do they repay me? By releasing my credit card info wrapped up with papers on the streets of New England. Then they lie to me about the release of my information. The next day after I was told I was not at risk by their online look-up, I got a letter saying I was at risk. I cancelled the paper, and had to change my credit card number. What a freaking headache, because those jerks could not figure out how to shred documents that were inadvertently printed out. Eco-freaks and idiots: together they can ruin my credit. As if the modern world was not hectic enough! So anyway, the Globe lost my business, and deservingly so.

* * *

Go Revs: A home game in Bermuda. Champions Cup match (Americas version) not even televised. Sigh.

* * *

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

GREAT IDEAS

Here is yet another reason why minor league baseball rules. The Single A Red Sox affiliate, the Lowell Spinners, have launched a marketing campaign that not only got them on ESPN, but created buzz throughout the entire New England baseball community. The campaign? They would purchase uniforms for any youth league team that changed its name from the Yankees to the Spinners. So for the one-time price of advertising their franchise (seriously, how many other teams are named the Spinners?) the team creates free national advertising, buzz, and swell the pride of New Englanders everywhere. I mean, what a great idea. What kid in New England (outside of Western Connecticut and the pockets of displaced New Yorkers) wants to play for the Yankees? It was bad enough when I was a kid, but considering how the rivalry has intensified since the late nineties, I can think of nothing worse than being ten years old and playing for the Yankees. Marketing Genius. Lowell Spinners, I applaud you and look forward to catching a game or two this summer with the kiddos.

* * *

OFF THE SUBJECT:

Speaking of all things Yankees, Red Sox, minor leagues, and my youth, my thoughts turn to John Flaherty who is trying to win the back-up catcher position for the Red Sox this season. I remember Flaherty back in the 80s when he was with the Pawtucket Red Sox. What I remember most about him is that he was the kindest and most accommodating player I have EVER observed. That summer we went to about 30 PawSox games and at every game Flaherty was the first and last player to sign for the kids who would swarm the dugout. Always polite, always signing, always classy, Flaherty was someone you had to pull for to succeed. That he is still in the major leagues speaks volumes for good karma. For every incident involving Barry Bonds or a similar spoiled jerk, I can think of the unheralded stand-up guys like John Flaherty, Tim Wakefield, Pokey Reese, and countless others who appreciate the opportunity of a lifetime that they have available to them.

Flaherty spent the last few seasons with the Yankees, and while he did not have a great season at the plate (OK, he did not even reach the Mendoza line), he was an integral part of the success of a 95 win team in that he got much deserved credit for assisting Randy Johnson. The Big Eunuch, who struggled mightily on the mound in the first half of the season, was assigned Flaherty as his personal catcher after a conflict with Jorge Posada who could not straighten out his mechanics (Do not even bother asking about the pitching coach: Mel just mixes gin and tonics for Regular Joe). Flaherty worked exclusively with the Big Eunuch and straightened him out until he became his usual dominating self in the second half of the season. The forward-thinking Yankees promptly released Flaherty in a show of support for all his hard work with their $36 million investment. Hey, because the Yankees are about loyalty!

Anyway, John Flaherty is in camp this spring and I am hoping he catches on as the personal receiver for Tim Wakefield. Somehow, I cannot think of anyone in camp I will be rooting more for this spring. Good luck, John, and thanks for all the autographs. You are a class act.

* * *

Thursday, February 16, 2006

MALADIES

Just jotting some quick notes from around the local sports scene:

* Pedro Martinez is having toe problems and may not pitch in the WBC. Well, good thing the Mets had him healthy last season for their FIGHT FOR .500 push at the end of the year. Only three more years of paying the Perennially Pouting Princess Pedro. Just think how smart the Red Sox will look in 2008.

* Speaking of washouts who almost ended up in a Red Sox uniform, Carl I WAS TRADED FOR PEDRO Pavano is already having health problems and is shut down for the beginning of spring training for the Yankees. At least Regular Joe has Mel in Tampa this spring to keep mixing those gin and tonics.

* Jeff Weaver is worth the money on the West Coast, but worth a whole lot less on the East Coast. Unfortunately, Weaver will like win 15 games for the Los Angeles in Anaheim in the OC in California Angels. On the plus side, he will be pitching in Yankee Stadium again and he is likely already stressed out about it.

