Monday, December 29, 2008

Red Sox sign Bartolo Penny....I mean BRAD Penny

The Red Sox signed right-handed starting pitcher Brad Penny to a one-year $5 million deal with some incentive bonuses for innings pitched. I think this signing is somewhat similar to the Bartolo Colon deal the Red Sox went with last season in that if Penny regains his old form he could be a tremendous bargain and if he doesn't the Red Sox didn't exactly break the bank to get him. Penny had an awful year with the Dodgers spending ample time on the DL and posting an ugly 6-9 record and a 6.27 ERA. That said, this was by far the worst season of Penny's career and if he can stay healthy he should be a great 4th/5th starter. This acquisition is not as flashy as folks had hoped, but as I've said before big names don't always equal championships.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

11-5 not good enough....

Thanks for nothing Brett Farve!

Sorry, had to get that out of my system. I suppose the Jaguars are just as responsible for the Patriots failure to make the post season, but that game was not televised for me, so I'm focusing on Brett.

The Patriots played a solid game, shutting out the Bills in Buffalo. Both offenses struggled due to extremely windy conditions, but the Pats still managed to put up points and win.

Unfortunately, the Jaguars were completely shut down by the Ravens and Brett Farve threw the game away on a quick snap and overthrow right into the hands of a Dolphins player. This is the Brett Farve you don't see on the highlight reels and why I believe he's one of the most overrated QB's in the NFL.

[Skip this paragraph if you've got a John Maddenesque mancrush on Brett Farve]
Sure, he makes SportsCenter highlight reels with his passes, but he throws away games more often than people realize. This season he threw more interceptions than any QB in the NFL. The highlight of his career was his one Super Bowl win over the '96 Patriots. As much fun as the '96 Pats were at the time, in retrospect they were a pretender team with a coach busy setting up his next job. When the Packers came up against a real contender the following year against the Broncos they lost.

So, the Patriots will be the first team in 23 years to miss the playoffs with an 11-5 record. Despite all the injuries the Patriots seemed to be playing their best football in the past few weeks and was looking forward to seeing what they could do in the playoffs. Quite a shame we'll never get to see it.

Mark Texiera and other offseason thoughts...

Looking at a listing of the highest payroll teams from last year, I noticed an alarming trend. Of the 4 highest paid teams in baseball only one made an appearance in the post-season, the Boston Red Sox. The other 3 (New York Yankees/Mets and Detroit Tigers) failed to make it to October. The Tigers completely bombed finishing last in the AL central, a game behind the lowly Kansas City Royals. The Mets had a respectable season finishing only 3 games out of the division and only one game out of the wild card, but a disappointment given the high hopes brought to the club by Johan Santana. Chances are if you're reading this, you know the Yankees finished 3rd in the AL East behind the Rays and Red Sox.

To find the teams that were successful last season you need to look lower on the list. The Tampa Bay Rays managed to win a tough AL East and make it to the World Series with a group of young, hungry talent that was well balanced on both sides of the plate.

The Yankees haven't learned the lesson provided by these upstarts from St. Petersburg and seems to have stuck with the plan that landed them outside the playoffs this year. This strategy isn't quite the same, the Yankees didn't give up any of the promising prospects of their farm system to pick up these big name players and these players are probably more reliable than some of their other big expenditures of recent years, but still...

So Mark Texiera will be in pinstripes this year, and perhaps Tex, CC and AJ will prove me wrong, but if the Yankees disappoint again next season I'll be the first to say I told you so!

In a way I'm glad the Red Sox didn't get this deal done with Texiera. To match the Yankees offer to fill a spot that doesn't actually need filling seems like an awful idea to me. I realize Mike Lowell is old, but he's a solid player that was crucial to the run in 2007 and was good when he was healthy in 2008 and I have no qualms about him playing 3rd base for us. I'm also happy that the Red Sox can keep Kevin Youkilis, a gold glove first baseman, at first base instead of moving him to third. This gives the Red Sox ample resources to make acquisitions prior to spring training most notably at catcher.

It kills me to say this, but I really hope they don't resign Jason Varitek. I know his agent is going to make some unreasonable demand for Tek's services. The tag line that has bought Tek a ton of slack in this town is that his contribution is his intangibles:

"Well, he may not have the best bat or the best arm, but he's great at working with the pitchers and a great clubhouse guy!"

First of all, I really question how hard it is to get good years out of a rotation that features Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jon Lester. Varitek doesn't catch Wakefield and if he did do any work with Clay Bucholz then it really didn't show this season. Beckett and Matsuzaka saw ample success in their own careers before they ever threw a pitch to Jason Varitek. Maybe Varitek can claim some of the success of Jon Lester, but we all knew he was a top notch talent to begin with. A rotation with that much talent would most likely make any catcher look good.

