Monday, December 17, 2007
The Patriots became the 2nd team in NFL history to reach the 14-0 mark matching the 1972 Dolphins perfect regular season (in '72 the Regular Season was only 14 games rather than 16) and wrapped up homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The Patriots officially are playing for nothing but the W as the results of the remaining two games will have no effect on their post season seeding.
I'm conflicted about what to do now. I think that resting most of the key starters would be beneficial in allowing them to heal, rest and prepare for the post season. BUT, there is the possibility that without game conditions they may lose their edge like the Colorado Rockies before the World Series. With the last two weeks of the season and the bye week off this is a serious concern, but the Rockies were young and inexperienced, Tom Brady and the Patriots have been there before and know what it takes to be champions. What would be best? Probably enough playing time to keep the starters sharp, but otherwise rest them.
On to the game...
The Patriots beat Mangini and the Jets 20-10. The weather conditions in this game was a huge factor. It had snowed the night before and was still snowing in Boston around game time. The FieldTurf looked excellent, but Tom Brady did not. The wind caused the ball to carry. The wet ball led to dropped and bobbled passes. This was the primary reason for Tom Brady's bad game. Leave it to Laurence Maroney to make me look stupid by putting up a great game right after I got through trashing his season up to this point. I'll forgive him for this one. The reason the Patriots won this game was actually the defense and special teams. Eugene Wilson provided the Patriots with a touchdown by returning an interception for a touchdown on the first drive of the game after Jets QB Kellen Clemens got a good look at the FieldTurf compliments of Patriots DT Richard Seymour. Clemens injured his ribs on that play and would not return. The only offensive touchdown was gift wrapped for them by a blocked punt by Kelley Washington placing them deep in Jets territory. The Jets also had a touchdown compliments of a botched punt attempt as Patriots punter Chris Hanson couldn't get a handle on the football and gave the Jets time to block the punt and return it for a touchdown. Other than that, this game was a showcase of offensive failures. The Patriots had problems moving the ball all game and the Jets squandered multiple trips to the Red Zone as the Patriots defense improved on it's early season failures in the red zone. There was a brief reprieve in the game called after the fans began throwing snowballs at the Jets bench and the camera showed a large chunk of ice thrown onto the field.
I'm starting to wonder if it's a good thing that the Patriots have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. It seems that the Patriots lose their explosiveness on offense when the weather conditions get bad. Tom Brady's lackluster games against the Ravens in the Wind Bowl and this so-so game in a messy home game wasn't encouraging. If these conditions had hit when the Patriots were playing a better team than the Ravens or the Jets the quest for 19-0 might be over. I'm not concerned about the remaining games this season. A loss would be bad, but I'd prefer another Super Bowl trophy to a perfect season with a post-season collapse when Tom Brady can't win the game because they're so dependent upon their passing game. Then again, playing in Pittsburgh or Cleveland probably wouldn't be much of an improvement over Foxborough.
Elsewhere in the League...
The Dolphins ended the quest for 0-16 with an overtime win over the Ravens thanks to a botched field goal kick by the Ravens kicker. It might be nice that the Dolphins no longer have that chip on their shoulder when they come into Foxborough next Sunday, or maybe it'll be bad now that they've had a taste of victory and have a chance to break up the perfect season. I suppose only time will tell.
The 49ers managed to slip by the Bengals on Saturday night moving the Patriots draft pick down a few spots.
The Browns beat the Bills 8-0 in near blizzard conditions. That wasn't a touchdown with a two point conversion either, that's two field goals and a safety. I thought the snow here was bad. The Browns are poised for a playoff spot if they don't screw up the last two weeks.
The Jaguars beat the Steelers at home to help set themselves up for the wild card and for being the only team to beat the Steelers at home I'm granting the Jaguars official "Dark Horse" status. The Jaguars are also the only likely playoff contender that the Patriots haven't already beaten and have a solid 10-4 record. Their losses this season include two to the Colts, their opener against the Titans and a loss to the Saints without their starting QB.
Carolina upset the Seahawks to ensure a first round bye for the Cowboys in the playoffs.
The Colts didn't wow anybody by beating the Raiders by 7 points, but wrapped up their division.
Dallas had a terrible game against the Philadelphia Eagles to keep things interesting in the NFC. The Eagles seem to be playing much better down the stretch. They gave the Patriots a run for their money and were the only team besides the Patriots to close the deal against Dallas this season.
The Chargers wrapped up the AFC West with a big 51-14 win over the Detriot Lions. Jon Kitna threw 5 interceptions, hard to win games that way. This is another team that seems to have really gotten it's act together down the stretch. This is another team I wouldn't mind avoiding in the playoffs.
The Redskins beat up on the Giants in New York to keep their playoff hopes alive. Hopefully this is an indicator of how the Giants plan to play for the remainder of the season.
Friday, December 14, 2007
The biggest blow in the Mitchell report for me was Mo Vaughn. Mo spent years as the face of the Red Sox and became an extremely popular local figure for his extensive work within the community, it's sad to hear that this scandal will tarnish his local legacy both as a good player and a good human being.
Eric Gagne was also named by the Mitchell report, but this can be clearly tied to his superlative performance that won him the NL Cy Young award in 2003 and his mediocre performance outside of this season. Thankfully Gagne is no longer our problem and can enjoy falling into obscurity with the Brewers.
Brendan Donnelly was also a short term fixture in the bullpen who was named by the Mitchell report, but when Gagne was acquired it was released that Donnelly was hurt and would spend the rest of the season on the DL after undergoing surgery. There was some buzz about resigning him, but this will now likely fall by the wayside if it hasn't already.
No other recent Red Sox of relevance were named by the Mitchell report. There were, however, plenty of Yankees on the list.
The headliner of this report was none other than the Rocket himself, Roger Clemens. ESPN broke the news that he would be on the list prior to the actual release of the report and this turned out to be more reliable than the information regarding Jason Varitek. This information has permanently tarnished the name of Roger Clemens and taken him down off of his untouchable pedestal with all his Cy Young awards and other accolades. This also may have redeemed Dan Duquette, the man who chose to let Roger Clemens leave Boston because the Rocket was supposedly in the twilight of his career. In retrospect, perhaps the duke was right, maybe Roger was on his last legs and resorted to some desperate measures to get his edge back.
Roger has claimed that this is a complete falsehood through his lawyer, but in all honesty the pieces all seem to fit. His bounce back after leaving for Toronto? His late career renaissance with the Yankees?
Rogers friend and current Yankee pitcher Andy Petite was also named in the Mitchell Report, along with Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, etc.
I suppose I couldn't have asked for this report to turn out better. None of those who have received god-like status in this town have been implicated. The Red Sox that were implicated were either long retired, long out of town or never truly worked into the fold here to begin with. But even with that, I can recognize that this is a sad day for baseball and I get no joy from reveling in what is most likely the worst day of Roger Clemens' career.
Monday, December 10, 2007
This was the last true hurdle. The Steelers are the last team on the schedule with the talent to legitimately beat the Patriots. The Jets and Dolphins are outclassed by the Patriots in every aspect of the game, the Giants are outclassed as well, but to a lesser degree. I don't think these games are a forgone conclusion, not because of the talent of these teams, but because all the Patriots need is one win (or one Colts loss) in the remaining 3 games to clinch the 1st seed in the AFC. The games against the Ravens and Eagles showed the Patriots can be lulled asleep by terrible teams and rest on their impressive W-L record. The competition doesn't get much worse with the Jets in a tie for the second worst record in the NFL and Miami having the worst record in the NFL. As I said earlier, it may actually be more beneficial to the Patriots to lose these games so that the 3-10 49ers can move under them in the standings and get the Patriots a higher draft pick.
Their opponents on the other hand have every reason to win. The Jets got embarrassed at home in the opening game of the year with the Patriots in which the SpyGate/CameraGate incident occurred. Jets fans hate the Patriots for this and if the Jets can break up 19-0 in Foxboro this could make an otherwise atrocious season a bit more bearable and possibly buy Eric Mangini another year at the helm. If the Dolphins break up 19-0 it could be one of the biggest upsets of all time. Think about it. The race for 19-0 and 0-16 ending at the same time with two weeks left in the season? The NFL couldn't write a better script than that.
