Tuesday, December 09, 2008

catsup/ketchup

I need to catch-up on some recent going-ons in sports, and catching up made me think of ketchup. Or is it catsup? I feel like Monty Burns at the supermarket by himself for the first time in that Simpsons episode. Anyway, here is an interesting thought I've had recently:

Why is it no one mentions the elephant in the room when there is discussion about Mark Teixeira possibly joining the Red Sox as a free agent and creating a log-jam at first base/third base with Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell already entrenched there respectively: trade Big Papi. Now, everyone put emotion to the side, because no one is more on the Big Papi Love Train than me (and my "BIG PAPI-BIG PAPI-BIG PAPI" chanting kids), but 1) Mike Lowell has no trade value, 2) Youk has too much flexibility and value being able to play first and third, 3) Big Papi is a DH only and his trade value will only continue to drop.

Logically, the public outcry would be terrible trading Big Papi, but is he able to bounce-back? Is there any trade value for him out there? The only team I could think of possibly taking a flier on Big Papi is Seattle, who has pitching to trade, can afford a &12M designated hitter, need another star to sell tickets (the Ichiro novelty has worn out) and desperately, desperately, desperately need a power-hitting DH. Will it ever happen? No, Big Papi is not going anywhere, but the Sox have probably already considered it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Greetings From the Great White North

Snow, a roaring (gas) fire, an idyllic mountain view, and a week off from work. A recipe for relaxation, re-watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy in its entirety back-to-back-to-back (a family vacation tradition), trying to talk the boy into watching Superman I through IV with me, playing Football Mogul & Baseball Mogul on the computer (Free plug: by far the best wannabe General Manager computer games out there, hands-down. Check them out at http://www.sportsmogul.com/ to try the demo and fall in love with it and then buy the games) and lots and lots of sports on TV.

To that end, let's get things rolling with some salient points about what is on my mind:

I am particularly looking forward to catching the Saturday night Texas Tech vs Oklahoma match-up. With an Oklahoma win it creates a three-way tie in the Big12 South with my beloved Longhorns, Tech, & Okie with no real tie-breaker (tie-breaker is BCS poll rating--Tech beat Horns, Horns beat Okie, Okie beat Tech...). Three teams with identical records, with pretty consistent strength of schedule, and 2 out of 3 royally ticked-off with legitimate gripes. I love it. Someone tell me again why there is no playoff system?

* * *

As one of the "run the bum out of town" leaders after '04, I have to say that you can call me Pete Carroll because I am pumped and jacked at the possibility of D-Lowe coming back to Boston as a free agent. Toast of the town? D-Lowe will own this place like no one short of Bronson Arroyo returning (not a bad idea...I think I am finally ready to admit that Wily Mo Pena is not going to hit 50+ home runs in Fenway playing right field). Lock up the BU and Northeastern co-eds, D-Lowe could be back in town.

Really, he was always a great fit at Fenway, and with Lowell, Lowrey, Pedroia, and Youk providing superior leather skills in the infield, his BABIP (Batting average allowed on balls in play) whould make him extremely effective again in Fenway. I would love to have D-Lowe back (if only to complain about him incessantly for the next three or four years).

* * *

Please, Detroit, take the hideous Lugo contract off our hands. I would take D-Train off their hands so quickly their heads would spin. Put Willis in a locked room with pitching coach John Farrell for all of spring training, and all of a sudden, there would be some great depth.

Sorry, still not buying the Matt Cassell hype. Sorry, but with two Pro Bowl WRs (Wes Welker & Randy Moss), a starting-quality # 3 (Jabar Gaffney), two pass-catching TEs (David Thomas and Ben "Don't Believe the Hype" Watson, and the best pass-catching RB in the NFL (Kevin Faulk), he should be throwing for 300+ yards. Yes, he has exceeded my expectations (which were an unconditional release after training camp), but I would really have rather seen the growth coming from Kevin "Don't call me Jerry" O'Connell this season as he will be back. Good luck to Cassell, though. Let's hope he gets the Pats to the playoffs and then gets a fat check from Detroit or someone desperate for a QB.

* * *

I will believe the Patriots are ready to make a run when I see the defense return to a normal, Bill Belichick turnover-creating machine. Forget the blah-blah about Deltha O'Neil and Ellis Hobbs holding down the cornerback positions--at least they are not Otis "My Man" Smith and Hank Poteat. Losing Adalius Thomas hurts, but this team needs to start making plays. Too often the defense does not make that one play to get off the field on third down (Indy & Jets losses--both games had 3rd down breakdowns that cost them the game) and get the ball to the offense.

Also, has anyone alerted the team that Mike Vrabel retired last year and never told anyone? Has anyone seen him do ANYTHING this season? Someone tell Shawn Crabel to use his redshirt season well and get ready to supplant Pierre Woods at OLB.

* * *
My Coco Crisps are soggy this morning as Coco Crisp has taken his game to Kansas City. Great job of maximizing returns, as Ramon Ramirez is a flame-throwing stud not seen since Mike Timlin circa 2003 in Fenway. Deadly against righties, Ramirez can team with Manny Delcarmen as a 1-2 punch against righties late in the game, freeing up Justin Masterson to take his place in the rotation.

Coco, as great as his defense was in centerfield, he never recovered after being injured his first week in Boston and never fully recovered the power he had in Cleveland. At least Andy Marte never came back to bite the Sox in the rear (yeah, Kelly Schoppach should have never been added to the deal).

* * *

Holy Toledo! I turn my back and the Bruins lead the division and conference? They are fun to watch, have a nice mix of talent, youth, and a blue line at last.

Yes, Boston FINALLY has a hockey team!!!

* * *

Friday, November 07, 2008

Cancel the "C"

Sorry folks, but the Varitek era needs to end in Boston. Yes, yes, we love el Capitain and his Derek Jeter-esque "intangibles". But c'mon, Jason Varitek had a negative VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) last season. VORP is the number of runs contributed beyond what a replacement-level player at the same position would contribute if given the same percentage of team plate appearances. So simply put, Varitek's offensive production was below what a random schlup pulled off the AAA waiver wire would contribute to the lineup.

Now, I understand that VORP is purely an offensive stat, and does not consider the mighty Captain's defense, but even those stats are skewed by the fact that he does not catch Tim Wakefield. Now, I know uber-agent Scott Boras is going to pull out CERA (Catcher Earned Run Average) as a stat to favor his catcher client, but CERA is not really a stat that holds a lot of water. Much like RBIs, it is often more a result of what players around the catcher and can fluctuate wildly without any increase or drop in actual production. CERA was ripped apart years ago by Bill James--yes, the same Bill James, Sabermetrician deluxe and Special Advisor to the Boston Red Sox front office. Keith Woolner said it best at BaseballProspectus.com in 2002 when he concluded:
For now, at least, the hypothesis most consistent with the available facts appears to be that catchers do not have a significant effect on pitcher performance.
To sign Varitek to anything more than a one year contract (and an option year controlled by the team) with a low base salary and a ton of incentives is against everything the Red Sox management supposively believes is the way to build a team. Varitek has become such a liability in the lineup that I was actually amazed when he somehow managed to infrequently get a hit or reach base.

Of course, losing Varitek or signing him still does not address the need for the Sox to upgrade their catching situation. The options appear to be:
  • Trade Justin Masterson or another young stud pitcher for a catching prospect (Taylor Teagarden, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, or Gerald Laird from Texas; Kelly "Why is this guy sounding so familiar--oh yeah, forget I mentioned him" Shoppach from Cleveland, etc)
  • Rush Mark Wagner to Fenway or settle for Dusty Brown and George Kottaras at catcher (FYI, neither looked good enough to beat out the immortal Kevin Cash for backup catcher while they were at AAA Pawtucket last season).
  • Pick up a Molina (or two) or (shudder) Pudge Rodriguez or (even worse) Greg Zaunn.
Umm, nothing looking too good for options at catcher right now. Theo, you have your work cut out for you!

My opinion: Sign Varitek on the cheap (seriously, no one else is going to offer him more than a free agent spring training invitation) and see what Kottaras can do as a backup.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Blocking Matt Cassel from my Memory

So Matt Cassel is going to make some cash this offseason? Good for him. I'll buy the ticket to Detroit if it gets him out of town. The Patriots going with Matt Cassel makes as much sense as the Jets bringing in Brett Favre (not that I am comparing a future hall-of-famer who had four seasons as the best QB in football to Matty Ballgame): it is short-sighted.

Cassel will not be in New England next year. Kevin O'Connell will be the number two QB behind Tom Brady. This season is half in the crapper anyway, so why continue wasting time with Cassel?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Miscellaneous Ramblings

OK, this time its all over. And somehow I'm alright with it. No throwing objects at the TV. No silently staring at the TV as Gary Carter runs home. No getting sent to my room at age nine for using physical violence to shut up those who would taunt my Washington Redskins at halftime. No cursing at the radio (my Dad didn't let me watch the game on TV) when Magic hit the mini-hook. No silently staring at the TV as Aaron Boone circles the bases. Instead, I turned off the TV and went to sleep and slept soundly. Wow, maybe I really am maturing.

Nahhh!

