Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Simplify

Dear Management for the Boston Red Sox:

Don't lie to us. There is no shortage of cash in Fenway. Seriously, ask anyone who has been to a game in the past ten years and felt their wallet lighten significantly.

Here's the to-do list:

1. Sign Jason Bay or Matt Holliday--either or, I really don't care. Heck, Bobby Abreau would have been fine had he hit free agency, but left field demands POWER. Yes, I will settle for Hideki "Bobblehead" Matsui for left field in Fenway. Just get some power, patience and average there.
2. Eat $3 million and say good-bye to Jason Varitek and get a Molina/Brad Ausmus type at back-up catcher. Does anyne really believe "El Capitain" would be anything but a whiney distraction on the 2010 Red Sox catching once a week? Get a superior defender to put there.
3. Raid the Eliminator: Chone Figgins, welcome to Fenway Park. There has to be somewhere he can play in the field. Third base is fine (trade Mike Lowell for a bag of balls if necessary). DH is fine (seriously, Big Papi is on the waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay downslope). Left field or Right field is fine. He can start 130 games all over the place. There is plenty of room in the line-up for him. Get him, and Terry will find the playing time.
4. Raid the Eliminator Part 2: John Lackey, fill-in that missing part in the starting rotation. Lester, Beckett, Lackey, Buchholz, and Wakefield. Not too shabby.
5. Taka Saito, come back to Boston! Well, him or another decent bullpen arm.

Boom. Five moves to bring the World Series Trophy back to Boston.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Crank the Hank...

Yes, the warbling shouts of Young Bocephus, Hank Williams Jr., and all his rowdy friends signals the arrival of the Patriots on Monday night against their division rival, the Buffalo T.O.'s. (please, someone tell me how to end this travesty of Faith Hill butchering Joan Jett on NBC Sunday nights!) Just knowing fat John Madden and his Madden Cruiser won't be parked outside the stadium gates warms the cockles of my heart. Of course, the way Cris Collinsworth was gushing all over Troy Polamalu after he had three huge penalties (one off-set by a ticky-tacky call) and gave up a few big gains in coverage and one pick, I guess there is a Madden Jr. pushing to win ass-kiss of the year. Heaven help us when Collinsworth calls a Vikings game this year Madden-Approved Minor Deity Brett Favre at the helm.

However, I come not bash announcers and lame-o country singers, but rather to celebrate. To celebrate the arrival of yet another NFL season: another year of mad dashes out of church to get home in time for kickoff; another year of thinking of ways to blow off birthday parties on Sundays (schedule them for Saturday already!); and camping down in front of the telly and trying to convince myself that any of my fantasy football teams have a chance in hell of competing (oh look, Trent Edwards at QB! Willie Parker stinking it up on two different teams!). Specifically, I celebrate the return of Tom Brady: The linchpin of the Patriots success since 2001; The reason the Patriots are serious Super Bowl contenders again; The best QB on the planet throwing to Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and some other shlubs.

Lately, my drive time to and from work (which includes the eminately more listenable 98.5 the Sports Zone instead of those prattling WEEIdiots now that I have an alternate sports talk station that comes in on the radio) has been filled listening to a parade of hosts and callers discuss two related subjects: The Patriots defense and Richard Seymour. Let me address both of these here:

1. Richard Seymour
First off, let me just say that any trade of a player that has missed 12 games in the past two seasons, is 30 years old, and whose role is changed in the shift from 3-4 to 4-3 and is able to bring back a potential top 5 draft pick in 2011 is one that only an idiot would pass up. Oakland is terrible. They're going to be terrible in 2009, and they're going to be terrible in 2010. Conceivably, the Patriots could be holding a #1 overall pick in 2011, which is downright scary! Seymour was a great Patriots player, a stalwart of the defense that carried the team to three Super Bowls and will always command respect from Patriot nation. That said, other than teams desperate for 350 lbs nose tackles, how many over-30 defensive linemen populate teams these days? The position requires an influx of younger, stronger, faster linemen continuously because of the immense physical demands of the job (wrestling multiple 300lb offensive linemen while tight ends and backs go after your knees).

Will he be missed? Of course.
Was he worth a first round pick? Of course not!

There was no way the Patriots could turn down that offer other than simply feeling pity for continuing to take advantage of Al Davis. I say: Thanks for your service, Richard. Good luck dealing with the Raiders. See you back here for Richard Seymour day in 2014.

2. The Patriots Defense
Wow. This unit has been RIPPED this summer. I mean, ripped. Criticism from both the local and national media on a non-spot basis. Wow.

Me, I like what the Patriots have done with their defense. A lot. A real lot.

Last year the Patriots defense was old, slow, and had a couple of jokers at corner back. So this off-season, Bill Belichick and company threw sentimentality to the wind and began the process of remaking the defense.

D-Line: One huge complaint about the defensive line in 2008: NO PASS RUSH!
Richard Seymour OUT. Tully Banta-Cain and Derrick Burgess IN. Increased role for Jarvis Green, arguably their best pass-rushing defensive end. Yes, Seymour would have been nice to keep, but see above as to why he's gone. Depth at the defensive line includes two impressive looking rookies, Ron Brace at defensive tackle and Myron Pryor at defensive end. With the switch to the 4-3, Belichick seems to be acknowledging the need for the front seven (and specifically the front four) to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Linebackers: Old and slow. Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Junior Seau, Rosie Colvin. Old and slow. Out with the old, in with the speed. Imagine, a Patriots linebacker able to make a play in space, to get to the outside, to cover a tight end, or to get to the quarterback. It boggles the mind!!! In a 4-3 base defense, Jerod Mayo plays to his strengths by being able to run sideline to sideline and attack opposing running backs. With Gary Guyton (strength and speed--how did no one draft this guy?) and Adalius "the real freak" Thomas on the outside, the Patriots suddenly have the makings of an impressive line backing core. The back-ups are a bit iffy, but if these three stay healthy, things are incredibly improved over last year.

Defensive backs: Would you take Ellis Hobbs and (hold on, I've been trying to block this out all off-season) Deltha O'Neal as your top two corners or former All-Pro Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden? Yeah, no brainer for sure! Hobbs thought he was Ty Law for some reason, but in my head he'll always be the corner beat miserably by Plexiglas Burress in Super Bowl 42. Add in youngsters Jonathan Wilhite (he's locked up the #3 slot corner spot), rookie Darrius Butler, and Tyrone Wheatley (2nd round pick? Time to show it!), and suddenly there is a balance of veterans who have done the job and youth and speed. Add in the blossoming Brandon Merriweather (he really is a play maker!) and steady James Sanders with young hitter Patrick "Don't call me Eugene" Chung pushing for playing time, and the safety position is solid.

The season will show, and certainly with no games played and Bill Belichick historically playing it close to the vest in pre-season, it is hard to gauge the team based on pre-season play (where are all those bozos who trashed Randy Moss after he didn't play the 2007 pre-season? yeah, hiding under rocks, that's where.), but I like the speed and youth on defense and think it will pay immediate benefits in 2009.

* * *

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Turk is coming...

Labor Day week-end brings more than hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill: along with the BBQ comes "the Turk" as NFL rosters cut down to 53 and teams scramble to push players through waivers to the practice squad, grab potential prospects to fill that last spot, or catch a falling veteran who was cut loose. The transaction page is stuffed with dreams denied and opportunities just waiting to be grabbed by the next Wes Welker, Stephen Neal, or Mike Wright who all picked themselves up off the ground after a visit by the Turk and survived "waiver wire hell" to cash in as productive, top-line NFL players through perseverance, hard work and dedication.

The Patriots have been their usual enigma wrapped inside a riddle as cut down time approaches. Already presumed #2 quarterback Andrew Walter has followed 2008 3rd round pick Kevin "Don't call my Jerry" O'Connell out the door as the Patriots look to replace Millionaire Matt Cassell behind Tom Brady. Brian "Steny" Hoyer stated his case for the #2 job by throwing a couple of picks and falling behind 21-0 against the Giants first team defense Thursday night. Against the fellow scrubs, Hoyer looked much better,; however, after Millionaire Matt Cassell's putrid pre-season performance last year was followed by an impressive job filling in for Brady, I am really trying to not base all my opinions on the pre-season games and try to believe Bill Belichick and company know what is going on during practices enough to make an educated assessment.

