Wednesday, November 29, 2006

OFF-SEASON JITTERS

Manny, Manny, Manny: Wherefore art thou, Manny? Is this the end of the days of Manny stumbling in the shadow of the Green Monster? Who is out there willing to trade prospects for Manny? What is his value these days? How can the Sox fill his void in the line-up?

On one hand, I completely understand the stance of the front-office. Manny complains. A lot. He takes at-bats, innings, games, weeks off, regardless of opponent or time of season. He is not known as the best teammate and Terry Francona has probably lost years off his life worrying about and dealing with Manny.

On the other hand, he is second-best right-handed hitter in baseball (Albert Pujols is about a mile ahead of everyone else in the game right now). There is no one short of A-Rod, Pujols, or Barry Bonds who the Sox could get who would provide the level of protection Manny affords Big Papi in the line-up. David Ortiz is looking at 200 walks in 2007 if Manny is anywhere else.

So, Theo, what do you do? Does Manny depart for prospects? Do J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo join the line-up? I think so. Let me say: letting Alex Gonzalez go was just plain stupid. The Orioles won a lot of games with Mark Belanger at shortstop in the seventies. Maybe that has something to do with how they turned Dennis and Tippy Martinez into All-Star pitchers. I like Lugo, but for second-base, not shortstop. I like J.D. Drew as well, but at one year for $6 million. Nothing more.

Here is how I see the Sox right now:

* Trade Manny for closer-prospect, infield prospect and starting pitcher prospect.
* Sign Julio Lugo.
* Sign J.D. Drew.
* Put Wily Mo Pena in centerfield and Coco Crisp in left-field to take advantage of Pena being a better fielder when he has a better view of the hitter and to hide the weak arm of Coco. Crisp, Pena, & Drew in the outfield will turn a lot of doubles in the gap into outs for the pitching staff.

Line-up:

LF: Coco Crisp
SS: Julio Lugo
1B/DH: David Ortiz
RF: J.D. Drew
3B: Mike Lowell
CF: Wily Mo Pena
DH/IB: Kevin Youkilis
C: Jason Varitek
2B: Dustin Pedroia

Is it a better line-up without Manny? Hell, no. Is it a more-balanced/Billy Beane Moneyball line-up? Hell, yeah. Why not keep modeling the team on the old Moneyball Genius? Oakland has yet to fall to earth anytime and keeps chugging along winning 90 or so games every year.

DICE-K

Repeat after me: Dice-Kay. Not Die-Soo-kee. Not Dae-suk. Dice-Kay Mat-soo-zah-kah. Daisuke Matsuzaka. No D-Mat; No fancy nicknames, please. He has one already: The Monster. Sorry, Wally, sorry Dick Raditz, the Sox have a new Monster in town.

Remember that energy when Pedro Martinez first arrived in Boston with that 97MPH fastball, the change-up, the Flash Gordon curveball, and that nasty slider he threw before his shoulder went? Yeah, those were surreal days. A game being pitched by Pedro of his Prime was not to be missed because you never knew if he would pitch a perfect game or strike out 25 batters. The possibility existed in the late 90s/early 00s that you would see a pitching performance like one you had never seen before: history was being made on the mound everytime the ball was in his hands.

Well, it is going to be back in 2007.

Daisuke the Monster Matsuzaka will, eventually, be in a Red Sox uniform making the original Nomomania; Irabu-irritability; Ichiro-media-madness; and Matsui-mania look like small potatoes. This could be Fernandomania! This kid is the real deal.

I wanted to hold back on this until the Sox signed him, but since I cannot wait another two weeks, I am writing it now. Besides, having been on vacation, I am overdue to post something somewhat relevant (Celtics get blown out by the Knicks? Slit my wrists for me now, please!). As to why the Monster signing is not going to be official until right up until the deadline? Two words: Scott Boras. Boras will wring every penny from the Sox Triumvirate, but in an off-season where Alfonso Soriano gets $136 million over 8 years, whatever the Sox pay Matsuzaka will be a deal. $51.1 million posting fee and $45 million over 5 years? A bargain.