Instead, I think I realized that the Red Sox went through holy hell just to get to game seven. They were a very good team with some flaws due to getting old and having a few injuries. Someone convince me that Mike Lowell playing instead of Mark Kotsay would not have made a difference (especially since Kotsay left 17 runners on base).

OK, onto my miscellaneous ramblings:

* Derek Lowe back in Boston. Come on, this would be so good (well, at least for the gossip columnists).

* Matt Cassel AFC Offensive Player of the Week? Puh-leeze, he was about the ninth most valuable offensive player on the Patriots Monday night. (What, you want me to back that up? Sure. Here's the list: 1. Sammy Morris 2. Randy Moss 3. Wes Welker 4. Matt Light 5. Logan Mankins 6. Dan Koppen 7. Heath Evans 8. Ben Watson 9. Matt Cassel. Nuff said.)

* The Celtics should continue to be fun this fall, winter, and spring (and hopefully summer as well). A few new nuggets unearthed from the draft yet again, and only the loss of James Posey to overcome (Tony Allen bounceback year, Tony Allen bounceback year, Tony Allen bounceback year).

* Seriously, are the Patriots bi-polar this season? Lose Brady, beat Favre, lose to the Dolphins, win, get blown out by the Chargers, and blow out the Broncos. It's like the Pete Carroll era all over again--that gnawing pain in the pit of the stomach all game. Uggh. I forgot about those days.

* Bruins? Seriously, the Bruins season already started? No way. Seriously?

* BC football back in the top 25. Time for a big letdown loss (I still can't believe the way they whupped VA Tech last week).

* Thank you to the Sci-Fi Channel for replaying LOST from the first episode. It was one of those shows I resisted because I knew I'd be hooked. So here I am totally freaking hooked and killing massive amounts of free time.

* I cannot wait to see how the Yankees try to buy their way back to the playoffs.

* AJ Burnett--somehow I think he ends up in Boston by hook or by crook.

* Thanks for all the effort, enthusiasm, and attitude, Bad Rodney. All Pats fans will miss you this season.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's all over...

I hope this is wrong, but the 2008 season ends not with a bang, but a whimper for the Red Sox.

From Curt Schilling shilling $8 million from the Sox, to the Big Papi wrist breakdown, to the Josh Beckett myriad injuries, to Mannygate, to the bad taste left by Jon Lester's last start in the ALCS, to tonight where the Rays are spanking the Sox (Upton, Longoria, and Pena--oh my!) once again and the season, minus a miracle comeback against ALL odds, ends in a mere four innings.

With Tom Brady down and out until 2009, the Patriots go only as far as Matt Cassel carries them (Seriously, who would ever believe I would wish for the halcyon days of Scott Zolak?). The Bruins still exist only in a time-warp back to when they were relevant so many years ago, and all eyes turn to the Celtics.

Good night Red Sox 2008 season. Sadly, it will be remembered much like 2005--a team so close, but too far away.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Sox Advance!!!

I write this at 11:30pm on Monday, October 6th after Jed Lowrie singled in Jason Bay to push the Red Sox past the California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels, and I have only one thing to say:

ANGELS MANAGER MIKE SCIOSCIA IS AN IDIOT.

If there are any Angels fans out there, believe me, Mike Scioscia just cost your team game five at home.

With pinch-runner Reggie Willits at third (bunted over for some absurd reason, giving up out number one), Scioscia opted for the suicide squeeze with a drawn-in infield and a fly-ball away from a lead. Of course, the gamble failed with Willits caught in no man's land as Aybar whiffed on the bunt attempt.

Scioscia, the "genius" small-ball manager once again proved that small ball is another word for a team that gives outs away and runs themselves out of runs (think of all that horrible "aggressive baserunning" that cost the Angels so many runs just in these four games (Vlad Guerrero gunned at third base by Youkilis anyone?).

Scioscia ran out to argue the play, obviously confused about the sport he was managing, because it appeared his argument entailed Jason Varitek not controlling the ball while getting two feet down in bounds while applying the tag.

But wait, that's not all!

With his 62 save superstar K-Rod on the bullpen bench rubbing ben-gay all over his arm, Scioscia decided to go out with his supposed best pitcher sitting down and hoping he remembers not to scratch his crotch. Leaving in Scott Shields, Jason Bay doubled down the right-field line (just a bounce to stay on the field away from a walk-off inside-the-park homer) and Jed Lowrie singled him home. K-Rod? Nowhere to be seen.

Nice work once again, Scioscia! Thanks for the freebie, everyone in Boston appreciates it, you big, fat idiot! Go buy a copy of Baseball Prospectus, you moron (or better yet, don't. It just helps the Red Sox more and more when you play smallball and go with these Jimy Williams "hunches").

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Bring out the Rally Weasel!

Quick story here before we get to the Red Sox: waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in 2004 when the Red Sox were in the ALDS versus the California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels, one has to remember that this was still the era of the Rally Monkey in Cali. Yes, that idiotic monkey flashing on the screen and everyone in Southern Cal all giddy over a flipping monkey hopping up and down (seriously, give me "Sweet Caroline" anyday!). So, determined to crush this rally monkey and allow the Sox a way to move past this modern-day Bonzo-led squad, I pondered the eternal question: what the heck eats monkeys anyway?

Certainly, Bucky Katt from Get Fuzzy qualified, but with five cats at the time, none of them were quite "monkey killers". Therefore, I decided it had to be a weasel that would kill and eat a monkey (whether this is true or not, I have no idea nor the inclination to Google it, but it would be one hell of fight as I imagine it!). So, watching the Sox on the telly while sitting in the old condo (where we were back in the days--oh, how I miss not having to mow the lawn--but I digress) I turned to the wifey and said: "we need a rally weasel to combat this idiotic rally monkey against the Angels."

Immediately after, she turns to Hal IV (then about 3 years old) and says: "Bear, we need a rally weasel about right now!" Immedidately, he starts running around in a circle as fast as he can and shouting at the top of his lungs: "RAL-LY WEAS-EL, RAL-LY WEAS-EL, RAL-LY WEAS-EL, RAL-LY WEAS-EL, RAL-LY WEAS-EL, RAL-LY WEAS-EL!"

After that, well, it was obvious that the Angels and their hideous, filthy monkey were history.

* * *

OK, onto game three, which will probably start around 7:30/8pm since it is at Fenway and may end before midnight so there remains a chance I can stay awake for it. I was fading in and out of game two, and barely remembered what I saw. By the time I woke-up, I had no memory of whether they had won or not, and strangely remembered Jonathan Papelbon turning into a Volkswagon Bug, which I was pretty sure was a dream. Finally, checking ESPN the next morning, I was pleasantly pleased to see that whatever I had dreamt was fantasy and the Sox had won (I was convinced the J.D. Drew homer was something a J.D. Drew homer like me could only dream-up).

Now, waiting for game three has me feeling that twinge in my stomach (oh wait, that is from watching Matt Cassel quarterback the Patriots). I love having Josh Beckett pitching game three, but I worry about a strained oblique muscle hampering his power on the mound. Mike Lowell's and J.D. Drew's health are serious issues also. With Youkilis and Pedrioa slumping, can the rest of the line-up continue to produce for the Sox? Will the two-out magic continue in game three?

One thing I know for sure, the Rally Weasel will be on hand with me to cheer on the Sox.

Patriots Daze

Let me make this clear: No matter what I said in a moment of excitement, no matter what Matt Cassel does the rest of this season, I am going to go with my initial pre-season assessment and tell you this: he's a bum. He belongs in NFLEurope (even though it no longer exists). He belongs in the CFL (if he can beat out the immortal Quincy Carter). He was a bum in college (never started) and he's a bum now. He belongs on the practice squad of a bottom of the divison team. He is no diamond in the rough. He is a bum.

Yes, Tom Brady is great. In fact, in his absense, it only serves to highlight how great he actually is and how everyone in New England has taken him for granted (myself included). Considering he almost got a team with Reche Caldwell as his number one receiver to the super bowl, I don't know how fans ever took him for granted. Simply the best quarterback of my generation (you hear that Peyton Manning, you arm-flapping, commercial-making, sally-boy!).

No matter how bad the defense has been for the Patriots this season, it all comes down to who is under center. Entering game four, I feel ready to pass judgement on Matt Cassel and I can say that free agency cannot come soon enough so he can be shown the door and allow for Brady to come back. Let Kevin O'Connell back Brady up (heck, let horrible actor Jerry O'Connell back him up for all I care!). But no more Matt Cassel. Please, I implore Bill Belichick to swallow his pride and put O'Connell behind center (Kevin or Jerry...it couldn't be worse than Cassel). But no more Cassel.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Struggling up from the floor

After spending the last week lying on the floor in the fetal position, I feel I am finally able to get up off the floor and talk about the season-ending injury to Tom Brady.



(ok, anytime now)



(seriously, I can do this)



(c'mon, seriously)



OK, the Patriots will be fine.

Yes, they will not be be the 16-0 juggernauts from last season winning games 55-10, but I expect they will look very similar to the Belichick teams of 2001-2003, winning close games and being dependant upon the defense and running game to carry the team to victory. Safe to say, not many of those "nap on the couch during the second half" games like last season and more nail-biters.