Running back, wide receiver and tight end have multiple questions as the Patriots try to cram too much talent into too few roster spots. At running back, can the Patriots let Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis (aka the "Accounting Firm") go, or do they keep five RBs knowing they inevitably have 2 or 3 backs dinged up in the course of the season? Has Laurence Maroney done enough to keep a job? How about Fred Taylor? Has anyone spotted Kevin Faulk this off-season? Tight-end looks like 3 players competing for 4 spots with Alex "the Invisible Man" Smith rumored on the block and perennial underachiever Ben Watson playing in the fourth quarter of the fourth pre-season game--usually the spot reserved for scrubs to show-off to other teams. Finally, the Terrence Nunn Fan Club has overtaken Patriot Nation as site after site anoints him the number three receiver ahead of vets Greg Lewis and Joey Galloway. Somehow, I don't see Nunn passing Julian Edelman or Sam "Clay" Aiken at receiver or special teams, which cries for "practice squad."

Without a doubt, the other 30 NFL teams will attack the left-overs of the Colts and Patriots and both teams will hope to sneak a few youngsters to the practice squad. Right now, the Patriots are deep. Back-up quarterback is a concern (as is the secondary until they make some stops in a game that counts), but offensive and defensive line are both deep, skill positions have great battles, and the linebacking corp is definitely faster and younger than it has ever been in the Belichick era with projected starters Gary Guyton, Jerod Mayo, and Adalius Thomas (if they are using a 4-3 or in the nickel with Derrick Burgess as a hand-on-the-ground defensive end). Their biggest weakness--the secondary--is far superior to last year which had Ellis "Burn me once, burn me twice, oh heck, burn me again!" Hobbs and Deltha "the human Fastlane EZ-Pass" O'Neal manning the corners. Leigh Bodden and even a one-legged Shawn Springs would be a huge upgrade over the gruesome twosome at corner in 08.

Now, it is just the interminable wait until Monday night, September 14th and the Bills.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sox up 3-0 after 7. Clay looking good so far.

Ouchies

Five free minutes, five random thoughts:
  1. Tom Brady's Shoulder: Before we hit the panic button, this is the same shoulder that showed up on injury reports every week from 2003 to 2008? So I am assuming that 370 pounds of Albert Haynesworth (or, as the Redskins are paying him: $208,000 per pound) merely brought Tom's shoulder back to the effectiveness of 2007 when he set an NFL record with 50 touchdown passes. OK, I can live with that. Brady is a gamer, and even if his arm is in a sling, he'll be able to throw the ball with more zip on it than Chad Pennington. Personally, my concerns focus more on Joey Galloway and Greg Lewis being able to (pardon the Keyshawn Johnson paraphrase here) catch the damned ball. These two look like the "butterfingers twins" so far after three weeks of preseason games and I'm going to be holding my breath every time a pass is thrown their way on third down for a while.
  2. Josh Beckett's Shoulder/Back/Arm/Head/Whatever: Three consecutive games, three consecutive Josh Beckett ala 2006 performances. Is this a mechanical problem? A mental problem? A health issue? All I know is that for three straight games Beckett's fastball is lacking movement and coming in on a "flat plain" without the downhill action that usually makes it so effective and keeps it from flying out of the park. He also hung a curveball to Rod Barajas that got jacked Friday night against the Blue Jays. Whatever the issue, it needs to be straightened out ASAP so that the Sox ace is ready for October like in 2007. At this point, skip him in the rotation (I want to see Michael Bowden given another start in the bigs) and let him rest his shoulder back, arm, head or whatever. Yes, the WEEIdiots will tar and feather Terry Francona and hang him in effigy, but fortunately I no longer will hear them since I can listen real sports talk on an FM station that comes in clearly and doesn't pander to the lowest common denominator.
  3. Roster Machinations: First, regarding the Patriots roster: Has there ever been a season with a team with so few battles in camp? Back-up center? One special-teams position? Long-snapper? The Patriots could have skipped training camp and set the roster back in June. A large class of rookies and a few free-agent pick-ups have basically locked-up 50 spots out of 53. The challenge for the Patriots is getting the potential practice-squad players through waivers. Just like the Indianapolis Colts the past few years, the Patriots suffer from a deep roster and multiple coaches with similar offensive and defensive philosophies in the league who have multiple roster needs and are waiting with baited breath for the cut downs to scoop up players who would be on the practice squad in NE or Indy and end-up starting or playing significant roles with another team. I guess that is a compliment to both teams, but surely makes keeping young players to develop a difficult proposition each season as they have to get through waivers to get to the practice squad.
  4. Stinky Old Penny Tossed Away: Oog, I really had high hopes for Brad Penny stepping up this past season and returning to form. Apparently, like John Smoltz, it was another example of a National League pitcher chewed-up and spit-out by the American League East. It certainly gives extra credence to work done by Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Andy Pettite, Mike Mussina, and Roy Halladay these past few years. I still cannot figure out what was wrong with Brad Penny. He has the tools to be effective and was in the past. I hate to think Larry Bowa was right about him all along. In retrospect, trading Penny back in June and at least getting a minor prospect in return would have been the way to go. Of course, he could have pitched effectively and potentially netted a compensatory draft pick in return as well, but his two month implosion effectively ended that. Actually, the Sox did him a huge favor releasing him prior to August 31st since if they held him another week he would be ineligible for the post-season this year if he latched on anywhere after September first. I'm going to let Christina Kahrl over at BaseballProspectus.com wrap-up the Brad Penny release since she did it so perfectly and eloquently on her Transaction Analysis Blog: "For all the talk of who might want to trade for him, let's face it, nobody did, and that was because nobody should."
  5. "Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles": Not to throw out too many "Fiddler on the Roof" references, but I almost gave my wife a heart attack last night when I jumped up off the couch and shouted., "What a play by...Holy #%$^&...VARITEK!". Yes, as one well known for disparaging the "intangibles" of Jason Varitek and other unnamed Yankees known for their "intangibles" and whose power numbers strangely spike-upwards after turning 35 (cough*HGH*cough), for me to praise Varitek almost resulted in a calamity. In fact, Tropical Storm Danny pelting the greater Boston area today is likely attributed to the disruption of harmonic universal patterns due to praising Varitek. All joking aside, Varitek made a text-book block of the plate right before the rain delay during the during the seventh inning. In fact, it was almost humorous watching young Travis Snider spin like a top after sliding into Varitek's left shin pad before he was tagged out by the Sox catcher. Because of the scarcity of catchers blocking the plate anymore, it was likely the first time Snider had slid into an impediment at home plate. In fact, my poor wife had recently had to sit through me haranguing about catchers not blocking the plate any longer. So, good work Varitek. There, I said it. It's in writing now. Of course, this still does nothing to dissuade my belief that Theo should turn his energy to signing or trading for any catcher named Molina this winter.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Roid Rage

Seriously, what is with the collective hand-wringing, children crying, disillusioned dopes, incredilous idiots, moaning morons, and naive ninnies aghast at the news that members of the Red Sox may have been taking performance-enhancers during the twenty year steroid era (1988 to 2008)? As far as I am concerned NO ONE is above suspicion from that era.


I love the history of baseball. I'm the guy in high school that did my presentation in English class on the impact of the 1890 Baltimore Orioles on baseball. I did a book report on a book I found about te 1944 St. Louis Browns. I read the Baseball Encyclopedia front to back (on multiple occasions). I wrote about baseball everyday in my journal in sophomore year just to piss off my teacher who made the mistake of telling me she hated baseball. I will gladly argue the merits of Babe Ruth's 1920 season as the greatest of all-time all night. But, I am not going to sit here and listen to the media whining about "the integrity of the game" being in danger.

As far as I am concerned, every baseball player from 1890 until 1950 was a racist unless shown evidence otherwise. Every baseball player from 1876 until 1920 was throwing in with gamblers unless shown evidence otherwise. Every baseball player from 1876 until the present abused alcohol unless shown evidence otherwise. Every baseball player from 1967 until 1983 was loading up on coke, shrooms, LSD (Doc Ellis), and other illegal drugs unless shown evidence otherwise. And every baseball player from 1988 until 2008 was on performance enhancing drugs.