If that's not the perfect storm for a big upset, then I don't know what is.
On to the game itself.
There were signs that this one could be the end of the line for the Patriots perfect season. Cracks in the armor had begun to show for the Patriots against the Eagles and Ravens with the "only lose by a field goal" blueprint. Perhaps a better team, such as the Steelers, could upgrade the plan to "Don't lose to the Patriots". But as I predicted, the Patriots were going to wake up for this game because they recognized the Steelers as one of the most talented teams in football.
The Numbers are somewhat deceiving for the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger had a downright respectable day behind center with 19/32 and 187 yards. Steelers RB Willie Parker also had what may have been his best game of the season putting up 124 yards on 21 carries. It is somewhat telling however that both of these solid performances only yielded on touchdown. But this doesn't really explain why the Steelers lost, the Patriots offense does.
Without strong winds messing with his passes, Tom Brady got right back to business as usual. His 32/46, 399 yard, 4 TD day had Brady back to "video game on easy mode" form. This game was all Brady as the Patriots only had nine carries this game, one being a 4-yard run by Brady. Laurence Maroney couldn't capitalize on Brady's fireworks drawing defenders out of the box with a pathetic 18 yards on 8 carries.
While we're on Maroney, I'd like to point out how this guy's terrible season is being swept under the rug while everybody is distracted by Tom Brady and Randy Moss. I often feel that a RB's numbers have as much to do with his talent as it does with the threat of the passing game he's working with. I consider Joseph Addai a heavily overrated RB because he reaps the benefits of Peyton Manning drawing defenders back into coverage and away from the line of scrimmage. Laurence Maroney enjoys a similar benefit, but seems completely unable to capitalize on it. He's 23rd in the league in avg yards/carry and 31st in yards/game. Sammy Morris is 14th and 24th in those categories respectively. This is why I think the Patriots should consider taking Arkansas' Darren McFadden should he be available to them in the draft rather than trading down their pick as they have often done in the past.
This win was a flat out beating. The Patriots resolved to beat the Steelers through the air and the Steelers linemen couldn't properly pressure Brady and the Steelers secondary couldn't cover well enough to stop them. Simple as that.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
I really REALLY hate the bowl system in college football. I hate the questions it leaves unanswered. Sure, we've crowned a national champion, but there are always questions about the participants and somebody getting screwed etc.
I hate the subjectivity of non-automatic bids. This might be my bias from going to BC. BC currently possesses the country's longest bowl winning streak. Do you know why that is? Because it's the same story every year. BC falls just short of a BCS bowl and get passed over for worse football teams in the bowl selection process and then plays a team that's beneath them. Why you ask? 3 Reasons.
1) No bowls are held in the New England area because who the hell wants their bowl to take place in frigid New England in the middle of winter when you could have it in somewhere like Florida? Bowls often like to choose schools that are geographically close to the bowls, like Clemson was for the Chick-Fil-A bowl this year. BC was passed over for this bowl despite winning their division in the ACC, finishing with a better record than Clemson, a higher ranking than Clemson and beating Clemson.
2) BC fans have a reputation for not being willing to travel. Who can blame us for not travelling for this stuff. Who has money for game tickets, plane tickets and hotel rooms or time to do all that for that matter. I love BC football, but I work for my spending money and I live on a tight budget. This is also related to the fact that BC is not near any bowl sites.
3) Sponsors have gigantic boners for programs with more history. Let's face facts, BC's football greatness can be summed up in one pass. More well respected programs like Texas, Nebraska, Ohio State, LSU, Florida, Miami, FSU, Virginia Tech, USC, Notre Dame, etc. always get moved up in the bowl selection process just because they have a dedicated following left over from their national title glory days.
So welcome to the 2007 season where the story repeats again. BC couldn't lock up an automatic BCS bid by beating the Hokies in the ACC title game and were subjected to at large bids. Surely BC should get the second ACC bowl selection with the Gator Bowl, they were ranked #2 in the country at one point and went to the championship game right? Nope, they got passed over for the Virginia Cavaliers, the runner up for the Coastal Division. WELL, at least the third ACC bowl selection should be a lock for the Chick-Fil-A bowl RIGHT? Sorry, why take the BETTER team when you could take the CLOSER team in the Clemson Tigers, see above for additional ranting on this bowl selection. ESPN was even kind enough to provide a look into the process of overlooking a better team with this article:
"Past success is what makes Stokan's current decision so difficult. With the Hokies winning and claiming an automatic spot in a BCS bowl game, Boston College is probably the most deserving team to invite from the ACC. The Eagles, after all, beat Clemson and Virginia Tech during the regular season and have quarterback Matt Ryan, a Heisman Trophy candidate. But Stokan was noticeably discouraged by the small number of Boston College fans who made the trip to Jacksonville.
"We have to protect our ticket," he said."Doesn't that just make you sick to your stomach? It's not about which team was the best, it's about who would sell the most tickets.
So here we are folks, the Champs Sports Bowl. BC had this exact same bowl a few years back and won it then. Their opponent? The Michigan State Spartans (7-5 Overall 3-5 Big Ten, placed 8th in the Big Ten conference), this team was barely bowl eligible. So, the Eagles will win and the cycle of mediocrity continues.
The killer is, I was sure this was going to be the breakout year, the year we were going to get that automatic BCS bid and make people acknowledge BC football. Maybe next year...
GO TO A PLAYOFF SYSTEM OR TAKE THE BOWL SELECTIONS OUT OF THE HANDS OF THE SPONSORS NOW!!!!
Thursday, December 6, 2007
The Ravens were looking like they had slain the Juggernaut, but then they remembered they were the Ravens and played accordingly.
The Ravens caught the Patriots napping. With their division already wrapped up and the 1st seed in the playoffs likely to be wrapped up in the coming weeks it's not surprising that the Patriots may not be taking opponents like the Eagles and the Ravens seriously. In a way I think these last two games were the equivalent to the second half slump the Red Sox faced this year. The Red Sox amassed a large lead by the All Star break, coasted through the second half getting enough wins to secure the first seed in the playoffs, and then turned it back on for the playoffs. It might actually be to the Patriots BENEFIT to lose to the Dolphins and the Jets in the hopes that maybe the 49ers will slip under them in the standings and the Patriots will get a higher pick in next year's draft, but somehow I doubt that's what coach Belichick has in mind.
About the game itself:
1) The Patriots failure to score in 3 tries on the 1 yard line is the biggest offensive let down this year. When the Ravens were being penalized left and right and they lined up on that one yard line I figured this week we were back to business as usual. All year long they've been getting that hard yard, it's concerning that they didn't this time.
2) Randy Moss was again a non-factor for the second straight game. This is primarily because Moss was being mugged on every snap. Teams have finally figured out that they need to not only double cover Randy Moss, they need to bend the rules.
3) The severe winds in Baltimore seemed to seriously effect Tom Brady's ability to throw accurately. There were a number of misthrown and dropped passes. The Ravens had a distinct advantage as their running back Willis McGahee is a much better back than either Laurence Maroney or Kevin Faulk. The Patriots defense looked helpless against McGahee for much of the game, fortunately they were able to stuff him when it counted in the later minutes with the clock winding down.
4) Ravens coach Brian Billick responded to some trash talk from Rodney Harrisson by blowing him kisses....just a little creepy.
Worst Case Scenario:
The Yankees have made some solid offers of some of their highly touted young talent: Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Melky Cabrera's names have been thrown around quite a bit. Even with Andy Petite on board for another year, the Yankees have some notable gaps in their pitching staff that held them back last year. Santana would solve that problem nicely for the Yankees and make them almost as dangerous pitching as they are hitting with Wang, Petite and Santana in their rotation. Hank Steinbrenner has reportedly set a deadline for negotiating with Santana that has since passed, but this is the same guy who told us that A-Rod was gone and never to return.
