Tuesday, May 22, 2012

RANDOM RAMBLINGS

WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF TOMORROW!:


The Red Sox and Yankees are tied for last place in the A.L. East on May 22, 2012.  Welcome to Bizarro-World.  


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SIMPLE SOLUTIONS TO COMPLEX ISSUES:


There is a situation developing with the Red Sox and a simple solution that seems to have been overlooked.  With Kevin Youkilis returning, the Red Sox find the team having two third basemen: Will Middlebrooks (aka the future) and Kevin Youkilis (aka the injured veteran).  The Red Sox showed a solution last week in Philadelphia that I doubt they will employ.  


First, leave Middlebrooks at third base. He's the the third baseman of the future, so let him keep playing. He's earned it with his bat.  Then, move Youkilis to designated hitter.  Big Papi David Ortiz then moves from DH to first base (where he is surprisingly a very capable fielder).  Finally, Adrian Gonzalez moves to the outfield (right or left, does it matter?).  The Red Sox are short four outfielders (Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Darnell McDonald, and Cody Ross are all on the disabled list) and whoever plays out there now is not as productive as Youkilis, Middlebrooks, Ortiz, or Gonzalez.  The Red Sox need their best hitters in the lineup.  


What everyone is going to say is "what if someone gets hurt playing out of position?"  I respond, if a player is paid millions of dollars, they shut their mouth and go play.  I find it appalling that WEEIdiots will argue that Adrian Gonzalez is too fragile to play in the outfield as they have done since last year at interleague time.  The man is a ballplayer.  He is an athlete. He is an grown adult.  Take off the kids gloves already.  David Ortiz can't play in the field? Give it a rest.  This is a simple solution. This is right.  To do otherwise is foolish and hurts the team.


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STYMIED AT WORK:


Ben Cherington, General Manager of the Red Sox finds himself at this juncture coming across as a weak-sister to Theo Epstein since assuming the mantle of GM from him.  I have no grudge with Cherington himself.  He is no doubt a fine baseball man and potentially a good general manager in the right situation.  Sadly, he is serving as Larry Lucchino's mouthpiece here in Boston and paying for the past mistakes of ownership at the detriment of his reputation.  His choice of manager was rejected, he has apparently no power to make a deal in any way, and is likely hurting his future job prospects standing at the front of the parade and waving like a mascot.  I hate that the team has put him in this position.  This roster needs blowing-up.  Cherington is likely chomping at the bit to do so, but likely will not get the opportunity to do so anytime soon.  I suggest he follow Epstein's example and rent a gorilla suit.


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STILL ROLLING THE DICE AFTER ALL THESE YEARS:


Amazing how Dice-K, when the deadline approached for his rehab and he obviously was not ready to return, came up with a muscle strain and now can restart the rehab all over again in a few weeks.  What a waste of cash this turkey has been, especially in light of Yu Darvish in Texas pitching extremely well this season. Remember Dice-K Mania?  Embarrassing isn't it?  I know I shudder to go to the archives and read the over-enthusiastic blather I wrote about this so-called second coming of Hideo Nomo (or, as a friend once took great pleasure in inappropriately and intentionally mis-pronouncing his name as "Nideo Homo") see: HERE and HERE, for examples I'd rather forget.  For example: "Daisuke the Monster Matsuzaka will, eventually, be in a Red Sox uniform making the original Nomomania; Irabu-irritability; Ichiro-media-madness; and Matsui-mania look like small potatoes. This could be Fernandomania! This kid is the real deal."  Somebody shoot me now for typing that drivel once-upon-a-time.  Forget what point I was going to make about him letting us down time and again, I need to curl up in the fetal position and cry for an hour. 


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MISC:


I find Michael Felger and Tony Mazzarotti annoying on the Sports Hub drive-time show, but still less annoying than Glenn "I have no real opinion on anything other than what I am told to say by the producers" Ordway (even teamed up with Michael Holley).  Just sayin' for the record...


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LAST YEAR'S PAT'S ROOKIES NEED TO STEP UP:


With the retirement of Matt Light, the blind-side protection for Tom Brady is not officially the mammoth Nate Solder at left tackle. The second-year offensive tackle is (if not by the media and fans, by the coaches) the most-watched and most-important driver of the Patriots high-powered offense.  All season, his responsibility is keeping TB12 upright and protected from the best pass-rushers on the opposing squads.  


Also on notice are second year running backs Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen. The third and second round picks are being thrust into the spotlight with BenJarvis Green-Ellis cashing in and making some well-deserved green in Cincy.  Vereen and Ridley should handle the bulk of the carries, as Joseph Addai should not be counted on to beat-out either running back. While  Danny Woodhead should continue on as a shot-gun/third-down back, I believe that Vereen should soon be taking those snaps as well.  Vereen has to get on the field and Ridley needs to hold onto the ball for this to take place. Neither showed anything other than brief glimpses of talent last year (Ridley more so than Vereen). 



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CAN THE CELTICS REACH THE FINALS WITH ENOUGH HEALTHY BODIES TO NOT FORFEIT THE GAMES?