I think these intangibles are important, but I just don't think it's enough anymore. The Red Sox have really transitioned away from a homerun hitting team to more of a smallball team. They have a number of hitters on staff who can get on base and have some speed once they get there. Manny Ramirez is long gone and not coming back. David Ortiz is not the clutch power hitter he once was and gets weaker without a big bat around him to force pitchers to pitch to him. The real contributors have been guys like Pedroia and Youkilis, sure, they'll hit a few homeruns a year, but their biggest contribution is their ability to get on base and help generate runs. This is where a guy like Varitek is lethal. There just can't be rally killing black holes in the lineup like Varitek. It seemed like so many potentially big innings ended with men on base and Varitek hitting a pop-up or striking out last season. I would much prefer to see the Red Sox pick up a promising young catcher that can drive in some runs.

The only way I'd be satisfied with Jason Varitek returning in a Sox uniform would be at much more reasonable "hometown discount" kind of price. I really can't imagine there's that much demand for his services around the league given his offensive production.

As far as the starting rotation goes, I wouldn't mind seeing them acquire one of the remaining free agents on the market now that the Yankee spending spree is probably over and the price tag has dropped a bit. Additional flexibility to move Justin Masterson to the bullpen, avoiding relying on Clay Bucholz as a 5th starter and have some depth in the event of an injury would all be benefits of picking up another free agent pitcher. With that said, if the deal isn't there I have no problems with the existing Red Sox rotation.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Don't Like the Look of This One Bit!

The Patriots demolished the NFC West Division winner Arizona Cardinals 47-7, with the Cardinals TD coming on a long Matt Leinart pass in junk time. The Patriots went right for the throat scoring two touchdowns on it's first two drives and didn't let up. This win puts the Patriots to 10-5 and are no doubt favored over the Buffalo Bills that have not won a game against the AFC East this year. Sadly, at this time the Patriots have received no outside help in securing a playoff spot. Baltimore pulled out a victory in Dallas on Saturday night, most likely eliminating the Cowboys from playoff contention. The Dolphins also rallied to win over Kansas City. If the Jets win against the Seahawks the Patriots will have only one route to the playoffs (barring an unlikely tie between the Jets and Dolphins) in which they will need to beat buffalo and have Baltimore lose to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. If the Jets lose and then beat Miami the following week and the Patriots win their game against the Bills they can win the AFC East, but I don't put much faith in the 3-11 Seahawks ability to beat a playoff caliber team like the Jets. Let's hope they prove me wrong.

It's frustrating to think that the Patriots may be the first 11-5 team to miss the playoffs in 23 years.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pats cruise by lowly Raiders

There seems to have been more notably bad teams in the NFL than usual this year. The Lions are chasing 0-16 and a large number of other teams have been awful (Rams, Chiefs, Bengals, Seahawks), so the Raiders at 3-11 don't look as bad, but after watching the Patriots dismantle them last Sunday it became clear to me how bad the Raiders are. The franchise is in disarray with constant coaching and personnel changes, overpaid underachieving free agents and disappointing high draft choices. JeMarcus Russel has been a disappointment on par with a number of highly touted QB's that have disappointed lately or seen limited playing time (Brady Quinn, Matt Leinart, Vince Young). Darren McFadden has been impressive, but not enough to make up for the shortcomings of the Raiders.

On Sunday I had no idea what to expect from the Patriots. Nobody knew how the death of Greg Cassel, Matt Cassel's father, would effect Matt's performance, but Matt came out swinging and the Patriots jumped out to an early lead against the Raiders, seemingly scoring at will until the game went into junk time. The Patriots defense seemed sharp at first, but seemed to lose their edge with such a large cushion so early, allowing the Raiders offense to put up a respectable 19 points (the final score was 49-26, but the Raiders scored a TD on a kickoff return that can't really be credited to the offense). By the time the 4th Quarter came on I was hoping that CBS would move to the Ravens-Steelers game which was far more competitive and had important attachments to the Patriots playoff hopes.

This moves the Patriots to a 9-5 record and places them in a 3-way tie for the AFC East with the Jets and Dolphins and a 4-way tie for the second AFC Wild Card spot with the Jets, Dolphins and Ravens. The Bills had the opportunity to deal a serious blow to the Jets playoff hopes with a 3 point lead, possesion of the football and under two minutes to go in the game, but on 2nd and 5 called a pass play, JP Losman rolled out, was strip sacked and the ball was brought in for a Jets Touchdown. Buffalo would still get two possesions after the Jets defensive touchdown, but Losman was picked off on both possesions to end the game.

The NFL tie-breaking procedures do not favor the Patriots and will require some outside help in order to make the playoffs. Specific Details are listed here: ( The most likely scenario would seem to be the Patriots winning both of the two remaining Games and the Ravens losing one of their remaining games to allow the Pats to clinch a Wild Card Berth.

Monday, September 15, 2008

NFL Week 2: The Matt Cassel Era Begins

Matt Cassel started his first game since High School on Sunday against Brett Favre and the Jets and managed to come out with a solid 19-10 win, making the Patriots 2-0 and talking a number of Patriots fans off the Zakim Bridge. Gone are the showtime Patriots of 2007, back are the win ugly Patriots that brought home 3 Lombardi Trophies.

