Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Battle for Third Place

Pitchers and catchers report soon, the equipment truck is off to Lee County, FL and after an off-season with seismic changes at General Manager and Field Manager, the Boston Red Sox appear poised to do battle...for third place in the American League East.  Leap-frogged in young talent by the Tampa Bay (not Devil) Rays and in personnel savvy by the accursed New York Yankees, the ownership group of the Liverpool FC  Boston Red Sox have dedicated the off-season to trying to hold off the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles for that precious real estate as "Middle-of-the-Pack".

What is the team slogan for 2012? 

  • A proud return to mediocrity.  
  • A call back to the proud tradition of the post-1946 and pre-1967 Red Sox teams.  
  • Remember 1981 through 1985? Who would want to? Well, them days are back again (minus the Oil Can Boyd cocaine extravaganza, hopefully). 
There are problems in the starting rotation, question marks in the bullpen, a giant hole at shortstop, and issues in the outfield:  

    • Provided they stay healthy, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Josh Beckett match up with any starting rotation.  Any of the three have the talent to put up a 20 win season at any time.  This group has been plagued by bizarre inconsistencies and injuries.
    • I guess the plan is to have bullpen stalwarts Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves fill out the rotation.  With mega-bucks contracts John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka filling out the disabled list, the Sox have Andrew Miller, Clayton "Son of Mort" Mortensen and the usual retreads brought in for a look-see in spring training.   Not a lot of options after a quiet off-season.
      • Did I say retreads? Maybe I was too kind.  
        • Rich Hill, didn't they try and fail with that attempt last year and the year before? 
        • Vicente Padilla? When he was healthy, he was never that good. I guess  his beer gut on the mound is out there in spring training will help fill the seats in the exhibition games.
        • Aaron Cook? A great signing I would heartily 2007.  Cook could not get anyone out in the NL West the last three years, how does that translate to outs in the AL East? 2007 stands as the only season the NL batted below .280 against him for the season.  
        • John Maine? At least when healthy Maine got batters out.  Of course, it has been a while since he was healthy.  Since 2008 he's been burning the Mets as they waited for him to return to health. 
    • The bullpen had three dependable pitchers last season: Jonathan Papelbon who left via free agency, and Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard who appear to be in the starting rotation in 2012. Who is left to pick up the ball?
      • Andrew Bailey, a cheaper replacement for Papelbon is closer quality if healthy. IF HEALTHY. CHEAPER. As dependable as Papelbon? Heck no. As expensive as Papelbon? Definitely not!  Seriously, this team had to go so cheap that they would not entertain a Franklin Morales closer on the free agent market rather than trade prospects for a dinged-up closer?
      • Mark Melancon, a decent set-up pitcher. A nice, cheap bullpen part.  Emphasis on CHEAP.  Closed some games for the Astros when it became obvious 100 losses was in their future. A decent set-up man, no more, no less.
      • Bobby Jenks, IF HEALTHY.  A real question mark more likely to sit his fat ass on the sidelines all year and collect $6 million again for nothing. Why is it every time the "Chicken and Beer" story was in the news, I pictured Bobby Jenks sneaking into the clubhouse and chewing the left-over fat from the chicken bones and drinking the larrys left behind in the bottom of the beer cans. 
      • Matt Albers and the Cosby kids did alright last year when he got healthy and before he ran out of steam.  Middle reliever. Nothing special.  
      • Franklin Morales. Umm, they kept this guy? A shot to be the lefty specialist, I guess. Is there a reason Terry Francona refused to put Morales in any kind of high-leverage situation?  I mean, it seemed the Sox were up four or down four  before Morales picked up a ball in the 'pen.
      • Felix Doubront, Michael Bowden, and a boatload of free agent minor-league contract spring training invites. Once again,  not a lot of options after a quiet off-season.
    • I am throwing up in my mouth just thinking of this. I have to move on. Mike Aviles, Jose Iglesias, and Nick Punto.  Seriously?  No, I cannot even think about this mess rationally. 
    • Cody Ross. Blah. His dream was to be a rodeo clown, seriously. Were there not 15 players in the same mode as this clown? Josh Willingham not available? Marco Scutaro had to be jettisoned to make room for Cody freaking Ross? 
    • Ryan Sweeney. Meh. Another Cody Ross level fourth or fifth outfielder. Never going to be anything super. 
    • Darnell McDonald. Still around? Really? Wow. Guess someone needs to be there to fill in for JD Drew on the disabled list.
    • Ryan Kalish and Carl Crawford are injured and Crawford unlikely to be healthy to start the season, and Kalish out until mid-season and likely ticketed to Pawtucket anyway. Crawford at least should bounce back with better production than last year. Kalish looks like a maybe for right field in 2013. 
    • So other than Jacoby Ellsbury (who the WEEIdiots wanted run outta town on a rail last year) the Red Sox have a whole lot of nothing exciting in the outfield.

Spending almost $180 million and still having to deal with that mess? Good luck, Red Sox. Time to start the bidding on when the first public Bobby Valentine-Larry Lucchino blow-up stirs up the excitement as the team on the field fights to hold off the surprisingly decent Blue Jays .

