Thursday, August 31, 2006

REBUILD, RELOAD, REARM

The future is now. The team is playing for next year. We will analyze what went wrong and regroup. We need to see who is ready to help us next year.

Yes, with Manny, Wily Mo, and ESPECIALLY Big Papi down and out in the Big B, th Red Sox have their glare focused completely on 2007. Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, David Wells, Lenny DiNardo, Keith Foulke, Trot Nixon, Coco Crisp, Wily Mo Pena, Jon Lester, Alex Gonzalez and now Manny and Big Papi? And the Yankees thought THEY had injury problems! Quick, try to name who is NOT injured in Boston.

So what should the Sox do? Well, I recommend a 12 step program:

1. Shut down Manny, Wily Mo, and especially Big Papi for as long as they may need.
2. Bring up David Murphy and stick him in centerfield ASAP and move Coco back to left field where he belongs. (No, no one is saying to trade Manny. We want him at DH and Papi at 1B next year.) Mike Lowell is great, but Youkilis can handle third and Lowell should have trade value. This team needs more youthful energy on offense. Hell, right now I would settle for Otis My Man Nixon in centerfield.
3. Try to rework the Javy Lopez trade with Baltimore so they can hang onto Adam Stern and send over some other chump. Speedy center-fielders with panache (think of another centerfield in this mold the Sox traded to Baltimore: Brady Anderson) are hard to find and invaluable to a team.
4. Draw and quarter Javy Lopez, Julian Tavarez, Rudy Seanez, Matt Clement, and, just for good measure, Edgar Renteria. Leave Tito & Theo alone. They are not the problem.
5. Trade David Wells to whoever wants him for as much as they can get for him. Really, a mid-level pitching prospect is just fine. Anything. From anyone. Trade him to the Yankees for all I care.
6. Start prepping Jonathan Papelbon to start games again. There are closers out there somewhere, somehow. I may not have the answer, but Papelbon is just way too valuable to leave at the back of the bullpen.
7. Get Trot Nixon back in the line-up to drive up his value so the team gets some amateur draft pick compensation for him signing with another team this off-season. (Remember, we have Eric Hinske now for 2007 to back-up Wily Mo).
8. Send Al Nipper back down to Pawtucket. He did OK in the pinch, but I am not sure that he had the ear of Josh Beckett this season. Dave Wallace brings so much credibility to the pitching coach position having done it so well for so long, that it cannot be coincidence that Beckett has looked so good since Wallace returned. Also, Dave Wallace, teach Beckett how to throw a (expletive deleted) change-up! With a change-up to go with the Fastball and hammer, he can win 20 consistently.
9.
10. Get Edgar Martinez (no, not the forty-something DH, but the Peter Gammons Cannot Miss Kid) up from Portland and in the bullpen ASAP. Also, sort out where Manny Delcarmen, Keith Foulke, Mike Timlin, and Craig Hansen are going to pitch. Oh yeah, FIND A LEFTY RELIEVER WHO CAN THROW STRIKES AND GET AN OCCASIONAL LEFTY OUT ONCE IN A WHILE!
11. Figure out if Dustin Pedroia can handle second-base next year or if the team brings back Mark Loretta (since they HAVE to bring back Alex Gonzalez. Short of bringing back Pokey Reese, letting him go is suicide). That said, sign Alex Cora. He is without doubt the best utility infielder in baseball right now.
12. Send a huge GET WELL SOON cards to Big Papi.

The thirteenth step? Well, Red Sox fans, remember the Bluto Blutarsky advice from Animal House:
My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.

* * *

REBUILD, RELOAD, REARM

The future is now. The team is playing for next year. We will analyze what went wrong and regroup. We need to see who is ready to help us next year.

Yes, with Manny, Wily Mo, and ESPECIALLY Big Papi down and out in the Big B, th Red Sox have their glare focused completely on 2007. Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, David Wells, Lenny DiNardo, Keith Foulke, Trot Nixon, Coco Crisp, Wily Mo Pena, Jon Lester, Alex Gonzalez and now Manny and Big Papi? And the Yankees thought THEY had injury problems! Quick, try to name who is NOT injured in Boston.

So what should the Sox do? Well, I recommend a 12 step program:

1. Shut down Manny, Wily Mo, and especially Big Papi for as long as they may need.
2. Bring up David Murphy and stick him in centerfield ASAP and move Coco back to left field where he belongs. (No, no one is saying to trade Manny. We want him at DH and Papi at 1B next year.) Mike Lowell is great, but Youkilis can handle third and Lowell should have trade value. This team needs more youthful energy on offense. Hell, right now I would settle for Otis My Man Nixon in centerfield.
3. Try to rework the Javy Lopez trade with Baltimore so they can hang onto Adam Stern and send over some other chump. Speedy center-fielders with panache (think of another centerfield in this mold the Sox traded to Baltimore: Brady Anderson) are hard to find and invaluable to a team.
4. Draw and quarter Javy Lopez, Julian Tavarez, Rudy Seanez, Matt Clement, and, just for good measure, Edgar Renteria. Leave Tito & Theo alone. They are not the problem.
5. Trade David Wells to whoever wants him for as much as they can get for him. Really, a mid-level pitching prospect is just fine. Anything. From anyone. Trade him to the Yankees for all I care.
6. Start prepping Jonathan Papelbon to start games again. There are closers out there somewhere, somehow. I may not have the answer, but Papelbon is just way too valuable to leave at the back of the bullpen.
7. Get Trot Nixon back in the line-up to drive up his value so the team gets some amateur draft pick compensation for him signing with another team this off-season. (Remember, we have Eric Hinske now for 2007 to back-up Wily Mo).
8. Send Al Nipper back down to Pawtucket. He did OK in the pinch, but I am not sure that he had the ear of Josh Beckett this season. Dave Wallace brings so much credibility to the pitching coach position having done it so well for so long, that it cannot be coincidence that Beckett has looked so good since Wallace returned. Also, Dave Wallace, teach Beckett how to throw a (expletive deleted) change-up! With a change-up to go with the Fastball and hammer, he can win 20 consistently.
9.
10. Get Edgar Martinez (no, not the forty-something DH, but the Peter Gammons Cannot Miss Kid) up from Portland and in the bullpen ASAP. Also, sort out where Manny Delcarmen, Keith Foulke, Mike Timlin, and Craig Hansen are going to pitch. Oh yeah, FIND A LEFTY RELIEVER WHO CAN THROW STRIKES AND GET AN OCCASIONAL LEFTY OUT ONCE IN A WHILE!
11. Figure out if Dustin Pedroia can handle second-base next year or if the team brings back Mark Loretta (since they HAVE to bring back Alex Gonzalez. Short of bringing back Pokey Reese, letting him go is suicide). That said, sign Alex Cora. He is without doubt the best utility infielder in baseball right now.
12. Send a huge GET WELL SOON cards to Big Papi.