Best Case Scenario:
The Red Sox move some combination of Coco Crisp and one of their top level prospects, either Jacoby Ellsbury or Jon Lester. Ideally the Twins would take Crisp, Lester and some mid-level prospect and the Sox sign Santana for an extended deal. The Red Sox starting Rotation would be undoubtedly the most feared in baseball and strong for years to come.
I think it's important to make competitive offers for Santana, but to not completely sell out the farm system in order to get him. Santana is a superb pitcher, but Lester, Bucholz and Ellsbury all have the tools and the drive to become great players. When we traded Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett we knew that Ramirez was a future all star, but we got an all star in return. But if we had traded two Hanleys we'd probably all be kicking ourselves.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The Patriots still have an excellent group of linebackers, but may cause some depth issues as Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau had been splitting time due to their advanced ages. The loss of Colvin is reminiscent of his previous season-ending injury to his hip he sustained against the Eagles a few years prior.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I give the Eagles alot of credit for the game plan they played. Even with Donovan McNabb the Eagles were outmatched by the Patriots. So, the Eagles decided the only way to win this game was to gamble. All night long backup QB AJ Feeley attempted to thread the needle by hitting receivers in the middle and throwing into coverage. He was burned by his cavalier passes when the Patriots caught 3 Interceptions, including a pick-six from Asante Samuel and James Sanders catching another to put the game away. This style was also exemplified through some of the plays called. The Eagles chose to go with a surprise onsides kick, the most desperate of desperation manuevers, in the second quarter with a 14-14 tie. The Eagles played this whole game as though they were in the 4th Quarter and down by two touchdowns and with a little luck they actually managed to give the Patriots a scare. They tried everything but a fake field goal.
The Patriots on the other hand had an odd day. Brady's production numbers were acceptable, but short of the "video-game on easy mode" type of numbers he has put up this year. Randy Moss was aggressively covered all day long and bobbled a long bomb that hit him in the hands and later robbed of a touchdown by a phantom offensive pass interference call (I immediately had flashback to the Indy game where a similar inexplicable offensive pass interference call occurred in the end zone). Laurence Maroney did not even take a snap in the first half and when he did get the ball in the second half he didn't do much with it: ten carries for 31 yards and a Touchdown. With the Eagles distracted by Randy Moss, Wes Welker quietly cleaned up with 13 catches for 149 yards. Despite some solid receiving numbers, Brady had a number of poorly thrown and dropped passes.
The Patriots did manage to stick it out and come away with a tough win. It might be good for the Pats to get a little scare at this point in the season to shake them out of their complacency after beating up on almost every team on their schedule. A nice serving of humble pie, a wake up call to shake them out of their post-Thanksgiving stupor. After this game it will be hard for the Patriots to overlook the Jets and the Dolphins who both took the fight to Pittsburgh in the past two weeks.
With the Bills loss to the Jaguars Sunday afternoon the Patriots officially clinched the AFC East title and a playoff spot. The Magic number for both the bye and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs is 3.
Draft Pick Watch:
The 'Niners were able to slog out a 37-31 win against the Arizona Cardinals to improve to 3-8, they are now in a 3-way tie for 4th worst record in the league with the Raiders and Falcons. This week's scheme for what to do should the Patriots get the 49ers top 5 draft pick: Arkansas' Darren McFadden. Although just a Junior McFadden is being considered for the Heisman and looked strong as the Razorbacks knocked LSU out of the national title race. I have never been that impressed with either Sammy Morris or Laurence Maroney. With a deadly passing game keeping guys away from the line Maroney should be tearing it up, but week after week his performance is mediocre at best. A really strong talent like McFadden could bring the Patriots offense to yet another level.
Monday, November 19, 2007
I've been pretty clear about my stance on the 3rd Base situation. I wanted to see Ortiz, Ramirez and Rodriguez all in the same lineup. I thought the Yankees were out of the bidding and A-Rod would be available for pickup on the cheap. Overpaying Mike Lowell isn't a terrible backup plan though. I expect Mike's numbers to drop off due to the fact that he set a number of career highs this year, his advancing age and the fact that he's no longer in a contract year; but he still will benefit from hitting balls off the Green Monster in Fenway, is a golden glove caliber defensive 3rd Baseman and brings an intangible veteran presence to the clubhouse.
A few more pieces of the Yankee puzzle have come back together now that Mariano Rivera has agreed to resign with the Yankees for 3 years and $45 million dollars. Normally I bash the Yankees for overpaying for over the hill talent like this, but I think when you spend the money on consistent performers like Rivera and A-Rod it's money well spent. I'll be interested to see if the Yankees can buy a halfway decent starting rotation in time for next spring.
You remember that stuff I said about the Bills maybe giving the Patriots a game....yeah....nevermind that...
I really thought the Bills would give the Patriots a game. Yeah, they didn't have Marshawn Lynch anymore, but they seemed to have gotten so much better since the brutal beating they got early in the season. They had even worked their way back to a winning record!
The Patriots are just too good this year. They destroyed the Bills on Sunday night, I don't even think the score accurately reflects how sound of a beating this was. The only TD for the Bills was also really lucky with JP Losman losing the ball on an earlier drive, recovering his own fumble, then scrambling and making a one handed throw, that looked to be a throw away at first glance, which a receiver caught and ran for the first down. The throw down field for the TD was also an aberration against a Patriots defense that usually does such a good job of preventing big pass plays like that one. Once again the game was over at the half. The Patriots magic number to win the AFC East is 1.
Elsewhere around the League:
The Colts just got away with a win over the Chiefs. Adam "Sleeper Agent" Vinatieri had another terrible day at 2/4, but hit the game winning field goal to save face. Not exactly an impressive performance for the Colts at home.
The Steelers were the biggest surprise losing to the Jets. THE JETS!! This gives the Patriots even more breathing room as their magic number for the bye and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs is 4.
BC can book their tickets for Jacksonville for the ACC title game after beating the Clemson Tigers at home.
I admit, I had a pretty bad feeling about this game. BC has faded out late in the season year after year. Now they were going up against a hot Clemson team, In Clemson, On a 2 game losing streak, With the ACC Atlantic division on the line, it seemed like the perfect recipe for bad momentum. But I was wrong.
(Random Observation: If you saw the immediate pre-game for this, did you see the Clemson team coming out onto the field? They had this really funny bit where they were all lined up in the tunnel with about 3 guys looking like they're killing themselves to hold these guys back. I just had to laugh at the ridiculousness of it. I started saying things like "OH NO THEY'RE SO PSYCHED UP THESE 3 CHUBBY GUYS IN POLO SHIRTS NEED TO HOLD THEM BACK!" and "OH BOY, BETTER NOT LET THE TIGER OUT OF IT'S CAGE!". Eventually one of them did push past, at which point he stepped back behind them again and started pushing forward again)
The Eagles got off to a slow start and my fears seemed to be coming to light, but I remember a specific turning point. When Eagles LB Kevin Akins made that interception against Cullen Harper that's when I felt like the tides had turned. Harper had only thrown 4 Interceptions in his college career, so when he threw that pick I could sense that something was amiss. Of course the game remained tight right up until the last minute. When the commentator said something to the extent of "All Harper has to do here is try and get a few extra yards and not get sacked" It was like the football gods themselves had given the commentator some sort of inverse divination. After watching him get sacked a few moments later I jumped off my couch and did my own version of the sack dance. Clemson kicker Mark "I'm not Clay" Buchholz had a rough day as the potential tying kick fell short, a few yards short, like the number of yards lost due to that sack.
BC only moved up slightly in the rankings, which I felt was disproportionate given that they played a tough conference opponent on the road and came back from behind to give themselves a shot at a BCS bowl. Apparently Matt Ryan has played his way back to the fringe of Heisman contention with a little help from Oregon's QB Dennis Dixon, who is now out for the season. BC will play a home game against Miami with nothing on the line before heading down to Jacksonville to take on the winner of Virginia Tech-Virginia for the Orange Bowl bid.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
The Patriots have an excellent chance to put the nail in the coffin for the AFC East with a win over the Bills on Sunday night. The magic number for the Patriots in the AFC East is currently 4, but if the Patriots win this game it will actually bring the magic number down to 1. Subtract one for the Patriots win, subtract one more for the Bills loss and subtract one more for clinching the head to head tie breaks with the Bills. A Patriots win Sunday night means that the Patriots would have to lose every game and the Bills would have to win all their remaining games for the Bills to overtake the Patriots in the AFC East, not a very likely scenario given the lofty goals for the Patriots this season.