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Spare Neurons

    • Evolve or Die is what I believe is coming out of Foxborough, MA.   The Draft should continue to show where the Patriots brain-trust sees the future of the NFL offenses and defenses.  Bill Belichick built a dominant defense in the early 2000s that shut down all comers.  When the rules changed, he switched gears and spear-headed first a vertical attack in 2007 that brought memories of Darryl Lamonica and the 1970s Oakland Raiders.  Then, he finally (after the Daniel Graham and Ben Watson experiment failed) brought out the two tight-end attack that has befuddled defenses the past two years.  Now, what is the next step? Is there a new defensive twist? Do they load up on wide receivers in the draft and free agency? Are there more Ras-I Dowling  big corners on the way?  A twist is coming.
    • One change that won't happen is Wes Welker going anywhere.  Even franchised for a year, it is dirt-cheap for a wide receiver comparatively.  Over 550 receptions over the last five years is insane production.  There is no reason a long-term deal cannot be worked out eventually.
  • RED SOX:
    • No Marco Scutaro. Seriously?  Mike Aviles? Nick Punto? Jose Iglesias? How about Julio Iglesias at shortstop at this point. $180 million dollar payroll and pennies spent at short stop.  Scutaro made $6 million?  The Sox could not afford him and Cody Ross at $3 million. This is not the Royals, is it?
    • Now is the time to slump.  Now, not April or May.  Everyone stay calm.
    • Don't forget the most important chip: the salary exemption they will have for Marc Savard at the trading deadline.  There is a chance of adding some energy or an impact player still this season.
    • Now is the time to panic. Everyone take to the streets. 
      • I am trying hard to be enthusiastic about this team.  Ray Allen looks old. Paul Pierce looks old. Kevin Garnett looks decrepit. 
      • Rondo looks injured every other game. The wheels are off the wagon.  Danny Ainge has added some decent pieces around the Big Three, but the Big Three are the Old Three.  NBA basketball is a young man's game.  Old, older, oldest. 
    • Too late to make a run to the top five or six, but David Moyes has the boys in blue making a nice run in the cold, cold European winter at the Merseyside.  First Man CIty tumbles and then today a great 2-0 win over Chelsea.  Nice to see such a solid effort.  Sure, a goal in the first six minutes helps, but American Landon Donovan makes such a big difference making plays on the pitch. 
    • Speaking of Lando, is there any logical reason the freaking Los Angeles Galaxy tries to keep him around the MLS rather than letting him stay in the EPL? Forget drawing an extra couple bodies into the arena, for the good of USA footy, it is so much more important to the best players in the best competition.  If not on US soil, so what? 

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Take it like a man

Trying to wrap my mind around the Patriots heart-wrenching loss in Super Bowl 46 and came up with a few quick hits to tide me on my football needs over until the draft starts in earnest:

  • Put me at the top of the list of people who DO NOT want to be running anyone outta town on a rail.  Fire Tom Brady. Let Wes Welker walk.  Who are these bozos? What kind of rocks do these WEEIdiots crawl out of to reach the phone?  The two best players on offense are the last players to run out, regardless of one bad series.  A tough loss to swallow? Sure, but forget churning out a couple of superstars.
  • Yes, it was a terribly frustrating loss.  The Patriots could and even should have won the game.  Most frustrating was the feeling all playoffs that this season felt like 2001.  This Patriots team was not the most talented team, but they were a great team, just like that classic squad. They came from behind. They weren't expected to win and yet pulled games out all year.  I think that was what made this loss frustrating.  This was supposed to another rabbit-out-of-the hat win.
    • Just think, everyone had the bad mojo of the Patriots not winning a playoff game in two years.  It looked like that after the bye week, Pittsburgh, who had beat the Patriots already, would be waiting for them after dispatching Tim Tebow and the Broncos. Instead, the Broncos improbably beat the Steelers in overtime giving the Patriots an easy romp in round one. 
    • Then, when Baltimore was supposed to beat the Patriots soundly, they quite literally dropped the ball.  The Patriots were in the Super Bowl.  The two big guns of the NFC--Green Bay and New Orleans--were already dispatched, and the Patriots had a realistic chance of winning the Super Bowl.
      • THAT is what made it frustrating.
  • So my plan is to appreciate the season.  Ten game winning streak.  Amazing statistical seasons from Tom Brady and Rob Gonkowksi.  A young defense coming together in the playoffs.  A great coaching job by Bill Belichick all year. The return of Josh McDaniels. Beating the Jets twice. Two rounds against the Tebow. It was a fun year. As a survivor of the Ron Meyer, Dick McPherson, Rod Rust,  and Pete Carroll regimes, I cannot take any season for granted.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Dante's Inferno

Super Bowl 2012--Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia always there for New England Patriots - ESPN Boston:

Just sharing a link here. Great article by Jackie Mac on Patriots Offensive Line Coach Dante Scarnecchia. Hard to believe he's been on the staff since Ron Meyer was coaching in New England. That is just mind boggling. New England Patriots’ Top 2019 NFL Draft Picks Show Evolution on Both Sides of the Ball

The New England Patriots may have tipped their hand with their first two 2019 NFL Draft picks. Choosing a bigger, more aggressive outside-...