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.