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.

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