Sorry, I just buy this "steroids killing the game" bologna. Baseball survived worse. All era's have their scandals. Big Papi? Jerry Remy's kid? Manny? Mark McGwire? Sammy Sosa? A-Rod? Barry Bonds?

Does it even matter?

I'm sick of it.

No more stupid steroids talk.

Just play the damn game!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Braves New World

NATIONAL ANTHEM:


Seriously? The Atlanta Braves are the "regional rival" team for the Sox in the N.L. East? Mets-Yankees, Nats-Orioles, Rays-Marlins, that all makes sense. Sox-Braves? That's as useless as Phillies-Jays (march our Mitch Williams and Mike Timlin for these games!). Let's face it, there is no regional rival or any natural rival in the National League for the Red Sox, as with most teams with this Interleague business. The Braves are a stretch based upon them playing in Boston over 50 years ago.

Interleague was a fun idea at first that has lost all enjoyment and meaning. The excitement of seeing Nick Johnson lead the Nationals against the Red Sox for "the Revenge of Julian Tavarez" doesn't seem worth staying up to see. How about we bring in the Reds for "Bronson Arroyo and his carpal tunnel syndrome Live at Fenway Park featuring the brother or cousin of James Taylor or whoever the F-List celebrity they run out for these games happens to be." Or, the drama that is, "the Endy Chavez Show." Yah, the novelty is gone and I hate to think a division title or wild card being decided again on strength of Interleague schedule. Just end this idiocity already!

FIRST PITCH:

My bullpen explodes, then the next day your bullpen explodes. That is either any doubleheader in Little League or else it was the Red Sox & Orioles last two games of their series here on Tuesday night (6/30) and Wednesday afternoon (7/1). The Sox blowing a nine to one lead is not what anyone expects to see with this fantastic bullpen, but then again, I'd rather they get it out of their system in July versus Baltimore rather than versus the Rays in October.

Personally, I blame my mother for the Sox losing last night. When I was talking on the phone with her and she asked if I was watching the Sox, I said that at 9-1 I felt like I could switch over to the Discovery channel to watch "Deadliest Catch" (or as they called it on the always snarky Simpsons this year, "Drowningest Catch").

So my mom then decides to mention that she hates how when the Sox score all these runs and don't save any for the next game. I then told her to watch what she says because you can never score enough runs and you can't tell these guys to run out there and have them make outs on purpose. Then (further tempting the Baseball Gods) she brings up that they could be rained out and the Sox game wouldn't even count!

So did she curse the Red Sox last night? Nahhhh. Who would be that superstitous?

  • Of course, I am the same person who sat in the same position without moving during game six of the ALCS in 1986 after Don Baylor's home run (EVERYONE forgets that without Baylor's home run there would be no Dave Henderson heroics) and my legs cramped up so bad by the end of the game that I could not walk for the rest of the day;
  • the same person who waited until there were two outs in the ninth inning of game six of the World Series in 1986 to wake up my Dad so he could finally see the Sox win the series and never forgave myself for jinxing the Sox until 2004;
  • the same person who ate an entire box of Ritz crackers in the first period of the Bruins playoff series in the 80s some time because it coincided with an offensive explosion one game and all I ended up with was disappointment again and a stomach-ache;
  • the same person who was convinced he was the reason the Patriots lost to the Packers in the Super Bowl in XXXI in January of 1997 because I didn't watch the game at my apartment;
  • the same guy who during Super Bowl XXXVI ran upstairs to wake up his three month old son and hold him because the Pats were ahead 17-3 when I put him to bed and without him it was 14-0 Rams;
  • the same guy who knew Aaron Bleeping Boone was the result of moving from my spot on the floor in front of the TV in the bedroom at the condo to the living room downstairs;
  • and the same person who made his three year old son run around in a circle shouting "Ral-ly Weas-el, Ral-ly Weas-el" after I created the antidote to the Rally Monkey in the 2004 ALCS, and to this day I would probably admit under sodium penthenol that I truly believe the Rally Weasel carried the Sox in 04 through the ALCS and to the promised land against the Cardinals in the World Series.

Superstitious? Me? Perish the thought! What would give anyone that idea?

SITUATIONAL LEFTY CALL TO THE BULLPEN:
It's all about the top five memories of the 1980 Red Sox:

  • Was there a bigger tease in the past 30 years in Red Sox history than Dave Stapleton in 1980? Look at the slash stats: .321/.338/.463 and an .802 OBP for a rookie utility infielder.
  • Why does no one else remember back-up outfielder Jim "Pigpen" Dwyer? He was one of my favorite players that year. Yes, he was called "Pigpen" because rumor had it that he had body odor issues.
  • I remember being six years old in 1980 and my dad telling me Win Remmerswaal was from the Netherlands and for the next 29 years I've had this insane vision of him pitching in wooden shoes and a "dutch boy" hat with tulips growing in the outfield. And, no, I did not drop acid with Bill Lee in 1980.
  • The Sox had the HOT lefties up from Pawtucket that year: Hurst, Ojeda & Tudor. Later, the Sox gave away Hurst and Tudor for a cheese sandwich and a bag of batting practice balls. Ojeda and Tudor only starred in the 1985 (Tudor, St. Louis), 1986 (Ojeda, NY Mets), and 1987 (Tudor, St. Louis) world series.
  • What a bullpen! Bob "the Steamer" Stanley; my favorite player on the entire team, lefty Tom Burgmeier; Dick "the Dragon" Drago (I always imagined he probably tormented a young Dan Shaughnessy in the locker room by walking around naked and telling him to say hello to "the Dragon"); Skip "they traded Stan Papi for me?" Lockwood; and Bill "Soup" Campbell (true story, I never had Campbell's soup until I was in high school because my parents boycotted the Campbells soup company. Swear to God!).
SWEET CAROLINE:

Top Five Reasons the Sox are Rocking the AL East:

  1. ERA+ for the top four starting pitchers to date: Beckett (133), Lester (107), Wakefield (111), & Penny (97) (ERA+ is league ERA versus pitcher ERA and adjusted to ballpark). Good starting pitching is where it all starts.
  2. Bullpen checks in with ERA+ at: Papelbon (251), Ram-Ram (251), Oki-Doki (135), Manny DC (228), and Taka (143). Those numbers are INSANE!
  3. Youkilis brings up the question of "Texeira who?"
  4. The Rays were nice enough to leave David Price in AAA half the season. THANKS!!!
  5. The Yankees insist on trotting out some bizarre outfield/dh combo of Johnny Damon, Brett Gardner, Hideki Matsui, and Nick Swisher. Seriously, that's what $200 million plus buys in today's market?


EXTRA INNINGS:


  • I'd intentionally walk Albert Pujols every at-bat even if Barry Bonds was hitting behind him.
  • Seriously, Phat Albert has 30 home runs and 32 strikeouts. That is sick!
  • Anyone else expecting Manny to pop a hamstring his first night back in LA?
  • Nice of the Yankees to force the Pirates to eat $400k on Eric Hinske's salary. Seriously? The rich steal from the poor, literally?
  • Every Pirates minor league outfielder must be dying to get up to the majors so they can get traded out of Pittsburgh.
  • I said it five years ago and I'll say it again: Get Nick Johnson to Boston already!
  • It warms my heart to see the 1980s St Louis Cardinals still hate the 1980s Mets. Kick Gary Carter's ass, Jack Clark! Yeah!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

MISCELLANEOUS RUMBLINGS

Some leftovers here that didn't make it into the Extra Innings last night...

