Thursday, February 22, 2007

RANDOM BOLOGNA

I have decided to ditch theb Six-Pack blog entry idea (as much as I loved it -- how many different beers do I drink)…some days after work one thought, let alone six thoughts, are just physically and mentally impossible.

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* Check out this trade proposal floated by Chad Ford on ESPN.com:

Ray Allen and Robert Swift to the Celtics
Rashard Lewis to the Bobcats
Sebastian Telfair to the Hawks
Adam Morrison, Gerald Green, Josh Childress, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff and a Bobcats protected first-round pick to the Sonics

Holy crap! What a great trade (just substitute Delonte West in there for Gomez). Heck, I forgot Ray Allen was still in the league. The only thing that does not make sense to me is the Hawks giving up Rashard Lewis for Bassy. Huh? You need Isaiah Thomas in charge to make that kind of deal. Everyone knows that Ainge loves Swift, Allen would elevate the game of and inspire Paul Pierce, and they hold onto the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant pick along with Big Al.

So in other words, it makes too much sense to happen.

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Poor (formerly Boston) Sports Guy Bill Simmons: he gets to go to the NBA All-Star game in Las Vegas, and it predictably is the greatest yawn-fest of all-time short of the NHL All-Star game. Reading that article was just torture. Is he the last NBA fan left? Wake me when it is over!

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Fantasy Baseball: Oh joy! Draft time is coming! (Am I a geek to be this jacked about fantasy baseball? Wait, do not answer that.)

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Six-pack of Bass Ale

1. Pro Bowl? I don’t watch no stinking Pro Bowl.

As we get ready for snowstorms and snowbird coverage of the all Diasuke Matsuzaka all the time coverage at the Sox spring training, I need to make one more comment on the Patriots as they head into free agency:

a. BIG THREE:
Dan Graham, Asante Samuel, and Troy Brown make up the big three potential losses for the Patriots this off-season. Expect Samuel to get tagged in some manner (franchise), Graham get wildly overpaid, and Brown to re-sign. I imagine that the Patriots will do just enough to keep Samuel away from the Jets, Graham will likely get head-scratching dollars as some team keeps rewinding his last two catches in the playoffs and thinking he could put up 70+ receptions in the right offense, and Brown, though likely courted, knows that ending his career a Patriot is of the utmost importance to his legacy.

b. FREE AGENTS:
Good thing the Pats have that extra first round pick, because the cupboard is bare out there. There are way too many teams with too much cash and too few talented players to spend it on. Here is where the dollars should go:

i. Linebacker:
The number one target should be Adalius Thomas of the Ravens, whatever the cost. Speed, power, and still in his prime. How can the Pats let him slip away? I mean, Eric Alexander was starting in the playoffs. Also, bring back Junior Seau to platoon with Tedy Bruschi (if he comes back), and see if they can grab London Fletcher-Baker for cheap dollars for the year. Carlos Emmons or Donnie Edwards could be a remote possibility as well.

ii. Cornerback:
Dave Macklin of Arizona looks like the Pats kind of guy, but the Pats do not have a good track record of former Cardinal cornerbacks. Dre Bly would be a SUPERB fit in New England: excellent man-cover cornerback, experience in zones, smart, fast, in his prime (29 years old), and in a bad situation in Detroit. You think the guy would be BEGGING his agent to pester Pioli until the Pats brought him in. He would average 7 or 8 INTs a season in the Belichick defense and would give the team some leverage with Asante Samuel. Beyond those two, Nate Clements is too much money, Nick Harper and Tory James would be overpriced and out of sorts in the New England defense, and other than that there is precious little talent.

iii. Wide Receiver:
I hope the draft is stacked, because the cupboard is bare! Other than maybe going after an under-the-radar guy (of which I can think of none) like Reche Caldwell was last year, I do not see the Pats throwing much money at Drew Bennett or Kevin Curtis.

iv. Safety:
Here there may be hope. The best bet may be grabbing two safeties and moving Eugene Wilson back to cornerback. Terrence Holt, Michael Lewis, and Deion Grant headline the group of talented, in-their-prime safeties who may appeal to New England.

