Friday, July 28, 2006

A DAY OF REST

With no Red Sox game on Thursday night (and not many thrilling games going on within the limited schedule playing) I found myself with some time to kill. Of course, watching Da Ali G Show on HBO On Demand was a great way to kill it. Sacha Baron Cohen is just too funny. Of course, his best role is King Julian in Madagascar. Believe me, I have two kids under the age of five (plus my two year old niece) at home, so I have seen Madagascar forty-seven times (plus in the theatre when it came out). Even though it is a kids movie, it is worth seeing just for Cohen voicing the King of the Lemurs. But I digress! Here is what is rattling around the brain:

Ryan Claridge, fifth-round pick in 2005, fills a position desperate for depth (linebacker), and is cut on the eve of camp. This certainly sends a message to the younger players as the positional battles play out.

* * *

Deion Branch is getting some bad advice from his agent. Richard Seymour played the card he was dealt to perfection last year: he made his point; he got his money; he did not miss camp; and he got his extension this spring with no home-team discount. How hard is that? Seymour had his teammates and the fans on his side. He knew he had earned a better deal and rather than make waves, he showed up for camp, refrained from making idiotic statements to the press (paging Ty Law!), and took care of business on and off the field. Deion, were you sleeping all last training camp? Of course, I doubt Bill Belichick is too concerned, considering he held a healthy Branch out of the preseason last year. All Branch is doing is losing money (fine for each day not at camp) and losing the public relations battle.

* * *

Personally, I hope to see the Red Sox stay put at the trading deadline this year. Short of getting Dontrelle Willis for second-tier prospects (which is never ever going to happen), no deal makes sense. One thing to know about Theo is that he is not going to panic this year to try and do something for the sake of looking like the team is trying to do something. David Wells will be back soon to shore up the number five hole in the rotation. Tim Wakefield will be back in mid-August. Matt Clement may return. The bullpen looks great with the dynamite kids and troop leader Mike Timlin. If Keith Foulke can comeback and be half as effective as he was in 2004, the bullpen will be a strength down the stretch.

* * *

If I were Theo (now that would be a wish come true for my wife!), this is how the 2006 Red Sox would look:

Starting Nine: c: Jason Varitek; 1b: David Ortiz; 2b: Dustin Pedroia; 3b: Kevin Youkilis; SS: Alex Gonzalez; LF: Coco Crisp; CF: David Murphy; RF: Wily Mo Pena; DH: Manny Ramirez

Starting Rotation: Jonathan Papelbon; Curt Schilling; Josh Beckett; Jon Lester; Tim Wakefield

Co-Closers: Keith Foulke/Craig Hansen
Set-up men: Manny Delcarmen; Mike Timlin; Edgar Martinez; Phil Siebel; and Javier Lopez.
Swingman: Kyle Snyder

I love the way Mike Lowell plays the game and believe he is built to hit in Fenway park, but he may have too much value to keep (if a team offers prospects). I love the way Mark Loretta plays the game as well, but Dustin Pedroia needs to play in the major leagues and is cheaper and better defensively, and Alex Gonzalez would be playing shortstop for me even if he hit .000. I think Ortiz is under-rated at first base and that Manny would be more productive at DH. I think David Murphy is a star in the making. I think Coco is better served standing in front of the Monster. I think the Sox should take any draft pick compensation they get for Trot Nixon when the Orioles sign him to outrageous money (because they seem to collect no-power corner outfielders and 1b/DH types). Matt Clement? Maybe he will accept being out-righted to Pawtucket so he can get himself healthy both physically and mechanically.

* * *


When did Daunte Culpepper ever do anything without Randy Moss lining up at wide receiver? Did the Dolphins trade for Moss and I somehow missed it? Daunte will find it quite daunting to throw off his surgically repaired knee to the maddeningly inconsistent pair of Chris Chambers (I know how maddening his production is, I have been drafting him in fantasy football for years!) and Farty Marty Booker (yikes!). I respect Nick Saban as a coach, but Culpepper and Joey Harrington are neither THE answer the Dolphins were looking for nor are they capable of leading a team with an aging defense and barely adequate offensive line to the playoffs.

* * *

Jason Taylor and Zack Thomas. How long until the fist-fights break out at practice? Nothing like extended family squabbles (take it from me, I am an expert!)

* * *

Maurice, you have insulted the freaks!