The thirteenth step? Well, Red Sox fans, remember the Bluto Blutarsky advice from Animal House:
My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.

* * *

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

OLD MEN & THE SEY

Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau have commandeered the headlines, but Richard Seymour is the focus of the opposing defenses. Not to get too excited about the post-season, but the Patriots look like they are solid in trenches (barring injuries, of course). The teams that are strong on the offensive and defensive line tend to be the teams that are playing in January. Think Denver, think Pittsburgh, think Seattle and Carolina: the common theme is that they have a good offensive line that gives their QB time to throw and clears some holes, and that their defensive line can tie-up blockers for the LBs to make plays or penetrate and get a consistent rush on the opposing QB without blitzing linebackers or safeties. Those two areas are what will make or break the Patriots this year.

On the defensive line, Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, Jarvis Green, Vince Wilfork, and even big old Jonathan Sullivan have looked like the makings of one of the deepest and best defensive lines in the game. With bubble players Dan Klecko, LaKevin Smith, Mike Wright (making a name for himself as a rare interior defensive lineman making plays on the coverage unit as a wedge-buster as reported by Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe), Santonio Thomas, and Marquise Hill all fighting for likely one or two spots (at most three), this defensive line has the potential to be both deep and extremely talented.

The offensive line is deep and talented as well. So deep, in fact, that despite Tom Ashworth cashing in during free agency, and trading Bob Hallen to Cleveland and Brandon Gorin to Arizona (where both project to step in and start immediately), the line is still solid and cohesive with the front six (since Dan Koppen is splitting time with G/C Russ Hochstein at center). Heck, by the time Nick Kaczur gets healthy, the Patriots line will basically feature seven starter quality linemen while Dante Scarnecchia keeps rolling out big, strong, technically-proficient late round picks and UFAs at the position. Who is Billy Yates, and will he make the team? Is Gene Mruczkowski good enough to make the team again? Will Wesley Britt join the practice squad and then excel later?

Stength in the trenches is what carries a team into January. The Steelers have long had that combo of power, consistency, and technique on their offensive and defensive lines, which is why, despite skill players and a coach who choke in January (last year was a gift, Steelers fans. If Brady is healthy, the Pats beat you like they did in the regular season. Also, the Zebras and Mike Holmgren gave you the Super Bowl win. Enjoy it, but realize it was a gift.), they are still playing in January year-in and year-out.

So while the local media goes on about the secondary and linebackers, and who will be catching the passes from Tom Brady, remember that the trenches are really where the games are won. Sure, your friends are fretting about Deion Branch and Ellis Hobbs as keys to the season, but Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork are two players who you will not hear much about, but will have a huge effect on how the Patriots play in 2006.

Friday, August 25, 2006

SWINGS AND MISSES

Some recent thoughts:

RED SOX:

* Is there any way that the Red Sox are going to be stupid enough to leave Jonathan Papelbon in the bullpen next season? I hope not, because a rotation of Schilling, Papelbon, Beckett, Lester, and Wakefield next year looks like a perfect mix of power and finesse, age and youth, and raw emotion and restrained detachment.

* Has anyone pulled together the stats for when Schilling and Beckett pitch back-to-back and when they pitch with another pitcher in-between them? I still think that the idea to toss Wakefield between those two fireballers was inspired.

* Everyone repeat after me: the Sox still have a four game series against the Yankees and a series against the White Sox.

* I love how Mark Loretta plays the game, but with Alex Cora still around as the best utility infielder in baseball, how can the Sox not keep Alex Gonzalez and play Dustin Pedroia at second base?

* Heck, Cla Meredith looks like a good bullpen option right now.

* I am amazed at how many people think the Red Sox not only should, but are a disgrace because they do not, spend along with the Yankees and send their payroll up towards $200 million. What, the owners and investors have their money back already? It is not like the team has not poured millions into the ballpark and surrounding area. I know, let us go back to the John Harrington days where he spent money recklessly in order to inflate the value of the franchise. That worked so well.

* Manny has a bum hamstring and sore knee. Oh my gosh, time to get worked up into a frenzy. Is that all they have at WEEI? Nothing better? Pitiful!

* I still cannot believe Tony LaRussa was right and Edgar Renteria was such a dismal failure. This guy should have been a perfect fit in the line-up and out at shortstop. So what if it was a year ago, I am still upset that Renteria failed so miserably, because no one but Tony LaRussa saw it coming.

