Saturday, May 27, 2006

LONG WEEKENDS

Trying to catch-up, as vacation time is upon us.

RED SOX NOTES:

* The Red Sox should appeal to the league to always get Tampa Bay on the schedule for every series immediately following the Yankees.

* This one is for Gallagher: I played Kashmir by ledzep in the inning when the Red Sox broke out against Scott Kazmir. Coincidence? Hmmm.

* Really, the Wells-DiNardo spot only has to last this season, as Jonathan Papelbon should return to the rotation next year, Jon Lester should be in the rotation, and Craig Hansen should be closing.

* Two linedrives back to the mound in the last three days, and idiots out there still want major leaguers to use aluminum bats.

* I love the 3-4 defense the Rays deploy against Big Papi. Too bad it does not do much to stop him.

* * *

HOPE AT LINEBACKER:

Here is an interesting snippet from ESPN.com football writer, Len Pascquarelli (simply the hardest working football writer not named Mike Reiss):

New England coaches have been impressed with the work of linebackers Jeremy Mincey, a sixth-round pick from Florida, and Freddie Roach, an undrafted free agent from Alabama. Mincey is a 263-pounder who played primarily at defensive end for the Gators, but projects nicely as the kind of hybrid performer the Pats love for their 3-4 alignment. …(http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/insider/columns/story?columnist=pasquarelli_len&id=2458925&CMP=ILC-INHEAD")

Of course, other than getting the news nationally, Reiss

Reiss, the highly regarded Boston Globe Patriots writer, chipped in with a profile of New England ILB Monty Beisel. Here is a piece of his analysis that holds out hope for his return as a major contributor:

One of the biggest adjustments for Beisel was slowing down. In Kansas City, he was trained to shoot gaps quickly in a 4-3 defense. In New England's 3-4, it was more important for him to read the play, then react. By the end of the 2005 season, when he filled in as a starter in a 28-3 wild-card playoff victory over the Jaguars, Beisel felt more comfortable with the change. (http://www.boston.com/sports/football/patriots/articles/2006/05/27/becoming_better_patriot_chief_among_his_goals/)

Reiss also has an interview with the other inside linebacker hope, Ryan Claridge, a round five pick last season who spent the season on DL and is expected to be a big contributor this season. It can be found at his Patriots blog on the boston.com website at http://www.boston.com/sports/football/patriots/reiss_pieces/

* * *

Thursday, May 25, 2006

PREDICT THE FUTURE AT YOUR OWN RISK

I originally was writing Tuesday afternoon on the train home in giddy anticipation of the final two games of the series against the Yankees. After the disgrace of the Wednesday night game (Wakefield), I decided I could not in good conscience post my inane thoughts & theories.

With the Yankees hastily dispatched by the latest rebirth of Curt Schilling and the pounding the Red Sox line-up put on Yankees pitcher (ace?) Chien-Ming Wang, attention turns to the next match-up: Jaret Wright for the Pinstriped villians versus Tim Wakefield.

The maddening untouched potential and inconsistent success of Wright versus maddening consistency of knuckleballer, Wakefield. Wakefield is a pretty consistent line on a chart: He will pitch six to eight innings, and give up anywhere from two to six runs. He may win, he may lose, but he rarely gets bombed or dominates anymore. He is, to quote Shakespeare (in Julius Caesar): He is as constant as the Northern Star.

(OK, here I was right about Wakefield. He almost got six innings in and gave up six runs. Unfortunately, the Sox bats did not pick him up.)

For the Yankees, Jaret Wright remains the continual tease. He will follow-up a great performance with three horrible starts. He will flash just enough potential every so often, when he is healthy, that the team has no choice but to keep throwing him out there and hoping he puts it together like he did for the Indians for that brief, shining moment in the late 90s, or like he did for Leo Mazzone and the Braves in 2004. Think of him as the Yankees version of Matt Clement, except worse. The Pavano signing was bad luck for the Yankees, but Wright was just a bad baseball decision.

(Wright had one of those maddening performances when he went from horrible, to unhittable, to lucky. Of course, the next paragraph was where I jinxed the Sox.)

What the Red Sox have to be sure to do against Wright, which they often fail to do, is to keep their foot on his throat when he is down. Letting him weasel out innings with men on base in the first few innings will not be acceptable. The Sox need to get him out of the game by the fourth inning and feast on some Colter Bean or extended action from Mike Myers. If the Sox get to Wright early and keep the pressure on him, it should be smooth sailing until they can get the ball into the hands of Mike Timlin and/or Jonathan Papelbon.

(Of course, the Sox kept letting Wright off the hook until it was too late. WASTED opportunity.)

* * *

BIZARRE HAPPENINGS:

Strangely, I have somehow, temporarily, clawed my way from twelfth to first in one of my fantasy baseball leagues, although I have no idea how (It is the Dan League). In the Rickles League, I am finally back up to .500, but desperately need some offensive consistency. In the Dan League, I am desperately looking for any help in the bullpen, but there is not a single save out there for anyone to get their hands on. Of course, I am sure if I check my innings used, I am way over the projected limit and my lead is due to running up strikeouts, wins, and other pitching stats along with the temporary resurgence of Brad Wilkerson padding some stats as well.

* * *

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I LOVE NEW YORK

Sure, I do. In fact, I am hoping they finally get around to restocking that major league roster of theirs. I am rooting for them to make that big deal that unloads their prospect du jour Phil Hughes to the team with the most attractive over-paid, over-priced, veteran free agent. All the Red Sox have to do to improve their chances long-term against the Yankees is to, as they say, lay down the smack. A three-game whipping of the pinstriped enemy should be all the impetus needed to get Steinbrenner worked up to a good froth (throw in some bonehead moments from Melky Cabrera and feeble at-bats by Bernie Williams) and the Bronx Bombers will be shipping off the last decent prospects in the system to land a Torii Hunter or Jacque Jones. If not, maybe crushing them in early June as well would do the job.

Plus, a bad performance against the Sox by Jaret Wright or the Big Unit should be enough for the Maniacal One to empty the single-A prospect bin to grab an unimpressive, over-paid veteran starter like Eric Milton in the hopes he gives the Yankees ANYTHING. Look at the box score for game three against the Mets: Aaron Small starting, followed by Myers, Bean, Villone, and Erickson. Suffice to say, it was not exactly Mike Stanton and Steve Karsay coming out of the pen in the late nineties. Heck, I doubt even the Yankees fans know who these chumps are.

So you, and I, and Theo are all hoping for that one big series this week. I mean, it was bad enough the Yankees had to trot out Miguel Cairo at first base in the last series against the Sox, but to have him batting last night against the Mets with two outs and two on in the bottom of the ninth inning? A thrashing of the Yankees that sticks them in full panic mode and further depletes an already empty cupboard in the minor leagues is exactly what I am hoping for in the next couple of weeks. For the long-term good of the Red Sox, can we hope for anything less? Come on, Georgie Porgie, one more explosion for old times sake. (Of course, I am afraid that George has mellowed too much with age, and Brian Cashman is too smart to give in to the pressure from the Tampa clique. But we Red Sox fans can and will hope!)

* * *

TOMMY LASORDA REALLY WAS THE BASEBALL WIZARD:

Well, I must say I was far from intrigued by the kick-off of another edition of Interleague play. I admit that I waffle back-and-forth on the issue, as the traditionalist in me says that it is a travesty and only further dilutes the All-Star game and World Series, while the modern fan inside me says that this is my only chance to ever watch the Tampa Bay Devil Rays play against the Florida Marlins (or Toronto versus Colorado). Of course, with the MLB Extra Innings package, I can say that my innocence and joy of watching that rare National League game is tainted.

