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.

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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.

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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?

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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...

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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