* * *

PATRIOTS:

* Summer is not the same without Bethel Johnson on the PUP list. Jonathan Sullivan can smoke a Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle sized bag of marijuana on the team plane and he still would be less a waste of talent than Bethel.

* Sidenote: Yeah, I loved the movie. How could I not since I am a Harold (though not Asian or Indian) and loving sliders, painful humor, dancing cheeseburgers, and all things Neil Patrick Harris, but do not call me Roldi.

* Monty Beisel, where have you gone?

* Did Seau wear number 55 at USC before Willie Mac? Either way, he looks right in the uniform. He looks like he always belonged in New England wearing number 55. By the way, does anyone know how San Diego got Seau? Yup, they traded up with the Patriots who got Ray Agnew and Chris Singleton in return. Hosed does not sum up that trade in any way, shape, or form. Of course, they traded down with the 49ers a few years earlier and San Francisco got Jerry Rice with out pick and we got Trevor Matich. This is why Bill Belichick gets more leeway than any other Boston sports decision-maker.

* OK, so what exactly did Deion Branch say that was news? I heard nothing of substance or in any way noteworthy.

* Bam Childress, is he the next David Patten? I would like to think so. I think Reche Caldwell is going to be yet another example of Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli unearthing another diamond in the rough.

* Too bad about Martin Gramatica getting cut, but give the Patriots front office credit for cutting him early enough to latch onto another job before the season. He certainly looked more like the 2002 all-pro kicker rather than the 2005 unemployed and injured kicker.

* Someone needs to alert the media that Daunte Culpepper sucked before he Rodney Harrison-ed his knee last year. Unless Miami trades for Randy Moss, I expect the Finheads will be clamoring for Joey the Duck Harrington before too long.

* * *

FANTASY FOCUS

Well, the fantasy football draft is fast approaching, which means I will once again have to put aside my loyalty to the New England Patriots and attempt to keep my Seattle Seahawks dynamic duo (Shawn Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck) together again (one year I got stuck with Jake the Snake Plummer at QB). The Yahoo league operates at a distinct disadvantage of having family, friends, and other fantasy sports-related pals and friends-of-friends stretching across the Northeast. Getting everyone together for the draft due to travel, family obligations (I have a freaking family birthday party almost every weekend it seems) and work schedules has been a logistical nightmare. So despite my loud exhortations, we end up with the Yahoo draft where you rank all your players and the draft unfurls in a frenzied madness of the computer picking players in the order you have pre-ranked them. Not a keeper league, though I argue for that every year.

Suffice to say, the waiver wire is ALWAYS active the next day, which in a way is the charm of that kind of draft. Anyway, I am hardly one to give fantasy sports advice since my teams always suck. But there is a method to my madness: in their first seasons with new teams (2002? 2003? Whenever) Peerless Price and Lavernius Coles were both taken by me in the early rounds of the draft. Oh I suffered. Bad, bad pain. I also remember drafting Brett Favre early in the draft that year and it was his first year of the steady decline of his stats this millennium. Lesson learned? Load up on running backs, then sift through receivers and tightends. Anyone can find a serviceable QB, kicker, and defense on the cheap.

I remember back in the days when we played Sandbox fantasy football, we used to draft defensive players instead of a team defense. You got points for tackles, interceptions, td returns, fumble recoveries (I would think forced fumbles is a more worthy stat), and of course sacks. It certainly made for another level of strategy, but I hated it so much. No point, just a sidenote because Kat was talking about if I remembered drafting defensive players this morning. I remember, it drove me freaking nuts! Anyway, I think she misses it because she cannot have Tiki & Ronde Barber both piling up stats for her unless she grabs the Tampa defense.

* * *

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

DENIAL IS NOT JUST A RIVER IN AFRICA

I will say it: the Red Sox, if they do not still win the AL East, will win the Wild Card and go just as far in the playoffs than those pinstriped jerks celebrating all over Fenway this weekend.

Sour grapes? Sure, why not. But I still believe that this five games in four days trip came at the worst possible time for Boston and the best possible time for New York. Hey, sometimes we get the breaks, sometimes the breaks break us.

The Sox are not as bad as they looked this weekend, I swear. In fact, there is no doubt that after getting blown out in the first two games, they were in position to win the last three. How did they blow it? Let me count the ways:

1. Inconsistent starting pitching
2. Terrible work by the bullpen
3. Bad
situational hitting
and
4. Terrible clutch hitting

Also, let me take my cap off to the Yankees bullpen and the top six batters in the lineup who literally beat the crap out of the Sox. Hey, I admit it. The Sox were outplayed. The Yankees were better this weekend.

Of course, the real reason the Red Sox lost is due to my nephew Andrew in South Dennis. After my four-year old son spent a few days Cape Codding, he reported back that my nephew, long a Yankees fan due to the influence of his Connecticut Yankee raised dad (my sister to this day probably does not care about baseball one way or the other, but probably sees it as cosmic justice considering how I often I annoyed her and the other sisters as they tried to play wiffleball with the only rulesbook quoting five year old in the neighborhood). Anyway, Hal IV came back the week before the series reporting that

Cousin Drew likes the Red Sox now, Dad!!!

I, of course, saw through this ruse immediately. Drew had invoked the hideous reverse-curse on the Red Sox. I knew it was over right there. Wild Card, here we come again!

So thanks, Drew. You and your Dad can yuk it up until October, until Detroit, Chicago or Oakland knock your Yankees down a peg in the ALDS.