There are some advantages and disadvantages going into this game. Buffalo has been better at home this year. The Bills are actually only 3-2 at home, but look at the two losses. They gave the Cowboys quite a scare on Monday night prior to the "Duel in Dallas" where some crucial mistakes late in the game cost the Bills what should have been a win as the last second field goal sailed through the uprights to give the Cowboys the win. Allowing Tony Romo to come back after throwing 5 interceptions was embarrassing. This was easily Dallas' luckiest win. The other loss at home was just as close with a last second 42-yard kick by Jason Elam as time expired giving the Broncos the 15-14 win. Both of these games could easily have been wins for the Bills if Elam and Folk hadn't been so clutch from long distances.
The big loss for the Bills will be that RB Marshawn Lynch will most likely not be playing in this game and is currently listed as doubtful. Lynch has been looked over with all the fireworks Minnesota's Adrian Peterson has been setting off, but Lynch has been very impressive all year and provided a spark to an otherwise lackluster offense. This may force the Bills to throw, something that has not been their strong suit this year.
Matty Ice has successfully played himself well out of Heisman contention. When he came back after a terrible game to win in Virginia Tech he was scrappy. When he just played badly against Maryland and Florida State he was just bad. That's three bad games in a row for Ryan, it might be a gambler's fallacy, but I think he's due to get his act together.
BC's defense has been equally lackluster after being impressive all year. They allowed more points to Maryland this week than the Terps had scored against any opponent this year with 42. By comparison, the Terps scored only 31 against I-AA Villanova and 26 against Florida International, the team with the longest losing streak in I-A football and currently 0-9 this season. The Terps were also on a losing streak in which they scored under 20 points in 3 consecutive games and lost to the UNC Tarheels. Maryland QB Chris "Goldilocks" Turner had a career game to put Maryland over the top.
Clemson, on the other hand, is currently on a four game winning streak and is now actually ranked above Boston College in the rankings at #15. Clemson QB Cullen Harper has put up some strong numbers this year. BC will have to find the winning formula and remember how to get temporary amnesia in order to beat the Tigers and earn the right to represent the Atlantic Division.
Friday, November 16, 2007
I missed the boat on this one. Apparently A-Rod/Scott Bora$$ grossly misjudged what clubs without pockets as deep as the Bronx Bombers were willing to pay, realized their mistake and A-Rod without his money grubbing agent in tow went crawling back to the Steinbrenner brothers begging to be a Yankee again and even willing to take a pay cut for costing the Yankees such a large chunk of Ranger money. This situation clearly didn't pan out as I would have liked. We can all get back to hoping A-Rod gets hit by a bus now.
The good news is that the Yankees may have to curb their offers towards Mike Lowell somewhat now and it should make it easier for the Red Sox to work out a reasonable deal with Mike. I stand by my belief that Mike's numbers will drop off when he's no longer having a contract year, but he still hits well in Fenway and is a solid defensive infielder and a positive influence in the clubhouse.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The Germans actually have a word for this:
scha·den·freu·de n. Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.
This is exactly what I was experiencing after Adam Vinatieri's last minute field goal sailed wide to give the Chargers a slim 23-21 victory at home. This loss wasn't just on the shoulders of our once beloved, now turncoat place kicker, oh no, there was plenty of blame to go around. Peyton Manning set a Colts franchise record, but not the good kind of records like he usually sets, this time it was six interceptions in one game. Even Colts RB Joseph Addai looked lackluster with 56 yards on 22 carries against a Chargers defense that allowed Adrian Peterson to run up the highest yardage total by a running back in a single game just a week prior. Coach Tony Dungy stupidly decided to waste a crucial time out to argue with the referees about a false start penalty against his team. Oh, and three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney hurt his left foot in the fourth quarter and left the game. Freeney's status is questionable and the Colts have claimed Simeon Rice off waivers after he was released by the Denver Broncos last Friday. Then Jesus Christ himself came down from heaven wearing a Tom Brady jersey and smote Peyton Manning for his arrogance.....ok, maybe not that last bit, but it was still pretty bad.
This really opens things up for the Steelers. If they can beat the Patriots in Gillette on December 9th and run the tables and the Patriots lose another game they'll get homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Otherwise, the Patriots are poised to wrap up the division, the bye and home field advantage in the coming weeks.
Monday, November 12, 2007
My guess as to how this will pan out? Mike Lowell will get his desired 4th year and probably more money to play for the Yankees. Then he'll revert closer to his career numbers without the Green Monster helping out his average and his numbers will get lower as he ages, like most of the Yankees that have been picked up coming off of their primes. I think the Sox will then be able to open up the purse strings to sign Alex Rodriguez without getting severe backlash from the Fenway Faithful for not resigning Mike Lowell.
BC caps season with ACC title - Sports
This was actually a fun game to watch, unfortunately it was freezing cold that night which somewhat dampened the experience for me. The soccer coach was a nice fellow, but really only gave me one usable quote, the fact that I didn't have a recorder made me even more reluctant to use verbatim quotes from my hand written notes of the post game interview. I think this was an improvement over my swimming piece.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
"Epstein was asked about going to a six-man rotation and did not close the door on the idea. In fact, he said, it had been and would be up for discussion. Matsuzaka and Schilling likely would benefit by an extra day's rest."
The idea of having a 6 man rotation is somewhat odd. With Josh Beckett's youth and dominant pitching we wouldn't want to reduce his starts, but it would seem to make perfect sense for the rest of the rotation. Matsuzaka has pitched his entire career on a six man rotation, the transition to a 5 man rotation certainly took it's toll on Daisuke and he seemed to have some fatigue issues later in the year. Schilling is aging and seemed to benefit from working on an additional days rest. Tim Wakefield is also aging, although this is less of a factor due to the fact that he is a knuckleballer, given the injuries he incurred this year I'm inclined to believe it couldn't hurt for him to spread out his starts a bit more. Clay Bucholz has never pitched a full season in the majors and had to be shut down by the Red Sox before the playoff for fatigue issues, having extra rest between starts might help him transition to the grind of the majors. Jon Lester has also never had a full year at the big leagues, who's to say how he'll react to his first full season? This would still leave Julian Tavarez as the insurance man in the bullpen should their be an injury to one of the starters.
If the Sox don't choose to do this then I'm at a loss for who's going to be the odd man out. Beckett, Schilling and Daisuke are the untouchables. Wakefield has been a bullpen guy in the past, but he won 17 games last year as a starter. I don't think there would be any benefit to keeping Lester and Bucholz in the minors, they're both ready for the big leagues and would be going to waste in Pawtucket.
Isn't it great that with the current lack of starting pitchers on the free agent market this year we have more quality starters than we know what to do with? Big supply, strong demand, sounds like the formula for a favorable off season trade market for the Red Sox.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
From Curt's blog 38Pitches.com:
"The deal looks like this.
$8 million in guaranteed base salary
$2 million in bonuses for 6 seperate weigh ins.
I inserted the weigh in clause in the 2nd round of offers, counter offers. Given the mistakes I made last winter and into Spring Training I needed to show them I recognized that, and understood the importance of it. Being overweight and out of shape are two different things. I also was completely broad sided by the fact that your body doesn’t act/react the same way as you get older. Even after being told that for the first 39 years of my life. Now I can’t get on Dougie anymore, which sucks, and I am sure the clause will add 15-100 more jokes to Tito’s Schilling joke book.
$3 million in IP incentives based on IP totals.
