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.

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