* * *

Monday, August 21, 2006

JUNIOR MINTS

Is Junior Seau the 2006 version of Bryan Cox ala 2001 in New England? Well, Chad Brown, Monty Beisel (or as he was referred to in the AP report I saw as Monte), Freddie Roach, and Tedy Bruschi are injured right now for the New England Patriots, so there at least is some concern about trotting out Barry Gardner, Larry Izzo, and the rest of the whodats at ILB in the near future. By week 3 or 4 this likely will not be an issue, but even if just for training camp, the Patriots needed to grab an ILB. I could not see a better fit out there than Junior.

Whether fully healthy or not, Junior and Rodney Harrison bring more than veteran leadership: they bring swagger. Swagger is something the Patriots defense lacked last year without Harrison. Willie Mac was a great OLB for many years, but he lost his swagger a long time ago (yes, the four sack game against Jacksonville in the playoffs last year was an aberration; he will total four sacks all season for Cleveland in 2006). Ty Law had swagger. He may have lost some skills, but he still brought the swagger.

That said, no one had more swagger than Bryan Cox. I hated that (12 letter expletive deleted). When he was with Miami and with the detested Jets I thought he was the biggest (7 letter expletive deleted) (another 7 letter expletive deleted). But I loved him in a Patriots uniform. Sure, he did not last the whole season, but Seau may not last either. But he does not have to. He has to get them through the first three or four games, that is all. Then Tedy & Monty can step in and step it up.

Who can fault Seau either? This is not the Jets he is joining. This is a favorite to play in and win the Super Bowl. Lest anyone forget, but the Patriots have the Best Quarterback (call me when you stop pulling an A-Rod in the post-season, Peyton), the Best Defensive Player (tell me who you would rather have than Richard Seymour? He plays multiple positions, does not whine about tying up offensive linemen to let others make tackles, and nor does he complain about playing within the system and sacrificing stats as he takes on double and triple-teams on a regular basis), and they have the Best Coach in the NFL (sit down Mike Shanahan!) What other team, outside of the Pittsburgh Steelers (who I detest, but admire with their Patriots-esque front office), is a lock to make a run at the Super Bowl? No one else, that is who else.

So welcome, Junior. Just be sure to bring that swagger.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

TAKING A DEEP BREATH

A five game weekend series against the Yankees with a double-header to kick-off the series on Friday. Adrenaline? Check. Butterflies in the stomach? Check. Memories of 2004? Gone.

Let me take the pulse of Red Sox Nation: Pure, unadulterated full-bore PANIC!

Why?

The Yankees are a flawed team. The Red Sox are a flawed team. So are the Tigers, White Sox, Athletics, Angels, Blue Jays and Twins. There are eight teams in contention for four playoff spots with about six weeks worth of games to play.

Of these teams (OK, maybe we cross off the Blue Jays), whatever team gets the most consistent pitching from the starting rotation over the next six weeks will win the pennant. Plain and simple. All of the teams (save the Angels) can hit enough to win.

For the Yankees, it is if Mussina bounces back, Johnson can be consistent, and Cory Lidle keeps forgetting he is Cory Lidle. Watching Jared Wright is for Yankees fans like watching Byung-Hyun Kim pitch for the Red Sox in the not-so-distant past: game-to-game you have no ideas if he is going to give you five solid innings (and pray they pull him before he falls apart) or if he gives up eight runs in the first inning. Forget the Yankees fantasy line-up, the biggest fear for the Pinstripes in August and September is if Chien-Ming Wang falters, the season is basically over for New York. Wang is the Yankees number one starter. As odd as that seems, he is the key down the stretch.

For the Tigers, whether or not Justin Verlander and the other young guns stays healthy down the stretch. One other complaint: why is the best closer in the American League, Joel Zumaya, playing set-up man/middle reliever? I love Todd Jones (read him every week in the Sporting News), but I remember him in Boston in 2003 and he would scare me closing down the stretch!

For the White Sox, it all about all five of their starters. This was their strength last season, and it looks like all those innings zapped them like it did for the Red Sox in 2005 when Schilling and Foulke paid dearly for their post-season heroics by breaking down. The postseason is truly the second season now (not quite at NHL levels, but give Bud Selig ten more years and see how the playoffs look with five wild card teams!). The White Sox need Brandon McCarthy to step in and give the rotation a breath of fresh air and eight solid innings every fifth day.

For the Athletics, it is all on Barry Zito stepping up as the ace of the staff until when/if Rich Harden comes back. With Danny Haren, Joe Blanton, and Zito, Billy Beane has a big three again. But Zito must keep the kids in line and a healthy Rich Harden makes the Athletics a favorite come October.

For the Angels, I give up. They should be in first place by ten games. I hate them now. May K-Rod save every John Lackey start for pure fantasy baseball purposes and let them once again underachieve.

For the Twins, Matt Garza is the great unknown. Can the third kid phenom impress as much as Francisco Liriano and Johann Santana has before him? I know I am banking on it because I have wasted my top waiver position in both fantasy leagues on him! In reality, however, the real question mark is the health of Liriano. He and Santana make the Twins favorites to get wipe out ANYONE in October. If they can get there!

Not to digress, as I love to do, OK, to digress: I had Liriano in my sights this spring and did not pull the trigger on him. In fact, in the Rickles league, instead of picking him up, I told my sister-in-law Shannon to grab him. Yes, I have kicked myself repeatedly for my stupid kindness. If I had Liriano, he would no doubt have vaulted me way ahead of fourth place, while Shannon sits in dead last despite having Liriano AND Papelbon. Fantasy baseball is a cruel mistress. But I digress, back to reality again:

Here are some other nagging Red Sox Questions:

Is the loss of Jason Varitek a concern? Only if Corky Miller was filling in. Javy Lopez is an offensive upgrade, and Doug Mirabelli offers no drop-off as a defensive fill-in.