I wouldn't be foolish enough to suggest that losing the reigning league MVP and resorting to your completely unproven backup is a good thing, but this may bring the Patriots closer to their roots and strategies that made them a dynasty. Smart coaching, smart play and tough defense. This team is still stocked with experience and talent. Long story short: These Patriots still have a shot.

Matt Cassel's performance was reminiscent of Tom Brady circa 2001. Tom made short high percentage passes, avoided high risk throws into coverage, relied on his running game to get the occasional hard yards and did a good job protecting the football. Matt Cassel managed to keep a cool head in one of the toughest venues in the league and proved that he can give this team a real chance to win.

Looking elsewhere in the league, being a solid team might be enough to make it in the AFC. Of the trendy AFC Super Bowl picks only New England and Pittsburgh are still undefeated. Indianapolis hasn't looked at all like Indianapolis. The Colts got embarassed week 1 against the Bears in the first game in their new stadium and were fortunate to get an ugly win against the Vikings that required an Adam Vinatieri last second special. The Chargers are 0-2 after losing two close games to the Panthers and the Broncos. With that said, it took the Chargers some time to hit their stride in 2007 as well, I would not be surprised to see them get their act together in a few weeks and get into the playoff race. Possibly the biggest disappointment in the NFL at this point is the Jacksonville Jaguars. People were calling the Jags the team nobody wanted to play and a defensible Super Bowl pick. After losing to the unheralded Titans in week 1 and the suprising Bills in week 2 experts are backing off this team in a hurry.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wakefield Drags Tiger's Skid to 5 Games

Tim Wakefield has been reasonably solid all year, now posting a 3-1 record, but last night's 8 IP, 2 hits, 0 R, 0 walk performance was his first really dominant performance of the year. Wakefield has brought the struggling Tigers to their fifth consecutive loss by holding the Tigers to a mere two hits over 8 innings of work, before Mike Timlin ate a scoreless 9th inning to possibly build some confidence with a healthy five-run lead.

The Red Sox bats continue to produce. The Sox tagged Tigers starter Nate Robertson for 3 runs in the second inning by stringing together a walk from Mike Lowell, a double from Kevin Youkilis, a single from JD Drew, a double from Kevin Cash and a sacrifice from Coco Crisp. Robertson would allow base runners in all 7 innings that he pitched in and hits in all but the first inning. Finally, Robertson was chased from the game after a David Ortiz homerun. This would bring in Tigers reliever Freddy Dolsi for his first appearance in the majors, he picked a hell of a batter to start out on and Manny Ramirez would go deep to make it back to back homeruns. Manny had an impressive night at 3/5 at the plate, this homerun puts him to 497 career homeruns. Ortiz's homerun gives him two in the last two games. In the last 5 games with a plate appearance Ortiz has steadily dragged his batting average from .172 up to .225, hopefully this is a sign that David truly has broken out of this early season slump. Kevin Cash was also a pleasant surprise with a 3/4 performance. Cash has been solid all year long and now owns an impressive .361 batting average. It's nice to know we have options in the event that Jason Varitek is injured or hits a prolonged slump.

Clay Bucholz (2-2, 3.71 ERA) will take the mound tonight against Armando Galarraga (2-1, 1.88 ERA)

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Allen, Pierce and King James Disappoint in Game 1

If you had told me that Ray Allen and Paul Pierce would combine for 4 points in Game 1, I would assume that they had lost. If you told me LeBron James would only put up 12 I would assume the Celtics would have won easily. Both of these things happened on Tuesday night, but fortunately the Celtics were able to come out on top 76-72 in a game that highlighted the defensive skills of these two teams.

Both teams failed to hit a true offensive rhythm, but KG would have the best performance of the night with 28 points, 13-22 from the field and 2/2 for free throws. Rajon Rondo also had a solid night with 15 points, 5-8 from the field and 5-6 from the charity stripe. Sam Cassell also came up big scoring 13 points in just 18 minutes of play. Sam was 4-8 shooting including 2-4 from beyond the arc.

Cleveland also had it's fair share of players that stepped up with Zydrunas Ilgauskas putting up 22 as the game's high scorer, followed by Wally Szczerbiak with 13.

Despite lackluster performances by Pierce and Allen, I got a good feeling about the series from this game. The Cavs had more preparation time and rest than the Celtics, but the Celtics still managed to take care of business at home. Despite their offensive miscues, the Celtics played stalwart defense and were able to contain King James, even if this did open up other opportunities for Ilgauskas and Szczerbiak to make plays. It is unlikely that they can keep James under wraps like that for the remainder of the series, but it is just as unlikely that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen will continue to struggle to score points as they did in Game 1.
Photo Credit:
(Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Celtics Finally Put Down Upstart Hawks/Red Sox Complete Revenge Sweep of Rays

Round 1 Game 7- Boston 99, Atlanta 65

After the upstart Atlanta Hawks won all 3 games in Atlanta to push the Celtics to a deciding game 7 at home the tank seemed to be completely out of gas as they were steamrolled by the Celtics at the Garden. The media has harped on it incessantly, but it's worth dwelling on as the games in Atlanta seemed to be the polar opposite of those played in Boston:

Boston Avg Points Per Game in Boston: 98.75
Boston Avg Points Per Game in Atlanta: 95
Atlanta Avg Points Per Game in Boston: 77
Atlanta Avg Points Per Game in Atlanta: 100.67

That's a 23 point difference in production for Atlanta at home! Away from the Garden the Celtics seemed to lack intensity and crumbled in the fourth quarter if the score was anywhere near close, in Boston the fourth quarter was little more than a formality for the Celtics and often ended with the Big 3 sitting for most of it.