* * *

I have decided that I want nothing to do with Allen Iverson in the white and green uniform this season. I have also decided that Johnny Most is most certainly not going to rise from the grave and grab the mike from Cornbread Maxwell and decry the Celtics having a dance team for the time in franchise history. After that jerk Rick Pitino stripped Red Auerbach of the title of President of the team, I am convinced nothing could be worse for the franchise. OK, Bob Cousy could come out of retirement and insist on playing point guard at the age of 70, but last year that would have been considered an upgrade at the position.

* * *

Is it OK if I am ecstatic that Kevin Pittsnogle is a Boston Celtic? No? Oh well.

* * *

Thursday, July 27, 2006

ROAD TRIPPIN

So the Sox split. 3-3 on the swing through Seattle and Oakland. Sure, you want the team to do better, but when the team is a couple time zones away a split is not too bad. Sure, I want the Sox to put some distance between themselves and the Yankees, but it is more a testament to the Yankees getting great pitching from Chieng-Ming Wang (the ONLY Taiwanese pitcher to do well in the bigs, and coincidently the only one NOT signed by Dan Duquette), and the old boy duo of Mike Mussina and Randy Johnson. Whether the Big Eunich and Surly Mike can keep it up through October having to go eight innings every start (since there is no one any good in the Yankee bullpen other than the timeless Mariano Rivera) is another story. As long as Jason Giambi can stay on the, uh, supplements (yeah, supplements, that is what they are) while BALCO crumbles will be important as Jeter has lost his power and A-Rod is keeping the psychologists on retainer.

Anyway, the Sox now have more home games the rest of the way than any team in baseball, and considering their record at home, that should be advantageous.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

TRAINING CAMP BECKONS

Ahh, training camp for the Patriots is so close that I can almost smell the sweaty offensive linemen going through the running drill as I stand at the Mansfield train station in the morning. Nope, sorry, the stench is the sweaty guy standing next to me.

Anyway, if I see one more article called
The Top Ten Questions the Patriots Need to Answer
Or
Seven Difficult Questions in Foxborough
I swear I will explode. There are questions for every team every year. No matter who they are, there are roster, health, and contract questions. Let me put everyone at ease and answer all of these so-called burning questions:

Question 1: Why have the Patriots insisted on playing this doomed season
considering that Adam Vinatieri is in Indianapolis?
Umm, there is one player who is irreplaceable on the roster, and the last time I checked, he was still listed as number twelve on the roster. The Patriots have simply not had nor needed a clutch kick since beating the Panthers in the Super Bowl. As I recall, number four was not perfect in that game. Vinatieri is not the same kicker he was in 2000. Heck, he proved that by hand-selecting his destination as a turf-covered, dome-covered environment. The legacy does not look good when the heart is willing and the leg is not. Do not get me wrong, I think Vinatieri is the greatest clutch kicker in football history. Short of never seeing that hideous Bernie & Phyl commercial he made, there is little upside to losing an All-Pro kicker. However, his pricetag and his want to kick in a more friendly environment fueled his leaving New England. He had no intention of coming back. But the fact remains, the Adam Vinatieri of the past two years was very average and is entirely replaceable.

Question 2: Why have the Patriots insisted on playing this doomed season
considering that Willie McGinest is in Cleveland?
With apologies to Will Smith (the family friendly rapper slash movie star slash Fresh Prince not the New Orleans defensive lineman), Big Willie Style was when smacking and sacking was going on on the gridiron from the days of the Tuna through the Pete Carroll era (error?) and in the Belichick/Pioli glory days. Big Willie was the defensive swagger on the team (sorry Ty Law, but no one buys a swaggering defensive back). The Patriots could have brought him back, but no one in their right mind would pay him to play in New England for what Cleveland is paying him. Why? Quick, name a Cleveland Browns linebacker. No, the guy you are thinking of who leveled Bledsoe with a cheap shot is out of the league. Romeo Crennel is trying to install credibility. Much like Anthony Pleasant and Bobby Hamilton at the beginning of the Belichick era, the coach needed coaches on the field, and for that he needed veterans he could trust. In New England in 2006, Willie McGinest would be the overpaid, aging, back-up outside linebacker. In Cleveland in 2006, he is the validation of the system Romeo Crennel has installed and the coach on the field. To Cleveland he is priceless, and that is why they could overpay him. The Patriots? Well, last I checked there were Mike Vrabel and Roosevelt Colvin to man the outside, with Tully Banta-Cain ready to step-up and take a larger role.

