Tuesday, August 28, 2007

ASANTE ROARS INTO FOXBORO

OK, so it was more of a whisper, but there is very little worry, concern, fear, and or loathing in Patriots camp this summer. Everyone knew that the option to sit out for nothing or make more per game than you made in base salary the season before would bring Asante Samuel back into the fold before week one. Sure, we would all have loved to see more of Randy Moss and Dante Stallworth running under passes from Papa Brady, more Adalius Thomas jumping from position to position, more Lawrence Maroney showing why he was the best back in the 2006 draft, and more healthy bodies, but no one will complain if there are more games like the pre-season tilt against the Panthers.

The Patriots ran and threw the ball with impunity against Carolina. Brady was sharp, Maroney looked good, the offensive line was consistent, and short of one hiccup (where Eugene Wilson limped off after the subsequent play) there were very few things to complain about on defense. Even the special teams stepped it up, blocking two kicks as Vince Wilfork showed off that tremendous strength and explosive first step not seen since his days at the U.

Sure it was only preseason, and, yes, Heath Evans looked like Bronco Naguski out on the turf, but it as nice to see the Patriots looking like the cohesive Mangini-crushers we expect them to be this season.

* * *

One last note, I will be putting together a special Patriots Final Cuts blog very soon. Not that there are a lot of positions up for the taking, but battle for the last five or six roster spots should be intense, as well as the excitement of sneaking the kids to the practice squad knowing that Mangini (or as the New Yorkers call him: Man-Genius. As he is forever referred to here: Man-gina) is hovering around the Foxboro cast-offs and desperate to bring them into New York. Seriously though, we do not really hate Mangina, he is one of our guys. We just hate those arrogant Jets fans who think they are the new suffering Red Sox and every season is going to be their own personal 2004.

* * *

SHOWDOWN

Wait, am I wrong, or did I hear a couple weeks ago that the series this week against the Yankees was supposed to be when the New York mob took over first place and the Sox began to worry about how to cut into the lead Seattle has in the wild card. Hmm, a funny thing happened on the way to September: the Yankees struggled against good teams and the Red Sox beat-up on some patsies to get their lead in the AL East back up to seven in time for the big series in the Bronx.

Yes, I derided all the WEEIdiots who wrote off the Red Sox while the Yankees beat-up Tampa Bay and Chicago while the Red Sox struggled against the Indians and Angels. Funny how things turned out when the Sox got the patsies, no? What the average Boston Red Sox fan fails to realize is that in baseball, there is always tomorrow. The Sox could be at the short end of a 30 run game, or a double-digit sweep and it still is not the end of the world. I mean, the Cardinals won 83 games last year and still somehow the hot team at the right time and took down the Tigers.

The Yankees could sweep the Sox and still win the division. Of course, that is what Regular Joe Torre is praying for right now. For those who have not been subjected to my anti-Yankee views the past four years or so that I have been writing here, I always refer to Joe Torre as REGULAR JOE, because of the play on words (i.e. he is a regular joe) and the fact that he burns his bullpen out in a desperate play for the division lead that the pen is gassed come October. This season has proved to be no exception. Before he retired (or was forced out), I mad the point to refer to pitching coach Mel Stottlemeyer as G&T Mel because there was never any improvement by pitchers in New York, only regression, and I figured his role must have been to mix drinks for Regular Joe after the games.

However, I am not losing any sleep over the Sox being up by only single digits as September comes into view. Most likely, either the Sox or Yanks will win two of three in this mid-week set and that will not swing the division in either direction. A sweep by the Sox would be nice, and a sweep by the Yanks would help them immensely (if only in the wild card race), but these teams are both heavyweights, and in battles of two true top of the game heavyweights very rarely is there a first round knockout. Most often, they both go on swinging with a vengeance at the end of the twelfth round.

