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!!!

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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?

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