Schilling, Beckett, Papelbon, Matsuzaka, and Wakefield. That starting five could/would/should rack-up close to 1,000 strikeouts over the course of a season. Heck, while I am still giddy with joy, howzabout the Sox bring in Roger Clemens for the stretch run?

* * *

Thursday, November 16, 2006

V-V-V-Vinny and the… PATS?????

We all know Bill Belichick loves the biggest bust named Vinny this side of Vin Baker, aka the pride of UHartford (Go Chazer and your Fighting Sousaphones or whatever the heck they are called). Conspiracy theories abound (Tom Brady/Matt Cassell have serious arm injuries, Belichick has gone crazy and is bringing back Touchdown Tommy Vardell to play fullback, or that Belichick is paying back Vinny for his silence about certain indiscretions from the past). In all seriousness, Vinny is here to replace the trifecta of back-up QBs who have bounced around New England since the exiling of Drew Bledsoe. Nothing more. Nothing less. Belichick likes to have a veteran QB on the bench. Too bad it is not more exciting.

Just to divert away for a second:

Here a very personal note regarding Vinny Testaverde. I was in Junior High (7th grade) when he won the Heisman while playing for the U aka Miami University of Florida (not Ohio). I remember watching his choke job on TV while sleeping over a friends house (Tom McManus). Not too long afterwards, I drifted away from Tom, eventually ending up with my friends who I am still friends with today who were much more involved in sports and more involved in the geek realm I populated, and Tom ended up as one of those kids in high school that were way too into drugs, partying, and just acting out for the sake of acting out. Do not get me wrong, he was a good kid, definitely not stupid, funny as all hell, but just not in a position in his life to put it together. I was not close to him, but he was one of those people I always said hi to in high school and would chat with, just because we had been better friends in our youth. Not too long after high school he crashed his motorcycle into a tree. Dead as a doornail. Other than his picture in the local paper for his memorial service, I never saw him again after high school. But when I hear the name Vinny Testaverde, I think of Tom and what a waste his death was and think about what he could have done and who he could have been been had he been in a different place.

DAMNGINI

Waitasec, the Pats lost to the Jets? The J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets? What a horrid state of affairs. Once again, the Patriots offensive play calling needs to come into question, as they team could not figure out for the second week in a row if they were a running team or a team that should spread the field and let Tom Brady pick apart the secondary and poor saps trying to cover Ben Watson. Instead, the team kind of muddled around in between. Running somewhat effectively but not consistently. The passing game was not consistent or in rhythm the entire game.

I had the pleasure of watching the game at the Charlie Horse in West Bridge sitting directly in front of the 8 screens showing all the early games with the Pats on the big screen. Information Overload! Suffice to say, I cannot imagine how thoroughly annoying I would be with the Sunday Ticket as I switched from game to game. Suffice to say, after watching the game, I was more than ready to let the kids loose in the arcade and take out my frustrations on the kiddie games.

Where did the Pats go wrong? First and foremost, the defense let the team down in the fourth quarter when they could not stop the immortal Kevin Barlow and get the offense back in the mud. While I detest going away from natural grass, at this point I think the FinessePats are better off on turf. Third down stops were few and far between, as the Jets spent a lot of time eating the clock.

Also, at this point, it is ludicrous to keep bringing up David Givens and Deion Branch as reasons for the offensive slump the team has been in. Jabbar Gaffney, Reche Caldwell, Chad Jackson, Doug Gabriel (despite his fumble and benching), and Troy Brown are a solid group. I have no doubt that Jackson will emerge as a number one receiver next year, but the group now is still very good. Lest anyone forget, Caldwell is doing well, Gaffney caught 55 passes the other year, Gabriel looks better than Randy Moss, and Jackson is slowly coming into his own. Troy Brown is, well, Troy Brown. Last time I checked, David Givens went 8 receptions for 104 yards: FOR THE SEASON! He is down and out for the year. Branch, on the other hand, was a guy who held out while still under contract. Know what happens to slobs like us who do that? We get shown the door. I have nothing but a big hell yeah for the Pats for showing him the door. Who the hell is Deion Branch? A number two receiver for a mediocre Seattle team right now.