* * *

Monday, August 20, 2007

Spare Neurons

* At least for a few days, it is nice to look upon the EPL standings and see the Toffees on top, running with the big boys. Something tells me Manchester United will bounce-back from their listless start, and that Arsenal and Chelsea will finish in the top five somewhere, but seeing Everton leap out to two impressive wins out of the gate gives me the warm fuzzies.

* Staying on a Premiership kick, I am happy to report that both of my brothers-from-another-mother are still gainfully employed, though Charlton did not let him go on the cheap and Marcus Bent is still toiling with them in the Championship League. Brother Darren is with Tottenham Hotspur (ugh, I know, how does one root for Tottenham?) and though Everton ripped them 3-1 this past week, they should crawl out of the cellar soon.

* Since I have probably already turned off three of the four people who read this blog and read it only for Red Sox and Patriots info, I may as well stay with footy and exclaim: THANK GOD Becks came out in style against DC United, leading the LA Galaxy to a 2-0 win by scoring on a freebie and setting up deposed Captain Landon Donovan on the other goal. Like I always said, to be the savior, you have to produce. Nice start, Becks, but you have to keep rising up to make the MLS stay on the map and in the media.

* Jose Offerman and the brazen Juan Marichal-style bat attack for the Long Island Ducks this week was just horrifying. Yes, he will not play in this country ever again. Maybe the Mexican League, definitely the Caribbean League, but he will never play professional baseball again in the US. I never hated Offerman when he was with the Red Sox. The problem was that he was over-paid, over-hyped, and as JD Drew and Julio Lugo learned, Boston is a tough town to start off slow in when there are big bucks and expectations involved.

* Just as an FYI, Eric Gagne is not the devil, the super-devil, a rogue agent, or anything of the like. He is just a guy still relearning how to pitch who got thrown into the pressure cooker known as Red Sox Nation and is struggling to adjust. Remember, he was brought in for October, not for August.

* Whoops, the Yankees are definitely not going undefeated the rest of the season. Nice to see the WEEIdiots getting off the bridge in time to raise some money for the Jimmy Fund.

* Speaking of WEEI, anyone think John Dennis is kicking caddies around the greater Boston golf courses this week with the administrative leave or whatever he and Gerry Callahan are on? Personally, I like having more sports talk and less whining about Liberals and talking about Kiefer Sutherland television shows in the morning.

* What are the odds that the Second Worst Announcer Ever and Worst Hall-of-Famer dies on the same day? Oh wait, that is the same person. Holy Cow, Phil Rizzuto is dead at 89. Send your applications to be the new voice of the Money Store in soon. Of course, if I said Worst Announcer Ever that would be Joe Morgan over on ESPN Sunday Nights. Why is this inept idiot still employed? Again, if anyone has yet to check out Ken Tremendous and the crew over at FireJoeMorgan.com, hurry up and get there and tell them that Hal B. sent ya.

* Nice job by Clay Buchholtz against the Angels Friday afternoon (nope, I was working, missed it all. Thank God for the DVR. See you again real, real soon (like September and October).

* I wonder what Asante Samuel thinks of the dollars thrown at Big Ty Warren? I cannot imagine Asante holding out past week one, if that late. A one year offer worth more than you made in your entire career? Shut up and play, Asante.

* Classy move by Belichick letting Josh Miller go AFTER they picked up the $100k bonus and before the first round of cut-downs to give the veteran punter enough time to latch on with another team rather than get lost with hundreds of other cuts.

* The Cult was a great band. They never got enough credit in their heyday. Lil Devil, Sweet Soul Sister, Edie (Caio Baby), and my favorite: Fire Woman. What a great group. Horrible music videos, way too much Native American imagery, and Ian was just too ugly for MTV, but they just rocked.

* While babbling about music, nothing made me feel older than getting the Rolling Stone mag celebrating the 20th anniversary of GnR and the release of Appetite for Destruction. 20 years? It is official; I am 33 and feel damned old. I remember being 13 and listening to a cassette tape copy of Appetite on my mono Sears cassette player-radio like it was yesterday.