It is funny, you would have to pry the phone out of my cold, dead hand to keep me from ordering it again, but I almost and wistful of the days when you watched the Sox on channel 38, and you jumped out of bed on Saturday morning to watch Johnny Bench, Tommy Lasorda, and the San Diego Chicken on The Baseball Bunch. Then, if I had finished my chores and sufficiently sucked-up to my Dad and planted the seed that we really should watch the Giants-Dodgers game on the Game of the Week, we could catch Mel Allen on This Week in Baseball before the game. Mind you, This Week in Baseball (or TWIB as it became known as) was the only place I could see highlights of my beloved early eighties St. Louis Cardinals. No ESPN in town yet, no NESN with highlights, NOTHING ever on the News at Six, it was TWIB or nothing back then. In fact, just to get the scores of the games, had to suffer through the static of WFAN because there was no sports radio in Boston and Gil Santos did not always give out National League scores. Truly, it was the dark ages. Yet, it was also beautiful. The All-Star game was must-see TV, the playoffs were riveting, and TWIB and that Saturday Game of the Week was something that I looked forward to like no other TV show since the cable explosion.

Heck, I remember when NESN was a premium pay cable station (not so many years ago), and Kathy finally broke down, felt pity upon me, and ordered it. I was in seventh heaven: I could watch EVERY Red Sox game. That summer, NESN finally was added to one of the basic tier packages. Can anyone imagine that now? Sure, the new owners, the escalation of the Yankees rivalry, and the playoffs and the World Series brought on a new age in Red Sox mania, but making almost every game available to the basic cable subscribers went a long way into the blossoming Red Sox Nation.

* * *

Friday, May 19, 2006

MY OTHER FANTASY

Since there was no Sox game Thursday night, I guess it is time to look at my other Fantasy league team of jokers and chokers. This is what I call the Dan League, as my buddy and soccer scribe, Brigstah (congrats again on the new job starting this fall, my friend), invited me into a league with a few of his college buddies, who have a spirited, fun league (even though I know no one other than Dan, having met him at last at the fantastic Brigstah wedding last summer) in which eventually I will get into smack-talking when I move out of third place and start kicking butt. My weakness in the league, which is 5x5 cumulative stats, non-keeper, with max innings/games for each position, is that I burn out all my available innings by the end of August because I just cannot get enough starting pitchers. So I stay at the top of the standings due to my pitching stats, and then spend all of September dropping off to the middle of the pack. I am trying to stay under control and pick up some more set-up men to improve WHIP and wins without killing my innings, but it is tough to pass up those National League starters out on waivers. Anyway, here is the horrible team I trot out that is somehow in third place out of fourteen teams as of the middle of May:

Pos - -Batters
C-
J. Mauer-(Min - C) - As I made the point the other day in my post about my other fantasy team, I have tried to get Mauer even though he killed me his rookie year when he got hurt after getting three hits on opening day.
1B-
C. Delgado -(NYM - 1B) - I kind of lucked into grabbing Delgado early on in the draft. Sure, I think he is smart to have toned down his anti-American comments, but as long as he hits I can deal with it. I mean, it is not like he is Barry Bonds or someone evil of that ilk.
2B-
F. Sánchez-(Pit - 2B,3B,SS) - I just scooped up Ready Freddy from the abyss of the waiver pool, as I just could not get out of bed in the morning another day with Craig Counsell at second base. Freddy is far from an ideal pick, but I am only looking for adequate at this point.
3B-
Mi. Cabrera-(Fla - 3B,OF) - Again, I make it a point to get Cabrera every year. I think he could be as good as Albert Pujols someday.
SS-
O. Vizquel-(SF - SS) - Yeah, I seriously thought he would hit .300. Really, I was throwing up in my mouth when I realized he was my SS (wait, I can play Counsell there! Bleeeechhh!). I just pray he keeps hitting (although I know he will not).
CI-
B. Wilkerson-(Tex - 1B,OF) - I insult the guy last column then he blasts a two-run job against the Yankees. Wilkerson, you suck! You are the worst! (Now keep hitting!)
MI-
M. Grudzielanek-(KC - 2B) - I know what you are thinking, and yes, it is as pitiful as it looks.
OF-
B. Abreu-(Phi - OF) The only way he leaves my team is if he is traded to the Yankees, where my NO YANKEES EVER policy goes into effect.
OF-
C. Lee-(Mil - OF) - A steal. He may be one of the best free agents this off-season if the Brew Crew cannot wrap him up. He would look good in left field at Fenway next year.
OF-
R. Ibañez-(Sea - OF) - Nothing special. Adequate. Kind of like the Mariners in general.
OF-
J. Jones-(ChC - OF) - Dear Lord forgive me for putting this strikeout, low OBP machine on my roster. Of course I am desperate, see the two bozos coming up next.
Util-
D. Young-(Det - 1B,OF) - Da Meathook! Pulled him off waivers. No, I do not expect much out of him. If he gets hot, I may ride a few home runs and RBIs off him, but that is all I can hope for at this point.
BN-J. Cruz-(LAD - OF) - Jose Cruz Jr? His Dad may be almost 60, but I would rather have him on my team right now.
BN-C. Counsell-(Ari - 2B,SS) - I think I am going to start crying now. Craig Freaking Counsell?
BN-
C. Monroe-(Det - OF) Who? Exactly. A fringe outfielder. He probably will not do much, but there really is no better spare outfielder available.
-
Pos-Pitchers
SP-
B. Zito-(Oak - SP) - Again, as I had conveyed in an earlier post, I drafted him too high for the little bit he will contribute this year.
SP-T. Glavine-(NYM - SP) - My savior so far this season. Glavine has been the best left-handed pitcher in the National League this year. No, I thought I might get 12 wins out of him.
SP-
B. Arroyo-(Cin - SP) - Another lucky pick. I figured Arroyo for ten wins (and that still may be his maximum), but he really has pitched great for Cincinnati.
RP-
E. Guardado-(Sea - RP) - Steady Eddie: as in steadily inconsistent.
RP-
Ro. Hernández-(Pit - RP) - Oh God my closer selection is weak.
RP-
Ja. Wright-(SF - SP,RP) - Who? Who cares.
P-J. Lackey-(LAA - SP) - Another solid starter. My starter collection: always a strength.
P-
K. Millwood-(Tex - SP) - Surprisingly inconsistent this year, but he still should get 15 wins.
P-
B. Myers-(Phi - SP) – Another pitcher I carry in both leagues EVERY year. Ever since I saw him shut down the Red Sox in spring training when he was still in AAA, I made a decision to draft him every year until he was a star. Well, I am still drafting him, but this year he should break through and win 18 or 19 games.
BN-
D. Davis-(Mil - SP) - I love these Milwaukee starting pitchers. I just love them.
BN-
J. Lieber-(Phi - SP) - I did have ANOTHER Phillies starter, but three was just too many. Lieber is on the bench since he is pitching against the Red Sox (another fantasy league rule of mine).
DL-M. MacDougal-(KC - RP) DL - Even he were healthy, he would not have any saves.
DL-D. Hermanson-(CWS - RP) DL - Really I should just release him, since he would not be closing anyway, but I have the spot so what the heck.

* * *

O NO

Nope, not a post about Yoko and John Lennon, but rather touching base after the Red Sox blowing their chance to sweep the Orioles. Here is my game summary:

Innings one through seven: F@%# Eric F@%#*** Bedard! F@%# Eric F@%#*** Bedard! F@%# Eric F@%#*** Bedard! F@%# Eric F@%#*** Bedard! F@%# Eric F@%#*** Bedard! F@%# Eric F@%#*** Bedard! F@%# Eric F@%#*** Bedard!

Yes, the kiddos were once again introduced to the proper usage of profanity in context to a baseball game where the pitcher you had stole off of waivers when he was 4-0 and proceeded to go 0-2 and give up 13 runs in 13 innings for you until you released him (I desperately needed infield help what with injuries and no DL spots open), and the Eric F@%#*** Bedard goes out and shuts down the Sox, giving up two hits and one run in seven innings.

Of course, after Big Papi gave us hope with his bomb off of Chris Ray (I bet Chazer was agonizing over that at-bat: the beloved Red Sox or his beloved fantasy league closer? Of course, Chazer, bless his former accountant number-crunching, French horn playing heart, was rooting for Chris Ray to mow down the Sox and pick up the save, some strikeouts and improve his team ERA and WHIP.), I had to spend the next twenty minutes (yes, the kids were asleep at this point) muttering F@%# Willie F@%#*** Harris!