  • Coco Crisp out for the year with a torn labrum in his shoulder and was hitting .228 for the Royals. We got Ram-Ram for him? I feel so bad for Royals fans, I really do. What a great trade that turned out for the Red Sox, and yet another nightmare deal for a franchise that hasn't caught a break since the days of Bret Saberhagen.
  • Not that I'm a big fan of these made-up footy tournaments, but what a Clint Dempsey-tastic finish the US had against Egypt to catapult them ahead of the mighty Azzurri (who got spanked around by the Brazillians). If it was a tournament that mattered, people would be extremely excited. But...yah, it doesn't matter and Spain will kick the US's rear-ends anyway.
  • NBA Draft, NHL Draft, whatever. It's nice not to be in the lottery picks.
  • Reymond Fuentes, the Red Sox first round pick and future successor to Jacoby Ellsbury when he hits free-agency in a couple of years, how did I forget to chime in on him? Fuentes is probably one of the fastest players drafted with game-changing raw speed. Only 18, projections expect him to develop into a possible power/speed threat. A cousin to Carlos Beltran, he is still far from ready for the majors and is likely on a slow rise through the minors ala Henley Ramirez where he was able to grow through each level and continuously earn his way up the ladder--certainly not a Papelbon or Lester-esque rise through the minors is expected.
  • Manny plus Albuquerque...a match made in heaven.
  • The Red Sox are one twisted ankle by Nick Green from the Gil Velazquez era at shortstop. Wait, pretend I didn't just type that. Way too scary to think about.
  • Do I really need to read an article about Nancy Kerrigan? Someone tell Dan Shaughnessy to write about Sam Jones, Ken Hodge, Troy Brown, or Jerry York and Jack Parker if he's writing a puff piece to sell tickets for "The Tradition" at the Garden. Writing about Nancy Kerrigan and the pressures she faced is not going to get my rear off the couch and there, that's for sure.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Weather=Cold / Red Sox=Hot

NATIONAL ANTHEM:

The Red Sox have been hot. Smoking hot. Colorado Rockies hot. But a nine-game road trip threatens to cool off any team. The Sox kick off the trip against the Washington Nationals. Yes, the Nats are horrible at 20-47, but this Nationals team is playing hard for embattled manager Manny Acta and recently took two of three from Toronto and beat the Yankees a couple of times as well.

A look at the pitching match-ups in my morning Boston Globe (last paper subscriber, ever! Whoo-hoo!) made me spit out my coffee, as the Nats young guns just do not look MLB ready compared to the Sox. Of course, that means they'll probably sweep the Sox just because I wrote that here. Really, with John Smoltz stepping in for the injured Dice-K, Brad Penny has become the weakest link in the Red Sox rotation. Consider, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Shaky-Wakey are the three most consistent performers right now, and Smoltzie should be a huge upgrade. Penny really, really, really sould be moved, but credit Theo for waiting for someone (Cubs? Mets? Rangers?) getting desperate enough to give up a top-line prospect.

Speaking of trades, the same goes for Taka Saito, as his role in the bullpen will likely be filled by phenom Daniel Bard. Personally, I think the Sox would be fine with Justin Masterson back in the rotation, which will allow for Javier Lopez to return as that extra lefty that Terry Francona can keep in the pen for that one batter and save Oki-Doki for a clean, full inning if necessary. Saito, as much as we all have come to lean on him, is closer quality for a team desperate for bullpen help (the Mets wish they had some prospects now, eh?). Most importantly, he has a history of injuries and has been remarkably healthy this season (knock on wood, c'mon, I need something to knock on....bingo, side table, that works) and its time to trade high.

I have heard some talk that the Sox are crazy if they mess with success and make any moves, but the team has to think long-term while at the same time going for it all this year. The Sox can win without Penny and Saito this year (Michael Bowden would be a great addition to the bullpen this fall as well), and owe it to their future to get another young power arm or a young corner outfielder or infielder who can hit for power while they have the chips in hand.

FIRST PITCH:

Can we just take a minute and admire Jason Bay this season? Speed, defense, power/slugging, and on-base percentage, he has been everything thhe Sox could hope for and then some stepping into the role as big man in the lineup. Bay brings a current VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) of 27.9, tops on the team; .317 EQA (equivalent average), second only on the team to Youk; and an OPS (On-base Plus Slugging average) of .970, second again to Youk. He's been slamming the ball off and over the Monster to a tune of 36 extra base hits with 18 home runs. Jay Bay, keep making that money every swing of the bat.

SITUATIONAL LEFTY COMING IN:


Prediction--Five Possible Red Sox Second Half Heros:

  1. Dustin Pedroia: He's going to get hot this summer, and when he does, he can carry this offense through the dog days of August.
  2. Jonathan Papelbon: Hard to believe, but he has yet to get comfortable on the mound this season as he tries to continue to find out how to protect his shoulder. Scary.
  3. Jed Lowrie: We love you, Nick Green, but when Jed comes back, the job is his for the rest of the season. If healthy, he can show how well he can hit.
  4. J.D. Drew: Remember that insane hot streak last summer? Yah, I believe he has another one in him.
  5. David Ortiz: Because we have to believe!
  6. BONUS! - Julio Lugo: Well, he is hitting .300, right?

SWEET CAROLINE:

Top Five Yankee Bashing Rants for the Day:

  1. Brett Gardner/Melkey Cabrera: A two-headed non-monster in centerfield. They've both overacheived so far and they both still are mediocre.
  2. Chien-Ming Wang: From a consistent 18 game winner to...no wins?
  3. A-Rod: "Wahhhhhh, I'm mentally fatigued." Can he do anything more to consistently make himself unlikeable? Keep up the good work, dipshit.
  4. Alfredo Aceves: The league is about two weeks from getting the book on you, kid. Enjoy that first-half success while you can.
  5. Mariano Rivera: Has he finally gone from otherworldly to great? Quick, get another cousin from the pool cabana to sacrifice to the Baseball Gods.

EXTRA INNINGS:

  • Albert Pujols is the best hitter in baseball, bar none. Like I told the Lovely Mrs. B. when I told her I named the cardinal in the back yard Pujols and she asked what I called the female mate: "I call the female "Manny" because he's Pujol's bitch!"
  • My kids are just infatuated by a baseball player named "Poo-holes".
  • My daughter (all of five) still considers Manny as her favorite Red Sox.
  • My son (all of seven) still loves Pokey Reese (though Curt Schilling is still his favorite Red Sox player).
  • Me, I can't decide between Eddie Jurak and Chico Walker.
  • Juan Pena and Paxton Crawford were supposed to be the next great young Sox pitchers, remember?
  • What ever happened to Robinson Checo, the Dominican Mystery Man?
  • What ever happened to the Gin Blossoms? They coulda/shoulda been huge.
  • I like that extra high camera angle NESN is using when broadcasting from Nationals Park, or whatever the heck they call it in D.C.
  • Speaking of NESN, just why is Kathryn Tappen on TV?
  • No one else wants to say it, but I will: Remy who?
  • Eck! Eck! Eck! Hall-of-Fame starter/reliever/drinker/announcer.
  • Still waiting on my invitation for John Henry's wedding.
  • Maroon Five/Shmaroon Five as a wedding band? Bahh, nothing at his wedding will top the "Kirk Noises" from my pal Eric's best man speech for my pal Kirk's wedding last weekend. Instant classic! (Sorry, you had to be there.)
  • Why is it on FIOS I cannot watch Fox25?
  • Oh, to protect me from Butch Stearns. Wow, what a considerate company.
  • OK, I finally will admit it. Theo, you &%#!&^ blew it giving away Bronson Arroyo for Wily Freaking Mo Freaking Pena! Seriously, how many wins did that trade cost the Sox?
  • Ramon Ramirez not winning the 10th Player Award would be the biggest tragedy (sorry Nick Green).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

(Un)Organized Team Activities

KICKOFF:

Big Vince Wilfork is unhappy. OK, I understand that he is ready to get his after he finally finishes his ridiculously cheap six year rookie contract. Playing this year at about one-tenth of his free market value, Big Vince is deservedly ready to get his this offseason (note the total lack of usage of cliches such as "Mo' Money" or "Show me the Money"--I am so proud of my restraint).

So what can the Patriots do?


With the NFL labor market so extremely muddled due to the uncertaintly around the capped/uncapped year upcoming, can the Patriots even afford to to sign Wilfork and tie-up a boatload of money? Also, consider that Wilfork has been playing for cheap so long, contributing value so high above his pay scale that even overpaying him, the team breaks even over the length of his new contract. Will there even be a franchise tag in the new NFL of 2011?


Too many questions, and not enough answers for the Patriots to panic and make a brash move. The only way this deal goes through before the season is if Wilfork leaves a lot of money on the table. After the way he's fought in the trenches for the last five years, I think it's safe for Big Vince to cash in.


Here's what else Bill Belichick thinks about at 2am:


Five Major Potential Unrestricted Free Agents at the End of 2010:


1. Big Vince Wilfork (NT): Remember, impact 3-4 nose tackles don't grow on trees.

2. Leigh Bodden (CB): By the end of the Super Bowl XLIV, Patriots fan are going to be clamoring to sign Bodden, who is such a perfect fit for the Bill Belichick defense and should make everyone forget about Asante Samuel. Unfortunately, Bodden is looking to make-up for all the money he lost in Detroit.