* * *

WEEK 10 PICKS RECAP

Baltimore at Tennessee
WINNER: BALTIMORE

Yawn. A crappy QB who never lived up to his billing returns to the play against the crappy team he once took up space for. Hooray for Baltimore. Ever inching closer to a first round loss in the playoffs.

Buffalo at Indianapolis
WINNER: INDIANAPOLIS

I wanted to pick Buffalo (and I did have them covering the spread). One freaking missed field goal.

Chicago at NY Giants
WINNER: NY GIANTS

Just when you think you have a team pegged, the Giants go out and lay an egg as they stand around and watch Devin Hester return a missed field goal 108 yards. Yeesh.

Cleveland at Atlanta
WINNER: ATLANTA

I was glad to see the Michael Vick Experience derailed as they float towards another 7-9 or 8-8 season, but I wish I had had the guts to pick Cleveland to win, instead of just covering the spread on the road.

Green Bay at Minnesota
WINNER: MINNESOTA

OK, that Pats win over Minnesota officially no longer looks impressive. I hope someone goes berserker on Favre next week (Seau? Bruschi?) and knocks his ass out and lets the Aaron Rodgers era get underway.

Houston at Jacksonville
WINNER: JACKSONVILLE

Jacksonville loses? Even with David Garrard? I am lost. So lost. My faith is shaken.

Kansas City at Miami
WINNER: KANSAS CITY

I guess the Damon Huard experiment has come to an end. I sure hope I did not release Trent Green in fantasy football.

New Orleans at Pittsburgh
WINNER: NEW ORLEANS

I hate Pittsburgh. Not really. Actually I respect them: they are smart, opportunistic, and well coached. I really thought this would be the nail in their coffin for the season if the Saints could take them down. Kudos to the Steelers for staying alive.

NY Jets at New England
WINNER: NEW ENGLAND

Aaarghhhhhhhhh!

San Diego at Cincinnati
WINNER: SAN DIEGO

I thought this one was lost in the first quarter. Of course, despite four touchdowns for LDT, I still lost this week in fantasy football. Once again, the only loser with more than 100 points. Everyone brings their A-Game against the Bentster.

San Francisco at Detroit
WINNER: DETROIT

Did this game really take place? Did anyone watch? How do we really know that San Francisco won?

Washington at Philadelphia
WINNER: PHILADELPHIA

When I pick against my Skins, you know all is lost. Joe Gibbs Racing gets their namesake back next year.

Denver at Oakland
WINNER: DENVER

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Dallas at Arizona
WINNER: ARIZONA

If anyone has not gone to see TonyHomo.com, what the heck are you waiting for? It is hilarious! (Written like it is the diary of a jealous Bledshmoe).

St Louis at Seattle
WINNER: ST LOUIS

Yeah, that was a heavyweight battle. These NFC West rivalries really suck. Bring back Jim Zorn!!! Put the Cardinals back in St. Louis and the Rams back to L.A. and someone put Eric Dickerson back in uniform and put on those goofy Chuck Muncie goggles.

Tampa Bay at Carolina
WINNER: CAROLINA

I hand it off the ComicBookGuy from the Simpsons for this analysis: Worst Monday Night Game ever!

TOTAL FOR THE WEEK: 6-10

6-10? What the $%&@# was I doing last week? Drinking too much IPA and not reading enough Len Pasquarelli at ESPN.com is what.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

COLD NOVEMBER

On an unseasonably balmy fall Friday in Boston, I was greeted with such pleasant news on my way out the door to start the weekend. In fact, a double-whammy of good news (and some more good news for the unfaithful faithful):

1. The Yankees most dangerous hitter is gone. Yes, the Yankees unloaded mercurial slugger Gary Sheffield on the AL Champion Tigers for a trifecta of young arms (a mid-level starting prospect with elbow problems and two single-A closers). I am ecstatic. The killer of all things baseball is out of the division. Do not get me wrong: I do not like Gary Sheffield. Never. Unlike Rickles, I do not have the Sheffield-1990s Florida Marlins shrine going on, but I do respect him as a hitter. There was no one (let me repeat that: NO ONE) more dangerous in that Bronx line-up. And the fact that the Yankees mis-handled his option and did not get a major league level prospect (which he should have brought, at the minimum) is music to a Sox fans ears.