2. Celtic Warriors:

Once again, there is no end in sight to the horrendous losing streak (currently at 18 games) for the Celtics. Their last best chance to break it saw them drop the game in the most heart-breaking fashion imaginable: Ricky Davis hitting a game winner with less than a second left. Ouch! Factor in that Davis and Mark Blount both brought their A Games for the first time all season, make it all the more painful.

Of course, that said, I am sure Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers would not take any amount of cash to take those two jokers back.

As the Celtics lose, the excitement picks-up. Ohio State and Texas games are going to get a lot of airtime in the Boston area as interest in Greg Oden and Kevin Durant intensifies. Both guys are awesome, but I am leaning towards Oden being more of a difference-maker in the post teamed with Big Al to give the Celtics that McHale-Parish 1-2 punch. With those two, and Big Perk coming off the bench to inject energy, the team starts to look pretty good. A healthy Pierce and Wally, another year of seasoning for Rondo, and the team starts to look like one with a future. Stay tuned.

3. Bruins shake things up, No one notices:

Did they trade Ray Bourque, Espo, Bobby Orr, or Big Joe? Then nobody really cares. One Bruins note of interest: the Montreal Canadiens passed Sergi Samsonov through waivers last week, and no one made a claim. The claiming team would only have to pay half his salary for the remainder of this season and next, and NO ONE touched him. Pretty sad to think he was once the great Russian hope here in Boston.

4. Will the Patriots get a Woody?

One of my favorite websites, ProFootballTalk, is reporting that the Detroit Lions have had enough of the big, BC product. Apparently, his inflated salary, ego, and waistline has made him expendable in Detroit. Remember all those writers who ripped the Patriots for being so cheap with Woody and that letting him go was the biggest mistake they could make? Well, I do. In this league with a severe shortage of quality linemen, Woody should make plenty of cash, but he would be a great back-up at center and guard for the Patriots if he were available at the right price, lost some weight and got some quickness back, and toed the line. Probability of him landing home here in New England? 50-1.

5. Lemmy is gone? Oh, Lenny, well that is OK:

I thought there was going to be a Motorhead tribute album rushed into stores for a second there. The Red Sox released Lenny DiNardo to make room for J.D. Drew. Other than the distraught young women still reeling from the trade of Bronson and the retirement of Gabe Kapler, the Sox really lost nothing. DiNardo was a Rule V pick who had some promise and never worked out. A number five starter at best, maybe a lefty specialist (although, oddly enough, lefties always smoked him), Lenny was best as a back-up singer to Bronson Arroyo.

6. MISC NOTES:

* Mike Reiss and his coverage of all things Patriots FINALLY has a Red Sox counterpart. In the course of four days I am hopelessly addicted to Bradford on Baseball, the blog of Lawrence Eagle-Tribune Sox guy Rob Bradford. One of the few Red Sox writers in Boston who actually seems to enjoy the sport of baseball, Bradford is a joy to read or listen to as he always seems to 1) not have an agenda; 2) writes & speaks well (which explains why he is never on WEEIdiot nearly enough); and 3) does not stop looking at statistics once he gets to batting average, home runs, and RBIs. Plus, he posts the kind of stuff I would write about if I covered the Sox:

This just in ... Brendan Donnelly's dog, Snapper, ate his wife's phone. (I can't help it. In some respects a half German shepherd-half pit bull is just more interesting than most things in Fort Myers.)

* What happens when the NBA has an All-Star game and no one cares?

* Gerald Green wins the slam dunk contest. Hmm, I guess I know how all those Atlanta Hawks fans felt in the early 80s: We may suck, but we can dunk over you!

* What if the Red Sox went with a six man rotation? Schilling, Beckett, Matsuzaka, Papelbon, Wakefield, and Tavarez until Lester is ready. Why not. I think a four man rotation is best, but why not go the other way? Someone will eventually do it. Until they started dumping starting pitchers, I thought that Ozzie Guillen would do it in Chicago this summer.

* Closer-by Committee/We love the sound/It keeps the opposing manager’s head/spinning around.
Closer by Committee/A novel approach/A great idea/Above all reproach.
Closer by Committee/Saves for all/More teams should do it/But they do not have the balls!

* Before anyone keeps hammering the Josh Beckett trade as Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio II, we should play the season and see how Hanley Ramirez does this season (as I still think he will end up as merely another Alfredo Griffin), and how that elbow soreness affects Mr. No-Hitter. Somehow, I do not think the deal was as bad for the Sox as everyone makes it out to be.

