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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