Of course, seeing Willie Harris get thrown out stealing second base to end the game brings two thoughts to my head:

1. Imagine if Dave Roberts had been thrown out against the Yankees in game four of the ALCS in 2004;
and
2. Babe Ruth ended the 1926 World Series by being thrown out stealing second base in the ninth inning of game seven down by one run. Can anyone even fathom that? I remember reading that as a kid and thinking how horrible it must be to end a season that way. Of course, Ruth erased it from the collective memory of baseball fans everywhere by hitting 60 home runs the next season and redeeming himself by hitting .625 in the 1927 World Series. Somehow I doubt Willie Harris is going to do that anytime soon.

In fact, speaking of Willie Harris, exactly why is he even on the roster? I would rather Bob Zupcik or Chico Walker was coming off the bench.

* * *

DH NONSENSE:

I hate that everyone is so concerned that the Red Sox have no DH in the interleague games in National League parks. Last I checked the fielding stats used by the big guns (Baseball Prospectus, SABR, Bill James, and Rob Neyer), David Ortiz was actually an upgrade in the field over Kevin Millar. Lest anyone forget, Big Papi gunned down Cardinals pitcher Jeff Suppan at third base during the 2004 World Series when Suppan made his ill-advised base-running blunder that officially gave the Sox all the final momentum they needed.

Big Papi may be rusty, but he is not a liability like Millar was at first base.

* * *

MY FANTASY:

Since I blab so much about my fantasy teams, I figured I would post them here to allow them to be mocked and ridiculed by all (Hey, I am equal opportunity when it comes to mocking and being mocked!).

This team is in what I refer to as the Rickles League, actually named Manny Being Manny. It is a Yahoo, non-keeper, head-to-head weekly with 5x5 scoring. Right now I am in seventh place of the twelve team league with a 24-30-6 record.

Pos-Batters
C-J. Mauer-(Min - C) - I love Mauer. I had him his rookie year when he had a great game, tore up his knee, and went on the DL for four months. The plus side was that I picked up Javy Lopez that year.
1B-C. Tracy-(Ari - 1B,3B,RF) - Yeah, pitiful, but Derrick Lee, my first round pick , is on the DL.
2B-D. Uggla-(Fla - 2B) - Ugg says it all. I did have Craig Counsell here, and can move Soriano if I can find an outfielder who can hit once in a while.
3B-Mi. Cabrera-(Fla - 3B,LF) - I have drafted Cabrera every year since I picked him up his rookie year. I think he is the most over-looked superstar out there right now.
SS-J. Hardy-(Mil - SS) DL - I just released his injured ass this morning. Picked up the blond mullet, Khalil Green of San Diego. His average sucks, but his power numbers are decent for the position.
LF-A. Soriano-(Was - 2B,LF) - I picked up Jason Giambi on waivers in the second week of the season, and since I have a strict No Yankees rule for my teams, I sent him to my Yankee Fan brother-in-law, Mike, for Soriano. That is the definition of win-win and getting something for nothing.
CF-J. Pierre-(ChC - CF) - This is the LAST year I ever draft someone entirely for stolen bases. Pierre is horrible.
RF-B. Wilkerson-(Tex - 1B,LF,CF,RF) – Somehow this chump is on both my teams. Kathy had him one year on her fantasy team and LOVES him now. Me, all I know is I wastched the Yankees game during commercials during the Red Sox game last night and saw Wilkerson strike out twice.
Util-A. Ramírez-(ChC - 3B) - Some guys get the big contract and do nothing. Oh look, Aramis Ramirez.
BN-L. Berkman-(Hou - 1B,LF,RF) - My MVP so far this season. He is only on the bench because Houston had an off day.
Bitmap BN-G. Atkins-(Col - 3B) - A pleasant surprise, but I would like to get more power out of 3B, move Cabrera to LF, and move Soriano to 2B.
DL-D. Lee-(ChC - 1B) DL - GET WELL SOON, BIG GUY!

Pos-Pitchers
SP-R. Dempster-(ChC - SP,RP) - The Dumpster has been lights out for me.
SP-C. Young-(SD - SP) - I love National League pitchers. LOVE EM!
SP-B. Zito-(Oak - SP) - Zito was drafted a little high and he really has not been the ace I hoped for him to be in a contract year for him.
SP-K. Wood-(ChC - SP,RP) DL - Finally healthy, I can finally see if this bum at least gets me a few strikeouts.
RP-B. Fuentes-(Col - RP) – The crappiest closers for the crappiest teams. That is my motto for the bullpen.
RP-D. Báez-(LAD - RP) - Safe to say, I was dancing when Eric Gagne went down. May his recovery take twice as long!
P-D. Weathers-(Cin - RP) - Just here to get me some low WHIP and ERA.
P-F. Rodney-(Det - RP) - Ditto, although I wish he would steal some saves for me.
BN-T. Wakefield-(Bos - SP) - I need him to get hot so I can trade him.
BN-T. Glavine-(NYM - SP) - My Cy Young for the pitching staff. Took a flyer on him in the late rounds and he has been my rock.
BN-G. Chacín-(Tor - SP) DL - Somehow, Chacin went undrafted. Another favorite of Kat, as he did well for her team last year, so I scooped him up just in time to see him go down with an injury.
BN-C. Capuano-(Mil - SP) - Yup, another National League starter.
BN-B. Myers-(Phi - SP) - Another guy I draft every year for every team I have rounds earler than anyone else waiting for that breakout season.
BN-N. Robertson-(Det - SP) - I have no idea why Nate the Great is here. Seriously. I assume I grabbed him off waivers at one point, buy I do not remember why or what I was thinking at the time.

Later, I will touch on my other fantasy team, aka the Dan League, where I am in third place in a fourteen team league.

* * *

HOCKEY?

Not to bring up a sore spot, but to everyone in San Jose: welcome to our world. We emphasize. Game seven for the San Jose Sharks, and who forgot to show up? Jumbo Joe! Much like his time in Boston, Joe Thornton decided to have ZERO impact with the season on the line. Not to bash on Big Joe, but this is what we saw all those years in Boston: great skills, great talent, but never a clutch performance. Just call him the A-Rod of the NHL.

* * *

Thursday, May 18, 2006

DEEP

What is one of the most refreshing aspects of this young season is the quality and depth of the Red Sox bullpen. While Jonathan Papelbon has garnered the most attention for his outstanding work at the back of the bullpen, the ability to end games (for all intents and purposes) in the sixth and seventh innings has been key to the Red Sox winning so many close games this season. What the Red Sox have that no other team can match is three established, healthy closers in the bullpen.

Mike Timlin closed effectively in a pinch last season, and despite his age, he still has been very effective coming out of the bullpen. In addition, the versatility and continued improvement of Keith Foulke as he returns from double knee surgery cannot be discounted. Foulke has filled the vital role closer for inning six through eight for the Sox.

One aspect of the disastrous closer-by-committee that the Red Sox tried to introduce back in 2003 was the premise that having your best pitcher pitch when the game is on the line, be it the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth inning. Rollie Fingers, Sparky Lyle, Goose Gossage, Bob Stanley, and Bruce Sutter (earlier in his career) all pitched multiple innings regularly. In fact, back in those ancient days called the late seventies, a closer was expected to pitch more than the ninth inning, often pitching two to four innings to close out a win.

The point is that even if you have a closer for the ninth inning, without people in front of him to snuff rallies in the sixth through eighth innings, the closer will not even get into the game. What doomed the Red Sox bullpen in 2003 was the talent and fragile psyches in the bullpen. For the sake of stability, relief pitchers are most comfortable with a defined role. How the pitcher is deployed is not the question, in 2003 the Red Sox had no one in the bullpen who could consistently get anyone out until they rebuilt the bullpen through trades throughout the season. The importance of the set-up men in front of the closer cannot be discounted. The deeper the talent in the bullpen, the more wins for the team.