* Speaking of 20 years, that is the last time I can ever remember being this excited for the NBA to start. I’m wearing the Emerald glasses, running through the poppies, and walking the yellow brick road to the Garden: Garnett, Allen, and Pierce, oh my!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What is the Matter with you People?

Seriously folks, is there is anything sadder than these WEEIdiots whining and crying about the Red Sox only being on top by four games in the middle of August? Oh yeah, that Bozo the Clown look-alike on the commuter rail this morning talking about how it was time for the Red Sox to play for the wild card. Umm, yeah, we want to lose about 7 or 8 in a row real quick, get out of the division lead, and focus on keeping up with Detroit and Cleveland. How I restrain myself from punching these idiots is a source of much wonder.

Earlier in the season I predicted that the Sox will win the division by ten games. I said it again two weeks ago, and I will continue to stand by it today and until it is mathematically impossible. What, the Yankees are going to continue scoring nine runs a game? Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, and Roger Clemens started guzzling from the Fountain of Youth? Someone call Ponce DeLeon (wait, I remember him pitching for the Pirates, Cardinals, and White Sox in the late 80s and early 90s, no? Oh, that was Jose DeLeon!) and tell him the Yankees found the fountain of youth (as a sidebar, toss a bottle to Georgie, he looked half-dead the last time I saw him on TV catching a game at the Stadium).

Look, the Red Sox have too balanced a line-up, too quality a rotation, and too deep a bullpen to be down long. There are still a ton of games to play, and the while the Yankees are streaking back to where they should have been all along and the Red Sox are returning to where they statistically should be (If you are not aware of the various methods to calculate a teas expected wins and losses based on various formulas included runs scored and allowed, you desperately need to go to http://www.baseballprospectus.com. Seriously, go there when you finish reading. No, not now, but at the end of the posting. Ahh, whatever, just go there sometime.) The Yankees and Red Sox should have pretty similar records all things being taken into account. The Yankees offense scores more, the Sox have better pitching. As it is a 162 game season, things usually revert to the mean over the course of the season. The Red Sox are not going anywhere, and the Yankees will not play .700 ball the rest of the season. Sorry, but these idiotic Red Sox fans act like the Yankees are going to win every single game. Nope, not going to happen.

I try (and this is coming from a guy who is in a bad mood all the next day if the Red Sox lose, but I really try) to look at only the past ten games when looking at the standings, not daily wins and losses. I figure 160 games divided by 10 gives us 16, or the same number of regular season NFL games. So the Sox have a 16 game schedule just like the Patriots. Now I know the Patriots can go 0-2 and win the Super Bowl, so I have to believe that the Sox can put up a stinker for 20 games and still crank out the AL East. Rather than obsessing over every single game, I break the season into chunks and try not to obsess over every single win or loss (though I think I sleep better when the Sox win).

Please, stop burning those Eric Gagne jerseys and crying about Jon Lester having a so-so outing. The Sox will finish on top of the AL East, should have a fun playoff run, and hopefully get back to the big game against the sacrificial lamb out of the National League.

* * *

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Month of Sundays

Yes, the dreaded Yankees have closed within five games of the Red Sox seemingly once insurmountable lead. Of course, the Red Sox still have six head-to-head games with the Yankees this season, and I really do not see the Red Sox finishing less than ten games ahead of the Yankees. As the pumpkin patch grows and Autumn lurks around the corner, the Red Sox remain in the drivers seat.

I know, I know, the Yankees fans out there are preparing all those email and text messages about the Red Sox swooning in September and that the Yankees are peaking at the right time. But, I am willing to give them a mulligan and a chance to wait until the end of the next couple of weeks before telling them I told them they were delusional. Here are three reasons why the Sox hang tight.