* It really sucks for your franchise when you fire a coach after a 14-2 season. Way to go, Chargers! The Norv Turner era, I mean an 8-8 season, is not that far away.

* About time Brig-looter showed some love to my Toffees

* Anyone have the over/under on how long Asante Samuel remains in New England?

* Newsflash: A-Rod no longer having sleepovers with Jeter. What, they could not work out the batting order in the sleeping bag? Uggh. I have the willies just thinking of those two sitting around in their jammies trashing Nomar and sipping pina coladas.

* Everyone counts out Oakland, but a healthy Rick Harden replacing mega-money Zito in the rotation, Mike Piazza replacing Frank Thomas at DH, and Shannon Stewart stepping in on the cheap for Jay Payton looks like three upgrades to me.

* For all those idiots who boo-ed 2004 world series (Should have been) MVP Keith Foulke in 2005 & 2006, just pop that 2004 WS DVD into your player one more time and try to tell me that the Sox would have won ANYTHING without Foulkie at the end of the games. He sacrificed himself that post-season. And despite what all the nincompoops and WEEIdiots have to say about him and his personality, he did give back $4.5 million dollars by retiring this winter rather than coasting along on the disabled list and half-assing his way through the season.

* Wah-wah-wah. Poor Bernie Williams. What a classic New York crybaby: Forget I was overpaid the last five years, pay me for what I did six years ago, not for what I bring to the team in 2007. Mucho kudos to the Cashman on this one.

Toffees Solidify

Everton is ready to commit to American international goalkeeper Tim Howard, as he was purchased from ManU, where Howard surely would have played a minor role, and will be minding the net in Goodison park. The sale, valued at roughly 3 million pounds, is a huge move that I feel Everton had to make, as he provides some stability in the area. This surely means the services of number two man Richard Wright will not be required. English championship, Richard? The Toffees also hang on to full back Nuno Valente for another year by taking up the option on his contract. The usefulness of this remains to be seen, as he is right now beset by injury, and, at 32 years of age, will have to prove his mettle in order to remain in the first team.

Bayer Leverkusen 3 Blackburn Rovers 2

Shabani Nonda gave the Rovers a lifeline in the away leg of their UEFA cup elimination round by scoring a late goal to leave Leverkusen with only a 1-goal advantage. With the next match at Ewood Park, that late goal could be the difference maker that could propel the Rovers to the next stage of the UEFA cup. Blackburn was missing several key players, with defender
Andre Ooijer and midfielder Robbie Savage both out with broken legs, and Morten Gamst Pedersen out with a more minor injury. Even with the 3-2 defeat, hope should be abound in Ewood park for Blackburn to advance and maybe make a solid run for the cup.

Rijkaard to leave Barca?

This year at the helm of Barcelona FC will reportedly be the last for the Dutch boss. Speculation is that the in-fighting in the Barca clubhouse, including a Samuel Eto'o-Ronaldinho feud, convinced Frank Rijkaard that it was time to leave Nou Camp. Many Barcelona players, notably the midfielder Xavi, have urged Rijkaard to stay on as head coach.

"He's the sort of coach you can rely on..the door's always open..." says Xavi.

Barca have been dominant in La Liga in recent years, winning two league titles and last year beating Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League final.

There has been speculation on Rijkaard's successor, with names like team Netherlands coach Marco van Basten.

Champions' League...
....starts up again next week! Try pulling me away from the TV.

-Christopher J. Brigham

Friday, February 09, 2007

SIX-PACK OF HARPOON IPA:

1. Major Super Bowl Hose Job:

I know, I know, I know. The Colts belong to Peyton Manning. That said, he was most certainly NOT the Super Bowl XVI MVP. Nope, that honor deserved to go to the unheralded, unappreciated, undrafted free-agent running back who rushed for 113 yards and allowed the Colts offense to wear down the Bears vaunted defense. No, not the wildly over-rated first-round pick Joseph Addai, but none other than Dominic Rhodes. Manning, shmanning. This MVP vote was once again nothing but a sham.

Dominic Rhodes: the BostonSportPage.com Super Bowl MVP (sorry, no trip to Disneyland for this award).