Some reasons why I believe the Patriots will remain a Super Bowl contender this season:

1. The running backs: Sammy Morris, Laurence Maroney, Lamont Jordan, Kevin Faulk, and Heath Evans.
Whether running the ball, blocking for Matt Cassel, or catching screen passes or dump-offs from Cassel, the running backs are likely drooling at the thought of an increased workload. Rather than being a fallback plan, the backs are likley a centerpiece of the team's gameplan.

2. Wes Welker and Randy Moss:
Whether Matt Cassel is at QB or whether my six year old son is at QB, the gameplan always involves getting the ball into the hands of playmakers. No one makes more plays than Welker and Moss, the two most dynamic pieces of the offense. These two need to get on the same page as Cassel immediately. If Welker cannot get open on third down, the Pats are in big trouble. Randy Moss should be able to continue his image rehabilitation this season and add a "Young QB Mentor" merit badge to his collection. Like I said, Cassel need only get the ball to these two to make himself look good.

3. The Defense:
Always the strength of the Patriots, this group gets a chance to get out of the shadow of the record-setting 2007 offense and flex their collective muscles. Rodney Harrison, Adalius Thomas, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, and Vince Wilfork make for seven Pro Bowl caliber defenders on the field. Outside of San Diego, who can top that?

4. Matt Cassel:
That 50+ yard pass out of his own end zone on third and long last week showed some serious chutzpah. Lest anyone forget, Matty ended the game with a 116.0 quarterback rating. In addition, Cassel can move and is much more mobile than Brady. For a few games, that can be a huge asset for him. Finally, this is a contract year for Cassel, and as Matt Schaub will tell you, there is big money out there for him to make by stepping up this season.

Let us also (in hindsight) consider that this injury may be a positive in the long-term. Brady gets a full year to rest the balky ankle and right shoulder. Hopefully, he comes back stronger from the surgery, fully rested, and motivated.

The 2008 expectations should not change--this is a team capable of contending for the Super Bowl.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Another Look

A further look at the Patriots ever-fluid roster:

Quarterback
Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, Kevin O'Connell
Whatever happened to Matt Gutierrez? To keep Cassel seems to infer that more changes at the position are forthcoming this season. Can Gutierrez make it through waivers to the practice squad? One hopes, since Cassel is on his last legs here.

Running back
Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, LaMont Jordan, Heath Evans, Kevin Faulk
BenJarvus Green-Ellis should make the practice squad, otherwise no real surprise here.

Wide receiver
Sam Aiken, Jabar Gaffney, C.J. Jones, Randy Moss, Ray Ventrone, Kelley Washington, Wes Welker
Chad Jackson getting the heave-ho while C.J. Jones makes the team seems bizarre until you realize this is Bill Belichick/Scott Pioli and everyone on the roster needs to know that any and all are on the chopping block and no one cares where and when you were drafted. Special teams superstar Sam Aiken makes the squad as well. Hmmm.

Tight end
Benjamin Watson, David Thomas, Stephen Spach & Jason Pociask (off waivers from the New York Jets)
Will Spach last with Pociask on the squad? Probably not as long as Watson and Thomas are healthy enough to get through the first few weeks.

Offensive line
Wesley Britt, Dan Connolly, Russ Hochstein, Nick Kaczur, Dan Koppen, Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Billy Yates, Mark LeVoir (off waivers from the Rams)

My pal Gallagher is no doubt relieved Mike Flynn got cut (wait, that wasn’t his roommate from Marist-oh, forget it.) John Welbourn is another surprise cut here. I can tell you that I know nothing much about LeVoir who was scooped up off the Rams practice squad.

Defensive line
Jarvis Green, Richard Seymour, Le Kevin Smith, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Mike Wright

Again, no surprises here.

Linebackers
Eric Alexander, Tedy Bruschi, Shawn Crable, Gary Guyton, Larry Izzo, Jerod Mayo, Adalius Thomas, Mike Vrabel, Pierre Woods
Victor Hobson was ever a factor, so I guess it is no surprise he joins Chad Brown and whatshisnamefromtheChiefsafewyearsback as bad fits at linebacker. Vince Redd joined the practice squad. With Rosie Colvin available again, I wonder if Eric Alexander should bother unpacking.

Cornerbacks
Ellis Hobbs, Lewis Sanders, Terrence Wheatley, Jonathan Wilhite
Fernando Bryant and Jason Webster being cut leaves only a handful of corners. Will the Ty Law saga return? Is there another veteran on the horizon? Cornerbacks Mike Richardson and Antwain Spann made the practice squad.

Safeties
Rodney Harrison, Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders, Matthew Slater
Cutting John Lynch seems odd, but I imagine they are covering their rears by not guaranteeing his salary and signing him later on. Otherwise, this is one damned thin secondary.

Specialists
Stephen Gostkowski (kicker), Chris Hanson (punter), Lonie Paxton (long snapper)

Again no surprises here, as competition was never brought in.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Various Ramblings

Oh God help me last out the preseason NFL blather as the local and national media fight to bury the Patriots...

1. OK, somehow Matt Cassell remains a Patriot. Well, if Tom Brady went down I think 3rd round pick Kevin O'Connell would end-up starting the next game anyway. Of course, if the offensive line keeps Tom Brady upright for 16 games, the Patriots are good for 12 or 13 wins.

2. I love how the media has spent the past three or four years bitching about the Pats being old and slow at linebacker and cornerback, and now that they are bringing in an infusion of youth, they are criticized for being inexperienced at those positions. OK, let's see a few games and then decide if they are up for the challenge.

3. Umm, the Sox will catch the Rays for first in the AL East. You heard it here first.

4. For my money, I'd take Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jed Lowrie and Mike Lowell over Jason Giambi, Robby Cano, Derek Jeter, and A-Rod. Exactly.

5. Yeah, I really, really regret the Sox letting Pedro Martinez, Johnny Damon, Mark Bellhorn, Derek Lowe, and Trot Nixon get away. Sorry, just wanted to see if I could say that with a straight face.

6. My fantasy football team is a little weak this time around: QBs: Derek Anderson & David Garrard; RBs: Steven Jackson, Larry Johnson, Brandon Jacobs, Deangelo Williams, and Deuce McAllister; WRs: Torry Holt, Roy Williams, Laverneus Coles, and Isaac Bruce; TEs: Chris Cooley and Donald Lee; K: Shayne Graham; Defense: Pittsburgh and Arizona.

Nope, just not feeling it with that roster this year.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

12 Angry Men...

...and none of them me. Safe from Jury Duty for another three years. Some thoughts I whipped-up while waiting for the day to end.

1) ATTENTION: This is a Manny-free zone:
Finally, after seven plus long years the circus has left town. For all the good Manny did in the line-up, Theo Epstein as been looking to punch his ticket out of town since he sat in the GM seat. Believe it or not despite the LA renaissance, Manny is on the decline. Stats do not lie. Manny's VORP (Value Over Replacement Player--just imagine the average baseball player was Julio Lugo and every player was given a rating in comparison to him. The higher the number, the better.) this season in Boston was 24. Baseball Prospectus had him pegged at 23.5. Last year, his VORP was 34.6, a slight decline. Of course, in 2006 it was 66.1--a significant drop-off. So really, the last two years Manny was not being Manny at the plate. At age 36, a full-seaon renaissance is unlikely. In fact, his projections trend further downward as he ages: Age 37 in 2009: VORP of 21; Age 38 in 2010: VORP of 11. Age 39 in 2011: VORP of 9.8. Yes, I am sure Scott Boras saw those numbers, just as Theo Epstein did. Any wonder why Manny wants free agency now instead of after 2010?

2) Let the age of JayBay begin:
Freed from the yoke of Pittsburgh, Jason Bay lands in Fenway to step into left field in the shoes of Manny Ramirez, Mike Greenwell, Jim Rice, Carl Yastremski, and Ted Williams (one of these players is not like the other!). Jason Bay in Pittsburgh stepped up this year with his 29.0 VORP (sorry, haters, but JayBay was better than Manny this season). Last year...eh, let's just say maybe Bay needed a year off. But the two seasons before that were positively Manny-esque: 2006: 49.7 VORP; 2005: 72.7 VORP.