$1 million for receiving a Cy Young vote, any vote."I salute Curt for making this deal. He definitely could have gone elsewhere to get more money or another year, but he took the hometown discount instead. Regardless of how this year turns out for Curt I'll be grateful for the concessions he made to stay in Boston. The Red Sox now have all of their starting rotation from last year as well as Clay Bucholz and Jon Lester.
"Talks with the Red Sox are moving. Theo and I have spoken multiple times daily over the past week and given the current situation I am feeling very confident that we will be able to finalize a 1 year contract to allow us a chance to finish our career as members of the Red Sox organization.
There are some things to iron out and details that must be finalized for both sides but barring something unforseen (sic) or outrageously odd happening I feel very comfortable that I will finish my career here."
The Red Sox front office has verified that this is currently the situation.
Monday, November 5, 2007
The Colts and some terrible officiating gave the Patriots their first, and possibly only, scare of the year. The Patriots refused to lose and scored two quick touchdowns in the fourth quarter to grab the lead for good as the defense shut down Peyton Manning, capping things off with a hit on Manning that resulted in a fumble that Roosevelt Colvin caught. A few runs, a third down pass to Wes Welker for a fresh set of downs and a couple of kneel downs later and this game was over.
I'm not going to harp on it, but the officiating in this game was terrible and, in the post-Donaghy world of officiating, refereeing and umpiring, suspiciously lopsided in the Colts favor. The few calls that went against Indianapolis (4 penalties, 25 yards) were 2 unquestionable false start calls a fairly obvious defensive holding call and a blatant offensive holding call. The one pass interference call that went against the Patriots the flag was thrown well after Randy Moss had secured the pass and hit the turf and the penalty was declined. Later Randy was called for an offensive pass interference call that had even the broadcasters scratching their heads. The Colts were also placed deep into the red zone on defensive pass interference calls against the Patriots. The second call against Ellis Hobbs on a deep throw to Reggie Wayne made no sense whatsoever as Hobbs made very little contact with Wayne, got past Wayne and was going for the ball when Wayne fell on Hobbs to draw the penalty. This game set a franchise record for penalties for the Patriots. I think it is also worth noting that the Colts did manage to cover the spread in this game.
Joseph Addai had a much better game than Peyton Manning did as Peyton's number were unspectacular and included an interception and a lost fumble. Tom Brady had a relatively bad day throwing two picks, including one in the red zone, which doubles his interception total for the year. Otherwise his numbers were solid with 3 TD passes and a good completion percentage.
Most people now feel confident that the Patriots will finish with a perfect season and see the Colts again in the AFC Championship game in Foxboro. This is the most likely scenario, but there's still some meat on the schedule for the remaining 7 games. The Bills have picked themselves up and won their last 3 games, the Eagles are capable of having a big day from time to time and they'll need to play the 4-3 Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore. These are some solid trap games. The real tough games left on the schedule include the Steelers in week 14. The Patriots could also be caught sleeping with the bye and home field advantage wrapped up in the final week of the season against the Giants in Giants stadium. At that point in the season the Giants could also be fighting with the Cowboys and the Redskins for the NFC East title or, even worse, a wild card playoff berth.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Saturday, November 3, 2007
The Associated Press is reporting that the Red Sox have exercised options to return SP/RP Julian Tavarez and SP Tim Wakefield to the Red Sox for another year. I strongly support this decision as both are cheap and versatile, veteran pitchers that can contribute in the starting rotation or the bullpen. Tavarez will likely be placed as a long reliever who will occasionally make spot starts if necessary.
This could be an indication that the Red Sox do not intend to re-sign Curt Schilling as these options provide the Red Sox with a good 5 man rotation of Beckett, DiceK, Bucholz, Lester and
Curt had this to say on his blog 38Pitches.com:
"I also wanted to mention something else. For anyone interested please just assume things are happening with
This would suggest that the Red Sox and Curt have yet to come to a solid decision on Curt's contract.
Friday, November 2, 2007
That said, FSU is a talented team that's in "wounded animal backed into a corner" mode. A win over the Eagles on the road would bring their program back to prominence, make them bowl eligible and help salvage a season that many in Tallahassee already consider to be a failure. There's a very big bullseye on the Eagles and the Seminoles are just the kind of team with the talent to surprise you. This is a classic trap game.
National Title Game Chase:
#3 LSU has it's last big test of the season on it's schedule against #17 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. LSU is threatening to leapfrog the Eagles in the rankings even if the Eagles finish undefeated and LSU finishes with 1 loss due to the Tigers strength of schedule and the Eagles weakness of schedule.
#1 Ohio State Buckeyes take on the #21 Wisconsin Badgers in Columbus. The Buckeyes are also undefeated at 9-0, but will need to win this game as well as win against the resurgent Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor to run the tables.
In what should be a great Pac-10 matchup, the undefeated #4 Arizona Sun Devils take on the #5 Oregon Ducks (7-1). The Sun Devils need this game for a legitimacy win. They beat Cal, which at the time was ranked #21, but Cal has since been dropped from the rankings after reaching rankings as high as #2 at one point this year. The Ducks are the real deal with a Heisman candidate at QB with Dennis Dixon and will provide the toughest test of the year for the Sun Devils. The Ducks are a 1-loss team, but could also be fringe national title contenders. They are coming off of a big win at home against USC and would be in a position to win the Pac-10 championship if they win this game.
The Clemson Tigers should stay in ACC title contention for another week by steamrolling 1-7 Duke. Maybe the Blue Devils will surprise me, but I doubt it.
#24 Wake Forest and #23 Virginia will slug it out in Charlottesville, VA. Virginia needs to win in order to hold off Virginia Tech in the ACC Coastal division and Wake Forest needs to win to stay on BC's heels in the Atlantic Division. I'll be pulling for Virginia, but I think Wake Forest is a much better team.
Maryland will take on the UNC Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. Maryland's Atlantic Division chances are hanging on by a thread as it is, but I would like the 'Terps to be out of contention when BC heads down to College Park next week. UNC isn't likely to come through at 2-6, but they did surprise Miami in a 33-27 win in Chapel Hill a few weeks back. A win here would also put the 'Terps one win away from bowl eligibility.
The Miami Hurricanes will take on Tom O'Brien's NC State wolfpack in Miami. Miami needs this win to stay in the ACC title chase as they'll be taking on both of the teams on top of their division in the following two weeks. If they run the tables they would quite possibly be in a situation where they would need to beat BC in Chestnut Hill in order to win the Coastal division on the last week of the season. NC State isn't likely to stop them at 3-5, but one of those 3 was a huge upset win over #15 Virginia last week and Miami has shown a tendency to underestimate opponents based on it's losses to UNC and Georgia Tech in consecutive weeks. This win would make the 'Canes bowl eligible and is the last easy game on their schedule as they will have Virginia next week before trying to beat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and BC in Chestnut Hill to fnish out the season.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Let's start with the easy one:
Tim Wakefield: There's some controversy surrounding Tim Wakefield and whether or not the Red Sox will pick up the option on his contract for another year. This is almost a foregone conclusion in my mind. Regardless of what else happens, Tim Wakefield is just too good a bargain to pass up. He's the longest tenured Red Sox player on the roster by a wide margin, he can be a starter or help out in the bullpen and the fact that he's a knuckleballer makes his age/health minor considerations. Regardless of what happens with other pitchers on the staff, Tim Wakefield is an excellent insurance policy and will contribute.
Curt Schilling: I initially believed Curt would be staying in Boston and finish out his career with the Red Sox, but some recent news gives me good reason to doubt that this will be the case. News outlets are reporting anonymous sources within the organization think resigning Schilling to another year is unlikely, Curt has filed for free agency and has reported a number of teams he'd be interested in pitching for and Curt has written goodbye letters to a number of his teammates.