* I am glad to see Jayson Stark over at ESPN.com feels the same way about the Yankees signing flame-throwing flame-out Kyle Farnsworth. Imagine fans wishing they still had Flash Gordon in the pen. I wonder what that would be like?

* One more article about Keith Foulke and his unlikliness to bounce back this year and I will explode. I will put it up in flashing neon if I have to: Foulke will save 35 games or more this season. Double knee surgery after the most taxing post-season by any reliever not named Mariano Rivera and the local scribes try to play him as a head case because pain in the knees and lack of strength robbed his fastball? Give me a break.

* I think Toronto is going to find out that A.J. Burnett, while not Chan Ho Park, sure is not anything like Josh Beckett. How does a guy like Burnett who has a hissy-fit and gets thrown off the team while underperforming the entire second half gets $55 million? The Josh Beckett trade looks better and better the more I look at Burnett.

* * *

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

DAMMIT, TS ELIOT, FEBRUARY IS THE CRUELEST MONTH

No baseball yet. No more football. US Soccer is in spring training. Comcast refuses to add the Fox Soccer Channel to any decent and affordable digital package. Basketball nearing going on hiatus for their idiotic and second most senseless All-Star game (right after the Pro Bowl). Hockey is on break for the Olympics (not that anyone noticed), and I still cannot muster the enthusiasm to watch Luge, Snowboarding, Downhill Skiing, Ice Dancing, Figure Skating, Curling, or any of the other idiotic events and sports that pass for the hideous Winter Olympics. Sure, I might tune in for some hockey to see if John Graehme falls on his face, but that is about it. Two weeks until the Grapefruit league games start-up.

* * *

PAWS:

With as much enthusiasm as I have for the start of the Red Sox season, I find it refreshing that for once I will be able to head down 95 to Pawtucket and see some real prospects, not just quasi-prospects like Todd Benzinger, Mike Greenwell, Oil Can Boyd, and Steve Lyons. A quick rundown of some of the exciting prospects:

Starting Pitchers:
Jon Lester:
a lefty with good stuff and a solid makeup. He pitched great (163 strikeouts in 148 innings and a 2.61 ERA) in AA for Portland last season and is probably two years away from breaking into the rotation.

Abe Alvarez: the lefty with the goofy hat angle and blind in one eye may not have the strikeout numbers of Lester (he had 109 in 144 innings for Pawtucket last year), but he is getting close to being a serviceable left-hander at the back of the rotation (think a left-handed Bronson Arroyo).

Lenny DiNardo:
The last of the lefties. Just what are the Red Sox going to do with DiNardo? Hell, they seem to have no idea. Southpaw out of the pen? Another lefty starter? Two things for sure is that Ladies Love Cool Lenny and Lenny can pitch (93 strikeouts in 108 innings and a 3.22 ERA at Pawtucket). One thing that you can never have enough of is quality left-handed pitchers, and unlike the early 80s Red Sox who let John Tudor and Bobby Ojeda get away (and almost Bruce Hurst), these lefties should find a place with the big team in a few years.

Relief Pitchers:
Cla Meredith:
The biggest mistake that Theo made last year was rushing Meredith up to the majors. He was painful to watch and clearly lost his confidence down in AAA. People forget he was only 21 last year. Why the Sox did not just grab a Tim Bausher to fill in rather than risk it with Meredith is beyond me. Meredith had OK, but not great strikeout stats and his funky delivery has a lot to do with his success. Hopefully another season in Pawtucket can get him back on track and get him ready to help fill in when Mike Timlin finally retires.

Edgar Martinez: OK, I admit I only know of Martinez because Peter Gammons references him all the time as a hot prospect in the Sox minor leagues. Martinez likely will start in AA at Portland where he finished last year. Great K stats. The best part of the Gammons references is that ESPN links to the other Edgar Martinez (formerly of Seattle) which I just find hysterical.

Craig Hansen: The 2005 first round pick was another fast track pitcher who Francona fortunately kept buried for the most part when he was up with the big club. For someone with 16 professional innings, he carries huge expectations. The best course for Hansen is a full season with Pawtucket where he can close and dominate.

Manny Delcarmen: The pride of Hyde Park is, like Meredith and Hansen, expected to be a big part of the bullpen in 2007. Delcarmen could probably contribute in Boston this season, but again there is no need to rush him. Let him get comfortable and do not rush him

Infielders:
Alejandro Machado:
Machado is still young (23) and could certainly fill the need for a backup middle infielder in the future. He showed a decent bat and a good glove, plus he is much cheaper than Tony Graffanino.