Getting back to 2006, the Red Sox can trot out Tavarez (a better pitcher than he has shown) in the sixth inning, Foulke in the seventh, Timlin in the eighth, and Papelbon in the ninth, with great confidence even being behind a few runs because they have three closers and another really good set-up man. In fact, if/when Rudy Seanez bounces back from his early season struggles, they can use him to mix and match into the mix in the sixth through eighth innings. David Riske, when healthy in early 2005, was lights out for the Indians. His return could help as well.

With Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen pitching well in Pawtucket (and Edgar Martinez in Portland) the bullpen continues to look like a strength going forward, even with the eventual retirement of Mike Timlin and move to the starting rotation by Jonathan Papelbon. Logically, Delcarmen and Hansen should be ready to slot into the bullpen in 2007 in front of Foulke, as Papelbon moves to the rotation to set-up the devastating young 1-2 punch at the front of the rotation with Josh Beckett. The bullpen definitely is a strong point both in the present and in the near future for the Red Sox.
* * *

WEIRDNESS:

For some reason I stayed up late into the night, even after Kat kicked me out of the bedroom, to watch the Yankees come back and beat the Rangers 14-13 after trailing 9-0 after two innings. What struck me most, especially in relation to what I just wrote about the Red Sox bullpen, was how weak the bullpens were for each squad. The score yo-yoed back and forth throughout the later innings as neither pitching staff could staunch the bleeding.

Most glaring was the performance of Yankees starter Shawn Chacon, whose incredible run of luck finally ran out. In his performance against the Red Sox, he seemed to be carrying a rabbits foot, four-leaf clover, and other assorted lucky charms as he continually put himself into difficult situations only to weasel out by the thinnest of margins. Finally, Texas broke through last night and chased him out early as the Red Sox should have done earlier this season.

With the seeming break-down (whether physical, mental, or a little of both) of Randy Johnson this season, the Yankees have got to be rushing back Carl Pavano. With only Mike Mussina pitching well and Johnson ineffective, Chacon having used up all his luck, Aaron Small struggling out of the bullpen, Chien-Ming Wang inconsistent, and Jared Wright, well, Jared Wright. This is hardly the days of the Yankees trotting out Mussina, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite, David Cone, and David Wells at starter and having Mariano Rivera set-up by set-up men at the top of their game at the time (Steve Karsay, Mike Stanton, etc). This is all the more reason the injury to Hideki Matsui will be an issue: not every team is going to give up 14 runs.

* * *

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

MAKE MINE A BECKS

Yeah, anyone that doubted that the Red Sox got the best young right-handed pitcher in baseball (OK, maybe 1B next to 1A Jake Peavey of San Diego), I am ready to take you on. Other than a momentary loss of concentration against Miguel Tejada in the first inning, Josh Beckett was plain and simply as unhittable as circa 1998 Pedro Martinez.

In the first, Beckett nearly got wiped out by the umpire calling time in the middle of his wind-up with the count 1-2 with two outs in the first inning (I always completed my motion and threw a strike anyway, as one time in Little League the idiot kid backed out of the box without calling time and the umpire was bright enough to call it a strike, which led to the kid crying like a baby while his mother sat behind home plate and harassed the umpire: ahh, the memories!). Anyway, Beckett was a just a bit upset. Add in a 2-2 fastball clocked at 97 MPH that looked like it was right on the inside corner, and it is no wonder that Beckett gave up that line-drive homer (which, truth be told, would have been a single at Fenway).

No worries, as Beckett just mowed down the Orioles mercilessly the rest of the night while the Sox broke out the bats and blew out Baltimore 11-1.

* * *

INSOMNIA CURES:

Hey, I love the Boston Sports Guy (just who is this imposter who lives in L.A. anyway on ESPN.com going by the name of Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy, anyway?) but his recent page 2 column (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/060512) which was his running diary of listening to the Mike & the Mad Dog show on WFAN 660 in New York ranked of cheap advertising. I used to occasionally listen to Mike and the Mad Dog waaaaaaay back in the day (my Dad & I listened to static-filled AM radio from New York when it was the only place to hear Don Imus and listen to sports talk radio all day and night), but doing a running diary of the show is just silly. Granted, I will be the first to tell you that this little blog of mine is far from ESPN.com Page 2 material, but a running diary of a radio show simulcast? The most interesting part of the article was when he wrote about leaving the room to make a tuna fish sandwich.

Truth be told, Simmons is the Godfather of all sports bloggers, a legend, the myth, the one who started out small potatoes and ended up with all-expense paid trips to Vegas paid for by ESPN/ABC/Disney. We ALL pray for that kind of break. Unfortunately, I have a life outside of writing a blog, drinking coffee at Dunkin Donuts, and reading the USA Today sports section (he reads it because it is chock-full of crap about Western Conference NBA action, it is the only reason I can imagine). I HATE calling him out since it is apparently the big trend: trashing the sell-out Sports Guy who we are all secretly insanely jealous. I admit it, between him and Gregg Easterbrook (Tuesday Morning Quarterback) at ESPN.com, Peter King & Dr. Z. at SI.com, Bruce Allen of Boston Sports Media Watch, Chad Finn at Touching All the Bases, and Mike Reiss at the Herald and now the Globe, I received the impetus to start my own blog here at BostonSportPage.com (OK, it was my wife who actually kicked my rear-end and made me do it, but I thinks she just took pity on Brigs, Chazer, and the rest of the guys who had to get this crap in their e-mail boxes on a regular basis).

Anyway, rambling point at last: Simmons is awesome. He just was not awesome on this occasion (and he writes too much about the NBA! No one East of the Rockies cares about the Clippers, the Spurs, the Mavs, the Suns, or anyone else in the Western Conference!).

* * *

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

PLAY BALL

While the Northeast remains saturated with rain, the Red Sox travel to Baltimore, home of the Friedman clan (or do I just refer to them as the urban Baltimore Friedmen?), in an effort to actually play a game for a change. After the emotionally charged series with the Yankees, the Sox had trouble getting up to play against the Texas Rangers and Kameron Loe and were promptly shut down rather easily before the rains came. However, every cloud has a silver lining, and now we see the once-mighty (circa late seventies/early eighties) Baltimore Orioles on the horizon. Some quick thoughts on the match-up before first pitch (hopefully, as there is a 40% chance of rain):

* * *

THE SOX DRAWER, OR LOOKING FOR A MATCH-UP:

In looking at the pitching match-ups, the Sox run out their two studs versus the two duds the Orioles match-up against them. While Schilling and Becket are a combined 9-3 with a 4.36 ERA. The Orioles match-up Red Sox Killer Rodrigo Lopez of the 1-5 7.08 and former Red Sox for a cup of joe, Bruce Freaking Chen and his 0-5 8.42 stats. In the finale (weather permitting of course), the fantasy team nightmare scenario plays out as both pitchers are on my fantasy team: Shakey Wakey and Eric Bedard. Pitch both? Pitch one? Pitch neither?

Fortunately, I have a hard and fast rule that I bench EVERYONE when they play the Sox (provided I remember to check my roster), and with Bedard it is no exception. Of course, when I picked up Bedard off waivers he was 4-0 with an ERA under 3.00. Since I added him, his cumulative stats are 4-2 4.63. Yeah, another great move, Bent.

* * *

STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH YOU:

Whatever happened to having Wakefield pitch between Schilling and Beckett to break-up the power pitchers with the knuckleballer? One rain-out and the plan is off. In theory, it sounds well, but I wonder if studying the significance of the move was a Bill James special project?