Not to use the term "ridiculous" too often, but this Celtics team reminds me of an old lawnmower farting blue smoke, engine skipping and almost stalling, yet somehow plowing forward and, even though taking ten times longer than it should, eventually knocking down everything in its path.  For a season that started with Jeff Green's heart ailment keeping him out and simmering resentment for even trading Hall of Fame center Kendrick Perkins for him (well, according to the WEEIdiots, he's better than Dwight Howard).  A super-short camp after the lock-out was resolved, and the Celtics lurched forward playing under .500 ball through 30 games.  Now they're a win from the Eastern Conference Finals?  Wow.



Friday, May 04, 2012

Spare Neurons


  • RED SOX:
    • Let us all exult in the past week which was devoid of Jerry Remy on NESN telecasts. Ahhhhh.  That is what watching baseball is meant to be.  Kudos to Peter Abraham, Rob Bradford, Peter Gammons, and others for providing REAL color commentary with salient and intelligent points about the game on the field, and not nonsensical brand-building and oh-so-not-funny humor.  
    • "This is the way the world ends: This is the way the world ends: This is the way the world ends: Not with a bang but a whimper" - T.S. Eliot "The Hollow Men"
      • For Yankees great Mariano Rivera, what an end.  At 42, a comeback is improbable after injuring his knee chasing a fly ball in batting practice.  If it's the end, what a sad end to such an amazing career. Too many pitchers go out so ingloriously.  It reminds me of my favorite pitcher of my childhood, John Tudor, who went out injured as well, going 12-4 with a 2.40 ERA his final season earning comeback player of the year in 1990.  Arm injuries derailed his career., but at least he went out as a top performer.  Sad to see Rivera go out so ingloriously and with such a random injury.
        • This verifies my "Reverse Yankees Curse". Yankees players I draft for Fantasy Baseball (after grudgingly ending a ten year embargo/Pinstripe Protest) have horrific seasons at the plate or at bat and/or injuries.  I did not pick up Derek Jeter this year and he has a terrific first 6 weeks of the season.  Coincidentally, this is the first year I was able to draft Rivera. Warning to all Yankees fans: I also drafted CC Sabathia and Nick Swisher.   Don't count on those two making it through the season in one piece! Bwah-hah-hah-hah!
    • I have a theory on the Red Sox bullpen, but no one wants to hear it. It was branded as  "Closer by Committee" in 2003, but it's not as bad as it sounds.  What sabermetricians, SABR-heads, statisticians, Bill-James-ians, or "Moneyballers" (as they are routinely dismissed as) purport is that the best relief pitcher on the team pitch the highest-leverage situations.  For the past few years, the Red Sox bullpen was great due not to Jonathan Papelbon cranking out saves, but with Daniel Bard acting as the "Closer".  A high-leverage situation can happen anywhere during the game. When the team had a tie game or small lead or is down a run and needs to get out of a jam, Daniel Bard, not Papelbon, came in from the pen. As a strike-out pitcher, the out often did not result in any runs. Saving your best pitcher for a lead that may never exist by the 9th inning seems ludicrous.  If the middle of the order is coming up in the 7th with the bases loaded, you need your best pitcher to get out of the jam.  That's a closer.  Pitching against the bottom of the order with a three run lead in the 9th is why saves are such a cheap stat.
      • Without Bard in this role, the bullpen has suffered. There is no one else to fill this role. Alfredo Aceves would be perfect there, if the Sox had a 9th inning "save-muncher".  Did this "Closer by Committee" idea exit with Theo Epstein?  Somehow, I think Epstein was right in keeping Bard out of the rotation and in the role of "Closer" and not "Save-muncher".

  • PATRIOTS: 
    • Reports are filtering in that Baltimore Ravens linebacker extraordinaire Terrell Suggs (aka arguably the best defensive player in football right now) injured his Achilles tendon either playing basketball (likely) or practicing the team conditioning run (extremely unlikely) and is out for a big chunk (or all) of 2012.  Baltimore coach John Harbaugh,  there is your schadenfreude for you bringing up the Patriots and alleging an asterisk be added to their past titles. 
    • The tragic suicide of Junior Seau is so sad.  For someone to give his entire life to the game of football and have it all end as such is a tragedy.  Hopefully, this will be the impetus to spur the NFL, NCAA, High School, and Youth Leagues into more dramatic research, equipment, and overall action regarding concussions.  Imagine how many times Seau rammed his head full-speed into another helmet or a body part over all his years not just in the NFL, but at USC in college, high school, youth leagues with often inadequate equipment.  It is only a wonder there are not more reported concussive side-effects.  So sad.

  • BRUINS:
    • Blow 'em up! First-round exits should not go back to being par for the course.
      • Trade goalie Tim Thomas.
      • Trade forward David Krejci.
      • Trade forward Milan Lucic. 
        • Package all of them for a goal-scorer.  If there was one weakness against the Capital it was the loss of Nathan Horton.  That one player with the sniper-ability to find the back of the net in crunch-time was missing.  Krejci and Lucic are not, nor ever will be, that player.  Cut bait and make the trade.  