Is the loss of Trot Nixon a concern? Hardly. Other than one defensive miscue, there has been no drop-off in the transition from the Nixon Administration in right field to Wily Mo Show. Wily Mo is hitting for a higher average, much more power, and has a lot more range than Nixon. Wily Mo should be considered an upgrade.

* * *

Kudos go out to Mike Gee, formerly of the Boston Herald (check out his blog here: Mike Gee). Great piece he posted on Thursday the 17th of August on how the Sox can be expected to stay afloat in the A.L. East and Wild Card race and a brief August swoon seems to be par for the course for this team. The best compliment I can ever give, and that I can say is the case here, is that I read a piece and immediately think:
Damn, I should have written that!
Glad to have you back & writing Mike. I may not have always agreed with your opinions or columns in the Herald in the past, but I always thought they were well written and provoked thought. Glad to see him taking advantage of the microphone/soapbox/forum that is blogspot. We Boston sports fanatics will find you, read what you write, and give our opinions as well.

* * *

Friday, August 11, 2006

PRE-SEASON? WHERE IS THE SMACK TALK?

Must admit, I am not a big fan of Michael Vick. Rocket arm. Rocket legs. Despicable accuracy. Poor decision-making. Is it just coincidence the Falcons looked so good against the decimated 2005 Patriots with Matt Schaub at quarterback instead of the Human Marketing Campaign? But who cares about the Falcons anyway? OK, my nephew Ed & Erik Love of the Falcons Daily Double Blog. But I have no love for the Hotlanta franchise and in fact kind of detest any team with Lawyer Milloy onboard.

It is all about the PATS! Of course, it is only preseason. But it is FOOTBALL!

Not to digress, but something I just HAVE to get off my chest. I love baseball. Everything about it. Strategy, statistics, history, players, fantasy, stat-o-matic, personalities, media, idiosyncrasies, all of it. But football is a different beast. It is not a daily grind, a game to watch while you sit back and relax. Football is like the playoffs in baseball EVERY SUNDAY. The only Super Bowl I have ever missed since I can remember is when I was nine and it was the second half of Super Bowl XVII when the Redskins lost to the Raiders because at the time I was a huge Redskins fan and my brother was taunting me at halftime about the Raiders winning and I started beating the crap out of him. I spent the second half of the game grounded up in my room.

Having digressed from my digression, the point is that while the Red Sox winning the World Series was a wonderful and unbelievable event, by game six of the ALCS against the Yankees, I knew it was over and there was no stopping them. With the Patriots in the Super Bowl against the Rams, I still had not recovered from the stroke I probably had when Vinatieri hit the first field goal in the snow against the Raiders. It was just like Super Bowl XX against the Bears: huge underdogs, got lucky to get there; everyone was just happy to be there. Yet there they were in control of the game at halftime. The Rams predictably came back late in the game, and NO ONE, I mean ABSOLUTELY NO ONE, thought the Patriots would win. Yet they did.

2004 and the Red Sox were three years away. The impossible happened that day on the turf against the Rams. I had accepted the fact that I was never going to see another world championship team in my lifetime. The Celtics had just been raped by Rick Pitino, the Bruins had stopped trying 20 years earlier, the Patriots were still only two years away from the Pete Carroll era, and the Red Sox were still being run by Dan Duquette and John Harrington. I mean, it was not going to happen, and I accepted it. Sitting on the couch and watching Brady drive the team down the field as I sat with my wife and two best friends and held my four month old son was just an amazing memory that I can still see in my head happening in slow motion. It was magical. It was unbelievable. It was an event that could never be topped by any sporting event ever again. Maybe I am not making any sense (which is fairly common), but the Sox World Series was not as special as the Patriots first super bowl victory.

Digressions aside, I am excited to watch the Patriots in action again. Ellis Hobbs maturing into a top cornerback. Three dynamic, pass receiving tight ends (Dave Thomas, my favorite Longhorn, is gonna be a keeper!). Tebucky Jones back in the fold. Young linebackers on the field (I really think Freddie Roach is one of those guys that in three years can be the next Ted Johnson here. What did he do wrong other than run a slow 40 yard dash? No one cares how fast you run when you are shedding linemen and dropping ball carriers in the middle of the field). Matt Cassell, the next Brady or the next Scott Secules? 3-4 or 4-3 defense? Where will Eugene Wilson play? Is Maroney the real deal?

Heck, I am just ready for Patriots football!

* * *

TRYING TIMES

Now we have reached that inevitable point of the season where I can throw out all the doozies from my cliche cache as the Red Sox struggle through injuries and inconsistency in these first weeks of August. Forget about it. Lose three straight to the Royal? Forget about it. Lose two of three to the Devil Rays and be mocked with Sweet Caroline playing as the Sox walk off the field? Forget about it. Three games back of the Yankees? Forget about it.

Here are the facts:
There are still seven weeks of regular season baseball left.
The Red Sox play the Yankees nine more times.
The Red Sox will not play .500 baseball the rest of the season. They are just too talented.
The Yankees will likely play .500 baseball the rest of the season. They sure as hell will not keep winning 7 of 10 the rest of the way unless Mariano Rivera starts coming into games in the sixth inning ala Goose Gossage in the seventies.
Pennants are not won in August, they are won in September and October.