* * *

BACK TO NORMAL:

Hmm. Kevin Millar is hitting a robust .220 (note, below Alex Gonzalez) with 2 home runs (Dustin Mohr has 2 in one-third the number of at-bats). But, hey, he is great in the clubhouse, right? Yes, he had a pinch-hit two-run single the other night to pull ahead of Alex Gonzalez in the RBI Derby (13-11), but since it was against the AAA Kansas City Royals, how excited can you get about it? I mean, John Halama Llama got the win, but you will not see me clamoring for the Sox to get him back and stick him in the number five spot in the rotation to replace Lenny DiNardo. Now, personally, I like Kevin Millar. I wish more ballplayers enjoyed the game as much as he does, but the Red Sox had no business playing him last season, let alone resigning him for 2006.

* * *

BACKLASH:

So now that Alex Gonzalez and Jason Varitek have the same batting average and near identical power numbers, how long until the over-reactions kick in and the chant goes up at WEEI to make Doug Mirabelli the regular catcher and chastise Theo Epstein for signing Varitek to the 4 year $40 million contract? Of course, Varitek and Gonzalez are both likely to finish the season hitting around .260/.275 with 15 home runs.

* * *

MISCELLANEOUS:

I hope Barry Bonds retires with 713 home runs.

* * *

How ridiculously good are the Chicago White Sox? I was watching them last night (note to ESPN: fire Joe Morgan, keep Jon Miller.) and Mark Buehrle gave up seven runs in the first inning. Pull the starter, exhaust the bullpen, game over, right? Nope. Buehrle settled down, shut down the Twins for the next five innings, and earned the win as the White Sox pounded the enigmatic Carlos Silva and won 9-7. I may not be a big Ozzie Guillen fan, but that White Sox team is so much fun to watch: great starting pitching, solid bullpen, speed, power, and balance in the line-up.
* * *

Mike Maroth is 5-2 with a 2.18 ERA for the Tigers, and yes, he was a gift from Dan Duquette and the previous Red Sox regime to the Tigers for a dead-arm pitcher and a bucket of balls.

* * *

Hard to believe, but Nomar actually looks good for the Dodgers. He has lost some bulk, got some bat speed back (remember, that wrist injury in 2002. Wrist action is vital for hitting), and looks happy and healthy. He will probably never hit 20 or 30 home runs or hit .370 again, but he is good for .315 average, 15 homers, 40 doubles, and 115 ribbies batting somewhere near the middle of the order. I have no ill will for #5. I wish he had handled himself with more grace on his way out and realized the opportunity he had to stay in Boston with the new ownership group, but all-in-all I still root for Nomar. Also, he gets kudos for his comment (where I read it I forget), and I paraphrase here, that this off-season it was between New York (Yankees) or the Dodgers and he chose L.A. because he still considers himself a Red Sox and could NEVER play for the Yankees. I hope Johnny Damon read that quote and finally realized why he was booed, will continue to be booed, and I will boo him in 30 years when he is signing baseballs at a memorabilia show.

* * *

More good news: the Sox draft at 27, 28, 40, and 44 in the first round of the amateur draft in the beginning of June. The 27 pick is theirs, 28 is the Yankees for signing Johnny Damon, 40 is the sandwich pick compensation for Damon, and 44 is the sandwich pick compensation for Bill Mueller.

* * *

BOXING IN BOSTON:


I stayed up (somehow) on Saturday night, enjoying a pizza and a beer with Kat to watch the Ricky Hatton-Luis Collazo fight. Simply a great match-up of welterweights. My Dad always said that welterweights are the best fighters, pound-for-pound, and considering the state of the heavyweights and the drawing power of the 155 lb and less fighters right now, it looks like he is right once again.

Hatton came out strong, had a quick knock-down early in the first round, and by round three it looked like the Irishman was going to be going straight to the Black Rose for a Guinness before too long. However, Collazo fought back and took control of the fight, before Hatton got a second wind and won a few more rounds. Collazo gamely fought back and had Hatton on the ropes in round 12, but could not put him away. Hatton, with both eyes swollen badly, fought back strong in the final minute or so of the final round and probably won the fight right there. Collazo should have put him down and out right there. Hatton hung on for the well-deserved, close victory, as HBO breathed a sigh of relief since they had just signed on Hatton to a big deal.

* * *

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Sometimes you win...

Sometimes you lose.
Sometimes you are rained out.

I know that the name Terry Cashman is mud in Boston after he was roundly mocked by the talk radio imbeciles and idiots after his Red Sox 2004 World Series ballad he composed and performed, but I had his Talking Baseball album as a kid, and loved it. And the three lines above say it all.

So, middle of May, the Sox are hot and cold; the Celtics and Bruins are in hibernation; no one cares about non-local NBA action; and the Revolution are finding their stride at long last.

Rookie training camp is in session and although nothing is even close to be resolved or understood, the papers are atwitter about Lawrence Maroney and Chad Jackson. I liked the article by Michael Felger in the Sunday Herald (http://patriots.bostonherald.com/patriots/view.bg?articleid=139214) that compared his initial reactions to Patriot busts (Cedric Cobbs, Bethel Johnson, and Rohan Davey) to those who stepped in and looked immediately like a pro player on the first day of camp (Deion Branch, Richard Seymour, Eugene Wilson, and Asante Samuel), lumping Jackson in the group of players who looked ready to dominate.

Speaking of the Pats, a sad story I came across online about Ryan Claridge, a rookie last year who was injured and never got a shot, but is back this year and could play a role at linebacker: http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2006/May-14-Sun-2006/sports/7386004.html

* * *

Saturday, May 13, 2006

TOO EARLY TO TELL

What a maddening display put on by the Red Sox in their series finale against the Yankees. Time and time again, the team came up short when a blooper would have broken the game open. Until the seventh inning, there was considerable concern that the team would somehow figure out a way to lose the game.

The reason I will remember the game is the gruesome scene of Hideki Matsui breaking his wrist breaking his wrist trying to catch the sinking liner from the bat of Mark Loretta in the top of the first inning. I may hate the Yankees (I do not like the team, the organization, and the uniform, not the individual players, who we respect despite their misguided choice to play for the team, as I try to teach my son & daughter. Of course, the fact that Derek Jeter is the most over-rated player in baseball since Joe DiMaggio held the distinction is self-evident), but I wish personal injury on nobody. Hideki Matsui is good for baseball. He keeps his mouth shut, he hustles, and he is clutch. I would LOVE to have him on the Red Sox. His loss for three months or more will hurt the Yankees more than anyone realizes right now.

* * *

FYI:

To all those morons, idiots, and bozos who filled papers, blogs and the airwaves with idiot drivel, I have only two points to make as I make sure no moronic rant is allowed without someone calling these dips on their foolish opinions and bluster:

* Mark Loretta is hitting .280, while the last time I checked, Tony Graffanino could not start regularly for the worst team in the league and was hitting well under .200; and

* Last night, Bill Mueller air-mailed errors number seven and eight last night and is hitting a robust .252 (and not to put to fine a point on it, but he does not have 19 doubles right now!). Not to denigrate Billy Ballgame, who was one of my favorite Red Sox players in his tenure here, but Theo is paid the big bucks to make tough decisions and improve the team. Suffice to say, the team is better at third base than they were last season.

* * *

PATIENCE:

Sure we can crank the Guns N Roses full blast (Can anyone name another song from GnR Lies album? Me neither. Probably the most rushed-out, capitalize on the huge hit album ever.), but for me to have a little patience while waiting for Coco Crisp to return is excruciating. Once Coco is in place in centerfield, the Lenny Harris era should end, Wily Mo Pena should begin taking at-bats away from Trot Nixon on a regular basis, and Dustin Mohr can complain his way out of town by July 31 ala Jay Payton.

The Red Sox truly are treading water until Coco returns, and the summer should be one to remember with the personable, able young star patrolling centerfield, sparking the Sox attack, and giving the team someone who can steal bases, go from first to third on a single, or score from second on a base hit.

* * *

NEW YORK STATE OF MIND:

If I were a Yankees fan (and I am proud not to be), I would be sending this letter to the Yankees HQ in Tampa:

Dear George Steinbrenner:

If I am paying $200 million in player salaries, the day I have Miguel Cairo (yes, Miguel Freaking Cairo!) at first base (yes, First Freaking Base!) is the day it is time to blow up the roster and make some wholesale changes. Who is it that convinced you that Brian Cashman is smarter than Theo Epstein? What depth this Yankees team seems to have!