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2. WAKE ME UP FOR THE COMMERCIALS:

A few highlights from the Super Bowl:
a. My call, seconds before kick-off, of a Devin Hester kick-off return for a touchdown cemented my reputation as a sports know-it-all. And it was sweet to behold!
b. Damn. Still no promotion pit at work (the commercial. You remember? No? Forget it.).
c. I still hate the Irsay family for loading up the Mayflower vans way back in the eighties and heading to Indy. I was hoping to see the ghost Johnny Unitas wrenching and twisting back the injured thumb of Peyton Manning.
d. A severe shortage of commercials involving monkeys. No wonder everyone hated the commercials this year.
e. I did not get a chance to post my final pick before the Super Bowl, but it was Bears 31 Colts 28. I thought Rex had a chance to complete a couple of passes somewhere during the game. Total picks for the playoffs: 7-4.
f. The real game-turning play was when the Bears, already up 7-0 in the first quarter, picked Manning on third down and did nothing with the ball on offense. 14-0 and the Super Bowl would have been over.
g. At least Vinatierri doinked one field goal, made the ill-advised kick to Hester, got juked out of his pants by Hester (I am an athlete, dammit. I ran down Hershel Walker!), and was forced to squib kick the rest of the game like a Division III back-up kicker.
h. I will take Nantz and Simms over Michaels and Madden in the booth any day of the week.
i. That said, CBS needs to blow-up the pre-game show and give Boomer three guys with half a brain between them. Strangely, I do not mind Marino on Inside the NFL on HBO, but he seems strangely muted and uncomfortable on CBS. I think Boomer gets under his skin.
j. Notice how much better the Colts offense was with Dominick Rhodes at running back and Joseph Addai on the bench? I sure did.
k. My mother-in-law had the best line of the whole game, but it had nothing to do with the game, and there is no way in heck I can repeat it in a family-friendly blog.

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3. Injury Bug?

Check out this note from Baseball Prospectus about the Caribbean Series:
In the bottom of the sixth, there was a large conference at the mound to check Tavarez for injury. This followed a rundown play where Miguel Tejada, who’d committed a throwing error that put Gregor Blanco on second, caught Blanco in a rundown on a grounder to short. The injury check comes up badly--Tavarez doesn’t feel comfortable throwing practice pitches and walks off the mound with a noticeable limp. I’m sure the Red Sox brass won’t be happy about this.

AUGGHHHH!!!!

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4. STRIVE FOR SEVENTEEN:

Just how gawd-awful are the Celtics? Is their core of young talent a sham? Will they win if and when Paul Pierce returns? Does Danny Ainge need to blow this team up to win in the future?

Here is how I would reshape the Celtics:

Keepers:
Point Guards: Bassy Telfair & Rajon Rondo
Swingmen: Paul Pierce & Gerald Green
Big Guys: Ryan Gomes, Al Jefferson, & Kendrick Perkins

Trade Bait:
Overload of Shooting Guards: Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West, & Tony Allen
Ultimate Wastes of Space: Brian Scalabrine, Theo Ratliff & the Kandi Man (Michael Olawakandi)
Who-Dats: Leon Powe & Allen Ray

That gives the Celtics seven players to build around (hopefully with Greg Oden or Kevin Durant if the ping-pong balls bounce right) who are half-way decent players (all youngins save for Pierce). The fervent hope is that some decent veteran talent arrives (I added the word decent because Scal & Kandi in no way are decent veteran talent) via trade/salary dump/free agency, etc. The team has some talent, there is no doubt about it, and it needs time to improve; however, with losers like Delonte, Scal, etc eating into playing time for Bassy, Rondo, Green, & Gomes it seems counter to common sense. Danny! Time to swing some deals and clear out the deadwood!

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5. Hockey? In Boston?

Well, I heard some team called the Boston Bruins won two games in a row. Bruins? Hmmm, does not seem to ring a bell.

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6. Peanut Butter Jelly Time

Mucho kudos to the Brig-tastic one for jumping in with two footy postings while I sat around reading comic books, I mean while I was so busy I had no time to do anything productive or creative in any way.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I had to chime in, man...

Two things:

There's been a lot going on in European football this week. I decided I couldn't wait until the weekend to chime in on a couple of events, else I forget some of this stuff.