Here are the opinions:
Anyone saying the season is over is actually just waiting for football to start and turn Sunday afternoon back into a national holiday.
I will take David Wells over Cory Lidle any day of the week.
Beckett and Schilling will still each win at least 18 games, if not more.
If A-Rod turns into Chuck Knoblauch/Steve Sax/Mackey Sasser in July/August, how many throws will he airmail to right field in Fenway in September?
The Red Sox have David Ortiz. The Yankees best clutch hitter is: Melky Cabrera?
Here is the Yankees platoon: Craig Wilson + Andy Phillips = Wilson Phillips. Wilson Phillips! Hah! Get it? Eighties all-girl pop band with Carnie Wilson belting out tunes with two semi-hot singers (maybe they just looked good next to her in comparison?).

* * *

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A TOOTHPICK PLEASE SO I CAN PICK MY BRAIN

Patriots go 12-4; home field throughout the playoffs; and Corey Dillon is Super Bowl MVP. Remember, you read it here first.

* * *

Where would the Red Sox be without Wily Mo? (Third place). He saved their bacon when Coco was out, and has been an upgrade with Trot hurt yet again. I will not say he is ever going to be a Big Papi/Manny slugger, but he can everything that Trot Nixon was supposed to be.

* * *

I will take Rodney Harrison at 75% over any other defensive back in the AFC not named Ed Reed (Troy Polamalu, FYI, is the Derek Jeter of the NFL: Look at his strength, speed and intangibles as the wide receiver gets behind him for a long completion, Marv!)

* * *

Is anyone still cookoo for Coco? Personally, I believe he is better than he has played this season and is not yet 100%. That said, I still say the Sox made the right move not getting in a bidding war for Johnny Damon.

* * *

Deion Branch. The most insignificant hold-out ever. I can very easily see Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, and Bob Kraft holding fast and the Patriots going into the season with a bunch of no-name wide receivers and running the two and even three tight end set regularly. I do not know what kind of advice Branch is getting from his agent, but these guys have got to be idiots. Richard Seymour and his agent played the game perfectly last season and got a well-deserved boatload of cash. Deion Branch is going to be unhappy for a long time if he does not straighten-out in a hurry. There is very little support for millionaire players complaining about dollars when gas costs $3 a gallon, jobs are still leaving Massachusetts, and the Governor is too busy campaigning to do anything to jumpstart the economy.

* * *

Yeah, A-Rod, not Big Papi should have been the MVP last season. Yes, I am still pissed about that. Anyone voting for Captain Intangibles of the Pinstripes as MVP this season should have their voting privileges revoked. Jeter winning would be the biggest travesty since Ted Williams won the triple crown and lost the MVP vote to Joe Freaking Gordon (of the Yankees, natch) in 1942. JOE FREAKING GORDON! MVP! OVER TEDDY TRIPLE CROWN BALLGAME! JOE FREAKING GORDON! (Of course, I bet Joe Gordon was great at going from first to third on a single. Intangibles! Yay!)

* * *

Can Jon Lester pitch one more great game before the trading deadline in my fantasy league? PLEASE!

* * *

Anyone else worried that the Celtics star (Paul Pierce), scorer (Wally Szerbiack), and future star (Al Jefferson) are coming off surgery. Uh, yeah, me neither.

* * *

FYI, in 1941 Joe DiMaggio hit .408 during his 56 game hitting streak. Teddy Ballgame hit .406 for the season. More people need to know this fact. Oh yeah, and Ted Williams should have been immortalized by Ernest Hemingway, not Mr. Coffee. In The Old Man & the Sea. Sure, the Cubans were all Yankees fans, but Ted Williams was an Ernest Hemingway kind of guy. Joe DiMaggio was Ralph Kiner on a large market team (the website name is BostonSportPage.com. If you came here for Yankee Loving you are on the wrong site. I am all about the Nation).

* * *

Yes, Don Orsillo is OK, but I still miss Sean McDonough. (I miss Ned Martin even more!) That said, I miss Jon Miller and Ken Coleman EVERY SINGLE TIME I listen to a Sox game on the radio..

* * *

I think the Red Sox should buy out the San Diego Chicken and go with dual Mascots: the Chicken & Wally. The Chicken can be sponsored by Boston Market. (Yes, this is how my mind works: any other reasons why I did not go into Marketing or Advertising?)

* * *

Bronson Arroyo makes his tenth attempt at his tenth win. Apparently, he cut his hair on the ESPN show Cold Pizza this morning in an attempt to change his luck. Originally, he had talked of bringing back the corn rows because win number ten is named Bo Derek so he has to pay tribute by going with the corn rows. (I just re-read that last paragraph and realized it is what it would look like if People Magazine mated with Sports Illustrated and had a hideously deformed child named People Sports. Of course, then the above paragraph would be expanded into a full-length cover feature replete with a Bronson Arroyo hair style timeline.)

* * *

Friday, August 04, 2006

RANDOM PARTICLES OF MATTER

Wily Mo Pena: his
almostdecapitatingtheoldguyinthefrontrowoftheMonsterseatshomerun
the other day was just sick. It was still ascending when it hit the concrete and bounced back practically to the infield. That ball could have gone 600 feet!

Bronson for Wily Mo looks better everyday eh?

* * *

Javy Lopez? At least it is only a 2 month rental. I will always be grateful to Javy for saving my fantasy league season in 2003 when I picked him up off the trash-heap and was rewarded with 43 home runs and a 1.065 OPS that season.

* * *

Jacoby Ellsbury cannot get to Fenway soon enough. This kid is going to be special. A timeline of Fenway in 2008 is the latest I forsee.

* * *

Enjoy it now, Yankees fans. Enjoy it now, because come September 15 the Yankees will be frantically chasing after the White Sox for the Wild Card.

* * *

I hate writing bad things about my favorite sportswriter and basically the inventor of the Sports Blog. I tried to, but I just hated the Bill Simmons article comparing Big Papi to Larry Bird. Not the time in the life of David Ortiz to start comparing his clutch-ness to a guy who was retired for the past 15 years.