3. Ben Watson (TE): Wait a minute, forget about Watson. I've had my fill of this bozo. He has all the tools except he can't catch the ball. Don't be too shocked if Watson gets dinged in training camp and then is released at the final cutdowns after the pre-season.

3 (take two): Kevin Faulk (RB): Faulk, who has inherited the mantle of Mr. Patriot from Troy Brown, has serious competition for third down back in Fred Taylor, especially if Maroney bounces back. If a desperate team throws enough cash at Faulk in an uncapped year, would he consider jumping ship?

4. Stephen Neal (OG): There will be a lot of demand for this mauler on the open market. Oh, and while discussing Neal, has he not progressed to the point where he can be discussed without going into "he was a champion wrestler" and "he never played football in college". Enough already! Neal deserves to stand on his NFL merits as a top guard in the NFL.

5. Richard Seymour (DE): Has Big Sey priced himselft out of NE? How much money would Seymour get from Mangini and the Browns on the open market? Or for that matter, the cash available from the Jets, Ravens, or any other team running a 3-4 defense?

Bonus: Jarvis Green (DE): Where is Jarvis in the team's plans in the future? A so-called third down specialist at DE, I don't recall Green getting close to too many quarterbacks last year. Green's lack of pass rush didn't help the team's problems with third down efficiency on defense.


HALF-TIME:


Five Key Points of Interest This Summer in Foxboro:

  1. Tom Brady is back: Nuff said. Now bring me the head of Ben Roethlisberger.
  2. #3 & 4 Receivers: Joey Galloway and Greg Lewis need to draw away safety coverage from Randy Moss, the tight ends, and Wes Welker. Whether they just run fly patterns down the sidelines does not matter, as long as they bring the threat of a deep ball to keep the free safety deep it doesn't matter how many balls they catch. In 07 Dante Stallworth opened up the field for Welker and Moss; In 08 Jabar Gaffney did not.
  3. How many running backs are too many? Hmm, right now I'll pull out my quote from "Numb" by U2 (from their vastly underrated "Zooropa" album) by the falsetto-voiced Bono behind the Edge's vocals: "Too much is not enough."
  4. Patrick Pass: AUGH! AUGH! AUGH!
  5. Bill Likes to Redshirt the Freshmen in their first year at Foxboro University: With Shawn Crable (OLB), Tyrone Wheatley (CB), and Jonathan Wilhite (CB) expected to make contributions this season on defense, there is hope for 2011 with third round picks Brandon Tate (WR) and Tyrone McKenzie (OLB).

2 MINUTE OFFENSE:


Continuing to stay with the Patriots big weakness in 08, the secondary is looking like a huge upgrade in 09. The Patriots have a ton of youth and speed available with their Fab Five in the secondary: Wheatley, Wilhite, and rookie Darius Butler at cornerback; Brandon Merriweather and rookie Patrick Chung at safety. Throw in veterans Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs at cornerback and James Sanders at safety, and this unit got real deep real quick.

Cross that question mark off the list. Something tells me that if Belichick could win a Super Bowl with Otis "My Man" Smith, Hank Poteat, Ty Poole, Earthwind Moreland, and Randall Gay at cornerback, this unit could flourish in 2009-10.

OVERTIME:

Five Patriots I Expect to Take the Next Step This Year:

  1. Brandon Merriweather (S): This is it. The athletic ability of year one, the gradual growth in year two, the breakout year in year three? This kid could be the biggest contributor in the secondary this season.
  2. David Thomas (TE): Seriously. The former Longhorn has great hands (that is what happens when you have Vince Young throwing the ball all over the state of Texas), and right now the Patriots have some serious competition at tight end. Thomas, if healthy, is potentially a huge asset at TE. Tight end has been the one position that must drive Belichick insane. Two first round picks and multiple free agents later and the position is still a black hole. When Christian Fauria and Mike Vrable were the most productive tight end of the Belichick era, that is a position ripe for the taking.
  3. Terence Wheatley (CB): He had the skills last year. With health, he should shine.
  4. Matthew Slater (KR): The son of Jackie has a chance to shine with Ellis Hobbs out of New England and the returner position wide open. Kid, this is what you were drafted for--time to shine.
  5. Gary Guyton (ILB): The surprise of 2008 sould be able to continue to grow into replacement for Bruschi.
  6. BONUS: Shawn Crable (OLB): He looked the part in 2008 during the preseason with his incredible wingspan and great speed. He showed the ability to fly around the corner at the QB, and having him drop into coverage allowed him to get to the ball and make plays in space. He was drafted for a reason--this year hopefully the Foxboro faithful see the full package.

POST-GAME PRESS CONFERENCE:

Three More Potential Unrestricted Free Agents in 2010 (or Restricted Free Agents, depending on the labor agreement):

  1. Stephen Gostowski (K)
  2. Nick Kaczur (OT)
  3. Logan Mankins (OG)

Bent Offerings

Traditionally, burnt offerings were presented as an act of sacrifice; "Bent Offerings" have no sacrificial lamb other than the Boston-area athletes, management, and media members deserving criticism, perspective, praise and critiques (especially critiques of anyone or anything from the NY market, natch). In the ongoing spirit of BostonSportPage.com, I'm continuing to experiment with the presentation of the content and I'm trying to get this info out in a format that hopefully forces more creativity and commentary. Of course, the content should have the usual "Bent" perspective (hah, I can at least make myself laugh).

Team activities have started in Foxboro, so I will kick things off with the Patriots, followed shortly by the Red Sox, currently fighting the Yankees for first place. Thanks to all who continue to read, and I hope I can continue to entertain and amuse.

Enjoy!

-Hal Bent, 06-10-09

Sunday, May 24, 2009

All Red Sox, All the Time...

Well, other than catching the Memorial Day Weekend Deadliest Catch marathon on Discovery, the Red Sox are the only game in town--Yes, I watched the Revolution get wiped out by Toronto FC on Saturday, believe me when I say the Sox are the only game in town right now.


A weekend of interleague play (wow, it is still so...well, not very exciting anymore is it?) and the Sox drop two of three to the Mets, and still end up in first place (did I not just right that the Blue Jays were for real? Well, I still believe that. Any team with Roy Halladay pitching every fifth day is a team to be reckoned with.).

GAME ONE VS METS-Friday, May 22, 2009:

Losing to Johan Santana is no shame, and the Sox put up a good battle on Friday night. Dice-K pitched well for his first game back. In fact, in a few innings, he was downright thrifty with is pitch count. Yes, the Youkilis-Santana spat was laughable, but the real reason the Sox lost was that they did not get that one big hit off Santana. He buckled down with men on base like great pitchers always do (Sox 0-10 with runners in scoring position).

As a quick side note, Justin Masterson looked good coming out of the pen and gives the Sox yet another weapon coming out of the bullpen.

* * *

GAME TWO VS METS-Saturday, May 23, 2009:

Painful. In a word, it was painful. Yes, everyone knows that Papelbon is hardly infallable and will lose some games, but this one hurt. Josh Beckett pitched his best game of the season, going 8 innings and looking strong after allowing one run in the first inning. The Sox came right back in the first to score two. It stayed that way until Papelbon in the ninth. At first, I thought that Santo's hit scraped the top of the wall and left Pap a chance to get out of there with a save and strand both runners. But as the Eck made clear on the broadcast, the replay clearly indicated it was a homer. The worst part was in the bottom of the ninth versus J.J. Putz, after Youk walked, the next three batters (Jay Bay, J.D., and Mikey Lowell) hit a series of rockets that should have been a double, a double, and another double but somehow ended up as three outs due to some back luck and good defense (heck, GREAT defense by David Wright at third on Bay's rocket down the line).

* * *


GAME THREE VS METS-Sunday, May 24, 2009:

Ahh, the offensive explosion long waited for finally arrives. Not for David Ortiz, however. A game where the offense bails out Tim Wakefield and allows him to pick up win number six, but all the talk focuses on Big Papi and his mental condition.

Bat speed? Puh-leeze, I though Lowell had no bat speed when the Sox got him with Beckett? Ortiz's head is so screwed up that he cannot get is head turned off in the batters box right now. Much like in basketball: if you're thinking, you're losing. He's at the point now where Youk needs to bop him on the head with his bat before he steps in just to clear his head.