First, Liverpool FC is now owned by American investors George Gillett and Tom Hicks. Both Gillett and Hicks already own sports franchises in the NHL, and Hicks is the owner of the Texas Rangers (let's just hope Hicks isn't responsible for recruiting football players given his record for buying pitchers in MLB). Three top-teir Premiership clubs (Liverpool, ManU, and Aston Villa) and three American majority owners. If one looks at the previous two American takeovers, we see the tale of two football clubs.

ManU, a wildly successful club, has enjoyed prosperity and was one of the few Premiership clubs that was debt-free. The Glazers changed the debt part of that equation, saddling the club with the 660 million pound debt which was the result of borrowed capital in order for the Glazers to buy this franchise in the first place. Also, the ManU fans were dead set against the takeover, and likely remain hostile to the Glazers to this day. Another reason for the hostility is the reluctance of the Glazer family to speak publicly to the supporters. On the flip side, Randy Lerner, owner of the Cleveland Browns, purchased Aston Villa. Villa has been a struggling club, and fans welcomed the takeover in hopes of fresh directions and ideas.

Supporters were all too happy to bid adieu to Doug Ellis, the former majority owner. Hicks and Gillett have been very savvy in this takeover.

They have addressed the Liverpool faithful.
"We know what you want, you want to win," said Hicks.

The two Americans also did not make the mistake of referring to Liverpool FC as a "franchise," which, in the UK denotes a soulless corporate entity.

They also kept Rick Parry on as chief executive and David Moores, the former majority owner, will be the "Life president" of the club. A shrewd move ensuring that the day-to-day business of the club will be minimally affected. So far, the two Americans are doing all the right things. For the Liverpool supporters, let's hope that this acquisition leads to future trophies and titles.

Second, most of the Italian Serie A games were postponed this past weekend as a result of some deadly hooliganism at last Saturday's Palermo/Catania match. Severe riots erupted, resulting in the death of an Italian policeman. This hooliganism is unfortunate, and needs to be better controlled in Serie A. England has taken many measures to clean up the hooliganism surrounding club and national team matches, as evidenced in this past World Cup. As a result of the violence, the Italian football federation have been meeting to discuss strategy. For the short term, several matches will be played, but with supporters not filling the stadium to capacity. Some stadiums will not even allow fans. Also, an assesment of stadium safety will likely be underway in all of the top Serie A venues.

Times are changing, and it's becoming more obvious than ever that these hooligans are not at the football stadiums for the sport.

-Christopher J. Brigham

Dateline Saturday: 'Nova basketball beats Slick Rick Patino and Louisville and Blackburn doubles up Sheffield United.

To quote Ice Cube: "Damn right it was a good day."

Transfer Deadline:

The end of January marks the end of transfers for teams in the top leagues of Europe. Who made moves? Were they good? Were they bad? Everyone has an opinion on this. I'd like to mention a few notables from January in the Premiership and possibly other leagues.

To start, several teams should be noted for not making any significant moves. By that, I'm talking about Chelsea and Arsenal. Both squads are full of good players. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? However, in Arsenal's case, with the uncertainty of the return of Robin van Persie, perhaps a bolstering of the attacking force might have been a good idea.

ManU made arguably one of the biggest loan moves of the Premiership. The loaning of Henrik Larsson, former Barcelona man, from Helsingborgs to ManU for the remainder of the season could well be the bump the Red Devils need to secure the Premiership trophy.

West Ham was another club that busily wheeled and dealed this January. The arrivals of former Fulham midfielder Luis Boa Morte and former West Brom man Nigel Quashie give the Hammers some good midfield help. Former Blackburn defender and Aussie international Lucas Neill and former Birmingham Blue Matthew Upson give some serious street cred to the defense.

Blackburn made some deals, which may turn out to have been more out of necessity. With the loss of Lucas Neill and Andre Ooijer's season-ending leg break, the Rovers had to bring in a little backfield help. Enter former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock and Swiss international Bruno Berler to give the Rovers a solid backfield (also with Aussie international Brett Emerton now playing right back). To offset the loss of Robbie Savage in the midfield, the Rovers pick up Birmingham's David Dunn. Aston Villa made a move I am particularly impressed with: getting Lyon's Norwegian attacker John Carew in a part-exchange for Milan Baros.

Carew is strong and impressive and will help Villa attain future glory. The Villans also picked up Ashley Young from Watford for a large fee (9.65 million). To quote the Pet Shop boys, "Was it worth it?" We shall see.