Here is one frustrating example:

Ortiz isn't even one of the top five baseball players of the past 25 years.
What? We rank him behind A-Rod & Jeter? Bonds, Sosa, & McGuire? Manny? Carlos Beltran? Other than maybe Albert Pujols, who else in the past 25 years would Simmons want pinch-hitting for Papi? Not one single freaking other player. Yeah. That is what I thought.

But, hey, it inspired discussion, and that is the name of the game. Of course, I think if Simmons pops in his Red Sox 2004 Championship DVD before writing the article it would be a whole different story. Larry was great, but he falls behind Bill Russell on my list of great Celtics.

What really ticked me off was Simmons pulling out the steroids accusation with Papi:


As for Big Papi, he's playing in a sport where every power hitter always comes
under suspicion; his head is the size of an overpacked suitcase; his power stats
keep getting better and better; and everyone seems content to attribute his home
run jump to the fact that Tom Kelly was a moron for telling him to hit to all
fields in Minnesota. He also has chance to become the first AL batter ever to
hit 62 homers. Personally, I don't think there's a chance in hell that he's
using anything. But you never know. And I would have been a complete homer if I
didn't bring it up. Don't blame me, blame baseball, a sport that didn't care
that players were compromising the game until it was too late. Now everyone is
guilty until proven innocent. Good times.

Gee, he could have wrote that Bird was probably hopped-up on cocaine because half the NBA was coked-up in the early eighties, but since his mind was made up going into the article, he had to find something to trash Ortiz about. How dare he accuse Papi. Even a Yankees fan who has been enjoying the roids run by Jason Giambi would not sink so low as to accuse Papi of being juiced. Just plain despicable.

* * *

What Simmons missed out on was that Larry Bird and his back issue was a problem brought on by Bird not taking care of himself, not getting himself in shape, and not training in the off-season. He squandered another four or five years of stardom.

* * *

I am not that old (at least I think so), but one trip to ESPN.com reminds me that I used to have no Internet, no SportsCenter, no all sports stations, just Gil Santos in the AM on WBZ Radio and sarcastic Bob Lobel on the six oclock news. I remember listening to scratchy 660AM the FAN just to get a score from the previous night for the St. Louis Cardinals. Why the Cardinals? Because in the early 80s the Red Sox were transitioning from the power hitting late seventies powerhouse to the Ralph Houke led bandof idiots. Heartbreak was a common occurrence back then. The Cardinals were my adopted team. I needed someone who would win once in a while, and they had to be a National League team because I could not root against the Sox. But what a crew they were: Whitey Herzog, Ozzie Smith (no hit, great field: just like me! Except he was graceful and I was clumsy. And he was personable and beloved, and I was shy and introverted. Oh forget it.), Tommy Herr, George Hendricks, Jack Clark, Darrell Porter, Willie McGee, Vince Coleman, Terry Pendleton, Lonny Smith, John Tudor, Joaquim Andujar, and Bob Forsch.

* * *

I should have jumped on this story, but fortunately Chad Finn wrote a fantastic piece about Captain Intangibles of the Yankees and his perfume (I mean, cologne). Check it out here: Chad Finn -Touching All the Bases.

Personally, I would love to see Major League Baseball put out a bunch of different perfumes (I mean, colognes):

BigMoFoxy: Smells like, what else when talking about the SoxDawg, but the inside of a strip club.

Johnny Number 19: Smells like money and flashbulbs.

Eau de A-Rod: Come on, this is too easy. It smells like Hamburger Helper.

SFLuvsBarry: I am not sure of the smell, but it comes in two varieties: the clear and the cream. Also, the cologne causes gigantism of the head, shrinking of the genitalia, and unnatural fits of rage.

Brand Hillenbrand: Wear it, and it is a reverse Tag Body Spray: guaranteed to make everyone hate you after a while.

21Rocket: Strong. Too strong. But still the best out there.

Maddux & Marigolds: The smell is nothing spectacular, but it lasts forever. Once you think it is done, it is back as strong as ever.

Bellhorn Smellhorn: Smells like, well, Mark Bellhorn (rumor has it that he was not a big proponent of personal hygiene).

I could go on, but as my wife always says when someone is foolish enough to laugh at one of my jokes:

Do not encourage him!


* * *

Thursday, August 03, 2006

FULL FLEDGED PANIC MODE PART TWO

Of course, panic is not only found in Boston; it also permeates into Foxboro.

Every team has hold-outs, malcontents, and roster battles: why this is so shocking to be happening to the New England Patriots is beyond me. From day one here in New England, Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli have given no quarter and stayed true to their philosophy: try to improve quality and depth at all positions, and do not overpay in one area to hamper the overall quality of the team in another.

From cleaning house in 2000 and bringing in veterans to teach and play and carrying four quarterbacks because that Brady kid kept fighting his way onto the roster; to brining in unknown role players to play huge roles like Mike Vrabel, and benching Bledsoe when he returned from injury in 2001; to learning so much about trying to stay still and not break-up a group of great guys in 2002; to the unpopular Lawyer Milloy release on the eve of the 2003 season, the blow-out loss to Buffalo in the first game of the season (Sam Adams rumbling and bumbling down the sideline), and the Tom Jackson idiotic comment re: Belichick on ESPN; to the Ty Law mouth-off of 2004 and the continual integration of young players stepping up to take on a huge role; to the Richard Seymour hold-out in mini-camp and loss of Tedy Bruschi in 2005, and the decimation of the secondary to injuries, and staying the course and being a Tom Brady sports hernia from getting to face Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game in Foxboro (like Denver beats a healthy Tom Brady in the playoffs) to 2006 and the Deion Branch hold-out and the departure of the #2 receiver, #4 and #5 receiver, kicker, back-up OLB, back-up quarterback, and back-up tackle.

