Monday, September 29, 2008

Division Series - Preview and Predictions

Angels - Red Sox

Quite possibly the biggest consequence of the Beckett injury is not Beckett having his start being pushed back to Game 3, it's bumping up Dice-K in the rotation meaning that if the series goes five then Dice-K is the man on the hill with everything on the line next Wednesday in Anaheim. I can't say I'm wildly enthused about those prospects. Therefore, I say Sox in 4 if they can split the first two games on the road or Angels in 5 if they can't. I know I'm hedging my bets, but whatever, it's how I feel.

Rays - White Sox or Twins

No word yet on the Rays playoff rotation but if they go by results and not names then you'd have to think their top three would be Shileds/Garza/Kazmir. I am on record as saying that Garza is poised to become Josh Beckett Jr. this postseason if his team can stick around long enough. There is just something about that guy that screams "Big Game Pitcher". I could be totally wrong, but I doubt it.

The big difference between this series and the Angels - Red Sox one is that due to the schedule, each team will need to use 4 starters. In a sense this hurts Tampa Bay because they only get to use one their top three for two potential starts instead of two of their top three. Luckily their number number four guy whether it be Andy Sonnanstine or Edwin Jackson is plenty serviceable. So how do I see their series panning out?

Well, if it's the White Sox then I say Rays in a sweep. If it's the Twins I see them riding Francisco Liriano to a victory in Game 1, losing Game 2, and then taking both of their home games to win the series in 4. That's right folks, it's either Rays in three (if the White Sox) or Twins in four (if the Twins).

Now if Liriano needs to pitch the play-in game then all bets are off and I'm going Rays in 4. I think I covered about every possible outcome there. I know, I'm lame.

Phillies - Brewers

As far as starting pitching goes, both of these teams are pretty similar. They each have a stud lefty at the front of their rotation and the rest of the rotation is filled out by guys whose sole job it is to keep the game close so the offense can win it. Both teams are good offensively too so it has worked for them, but I give the edge to the Phillies because they are really, really good offensively. The Phillies also have an outstanding bullpen anchored by a closer that went 41/41 in save opportunities while the Brewers bullpen is atrocious to be kind.

While CC Sabathia has been sub-human in his efforts to get Milwaukee into the playoffs I feel like he is probably going to hit the same wall he hit last year in the postseason much sooner than later. Plus, as I said the Brewers bullpen is awful and Philly's lineup is great meaning that at least one game is destined to swing Philadelphia's way in the eighth or ninth inning.

I'm tempted to say that Philly will sweep this series, but I want to believe that Milwaukee's home crowd can will them into a couple of victories there. Because of that, I'm saying it's Philly in five with the home team winning every game.

Cubs - Dodgers

Sure, the Cubs do not have anybody on their team as good as Manny Ramirez. So what. They still have a really good offense that scored 855 runs in the regular season or 155 more than the Dodgers or second in MLB behind the Rangers. The Cubs also happen to have a shutdown bullpen with that former ND receiver, Carlos Marmol, and Kerry Wood. And their starters are really good too as their top three guys (Harden, Dempster, and Ted Lilly, sorry Big Z but you coast on reputation and craziness) all average over 8 K's per 9 innings compared to the Dodgers who have just have one of their top 3 guys with a similar K rate, Chad Billingsley. Isn't the recipe for October success a good lineup, a good rotation, and some shutdown late inning relievers? I think so. Cubs in 4 just because I think Manny can win one game for LA on his own.

So there you go. I hedged in a lot of places and for that I apologize, but you gotta respect the preview.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Things To Do Before I Die List (revised)

Well folks, I have a new number one. (Not that I've taken the time to think of numbers two through fifty or anything, but still.)

Things To Do before I Die:

1) Attend a Wimbledon viewing party at Lil Wayne's house.

...and can we get Weezy as a guest blogger around these parts too? I mean's he's a Bruins (yes Boston Bruins, the hockey team) and Red Sox fan after all. Read more!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

On the NY Giants and AL Postseason Awards

A few things for you...