So perhaps the Red Sox really did make the best deal out there...obviously, neither Lance Berkman nor Albert Pujols were going to show up in Fenway Park, and a peaking power-hitter is practically priceless in this day and age. The Sox got a good one for a slugger on the decline and two spare parts.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Overdue

Gawd, what the heck have I been doing to occupy myself and keep from blogging? Ahh, here's the A-Z list:

A. Lost "h" key on the laptop keyboard (Thanks to the new puppy)
B. No longer suffering on the subway and MBTA Commuter Rail for three hours a day
C. Still spontaneously shouting: "Ray *^#*&#!%$*&ing Allen Bee-yotches!" at inappropriate moments in public
D. Dying a little everyday as the Red Sox continue to under-achieve despite being the most talented team in baseball right now
E. Catching up on Jon Land novels while camping with the family
F. Finally purchasing and reading "Mind Games: How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart, Won a World Series, and Created a New Blueprint for Winning" by the Baseball Prospectus staff
G. Repressing my gag reflex every time I hear the words "Brett Favre"
H. Watching waaaaaaay too much of the VH1 Reality Show "I Love Money"
I. Jumping for joy like a giddy child upon the opening of the Patriots' training camp
J. Working like a dog
K. Wondering if Tony Allen is really the answer off the bench for the Celtics
L. In a state of depression over all my Fantasy teams sucking eggs this summer
M. Catching up on old episodes of NUMB3RS
N. Wondering if Jon Lester is really the new number one starter for the Red Sox this year
O. Debating in my mind if Josh Beckett is going to turn it around and pitch like Josh Beckett again
P. Debating in my mind if Hideki Okajima is going to turn back into Oki-Doki sometime this season
Q. Debating in my mind if Manny Delcarmen is going to throw strikes
R. Debating in my mind if Coco Crisp is going to play like he did in Cleveland
S. Debating in my mind if Jacoby Ellsbury is going to adjust and start hitting again
T. Debating in my mind if Clay Buchholz is going to contribute anything this season
U. Debating in my mind if Craig Hansen is going to get on track
V. Trying to work up some enthusiasm for the summer olympics
W. Thinking back to the magical summer olympics of 1984 and all that free McDonalds food
X. Watching "The Dark Knight" --yes, it was BETTER than the hype, but wasn't Batman supposed to be in the movie at some point?
Y. Wondering when "Pushing Daisies" is back on the air
Z. Reminding everyone who was the biggest J.D. Drew signing fan

Friday, June 20, 2008

PARADE DAYS

I have to admit, it is kind of odd not being in Boston for a victory parade, but being so much closer to home makes life so much easier and remains a trade-off. Not having accumulated the vacation time to take a day off, I had to catch the celebration replay on tv.

In a brief phrase: Not quite the same thing.

In my case, I've found myself re-watching the comeback in Game Four over and again (game 5 still angers me due to the blatant attempt to extend the series by the referees and game six was over in the second quarter). I think that in the future, this series will be defined by the game four comeback. For all the series had going for it as the return to glory, the 24 point comeback in game four on the road by the Celtics is unmatched in NBA Finals history.

Monday, June 16, 2008

6-Pack of Miller Lite

Hot summer nights and a cold Miller Lite for Hal B. as the thunder and lighting make more sound and fury than the L.A. crowd did in three games combined...

1. Putting aside the Kobe "non-steal" (see previous post), the Celtics have got to feel damned good coming home for two games to win one and take the damned NBA Championship back to where it rightfully belongs. The Lakers have shown only that they rank at about the Cleveland Cavaliers level of play right now, and in fact, would not even be treading water against Detroit right now. I do not see the Lakers beating Boston in the New Gahhhhdehnnnnn anytime soon. Party on Tuesday night!!!

2. Let me see, the Red Sox have Big Papi back soon (Hopefully!!!), Manny Ramirez fully healthy soon, Clay Bucholz returning soon to the rotation, 8-0 Daisuke Matsuzaka returning soon to the rotation, and hopefully Curt Schilling back again in the fall. How is anyone not excited about them right now? A little better health and they're running away with the AL East.

3. The UEFA Euro 2008 is simply addictive. I cannot wait to see how Group 3 finishes right now. The Netherlands is in, but with France, Italy, and Romania all alive for that last spot, the thought of the French or Italians going home is just thrilling to think about.

4. Seriously, did everyone review that damned "steal" by Kobe in game 5 with 37.4 seconds left? He never freaking touched the ball and fouled Pierce twice! Simply a horrible call that swung the game for L.A. No, I swear, I am not shutting-up about that terrible call.

5. One month until the NFL training camps open for business. Seriously, only one month to player profiles on the undrafted free agents and in-depth analysis about Junior Seau weighing his options to return to New England. Here are the three biggest reasons for optimism for the Patriots defense this fall:
  1. Tank Williams - Call him Rodney Jr., because the Tank will bring back the Big Nickle package and decapitate many a receiver crossing over the middle. Living up to his name, Tank should allow Rodney Harrison to platoon (and keep him fresh) in addition to joining James Sanders and Rodney in the Big 3. Also, if Brandon Merriweather moves to cornerback, Tank takes his reps as well.
  2. Jason Webster - The new number two cornerback steps in next to Ellis Hobbs and holds the fort until Terrence Wheatley can get onto the field. Webster is a legit starter at cornerback and should help stabilize the position after the losses of Randall Gay and Asante Samuel. Look on the bright side: No Otis Smith, Michael Stone, Duane Starks, Tyrone Poole, Artrell Hawkins or ever-ready stand-in Hank Poteat at corner this year.
  3. Victor Hobson - The former Jet allows for insurance if Junior Seau retires, but also gives rookie Jerod Mayo more time to learn and not be thrust into a situation he is not ready for on the field. Hobson has the size and experience to adequately fill in inside and most importantly allows for the maximization of the skills of Adalius Thomas on the outside.
6. The Tampa Rays I can handle. Johnny Damon turning into 2004 Playoffs Johnny Damon all of a sudden concerns me. Fortunately, the Yankees are riding Mike Mussina and Andy Pettite into the ground (and its only June). With the Wanger out until September and Joba no longer closing the door in the seventh and eighth innings out of the pen, the Yankees need some serious wheeling and dealing to stay in the Wild Card race this summer. Something tells me that Brian Cashman no longer is concerned about the long-term future of the Yankees as he searches for a job this winter. Again, the Yankees scaring off Cashman is the best news out there for Sox fans. Cash is the real deal and the ONLY reason the Yankees have been so good for so long.

Only one pint of Guinness in the fridge, so that will be the bonus point here:

7. Tiger Woods. Simply amazing. The most revolutionary athlete (as far as changing the game/having an impact on the game/drawing non-fans into the audience/dominating the competition) since Babe Ruth. ‘Nuff said.

WHAT ABC/ESPN/DISNEY WANTS...

...they get! And in this case, they wanted game six.

The Celtics were able to fight back in game five, just as they had in game four, but this time the tide was turned by Los Angeles making shots and the Big Three systematically eliminated from playing defense due to the officials working their magic. Every ticky-tack foul on Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce was whistled in the second half, while Tokey Odom and the Human Chicken Pau Gasol hacked away with impunity.

No play was more game-turning or significant as Kobe Bryant's "steal" from Paul Pierce at the 0:37.4 mark of the fourth quarter with the score 97-95. Bryant swung his arm at Pierce, struck Pierce in the arm, and then in his stomach, never touching the ball (he missed the ball by about three feet). The play resulted in a four point swing and after that it was all over save the shouting. (And, yes, the replay cleary showed it. YouTube, where are you when I need you? I looked for the replay and only found: Laker Girls Dancers Jiggly Tits - adultblowouts and shots of the steal from 150 feet away. Hmm, that's right--no conspiracies allowed this year.)

Normally, I am not one to accuse the NBA of referees working to affect the outcome of games, but after the Tim Donaghy mess last year, they have left themselves open to criticism from all viewers. I watched, I was not impressed by the officiating and again thought the game was scripted by the WWE and not played out, and I want this series over in game six without any further shenanigans.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Mish and Mash

A couple quick hits while Hal B. folds laundry, thanks God for air conditioners (90+ degrees in the beautiful sub-suburbia of Boston), and tries not to wear a hole in the carpet while waiting for game two of the NBA Championship begins:

* First and foremost, let's review: Red Sox win World Series for the second time in three years, Patriots win 18 in a row and reach the Super Bowl, the Revolution reach the championship round again, and now the Celtics are in the Finals. If only there was a hockey team in Boston, we could dominate all sports!

* As a Sox fan, I applaud the Yankees for switching Joba the Hutt to the rotation. I just love watching Kyle Farnsworth blow games in the late innings. Mmmm-hmmm, it gives me that warm fuzzy feeling that makes up for the bile from watching Eric Gagne pitch for the Sox last year.

* Some plays I watch Kobe and think "This guy is the best in the game, even better than LeBron." Then, I watch him disappear late like he did in game one and think "Yes, they are still one player away right now."

*Oliver Ross, back-up tackle, great pick-up. The thought of Nick "pass the pills" Kazcur as the only back-up to Matt Light keeps me awake at two in the morning as often as dreams about aliens shooting up the greater New England countryside (quite a bit, actually).

* J.D. Drew, yup, I said it from the day of signing and never shut up about it. HOW ABOUT J.D. NOW, HUH?!? HOW ABOUT J.D. NOW, BEEEE-YOTCHES?!?!?

* (Hal has been emerged in a tub of ice-water for his own safety and to calm down. We'll have the cat, Slim Mimit, take over the posts going forward).

* Meow, meow, meow. (My favorite basketball players are Chris Mihm and Mehmet Okur.)

* Wow, that is about enough of that. I will never allow that again.

* The one horse race I don't get to the track for is the only one the 38-1 underdog wins. I believe I will somehow blame Gallagher for this since he didn't call and drag my ass to the track.

* Still in awe of Greg C.'s gold glove work during the first annual wiffle-ball home run derby at the Friedman estate.

* Justin Masterson, 3-0, not too bad at all. Let's hope he's more Jon Lester and less Juan Pena.

* Someone let Doc know that everyone's favorite muppet (Sam Cassell, not Kermit the Frog) needs a very, very, very short leash. At this point, when Rondo is on the bench, I'd rather see Ray Allen bring the ball up with Eddie House on the floor.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Beat LA! Beat LA!