Question 3: Look, look! You said Vrabel will be at outside linebacker!
That means there in no one inside. Can the Patriots seriously go into the
season with uber-bust Monty Beisel at an inside linebacker spot?
Listen, chump. I would like to see you try to play a position you had never played before, be responsible for the defensive calls for the first time in your career, and at the same time be expected to replace Tedy Bruschi. To say that Beisel struggled is an understatement; however, to say he had improved immensely by the end of the playoffs would be dead-on accurate. With Bruschi back, Beisel can slide to the inside position off the line of scrimmage and drop into coverage or use his speed to run to the ballcarrier rather than try to bust through offensive linemen and the fullback all the time. The linebackers are again a strength, and although the depth is young, there is at last depth.

Question 4: Why have the Patriots insisted on playing this doomed season
considering that David Givens is in Tennessee?
David Givens wanted to be THE Man. In New England, he knew he would never be THE Man. He wanted the validation of the big money. Good for him, I say. He was a seventh round pick who worked his tail off to get a chance at a big payday. This is one guy I will not fault for taking the moolah. That said, Chad Jackson is a more talented receiver than Givens ever would be. Whether he will be a better receiver depends on his effort and execution. Reche Caldwell is an interesting receiving prospect. Tim Dwight and Andre Davis, by the way, were horrible at wide receiver. This is addition by subtraction as far as those two were concerned. Sure, the Patriots will miss Givens a little, but then again, with more playing time for Big Ben Watson, maybe they will not.

Question 5: Why have the Patriots insisted on playing this doomed season
considering that Doug Flutie is chilling in Natick?

Is Matt Cassell ready to assume the number two quarterback mantle? Sure, why not. He cannot be any worse than Rohan Davey. Can the Pats go with two quarerbacks on the roster? Why not, it certainly frees up a roster spot. By the way, if Brady is out, it does not matter if Cassell, Flutie, Jay Fiedler, or I am the back-up quarterback. At that point, it is over.

Question 6: Corey Dillon is pissed-off! Is he just a slow, big-mouth,
moody malcontent who will drag down the team?

First, let me address all the jerks who blasted Dillon last season as he tried to play through pain and help the team: You are all #$&^%* idiots! That felt good. Second, Dillon says he will be healthy. If he is healthy, he will be effective. With Laurence Maroney around, Dillon will be motivated. The Bill Belichick/Scott Pioli regime gave Dillon all the motivation he needs for the next three years while Maroney has all the time in the world to settle into the role of future lead back. An insurance policy. A motivating tool. A great draft pick.

Question 7: Why have the Patriots insisted on playing this doomed season
considering that Ty Law is in Kansas City?
I thought Ty Law did not get along with Herm Edwards last year? Happy Herm must not be too thrilled to have Law back telling him what he can do with his Cover-2 scheme. Anyway, Ty has made it clear all along that the ecstacy in the bag belonged to his cousin when he was stopped at the Canadian border after the Bills game all those years ago and that he was following the dollar signs. I am comfortable with Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs at cornerback. In fact, I cannot wait to watch Ellis Hobbs play this season. He was great as a rookie, and with Randall Gay healthy and pushing for the number two corner position, the cornerbacks should be a strength (if they stay healthy for once).

Question 8: Can Rodney Harrison return to form?
How the heck do I know? But I will tell you this: as the management in San Diego learned the hard way, I would NEVER bet against the man.

Question 9: What about the offensive line?

What about it? They lost Tom Ashworth, the back-up to the back-up tackle. Hmm, not exactly a major loss in my book. Two key blockers returning from season-ending injuries (Matt Light and Dan Koppen) and two battle-tested second year players (Nick Kazcur and Logan Mankins) and they re-signed Steven Neal, who should be going to the Pro Bowl. All in all, they look pretty good.

Question 10: Will the Patriots re-sign Deion Branch?

Duh. Of course they will. It may take a little time, but Branch will be in the fold at a reasonable number. He is not a Steve Smith/T.O./Marvin Harrison type number one because the Patriots system will not allow him to put up those kinds of numbers, but he is a second-tier number one, and will end up getting fairly compensated. No doubt about it. This is such a resolvable issue, it is really a non-issue.

* * *

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

GOOD NEWS. NO, SORRY, GREAT NEWS!