2. Buster Olney at ESPN.com is the Red Sox may have the top bid for Japanese ace Daisuke Matsuzaka. I have repeatedly pleaded ignorance about his skills having only seen him pitch during the World Baseball Classic (and even then, I was barely conscious), but top-end starters are few and far between. Bully for Theo Epstein for making an aggressive move and bully to ownership for floating the moolah. Schilling, Papelbon, Beckett, Matsuzaka, and Wakefield looks like a championship rotation at this point.

3. The only bad news is that, to the surprise of no one, Keith Foulke is on his way out of Boston having declined his player option after the Sox did not pick up the team option. Foulke is desperately in need of a fresh start. Foulkie should be revered for his work in 2004: he was the true MVP that season.

Nice to see there is plenty of Red Sox news for Hazel Mae on NESN to chat about after she crams herself into another one of those skin-tight shirts for the Red Sox week in review.

MONDAY NIGHT MELTDOWN

It was a punch in the gut Monday night. The Colts came into Foxboro for the second straight year and, not so much Peyton Manning, but the Colts much-maligned defense, smacked around Tom Brady. Maybe that is why it has been so difficult to write about this game: the Patriots, and especially Tom Brady, have come up short in the big games.

The evidence is there: Denver only scored 17pts. The Pats defense, after a horrid first quarter and the loss or Rodney Harrison, held Indy down most of the game (or at least slowed them down a little. But last year, the Patriots should have beat Denver in the playoffs, and then would have trampled the Steelers at Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro/CMGI/Gillette Stadium. Also, the Manning Exorcism last year was a big game. When the going has gotten tough, the Pats have folded.

That said, I still do not see anyone to keep the Patriots from winning the Super Bowl. The Colts defense beat Tom Brady on Monday night. The Patriots did not beat themselves. Peyton Manning did not will the Colts to victory. This was a Colts defense that finally got around to stuffing the box to stop the run in the second half and then played very well against the passing game and was very opportunistic.

The important thing is that the Pats are 6-2 and if they beat the Jets they pretty much wrap up the AFC East and start thinking about playing for a bye in January. The Bengals, Broncos, Vikings and Colts were the four of the five tough match-ups on the schedule (the Bears still await), but this team should do no worse than 12-4 barring a catastrophic rash of injuries (knock on wood).

What the Belichick/Pioli regime has done is churn out a team that is going to be amazingly consistent. They are good to win 10+ games every year for the foreseeable future. They may not have all the pieces fall into place to win the Super Bowl every single season, but they should in contention every year.

It is tough adapting after getting used to a team being consistently great. The decline of the Celtics of the late 1980s was so painful and unbelievable to the Boston Sports Psyche that some of are still recovering. The Patriots have unbelievably reached that level reserved for the Celtics of that era. The change is so bizarre: I remember as a kid that I would be so excited when the Patriots actually won a game (if it was on TV and not blacked-out. When was the last black-out of a Patriots game?) I was jumping around with Scott Zolak and Dick McPherson (only I was in the living room, they were on the carpet). The joy a simple victory brought!

Sure, it kinda sucks the Pats lost, but the team is still gelling. Belichick may yet have another trick up his sleeve, and the cause is not yet lost. Look on the bright side: you could have bought into the hype and picked the Miami Dolphins to win the AFC East, or worse, make it to the Super Bowl.