Dustin Pedroia: Shortstop or Second base? The future of the middle infield is waiting in the wings. An all-star year at AAA would be a great confidence builder for the college star. Only 22, Pedroia should be a Fenway fixture for years to come. He may be undersized, but the ball jumps off his bat and his grit will endure him well to the Yawkey Way denizens.

Outfielders:
Brandon Moss & David Murphy:
Moss and Murphy are the future. Trot Nixon is the past. God that felt good. Hold on a second. Yeah, that felt good. Both should be in Pawtucket, and maybe two years to let their power develop and let them get comfortable with facing off-speed pitches anywhere in the count. Of course, Matt Murton would look good in this group as well, but he was the real price the Sox paid for the trade to catapult them into 2004 World Series.

Adam Stern: Stern, after the first month in Boston, will likely spend the season in Pawtucket. Hopefully he will learn how to steal bases and keep improving in the field and at the plate. A solid fourth outfielder (ala Dave Roberts) looks like his future.

* * *

Monday, February 13, 2006

WEEKEND WONDERLAND

Nothing like a couple feet of snow to give me time to sit back and have a lazy Sunday at home watching sports. Oh wait, football is over and there is nothing on until the Pro Bowl. Skip that. Baseball is still a few weeks away right now. The Celics are, well, the Celtics. Detroit versus Miami? Not until the playoffs is there any reason to watch any of these NBA national games. The Bruins are on Olympic break now. Oh the Olympics. Yeah, nothing excites me more than a committee that keeps Curling in the Olympics ...but dumps baseball. Great plan.

* * *

THE TRUCKS ARE PULLING AWAY FROM FENWAY:


Of course, what kind of February would it be without the obligatory shots of the moving trucks loading up the Red Sox gear and heading down 95 to Fort Myers, FL. I enjoyed the piece in the Boston Herald by Tony Maz about the Red Sox Starting Nine issues. What drives me nuts is the continued Keith Foulke bashing by the print and talk media. I get it. You do not like him because he is downright surly to you all and you are all riding high on his miserable 2005 season. Of course, surgery on both knees was not the problem. Oh no, he is a head-case. Forget the fact that next to Senor Octobre he was the Red Sox MVP in 2004, both the regular season and in the playoffs. Physical ailments be damned. He is unliked by the media, therefore he must be classified as having problems with his makeup.

I liked his other question: Will Johnny Damon be missed? Um, yeah, by the media. As far as the line-up, last time I checked Mr. Coco Crisp had comparable statistics to the former Rock Star. Or let me put it this way, Manny and Papi have no compunctions about who scores ahead of them. With Mark Loretta batting behind him, I see the Sox line-up as dangerous or more dangerous than the no-pitching Yankees.

It was nice to see someone else pick-up the Trot Nixon bashing (since my sister-in-law Jenn no doubt hates me for my continual Trot Bashing here on the site). Nixon was overpaid from day one. He has taken one decent season and turned it into millions of dollars. Rightfield should be a huge upgrade for the Red Sox in 2007 when one of the young outfielders takes over (Murphy or Moss, one will be ready by then!).

* * *

Saturday, February 11, 2006

RAMPING UP

Sorry for the time between posts. Two sick kids keeping you up all night and a busy week at work tends to team-up and beat down the time to write.

* * *

CATCHING UP:

Alex Gonzalez:

The Caribbean World Series found a new star who just happens to be the new shortstop for the Red Sox. Hmm, the last nearly unknown player who emerged as a big game player in the CWS? Some David Ortiz guy. Not that anyone expects Gonzalez to turn into Big Papi, but he has a definite flair for the dramatic. A home run to win the game, and then the game tying single in the next game and then scoring the winning run. Gonzalez, who like Orlando Cabrera feeds off emotion and is spectacular in the field, could join Pokey & the OC as fan favorites at Fenway this year.

* * *

WBC:
What kind of spring training is this? No Varitek? No Manny? No Timlin? No Papi? No Adam Stern? (OK, scratch that last one). I feel bad for all those spring training folks who made the trip down and see the team with no stars. Of course, the stars would not play much anyway (Yeah, when Hal & Emma are a bit older we will make the trek to Fort Myers. I want to make sure they remember it.)