I am still buzzing from the high of watching the Boston Celtics, yes the Boston Celtics who lost 18 straight games at one point last season, advancing past the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals to face the Lakers in the NBA Finals. So much for that damned "can't win on the road" crap, as the Celtics won two games in Detroit. The Finals are rarified air for the Celtics, as it has been an incredible 22 years since they last reached this point.

For all these years the faithful have suffered--heck, I have suffered through the "chumps of no promise" such as Delonte West, Ricky Davis, Raef LaFrentz, Dan Dickau, Orien Greene, Jiri Welsch, Justin Reed, Mike James, Vin Baker, Brandon Hunter, Tony Battie, Tony Delk, Shammond Williams, Bruno Sundov, J.R. Bremer, Erick Strickland, Milt Palacio, Joe Forte, Bryant Stith, Vitaly Potapenko, Randy Brown, Chris Carr, Walter McCarty, Adrian Griffin, Jerome Moiso, Calbert Cheaney, Danny Fortson, Doug Overton, Pervis Ellison, Greg Minor, Eric Riley, Damon Jones, Andrew DeClercq, Travis Knight, Tyus Edney, John Thomas, Zan Tabak, David Wesley, Todd Day, Marty Conlon, Dino Radja, Brett Szabo, Alton Lister, Frank Brickowski, Michael Hawkins, Steve Hamer, Nate Driggers, and Stacey King (and that is just since the beginning of the Antoine Walker era).

Heck, just think of the roster last year versus this team:

2006-7:
SF: Paul Pierce
SG: Wally Szczerbiak
PG: Delonte West
PF: Al Jefferson
C: Kendrick Perkins
Bench:
PG: Sebastian Telfair
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Tony Allen
SG: Allen Ray
C: Theo Ratliff
SG: Gerald Green
PF: Ryan Gomes
C: Michael Olowokandi
PF: Leon Powe
PF: Brian Scalabrine

2007-8 (Holdovers in BOLD):
SF: Paul Pierce
SG: Ray Allen
PG: Rajon Rondo
PF: Kevin Garnett
C: Kendrick Perkins
Bench:
PG: Eddie House
PG: Sam Cassell
SG: Tony Allen
PG: Gabe Pruitt
C: P.J. Brown
SF: James Posey
PF: Glenn Davis
C: Scott Pollard
PF: Leon Powe
PF: Brian Scalabrine

OK, first, is Scalabrine really still on the roster? Really? Wow. I am speechless.
Second, I love Al Jefferson, but Big Al just had no clue on the defensive end of the floor. Great offensive talent, but clueless on defense.
Third, with Delonte West, it was simply addition by subtraction (sorry, had to throw that in there).

Almost time to break down the big match-up with L.A., but for today I just need to savor the victory and keep trying to forget that I once said: "Yeah, but the real steal for the Celtics was getting Steve Hamer."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Big Papi Big Pimpin in the Twin Cities

Great article here about former Twins manager Tom Kelly and Big Papi while he was in the Minnesota Twins system. Check it out at: http://www.startribune.com/sports/twins/19269464.html?location_refer=Twins

The best part is the whiney reader comments about unresearched RBI percentages:
His last year with the Twins, 2002, he had 20 HR and 75 RBI, with a poor batting average with RISP, as pretty much the everyday clean-up hitter. A good RBI man that year would have had 100-120 RBI, if he had converted even an average number of scoring chances

That is rich! Umm, sure, that is it. Let's use a statistic that is totally random (Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position) and talk about it like he has the stats in his back pocket. As far as RBIs as a valid statistical point, I hand it over to the great Nate Silver at Baseball Prospectus:
the foremost problem with the RBI is that different hitters will be faced with different baserunning states with different frequencies.

Sure, David Ortiz is likely upset that he never clicked with a batting coach in Minnesota, and certainly the Twins want home runs and power hitters just as much as any other non-Whitey Herzog managed team. Funny stuff, though.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Overdue

I found myself reading over some notes I had scribbled down to write about, and old Hal B. here realized that I never threw together my Patriots draft recap. Since a draft recap is pretty much useless until about three years later, I figured I would weigh in quick on the 2008 draft and then follow-up with the 2005 draft in proper perspective.

2008:

1. (10) Jerod Mayo - ILB, Tennessee

Delusional is the word I give to anyone who thought the Patriots would sit at number seven and make a selection. Trading down was always the top option for the Pats, and I believe they would have traded down for a blocking sled if only to save the money associated with a top ten pick. Mayo seems to be a perfect fit for the Patriots, having the ability to play inside and outside, although I imagine he will not be playing much in the first half of the season, though he should make an impact if only with his speed on the field. Overall it was a good pick filling a need (someone tell me when the Patriots picked "the best player available" and did not go after a need--I thought so).

2. (62) Terrence Wheatley, CB, Colorado

Another pick that seemed to fill a very specific need and should fill an immediate need at nickel or dime cornerback. With Fernando Bryant in the fold to fill the number two cornerback role (and Jason Webster for possibly nickel or dime cornerback) the need is really to develop a couple of corners for the future. Wheatley, while supposedly undersized, actually fits the Patriots defensive scheme which needs smaller corners who have hip flexibility and closing speed (which seems so strange that "draft prognosticators" never take into consideration). A solid pick, especially since Belichick has proven he chooses corners with better success than receivers.

3. (78) Shawn Crable, LB, Michigan

Another linebacker, another good fit. Crable is an outside rusher who can get after the QB and likely will step in as a third-down pass rushing specialist like Tully Banta-Cain was a few years back. Crable has eye-popping athleticism, and is in the right situation to fully take care of his gifts and turn him into a significant contributor in a few years.

3. (94) Kevin O'Connell, QB, San Diego State

A QB for the Patriots? In round three? OK, if (knock on wood, God protect me, and I never really wrote this and brought on bad karma) Tom Brady missed a game, is everyone on board with Matt Cassell? Yeah, me neither. O'Connell was a good value (he was basically a fourth round pick) and has NFL size. Yes, I would have preferred another defensive player here, but QB is a need that has been filled.

4. (129) Jonathan Wilhite, CB, Auburn

Wilhite was held back in college with injuries, but he made plays when he played. In fact, with his speed, it makes sense to coach him up and see what happens. Exactly what a fourth round pick should be when drafting for corners.

5. (153) Matt Slater, WR, UCLA

A surprise for all involved, I initially worried if this was one of those "I am smarter than everyone else" picks by Belichick; however, if Slater works out in the return game and plays on special teams, then he is a perfect fit for a fifth-round pick. Look back at last years draft: the Pats got no return because everyone else scooped them up when the Pats tried to sneak them through waivers. Why continue contributing to the Jets and Colts when you can draft someone who fits a very specific need?

6. (197) Bo Ruud, LB, Nebraska

A longshot to make the team, one hopes he can squeeze through waivers and sit on the practice squad for a year. Ruud continued the theme of big-school players this year in the draft for the Patriots (only O'Connell came from a mid-sized, non-traditional powerhouse school). Worth a shot if he has only has a pinch of brother Barrett inside him.

* * *

2005 Draft:

1. (32) Logan Mankins, OG
All-pro guard. Not bad for a pick roundly ridiculed at the time. Re-draft that year, and he would be in the top ten. This was definately one of those "I am smarter than all of you" picks that actually panned out.

3. (84) Ellis Hobbs, CB

Another pick that was criticized at the time (too small, too showy, not skilled enough) that turned out well. Getting a starting cornerback in the third round is always a good thing.

3. (100) Nick Kaczur, OT

A starting right tackle with the number 100 pick? A pretty decent choice.

4. (133) James Sanders, S

Four picks, four starters for a team that went 18-1. Not too shabby. Sanders will likely start at safety for the next couple of years.

5. (170) Ryan Claridge, OLB

Wash-out deluxe.

7. (230) Matt Cassel, QB

A serviceable number two quarterback with a seventh round pick. Hard to do much better than that.

7. (255) Andy Stokes, TE

Who? Isn't that the guy who played Gollum/Smeagol in the Lord of the Rings trilogy?

UFA. Mike Wright - DT

What a great pick-up by the Patriots grabbing this diamond in the rough. Not the strongest, largest, nor the most talented, but a guy who just worked harder than anyone else and worked his way into the rotation on the defensive line. In addition, Wright is a demon on special teams.

* * *

Saturday, May 24, 2008

MOTOR CITY MADNESS

How do you label the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics? This team won 66 games during the regular season and sjuddenly got to the playoffs and acted like the team had never played together. Doc Rivers yo-yoed the rotation around with Sam Cassell in and then out, Eddie House out and then in, P.J. Brown in, Glen Davis out, Leon Powe here and there, and anyone's guess when Tony Allen will be around.

Yes, the Celtics have a different bench than the average NBA team. Yes, the team can switch their bench around and have it dictated by match-ups. Yes, they even have Scalabrini hiding at the end of the bench somewhere as well. But there has to be some order so that they actually contribute once in a while.

Here is what I say: go back to Big Baby, Leon Powe, and Tony Allen. Eddie House cannot handle the ball, Sam Cassell hurts more than he helps, and P.J. Brown looks fragile.