WEEK 10 PICKS

Baltimore at Tennessee
WINNER: BALTIMORE

Buffalo at Indianapolis
WINNER: INDIANAPOLIS

Chicago at NY Giants
WINNER: NY GIANTS

Cleveland at Atlanta
WINNER: ATLANTA

Green Bay at Minnesota
WINNER: MINNESOTA

Houston at Jacksonville
WINNER: JACKSONVILLE

Kansas City at Miami
WINNER: KANSAS CITY

New Orleans at Pittsburgh
WINNER: NEW ORLEANS

NY Jets at New England
WINNER: NEW ENGLAND

San Diego at Cincinnati
WINNER: SAN DIEGO

San Francisco at Detroit
WINNER: DETROIT

Washington at Philadelphia
WINNER: PHILADELPHIA

Denver at Oakland
WINNER: DENVER

Dallas at Arizona
WINNER: ARIZONA

St Louis at Seattle
WINNER: ST LOUIS

Tampa Bay at Carolina
WINNER: CAROLINA

WEEK NINE PICKS RECAP

Atlanta at Detroit
WINNER: ATLANTA

What the heck is wrong with Atlanta? How do you get blown out by the Lions?

Cincinnati at Baltimore
WINNER: BALTIMORE

Someone tell again why character does not matter? The Cincinnati Criminals seem not to have the strength to finish a game anymore.

Dallas at Washington
WINNER: WASHINGTON

I cannot say I saw it end the way it did, with the football follies of three game-winning field goal attempts in the final minute.

Green Bay at Buffalo
WINNER: GREEN BAY

I will never pick a Favre led team ever again. EVER!

Houston at NY Giants
WINNER: NY GIANTS

Gee, that was a tough pick, but why was the game so close?

Kansas City at St Louis
WINNER: ST LOUIS

St Louis is a good team, but they are getting close to getting back to a playoff squad.

Miami at Chicago
WINNER: CHICAGO

Yeah, tell me you know ANYONE that picked Miami!

New Orleans at Tampa Bay
WINNER: NEW ORLEANS

I saw New Orleans play the Patriots last year, and let me tell you, I knew then that they were a better team than anyone thought. Then add Reggie Bush.

Tennessee at Jacksonville
WINNER: JACKSONVILLE

As I said before, I will pick Jacksonville anytime when Leftwich is on the bench.

Minnesota at San Francisco
WINNER: MINNESOTA

This was pitiful. I thought Minnesota was supposed to be a good team.

Cleveland at San Diego
WINNER: SAN DIEGO

Somehow, I think Romeo Crennel is jealous beyond belief of Charlie Weis right now.

Denver at Pittsburgh
WINNER: DENVER

Roethlisberger has shown his true colors. Cue the Cyndi Lauper.

Indianapolis at New England
WINNER: NEW ENGLAND

I do not want to talk about it!

Oakland at Seattle
WINNER: SEATTLE

Zzzzz. Oh, did anyone watch the joke that the Raiders have become?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

HIGHWAY ROBBERY

I try to be fair. I really, really do. But this is beyond ridiculous. Derek Freaking Jeter winning another undeserved Gold Glove? What kind of dunderhead votes for this glorified left fielder as the best fielding shortstop in the American League? Yes, I know I am the one constantly pointing out that Captain Intangibles is the most overrated player in baseball history since Joe DiMaggio, but give me a break! Gold Glove? Gee, at least Eric Dirty Chavez of Oakland was a legitimate contender and had a case for getting it ahead of Mike Lowell, but Jeter? Jeter is not even the best shortstop on his team (I put him fourth behind A-Rod, Cano, and the guy who dances around during the seventh inning stretch raking the infield). I mean, did any of these voting players or coaches watch Alex Gonzalez? Heck, The best fielding shortstop really is in Seattle, but I am a little partial to A-Gon. Jeter? What a disgrace.

Since I am ranting about the Great DiMaggio (that is the old Cuban fisherman from the Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway calling him that, not me!), I may as well rehash my vitriol about Mr. Coffee himself: The man was not very nice to Ms. Norma Jean Baker-Dougherty (aka Marilyn Monroe). Number one, when you shack up with the sexiest woman born before World War Two, petty jealousy and smacking her around are not really how one wants to waste their time; Also, the joker sold out to pitch coffee makers. Yaz at least hawked bread and kielbasa (Polish Power!). My generation knows DiMaggio only as Mr. Coffee. Teddy Ballgame is at least known as the old guy who got screwed over by his son and stuck in a freezer. Inglorious, yes, but sadly true; Finally, Joltin Joe used to take long, luxurious baths with Phil Rizzuto after games and talk longingly about hand creams, massages by immigrant man-servants, and the Kaiser. OK, I made that up. But, dammit, DiMaggio hit .408 in 1941 over the 56 games of his record batting streak. Teddy Ballgame hit .406 for the season. I repeat: FOR THE ENTIRE SEASON! That is right, Teddy was the man. He flew combat missions while Joe D. drank whiskey and hit on German women at American Air Bases during World War Two. Why do Red Sox fans have these complexes? Hmmm.