The Red Sox announced that Josh Beckett had agreed to a three year contract extension worth up to $30 million. This keeps Beckett away from arbitration at the end of the season and locks him up for at least two years beyond when he would hit free agency. Considering what the Blue Jays are paying former teammate A.J. Burnett, this deal could not look any better for the Red Sox.

The money is not insane. It is less than Beckett would get in arbitration. Heck, it is a whole heck of a lot cheaper than what he would get on the open market with the Yankees tossing $15 million (or more) per season at him. Yes, the Yankees. Believe it or not, the Yankees are in the market for starting pitching. Think they would not want to steal Beckett from the Red Sox.

To hear the Big mOron on WEEI blab about it on the way home today, I was shocked at his say anything to stir up crap for no reason attitude. Beckett is coming off a spectacular performance. He has twelve wins already this season. He is young, has a great curveball, has an explosive fastball, and could be the heir apparent to Curt Schilling (although Papelbon should be in the rotation next year, no matter what, as far as I am concerned).

Personally I do not care if Beckett gives up 50 home runs a season every year as long as he keeps winning games. Twelve wins in the middle of July, and all anyone can do in the media is criticize the poor kid. Kid is the operative term. Beckett is the same age as Jonathan Papelbon. Let him learn to pitch in the American League from Curt Schilling. Let him mature as a pitcher. Let him be Josh Beckett.

Beckett, Papelbon, and Lester: that is a hell of a big three for the next ten years in the rotation. Edgar Martinez, Manny Delcarmen, and Craig Hansen could be the power arms to close out the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings for the next ten years. Theo has done a hell of a job getting the pieces in place. Beckett is a huge piece of the puzzle. It is great news that he is not going anywhere for the foreseeable future.

SUMMER CAMPERS

Football soon will be back. Boston will once again a two-sport city. Welcome back to training camp, Patriots. Enjoy beautiful southeastern Massachusetts and the greater Foxborough/Mansfield area. The time is now to start anticipating the demise of the Steelers (Tedy Bruschi knocking Ben Roethlisberger out of the AFC Championship game with a huge hit. Predicted here first!).

Much thanks to Mike Reiss, who writes the Reiss’s Pieces blog at Boston.com (Read it here) who was kind enough to answer my questions about the Patriots linebacking corps with training camp around the corner. Reiss is noteworthy not just because he is constantly leading the pack with breaking Patriots news, but the man works his tail off. Patriots coverage is wall-to-wall with no breaks. Every little bit of news is unearthed all off-season. His in-game blog is a must read during the games (as my laptop serves a purpose other than checking fantasy football numbers during the games). Also, his mailbag is noteworthy in that he actually asks the players and coaches the questions the fans ask him. Simple, but unheard of in sports reporting. Imagine, treating the readers with respect and rewarding their well thought-out questions.

Reiss and Jerome Solomon (and Nick Cafardo back in a mop-up role) the Patriots football coverage is back at the top of the industry. With David Scott (Scotts Shots) reporting last week over at his media blog on Boston Sports Media Watch that Reiss should have an expanded role in Patriots coverage, it is good news for us die-hard, news-hungry Patriots fans.

Anyway, back to the Patriots linebacking corps. Mainly, I was asking his opinion on Monty Beisel and the linebacking depth. Reiss predicted Eric Alexander could be a sleeper of the camp, as well as Tully Banta-Cain possibly having an expanded role. Personally, I hope he is right about Banta-Cain and Alexander, as I think that any influx of youth to the linebackers is a huge improvement. With Ryan Claridge, Jeremy Mincey, and Freddie Roach added to the mix, there is definitely a chance to get younger and cheaper at linebacker as Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, and Roosevelt Colvin enter the backside of their careers over the next few years.

HE LEARNED FROM THE MASTER

Sometimes, in retrospect, you realize the right thing was done after all: See AP Story Here

Basically, the story is that poor baby Shea Hillenbrand, that super slugging corner infielder with the career .779 OPS, is all torn up because those mean old Blue Jays did not start him the other night, and also that, sniff, sniff, no one called him and congratulated him on adopting a baby.

Sadly, I am not making this up.

Pimp Daddy Shea had the unique luck to be mentored by none other than old pal Crazy Carl Everett while in Boston. As John Tomase quoted Hillenbrand in the Eagle Tribune way back on August 21, 2002:
Carl was very good to me,
Hillenbrand said earlier this year.
He taught me how to play the game right. If you took the time to get to know
him, he was a good guy. He's not the jerk everyone made him out to be.
Sadly, I am not making this up.