One other point: Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett need time on the bench. They did not play 40+ minutes in the regular season so why are they expected to do that in the playoffs? Stick them on the bench and them there for a while.

Boston should be able to steal one in Detroit (No need to panic if they drop game three), and I really believe that this series is totally up in the air...it will go seven, but the winner will likely be whoever is left standing when the four zeros pop up on the scoreborad.

* * *

NO KAKA IN FOXBOROUGH THIS SUMMER

And I am not even talking about that damned "Spygate" crap! http://www.usatoday.com/sports/soccer/2008-05-23-1925653859_x.htm

Brazil's soccer star Kaka is out with a knee injury which required surgery and won't be in New England on June 6th.

* * *

Thursday, May 08, 2008

DE-FENCE, DE-FENCE, DE-FENCE

Atlanta who? Seven games? Fuhgettaboutit!

Well, of course all eyes are going to be on the Celtics in game three in Cleveland after out-slugging the Cavs in game one and bullying them in game two at the Garden. Yes, LeBron at 8-42 shooting after two games is unimaginable. KG has shown why he, not Kobe, is the REAL MVP as he took over game one and continued his dominating defense in game two.

Heck, the whole team took over games one and two with suffocating defense. Wally Szczerbiak as the number two option? Delonte West running the offense? It did not work in Boston last year (see wins = 24) so why is everyone thinking LeBron is going to win with those two ninnies? Delonte sucked in Boston and he still blows. End of discussion.

The real story was James Posey and Leon Powe (and Sam I am Cassell, the missing muppet) coming off the bench to spark the Celtics as they took off after a dreadful start and ended up blowing Cleveland out in the second period. Paul Pierce bounced back, as did Ray Allen. Rondo once again played great defense and pushed the ball.

Another A+ effort by the Celtics at home...but what about on the road? Nothing to do but wait for game three in Cleveland this weekend.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bagels with Sox

With the Varitek Flu raging through the Red Sox clubhouse (fortunately this means they are ill, not striking out repeatedly with runners on base), the Sox have had to mix and match their rotation in order to get through the next few days. Josh Beckett was wiped out by a stiff neck, and David Paule, while ineffectual, at least ate a few innings until the offense picked up the pace. In fact, the lineup has finally started clicking, especially the top of the order. Be it Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, or Jacoby Ellsbury, the top of the lineup has carried this team along with contributions from J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo (as in, oh yeah, that is what we were expecting from them LAST year!).

While the bullpen as a whole has been iffy (Brian Corey? Julian Tavarez? Kyle Snyder? at least two of the three have been bumped out of the mix), at least Jonathan Papelbon, Oki-Doki, and Manny Delcarmen (when not facing the recently released Frank "Big Hurt" Thomas) have been decent. Since Mike Timlin retired last year after the World Series, I guess three is no need to mention him. Wait, he is still there? Seriously? 14.54 ERA?

The rotation has been inconsistent. I have no doubt that Josh Beckett will be fine in no time and that the innings saved in March and April will benefit in September and October. Daisuke will win 15 to 20 this season as well. Jon Lester seems to be figuring things out. While I am not sure that Clay Buchholz does not need additional seasoning, at least his six shutout innings and win the other day puts him ahead of the Yankees dynamic duo of youngsters now 0-5. Shaky Wakey is simply Shaky Wakey. Same old, same old there.

Considering the travel to Japan, the West Coast, Canada, and then the Yankees, the Sox are in pretty good shape all in all at the 1/10th point of the season. No, they did not start 15-2, but they are certainly better off than anyone should have hoped for at this point of the season.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Miscellaneous Ramblings

Lots of topics to touch on, so to paraphrase Jimy (Hendrix, not former Sox Manager Jimy Williams!): Roll over Rover, and let Hal B. take over!

* Hey, where are all those "J.D. Drew sucks" idiots on WEEI from last year? Damn right, I've been cheerleading J.D. from day one. Funny how that sweet stroke shuts up the bozos when its dropping in and he's hitting .350.

* Outside of Arizona, has any team looked World Series ready in Major League Baseball this season? By the way, right now I'd say Brandon Webb is edging ahead of Jake Peavy as the best pitcher in the National League. The best pitcher no one knows right now is Webb. Of course, it oculd be worse, imagine being a San Francisco Giants fan knowing that Barry Zito is taking up a big part of the salary pie.

* Big Papi needs love, not jeers.

* Red Sox - Yankees: You know, a few years ago, I used to be physically ill after a Sox loss to the Yankees. At this point, I just accept that the teams are going to split the season series 10-9, 9-10, 11-8, 8-11 or whatever and save the stress for October. Johnny Damon has certainly been forgotten in Boston, and has turned into yet another Mike Mussina, Bobby Abreau, Jason Giambi, and Hideki Matsui over-priced and under-performing bozo in the Big Apple.

* Pedro Martinez hurt again? For all the love Pedro got here in Boston, it is without a doubt karma that he is struggling so mightily in the Big Apple. All I need is to see Jason Lee in his Earl character talking about Pedro, Carson Daly, and karma. Yes, this is a great time to be a Sox fan.

* Jason Lee will always be Brodie to me, however. Mallrats: the most underappreciated movie ever. It was a comic masterpiece that the world was just not ready for in 1995. Ethan Suplee, also gaining fame as Randy in My Name is Earl, was staring at the picture as the great Willam in Mallrats and was actually quite pivotal in the plot in accidently allowing Silent Bob to use the Force to save the day.

* More on the draft as it approaches, but I doubt Bill Belichick is stupid enough to pass on Darren McFadden or Matt Ryan even though RB and QB are all set.

* OK, let's start the "Fire 'Claude the Clod' Julian" campaign for benching Phil Kessel in the playoffs. OK. Let me think, the Bruins are an offensively challenged team and I can think of maybe two players who can create their own shot and can take a puck at mid-ice and rush the net and score: Marc Savard and Phil Kessel. So I think it makes so much sense for the coach to bench one of those two guys because..why? He's not "Gritty" enough. OK, let me make an analogy to that. The Yankees make the playoffs and bench A-Rod and put in Morgan Ensburg at third base in the playoffs, because A-Rod is not "gritty" enough.

Monday, April 14, 2008

GOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL!

Just when you thought it was safe to count out the Bruins...a win in game three ensures another hunt for the Red Sox game when the Bruins are on NESN.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Konnichi Wa

Well, Hal B. has definately had better opening days. Nothing like getting up at 5:30AM to catch the pre-game show from Japan and getting a satellite signal problem from DirecTV. Now, first off, I have been DirecTV's best advertisement, telling one and all how great they are. Well, let me say that I was far from that person Tuesday morning. In fact, my sexy wife ended-up calling DirecTV and waiting on hold for almost an hour because I was in no shape to talk intelligently.

Fortunately, it was fixed in time to allow me to watch the recorded replay when I got home from work, but it was far from the same. I really wanted to wake the kids, fire-up the grill and throw on some hot dogs, and crack a beer and watch the game. Not suitable for mornings before work, however.

The fact that the Sox left with a split was good enough for me. The circus is gone, and now they can focus on the season and the American League East.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Miscellaneous Ramblings

Hal B. is back and tying up some loose thoughts that need to land somewhere...

I don't think there was a game that was more impressive as far as a team sucking it up and coming back than the Celtics against San Antonio in San Antonio? For as bad as the Celtics looked in the first quarter, their comeback against such an excellent team was eye-opening. The Green are legit, and that was obvious to all but the nitwits who were "shocked" after the Celtics decimated the Houston Rockets 22 game win streak.

* * *

While I find it admirable that the Red Sox stood up for the training staff and got their money for them, I have to ask the question: Why do you need $40k for a week in Japan? I'd bet there is someone on the Travel Network who can show you how to get by on $40 dollars a day in Japan.

* * *

-- WARNING * This is non-Boston sports. In fact, we're talking soccer again * WARNING --
From the better late than never depatment: Finally got to my DVR list and the Everton-Portsmouth game from a couple weeks ago. Great effort by the Toffees and their fight to get into the top five. Nice to see Cahill get over that goal-less hump at last.

* * *

You can tell it is that time of the year when there's no football, no REAL baseball, infrequent basketball, and the Bruins make thier push for a high draft pick by the amount of Star Trek: Voyager I have been watching.

* * *

Anyone that lives in a delusional world like I do where they believer they are the greatest General Manager in sports, forget the Wi/PS3/etc games, all you need is http://www.sportsmogul.com/. They have a free download of the 2006 Baseball Mogul game to try out, online games, and demos on the new 2008 games. Great stuff. I got an old version (2002 or 2003) at Ocean State Job Lot one time for $1 and was completely hooked. Easy enough to use, and realistic enough that you cannot stop playing. To say it is an addiction for me is an understatement. Check it out.

* * *

Personally, I think it is a big plus that I do not have to endure Tina Cervasio at the Red Sox games on NESN. I never understood the attraction to her. She was annoying and seemed vaguely Dude-ish--as in a well-dressed tranny kind of way.

* * *

I still think that in the course of the next couple of years the Red Sox are going to regret not letting Mike Lowell walk and grabbing Pedro Feliz for a year or two until they plug in Jed Lowrie. I guess it could be worse: anyone seen Andy Marte on a milk carton yet?