The scary part is that when (and no if allowed. This is a definite WHEN) Bernie Williams is suspended for a significant amount of time, the Bronx Bombers could be looking at an outfield of Johnny Damon, Bubba Crosby, and Melky Cabrera. That is truly a gang of idiots.

Forget A-Rod, Jeter, and Giambi. A-Rod is the true Mr. May (apologize to Dave Winfield RIGHT NOW, Steinbrenner), Derek Jeter is a second baseman on his best day in the field (how did he not get an error on that Loretta grounder in the seventh inning?), and Giambi is one failed steroids test away from disappearing like Mark McGwire. Trade them all and build around Robinson Cano. Spend some money on the draft and scouting and bring in some talented, young, hungry ballplayers.

Sincerely,

Joe Yankees Fan

* * *

Thankfully, Steinbrenner is too old and will pay for this crashed car after Joe Torre finally bolts right before the wheels completely fall off. I figure 2008 is the year it finally comes crashing down. And, yes, I am grinning in evil anticipation as I type this.

* * *

Thursday, May 11, 2006

One More Crazy Night

The Boston Red Sox square off one more time this week with the New York Yankees, with Tim Wakefield knuckling against the Yankees own reclamation project, Shawn Chacon, fresh off a number of disastrous years in the thin air of Denver, Colorado. The Sox and Yanks split the first two games of the series at the House that Ruth Built after the Red Sox swept a one-game set (due to a rain-out) at Friendly Fenway.

While it is far too early to attach any significance to early season results, it is apparent that a number of points have been raised:

1. Just how close is Curt Schilling to becoming the Curt Schilling of 2002-3? Or is that Curt Schilling gone forever? His performance against the Yankees was classic Schilling save for the three meatballs he left over the middle of the plate to Jason Giambi (who looks suspiciously like the pre-2005 Jason Giambi again), Horsehead Posada, and A-Rod (who may be as detested as Jeter in these parts, but at least his stats back-up the hype. A-Rod, love him or hate him, will likely be the first major leaguer to hit 800, 900 or 1,000 home runs). Schilling has not pitched too well as of late, which makes me wonder if everything is as hunky-dory with the ankle as he claims. Or, maybe it is just the typical May Malaise that hits starting pitchers as they finally get their arms stretched out and then have adapt again to how they are throwing now that there is no more tightness in the shoulder and arm.

2. Josh Beckett is, and will be, the Man. I do not care if Henley Ramirez hits .333 with 30 HRs and 125 RBIs for the next ten years, it was a great deal. Beckett is a legitimate number one starter for the foreseeable future and is only (almost) 26. There will be more shortstops like Ramirez coming out of the Dominican Republic, but there are very few right-handed starters with the ninety-five plus MPH fastball, great curve and slider, aggressiveness, and the persona of Josh Beckett.

3. Mike Lowell is exactly what those in the know said he would be: a doubles machine who is going to tattoo the Green Monster so much that Wally will be filing a restraining order and calling DSS. Lowell is spectacular in the field, along with former Florida teammate Alex Gonzalez, and both will end up hitting better than anyone thought in March or April.

4. What the Red Sox need more than anything is that spark that Coco Crisp brought to the team in early April. Mark Loretta is a better hitter when he can hit and run (warning: hit and run at your own risk with Kevin Youkilis at first base), and create opportunities for Big Papi to see some strikes with men on base.

5. Big Papi and Manny are still better than everyone save for Albert Pujols and whoever the hell else St. Louis throws up there to hit behind him. Not to get off the subject of Manny & Ortiz, but how stupid do you have to be to throw Albert Pujols a strike with Jim Freaking Edmonds hobbling to the on-deck circle with his .243 batting average? And no, I would gladly pitch to Scott Rolen rather than Prince Albert if they put him in the four hole. Ditto for Florida with Miguel Cabrera. Can anyone name who hits behind him in the batting order? Well, I can say Mike Jacobs since he is sitting on my bench in fantasy baseball in case Carlos Delgado gets shot by right-wing nut when keeps stirring up controversy for some of his anti-US statements. Hey, I have no love for the Dumb Monkey from Texas, but respect the country that allows you to earn hundreds of millions of dollars playing a game the rest of play simply because we love it.

6. OK, now Jerry Remy is providing special favors for Derek Jeter? What the #$&@? I almost punched the TV when I heard the Rem-Dawg lecturing the NESN viewers about how great Jack Wilson if he played in Pittsburgh, I mean, Jeter is and how we should appreciate the way he plays the game. I appreciate the way his average has dropped 70 points in the last two weeks and he blew the first game against the Sox by dropping a pop-up and running the bases like Manny.

7. Robinson Cano is the best player in the Yankees infield East of A-Rod. Cano has a beautiful swing, plays hard, runs well, and is content to keep his mouth shut and hit seventh in the order when anyone with half a brain knows he belongs in the 2 or 5 hole. I hate the Yankees, but I love Cano. Why he is overshadowed by the blowhards, big egos, cavemen, (possibly) steroid abusers, and bozos in New York is beyond me. I would give up anyone not named Papelbon or Beckett for the kid if the Yankees were dumb enough to give up on him as they did with Alfonso Soriano.

8. Bernie Williams should be suspended a minimum of 30 games for tossing his helmet at the umpire on Tuesday night. What the #$&@? Someone tell me that what he did was not worse than Delmon Young tossing his bat at an umpire in Pawtucket last month? The elder statesman of the distinguished Yankees is a black mark on the game right now if you ask me. MLB needs to suspend Bernie IMMEDIATELY! Carl Everett would be banned for the season if he did anything so stupid. Someone wake up Sandy Alderson, Bud Seelig, and the rest of the non-existent leadership of the game.

9. Big Unit & The Big Schill: Instead we got the big washouts. Both ended up being checked out by Doctors after they both got bombed. I still say they should have faced each other.

Of course, outside of the Northeast, the Red Sox versus the Yankees are not the big deal, but who cares what the rest of the country thinks. Boston and New York never did, and never will.

* * *

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

STANKEES

Sox - Yankees, Round Two: My only complaint is that the fans do not get to see Schilling versus Johnson: the Big Schill up against former teammate, co-MVP, and neighbor the Big Eunich. This is an interesting match-up because we still are unsure where these two teams are so far in the young season:

The Yankees can hit the ball, but the bottom of their order is suspect:

* Gary Sheffield will be sorely missed in the middle of the line-up while he is out with a sore wrist, as he is easily the Yankees most dangerous hitter in the clutch.
* Bernie Williams is hardly rejuvenated nor is Jorge Posada getting any younger.
* Robinson Cano is the latest version of Alfonso Soriano, however, but Jason Giambi - is he loaded up on the HGH again (since there is no test for it)???

* Mike Mussina has anchored the staff, but how long can his renaissance last?
* The Big Eunich is due for a back flare-up and a DL trip soon.
* The rainbow and lollypop run for Shawn Chacon is die to end soon (see: Aaron Small).
* The rest of the rotation is a disaster.

Of course, the Red Sox still have their number of questions:

* Is Mike Lowell for real re-inventing himself as the greatest doubles hitter since Wade Boggs? Is the record of 67 doubles in a season by Earl Webb finally going to fall?
* When will Manny go on that tear that he goes on every year?
* Big Papi is still doing well and he has yet to heat up with the weather as he usually does.
* Coco Crisp will add a whole new dimension to the offense when he returns.

* Clement still boggles the mind with his inconsistency and Tim Wakefield is out of excuses.
* Lenny DiNardo is just keeping the seat warm for Boomer, who will still gut out a dozen wins this season.
* Schilling and Beckett are the best 1-2 punch in the game right now.

So what does the future hold for these teams? Do they both go to the playoffs again and get wiped out by Chicago and Anaheim (or Oakland)? Do they fight for the ALCS again? Does one team not make the playoffs?