As far as the WBC, I will definitely watch (just because I am so excited about baseball being back), but I doubt I will get as excited about it as they will in the islands and in Central/South America. This to them is likely an extension of the Caribbean World Series and they are pumped and jacked for these games. We spoiled Americans are used to rooting for our teams and players, so who do you root for when there are Sox players on five teams?

* * *

Wayne Gretzky:
OK, two points to make here: 1. If Gretzky was concerned with only protecting his wife and friend then he is hardly at fault; however, if the Great One is being the Great A—hole and putting his wife out to take the brunt of the blame away from him, he will be losing lot of respect. To try to protect yourself by letting a loved one take the blame is not what it means to be a man. Either way, this is not something you want as part of your legacy.
2. As if hockey did not have enough problems, the possibility of fixed games is too much of a black-eye. The game is really struggling: see the fact the games are on the Outdoor Life Network.

* * *

Monday, February 06, 2006

WAKE ME WHEN IT ENDS

Really I do not have much to add to all that has been said about the sleep-inducing Super Bowl and the nausea-inducing entertainment and commercials. Here is the main point: like the Patriots in 1996 when Jacksonville upset Denver, the Steelers caught a huge break when Denver upset New England. Had the Steelers had to go to Foxborough, you would hear so many mentions of three-peat that it would have made your head spin. But no hard feelings for the Steelers fans, they beat Indy and Denver on the road, so kudos to them. And watch out for the red, white, and blue next year.

THE GAME:

The Super Bowl MVP was Matt Hasselbeck, but since the Seahawks defense gave up three big plays and the Seahawks could not figure out how to run the best offense west of Indianapolis, the team choked it up big time. Willie Parker had the huge run, Antwan Randle-El made the big pass, and Hines Ward made the huge catch. No, not on the Randle-El pass, but rather when he caught the 27 yard Hail Mary from Ben Roethlisberger on third and 18. Make no mistake about it, that was no great throw by Big Ben, it was a super effort by Hines Ward.

Ward, of course, will barely be remembered as the Super Bowl MVP (welcome to the club say Dexter Jackson and Larry Brown). Heck, I am surprised they did not just give it to Jerome Bettis as they had been trying to all week. I turned off the TV in disgust when on the post-game show they had Ward with the trophy and the Bus all but barreled him over to grab the microphone. Hines should have put down his kid and smacked Bettis on his fat, media-loving head for horning in on his moment.

* * *

THE ENTERTAINMENT:

Sorry, but the Stones were horrible. Maybe it was the broadcast mix, maybe they are nearing seventy, but the halftime show was just another excuse to flip to Fox to see what Simpsons episode they were playing. The pre-game show drove me into the kitchen to cook brautwurst. The post-game show was the continuing Jerome Bettis love-fest. In a word, pitiful.

* * *

THE COMMERCIALS:


I think the piling-on by the reviewers has been harsh enough, but I must say that some of those commercials were just down right stupid, insipid, uninspired and ignorant. Of course, they are commercials, so what the heck did I expect?

* * *

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Bs & Cs

Sadly enough, the Patriots will be quiet until they steal Mathias Kiwanuka in the late first round of the draft (when they will convert him to OLB and he replaces Willie McGinest in 2007). The Red Sox are still a couple of weeks until we get story after story about how the team will miss Johnny Damon and that the trade of David Wells is imminent. All that leaves us with is the Bs & Cs. The Celtics have finally given up and turned towards the 2006-7 season. The Bruins are hot now, but are not winning any Stanley Cups in the near future. So I guess I have to ramble on about Patriot happenings.

* * *

WHAT NEXT, NEW ENGLAND?

My god, thoughts turn to the draft. Sure, as I said above, I would love to see Kiwi drop to the Patriots and become the next Willie McGinest, but I doubt he will be there. I mean, I saw the Boston College-NC State game this season, and no one could tell me that Mario Williams was better than Mathias Kiwanuka. Yet Mario Williams is likely to be among the first defensive players selected and Kiwi has dropped to mid-to-late first round.