* * *

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Luck of the Irish

Since it is St. Patrick's Day Weekend, I guess I have to write about the best team in basketball, eh? The Celtics have been otherworldly this season, with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen looking as if they'd been playing together since high school, or at least in the off-season (which they kind of have been doing). I really like seeing the growth of Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, and Big Baby over the course of the season, further proving no one can draft like Danny Ainge.

The real stars who have made the difference with the Celtics have been the role players: Eddie House has been looking like Vinnie "Microwave" Johnson on the court; James Posey is a great defensive player who can take the ball to the hoop if necessary; and Tony Allen has been better than I expected, considering his knee was spaghetti at one point last season.

Say what you will about Doc Rivers, but his test does not start until the post-season. He certainly made the right moves in the past couple of weeks integrating Garnett back into the line-up, resting the starters in blow-outs, and getting Ray Allen pushing the ball to the basket now that he is healthy. Also, that Detroit game was the most exciting game at the Garden since the glory days of the run to the Eastern Conference Finals five years ago.

So, what do I expect? Nothing short of a trip to the finals. I expect Detroit and Cleveland will give them a heck of a fight, considering they both have been there and done that in the playoffs. I cannot guarantee, but I feel good about the playoff possibilities for the Green.

Emotional Healing

Doc: "So tell me about your issues, Mr. Bent."

Hal: "It's the damned Super Bowl. Eli Freaking Manning? I mean, 4th down and long and he turns into a cross of Terry Bradshaw and Kenny Stabler. What the..."

Doc: "Mr. Bent, please wipe the white foam frothing from the corner of your mouth and continue."

Hal: "Then this stupid 'Spygate' crapola. Every team in the league videotapes. Where did Belichick learn it from? The Tuna? Ray Perkins? Come on, the Patriots are taking the heat for the entire league, and the media just cannot wait to pile on. If I hear the words 'Matt Walsh' one more time I am going to explode. In fact, I will..."

Doc: "Mr. Bent, you are frothing again."

Hal: "Call me by my name, Doc. Mr. Bent is my dad."

Doc: "Of course, Harold."

Hal: "Forget it."

Doc: "What?"

Hal: "Nothing, go on. I'm paying by the hour anyway, you quack."

Doc: "Yes. So let us move on from football. The Super Bowl was a long time ago and you need to focus on the fact that the Patriots have the number seven pick in the draft, the team has cap space to go shopping for bargains, and Randy Moss is back at a relatively cheap price for a record-breaking receiver."

Hal: "Holy..."

Doc: "Yes?"

Hal: "Nothing. Just didn't realize you really knew what you were talking about."

Doc: "So basketball, Mr. Bent, I mean Harold?"

Hal: "Call me Hal, please.

Doc: "Hal Please?"

Hal: "Forget it."

Doc: "What?"

Hal: "OK, basketball. Well, I am a native New Englander so no one here cares about college basketball until the tourney starts, and I already got my e-mail from corporate HR in Boston banning gambling pools via e-mail, which is kind of uncool considering my last boss at my previous job was a Tourney Junkie who brought in a TV for the break room."
"The Celtics are relevant again, which is great for me since I've been sticking-up for Danny Ainge since day one on the job (do you hear that Bill Simmons at ESPN.com, you Hollywood sell-out. Say hi to Sarah Silverman for me, you phony, next time you're licking Jimmy Kimmel's shoes).

Doc: "We should explore this anger..."

Hal: "Nah, been there, done that. Love the Sports Guy when he writes like he did. Hate him when he goes all Hollywood."

Doc: "I meant the Sarah Silverman reference."

Hal: "I got a thing for chicks in those three-quarter length jersey shirts, what can I say?"

Doc: "Right, so on to the Celtics again?"

Hal: "Yeah. So I am all excited about them winning again, but I can feel myself slipping into that mode where I cannot handle a winning team in New England. Like the Red Sox and Patriots winning it all. It totally changed me. Now instead of being able to handle defeat with class, I am kicking things, throwing things at the TV, swearing, and walking around in a huff for three days after the Sox or Pats lose. Now I am doing the same with the Celtics."

Doc: "Interesting, you used the word 'huff'. Didn't you once say you had Aubrey Huff on your fantasy baseball team two years in a row? That could be significant."

Hal: "What the...?"

Doc: "Mr. Bent, I mean, Harold. This session is being taped for Sports Psychology Today, please watch your language."

Hal: "OK. Speaking of Aubrey Huff, right now I'm in two leagues for fantasy baseball and am in between drafts. One drafted last week, the next Monday night. After being burned by Alex Gordon and Felix Hernandez last year, I decided to change my entire draft strategy. I went to BaseballProspectus.com and downloaded the PECOTA rankings for every player in the league and drafted based on their VORP projections with EQA being the tie-breaker for positional players and WARP breaking ties for pitchers."

Doc: "What the hell are you talking about, you sabermetric nerd?"

Hal: "Doc, watch your language! Anyway, I decided to simply draft the player who had the highest ranking regardless of position."

Doc: "Ahh, and this is why you took Joba Chamberlain in the fourth round. I was wondering who the idiot was who did that and was getting lambasted all over the Yahoo.com fantasy baseball chat rooms."

Hal: "I didn't like it either. But I started to falter in the middle rounds and panicked and got away from my draft order and started filling positions instead of drafting value regardless of position. Granted, I took the highest ranked position player on the board ranked by VORP, but still, I felt dirty afterwards for not sticking to my plan."

Doc: "Did you take a shower? Water cleanses, washes away all your sins..."

Hal: "Just shut up, OK? This is my therapy. So anyway, I am excited about baseball starting, even though the Sox have that stupid trip to Japan and a killer schedule in April. But, even with Beckett tweaking his back, there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, I lke the idea of saving some innings for later with him."

Doc: "And your obsessive-disorder regarding the Yankees?"

Hal: "How many rings this century? Nuff said!"

Doc: "Ahh, our time is up. Easiest $25k I ever made."

Hal: "You take post-dated checks, right?"

Doc: "Cash or charge only!"

Hal: "Well, guess you have to catch me. Spider-man away!"

Doc: "He does know we're on the thirty-third floor, right?"

Hal: "Auuuuggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Stupid Spring Training Stories

Is there a worse story than the "Jonathan Papelbon Contract Haggle"? He has no leverage until arbitration next year, so he negotiates with the only hammer he has: the media. Whether the Sox pay him $500k or $5M this season, he is not going to do anything but get every penny from the Sox next year. I hate these non-stories that take over the dog days of spring training.

* * *

What I do like this spring:
  • Bartolo Colon as an insurance policy in the rotation to eat the Lester/Buchholz innings to keep them at their limits;
  • Sean Casey in the clubhouse and giving Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell time off;
  • Big Papi with a knee that actually lets him drive the ball with authority
  • Curt Schilling with a muzzle while he rehabs the arm;
  • J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo finally being able to unclench their cheeks during a game;
  • David Aardsma: the former Rice University star comes out of nowhere to play a big role this season out of the bullpen. You heard it here first.
  • The Sox manhandling BC and Northeastern--no mercy!

* * *

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Free Agency Brings Changes

The Patriots have embarked on yet another off-season with cash in hand under the cap and a plethora of free agents on the marketplace. Unlike the dizzying late winter and spring of 2007, the 2008 Patriots have seemingly gone back to standing around and watching stars and solid contributors leave left and right. So far the Patriots off-season has consisted of:

* Top cornerback Asante Samuel leaving to become one of the highest paid corners in the game and now wearing number 22 in Philly;
* Number two cornerback Randall Gay is going back to Louisiana to sign with the Saints;
Safety Eugene Wilson walking out the door without an offer;
* Starting Outside Linebacker Rosie Colvin unceremoniously shown the door
* All-Pro and record-setting wide receiver Randy Moss seemingly getting further from re-signing everyday;
* Number two receiver Donte Stallworth leaving for the greener pastures of Cleveland;
* Some minor re-signings such as Long Snapper Lonie Paxton, Special Teamer Larry Izzo, Special Teamer Kelley Washington, and 13 year veteran Tedy Bruschi deciding to return;
* Also, Jabar Gaffney may or may not be set to return, although at this time he would be the most experienced outside receiver on the team;
* Finally, there was thought that Zach Thomas may be joining the Pats after the Dolphins released him, but instead he ended up in Dallas.

Analysis:
* Like last off-season the Patriots again have a huge hole at wide receiver with Wes Welker the only starter under contract. If Moss and Gaffney sign, the holes go away, but I still have to wonder when the real Chad Jackson makes an appearance for the Patriots;
* Outside linebacker depth is limited with Colvin gone, and the Patriots STILL have no answer on the inside as Junior Seau goes under the knife and likely off to retirement and surfing;
* Cornerback is a HUGE concern now. What was a position with no depth is now a position with simply no one. Maybe Otis Smith can suit back up and Ty Law and Tyrone Poole will come back.
* The number seven draft pick stares us in the face and tempts us with skill players on defense and offense. I am sure the Patriots will consider many trades (Dallas with two picks in the 20s seems like a likely dance partner), although I ALWAYS hesitate to trade down when I think of the Patriots trading down for DE Ray Agnew and LB Chris Singleton while San Diego grabs LB Junior Seau in that spot. Or the Patriots moving down and grabbing C Trevor Matich while San Francisco grabs WR Jerry Rice in that position the Patriots just gave up.