* * *

WEEK NINE PICKS:

No time for comments, but here are the winning picks, so get your calls into your bookie (great, I read that out loud and my son says: Call your Wookie? Bwah-hah-ha!)

Atlanta at Detroit
WINNER: ATLANTA

Cincinnati at Baltimore
WINNER: BALTIMORE

Dallas at Washington
WINNER: WASHINGTON

Green Bay at Buffalo
WINNER: GREEN BAY

Houston at NY Giants
WINNER: NY GIANTS

Kansas City at St Louis
WINNER: ST LOUIS

Miami at Chicago
WINNER: CHICAGO

New Orleans at Tampa Bay
WINNER: NEW ORLEANS

Tennessee at Jacksonville
WINNER: JACKSONVILLE

Minnesota at San Francisco
WINNER: MINNESOTA

Cleveland at San Diego
WINNER: SAN DIEGO

Denver at Pittsburgh
WINNER: DENVER

Indianapolis at New England
WINNER: NEW ENGLAND

Oakland at Seattle
WINNER: SEATTLE

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I READ THE NEWS TODAY, OH BOY

Did everyone catch Peter King of SI.com standing behind the Krafts in the photo of a scene from the moving THE GAME PLAN filming at Gillette Stadium in the Boston Globe Thursday, November 02, 2006? It is on page C12 in the Style section in the Names column by Carol Beggy and Mark Shanahan. He is standing directly behind the shiny dome of Jonathan Kraft, and King is looking off-camera with a forlorn look that seems to be crying out: where did that young lady go who promised to get me a venti latte at Starbucks? I just hope it makes it into the MMQB column next week. Shame on the Globe for not identifying the most entertaining football writer in the country.

OK, maybe you can twist my arm and say Gregg Easterbrooks of ESPN.com and Dr. Z at SI.com are as entertaining, but King is a prime reporter who breaks many stories and has the greatest NFL Rolodex next to Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.com, media maven (pre-and-post-game shows, Inside the NFL on HBO), and just an excellent writer.

* * *

Staying on the newspapers theme, why was Kerry Healy grabbing her breasts on the cover of the Boston Herald on Thursday, November 02, 2006? Maybe because the Herald referred to her on the cover as red-hot? Wow, that joke was so bad, people are going to start referring to me as John Kerry (ba-dum-dum. I will be here all week, folks. Try the chicken).

* * *

RANDOMNESS:

Is it ok to say RG Billy Yates, the highest paid practice squad player in NFL history, was the MVP of the Vikings game Monday night?

*

Belichick needs to blitz Rodney Harrison early in the game against the Colts. Just so he can say hello to Peyton.

*

Easy prediction for Sunday night. If the Patriots get pressure on Manning with four rushers and run the ball down the Colts throats they win. If not, they lose.

*

Great stat I read the other day (I would say where, but I do not remember): The Colts essentially paid fat and injured Corey Simon a million dollars a game to stink the joint out for them. So what do they do to replace him? Grab another wide-load on the down slope (and give up a second round pick for him!): Booger McFarlane. What, the Raiders would not give up Warren Sapp?

* * *

TIP-OFF

With a heavy heart (RIP Red), the Boston Celtics tipped off last night against the Oklahoma City-New Orleans-formerly Charlotte Hornets.

Let me once again whip out the Starting Five:

1. OK, start with the starting five: Delonte West, Bassy Telfair, Paul P, Wally & Big Perk? Where was Big Al? Where was Ryan Gomes? Heck, Tony Allen would make more sense than Delonte West at 2, Wally at 3, and Paul Pierce at 4. Ugh. Why not Telfair and Rondo at 1 and 2 if the team is going that small? Great moves, Doc. No wonder the season started out so cold.