George Kottaras was the surprise hitting star. For all the talk-radio WEEIdiots ready to throw Dave Magadan to the wolves for the struggles of Big Papi, the rest of the Sox seem to be benefitting from Mags. Both Pedroia and Youkilis have continued to grow as hitters under Mags, and the development of Kottaras, Nick Green, and the re-birth of Jason Varitek are going to be bullet points on his resume when he's interviewing for a position as a manager.

* * *

So, not a great weekend for the Sox against the Mets, but just enough to put them in first place for a big road trip, starting with four games in Minnesota against the Twins.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Five Free Minutes...

Sorry for the delay in posting (if anyone still reads this), as I've been so dreadfully busy at work due to this crushing downturn in the economy that I've barely had time to comment on recent events. Some quickies here:

* * *

CELTICS

1. I really like seeing how the Celtics hung in there until the end of game six against the Magic before crashing. For a team that basically has a couple of vets and a bunch of kids (anyone ever check out Big Perk and Rondo's birth certificates? These guys are babies!), they made a heck of a stand and almost made it to the conference finals. I'll stand and applaud them for that effort. To wit, top big man, real NBA MVP Kevin Garnett out for the entire playoffs; Garnett's backup and a double-double waiting to happen, Leon Powe, out for the playoffs after half a game; Big Perk with obvious issues with that left shoulder as evidenced by the number of times he grimaced, growled, or snarled as he grabbed at it; Mikki Moore--lost at sea and buried in Doc's doghouse and contributing absolutely NOTHING; Ray Allen with hamstring issues throughout the playoffs; Paul Pierce dinged up; and the ultimate indignity: having to play Scal 20 minutes a night!

BRUINS

2. The Bruins, well, I guess they were beat-up more than we realized, what with Kessel, Krejci, Ference, and Recchi all under the knife and playing hurt. Still, I feel that this team just sleep-walked through games 2, 3, and 4 and blew the opportunity to move on. It was a pleasure to see Boston wake-up again and realize that hockey did exist in the hub. To hear Bruins talk at the water cooler at work is something I wondered if I would ever hear again--wait, I had never heard it before now that I think about it...

GAME SEVENS

3. Like the Celtics, the Bruins having a game seven at home should be an automatic win no matter what, and both teams seasons ended with disappointment because of that. To fight for home-court or home-ice and then drop the ball (or puck) when the opportunity is there will leave that bitter taste in the mouth (like drinking Lowenbrau...you can brush and brush but the bitter taste remains!).

RED SOX

4. WHERE'S THE STARTING PITCHING???
Beckett? Pitching more like Sir Thomas Beckett!
Lester? Pitching more like my daughter's stuffed frog, Lester!
Masterson? Pitches a good game and gets bumped to the pen? What the heck is that all about!?!
Penny? Ain't worth one! Shouldn't he be ready for mysterious shoulder ailment so he can go down to Pawtucket to "rehab" for a month or so?
Shaky Wakey? Uggh. Long relief is calling!
Dick-K? Ban the WBC! (Yes, both the World Baseball Championship and the World Boxing Council!)

5. Seriously, its a slump. Big Papi is not finished.
(You read it here on the record: I, Hal Bent, being of not-so-sound mind and doughy body, do hereby state for the record that Big Papi will rebound with at least two more seasons of 35+ home runs.)
Simply put, he is not creating bat speed through the hitting zone. Whether it is mental, bad positioning, cheating on the fast ball, etc., the simple fact is he has to get his head, hands, and hips aligned and working together again and he'll be busting down the left field wall and denting the bullpens at Fenway again. How long that will take? It's all up to Papi.

6. I told you Ram-Ram was a great pick-up for the bullpen!!! Add Masterson back there (can we start calling him Bat Masterson yet? C'mon, its a great, witty nickname!) in the pen, and this team will be doing some damage in October if it can fight its way out of the four team jumble that is the Yankees, Jays, Rays and Sox. Right now, all four teams are playoff worthy, which is amazing. Yes, the Jays are for real. Good young pitching and defense, like the Rays last year, solve a lot of problems in a hurry. The Yankees will contend despite their bullpen (Eric Gagne time in the Bronx? Bwah-hah-ha-hah! I'd KILL to see that!), the Rays are shooting themselves in the foot to save a few bucks leaving David Price in AAA--that man should be fronting that rotation in Tampa, and the Sox are so deep that when they get healthy they can run off a streak or two in the summer. Can four teams win 90 games in one division? This could be the year.

7. Yup, Michael Bowden and Clay Buchholz will be in the rotation come hell or high water in 2010.

PATRIOTS

8. Yeah, losing Jason Taylor to the 'fins was somewhat a surprise, but if the rumors of picking up Derek Burgess to pound the QB comes to fruition, than the heck with Dancin' Jason! Burgess has serious pass-rush skills and at 6-2 and 260lbs he fits the bill as a Patriots 3-4 OLB in the Vrabel/McGinest mode. Since the Pats have three 2nd round picks in 2010, it makes sense to part with one (or, if they can negotiate down the Raiders, a 3rd round pick) to address the position.

9. I still would have no problem going with a three-headed monsters of Tully Banta-Cain, Pierre Woods, and Shawn Crable at OLB. I think Crable can be a difference maker at that position. He looked like a safety dropping back in coverage to make plays with those long arms in the 09 pre-season. If he can get his hands up on passes in the flat to knock them down (think of his Marcus Camby-esque reach), he can be a serious weapon to get the team off the field on third down.

REVS

10. Talk about a team in transition--watching the New England Revolution this year is an exercise in concentration. You can't tell the players without a program. Can they bounce back? Is anyone paying attention? Will Taylor Twellman be back this year?

* * *

Whew, nice to get that off my chest. It's been far too long! More to follow soon, including a look at the Celtics and Bruins as they face-off against their deadliest opponent yet: The Salary Cap! (ooh, the horror!).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

THE BARD KNOWS BEST

Why, headstrong liberty is lashed with woe.
There’s nothing situate under heaven’s eye
But hath his bound, in earth, in sea, in sky.
-Luciana in The Comedy of Errors (2.1.15-16) – Shakespeare


Woe is the Boston sports fan—turn to the advice of the bard. To translate into everyday English: Too much of anything leads to woe—everything has its limits.

Too true, in this unprecedented age of overwhelming prosperity in the Boston sports scene. How much is too much for us spoiled sports fans? The Bruins have the best record in the Eastern Conference, the defending champion Celtics have clinched their division and are 15.5 games ahead of Philadelphia in the Atlantic division; the Red Sox are coming off a season in which they reached game seven of the ALCS and were a bad call on a J.D. Drew check-swing in the eighth inning of going back to the World Series back-to-back and for the third time in five years, and the Patriots “disappointed” by finishing 11-5 without Tom Brady.

Does anyone remember Rod Rust and Dick McPherson running the Pats? How about that wonderful fall with Joe Kerrigan on the Red Sox bench? Did we forget about the Bruins in the Jumbo Joe Thornton era? How about Antoine Walker wiggling on the court and the other hapless losers on the parquet in the nineties and early 00s?

Heed the bard, as this is a glorious time soon to come to an end. Cherish every game right now because it will likely never be this good ever again.

* * *

Saying “bard” of course turns thoughts to Josh Bard, now out as Tim Wakefield’s personal caddy. Does George Kottaras have the chops to back-up Varitek? Some interesting points were made in a recent article at BaseballProspectus.com by Christina Kahrl (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=8654):

Not that there's no time like the present for Kottaras, but the present isn't going to be very special, and if something happens to Varitek, the Sox get left with the same sorry state of affairs they had to deal with last year: something in a scrubby or non-prospect flavor, while punting offensive production at a lineup slot in the name of turning the catcher position into a sinecure for a former talent and a former prospect. If getting rid of the best hitter of the four catchers in camp sounds like a great idea to you, you probably work for the Rays or Yankees.
At its core, this just doesn't make much sense. The financial stakes of retaining Bard are relatively low as these things go, but because the Red Sox seem to be operating their decision tree on who does what behind the plate with a group of iron-clad if/then statements—"if Wakefield pitches, then Tek cannot catch"—they don't seem to be considering the more basic question of whether or not they have a good catcher, and what might actually make them better while trying to avoid the fate of last year's Yankees.