Hillenbrand, of course, is best remembered for his idiotic bashing of Theo for no other reason than daring to trade the great and wonderful Shea. I wish I had a link to that article in the Globe after he was traded to Arizona for Byung-Hyun Kim, but as I recall, the Sox were on the road and Theo flew out there to tell him to his face (rather than pull a Dan Duquette), and Hillenbrand just ripped him and babbled on about how he was the next Jeff Bagwell.

Sadly, I am not making this up.

Good luck, Shea. I hear the Royals and Pirates may have an opening for a loud-mouth jerk corner infielder with no power in AAA.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Trot versus Wily Mo: Who Will Go?

I like to think of myself as a patient person, willing to take a great deal abuse before snapping. So this is it. I cannot keep up the polite facade any longer: the Red Sox need to get whatever they can get in return for Trot Nixon. Now I am not advocating trading him at the deadline for bad middle relief pitcher (which is the market for a thirtysomething corner outfielder who has no speed, no power, is poor defensively, and is injury prone), but hear me out for a second.

Trot is not going anywhere because he has no value. Also, he must be a 5-10 guy by now, so he would have to approve a trade, and I sincerely doubt he is interested in that prospect. However, if keeping Trot the rest of the season means that the team is going to get a first round pick and a sandwich pick for compensation this off-season when Trot ends up with another team, then this is a great deal. The Red Sox front office has been batting 1.000 with their first/sandwich round picks with the new scouting and management team in place.

Most importantly, Wily Mo is the Red Sox right fielder for the foreseeable future. Wily Mo is young; in fact, he is very, very young for a major leaguer with his service time. The phone jockeys on rant and rave sports radio do not seem to want to appreciate the talent and power this man-child has, but Wily Mo is THE answer for the number five spot in the lineup after Big Papi and Manny. Nixon obviously is not the answer there, nor is Jason Varitek, and apparently Mike Lowell is much more comfortable in the six hole; however, Wily Mo is a legitimate power threat, which is exactly what the Red Sox need in the number five spot in the line-up.

I say, keep Trot. At least through October. Then thank him for his ten years of service: ably filling in on the disabled list, making numerous mental errors in the field and on the basepaths, sailing throws to, well, wherever his tosses end up, usually rolling towards the pitchers mound after he sails it over the cut-off man.

I have no problem with Trot: he is likely a great guy, but so were Kevin Millar, Tony Graffanino, Edgar Renteria and Bill Mueller but I would take Mike Lowell, Alex Gonzalez, Mark Loretta, and Kevin Youkilis over them any day of the week. Ditto for Trot and Wily Mo.

Also, do not discount that Theo Epstein traded for Wily Mo. He inherited Trot from Dan Duquette who inherited him from Lou Gorman. To survive those three eras is an accomplishment not to be discounted.

Trot was a good player, but not a great player. Wily Mo could be great. He needs to get that chance and to not give it to him is just plain wrong.

* * *

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

WAIT, I THOUGHT THE MARATHON WAS IN APRIL

Thoughts while I am still trying to catch-up on everything after the emotional roller coaster on Sunday of the Sox game that finally ended after nineteen innings:

The controversy surrounding Manny Ramirez not going to the All-Star Game is so ludicrous. I mean, Barry Bonds is walking the streets of San Francisco as a free man and Bud Lite Selig can only rant and rave about Manny. Whether he was the highest vote-getter or the last player chosen, he has every right to say no for no reason whatsoever. What is criminal is when players with no claim to being close to an All-Star are dragged onto the squad and a worthy All-Star is left back. I remember in the 90s the Red Sox had no one even close to All-Star status, but Scott Cooper was picked as the team representative (because every team must be represented) and it was such a source of shame. I remember thinking it would be preferable that no one represented the team rather than someone who was so not worthy as being seen as one of the top 25 odd players in the league. I think that is the same debate you have seen with the Kansas City Royals and Mark Redman this season: no one deserves it and someone has to go, worthy or not, so someone else deserving of the spot is left back. At least this year there were no .220 hitters sliding in due to being a traditional fan favorite.

* * *

Nice to see Mark Loretta, the much deserving All Star second baseman. Hey, where was Tony Graffanino? I thought the consensus from the windbags on the blather box was: Graff iz way bettah den dis here Loretta guy. That there is the number one reason I could never be a radio talk host: I cannot deal with these bozos and Frank from Gloucester types. I would just insult them and hang-up. All day long. I would not give them the bully pulpit to show the world their ignorance.