Hey, that is why they play the games. And why I will be eating hotdogs, drinking beer, and mowing on peanuts for these games with the little monkeys as the wit and wisdom of a two and four year old come out:

Dad, I do NOT like Johnny Damon anymore. (Hal IV does not take Yankee defections well. Mike Myers is on his list as well)

Manny, Manny, Manny. We like Manny! (Of course, he is the missing teletubby)

And

Cheater, cheater, Derek Jeter. Cheater, cheater, Derek Jeter. (The stark simplicity is what gives it the beauty of the phrase)


* * *

FOOTBALL IS NEVER OUT OF SEASON:

Came across this interesting note buried in ProFootballWeekly:

Word is the Patriots believe they selected a seventh-round steal in Baylor cornerback Willie Andrews, who played out of position as a senior and flew under the radar of many teams. His biggest contribution, at least initially, could come on special teams.

Sounds like one of those classic Bill Belichick picks that the prognosticators overlook and then wonder how he did it (i.e. David Givens). On that same vein, I will bet anyone any amount of money that Tully Banta-Cain finishes the season with at least five sacks. Banta-Cain and former second-round pick Marques Hill are two players I am really interested in seeing on the field injecting some youth, speed, athleticism, and playmaking ability on third down this season.

Now back to Mr. Willie Andrews, super sleeper extraordinaire. Here is what Scouts Inc had to say about him:

Strengths: Reads keys quickly and can make plays in the backfield. Plays with a mean streak, fills hard when reads run and is an explosive open field tackler that can deliver some big hits. Takes good pursuit angles and possesses adequate range. Shows good instincts when dropping into zone coverage and rarely gets caught out of position. Times hits well and punishes receivers over the middle. Possesses adequate ball skills and flashes the ability to make the big play in coverage. Shows good vision, possesses adequate quickness and has the lower body strength to pick up some yards after contact when returning kicks. Is fearless and attacks seams as they open. Plays with a non-stop motor, is relentless in pursuit and can cover kicks.

Weaknesses: Lacks ideal bulk, gets engulfed at the point of attack and isn't big enough to consistently line up in the box. Doesn't change directions well, doesn't explode out of cuts and lacks the man-to-man cover skills to stay with slot receivers as well as backs. Can be overaggressive and occasionally bites on play action. Lacks elite speed and isn't fast enough to recover when gets caught out of position. Doesn't show much of a second gear in the open field and isn't going to run away from cover teams when gets a seam. Lacks ideal elusiveness and isn't going to make multiple defenders miss in the open field.

Overall: Andrews played in all 12 games of his true freshman season and he recorded 26 totals and intercepted one pass while providing depth at safety. He started 12 games in 2003 and he recorded 67 total tackles, 46 solo tackles, six and a half tackles-for-loss and two and a half sacks. Andrews intercepted two passes, forced a fumble and recovered two fumbles. He also returned 26 kickoffs for a total of 641 yards and he returned 29 punts for a total of 232 yards. Andrews started 11 games in 2004 and he recorded 67 total tackles, 48 solo tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss and three sacks. He also returned 30 kickoffs for a total of 741 yards and he returned 41 punts for a total of 443 yards. Andrews started 10 games in 2005 and he recorded 59 total tackles, 36 solo tackles, seven and a half tackles-for-loss and two sacks. He also returned 11 kickoffs for a total of 265 yards and he returned 27 punts for a total of 274 yards. Andrews will never be an every-down safety because he lacks size and speed. He also isn't as dangerous as some of the other return men in his class but he has the potential to develop into a reliable return specialist that can cover kicks and provide some depth at safety. Andrews projects as a late-round pick or priority free agent prospect in the 2006 class.

Sounds like the draft report on Rodney Harrison coming out of college, no? Not to say that Andrews will have one-hundredth of the impact of Bad Rodney, but I think just reading the description of Andrews shows he has New England Patriots type of player written all over him. Whether he takes that next step, who knows? But I like that the Patriots have a potential diamond-in-the-rough for the secondary from the seventh round.

* * *

Monday, May 08, 2006

FREAKY FRIDAY

Some thoughts that are bubbling over and need to escape:

When the hell are the New England Revolution going to kick it into gear and start winning games 5-1 again? This team is a potential offensive juggernaut this season. Am I the only one following the Revs?

* * *

No one is more excited about Dougie Mirabelli coming back to Boston than my wife, Kathy, as she can watch every start by Wakefield and ogle Mirabelli with reckless abandon (hey, she has to make up for Rock Star Bronson Arroyo anchoring the rotation of the first place Cincinnati Reds).

* * *

Has anyone noticed how Wily Mo Pena (favorite Red Sox player of my two-year old daughter, Emmalee) has been ripping the ball to the opposite field? If Papa Jack can keep Wily Mo going the other way with power, this trade will go down as one of those rare win-win situations. Jenn, I hope you enjoying the end of the Trot Nixon era in Boston.

* * *

I still think David Wells win a dozen games by the end of the season.

* * *

I so hope that Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli are right as usual and Laurence Maroney and Chad Jackson are as good as some people think. In fact, all I ask is that they are better than and LenDale White and Sinorice Moss. And I mean that I hope they are as right about picking Maroney over White as they were about picking Richard Seymour over David Terrell.

* * *

I doubt anyone agrees with me, but I would stick Alex Gonzalez out at shortstop everyday if he hit .000. The man is magnificent in the infield. Forget Cabrera, who was a half-season of flash without the substance, but the Red Sox have never EVER had shortstop who can make the plays like Gonzalez. Not Nomar, not Rick Burleson, not Spike Owen, not Johnny Pesky, not Lou Bourdreau, not Vern Stephens: NO ONE!

* * *

As I pointed out to a colleague at work, by inverting two letters, instead of saying:
have a great weekend
I had inadvertently typed:
Have a greta weekend

Now, I have never had a greta weekend, but I imagine it involves the Swiss Womens Volleyball Team, right?

* * *

All of those losers who were calling into the Dennis & Callahan show on WEEI this week bemoaning the fact that Mark Loretta is in a slump and dat we shoulda nevah gotten riddah Graffanino, let me make two points:

1. Who made the atrocious error against the White Sox in the Divisional Series that effectively ended the 2005 season for the Boston Red Sox?
2. Who, as I watched the Royals game last night, came up to bat with the robust average of .150? That is right, Tony Graffanino.

All I can say is that I am disappointed that Jon Meterparel, aka the only person at WEEI apparently not reading from a script, did not challenge these knucklehead callers and point out that Graff sucks (in his defense, he did argue that Graff never was, never will be, never could be more than a utility/fill-in/back-up second baseman).

* * *

Thursday, May 04, 2006

AND ON THE FIFTH DAY

Following the finding of the lost Book of Judas, I have decided to publish the following text I found in a lost Biblical scroll that I translate from Aramaic:

On the fifth day, the Captain of the troops will rest and the other from the West shall receive in his Wake.

Who am I to tempt fate and deny the return of Doug Mirabelli to spell Jason Varitek every fifth day and catch Tim Wakefield? While the contrived argument of the Dennis & Callahan show (which, let us face it, is only worth listening to hear what Jon Meterparel has to say since he is only one not handed a script apparently) was the State Police detail assigned to Doug Mirabelli. Sure, I would have loved to see him enter the game in the third inning, but, harkening back to my days in Babe Ruth League (yeah, we are talking the Dark Ages here, like the late 1980s) when we would pile out of the car for an all-star game on the Cape in full uniform right before the game started, it was still pretty dramatic to have Tom Caron and the NESN crew on full Dougie Watch.

Back to celebrity for Mirabelli, although I guess he is safe for a while from Carson from the Queer Eye show sniffing his jockstrap and following him around like a lovesick puppy. While I admire Mirabelli for his ability to handle Wakefield, no one is going to tell me it was a bad trade to unload him for Mark Loretta. Although I must admit I get the horrible vision of Billy Preston singing Get Back in Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band movie, which, yes, was the movie I subjected the family to this weekend, whenever I hear the announcers mention Loretta. Get Back, Loretta!