Somehow, someway, Bill Belichick will pull out another draft day melange that results in a few new starters. Look at the results from the draft last year:
1: Logan Mankins, G/T: Started all 16 games and helped keep Brady upright. Projected long-term starter at left guard.
3: Ellis Hobbs, CB: Injected enthusiams and swagger into the defense in the second half of the season. Projected long-term starter at CB.
3: Nick Kazcur, LT: Kazcur stepped in for long-time starter at left tackle Matt Light and helped keep Brady upright next to fellow rookie Mankins. Projected long-term start at RT.
4: James Sanders, S: Looked OK at times, other times was lost. Did miss a lot of valuable time injured. Projected to be a solid back-up at safety in the future.
5: Ryan Claridge, OLB: No one knows as he spent the season on injured reserve.
7: Matt Cassel, QB: Hey, he beats having Rohan Davey as the back-up. At least Cassel has potential. Projected to be the back-up QB for the next few years.
7: Andy Stokes, TE: Is this the guy that played Gollum in Lord of the Rings? Oh wait, that was Andy Serkis. Stokes was released during training camp.

Of course, the team also needs to look at free agents. Wide receiver is a position that needs attention, as does linebacker. Richard Seymour, Adam Vinatieri, and David Givens should be ready for new contracts this off-season (with Vinatieri likely being franchised again and Seymour being taken care of before he hits free agency in another year). The team needs influxes of speed and youth on defense and a big playmaker in the secondary, and could really use a playmaker on offense.

* * *

Oh, Danny boy

The Celts, the Celts are losing. Thanks to a boneheaded trade sending Ricky Davis to Minnesota for Wally the Green Monster Sczerbiak and chump change. We would have still come out on the short end of the deal if had been Ricky Davis for the Sczerbiak, Olowokandi and the other no-name. It didn't improve the team any, and certainly made me want to avoid any Celts games for the next few years. Unlike Hal, I can see no silver lining to this one, much like overpaying for Travis Knight, Pervis Ellison, and other chumps over the years, it just doesn't make sense. This isn't like the Joe Thornton trade, where we all went, "Huh?", and then Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau turn out to give MAJOR dividends to the Black and Gold. I'd have taken Sturm for Thornton straight up.

Bottom line, if you want to watch the Celtics, don't go to Boston. Go to Glasgow, Scotland where the #1-in-the-Scottish Premier League Celtic are rolling with their latest big-time acquisition Roy Keane.

Tavarez - Not singing "More than a woman"

Another questionable move of the winter is the Sox pickup of relief pitcher and hothead Julian Tavarez. I'm seeing this work out as well as the Dinosaur man Carl Everett did. Wait until Tavarez is pitching and Manny is being Manny out in the field. I seriously think Tavarez will murder him. We'll be reading about it in the papers soon enough.

Fire Arsene Wenger

Finally, on to footy, what Hal pays me for. Oh, wait, I don't get paid. It's like grad school, except I get to talk about footy. I had the pleasure of watching Everton vs. Arsenal this week (okay, it was on TiVo for 10 days before I watched it, I'm a busy man). I don't understand how a team with as much talent as Arsenal can languish in 6th place in the EPL. Then I realized, Arsene Wenger is at the helm. You have the best offensive player in the game with Thierry Henry, and many other superstars like Robin van Persie, Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg, and Fransesc Fabregas, and Arsenal is not beating on Chelsea for the top spot in the league. Then I realized how poorly managed the team is with crybaby Wenger calling the shots. Arsenal were never in sync, and many of the players looked as if they were lost out there in Goodison Park. The only goal proved to be the decider, by James Beattie. If you have Beattie on the squad, who needs Marcus Bent (sorry, Hal. Let Bent shine in Portsmouth or Southampton). I'm impressed by Everton's 37-year old goalkeeper Nigel Martyn. The old guy can still move and make the spectacular saves as he did vs. a Fransesc Fabergas offering. Back to my message, Arsenal needs to dismiss Wenger. This team with so much talent is going nowhere in the premeirship.

Djibril Cisse watch

At the risk of sounding like a tabloid, I'd like to mention that inconsistent Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse was in the news again recently. It seemed that he was a person of interest after he assaulted his pregnant wife. The stupid thing about all this, is that all the police did about it was put him "on notice." Gee, I wonder why pro atheletes have the reputation that they do have.