1) Mark my words, the New York Giants are NOT as good as they are appearing right now. Their season is going to duplicate that of the 2002 Patriots which is to say, they start the season looking even better than the previous season's iteration which won the Super Bowl but then the team's flaws get slowly exposed as the season wears on. I haven't actually seen the Giants play yet to know their flaw but it is a very strong feeling I have. That Pats teams flaws were that Brady could not yet throw the deep ball and their aging defense could not stop the run. If you recall, they started out the year pummelling the Steelers at home and then the Jets on the road and followed those games by eeking out a home victory against the Chiefs where Priest Holmes amassed about 500 total yards if I recall correctly. Of course both the Steelers and Jets would go on to bench the quarterbacks that played against the Pats in those first two games and make the playoffs with the new QBs steering the ship. Meanwhile, the Pats did not beat an above .500 team for the rest of the year until the final game of the season, at home against Miami.

The parrallels between the 2001-2002 Patriots and 2007-2008 Giants do not stop with a Super Bowl upset, they'll continue with the disappointing season two. Mark my words. The Giants will not make the playoffs. I'm not sure who the sixth NFC playoff team will be, but I'd bet on the Panthers or the Redskins over the Giants.

Maybe my predictions seem worthless to you, but I'm normally pretty good at predicting how teams will do. Remember, I'm the same guy who made the Twins and Marlins my two surprise teams (good) in the baseball preseason and the Rockies and Tigers my (bad) surprise teams. That turned out pretty well no? I mean the Twins are fighting for the AL Central crown, the Marlins are going to finish above .500, and the Tigers and Rockies are both going to finish the season with a shade under 90 losses. I know my team predictions OK? So take my Giants call to the bank and be very wary of backing them too much moving forward. I mean they almost lost to the Bengals at home last week!

2) Cliff Lee is going to win the AL Cy Young Award. You know what? I'm cool with that, he deserves it. But do you know what else? If I had a say in things like that I'd throw my support behind Roy Halladay. Halladay has pitched 14 more innings, struck out 31 more batters, has a superior WHIP (1.06 to 1.11) and a far superior BAA (.239 to .251). Yes Lee has him in ERA 2.54 to 2.81 and has the gaudy 22-3 W-L record to Halladay's 19-11, but I still think that the numbers which Halladay leads in are more indicitive of pitching performance and value than wins and ERA. To further prove my point, I leave you with two more thoughts on this:

Who would you rather face in a one game playoff, Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee?

Shouldn't the fact that Halladay pitched in the most competitive division in baseball, the AL East count for somethinig too? Consider the fact that the Yankees are currently in third place in the AL East, but would be 1/2 game out of first in the AL Central. Or that Halladay's team, the Blue Jays, the AL East's fourth place team would find themselves just 3.5 games out of first place in the AL Central. That's gotta mean something right? I say so.

3) As for the AL MVP, from what I can gather there are four legitimate contenders for that trophy right now; two from the Twins and two from the Red Sox. Those four guys are Justin Mourneau, Joe Mauer, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis. If Carlos Quentin never got hurt, he probably could have coasted to the award, but that didn't happen.

So who do I have? I don't know. Let's figure it out though.


How I see them in order of importance:


Mourneau - 23/129/96/0/.308/.380/.515

Mauer - 9/72/97/1/.329/.416/.452

Youkilis - 27/111/88/3/.314/.390/.565

Pedroia - 17/82/117/19/.324/.375/.492

So what does this tell us? Well for starters we should automatically give Pedroia and Mauer bonus points for playing outstanding offense AND defense from positions that tend to be light on offensive production. We'll also give Youkilis some bonus points to for being able to play both first and third incredibly well. So, before even diving into the stats Mourneau is already a step behind just because he has the "curse" of being a great offensive first baseman.

In regards to the stats I see Mauer as relatively light hitting catcher with exceptional on base-skills. A lot can be made for a catcher with an OBP of .400+, but it's not doing it for me, I'd like at least a little more pop from my MVP.

Justin Mourneau is your typical "slugging" first baseman whose candidacy is based on the RBI stat more than anything else as he lags behind the other power hitter in the group, Kevin Youkilis in the other traditional power/MVP categories of HR, AVG, OBP, and SLG. If you need a tie-break, then just look at OPS where Youkilis has Mourneau .955 to .895. RBI's are nice but Youkilis has been the more productive hitter on the whole.

And that leaves Pedroia. Pedroia is pretty much your jack of all trades here as he has put up great 5 tool numbers, but has not dominated in any of the major categories. He was the hot name for MVP a few weeks ago but since then his momentum has cooled and unfortunately that may end up hurting him in the end. That is not fair.