What do I think about Curt Schilling's situation? Putting aside the sentimental value of seeing Curt wrap up his career in a Boston uniform, I could easily go either way. Pro: Curt has only asked for one more year and has expressed no interest in a long term deal. Con: Curt wants the same salary for what is admittedly not the same product the sox wanted when they initially signed him. Pro: There is a real lack of quality pitching on the free agent market. Con: The Red Sox can sign Tim Wakefield and have a pretty good rotation of Beckett, DiceK, Bucholz, Lester and Wakefield; Schilling might get in the way of some promising prospects. Pro: Schilling showed some flashes of brilliance from his old self with the near no-hitter in Oakland and some dominating performances in the playoffs. Con: Schilling had a mediocre regular season at best and took a DL stint, at his age durability is a real concern.
Either way, I'm infinitely grateful that Curt seems to have no interest in playing for the Yankees. Seeing him finish his career in pinstripes would be a slap in the face to the Boston fan base that loves him, and he knows and acknowledges this.
Mike Lowell v Alex Rodriguez: Two weeks ago I would have been strongly in favor of signing Mike Lowell, but some things have changes since then. Alex Rodriguez basically gave the Yankees front office the finger by opting out of his contract and getting Texas off the hook for a large portion of the subsidy they promised the Yankees when they picked up A-Rod's contract. Now, the Yankees need a quality 3rd baseman and are unwilling to talk to Alex Rodriguez. What this does: Drives up the price of Mike Lowell and brings down the price of Alex Rodriguez. There are a very limited number of clubs that can afford A-Rod's services and still field a competitive team. I also think Rodriguez's decision to leave New York is the result of the transition they'll be going through with a new manager and likely losing some key members of the team to free agency. I think A-Rod wants to play for a serious title contender, the Yankees aren't likely to be able to offer this next year. This narrows down the list of potential homes for A-Rod considerably. My guess: Boston or the Angels. So, to summarize, Alex Rodriguez is young, just won the MVP award and will probably have to take less money than the Yankees would have paid him.
Mike Lowell, on the other hand, is coming off of an unprecedentedly good season. He had never hit above .300 in his entire career and this season he hit .324. His highest RBI total prior to this season was 105, this season he hit 120. This year was clearly a late career renaissance for him while in a contract year. I don't expect him to maintain these numbers once he's settled into what will likely be his last contract at age 33. If Mike Lowell is going to be in a Red Sox uniform again it's not going to be cheap, and it probably won't be worth it.
I hate to say it, but you might actually get more bang for your buck with Alex Rodriguez. The X factor? Clubhouse chemistry. When asked about A-Rod v. Mike Lowell Jason Varitek refused to comment, essentially saying that he felt that he wasn't the person to ask, but pointed out that he knows Mike Lowell is a big part of their clubhouse chemistry.
Coco Crisp: This guy needs to be moved, he was a good center fielder, but not good enough to let Jacoby Ellsbury rot in the minor leagues for another year.
Julian Tavarez: Julian Tavarez is very similar to Tim Wakefield. He's cheap and has great versatility and durability. Should Curt Schilling move on I think Julian would make an excellent 6th starter/long reliever in the event somebody in the starting rotation gets hurt.
Bobby Kielty: We could use a 4th outfielder, not sure this is necessarily the way to go though. I hear there are some solid prospects in the Red Sox minor leagues that could provide as a solid 4th outfielder.
Julio Lugo: The dream scenario in my mind actually involves Julio Lugo being sold off to another team with the Red Sox eating about a third of the money for his contract and bringing in Alex Rodriguez to play his original position at shortstop. This is farfetched and extremely speculative though. In all likelihood we're stuck with Julio Lugo next year. If it's any consolation, Lugo's batting numbers were almost all below his career average, I could see him bouncing back nicely in his second year.
Doug Mirabelli: We tried getting rid of Dougie before, but then we realized that nobody else could catch Tim Wakefield and a million passed balls per game wasn't good for business. This time we do have Kevin Cash, who caught Wakefield effectively during Doug Mirabelli's DL stint. I'd prefer to see Cash playing rather than Mirabelli. Of course if Wakefield isn't coming back then there's no need for Dougie whatsoever.
Should be interesting to see what the Red Sox front office puts on the field for 2008.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
What can I really say about this season that hasn't already been said? There's a couple people I'd like to thank...
Josh Beckett: You pitched so well all year, then you turned it up a notch for the post season. When we went down 3-1 against the Indians your start was the one beacon of hope that kept us all sane. You turned the tide, you did everything we could've asked of a pitcher and more.
Hideki Okajima: You made it interesting those last two games, but you were our workhorse in the bullpen all season long. Every time you came out late in the game in a close game we felt good because we knew you were throwing everything you had into every single pitch. Through hard fought inning after hard fought inning Dice-K's stable pony became the stud and we love you for it.
Jonathan Papelbon: You were truly born to be a closer. Your tremendous energy and exuberance brings a fun quality to the game that really makes it worth watching. We've watched you flourish from a promising young prospect in the minors to one of the most dominant closers in the game.
Dustin Pedroia: How stupid do we feel after we asked Terry to sit you down for Alex Cora early in the season. Those first few months must have been really tough up at the big ball club, but you never let that get to you and you fought and ground out at bats and somehow managed to bounce back to finish the season with numbers that make you worthy of Rookie of the Year consideration.
Jacoby Ellsbury: I remember when a friend of mine who's more familiar with the Red Sox farm system told me about you. I thought he was exaggerating, your ability to get big hits, your defensive skills, your speed on the basepaths. Minor league stats! Little did I know you were even better than advertised. When you finally got that spot in the ALCS it seemed like every time the Red Sox needed a boost, there you were to give it to them. I am really going to enjoy seeing what you can do in a whole season up at the big club.
Manny Ramirez: You make every pop fly to left an adventure, feel the need to flip of your helmet every time you run the bases and sometimes it seems like you don't care; but I know we never could have done it without you. There were times where your bat just carried our team through the tough times. That three-run walkoff homer against the Angels was huge.
Big Papi: Maybe the numbers were down this year, but everybody knew you were playing through alot of pain. Even through all of that, your presence at the plate never wavered, you still came through with big hits throughout the post season. I can't wait to see you bounce back from knee surgery and see you come back strong.
Mike Timlin: You did more than any of us could have expected this year. Brendan Donnelly was supposed to be our setup man, but that didn't work out, then it was supposed to be Eric Gagne, but that didn't work out, then the job fell to you and Manny Delcarmen and you came through when it mattered. You were great in the second half and great in the post season. You filled the gap between the starters and Okajima so well.
Kevin Youkilis: You were just great all year long. No longer are you the Greek God of Walks, you still get a decent amount of walks, but you've become a dangerous hitter. You got hot at the plate at just the right time, to the point where I was claiming your bat to be more indispensable than Big Papi. Your defense has been gold glove caliber all season long.
Mike Lowell: I'm not sure if you'll be back, the Yankees might make you an offer you can't refuse. The Red Sox also might decide that the money is better spent on the likes of Alex Rodriguez now that the Yankees are no longer available for a bidding war. Just like with Johnny Damon, I won't like it, but I'll understand. You came to us as a throw-in with Josh Beckett, but you've been every bit as valuable. We all knew you had great skills with a glove at third base, but we didn't know you were going to have such a potent bat. With Ortiz and Manny having down years your bat made up the difference and earned you the love and respect of the Boston faithful.
JD Drew: Thanks for the grand slam and some nice hits in the post season.
Julio Lugo: Thanks for some nice hits in the post season and not making one too many errors against the Indians.
Coco Crisp: Thanks for a solid season and not making a fuss when you were benched for the rookie. I'll always remember that smile on your face as you hobbled to the dugout after catching that pop fly to end game 7. I wish you luck wherever you end up next year.
Jason Varitek: Real fans know that what you did with the pitchers this year and your leadership in the clubhouse was the real contribution more so than your bat or your defensive skills. Thanks for another solid year.
Bobby Kielty: Thanks for 1/1 HR in Game 4. You didn't know it at the time, but that was the difference. Way to make it count.
Dice K: I know everybody's saying they overpaid for you, but that's what they said about Josh Beckett last year. Considering that Beckett went 16-11 his first year in Boston 15-12 doesn't look so bad. I expect big things from you next year. You gave us what we needed in Game 7 when everybody thought you couldn't do it.