-Christopher J. Brigham

Friday, February 03, 2006

OUCHIE, MY GROIN

Ok, so just how tough is Tom Brady? A sports hernia for the entire second half of the season? Sorry, but my butt would be on the sidelines slurping down Chunky Soup like Donovan McNabb was in the second half of the season if I had that injury. Yet Tom Brady continued to keep playing, and keep playing well despite the excruciating pain that comes with this injury. Forget how he got up after hit-after-hit, how the heck did he make some of those passes he made this season? Of course, the Patriots have not, nor will they likely acknowledge the injury and upcoming surgery, but what toughness and grit displayed by Brady. Also, it goes to underscore that while Carson Palmer, Shawn Alexander, and Peyton Manning get bandied about as MVPs and Players of the Year, Brady without doubt proved he is not only the most valuable player in the NFL, but also the strongest of will.

* * *

RED SOX NOTES:

* Manny must have had one condition where he would report to spring training: bring in Enrique Wilson.

* Nice job by the Sox front-office getting Alex Gonzalez (No A-Gone, no A-Gonzo, no A-Gon nicknames please!) to agree to a non-guaranteed contract. The Alex not Joey Cora show may reappear yet.

* I forgot all about the Sox bringing in Willie Harris. He may be a good fit on the team.

* Remember, Adam Stern has to stick on the roster for the first month of the season per Rule 5 draft rules as his time on the DL apparently does not count. Once he hits that magic date he will likely get to play centerfield everyday for the PawSox.

* Anyone wanna place a bet on who wins more games in 2006: Curt Schilling or Randy Johnson. Schilling basically had a year off to rest up while the Big Eunich gets another year of wear and tear and another catcher to get used to again.

* Of course, the Yankees fans all believe Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano have twenty wins in them. I hate to break it to them (OK, I LOVE to break it to them) but that is combined and over the next two years.

* I think it most prudent to keep David Wells around as long as possible. His trade value only grows with each starting pitcher that lands on the disabled list.

* I still believe in Matt Clement. I can see him winning 16 games as the number four guy instead of dealing with the pressure as the pseudo-ace.

* * *

Thursday, February 02, 2006

STILL IN A STUPOR (BOWL)

The excitement in mounting: just not in New England. Steelers versus the Seahawks, and I am as excited as I was back in 2002 (OK, January 2003) for the boring match-up between Tampa Bay and some other forgettable team from the AFC (was it Oakland in the Rich Gannon career year to end all career years?). What a snoozefest that match-up turned out to be. My main memory of that Super Bowl? I got my first digital camera that morning and my sister-in-law had her boyfriend over who spoke no English and she later found out had love for the gentlemen, not the ladies. As far as the game goes, I could care less then and barely remember it now.

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FANTASY FOOTBALL COME TO LIFE:

Of course, like any good New England Patriots fan, I am wishing for a complete and total meltdown on Ford Field by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Anyone who has any recollection of the hideously annoying Steelers teams of the late seventies and early eighties who always had success while the red and white team with Pat Patriot on the helmet suffered heartache after heartache. Beyond that, I just hate the Steelers, especially their overly cocky attitude in 2004 when they ended the Patriots regular season winning streak and strutted around like peacocks. How sweet revenge was in the playoffs.

Of course, for me the Seahawks generate a bit of interest with a Harvard LB/Special Teams ace, a BC boy at QB, and Son of Mosi in the middle of the defense. More importantly for me, I have had Matt Hasselbeck and or Shaun Alexander on my fantasy team for the past four seasons. Not for any love the Pacific Northwest, but merely because Alexander scores tons of touchdowns, someone always snags Priest Holmes first (unless Rickles is picking Ricky Williams first overall), and Chazer even if he drafted Alexander, historically would trade him to me after one bad game. Hasselbeck was my diamond-in-the-rough pick early on and now I feel inclined to draft him because of his consistency (that and because with all locals in the league, someone grabs Brady in the first round).

That said, the rest of the team is faceless to me and Mike Holmgren did beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl back when the Tuna was busy negotiating his ticket to New York instead of game-planning to stop Desmond Howard on kickoff and punt returns.

Incredibly, the region has been so spoiled by the success of the Patriots that the Super Bowl is a mere game in New England. Sure, an excuse to throw a party, but for the most part the problem is dealing with the gnawing pain that comes from knowing New England should have beat Denver handily, would have crushed Pittsburgh at home, and would have spanked Seattle in Super Bowl 40 (if I hear one more talking head idiot call it Super Bowl Extra-Large I will beat them over their head with their microphone repeatedly and rip the voice-box from their throat).

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