I'll give the Hawks some credit, they showed some pride by playing hard in their home court and refusing to roll over for the Celtics after going down 0-2. That said, the officiating in this series seemed lopsided, which culminated in Game 6 with a called 6th foul on Paul Pierce at a pivotal point in the fourth quarter. The most staggering figure was the disparity in free throw attempts, the Hawks had 220 free throw attempts against the Celtics 152. To some extent this is reflective of the Hawks style of basketball, which largely revolved around sending somebody inside to draw the foul rather than backing off and taking a jump shot or kicking it out to the perimeter the way the Celtics often do. I found it ironic that despite Mike Bibby's claim that the Celtics fans were fair-weather fans, it seemed to match the description of Atlanta's own fan base. Every time the Hawks announcer had to queue the crowd to begin a "De-Fense" or "Let's Go Hawks" chant I laughed a little inside at Bibby's comments.

Unfortunately, the 37 win Hawks have exposed some key weaknesses of the Celtics in this series.
1. Difficulty playing away from home: Every crowd the outside the Garden the Celtics match up against is going to be hysterical, convinced that they can rattle the Celtics.

2. Difficulty closing out games in the fourth quarter: In games 4 and 6 in Atlanta the Celtics entered the fourth quarter with a lead, but would walk out losers. In Game 4 the Celtics entered the fourth with a healthy 10 point lead, but collapsed with the Hawks outscoring them 32-17. With this in mind few teams are going to be mentally calling it quits if the game is still within reach entering the fourth.

The Celtics will start it up with the King James and the Cavaliers on Tuesday night in Boston.

Sox Sweep Rays Out of Fenway

Prior to the Series with the Rays, the Red Sox had been in the midst of an offensive slump. They had managed to take 2 out of 3 from Toronto thanks to some stellar pitching and some late inning heroics, but over a five game stretch had only scored 4 runs. The Sox seemed to get their swing back against the Rays scoring a combined 26 runs over 3 games. The Red Sox starting pitching has also been stellar lately. With this sweep the Red Sox take a 3 game lead in the AL East with the Yankees, Rays and O's all tied for 3rd place.

The Sox open a 10 game road trip tomorrow night in Detroit. The Tigers continue to struggle and are coming home after being swept by the Twins.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bruins Season Over/Red Sox Complete Four Game Sweep of Rangers

Ok, so we've got some good news and some bad news. Which do you want first?
The Good News

The Red Sox completed the four game sweep over the Texas Rangers. Clay Buchholz gave a strong performance: 6 IP 5 Hits 2 Walks and no runs scored. David Aardsma and Manny Delcarmen would give up a combined 3 runs while eating innings with a substantial lead. Kason Gabbard was solid in his 2 innings of work, but left the game after hurting himself after a botched pitch attempt where he lost his balance, or possibly his footing. The Rangers bullpen has been an absolute trainwreck, and with 7 innings to cover it's not surprising that Rangers reliever Dustin Nippert gave up 8 runs over his two innings of work. The Rangers pitching staff gave up an exorbitant 11 walks, not to mention 12 hits, they were lucky to get away with only 8 runs on the books. Manny Ramirez took his scheduled day off despite the fact that his early ejection from the game yesterday was essentially a day off, but fortunately the Red Sox managed to get it done despite missing their leading RBI man. David Ortiz hit two doubles to rack up 3 RBI's, but Ortiz wasn't the only hot bat. Julio Lugo was 4 for 4, Dustin Pedroia was 2 for 5 and Jacoby Ellsbury was 2 for 4. A solid win on both sides of the plate.

The Bad News

The Bruins lost to the Habs 5-0, season over. I give this team alot of credit. Nobody gave this team a shot, but they fought hard when they could have gone down quietly and in doing so grabbed back some of the fan base that has been ignoring them for a while. Hopefully this is an indicator that the franchise is headed in the right direction.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A bit too much to talk about...

Despite all that's been going on in the Boston sport scene lately, I've actually found it a bit overwhelming to try and keep up with everything. Perhaps a quick recap of the relevant information will do.