In Bill We Trust, right? Well, I admit I am starting to sweat, and I want to start seeing some results and players on the roster.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Tragedy or Travesty?

I'm not sure I even want to write about Super Bowl XLII; I mean, what is left to say after the Patriots choke another opportunity for the third year in a row. Denver in 05; Indy in 06; and now the Giants in 07. Three Super Bowls left on the table.

I think the lesson I take from this is that the best team does not always win. In fact, sometime the best effort does not lead to victory. The Pats had a great season, and laid an egg in the big game. What kind of fan gets so spoiled by success that 18-1 is not good enough?

I think of Rod Rust, and then I feel better...

Saturday, February 02, 2008

WELCOME MAYOR!

Menino? Pshaw!

Super Bowl hype and Spygate hanger-ons? Fuhgettahboutit!

The big news is the Red Sox. No, they did not bankrupt their farm system in an attempt to get Johan Santana and give him money in the Kevin Brown/Mike Hampton/Barry Zito category (yikes, what a club to join!), but they did enough to keep him from the Yankees and into the hands of the Mets.

The Sox signed Sean "The Mayor" Casey, one of the most well-liked, admired, personable, media-friendly, and beloved players in the game of baseball. A sweet-swinging lefty who can fill-in at DH or 1B and gets on base like his name was Youkilis gives the Sox some security if Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis, or (heaven-forbid) Big Papi gets hurt during the season. Plus, he cost less than $1 million for this year and no long-term contract.

A-Plus move behind the scenes that will result in the most popular back-up in Boston since Kevin Millar.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Catching up

What a great win Saturday night by the Patriots over a Jacksonville team that practically played perfect (or at least to the best of their potential). From a revamped running game led by a rejuvenated Laurence Maroney, to Tom Brady spreading the ball around with uncanny ability and accuracy. With the offensive line blocking all comers and the defense making the necessary adjustments at halftime, the Patriots continued absorbing a team's best shot and still walking out with an impressive win.

Yes, Jacksonville had the correct gameplan in hand to be aggressive throwing the ball because there's no doubt they needed 5 or 6 scores to win. However, Tom Brady was just too good, too efficient, too much of the best damned quarterback ever seen in the NFL. Even with Randy Moss reduced to being a highly-paid decoy, the Pats methodically and mercilessly dinked, dunked, and pounded their way down the field again and again. Like Kevin Youkilis at the plate, Brady methodically broke down the defense again and again.

As an added bonus, the world champion Colts were eliminated by a Chargers today. The Chargers had a dinged-up Antonio Gates, no Ladanian Tomlinson after the first quarter, and later lost Philip Rivers (which was a blessing in disguise, believe me!).

Much like the Indians taking out the Yankees in the divisional series this fall, the Patriots have their twin tower sitting at home as they take on another rival. For me, beating the big-mouth Chargers would warm the cockles on my heart since my displeasure towards them is so high. At least I respect the Colts!

So the long wait until next weekend begins...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

More talk

England National Squad - 3 Lions, or a bunch of Lambs?

Since I'm completely mailing it in this week at work, I've decided to follow up my last post with another post. I have been following closely the Euro 2008 qualifying matches this year. So much so that I may be tempted to get a subscription to GolTV for the Euro championships this summer (Hal, finals party?). Anyway, particularly enjoyable was the "group of death" with France, Scotland, and Italy. It was the final match for Scotland, who played Italy at home, that eliminated them from contention this year. Better luck next year, tartan army! It's great to see the smaller international squads make headway against the giants. However, a "giant" that was nothing but disappointing was the English side. England, after losing to Russia in the next-to-last game of their qualifying schedule, had to root for Israel to defeat or draw vs. Russia in order to stay alive. The 3 "lions" survived, only to blow it majorly vs. Croatia at Wembley. The whole English squad, with the exception of two players, Peter Crouch and the much maligned David Beckham, showed a complete lack of interest in the endeavor. They couldn't wait to get back to their club teams. John Terry, Frank Lampard, Stevie Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, were all utterly disappointing in the qualifying stage. Obviously, they cared more about the club honors. I have been on a few chat sites where all the English fans are slamming Becks for coming to LA to play "soccer." I had to lash back after the pathetic display by the English side and the delicious irony of Beckham being one of two players who really cared about Euro qualifying. Well, at least all the English players can focus on domestic and European club competition instead of representing their country. Alexi Lalas can breathe a sigh of relief as, Beckham will not be distracted by Euro competition and can focus on MLS matters. Since the loss to Croatia, England has fired the coach, former Middlesbrough man Steve McLaren, and has hired the high profile Fabio Capello to turn their World Cup fortunes around. Hopefully, the squad produces results for Capello, and brings home the ultimate prize, which has been missing from England for many years. Not good for the country that invented the game.

Going Green

It feels great to follow the Celtics again! Their games have been entertaining beyond my imagination, and they are playing at a level that has not been seen in years. Hal, I have to say, the HSG Bill Simmons said it best when he spoke of the Celtics and their "chemacterility."
"Sure, Danny Ainge revamped the Celtics by acquiring Ray Allen and KG, but the rest of his game plan has been equally important to the team's early success, and it hasn't received nearly enough fanfare. He filled a depleted roster with unselfish, high-character guys like Eddie House, James Posey and Scot Pollard and refused to pursue any moody vets."
Chemistry and character. It's at work in Boston. Not just the Celtics either. It's in almost every sports team in Boston, and it's surprising that GMs of sports clubs all across the nation haven't figured this out sooner...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

footy and other musings

I'm Back

It's been a long hiatus from the blog, but I've decided to reappear. I'm back to show the Boston sports community (hopefully) how enjoyable European football can be. I'd also like to pepper my posts with other musings, related to other sports. The world of sport is an exciting place to follow right now, and I'd like to share my excitement.
Without further ado...

Go Ahead, Hate Away

Clearly, many NFL fans and self-proclaimed broadcasting professionals have been waiting for the opportunity to despise the Patriots. Well, that time is upon us. "Spygate" (stupid name, by the way) and running up the score are plenty of fodder for these people. To all those haters, I say have at it. Hate away. It solidifies my love for the Pats. The hate makes me enjoy interviews with Bellichick that much more. The hate allows me a contact high on Tom Brady's newfound swagger. I will say, to all you disparagers, that your hate is misplaced. Don't hate the Patriots for the spying. Don't hate them for running up scores. Hate them because they kicked your team's collective rear ends. Hate them because they've shattered countless team and individual records this year. Hate them because they are so good. Let's bring this back to Premiership footy for a second. Fans hate Chelsea because they buy good players and won the Premiership and/or the FA Cup for roughly four years and counting. Fans hate Arsenal because of their mighty run this season and because of their undefeated season several years ago. Fans hate ManU because of their dominant run in the Backham years and their championship season last year. In short, regardless of what opposing supporters complain about, they hate these clubs because they come into their grounds and defeat their opponents time and time again. The same is true for people who hate the Patriots. End of story. If the Patriots were caught videotaping and were also 4-12 this season, nobody, I repeat, nobody would care (except, of course, me and the rest of the Patriots fans out there). We wouldn't hear about it at all on ESPN, Fox sports, NBC, ABC, or anywhere else. Jamele Hill on ESPN.com recently said that hate is a good thing, in that it gets fans motivated and excited for the sport. As worrisome as this sounds, I believe Jamele is right about that, except I think hate enrgizes the "hatee's" fans and allows them to adopt an "us vs. them" mentality.

Premiership so far

It's basically shaking down as one might predict in the English Premier League: Arsenal are in front and have but one loss on the season, followed by ManU, then Chelsea, and then Liverpool. Liverpool's rivals, "the people's club," Everton, are in fifth and look strong currently with 4 wins in their last 6 matches. Blackburn Rovers started out strong, but have faded as of late, and are now in the 9th position. Bringing up the rear are, Wigan Athletic, Fulham Cottagers, and Premiership newcomers Derby County. Manchester City, under the guidance of former England boss Sven Goran-Ericsson, started out strong, but have cooled off. However, they should still be in contention for European competition next year. My predictions: Arsenal hold off the rest of the "big 4" to take the Premiership title.

Champions' League

The UEFA Champions' League is running full tilt right now, although the group stages have finished and we await the knockout stages starting in late February. Serie A giants AS Roma are matched up against La Liga giants Real Madrid, in what should be a classic battle. Arsenal look to polish off last year's champions AC Milan. Milan are not in the best of form this year, and have been laboring in Serie A. Another must-see match is Liverpool v. Internazionale. Liverpool started off slowly in the group stage of this year's cup, but have turned it on as of late. Inter, as usual, are owning Serie A, and look to be a formidable opponent.
In the UEFA Cup, Bolton Wanderers take on that other Madrid club, Atletico, and the people's club go to Norwaty to face Brann in the cold. My predictions: an all-England UEFA tournament win this year, with ManU hoisting up the Champions' Cup and Everton taking the UEFA cup.

New England Patriots: On Vacation as Free Agency Begins - Full Press Coverage

The 2019 NFL year has begun with the advent of free agency and as usual the New England Patriots are one of the quietest teams. While teams ...