  • CELTICS: 
    • Big Game Three tonight back at the Garden against the Atlanta Hawks.  They stole one on the road and need to build on that momentum to put the Hawks away and look to Chicago.  Some quick-hit, big keys to the game:
      • Rajon Rondo returns from one game suspension.
        • Rondo needs to push the offense and not let a game one repeat.  The energy should be higher at home, but the Celtics are nothing if not as inconsistent as their floor leader.  Rondo needs to bring it.
      • Ray Allen back from injury?
        • If Ray returns, is there too much rust to mitigate the return to action becomes the question. Being a step slow on defense and not having timing on the offensive end could be disastrous.  Ray needs to be ready to play.
      • Atlanta's Josh Smith availability and effectiveness.
        • Josh Smith is more the Celtics can handle. He is big, strong, aggressive, and a natural scorer.  Their hope (as always) is they mitigate his scoring by clamping down on Joe Johnson, he misses his shots, or he's injured.  Well, he's injured.  He may play.  The speed and quickness which is so much of his game may be in question with the knee injury.  Whether he healthy enough to play and to be effective spells-out  Atlanta's chances as much as anything the Celtics do on the court.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Patriots Go Wide



    • With the news of Jabar Gaffney joining the Patriots (again), all of a sudden Tom Brady (TB12) is looking like his son on Christmas morning: new toys everywhere. As new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels bringing the way-back offense back to 2007, he has also brought the Patriots a new outside attack that they have lacked over the past couple of years. With Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez back at tight end (and David Fells to block and act as injury insurance), this scary offense seems to be adding skill receivers all over the field.  Compare this squad to the record-breaking, Josh McDaniel coached team in 2007:
      • 2007: Wes Welker in the slot: Provided that Welker actually signs the franchise tag or reaches a long-term deal, TB12's number one target should (emphasis on "should") be back at top speed in 2012. Whether Welker holds out into the regular season is a concern, and explains why Anthony Gonzalez was signed and Jeremy Ebert was drafted.  These were subtle hints that outside of TB12, no one player is bigger than the other 52 on the roster. That said, pay the man. He's left it out on the field for the past five years and has been grossly underpaid without a single whimper or whine. Just pay him.
      • 2007:  Randy Moss out wide: Brandon Lloyd, the best deep threat in the NFL, signed on this off-season with full knowledge of the Josh McDaniels playbook from playing for him in Denver and St. Louis. Unlike Chad nee Johnson Ochocinco, he knows the playbook already.  What seems remarkably understated is that Lloyd, like Welker, is one of the best receivers in the league in this specific offense: it is tailored to his skills specifically, just like it was to Randy Moss. Lloyd is going to put up jaw-dropping Randy Moss-esque numbers. Be prepared.
      • 2007:  Donte Stallworth outside the numbers: Guess who is back? Donte Stallworth and his world-class speed is back. Another receiver who put up huge numbers in a Josh McDaniels offense and knows the system is back to give TB12 yet another deep threat.  As stated above with Lloyd, like Welker he is a proven fit in this system.  
      • 2007:  Jabar Gaffney as third/fourth receiver: Umm, is this overkill?  This guy put up almost 1,000 yards receiving in Washington last year.  He put up great numbers in New England in the past, and then he also followed Josh McDaniels to Denver and shined in that system putting up great numbers.  Gaffney is yet another professional, hard-working, knows-the-system, proven success, not-over-the-hill receiver for TB12.
      • 2007:  Nobody here of note: Deion Branch who put up 50 receptions for 700 yards in 2011 in New England is now looking like he has gone from second to fifth at the depth chart. OK, this is officially overkill.  Brach is 32, and while maybe having lost a step, still has the complete trust of TB12 and knows the offense inside and out. Branch learned the hard way that this is where the numbers are for him.  Like every other receiver on this list, his cap number is low.  Like everyone else listed above, he has past success in this offense.  
        • Anthony Gonzalez: I liked Gonzalez in Indy when he was healthy.  I don't think he has a prayer of making the team at this point, but maybe he can catch another team's eye in the pre-season games. His only hope is that Welker holds out and maybe an injury to someone ahead of him on the depth chart.
        • Chad Ochocinco: I think the Jabar Gaffney signing makes it official. So long. Don't let the door hit ya on the way out.  At best, he is reduced to training camp injury insurance.
        • Julian Edelman: I hope he is studying up on the defensive playbook and working hard returning kicks and punts.  Edelman is getting squeezed and needs to beat out Gonzalez with his versatility and youth (though Gonzalez is only 27).
        • Matthew Slater: See Edelman above.  Slater is purely special teams/insurance at safety at this point.
        • Jeremy Ebert: Practice squad at best for the 7th round pick. 
        • Tiquan Underwood and Britt Davis: Training camp fodder.  Maybe they also can catch another team's eye in the pre-season games and get picked-up. 
    • This team stacked at a position of weakness last year.  After struggling to field a competent player at third wide in 2011, this year the Pats can go five deep at wide-out.  A repeat of 5,000 yards passing for TB12 seems likely.

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