Patriots/NFL Draft 2008
Despite having the 31st pick overall taken from them as punishment for the cameragate/spygate incident against the Jets, the Patriots made the smart move of trading up with their pick to get the 49ers pick this year. Luckily, the 'Niners tanked it this year and will be handing over the 7th pick overall to the Patriots. Experts seem to have trouble guessing what the Patriots will do with their pick as there are really no glaring holes on the Patriots. The most likely scenario is that the Patriots will trade down their pick to another team and fall back to it's usual plan of finding late pick gold. Otherwise, if Jake Long (OT Michigan), Chris Long (DE Virginia), Darren McFadden (RB Virginia) or Glenn Dorsey (DT LSU) don't get picked by the time #7 rolls around, any of these gentlemen would make a fine addition to the New England Patriots just on the basis of their sheer talent.

In a related story Boston College's Matt Ryan is being highly touted as the top QB prospect in the draft. As much as I like Matty Ice and what he's done for the Eagles, I think he's being a bit overrated and reaping the benefit of factors outside his control: A weak QB class this year and a number of teams looking for a centerpiece Quarterback to start rebuilding their franchises. In all likelihood Matty will be heading to Miami or Atlanta and have some rough seas ahead as it is unlikely he'll be able to turn those teams around.

Red Sox
The Red Sox have been used to being the only game in town this time of year, but that's not the case this year. The Red Sox are cruising at this point: They are on a 4 game winning streak, they have the best record in the AL at 13-7 and outside of a 15-9 loss to the Yankees that exposed the weakness of the Boston bullpen. Mike Timlin has been a huge liability since his return from the DL and it might be an indication that he doesn't have any gas left in the tank. Tomorrow the Curse of Eric Gagne may come back to haunt us again as former Red Sox pitching prospect Kason Gabbard (Traded to the Rangers in exchange for their closer Eric Gagne), will match up against current Red Sox pitching prospect Clay Buchholz. Gabbard has been solid across the boards in his 3 starts this season, giving up 7 hits and 2 walks in each of his outings, has a 2.41 ERA and 1-0 record.

I was concerned that after weeks of playing meaningless games the Celtics might lose their edge heading into the playoffs, but they had more than enough energy to put away the Atlanta Hawks in the first game of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The game looked tight at certain points in the opening half; the Celtics would establish a big lead, the Hawks would storm back, but they stopped storming back in the second half and the lead just grew and grew until the time ran out 104-81 Celtics. The points were actually spread out very generously with Ray Allen posting a team high 18 with Pierce, KG, Rondo, Cassell and Powe all putting up 10 or more. If the Celtics continue to play the kind of basketball they've played all year, they should easily cruise into the second round.

Elsewhere in the NBA playoffs, the Pistons blew a large lead to the 76ers at home and lost 90-86. If the 76ers can keep the momentum there might be an upset in the making.

I don't really follow hockey much, but I must admit that the Bruins have captured some of my attention by threatening to knock off their arch-rivals, and number one seed, Montreal Canadiens. I figured this series was over when the Canadiens went up 3-1 in the series, but the Bruins have responded in dramatic fashion by beating the Canadiens 5-1 in Montreal and 5-4 in Boston to even up the series at 3-3 and forcing a deciding game 7 in Montreal. If the Bruins manage to pull the eight seed over a one seed upset the bandwagon jumping will begin.
Oh, and did I mention BC won the National Hockey Championship?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Developing Trends...

10 games down and the Red Sox are at a somewhat disappointing 5-5 record and we can see some early trends developing.


JD Drew
JD has picked up where he left off last year in the playoffs and appears to have found his comfort zone here and earning some of that big money he's getting paid. In 7 games he's 11 for 25, hitting .440, has two homeruns and second on the team for RBI's with 7 and has drawn 3 walks. Let's hope he can keep up the pace.

Sean Casey
The seemingly redundant off season acquisition has already proven to be a worthwile asset. He's 5 for 14, hitting .357 with two doubles. With Mike Lowell's recent minor thumb injury keeping him on the DL for a bit we may be seeing more of Sean Casey at first and Kevin Youkilis moving to third to cover.

Kevin Youkilis
Youk has been money in the bank thus far this year. Youk has played all but one game despite having an excellent backup in Sean Casey which attests to the strength of his performance this thus far. Youkilis is 11 for 34, hitting .324 with 3 doubles and 2 triples and posted six walks. With that said, Youkilis always starts off red hot and cools off after the all-star break.

Coco Crisp
Many people, including myself, felt it would be beneficial for all parties if the Red Sox traded Coco even if it meant getting less value for him. Coco clearly is good enough to be a starter in the majors and it seemed like he would be riding the pine based on Jacoby Ellsbury's strong performance last year that got Coco benched for the World Series. Tito has done a fairly good job of splitting time between Jacoby and Coco with Coco getting 23 at bats to Jacoby's 17. In the first ten games Coco has made more productive use of those at bats going 7 for 23, hitting .304 and drawing two walks. Coco does have every reason to be playing hard, he might be able to earn back the top spot or possibly bump up his trade value and make him easier to move when the trade deadline rolls around.