Ashley is, in fact, young, but that also means he is relatively unproven.

Fulham, alas, poached Clint Dempsey from the New England Revolution. The two free tickets I get to Foxboro every summer won't be nearly as good without Clint leading the charge of the Revs. One of the last Premiership moves I'll mention is Charlton's pickup on loan of Zheng Zhi, the Chinese international. If Zhi fits in with Charlton and with the Premiership, this loan could bear some serious fruit and keep Charlton from the drop by season's end.

Two notables from Serie A in Italy: First, Ronaldo is plaing in Milan. To many, this smacks of a very money-motivated deal, much like the Beckham-to-LA deal. How useful Ronaldo is to AC Milan remains to be seen. He doesn't have to help them with the Copa Italia, since Roma knocked off AC Milan quite handily on Wednesday. Speaking of Roma, their pickup of Christian Wilhelmsson from Anderlecht was understated. I think Wilhelmsson has a good future ahead of him, and can seriously help Roma compete with the two Milan clubs.

Difference-makers in the Premiership:

In no particular order, here are some footballers whom I think will make a big difference to their respective clubs' and their final standing in the Premiership at season's end:
1.) Petr Cech, Chelsea. If Cech comes back healthy, in game shape, and in good form, Chelsea could seriously unseat ManU and repeat as winners of the Premiership crown.
2.) Wayne Rooney, Man United. Rooney needs to be a consistent scorer, and a constant threat to the opposition's defence, if ManU is going to claim the Premiership title from Chelsea this year.
3.) Tim Howard, Everton. Howard's goalkeeping needs to be more consistent if the ManU loanee is going to help the Toffees attain a respectable position in the Prem table this season.
4.) Tim Cahill, Everton. Cahill gets healthy, then the Toffee's are a club with deadly attacking threats with the Aussie midfielder teaming up with Andy Johnson for scoring punch.
5.) Morten Gamst Pedersen, Blackburn. Pedersen is a true playmaker.
Evidenced as he provided all the scoring for Blackburn's latest victory over Sheffield United, if he is on his game, then the Rovers will be playing on the European stage next season.
6.) Obafemi Martins, Newcastle United. I had the pleasure of watching the recent Newcastle v. West Ham tie and Martins showed flashes of brilliance.
He also showed flashes of "am I on the right pitch?" He needs to show more of the former and less of the latter to keep the injury-plagued Newcastle club out of the bottom part of the table.
7.) Thierry Henry, Arsenal. Henry needs to make plays and score to keep Arsenal in contention for the Premiership to spot. This is especially true if the rest of his team goes silent in a match against an inferior opponent (Read: Arsenal v. Middlesbrough).
8.) Brad Friedel, Blackburn. Brad needs to be a rock in front of the net to keep the Rovers in games. This might end up being especially true since half the defense isn't used to working with each other (see above).
9.) Nicolas Anelka, Bolton. Anelka's attacking will keep opponent's wary of Bolton's threat to score. If only he can remain loyal to the club and not get restless feet.
10.) Marlon Harewood, West Ham. The big fella needs to score more to keep the Hammers in more games.

-Christopher J. Brigham

Thursday, February 01, 2007

6-Pack of Miller Genuine Draft

1. THE HORSE LATITUDES

This time of the year is without doubt the most difficult time of the year to get through. No Patriots in the Super Bowl. A Super Bowl in which no one in the Eastern Time Zone really cares about the pre-game hoopla (though I would be knee deep in newsprint had the Patriots held off the Colts). Only sporadic pre-spring training Red Sox news and notes. The Celtics continuing their march to the ping-pong ball tournament. Boston College having abdicated their season by (rightfully) kicking their most dynamic and irreplaceable player off the team (and likely opening the door for the departure of coach Mike Jarvis). March Madness is over a month away. Finally, the Bruins scratching and clawing toward mediocrity, hoping against hope to have something electric fall into place before the playoffs.