2. On to the offense: it was, in a word, offensive. Pierce and Szczerbiak put up half of the shots for the Green. Where was Telfair and Rondo? Does anyone know that Ryan Gomes can shoot? Yes, Big Perk should not have the ball too much, but everyone was deferring to lobbing it over to Pierce or Wally and letting them fire bombs. That is not the way this team will win games.

3. Running/Transition Game? What running/transition game? The Celtics did not push the ball. For a team with apparently no half-court sets, they spent the whole game in the half-court standing around like they had no clue what to do in that situation. Maybe Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy (formerly known as the Boston Sports Guy) at ESPN.com is right about Doc Rivers not having a clue. He sure looked dead-on last night.

4. No Kandi so soon after Halloween: Nope, no Kandi-man in the middle to provide a defensive stop when they really, really needed one. He has never played a regular season game for the Green, and I already miss Theo Ratliff.

5. Leave 15 freebies unmade, lose by 4 points: You miss 15 free throws, you deserve to lose. I have not shot a basketball in about a year, and I could hit free throws at a better percentage than the highly paid professionals in Green did last night.

All is not lost, however. The Celtics were horrible, and still they almost won the game. That is as good a sign as anyone can get from a stinker like last night. They are better, they will be better, and I still say they come out with 45-50 wins.

* * *

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

RED SOX REDUX

Free agency is here. Mike Timlin, who Buster Olney is promoting as a Trevor Hoffman-esque closer for the Sox in 07, and Tim Wakefield are already re-upped for next year. There were no exits in Gorilla suits reported on Yawkey Way on Halloween. The previously mentioned Buster Olney has already called-out Derek Jeter for not supporting A-Rod. Buster, you are the MAN! One word of support was all that was needed and the Captain, the MVP, the Lord of Intangibles (or as he is referred to in my house: the most over-rated player in baseball history since Joe DiMaggio) could not do a small act for the betterment of his team. I still say the Yankees trade A-Rod, get pennies on the dollar, and buy some new choker who cannot handle the pressure at the hot-corner (Joe Crede?, Aramis Ramirez?) and have fans waxing philosophic for A-Rod by July. But who cares about the Yankees dysfunctional issues in November? It is time to spend the hard-earned cash of John Henry as Red Sox GM for a day:

Quick analysis: the Sox need a #5 hitter to protect Manny & Papi, another starting pitcher or two, a back-up catcher, some power to add to the infield, and help in the bullpen. Here we go:

Bullpen: Mike Timlin goes to six and seventh inning duty. Craig Hansen, Keith Foulke, and Manny Delcarmen fill the seventh and eighth. The Sox then go out and sign four relief pitchers: Justin Speier (Who? Go ask Buster Olney.), Kerry Wood, Eric Gagne, and Dustin Hermanson. Roll them out there in the spring, and one will take over as closer (well, Speier is a set-up guy only).

Catcher: Sure, we could bring back Doug Mirabelli to have my wife drool all over of him, but for purely team purposes, it is time to go get the eventual replacement for Jason Varitek. Trade with Atlanta and snag Salty: 21 year-old top prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia, buried all year in AA.

Outfield: I wanted him three years ago: Carlos Lee. Boom. Power in the five-hole. Trot Nixon replaced in right field.

Starting Rotation: Daisuke Matsuzaka: I have no idea if he is any good or not. But hey, it is not MY money! Dontrelle Willis: why not? If he is available, go get him. Then, go after the old-timers: Tom Glavine (aka the pride of Billerica) and the Rocket.

Infield: Sure, Aramis Ramirez may not handle the pressure, but he brings power back to the corner infield (even though I love Mike Lowell, I fear that both he and Mark Loretta will be gone in 07). Then, grab Julio Lugo to play 2b.

There, that is about the best best-case scenario I can come up with. Realistically, one or two of these moves would have me dancing in the streets like Mick Jagger and David Bowie (umm, on second thought, scratch that). What can I say, all I want for Christmas is a closer.

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