* * *

How funny was it that four out of the six former Red Sox shortstops (or shortstop prospects) in the last decade were at the All-Star Game? Nomar, David Eckstein, Freddy Sanchez (traded for Suppan. Suppan!), and Edgar Renteria were all on the NL squad (Hanley Ramirez, a potential future all star, and Adam Everett, who has yet to start hitting for the Astros took the three days off).

* * *

Not to continue to beat-up on Proud to Be Your Bud Selig, but to say that baseball is eradicating amphetamine use and that they only recently knew of the issue is mind-boggling. I knew it was an issue as a kid back in the 80s and I knew that because I read one of the most popular baseball books, Ball Four by Jim Bouton, which was published in the late sixties/early seventies. If I knew there was an amphetamine problem in baseball at the age of eight, what the where the heck was Bud Dry the past 30 years? (The literal answer is: Milwaukee. But I meant it figuratively.)

* * *

Poor Ken Rosenthal doing his first report from the stands at the all-star game. He should have slugged that obnoxious invertebrate that was waving and mugging for the camera behind him. How any of these guys (and Tina Cervasio at NESN, so not just guys) deal with these drunk protozoa is beyond me.
* * *

I try to like the Joe Young Buck on Fox. His Dad was one of the greatest announcers ever, and he has a tough act to follow: as many doors as his last name has opened, just as many have closed because of the impossible standards his Dad set all those years announcing Cardinal games in the Midwest. Young Joe is an improving writer in his monthly article in the Sporting News, his Fathers Day Budweiser ad was truly moving, and he has to put up with Tim McCarver, which makes anyone have to do that much more behind the mike to raise the level of the broadcast. Nothing is really wrong with him. I guess it could have been worse: we could have had the RemDawg shilling his wares throughout the game.

* * *

WORLD CUP WRAP-UP:

Azzurri: Campione del mondo

Yes, it's true. The Italian squad is the newly crowned World Cup champion.

After an extra time thriller vs. 1998 Cup champs France, the Azzurri win on penalty kicks 5-3. Think of the parties in the North End last night. I didn't hear of any cars getting trashed, but then again, I haven't tuned into the news this morning. The match was definitely an exciting one, with an early penalty on the Italians for a "trip" of winger Florent Malouda in the 6th minute of play. Zinedine Zidane chipped in a goal on the penalty kick to put Les Bleus up 1-0. However, Italy found their equalizer with a beautiful header later on in the first half. That's the way things stayed, even through extra time, with both teams coming dangerously close to scoring for a second time. The decider of penalty kicks was the usually-accurate Davide Trezeguet hitting the top of the crossbar and getting denide while the sure-footed Italians faked out Febien Barthez each time to score 5 straight and win the match and the cup.

Zinedine Zidane

Throughout the World Cup, I have been impressed with the play of Zinedine Zidane. So much impressed, that I even considered searching for a Zidane replica jersey to sport on Sunday. However, my opinion of him deflated in extra time vs. Italy when he landed a head-butt on an Italian player, thus getting himself red-carded and sent off to end his international career on a disgraceful note. How unfortunate that a player, a highly skilled player, whose legacy started in the 1998 world cup with a championship, gets to leave on such a sour note, a note that will surely resonate with Zidane fans and Zidane-haters worldwide. One can only imagine what could have been if Zidane was taking a penalty kick at the end of Sunday's game. France might well be hoisting the trophy today.

What may have been

I am, like many Americans, always a champion for the underdog. That is why I was rooting for Australia to make the field of 16, and to upset the Italians in the second round. Unfortunately, the Socceroos fell short, giving a way a highly-debatable penalty kick at the very end of stoppage time in their match vs. Italy. What if the Italians had gone to extra time a man down vs. the Aussies? Perhaps Australia would have pulled off the upset. What would that have meant for the rest of the field? Well, my thought is that Australia would have had the most amazing tournament ever.

Given that they weren't even expected to make the round of 16, I'd say Guus Hiddink managed the boys from down-under quite well. However, the next match for Australia, had they toppled the giants, would have been vs. another upstart, Ukraine. Definitely a winnable match for the Australians.