Julio Lugo
Much like JD Drew, Julio was a constant disappointment last year that seemed to do a little better come playoff time, but this year Julio seems to be off to a good start. Julio is 10 for 33, hitting .303. Julio's fielding has been a problem with 4 errors in 9 games.

I combine these two because it's basically the same story. Both of them have been well rested thanks to blowouts in either direction and have great ERA's, picking up right where they left off last year.


David Ortiz
This has been a big part of what's wrong with the Red Sox offense, Big Papi has hit a serious slump going 3 for 36, that's .083, in 10 games this season. Two of his 3 hits came in the 5-0 win against Oakland on April 2nd and is hitless in 8 of 10 games this season. Big Papi still knows how to work counts and commands respect with his bat, as evidenced by the 9 walks he has drawn thus far this season, tied for most in the AL. There is some suggestion that this might be a slow bounce-back from offseason knee surgery, I don't personally believe this is the case, but I'm not a doctor. I think with some time Big Papi will find his swing.

Jacoby Ellsbury
We got a taste of Jacoby's potential last year, but he seems to be having some trouble adjusting to the idea of being a permanent starter and has been splitting time with Coco Crisp in center field. Jacoby is 3 for 17, hitting .176 including a homerun and drawing 3 walks. This seems somewhat reminiscent of Dustin Pedroia last year. Dustin had some trouble adjusting to the big leagues, but by season's end he was a Rookie of the Year candidate.


The Starting Rotation
It's a little too early to say anything about the starting rotation just yet. Bucholz and Beckett both have only one start each. Beckett's ERA is inflated from Manny Delcarmen giving up a grand slam that scored 3 inherited runners with 2 outs in the inning, which accounts for 3 of the 5 earned runs on the books for Beckett.

Dustin Pedroia
Dustin is one of 3 players to start all 10 games so far this season. In that time he's posted a respectable 11 for 40, hitting .275 including 2 doubles and 5 walks. A comfortable pace, but nothing to get excited about.

Manny Ramirez
Manny is alot like Dustin, he's also started all 10 games and posted 11 for 40, .275 but with only 3 walks and a team high 12 strikeouts. Manny currently leads the team in RBI's with 8. Manny has hit a number of extra base hits with 5 doubles, 1 triple and a homerun; but this is nothing special for Manny. I think this is a little disappointing given that Manny is in a contract year and the strong start he had to this season.

Mike Lowell
Last year's World Series MVP is off to a slow start 6 for 30, hitting .200 and 3 walks. Mike recently injured his thumb while fielding a ball and will be on the DL for a while.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Sox Pitching Makes Strong return in 2-game sweep of Oakland

With both Dice-K and Jon Lester looking terrible in their performances against the A's while in Japan, there was reason to be concerned as these two would start the following two games in Oakland in the same pitching matchups. Fortunately, Dice-K and Lester both seemed to find their grooves early, Gave 6 2/3 IP and the only run given up between these games was a solo homerun off Dice-K. The bullpen was also unscathed with Jonathan Papelbon ending the first game with authority by striking out all 3 batters he faced in the 9th inning protecting the sox slim 2-1 lead and recording the save. Bryan Corey and Manny Delcarmen would give a solid performance to wrap up the 5-0 win the following night. A confidence inspiring performance all around by the Red Sox pitching staff.

The Red Sox bats were adequate but a bit disappointing at times. The quantity of hits isn't the problem, but more so that it seems that the Red Sox are squandering opportunities. In the first game the Red Sox had 9 hits and a walk, but only managed to put up two runs. In the second game the Sox had 13 hits, 5 walks and had two batters hit by pitch, that's a grand total of twenty base runners, but only managed to yield 5 runs. The Red Sox had multiple low-out/bases loaded situations but continually failed to capitalize thanks to strikeouts and hitting into double plays. It was a solid win, but easily could have been a complete rout if the hitting had been a bit more timely.

There is some good news on the hitting front, both Big Papi and Jason Varitek seem to have broken out of their respective mini-slumps that had me so concerned in the previous post. Varitek went 4/8 in the two game series including a homerun and a homerun that was mistakenly ruled a double by the officiating crew. Big Papi was not quite as impressive with his 2/8 performance (both hits coming in the second game), but showed that he's still got it by blasting a 2 run homerun to kick off the Red Sox offense.

The Sox have Thursday off and open up a three game series against the Jays in Toronto on Friday. Sox Ace Josh Beckett is expected to start the third game which should match him up against Jays Ace Roy Halladay, should be a hell of a game. The Fenway park opener is April 8th against the Tigers.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sox Offense takes the day off against the A's

Thanks to some misinformation and an incorrect listing in my cable guide instead of watching the Red Sox play an exciting opening game against the A's to kick off the season on Tuesday morning, I had a good 4 hours of Mike and Mike in the morning recorded on my DVR and missed the slim Red Sox victory in extra innings. I managed to successfully avoid making the same mistake twice and woke up around 11 AM a few hours prior to class ready for some commercial free hours of baseball action. Unfortunately, all the action the Red Sox could provide this time was a Manny Ramirez solo homerun in the disappointing 5-1 loss to the A's.