Curt Schilling: I hope it's not, but if this is your final game in a Red Sox uniform, thanks so much for everything. It was amazing to see flashes of brilliance like your near no-no in Oakland and the extra gear you seemed to kick it into for the post season. Your physical tools aren't what they used to be, you recognized that and you worked around that and managed to be effective anyways.
Jon Lester: You might be THE feel good story on a team full of feel good stories. We were all inspired by your fight to beat cancer when we weren't sure we'd ever see you in a Red Sox uniform again. Yet, there you were in Game 4 pitching your heart out and getting out of some tough jams. You never complained when you were done rehabbing but Tito stuck with Julian Tavarez and showed some real class. I'm looking forward to seeing you as an every day guy next year.
Clay Bucholz: It's a shame we didn't get to see you dominate the post season the way you did in the regular season. Your no hitter was a true inspiration coming from a pitcher making just his second big-league start. I can't wait to see what you can do next year with a whole year at the big leagues to work with.
Julian Tavarez: You were just a mini-Tim Wakefield this year. You did everything we needed. Need a spot start on short rest? Why not Julian? Need a long reliever? Why not Julian? If we needed a closer I'm sure you would have been up to the task and done a halfway decent job in the process. Your versatility, your performance and your humble attitude were crucial.
Tim Wakefield: I think Mike Timlin said it all when he butted into Tim Wakefield's post game interview after Game 4 of the World Series. This win was all about you. You've been with us for so long it's hard to imagine what it'd be like to have Red Sox baseball without you. You had a great regular season. I can't imagine how hard it was for you to admit you were too banged up to pitch in the World Series, but you put the team ahead of your own personal wants and allowed John Lester to go out there and pitch a great game to wrap up the series. I sincerely hope the Red Sox can see what a bargain it would be to pick up your option for another year. With your versatility there's no way it won't be money well spent.
Terry Francona: You do such a great job of managing in a town where it's so tough to be a players manager. There's a million people second guessing every move you make when you manage the Red Sox, and you always respond with respect and professionalism. When Red Sox nation was calling for your blood after Game 4 of the ALCS, you kept a cool head and you stuck by your guns. Not an easy thing to do.
Royce Clayton: Thanks for showing us the way to dupe Taco Bell out of additional free tacos.
It was a great season and I can't wait till spring training...
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Saturday, October 27, 2007
10/32, .313 BA, 1 HR, 7 BB and 5 RBI
16/36, .444 BA, 3 HR, 8 BB and 8 RBI
11/33, .333 BA, 1 HR, 5 BB and 9 RBI
You don't need to tell me about how clutch David Ortiz has been in post seasons past, but Youkilis is swinging the hot bat right now, I'd like to ride that until he cools off a little.
Consider who would benefit most from the additional rest. Ortiz is pretty banged up right now, some time to heal would allow him come back with a vengeance when/if the series returns to Boston.
Let's not forget that Big Papi can still pinch hit. How great would it be for a pitcher to think he's one Julio Lugo ground out away from getting out of a jam only to have David Ortiz stroll up to the plate instead? One of the most clutch hitters in baseball history hitting in only the clutchest of situations? That's what I call a psychological edge.
I don't place a high priority on fielding, but it's still something that should not be ignored. Youkilis and Lowell are both Golden Glove caliber fielders at their positions. Big Papi with his bad knee, complete lack of speed and rust from not having played the position for quite some time is a serious liability. Last time the Red Sox played a first baseman with a bad leg in the World Series he made a costly error. His name was Bill Buckner, perhaps you've heard of him?
I just want to clarify something here.
This win had less to do with Matty Ice getting it together in the fourth quarter and more to do with the excellent Eagles defense and special teams. They won't be properly recognized, but the heroes of this game was the stingy Eagles defense that held the Hokies to only 10 points all game and kept the game within striking distance while Matt Ryan was posting 3 and out after 3 and out. Keeping the Hokies offense under wraps all night in their home stadium with the offense floundering was no small task and they were up to the challenge.
Eagles punter Johnny Ayers might have been the real MVP behind center as he buried the Hokies deep in their own territory multiple times throughout the course of the game. Even Sid Vicious came through with an onsides kick that was recovered by the Eagles and gave Matt Ryan ample time to march down the field.
That said, I was impressed by Matt Ryan's ability to get temporary amnesia, forget the terrible game he had played up until the fourth quarter and came up big when it counted. Despite the fact that this was easily his worst game of the year, experts seem to think that his clutch performance in the 4th Quarter will highlight his resiliency and supplement his Heisman credentials.
This was a huge game for the Eagles. The biggest criticism of the Eagles this year had been that they simply hadn't played against any good teams. With a win over a top 10 team on the road it's going to be harder for the experts to make this argument. The Eagles are in a strong position to go to the ACC Championship and possibly national title game if they can avoid the upset in the 4 trap games that round out their schedule.
The Atlantic Division of the ACC is a bit thin. Wake Forest is second in the division with one loss and will need the Eagles to lose two of their remaining four games as the Eagles would win a tie-breaker scenario as a result of their win in the opening week of the season. Florida State and NC State have both been eliminated for all intents and purposes with 3 conference losses each. Clemson and Maryland both have two losses in the conference, but one will knock the other from being a realistic contender as they play this week. After this weekend's games there should be only two teams within striking distance of the Eagles.
It might be a bit optimistic to talk about the national title potential with some strong opponents still on the schedule, but it's looking to be a distinct possibility.
The Ohio Buckeyes have the top spot for now, but they've also been getting fat off of cupcakes in the schedule and they're approaching the meat of they're schedule. They'll need to beat Penn State in Happy Valley, A Wisconsin team that had been ranked highly at one point in the season, An Illinois team that upset Penn State and Wisconsin in back to back weeks and finish off the season in Ann Arbor, Michigan where the Wolverines seem to have bounced back nicely from their struggles early in the season and is now ranked at #20.
LSU is back near the top of the rankings after dropping from a loss to Kentucky two weeks ago, but the critics love this team with a passion and a last second victory over #17 Auburn was reason enough to bump them back up to number 3. The Tigers have their last real challenge of the year against #24 Alabama in Tuscaloosa and will wrap up the year with what should be 3 easy games. If LSU manages to win all their remaining games I could easily see LSU leapfrogging the Eagles in the rankings....at which point I'm going to be very busy writing alot of angry letters.
Friday, October 26, 2007
After a horrendous showing by Matt Ryan that looked like it was going to bring an end to the Eagles undefeated season, the end of their national title hopes and the end of his Heisman Trophy chances, on those last two drives he showed the 66,233 fans in Lane Stadium what all the fuss was about. U-N-B-E-L-I-E-V-A-B-L-E.
After the shock of that win I wasn't really able to enjoy the fantastic game the Red Sox were playing. Curt Schilling, Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon were better than good keeping the Rockies to just one run to give the Sox the 2-1 victory.
I'll post some more about both of these games tomorrow sometime, after the shock wears off a bit.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
On the one hand, I have the Boston College Eagles. They're undefeated at 7-0 and are playing their biggest game of the year at Virginia Tech (6-1, 3-0 ACC). This is the legitimacy game. BC is ranked number 2, but this is more the result of Boston College being in the right place at the right time, alot of cupcakes on the schedule and the teams ahead of the Eagles continuing to lose. The Eagles have only two respectable wins to their credit at this point by beating Wake Forest (5-2, 3-1 ACC) in the opening game and an overrated Georgia Tech (5-3, 2-3 ACC) in week 3. This game has everything going for it: It's a matchup featuring two top 10 teams, It's against an ACC team and therefore has ramifications for the ACC Championship game and the Eagles need to run the tables to get into the National title game and this game is the biggest threat to the Eagles going undefeated. This will also have a huge effect on Matt Ryan's Heisman trophy chances. If the Eagles win this game it could be the biggest season for BC football since a guy named Doug Flutie was behind center and I was in diapers.
On the other hand...
How many times does one get the opportunity to see the Red Sox compete for a World Championship? Sure, we got one back in 2004, but there was a pretty big drought before that if I remember correctly. It could be a while before I get to see the Red Sox on the biggest stage in baseball again. If Curt Schilling and the Red Sox bats get it done tonight it could be the beginning of the end for the Rockies.