Do not ask the Germans about "What if..." in this case, because that would mean the German squad would get to play Australia or Ukraine in the semi-finals. Given the superiority of the home squad to both of the upstarts, I'd say the finals would have been a lock for Michael Ballack and the boys from Germany. Still, things turned out the way they did with Italy ending Australia's world cup dream in stoppage time, defeating Ukraine handily, and then breaking Germany's collective hearts in extra time, and then finally winning it all vs. France. A good, action-packed World Cup in 2006, to say the least.

Wayne Rooney

Don't talk to me about Rooney. That punk may make me into a Liverpool fan yet...

Monday, July 10, 2006

I NEVER WEAR A DERBY

Not that I am going to live blog the Home Run Derby, but since the kids are snoozing and there are no games on tonight (and Star Trek TNG is playing the first season again on G4 TV: No beard on Riker, I do not want to watch it), I figured I would grab a Corona and watch the big boppers. Let me give a quick recap:

Round One:
John Kruk, Harold Reynolds, Chris Berman, and Joe Morgan all need to shut-up. Tim Kirkjian can talk.

David Wright: Wright was unbelievable. He was hitting bombs in the first round. The best part was the idiot club of ESPN talking about how he had not chance since he was a line drive hitter. Wright is amazing.

Jermaine Dye: Dye, who wore out the Red Sox this weekend, had seven homers but never got in a groove. Which is fine, since I am sick of watching him hit homers after the way he wore out the Red Sox pitchers.

Miguel Cabrera: Cabrera came in and banged out nine. Funny thing with Cabrera: every year I get him in the first couple rounds (usually in the third or fourth round!) of the fantasy draft. And every year he hits over .300, hits 30 or more homers, and drives in over 100 RBIs while qualifying at third base and in the outfield as well.

Miguel Tejada: Tejada, the first batter, only hit three. It was inexorable watching him take a billion pitches, step out, and take their time.

Lance Berkman: Berkman hit one bomb into the water on the fly, but otherwise never got into the groove.

Troy Glaus: How did Glaus only hit one dinger? Maybe this is because it seems like he wears out the Red Sox and dents the Green Monster with regularity. Now that he is back with Toronto, whoo-freaking-hoo, I thought we were safe from him went he went to the National League. Regardless of how bad he did there, in Cali and in Toronto now, he is back to healthy, slugging ways.

Big Papi: Let me tell you, he may not have hit the most home runs, but he hit some serious rockets. Why they did not pack the line-up with lefties with the allure of the water behind right field is beyond me. Did they forget 1999 and the excitement of the balls bouncing beyond the Monster and into the street? Anyway, ten dingers for Papi, that should get him into the second round.

Ryan Howard: Howard, the third lefty, was the first to hit the ESPN idiots, I mean announcers, in center field (Papi went over them). Howard was clutch knocking Jermaine Dye out.

ROUND TWO:

Wright and Ortiz both ran out of gas in the second round. Wright had enough homers to get to the second round, but Cabrera did well enough to pass Big Papi, and Ryan Howard started warming up in the second round. Howard, you can see why the Phillies unloaded Jim Thome. This guy is a beast who can power the ball. Ten in the second round and into the finals for Howard.

FINALS:

OK, I had two 24 ounce Coronas (my liver is not what it used to be so I do not need to drink much anymore) so I am really not paying much attention right now. David Wright is running out of juice here, with four homers in the final round. Howard is hitting some bombs here. Five outs to hit one more homer.

10:43PM: Ding dong, long gone and off the sign in right field. Ryan Howard nailed that ball. Hell of a performance by the big bopper.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

FIRST, MAKE IT THE PRIORITY

I was talking to a couple of guys at work the other day about the Celtics draft and one of the things we ended up discussing was how the decline of the 1980s Celtics was not just Len Bias, but the continual horrible drafting record of the Celtics during the 80s and into the 90s. And none of this claptrap about how they were always picking at the bottom of the first round. If they did their homework, there were good players available. Here is a quick look at some of those (so-called) number ones:

1981: Charles Bradley: Who? What? This guy has a championship ring? Is it available on eBay?
1982: Darren Tillis: I was a huge Tillis fan, as the Celtics sometimes let him off the bench at the end of games to fire up some shots. Delighted the hell out of me for some reason (hey, I was eight. Cut me some slack!). Never turned into much of anything in the league, however.
1983: Greg Kite: Need I even add anything about Kite? He was big, he had elbows, and he was a poor man’s version of Henry Finkel.
1984: Michael Young: I keep racking my brain and cannot picture this guy. I mean, he could be the tall guy three rows in front of me on the train right now.
1985: Sam Vincent: I mean, how do you miss this badly five years in a row? One good player out of any of these drafts would have added a couple years to Bird, Ainge, Parish, McHale, or DJ just by letting them sit for 15 minutes once in a while.
1986: Len Bias: Brad Daugherty never looked so good. Not that he ever lived up to the hype. Yes, Bias was a loss. He could have been huge.
1987: Reggie Lewis: Tragedy follows tragedy.
1988: Brian Shaw: Not quite as good as he thought he was, but a serviceable guard off the bench. Not exactly what you are looking for in a first round pick, however.
1989: Michael Smith: This guy made the pick of Sam Vincent look good.
1990: Dee Brown: all hype, little impact. But he sold those damned Reebok Pumps. And Boston had a slam dunk champion. That had to be worth something, right?
1991: Rick Fox: Hollywood was a good player. Too bad Slick Rick ran him out of town to make room for that idiot, gangly center who was horrible.
1992: Jon Barry: Held-out, given away. No impact #1 yet again!
1993: Acie Earl: OK, if you are worse than Greg Kite, then it is a real bad pick.
1994: Eric Montross: But we had the best pair of eyebrows sitting on the bench!
1995: Eric Williams: OK, a serviceable forward with mucho hustle.

Other than Jerome Moiso (2000) and Slick Rick trading Mercer and Billups (1997) there were solid drafts up until Chris Wallace screwed up the 2001 draft (Joseph Forte and Kedrick Brown. Nuff said!). Danny Ainge, other than taking a flyer on Marcus Banks developing into an NBA player, has drafted extremely well in his tenure. Now, I just hope Rajon Rondo can team with Sebastian Telfair and give the Celtics the point guard play they so desperately need!

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Celebrate Independence: MLB Extra Innings Weekend Wrap-up

A couple of appropriate points from watching the tube this Independence Day weekend:

Remember Jeremy Reed? Center fielder for the Seattle Mariners? Was supposed to come to Boston as a young Johnny Damon until the Sox swung the deal for Coco. Well, we can celebrate the front office not making this deal, as Reed is hitting .217 and just broke his thumb and is likely out for the forseeable future, if not the rest of the season.

How about Jurassic Carl Everett? That mighty bat that was supposed to bring the Sox up to the next level in the late nineties was replaced in the minds of the masses by his temper, outbursts, and general prickly attitude that punched his ticket out of town. Traveling Carl ended up in Seattle this season, and he set off some fireworks by having heated words with manager Mike Hargrove the other day. The argument was apparently over playing time. Of course, a corner outfielder with bad knees (aka designated hitter) needs to perform a little better than King Carl before such an explosion is warranted. .232 batting average; .302 on-base percentage; and a .373 slugging percentage (.680 is the anemic OPS) really do not garner much sympathy when playing time is in question.

What is going on with Ryan Wagner in Cincinnati? In 2003, he was my fantasy league steal after the Reds drafted him and rushed him up to the big leagues where his big slider and explosive fastball labeled him as a closer of the future. Instead, he has been inconsistent, hurt his arm, and now cannot make the Reds bullpen, which desperately needs late inning help. Amazing how the kid appears to have lost it.

Fireworks? Nothing beat that walk-off home run by Ryan Zimmerman for the Nats. That was his second Big Papi of the season.

My nephew Andrew the Yankees fan was up from the cape for the weekend and he was getting his fair share of abuse this weekend from Hal IV, the most Yankee-hating four year old on the planet (although, as I taught him, we hate the uniform, never the players). Speaking of the Yankees, Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small, those prize pick-ups last season are not exactly pushing the Bronx Bombers into the playoffs. Here is what George King says about Chacon (since Small has already been shipped out) in the NY Post (http://www.nypost.com/sports/yankees/yanks_display_direworks_yankees_george_king.htm) A year ago, he was a welcomed life raft in a turbulent sea. Today Shawn Chacon is a cement shoe attached to a body that is slowly sinking into the muck of a dirty river.

The Astros have won four straight, including Clemens winning his first and Andy Pettitte (he of the 7-9 record) finally looking good, but is this too little, too late or a just a temporary hitch up the standings?

No Red Sox analysis? Nope, I am still steaming from them being wiped-out by Scott Kazmir AGAIN and then the bullpen implosion (OK, it was just Timlin) that gave the game to the Devil Rays. Time to step it up and take the next two from the D-Rays.

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