2. HOW MUCH FOR ANOTHER DH?

Big Red Sox news comes from the Globe on Sunday, with Nick Cafardo laying out the Todd Helton proxy. Would Boston go for Helton, move Youkilis to 3B, and trade Mike Lowell? The question is, of course, money. Helton is owed a hoobonja amount of money (I just made up that word: hoobonja. It means a real crap-load). Helton would be a huge bat at Fenway, stroking doubles all over the place (the 30+ home run days are long gone). No doubt his glove work at 1B would ease the errors of errant throws, and he should still have a few good years. But the cost! Forget the players and prospects it would cost. This is Manny Money. There is a lot of money already thrown into this roster. Todd Helton is not needed to sell those remaining six tickets out there. Somehow, as nice as it would be, I do not see it as probable. Talk is swirling that this is a dead deal, but there is nothing to say it could not be picked up again at Spring Training, early in the season, or at the trading deadline. One thing is for sure, and that is the Red Sox are not going to stand pat at any point, and they are going to fiercely protect their young pitching.

3. Second Base Looks Dusty

Why, oh why, everyone bemoans, do the Red Sox go into 2007 with Dustin Pedroia at second base? Hmm, I understand he is cheap, young, but unproven, but he does supposedly have a decent upside. Then, I checked out his PECOTA projection for 2007: 554 Plate appearances, 71 runs scored, 36 doubles, 2 triples, 9 homeruns, 60 rbis, .294 batting average, .360 on-base percentage, .431 slugging average, .791 OPS, and 22.2 VORP (value over replacement player). The VORP rating ranks him fifth in the American League at second base, behind only Robinson Cano, Howie Kendrick, Ian Kinsler, and Tad Iguchi. Now, PECOTA projections are hardly the end-all, be-all of reasons to pencil in a guy that batted .191 in his brief call-up last year, but the projected numbers put him above the (comparatively) high-priced second-basemen like Mark Loretta, Mark Smellhorn Bellhorn, and Marcus Giles. Pedroia is a high-energy, feisty, aggressive on-base machine. Put him and Youkilis in the line-up together at the bottom of the line-up and watch them wear out starting pitchers for Manny and David. Suddenly, Pedroia makes sense.

4. Schilling in 08

Yes, yes, yes. I have long maintained, Curt Schilling will pitch into his forties, make a late run at 300 wins, and cruise into the Hall of Fame. The Big Schill did a nice job of negotiating in public with his line about pitching in 2008 in Boston or wherever, but have no fear, his Hall credentials are best served pitching in Boston.

Personally, I think that Schilling should stick around as long as he remains effective. Selling his estate in Arizona pretty much ties him in Boston, as his family is taking root and his relationship with the team appears fairly settled. With the respected Jason Varitek behind the plate, good friend Francona on the bench, and knowing he has the ear of Theo, Schilling is in a pretty good position for a veteran starting pitcher. For example, it is pretty safe to say that the Big Eunich had neither advantage in New York with his shaky relationship with Horsehead Posada, Regular Joe Torre barely tolerating him, and upper management viewing him as a great big disappointment.

5. Black And Blue Black And Gold

Seriously, I am really trying to give a #$&@(* about the Bruins (and the Celtics for that matter, but at least Gerald Green and Rajon Rondo are exciting to watch, and Big Al is WRECKING the opposition again. Plus, the more they lose, the closer the Green are to Oden or Durant.), but the product out on the ice is inexorably boring to watch and just plain stinks. They are slow, undisciplined, and, most of all, BORING. It is kind of hard to hang this on Harry Sinden now. This team needs to be blown-up sooner rather than later. Brad Stuart, Glen Murray, and anyone else not named Bergeron, Chara, or Kessel should have a bag packed and ready to go. There is no buzz around this team and there is no energy on the ice. Identify the core, and get rid of the rest.

6. My Picks Recap: Championship Round

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP PICK: Bears 24 Saints 23

Actually, I was pretty surprised at how the Saints disappeared after appearing to be able to keep it close. I expected more from Drew Brees. Or, just maybe, the Bears defense is getting back to where it was earlier in the season before the injuries hit. (1-0 for the week; 7-2 for the playoffs)

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP PICK: Patriots 27 Colts 17

Colts in the Super Bowl! Seriously, who foresaw such an outcome?

(1-1 for the week; 7-3 for the playoffs)

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FullPressCoverage.com: New England Patriots’ Top 2019 NFL Draft Picks Show Evolution on Both Sides of the Ball

The New England Patriots may have tipped their hand with their first two 2019 NFL Draft picks. Choosing a bigger, more aggressive outside-...