John Lester had an unimpressive outing. He managed to avoid any serious mistakes prior to a bad 4 batter stretch in which he would give up a hit, a walk and then a 3 run homerun to Emil Brown that blew open the close game. Outside of that particular stretch I did not think that Lester's performance was poor, but nothing to write home about either. He looked stronger in the later innings, but was pulled after 4 for new reliever David Aardsma. Aardsma, Delcarmen, Corey and Lopez would all give solid performances with Corey giving up a late insurance run in the 8th inning.

The primary problem with the Red Sox was their complete lack of offense. Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, Brandon Moss (Playing his second game in place of the injured JD Drew), and Jason Varitek would go without a hit in the game, as well as Sean Casey in his one Pinch Hit at bat for Moss.

There are some good signs and bad signs for the Red Sox from this season opening series.

Manny Ramirez is playing like it's a contract year (which it is) and provided 5 of the 7 RBI's the sox scored in this series.

Mike Lowell managed to have a good night going 2/4, not bad coupled with the 1/4 night he had in the previous game.

Julio Lugo seems to be starting the season off right going 3/6 in the series, drawing a walk and stealing a base.

JD Drew seems to be working through some minor back problems and did not start either game of this series.

David Ortiz did not look good in the Tokyo Dome despite impressive numbers against A's starter Rich Harden in the past. Ortiz was 0-7 in the series with two walks.

Jason Varitek also had a rough series going 0-8 with 6 strikeouts and no walks, the definition of an offensive black hole. It's a good thing 'Tek brings more to the table than his batting average.

Hopefully this will give the Red Sox some information to work with and begin to work out the kinks and be ready for the A's next Tuesday to resume their season.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Randy Moss signs 3-year $27 Million deal.

One of the most highly touted free agents this off season was Patriots WR Randy Moss. Moss had made numerous statements that he wished to return to the New England Patriots and indicated that he would likely take the hometown discount to make that happen, but with the tremendous disappointment at the Super Bowl and with no deal signed by the beginning of the free agency period rumors began to circulate that Moss was shopping around for a new deal and interested in reuniting with his former QB from his days on the Vikings Dante Culpepper. Fortunately, these rumors did not come to fruition and Moss will likely be finishing out his career in a Patriots uniform.

The $27 Million deal is nowhere near the bargain of the century the Patriots got for Randy's services for the 2007 season, where he signed a shorter deal for less money to become a patriot, but the deal is still a bargain given the eye-popping numbers Randy set last year. There are reports that other teams made better offers to Randy, but that the intangible factors of the Patriots organization is what brought him to accept less than his market value. The Patriots again showed their excellent ability to work under the salary cap by inking a quality veteran player for less than what other teams were offering. I guess winning is a great bargaining chip when you're speaking to potential players.

With Wes Welker and Moss anchoring the receiving corps it is likely that the Patriots will still have a potent offense for the 2008 season.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Time to let it go...

I took the Patriots losing the Super Bowl to Giants pretty hard. The most explosive offense in the NFL scored a whole six points less than their season low in the most important game of the season and Tom Brady couldn't work his magic in the remaining time left. The O-Line looked overwhelmed the whole game, Tom Brady seemed to be moving poorly and Eli's performance was the definition of adequate and thanks to some late heroics and the eye popping "helmet catch" we can all conveniently forget how ineffective Eli was for the vast majority of that game. Eli was given the MVP, but this was one of those MVP's where they couldn't single out one defensive player to give the award to because so many of the Giants D managed to step up and make big plays. But the Celtics have the best record in basketball and Sam Cassell joining the Celtics sometime today will give them some additional depth and experience that will be huge come playoff time. The Red Sox are back in Ft. Meyers and despite Curt Schilling's extended DL stint that will keep him out for at least a large chunk of the season there's alot of reason for optimism this season. The Patriots have had some folks pack up for greener contracts, such as Asante Samuel, but managed to ink Randy Moss for the next 3 years at a reasonable price and should be able to get great value for the 7th overall draft pick they'll receive from the 49ers.

There's still alot of optimism for Boston teams, can't let one big let down ruin everything.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thoughts on the Super Bowl

With the Super Bowl coming up ESPN is in a constant state of media circusry, placing the rantings of Tom Brady, Eli, Randy Moss and Plaxico Burress at the forefront of the sporting world. I almost get burnt out on football from the overwhelming two weeks of hype that is attached to the Super Bowl, it gets old really fast. Some of the issues on top of the heap:

1. Plaxico Burress made a brilliant decision by ripping off Broadway Joe and guaranteed a victory over the Patriots and one upped him by guessing the score: 23-17 Giants. Apparently Tom Coughlin didn't get the memo about coaching your players to not give the Patriots bulletin board material through the media. The media wasted no time blowing this snippet of egotism way out of proportion. I can't blame them, if the Patriots win it makes for a great storyline with the failed Anthony Smith guarantee made earlier in the year. If the Giants win we've got an upset comparable to the one Joe Namath guaranteed quite some time ago. I don't concur with Plaxico's prediction. The Patriots haven't scored less than 20 points this season and racked up 38 against the Giants defense in week 17. I'd give the Patriots a bit more credit than 17 points.

