Friday, January 27, 2006

JINXED AGAIN

On a day when the Boston Globe either could not think of anything Red Sox related to report in their so-called Sports Plus section, the big news was the green. Fan favorite Ricky Davis continued the Bent Family-Celtics curse by becoming the third straight favorite player of my kids to hit the road. From Antoine Walker, to Jiri Welsh, to Marcus Banks and Ricky, the minute I hear Hal or Emma comment during a game that ____ is my favorite player on the Celtics, I am going to send a telegram to that player and wish them well on their travels to a new team.

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I must say that my initial reaction to the trade this morning cannot be repeated as it was a bit colorful and all I can say is that thank goodness the kids were still asleep. Once I settled down to the prospect of Ricky Davis being traded, I remembered that Wally Szczerbiak is a pretty damn good player. Not great, but someone who could be a good fit for Paul Pierce. Listening to Danny Ainge on D&C this AM and thinking about it throughout the day, the reasons for the trade make sense. I can come up with ten valid reasons to make the deal. Here is how I see the rationale for the big trade:

1. Oh my God, the Celtics owed Mark Blount how much more money for no effort? I guess he learned a lot from Vin Baker in the University of Hartford’s second greatest basketball player’s tenure in Boston. (Greatest UHartford b-baller ever? Why Bill Chace aka Chazer, the greatest pick-up basketball point guard ever!)

2. Doc Rivers was actually pretty lucky so far, but how much more time was going to pass until Ricky Davis dropped his shorts at mid-court and Tommy Heinsohn and Red Auerbach keeled over dead from embarrassment?

3. That out of control play on both ends of the court in the final minutes by Ricky must really hurt the Celtics chances of winning those close games.

4. Wally Szczerbiak can stretch the floor (like Raef LaFrentz was supposed to do) and give Paul Pierce room to get his shot without having to try so hard to make his shot.

5. The time has come to play Big Al and Perk until their tongues are hanging out or they foul out.

6. Kevin McHale owed Danny Ainge a favor from way back, so he took Marcus Banks off his hands.

7. Justin Reed had one good game in almost two seasons. I wonder why he was so expendable.

8. Everyone in Boston will love Wally. Just look at Wally the Green Monster. He went from an embarrassment to a marketing icon. Forget Rem-Dawg and his good luck Wally, my kids already worship at the Wally Altar and, if I let them, would have the house packed with Wally paraphernalia.

9. My kids love the original Willy Wonka movie (heck, they loved the new Charlie & the Chocolate Factory as well), so having the Kandi Man on the roster will be a big hit (so since the Candy Man was just throwing candy to the kids during the song and dance sequence, why did stupid Charlie just stand outside? Was there an all you can eat buffet for 2 pounds going on at the time? Why do I think of this stuff anyway?).

10. Wally Szczerbiak can hit free throws, and if anyone on the team could hit free throws, then the team would have about five more wins.
Bonus: Tony Allen and Ryan Gomes, come on down! Playing time is here at last!

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HOT COCO?

Hold on, I am at the edge of my seat in anticipation: will the Red Sox acquire Coco Crisp after all? With as much chance to be right as all the prognosticators covering MLB, let me go to the Magic Eight Ball: All signs point to yes. There it is, a legitimate scoop. The Magic Eight Ball predicts Coco ends up in centerfield for the Red Sox.

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WHO WILL PAY FOR MARTE:

So now the Coco adventure has swung back to the three team trade with Cincinnati. I like this deal with one stipulation: it keeps Marte in the fold. The trade has various permutations leaked out to the press, but basically it involves the Reds unloading an outfielder to Cleveland who ships Crisp to Boston and we send Matt Clement to Cincinnati. Not a bad deal, but I hate giving up on starting pitching, especially one so talented as the erratic Mr. Clement. Of course, the Sox can conceivably sign Jeff Weaver to a one-year contract for less than what Clement was due to earn in 2006. One head case out; one head case in.

Of course, the key to the deal would be keeping Andy Marte in the fold (he can DH while Big Papi plays first base. Sure, it screws over Youkilis, but the kid needs a chance!). Whether Marte plays or not in 2006, there is no doubt that the Sox should be a stronger team in 2006 with a beefed up bullpen, rotation, and defense. Here is why there are so many reasons to ignore the WEEI lemmings and be optimistic about the Sox playing through November in 2006:

Infield Defense: Right now for the Red Sox the entire infield, 3B, SS, 2B, & 1B, are all improved offensively and defensively. 3B: Gold Glove Mike Lowell replaces creaky knees Bill Mueller; Alex Cora or Alex Gonzalez represents a huge step up over Edgar Renteria, who would not even dive for a ball in the second half of the season; Loretta is solid at second base and can turn a double play; and I doubt the Sox can find anyone worse than Kevin Millar to play first base.

No Offensive Drop-off: If Coco Crisp replaces Johnny Damon, fortunately Rob Neyer or another stat-head will come out and give the details of my argument: playing in Fenway Park for 80 games will give Crisp the opportunity to improve upon the stats of Johnny Rock Star. The Red Sox lineup is still strong top-to-bottom, with the production of Bill Mueller replaced by Kevin Youkilis; Edgar Renteria can be matched by Alex Gonzalez; Damon by Crisp; Loretta is an improvement over any second base semi-regular (Smellhorn, for example); and how can Mike Lowell do any worse than Kevin Millar? With Manny & Papi still around, the lineup remains strong.

Bullpen: Let me make this point crystal clear: Keith Foulke will come back and save 30-40 games this season. Even on two bum knees he showed the mental fortitude to do just enough to save a majority of the games he was in during a save situation. That is mental toughness. With the return of health for Foulke, there should be no doubt about his ability to bounce back to his normal and productive levels of the past.

Staying with the bullpen, the depth that is there is so much improved over any of the past three years. With Guillermo Mota (if he stays), Julian Tavarez, and Rudy Seanez joining Mike Timlin, the Red Sox should have no concerns after the sixth inning. Factor in Manny DelCarmen (if he stays), Craig Hansen as a late season call-up, Jermaine (not President Martin) Van Buren, and Lenny DiNardo and suddenly the bullpen looks damned good.

Rotation Depth: Yes, the Red Sox have returned to the land of two Aces. Josh Beckett is all that and a bag of chips, and Curt Schilling should win anywhere from 15 to 23 games. Tim Wakefield is back, as is Bronson Arroyo. David Wells may or may not be back, and Matt Clement could or could not be an integral part of getting Coco Crisp to Boston. Of course, Jonathan Papelbon and Jon Lester are ready to join the rotation as well. Also, if the Sox trade Clement or Wells, they really should take a one-year waiver on Jeff Weaver. Yes, he sucked in New York, but no, he was not as bad as they made it out there. Also, he had to pitch with the handicap all Yankees pitchers have to deal with: No pitching coach (because Mel Stottlemeyer does nothing of value other than mixing the post-game gin and tonic for Regular Joe). Weaver would be a great #4 or 5 starter to eat innings and give Papelbon & Lester plenty of opportunity to slowly break into the location.

Forget the Theo/Larry/John Henry/Ben & Jed show: that has no meaning once spring training begins. Focus on the great pitching staff, the balanced line-up, deep bullpen, and improved team defense that makes the Red Sox the best team in the American League in 2006.

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