1. All Yankees fans fervently believe that this team will win 67% of the their games with a rotation of the Wanger, Old Man Andy Pettite, Older Man Mike Mussina, Oldest Man Roger Clemens, and a reincarnated Whitey Ford (I mean, Phil Hughes). Yeah, sure this team is going to win two-thirds of their remaining games.

2. The Yankees last 29 games have all been against sub-.500 teams (well the Blue Jays are a .500 team, but let us face the facts: they are floundering). In those 29 games, the Yankees won 19 (about two-thirds). So the Yankees pick up a couple games on the Sox playing the dregs of the American League (Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Kansas City Royals, et al) while the Sox beat up on the Wild Card competition for the Yankees (LA/Anaheim/California Angels, Seattle Mariners, and the Cleveland Indians. Seems to me, the Yankees just finished their last gasp chance to catch the Sox.

3. Regular Joe Torre knows he has to win the AL East or win the World Series as the Wild Card to have a prayer of returning in 2008. He has already ground one bullpen incarnation into the dirt. How long until he destroys what is left of the tattered arms in the pen? Oh, and I almost forgot the Steroids Poster Boy Jason Giambi and his shower buddy Johnny Damon have the chemistry-killing joy of fighting each other for at-bats like ravenous wild dogs fighting for scraps beneath the table of a medieval royal banquet.

The Yankees took their best shot and have fallen short. Now the Red Sox have a chance to get hot against the bottom-feeders while the New Yorkers struggle to hang around .500 for the next month. Be sure to tell all the Yankees fans you know to enjoy the thrilling Wild Cardrace this fall as they slip beneath Cleveland/Detroit as the days begin shortening.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

SOMEONE CALM DOWN SUSAN WALDMAN NOW

Was there anything sweeter for a Red Sox fan than listening to the fickle and frustrated Yankees fans booing Roger Clemens as he got knocked out of the second inning after surrendering eight runs. What amazes me (EVERY SINGLE YEAR) is how often it seems that Clemens is bailed out by the offense after he gets knocked out of a game or leaves losing. It is like he gets to the clubhouse and has the bench coach handing out notes to the starters:

Jorge Posada: I have your son and you will not see him again until the game is tied.
A-Rod: I have those pictures of your wife we discussed last month on my laptop in front of me and I am ready to hit download unless you guys download a couple more runs.
Jetes: Captain Intangibles, remember when I said I ran into your sister in Vegas, well here is a sample pic. The rest get to the Star unless I get off the hook for the loss.

Yeah, I can totally see that happening.

* * *

CANCEL THE SUPER BOWL TRIP

Yes, Randy Moss tweaked a hammy and camp sunshine is cancelled. The doom and gloom Boston media jumped all over the long lean one as he limped off the field this week and was held out of practice a few days. Karen Guregian in the Herald (that bastion of hype and hyperbole) says about Moss being listed as day-to-day by Belichick:

Wasn’t “day-to-day” Belichick’s prescription for cornerback Chad Scott, who is
now out for the season with a knee injury?
Umm, Karen, I hate to point this out, but Chad Scott left the field on a cart and it was obvious that there was a serious problem. Randy Moss walked back to talk with Belichick with an ice pack on his ass. Just a wee difference, no?

Of course, without Ron Borges and his daily anti-Belichick rants, backbiting and innuendo I almost do not know what to do. Who is going to point out at every conceivable point that the Big Five linebackers are 29, 30, 32, 33, and 38? Who will tell us that Asante Samuel is better than Ty Law and the Patriots cannot win without him? Who will tell us that Richard Seymour is overrated, gets man-handled by Kevin Mawae, and dogs it too often? How will I know that Lawrence Maroney is not a workhorse and that Sammy Morris could not carry the jockstrap of Corey Dillon? How will I know that Matt Light lives in fear at the mention of the name Jason Taylor and that Big Red Dan Koppen has nightmares about Taylor’s brother-in-law Zach Thomas? Ron Borges, an over-confident Patriots Nation turns its lonely eyes to you!