It is hard to argue with that assessment. If I were Theo (boy, wouldn’t that make my wife happy!) I would have had Bard catching and teamed with Kottaras in some kind of platoon and Tek could sit hope and mope about the Sox only offering him a minor-league contract.

* * *

Why do I keep having this recurring nightmare that the Patriots draft Florida WR Percy Harvin in the first round after he free-falls to them at 23 and he turns into a perpetually injured, second-coming of Chad Jackson? That couldn’t possibly happen, could it?

* * *

Bugging “real” sportswriters with questions is something I love to do since they have so much more insight as an insider, and I recently got a question answered by Will Carroll on his chat at BaseballProspectus.com. Will knows more about team injuries than the trainer most of the time, I swear. Here’s my latest brush with fame as I ask a fantastic and insightful question to Will during his chat on 03/25/09 and his even more insightful answer:

halbent (Boston, MA): Will, love your work. Your Red Sox Team Health Report that was posted today is killing my "try not to get too excited too early" vibe about the prospects of all of the various Red Sox injuries sorting themselves out and the Sox staying in the 95 win area. Do you think they can keep all healthy enough to get back to the playoffs again, and who on the Red Sox is the player they can least afford to lose to injury for an extended period?
Will Carroll: I don't think they have to stay healthy to be at that level. They have so many options and so much flexibility that they can make it through injuries when they happen. I think Pedroia is the one that would be toughest to replace. I'm guessing that Lugo or Lowrie would shift over, but that's a big offensive loss. Ortiz's power is big to them in the absence of Manny, but I think that WCS, Lars Anderson might be able to stand-in for him and not lose as much of the Pedroia falloff. Maybe Youkilis, because he provides so much of the flexibility.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Kibbles N Bits N Pieces From My Mind...

Some random notes I've been meaning to put up here for a while...

*
Patriots Off-season Free Agent & Trade Redux:
CBs: Leigh Bodden & Shawn Springs (Lost: Lewis Sanders) - Result: Huge upgrade of the secondary.
LS: Nathan Hodel (Lost: Lonie Paxton) - Result: Seriously, who cares?
WR: Greg Lewis (Lost: Jabar Gaffney) - Result: Wait and see. If Lewis can be the deep threat that Donte Stallworth was in 07, then all of a sudden there is going to be so much more space for Randy Moss and Wes Welker to operate. This could be the biggest signing of the summer for the Pats (or, it could wash out completely if Lewis is another big dope who can't learn the system).
OLB: Tully Banta-Cain (Lost: Mike Vrabel) - Result: Let the Shawn Crable era begin!!!
RB: Fred Taylor (Lost: Lamont Jordan) - Result: Big step-up in the running game. What I want to see is if Taylor eats into Kevin Faulk's 3rd down carries and screen catches.
TE: Chris Baker (Lost: no one...YET!) - Result: A tight end who can block! Whether he lights the proverbial fire under Big Ben Watson is unknown. Watson will likely be one of those great tools/average production players who could never put it all together. If David Thomas stays healthy, this could be an excellent group of tight ends.

*

Manny's a cancer? Funny, I thought he was a capricorn. Hmmm. The question is, why did Papelbon wait until now to mention this--someone should have grabbed Manny around the throat, told him he was a cancer, and then got Tito and gone to Theo and the Triumverate. Of course, that probably did happen (Youk maybe?) and that is why Manny joined Pedro and Nomar in the exiles of the "too superstar for you" former Sox.

*

Jason Taylor or Roy Williams? No thanks, don't need those type of me-first bozos in New England, thank you very much!

*

Most exciting baseball game I've seen since the 07 playoffs? Nederland vs Dominican Republic. I was a mini-Kirk Gibson with all the fist pump action going on!

*

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Like Christmas Morning...

It may be snowing yet again in the greater Boston area, but I can smell spring right around the corner. Yes, baseballprospectus.com has released their initial PECOTA forecast spreadsheets. For geeks like me who spent/spend a disproportionate amount of time reading about too many baseball statistics, projections, valuations and evaluations, the excitement about the most accurate projection information is palpable.

So let's take a sneak preview of how the Red Sox batters are projected to perform in 2009 Batters: VORP (Value Over Replacement Player -- with batters, it is runs contributed over a normal fringe position player. A normal fringe position player is a 0.0, a good player is a 10.0, all-star level is 20.0+ and over 30.0 is when you get into game changers) & WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player -- basically, how many wins the individual player is worth over a season above a normal fringe player)]:

SUPERSTAR:

Dustin Pedroia - VORP 31.8 / WARP 4.7
My comment: Pedroia, an undersized 2nd round pick, has emerged as the AL MVP (never thought I'd see the day) and into a consistent defender and excellent hitter.

ALL-STARS:

David Ortiz - VORP 28.7 / WARP 3.2
My comment: I am certainly optimistic that PECOTA expects a bounce back from Big Papi. Of course, the WARP may seem low for Big Papi, but remember he is the DH and not contributing defensively.

Jason Bay - VORP 22.0 / WARP 2.1
My comment: I was surprised to see Bay ahead of Youk on VORP, but then, on WARP we can see the effect of Youk's glove and Bay's lack of defensive impact in left field in Fenway Park.

Kevin Youkilis - VORP 20.3 / WARP 3.3
My comment: Youk rounds out the Sox line-up with four 20+ VORPs. Hmmm. I wonder where the line-up drops into the dead zone.

SOLID CONTRIBUTORS:

Jed Lowrie - VORP 14.7 / WARP 2.4
My comment: Hmm, guess the "who plays shortstop" debate is all but over.

J.D. Drew - VORP 12.7 / WARP 2.4
My comment: I guess the always challenging question is when does Drew put it together, healthy and playing to potential for a full season?

Jacoby Ellsbury - VORP 11.6 / WARP 4.1
My comment: I thought the VORP was a little low for Ellsbury, but then I remembered some of those horrible funks he went through in 2008 and thought it may be pretty accurate. His WARP rating shows why the Sox were willing to trade defensive stalwart Coco Crisp to Kansas City.

Mike Lowell - VORP 10.6 / WARP 2.6
My comment: Again, surprised with the lower VORP rating, but then he is at his decline phase of his career and is coming off major hip surgery. I certainly understand the conservative rating.

THE LINE-UP KILLERS:

Rocco Baldelli - VORP 6.6 / WARP 0.9
My comment: Yup, a decent back-up you do not want to run out there everyday.

Josh Bard - VORP 4.7 / WARP 1.0 & Jason Varitek - VORP 3.2 / WARP 1.3
My comment: OK, I'll concede Varitek may be slightly better defensively than Josh Bard, but certainly Bard's bat is expected to make a more positive impact in the nine hole this year.

Julio Lugo - VORP 2.8 / WARP 0.5
My comment: Well, at least they have him as a positive VORP/WARP rather than the negative numbers of the past year or so.

Mark Kotsay - VORP 0.3 / WARP 0.4
My comment: Uggh. 24th man on the bench seems an appropriate assessment.

SUMMARY:

Eight of nine line-up spots as a source of strength is again evidence of Theo Epstein's theory of line-up strength top to bottom. Catcher will be a black-hole for a few more years, I assume (Kottaris & Brown both came in the negative VORP/WARP range) and Mark Wagner is likely a few years away still. Lugo will remain the albatross of the Epstein era, and I bow down to the power of PECOTA and will no longer (publicly at least) think about new options at shortstop.

Tomorrow (hopefully) the pitching staff will be examined.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Getting My Rant On...