Not to get off on a tangent, but regarding the Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band movie starring the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton back in the late seventies: Oh my God. George Burns rapping, Steve Martin incomprehensible, Aerosmith rocking, Frampton coming alive, and the Bee Gees all in one fantastic movie where they crank out classic Beatles tunes? It is almost too much to comprehend. Cameos and guest spots abound, literally a roll call of the Studio 54 days. I think Hal the Fourth, all of four years old, summed up the movie perfectly: Dad, he said, they are singing these Beatles songs all wrong!

* * *

Of course, the next night is a rain-out. Sox Sweep Yankees in One-Game Series! I tried to sneak in another horrible movie: Anaconda, which starred a pre-fame/pre-plastic surgery J.Lo, Ice What the F#$& and I Doing in this Movie Cube, Eric In Every Movie in the Early Eighties Stoll or Stroll or Stohl or something like that, and Mr. I am the Dad of Angelina Jolie. Why the Formerly Boston Sports Guy has not written numerous articles about this movie and its even funnier (at least unintentionally) sequel is beyond me. Those two movies are just beyond shlock. Of course, my kinder spirit prevailed and I let Kat switch to something bearable to watch.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

JOHNNY ON THE SPOT

Oh God, Yankees versus the Red Sox tonight for the first time this season. I guess it is safe to say that the Comcast MLB Extra innings package is not going to get much use tonight. In fact, if the other teams play while the Sox face the Yankees, does anyone east of Philadelphia even notice?

What can be said since the entire series (only two games, thankfully) this tilt focuses on Johnny Damon? Yeah, he got booed and he deserved it. Nuff said.

Just exhaled here at 10:17PM in beautiful East Taunton. Sox 7, Bad Guys 3. Papelbon shows them the future. Mirabelli returns. Big Papi absolutely DESTROYED one from Mike Myers to blow the game open. Derek Jeter, aka the greatest, smartest, most amazing player in the history of the game makes a bonehead running play and turns a great play by Mark Loretta into an inning-ending double play. Speaking of Loretta, he came through with the eighth inning grounder up the middle that just got by Robinson Cano (and where was Derek No Range Jeter as Cano was five feet past second base?) and brought in Willie Harris who was absolutely motoring around the bases. Also, kudos to Alex Cora who had a bunt single and drew the walk to start the rally in the eighth. Kevin Youkilis got on base three times. Manny had a couple hits. Wily Mo Pena had a good game in centerfield.

What a way to start off the 19 game tilt. Just a great game.

* * *

Big Dougie Comes Home:

Well, I guess it is safe to say that the WEEI crew and callers will be happy. I think it is a shame we had to throw in Cla Meredith. Way too much to give up if you ask me.

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Celebreality:

Why does NESN embarrass themselves and show Billy Baldwin and Joseph Abboud in the stands? What a couple of B-List celebrities. What, no Pauly Shore? Ben Affleck home changing diapers? Kevin Federline indisposed? Too bad Flavor Flav was not at the game. Then we would have some REAL celebrities. FLAVOR- FLAAAAAAAAAVVVVV!

In a word, pitiful.

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DRAFT RECAP

Yeah, I thought I got a steal grabbing Tom Glavine in the 24th round. What? NFL Draft? I thought everyone wanted to hear about my fantasy baseball draft? OK, Whatever.

In a way, I think the shock still has not subsided with a draft by Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick that included vast amounts of offensive firepower: a running back with skills on par with some of the best backs in the league, a wide receiver with a skill set strangely familiar (kind of like that Givens guy with Tennessee), a not-here-to-block receiving tight end (in a two tight end set, of course), a receiving fullback who can move around and play H-back, tight end, or be a dump-off option, a kicker, a MASSIVE right tackle development project, and another guard (hmm, who played for that guy Charlie Weis last season) who the team can develop. Geez, you would think they were trying to keep their quarterback upright, give him plenty of options, and build a running game and have outlets to keep blitzes off of him!

For the first time since 2002, the Patriots loaded up on the offensive side. Remember, in 2002 they grabbed Daniel Graham (who may or may not be back in 2007), Deion Branch (who is going to get very rich, very soon I hope), serviceable backup QB (for a few years) Riders of Rohan Davey, seventh round roll of the dice Antwoine Womack (who just did not have it after knee surgery) and the other seventh round project, David Givens (who is now very, very rich and should be sending thank you cards to Charlie Weis, Bill Belichick, and all his position coaches in New England every freaking Christmas for the rest of his life). The lone defensive stalwart that draft? Jarvis Green: back-up defensive end and Peyton Manning crusher extraordinaire.

Of course, defense was the question on the lips of everyone as the Patriots passed up the over-rated defensive end/outside linebacker (did three linemen ever do less and go so much guaranteed money other than the NC State Wolfpack Three?) to draft Laurence Maroney. From what I understand, Jeremy Mincey, the defensive end/outside linebacker they got in the sixth round did not rate much differently than Manny Lawson. Why Lawson leapt up the board and Mincey dropped is unknown, but I for one will not complain. Sure, I think if Michael Huff, Brodrick Bunkley, Ernie Sims, Jason Allen, or Chad Greenway were around the Patriots would have grabbed one of them over Maroney. The old saying is true: the team that stretches to fill a need never wins. You take the best player in front of you all the time because every position is a need at some point within a three years window.

I like the picks by the Patriots. Whether this draft is as strong as last year where they got three immediate starters in the first three picks (Logan Mankins, LG; Ellis Hobbs, CB; and Nick Kaczur, RT) along with a potential steal (Matt Cassell, QB, sixth round) along with some serviceable parts who were hampered by injuries (Ryan Claridge, LB and James Sanders, S); or a knock-out punch like 2003 when the Patriots grabbed four starters (Ty Warren, Eugene Wilson, Asante Samuel, and Dan Koppen) and three special teams standouts and solid back-ups (Bethel Johnson [OK, kind of a generous stretch there], Dan Klecko, and Tully Banta-Cain; or a flop like 2000 (other than the sixth round pick, some skinny QB named Tom Brady and a solid seventh round pick, Patrick Pass); but never let us mention the names Adrian Klemm, J.R. Redmond, Greg Robinson-Randall, Dave Stachelski, Jeff Marriott, Antwan Harris, David Nugent, or Casey Tisdale ever again.

* * *

FANNING THE FLAMES

Just so we are all on the same page, let us review the facts before us:
1. Josh Beckett pitched a big old stinker against a team that won 90 games last season.
2. The team mysteriously does not score runs when Tim Wakefield pitches.
3. Josh Bard is having trouble catching the knuckleballer.
4. The Red Sox miss the bat, speed, and presence of Coco Crisp.
5. Lenny DiNardo may not be the answer as the number five starter until David Wells is healthy again.

THE TIME FOR WIDESPREAD PANIC IS UPON US!

Puh-leeze. Let me rebut:

1. Josh Beckett is one of the five best pitchers in baseball right now. One game does not a season make.
2. The law of averages as it pertains to a knuckleball pitcher seems to indicate that Tim Wakefield will win 12 to 15 games this season, as per usual.
3. I have caught a knuckleball, it is not easy. Give the kid a break, seriously.
4. No doubt, this is the biggest reason for the team slump at the plate. With Coco on base, Mark Loretta sees more fastballs. More fastballs equals more hits. Two on and Ortiz up means Big Papi does not automatically draw a walk. More on base, more chances for Manny to drive in runs. It all starts with Coco.
5. The Red Sox do have legitimate options at AAA if Lenny cannot step it up: Abe Alvarez would be a great fit in the rotation, as would Matt Ginter. Also, do not forget that Jon Lester is working his way towards being ready to join the rotation in July/August/September if necessary.

The Red Sox have ninety-five reasons not to panic. Ninety-five wins looks about right for this club. The hits will come. The pitching is there. There is too much going right to get too upset about what is going wrong right now.

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