Monday, April 16, 2007

OUT OF ACTION

I have been on the DL like I was a Yankees pitcher and need to get my notes and quick hits for the past week up online:

The King:

Everyone laughed at me when I picked King Felix Hernandez, who was 12-14 in 2006, in both my fantasy leagues. Now, I am seriously considering trading him since his value is at the max. Of course, with my top pick in both leagues, Albert Pujols, at .188 batting average, it is no wonder I am so desperate for offense.

Bye-Bye to the Franchise:

Dust off the old garish light blue mid-nineties Patriots jersey number eleven, True Red White and Blue Drew has hung up his spikes. NFL Hall of Famer? No. Patriots Hall of Famer? Definitely. Having lived through the Victor Kiam era, how does one calculate the impact of Parcells and Bledsoe on the franchise (though most credit belongs with the Krafts)? Both belong in the team hall of fame. For a great article on why Drew is not a hall of famer, despite 4 or 5 hall of fame seasons, check out Don Banks at SI.com.

Rutgers:

Wait, Imus was still on the radio? How is brother Fred going to hock his merchandise? Is this the end of Kinky Friedman as a national best-seller?

Rain Delays:

What a spring for rain and snow. Do not know if I can handle going days in between Sox games. The only good news is that Julian Tavarez is still sitting instead of starting.

The English are coming!

One if by land and two if by sea, perhaps three if on the football pitch?

The UEFA Champions’ League semifinals of 2007 are Premiership-heavy, with two of the hottest clubs coming back from tough situations in the first leg of the quarterfinals to advance to the next round. The lone non-English club, AC Milan, also came back with a 2-0 win in an unfriendly Munich arena to dispatch of Bayern Munich and advance to play ManU. The Red Devils should never be taken lightly, as Sir alex Ferguson’s side has shown us all vs. Roma this past week. Roma looked in good position, but the highly highly talented ManU squad, even with injuries and suspensions to key players, thoroughly embarrassed the giallorossi 7-1 at Old Trafford. Roma took a 2-1 advantage to Manchester with hopes of advancing, perhaps anticipating defending a desparate ManU attack on Tuesday. Unfortunately, the ManU attack proved to be too much to handle as the Red Devils jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first half. The question turned from "What will Sir Alex do if ManU are eliminated?" to "Will Cristiano Ronaldo or Michael Carrick score hat tricks?" Even youngster Alan Smith, getting his first Champions’ League start, got in on the scoring action. Roma, dealing with some key injuries and suspensions themselves, were outplayed from the start, with captain Francesco Totti, aiming to make Sir alex Ferguson, "remember who is Totti," not putting on any dazzling display on the pitch, really for either leg of the quarterfinal. ManU advances easily, and are still my personal favorites to win the whole thing this year.

Chelsea were also up against it in the second leg of the quarterfinal vs. Valencia. Valencia had escaped Stamford Bridge with a 1-1 draw, and were heavy favorites at home. It looked like Chelsea would go quietly in the first half as Fernando Morientes netted a goal to put Valencia ahead 2-1 on the aggregate. However, in the second half, the much-maligned Andrei Schevchenko netted the equalizer that would, at the time, at least send the game to extra time. No need, says the Blues’ Michael Essien, as he netted the proverbial dagger in the heart of the Valencia supporters with a goal in stoppage time to advance Chelsea into the semifinals to face Liverpool.

Liverpool quietly finished off PSV Eindhoven at Anfield with a 1-0 win (4-0 aggregate) to advance. Now the table is set, and this year’s Champions’ league, which has definitely not disappointed and been abound with very exciting matches, is ready to play out over the course of the next two months. If you’re in the Kendall Square area of Cambridge, come find me at Tommy Doyle’s pub watching the Champions’ League final on May 25th. I’ll likely be one of the many guys in the ManU shirt.

Blackburn falling:
The hopes of returning to European competition for my Blackburn Rovers are looking slim, as they went down in Ewood Park to an underachieving Aston Villa side 2-1. Benni McCarthy, a star for the future of Blackburn (hopefully!) netted an early penalty shot, but after that, not much happened to the Rovers’ offense and they get another late-season loss to a club that they should have defeated. The Rovers’ hopes of going back to Europe rest on one, and potentially two matches, one going on as I type this. Blackburn are down 1-0 in the first half of FA Cup action vs. Chelsea. Frank Lampard has put the Blues ahead in the 16th minute. Time will tell if Blackburn has the firepower to come back and advance to play ManU in the finals, another difficult challenge.

On the plus side, the Rovers’ star goalkeeper, the American Brad Friedel, is signed on for another year at Ewood Park. Blackburn have a good core group of players, with Friedel, Ryan Nelsen, Stephen Warnock, Morten Gamst Pedersen, Tugay, Benni McCarthy, and the young striker Matt Derbyshire. It would behoove them to add some serious depth to the club so they are not relying on Sergio Peter or Stephane Henchoz to come off the bench and close out games or fill in for injred players. One possibility would be to purchase the services of Darren Bent from Charlton Athletic, especially if the Addicks are unable to avoid the drop. The Bent/McCarthy combination has the potential to be lethal, and could keep the Rovers’ heading to a promising future. Mark Hughes, no doubt, will make some good moves in the offseason to bolster the Rovers’ squad. Perhaps next season, Blackburn won’t lose to the relegation battlers like we have seen this year, with losses at Watford and a season sweep by the lowly West Ham Hammers.

The Revs are back:

The post-Clint Dempsey era begins at Gillette Stadium for the New England Revolution. They opened up with a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Fire, two weeks ago, and it looked as if they Revs were not destined for championship contention this year. Saturday night, the Revs flexed their offensive muscles on the expansion club Toronto FC, beating them 4-0, led by 2 goals from Taylor Twellman. All is not lost, and perhaps the Revs can defy the odds to perhaps face the Donovan/Beckham tandem of the LA Galaxy in the MLS Cup finals this year.

-Christopher J. Brigham

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