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.

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