2. Randy Moss. Randy Moss is just a constant point of discussion. The recent allegations made against him has been the only real distraction he's created off the field all season and he seems to have successfully diffused this matter too for the time being. People have also begun to question Randy about his plans for next year as his contract is only a one year deal. If it's true that Randy is about the W's and not the $'s then he'll probably accept the slightly below market value offer the Patriots will likely make when the season is over. I said at the beginning of the year that Randy Moss could turn things around with a no-nonsense strong leadership locker room and a franchise where winning is paramount. Put Randy on a team like the Bengals and he'll be right back to underperforming and putting out the wrong kind of headlines. Randy said he would like to finish his career as a Patriot, if he's willing to leave some money on the table he probably can.

3. Brady's ankle has been one of the most heavily discussed non-injuries in recent memory. Brady was wearing a medical boot shortly after the AFC Championship game causing most of New England to panic. Brady missed some early practices, but has since returned to practice and is reportedly moving well on the ankle. The Injury Report did not list any ankle problems and instead featured the typical probable listing for Tom Brady referring to an unspecified shoulder problem. The probable status indicates the Patriots disdain for the injury report more so than any actual injury to Tom.

General Thoughts:
There's one key difference between the mind sets of the Patriots and the Giants that Junior Seau touched on after the AFC Championship game when asked about the difference between this conference victory and the one he had years ago with the Chargers in his prime:

" Well, we don't have yellow flags flying all over the place. We don't have the Super Bowl Shuffle being taped prior to the game. Going in there and really not finishing what we set out to do, which is to win the AFC Championship is definitely special but in terms of difference, it was basically we are now looking forward to the next opponent. As you can see, we are not having a parade. We don't have the confetti in the locker room. We are not jumping around. Everyone's gone. Everyone went home."

The celebration he describes sounds more like the Giants post-game celebration after beating the Packers in overtime. What makes the Patriots different from the other teams in the NFL is that winning is expected. A trip to the Super Bowl was almost a foregone conclusion for the Patriots and they know it means nothing without one more win. The Giants have already surpassed everybody's expectations of them and at this point they're just happy to be in the big game.

Patriots jump out to an early lead in the first half. Patriots fall asleep and the Giants rally midway through the second half, but it's too little too late and the Patriots wrap things up. 35-21 Patriots. Tom Brady 4 TD's 1 INT, Eli Manning 2 TD's 2 INT's.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Conference Championships: Week 2 - Take 2

The conference championship games are set, and coincidentally both matchups occurred in week 2 of the season. Although the teams and the locations are the same, there is reason to believe things may not go as smoothly for these teams as they did in week 2.

Both of the underdogs have grown up alot since week 2. The Giants pulled off the big upset against the Cowboys in Dallas and Eli has come a long way. The Giants also gave the Patriots all they could handle in a meaningless game in week 17.

That said, this could be Brett Farve's last chance to grab a Super Bowl ring for the road and betting against a motivated Brett Farve playing at Lambeau field is not something I'd like to do, and I won't, I expect the Packers to go to the Super Bowl.

The Chargers were thrown into a tail spin when they came to Gillette earlier this season. They would lose games to the Packers and the lowly chiefs in the following two weeks. Eventually the Chargers found their groove and are currently on an 8 game winning streak.

In week 2, the Patriots were just coming off of the spygate scandal and were hungry to prove that some taped defensive signals don't account for. Some of that fervor has worn off and there's certainly the possibility that the Patriots are losing a step with the victories being less convincing as the season progressed.

But again, the favorites are the favorites for a reason. Tom Brady can go into the AFC championship game with no fear of seeing the Reche Caldwell face.

Tom Brady's game against Jacksonville was a great performance that stands out in a season full of great performances. His completion percentage was record worthy and devastating. Jacksonville's gameplan was to grind out long scoring drives and control the clock, which they succeeded at, but the Patriots scored on nearly every offensive drive to bury the Jaguars. The Patriots defense showed some weakness against the Jaguars, but managed to contain their running game with some success and forced David Gerrard to pass for big yards. Eventually Gerrard slipped up throwing a rare interception to end the game.

Part of me is sad that the Colts lost. They are a better team than the Chargers, but the Chargers match up well against the Colts for whatever reason and the Colts seemed to have a sub par day, which just doesn't cut it in the playoffs. Bill Simmons is always talking about how the Lakers dodged a bullet in the rivalry with the Celtics in the 1985-1986 season by not making it to the finals for the rematch that year, instead losing in the Western Conference championship. I feel like I've been robbed of the opportunity for true revenge with the Colts avoiding playing the new and improved Patriots in their house in a huge playoff game. Welcome back to being painted a choke artist Peyton.

My picks?
28-21 Packers

35-21 Patriots