Somehow the Patriots will survive, I believe. Last time I checked, there were no games that count for at least another month. The secondary is improved and has some quality depth, the linebacking corps is solid in the starting four with youth and speed at back-up positions, the defensive line is still the best in the NFL, and the special teams are still solid. Tom Brady is healthy, as is Corey Dillon (and Lawrence Maroney is a fine insurance policy), the offensive line is back and guys are healthy again, the tight ends are among the most dynamic in football, and I firmly believe that Tom Brady finds someone somewhere to catch his passes. Remember, in 2001 it was Troy Brown, David Patten, and Fast Freddy Coleman at wide receiver. Somehow they made it to the Super Bowl and won.

Sure, the Patriots have holes and issues, but show me a team that does not. This is the Salary Cap Era of the NFL, get used to it and stop complaining. The best coach in the NFL will figure out something.

FULL FLEDGED PANIC MODE

The Red Sox lost to the Indians Tuesday night. What happened was a really good left-handed starter with a 95 MPH fastball, C. C. Sabathia, was on top of his game, and spare part Jason Johnson, pitching for the Red Sox, who other than a tough first inning actually pitched pretty well. The Red Sox did not hit much, but Sabathia, when on his game like last night, can be near unhittable. Of course, with the Yankees winning and pulling into a virtual tie for first place, full fledged panic hit Beantown. Theo Epstein was mocked for not tossing out prospects and not trading for free agents on their way out or fifth starters on bad teams. I will not go into what a relief it is to have Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen, Jon Lester, Edgar Martinez, Dustin Pedroia, Jacob Ellsbury, David Murphy, and the rest of the prospects still in Boston, Pawtucket, or Portland.

Theo Epstein fired a salvo across the bow of the Yankees sinking ship (that ship has had a slow leak since 2000 and eventually there will be too many holes to adequately plug up with dollar bills) at the trade deadline: This is not the reactive Dan Duquette/John Harrington team; these Sox do not react to the Yankees and do not try to buy their way into the playoffs because eventually the plan will lead to failure. This is a team that will be built around young and cheap pitchers and players who come up through the organization (Jonathan Papelbon, Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen, Jon Lester, Edgar Martinez, Dustin Pedroia, et al) or are acquired before they hit their prime (Josh Beckett, Wily Mo Pena, Coco Crisp, et al).

It is not time to panic. If the Sox had traded for Bobby Abreau to keep him out of New York, or mortgaged the future for a Jason Schmidt or Alfonso Soriano who could be only a two-month rental, would have made it time to panic.

* * *

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Nothing like a billion knee-jerk reactions to moves made or not made at the trading deadline. Moves made and unmade have been over-analyzed, dissected, and declared genius or idiotic. Somehow, I have a feeling most of these moves are merely the shuffling of unwanted players for unspectacular prospects. In other words, much action for little result.

In Boston, the media has been whipped into a frenzy as the Red Sox have stood pat and given their young pitchers a chance to prove their worth to the big league club down the stretch, while the Yankees went out and plopped down the entire payroll of the Florida Marlins in order to pick up a guy who is no better than what they had in the outfield (Melky Cabrera) and a fifth starter who, if they are really lucky could turn out to be as useful as Jeff Suppan was for the Sox when they unloaded All-Star infielder Freddy Sanchez for him back in 2003.

Sidenote: Yes, I know the trade was not Sanchez for Suppan, but at the time, any of us who had seen Freddy in Pawtucket knew he was the best infield prospect they had and that he had the potential to put up the numbers he has for Pittsburg so far in 2006. The trade in 2003 was Brandon Lyon and Anastacio Martinez (what the heck ever happened to that guy?) to Pittsburgh for Scott Sauerbeck (aka Sour Grapes) and the immortal Mike Gonzalez. Of course, Lyon had an elbow problem, so the Pirates traded him back to Boston along with Anastacio Martinez and Jeff Suppan for the immortal Mike Gonzalez and Freddy Sanchez (plus a boatload of cash to so the Sox could say they were sorry). Regrettably, had the first trade not blown up over the elbow of Brandon Lyon, the Sox could have kept Sanchez. Lyon, bad elbow and all, was of course packaged with Casey Fossum and Jorge De La Rosa for Curt Schilling. Not exactly a franchise builder for the Diamondbacks.

Sidenote to the Sidenote: Diamondbacks? Did the Arena Football team already have the rights to Arizona Rattlers? Diamondbacks has to be the worst team name this side of the Brooklyn Bridgegrooms.

Back to the subject matter, that being that the Red Sox did not trade away Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen, or Jon Lester for a big name starter. Sure, I would love to have landed Roy Oswalt, or Mark Buehrle, or even the Rocket, but trading two young pitchers and a position player creates more holes, it does not fill them. The injury to Trot Nixon is a blessing in disguise, as there is no way he should have been playing over Wily Mo Pena. I have seen the future of right field at Fenway Park and it is Wily Mo. Keep him close to Big Papi and let him rip.

Yes, the Sox definitely have some short-term issues (injuries to Jason Varitek, Trot Nixon, Matt Clement, Manny Delcarmen, and Tim Wakefield), but these issue will work themselves out one way or another. Making a knee-jerk trade and undoing all the hard work done to develop these kids for the future makes no sense to me. Let the Yankees, Rangers, and Tigers dump poor prospects for marginal players, I prefer to watch the young guns blow these teams out in September and October.

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