OK, so maybe not so much.

As usual, the Patriots are still front-runners along with the Colts and San Diego now that Marty is out. The Patriots have a great offensive line, a great defensive line, solid running game, solid linebackers, good receivers when they are healthy, and a good secondary when they are healthy. The solid teams are solid, and as long as #12 is on the field, the Patriots must be considered a worthy Super Bowl pick, just as the Colts are as such when Peyton is on the field and not in front of yet another camera. There will be injuries to overcome, guys underperforming, and some surprises, but that is football, and overcoming that is why Bill Belichick gets the big bucks. One week until the preseason games begin, five weeks until the real deal. I know I can hardly wait.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

SPARE NEURONS

Picking up the pieces of a crazy couple of days of Boston sports:

* In retrospect, unlike Bob Ryan at the Boston Globe, I am definitely buying into the hype around Kevin Garnett. Yes, the lack of depth is horrifying, but hearing that veteran minimum riff-raff like Dikembe Motumbo, PJ Brown, Troy Hudson, and Brevin Knight are already paging Danny Ainge at least gives me a little hope for some depth off the bench. I still think they Celtics bring back the Kandi-man.

* Can some Yankees fan tell me why a team with a desperate need for bullpen help trades away their best set-up man? I know no one would touch Kyle Farnsworth, but why trade Scott Proctor? Just because Regular Joe Torre cannot manage a bullpen and burnt the kid out is no excuse to dump him for a utility infielder (Wilson Betamit: No, no, shouts Brian Cashman, he is our newest first baseman of the future!). So, if the pen is a weakness, you should trade away the good guys? Hey, no complaints from Red Sox Nation.

* In five years, when looking at the Eric Gagne rental, Engel Beltre is going to be the one that got away. Or, maybe not. Anyone hear about Phil Dumatrait recently? (OK, I did, he is still laboring in AAA but is doing OK and could be a number 4 or 5 starter, but in no way the stud he was originally projected to be. Heck, if he is not cracking the Reds rotten rotation, there is less hope than originally thought).

* Geez, how low can the Bruins go now? The NESN execs must be gnashing their teeth being stuck with the black and gold all winter while the star-studded Celtics start pulling in the ratings for Greg Dickerson and Gary Tanguay and the rest of the FoxSports NewEngland. I hope they have a lot of Sox footage to replay this winter (Tito and his Top Ten Grimaces from the Dugout; Big Papi and the Curse of the Ninth Inning Pop-outs; How Manny Got his Groove Back; Alex Cora for President in 08; The Pontifications of the Schill).

* Regarding Joel Pineiro, well, what a waste he turned out to be, but kudos to the Sox brass for taking a chance on him. Now, we just need to find out who that player to be named later is going to be. When I advocated the trading of Yo-Yo Tavarez to St Louis in early June, here is what I dug out of the weak Cardinals farm system as a public service to Epstein and Co:
Bryan Anderson: Single A catching prospect. Hey, we need ANY catching prospect. Varitek is not getting any younger.
Chris Perez: Fast-track bullpen boy from the U (Miami of Florida) who has potential closer written all over him.
Mark McCormick: Single-A PROSPECT. Needs a lot of work but has a triple-digit fastball.
Other than these three, anything from St. Louis is an organizational guy (someone there to take up space in the minors).

* Yup, Eric Bedard is really that good. Second best lefty in the American League as far as I am concerned.

* When Ben Watson and Kevin Faulk are the forgotten guys on offense, it is no wonder I am salivating for the football season to kick-off. BRING ON THE %@#-#^&#@$ JETS ALREADY!

* Rod Beck and Cocaine? Gee, I never saw that coming from a million miles away!

* Garnett for Al Jefferson and a number one pick. In the end, that is what the trade turned out to be. OK, I can deal with that. I’m off the ledge, and I am ready for a RELEVANT Celtics team instead of looking three years down the road.

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