A peaceful Sunday morning, ruined by wandering onto ESPN.com and reading the Hollywood Sports Guy’s chat. Here’s where things got ugly for me:

Conrad (Phila.): ...Manny Ramirez is perfectly rated. He's just a nut case.
That's why nobody wants him; nobody doesn't say he isn't like one of the top 10
hitters in baseball EVER . . .
Bill Simmons: But he's not! He is
NOT properly rated! Here is a guy who got on base 24 of 36 times in the 2008
postseason and the fans of teams like Anaheim and Texas and San Fran aren't
clamoring for their GM's to sign him. It's crazy to me. Everyone seems to think
he is a cancer of the highest order... why? Because that's what the Red Sox
front office told their media minions. We have NEVER HEARD MANNY'S SIDE EVER. We
are hearing one side of the story. It's a smear campaign. How could anyone NOT
think this guy would produce for 3 years if you gave him $75 million... in a
league that's given AJ Burnett and Barry Zito huge money? I am just
flabbergasted by this whole thing. His teams have won everywhere he's gone.
Without fail. ...
Jeff (SF): What's Manny's side of the story? The
clubhouse attendant had it coming?
Bill Simmons: Manny got manipulated by
his agent. We know that much. But at the heart of it is this: The Sox won the
2007 WS, and heading into 2008, Manny made it clear he wanted to stay and he
wanted some resolution to his contract one way or the other - either waive the
09 10 options or pick them up. The Sox did neither. They let him twist in the
wind. Did he deserve that after giving them 7 HUGE years and helping them win
two titles? I say no. I think they were jerks about it. But that's what nobody
seems to take into account ... the Sox could have avoided a potential mess with
Boras simply by waiving those last 2 option years. Why didn't they do it?
Because they wanted to control the process.
Bill Simmons: I just
thought they handled it arrogantly. "You know what Manny? Go out and hit some
baseballs and we'll let you know what we decide in a few months." And he handled
it poorly. But when you have someone that YOU KNOW will handle something like
that poorly, and you proceed in that direction anyway, aren't you at least
partly to blame?


Point number one: how does any person who calls themselves a Red Sox fan, after the way Manny abused the team and city by constantly bailing on them, go on a national stage and start spouting Scott Boras party lines? Yes, Manny WAS a great hitter. Yes, Manny HAD a great run with the Dodgers. But no one is insane enough to believe he would stay Happy Manny as he hits his serious decline seasons (he’s 37 years old!) and gets handed a guaranteed contract.

I think there are 30 teams that would take Manny on a one-year contract with a club option. NO ONE is deluded enough to hand him three or more years guaranteed after the way he acted in Boston.

Point number two: If Manny wanted to stay in Boston, he could have shut his mouth, went out to play everyday, and the Sox would have picked up the options. What, after the debacle with Pedro’s option the Sox ownership group is expected to just grab their ankles AGAIN. They want to “control the process”? Duh!

Oh wait, I keep forgetting about the Manny contract: those pictures where Dan Duquette and Manny’s previous agent Jeff Moorad each had a gun to Manny’s temple and forced him to sign the contract. I for one am ecstatic Manny is floundering about in free agency. He is getting what he deserves.

As for the Hollywood Sports Guy, stay the hell out of Boston…you are no longer welcome.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Captain "Intangibles"

Was there a lamer off-season "drama" (I use the term very, very loosely) than the Scott Boras fueled free agency of Jason Varitek? For a thirty-something catcher with eroding defensive skills and no bat, with all the WEEIdiots trying to quantify the skills of a .220 hitting catcher and stealing the title of "Captain Intangibles" from Jetes in NY is laughable at best. (Jetes earned the title with his "otherworldly base-running intelligence" and "his ability to drive his teammates to be the best they can be".)

To wit, to think that Jason Varitek is the only catcher in baseball working with starting pitchers to game plan is laughable. Varitek does not block low pitches very well anymore, has not been physically able to catch Tim Wakefield for a number of years, has never thrown out many base-runners, and I haven't even started on the fact that his bat disappeared four years ago (or the same time Trot Nixon lost his mojo).

Intangibles is a term that sports agent use for over-rated players and managers use to justify playing crappy players who suck up to them. For instance, Joe Torre kept Mel Stottlemyre as his pitching coach in New York for years for his "intangibles". Of course, Stottlemyre was a horrible coach whose only "intangible" was to mix up a bad-ass gin and tonic. Hell, I had great "intangibles" playing ball--I couldn't hit, was slow, undersized, and was never confused with anyone who had a rocket-arm, but I had great intangibles, baby!

Seriously, Varitek is a back-up catcher now who the Sox overvalued a number of years ago, and who there was absolutely NO MARKET what-so-ever for him. Thanks to the release of Dougie "Chick Parm" Mirabelli last year, Varitek was scared out of taking arbitration, and for some reason he thought a team would give up a first round pick to sign him. I think the Sox front-office was praying some idiot would hand them a draft pick for Captain Intangibles.

Hopefully, the front office can still swing a deal for a young catcher. As it is, I expect Josh Bard to be near full-time behind the plate by August. Alas, the Varitek Era is bound to end not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Time keeps on slipping...

...slipping, slipping into the future. Yup, when the Steve Miller Band lyrics come out, you know it has been too long since a previous post. My apologies (if there's anyone left reading the blog) as I've been crazy busy at work and haven't had the energy to post--its the only time I miss the train rides back and forth to Boston every day (OK, it took three days of training in the city to kill that romantacized idea, but still it was a lot of free time on the laptop back in the day...).

Without further ado, some recent thoughts on the Patriots:

PATRIOTS:
Three key topics this off-season:

*Scott Pioli
*Josh McDaniels
*Eric Mangini

Pioli signing with the Kansas City Chiefs and leaving a gaping hole in the Patriots front office is definately going to signal a change in the Patriots free agent signings, operations, and drafting. One main criticism of Bill Belichick in his Cleveland days was his draft picks. For some reason, I think a lot of the draft busts have been guys Belichick drafted over objections with the idea to "coach 'em up" rather than getting guys who can play. Of course, this may not be true, but all the late round linebackers, early round wide receivers, and others could simply be part of the chaos that comes from trying to predict what kind of players coming out of college will be.

Pioli's motivation leaving the Patriots and his mentor is no doubt the same as Bill Belichick's was back when he left the shadow of the Tuna in order to strike out on his own: "can I do this all by myself without my mentor or not?".

Josh McDaniels is a question mark as far as finding someone to step in and bond with Tom Brady and Randy Moss and keep the record-setting offense on track. Both defections raise the question of who stays and who goes on the coaching staff and front office? What impact does that have on the offense and defense? Is Belichick more involved with the front office and less hands-on coaching? Or is the opposite true? Who is brought in as QB coach? Does Belichick keep that job like he did when Dick Rehbein died?

Where do these new coaches and front office folk come from? Some can promote from within. What happens with the offensive coordinator position? I would love to see Belichick bring in someone like Mike Martz from the outside who can add some fresh wrinkles to the offense. Can you imagine Brady, Moss, and Martz together? What kind of offense would that be? 600 points in 16 games?

What about the defensive coaches on the move? After this past season of continuous defensive breakdowns, there has to be some kind of change. Will Romeo Crennel return as defensive coordinator? Dom Capers must be on is way out, right? Did he have any impact on the defense in 08 (Positive impact, I mean)? How about growing the two new defensive backs from tehe draft, Jonathan Wilhite and Terreance Wheatley. What impact did those two make this season? Is it a situation like with Brandon Merriweather whehere he needed a year in order to get it and learn the defensive system? I seem to remember a second and fourth round pick stepping up as rookin\es in 2003 and making positive contributions on defense as the team marched to the Super Bowl. Those two were named Eugene Wilson and Asante Samuel. Or is it simply unfair to compare those Wilhite and Wheatley to Wilson and Samuel at this point?

Of course, it is easy to contrast the defection of McDaniels from the Patriots with the leaving of the Eric Mangini to the Jets three years ago. This time around, there is no animosity, no anger, just an acknowledgement of an earned opportunity for McDaniels and glowing statements about him. Not to denigrate the ManGenius, because he obviously is thought highly enough that merely hours after being shown the door by the J-E-T-S JETS, JETS, JETS he is able to find a new position as head coach in Cleveland. Mangini benefits from the perception as the Jets front office as bunglers: witness their whole Brett Favre fiasco, bringing him in as a savior even though he has not been a top ten QB for almost ten years. Also, how about the Jets mishandling the entire Boston College/Coach Jags situation: what kind of idiot GM does not call the school athletic director to indicate that he wanted permission to interview his head coach and instead runs an end around and costs the coach his job--yeah, lots of college coaches are motivated to deal with that second-string Mickey Mouse organization in New York.

This is yet another test of the Patriots depth: is Bill Belichick continuing to develop coaches as he did when Romeo Crennel left (McDaniels and Mangini were generation 2.0). Are there more branches on the Belichick coaching tree?

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