So what do I do? No doubt the World Series is a bigger deal than BC-VT by itself, but is one game of the World Series bigger than BC-VT? How do I eat, sleep and drink Red Sox but bleed Maroon and Gold? Which game gets my attention and which game will I Tivo and desperately try to avoid hearing the score of?
Fortunately, there is a reasonable gap between the start times of each, maybe the Eagles can run up the score early on and make it easy on me! One can only hope....
First of all, let's try to put game 1 into perspective before we declare the series to be over:
1) Turns out none of the thirteen runs the Sox scored last night carry over into tonight, or any of the other 6 potential games in this series. The Red Sox lit up CC Sabathia to open up the series with the Indians, but that didn't prevent them from winning the next 3 games.
2) Josh Beckett will probably only be able to make 1 more start, so I hope you enjoyed it. Apparently some of our other pitchers are going to have to win games if we're going to win this series.
3) After tonight's game, the Red Sox are going to have to travel to the mile high city where hit baseballs carry just a bit more. Maybe some of those wall ball doubles the Rockies hit last night will turn into home runs. Also, the Red Sox will have to sit either Big Papi, Kevin Youkilis or Mike Lowell in Colorado; all of which have been key contributors in the Red Sox lineup all year. In order to get Papi's bat they'll have to take his glove and his bum knee as part of the deal and lose either the golden glove caliber skills of either Mike Lowell or Kevin Youkilis. I hate to say this, but it might be better to have Papi on the bench as a pinch hitter rather than take another potent bat and good glove out of the field. At least that way he'll be rested by the time it comes back to Fenway.
4) Clearly the Rockies lost a step from their eight days off. Jeff Francis looked terrible and the timing of the Rockies hitters looked way off as they tried to hit Josh Beckett. They're due to get their groove back pretty soon.
The Good News:
1) There was some concern about whether or not the Rockies knew how to hit Josh Beckett as they were able to give Josh his first loss and worst outing of the regular season. They looked pretty lost trying to hit Beckett last night.
2) The Rockies had to plow through a large portion of their bullpen to eat innings. With no off day this could affect their availability or effectiveness for tonight's game.
3) I think it's nice psychologically to break the Rockies of that confidence they probably had from their unbelievable winning streak. Not only did they end the streak, they ended it with authority.
4) A win tonight ensures that the Rockies will need to win at Fenway to win the series. Maybe you can never really quantify it, but homefield advantage is a beautiful thing.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Beckett, on the other hand, gave up more earned runs than he had all year and recorded his first loss for the year. 3rd baseman Garrett Atkins was the game's hero hitting a grand slam in the third inning to give the Rockies a 5-0 advantage. Matt Holliday would hit a 2 out solo shot in the fourth and went 2 for 5 on the day. A few other Rockies also had good days at the plate. Atkins would finish the day 3 for 5, 2nd baseman Kaz Matsui would also go 3 for 5 on the day and the catcher Yorvit Torrealba was 2 for 4 for the day.
The impression I got of this game was that Beckett temporarily reverted back to his 2006 form being susceptible to the long ball, something he has improved upon dramatically this season. Francis was somewhat lucky in his ability to get out of jams as the Red Sox hit him well but couldn't seem to come through with clutch hits.
Things to look for:
1) Matt Holliday: He's the NLCS MVP and finished near the top in the NL in every offensive category. Ironically his batting average and OBP in the post season are significantly down from his regular season and career numbers going only 8 for 28. Why all the fuss? 4 of those 8 hits were homeruns.
2) Hawpe, Torrealba and Matsui: These three guys have been the heart of the Rockies offensive production in the post season. They have been an excellent supplement to Holliday's bat by doing a great job of getting on base and coming through with big hits in the playoffs. Together they've drawn 14 walks, put up 17 RBI's and a combined 24/77 hitting. All three of these hitters were below .300 hitters for the season. If the sox pitching can snap these guys back to reality the rest of the lineup is hitting below .200.
3) Feeling rusty or rested? The Rockies have had a record 8 day layoff after sweeping the Diamondbacks in 4 games. Different teams and players react differently to long layoffs. They may react well to the additional rest to heal and prepare, or they may be caught flatfooted with their timing off trying to catch up to a Josh Beckett fastball. The Rockies have attempted simulated games to stay sharp. If Beckett comes out throwing fire and they're not ready for it, it could be a long night for Rockies hitters.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Terry Francona suggested Jon Lester as a replacement for Wakefield's spot in the rotation and announced the first 3 starters, the rotation should look something like this:
1) Josh Beckett
2) Curt Schilling
3) Daisuke Matsuzaka
4) Jon Lester?
Unlike in the Indians series, the Red Sox do not have the option of pitching Beckett on short rest game 4 and then having him make a start in game 7 on full rest. Although the Red Sox didn't mention him, Julian Tavarez is also an option for a fourth starter, but I think he would be put to better use to take Lester's spot as a long reliever/meltdown insurance plan in the bullpen. The number suggest that Tavarez is more effective his first time through the lineup and becomes less effective in subsequent times through the lineup.
They also announced that Jacoby Ellsbury will be starting in center field in place of Coco Crisp. I strongly support this decision as Ellsbury is swinging a hot bat lately and his defensive skills and speed on the basepaths are comparable to Crisp.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Coming into this game I was under the distinct impression that this was a classic trap game. Normally, for a trap game the underdog has to be underrated, the favored team is overconfident and is caught off guard by the underdog. Normally there has to be some sort of semi-relevant statistic that gives the factual basis for this concern.
For this game the fact that I kept on thinking of was 0-21 @ Miami losing to the Dolphins last year. What I forgot, however, is that these are the '07 Patriots and they are the 0-7 Dolphins. It's pretty hard to underrate an 0-6 team like the Dolphins and even harder to underrate an 0-7 team. As for the Patriots, clearly Tom Brady hasn't forgotten the embarrassing blemish on last season's record and seemed to be out for blood as he spread the ball around and racked up 5 TD passes IN THE FIRST HALF!!!!! Coming back from the locker room with a 5 touchdown lead much of the Miami crowd decided to beat the traffic and the Patriots were playing as though they had bigger fish to fry and couldn't wait for this game to be over. By the time the 4th Quarter rolled around, Bill felt it was time to take it easy on them and threw Matt Cassel out there to eat up some clock. Of course Matt quickly threw an interception that was returned for a Touchdown. The Patriots sideline immediately went into crisis mode as the Dolphins were now only a mere 21 points behind in the 4th Quarter. Bill had Tom Brady get suited up again and ran him out there to put another 7 on the board and put the lead a much safer 28 points away.
When asked about running up the score on the Dolphins by bringing Tom Brady back into the game, Bill denied this vehemently.
"I did it because of the score," Belichick said. "One more turnover, and then it's a 14-point game in the middle of the fourth quarter."
This was a game only in the academic sense, game usually implies the possibility of failure, this was a slaughter. The Dolphins can now race against St. Louis Rams for worst record in the league and 1st pick overall in next year's draft. The Patriots on the other hand have bigger goals. Think they gave Don Shula in the stands and his undefeated 1972 Dolphins squad something to worry about?
Next week the Patriots will take on the Redskins with it's very well earned 4-2 record at Gillette Stadium. The 'skins have had a tough schedule and are one of the elite teams in the NFC and in a tough division with Dallas and the Giants. They're a good football team, but probably not good enough to beat the Patriots, but then again who is?
Elsewhere in the League: I think Jacksonville has a real shot against the Colts on MNF. The Broncos caught the Steelers with their pants down and pulled out a last second 50 yard field goal for the win. The Steelers have some real talent on their roster that gives them the tools to compete with the best teams in the league, but they seem to have some trouble with consistency. Buffalo pulled off an upset against the Ravens and now solidly possess the #2 spot in the AFC East at 2-4. In related news, the Patriots magic number is down to 6, they could potentially clinch their division by week 11.