Now, after looking at all the numbers and thinking this over some, I think my ballot looks like the below - and I promise you I did this totally unbiased, I even came in here wanting to talk myself into Joe Mauer for MVP.

1) Kevin Youkilis
2) Dustin Pedroia
3) Justin Mourneau
4) Joe Mauer

So why that order?

Youkilis had the best across the board numbers of the group, played great defense at two positions on the year, and was the most consistent and steady run producer in the AL's second best offense who also happens to be a 90+ win playoff team. That sounds like an MVP to me.

As for the other three, I loved Pedroia's well rounded game combined with great defense from the second base position. I liked it just a bit more than Justin Mourneau's great run producing year out of the first base spot. What brought Mourneau down a few notches was the fact that the RBI stat drove his candidacy too much. The difference between Youkilis and Mourneau's OPS was actually greater than the difference between Mourneau's and Pedroia's (.895 to .867). When you are looking at similar OPS production from a second place hitter playing second base and a middle of the lineup hitter playing first, I'll give the nod to second hitting second baseman any day of the week.

Oh, and Mauer. Well I am really not wild about my AL MVP only having 42 extra-base-hits. I guess I am biased. Sorry.

That's all for tonight.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

What Grinds MY Gears

So you heard from Pricing Boy. Now let me tell you what grinds MY gears.

1) Every morning I take the Metro to work. Every morning I read the paper on the Metro. Most people do the exact same thing. When you have thousands upon thousands of people reading newspapers in the morning, obviously there are going to be a lot of papers to discard. Because of this, Metro has normally about six large bins exclusively for newspapers by their exits. These bins are for papers only and are there so that Metro can recycle the papers. Mind you, I am no psychotic greenie, but every day I see TONS of people go right pass these recycle bins and toss their papers in the regular trash. This drives me nuts. How freakin' lazy can a person be?! It is no easier or harder to put the paper in the recycle bin, so why don't they just do that?! Whenever I see people do this I want to punt them. Just put it in the recycle bin! Metro riders who go out of their way to NOT recycle,

2) With the Rays now officially in the playoffs, you are going to hear even more about what a "great" worst to first story they are. While I don't want to take anything away from them, I will say that if you finish in last place almost every single year for ten years then you have to get good eventually. Keep in mind that they weren't finishing just last in their division, they were continually the worst team in baseball. Eventually if you pick in the top three every year you have to get good. Well that happened to the Rays. If you want to talk up the Rays, don't talk up them as this great come from behind story. Talk up their GM, Andrew Friedman who has done an outstanding job at locking up his nucleus to long term, team friendly contracts. That is something that deserves commendation, not finally taking advantage of the high draft picks that come with being the worst franchise in baseball pretty much since day one.

3) "Josh Hamilton, what a story!!". Guess what, we already went over this LAST year! Granted the hype has calmed since the Home Run Derby and All Star Break (just 29 RBI since then after racking up 95 in the first half) but I would still like to point out that last year he hit 19 home runs in 298 at-bats with a .922 OPS while playing for the Reds. Those are really good numbers! What's more, he was on everybody's "hot sleeper list" or "breakout potential list" for fantasy heading into the year. I'm not going to editorialize either way on the Josh Hamilton Story, but I just want to say that it's not like he came out of nowhere this year. He was very much on the radar heading into this season and any sappy "what a redemption story!" stories had their place LAST year, not this year.

4) K-Rod. I hate that guy too. Pricing Boy already covered it well, but I can't wait for the Sox to get another walk-off off of him in the playoffs.

That's it. Read more!

Friday, September 19, 2008

What Really Grinds my Gears!! Volume 2

I have had alot on my mind lately, I started a new job at work, I am getting married in a couple of months and of course the Red Sox are in a seriosu playoff push right now. So here some things that have grinded my gears lately.

- Krod, seriously I cannot stand him. It is a ridiculous record, consider that it was held by the less than immortal Bobby Thigpen. Think about it you break the single season home run record you have to beat immortals such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, etc names that people have heard of. Instead Krod has beaten Bobby Thigpen congratulations on setting a record based on a ridiculous stat.

- Curt Schilling, last time I checked he hadn't pitched this year and he isn't going to his career might be over but instead of fading off into the sunset he has instead opened his big fat mouth every chance he gets. Whether it was last week when he was spouting off about how New York Fans are bitter because the Patriots keep beating the Jets. Last time I checked we lost in the Super Bowl to a New York team, and Schilling is a baseball player or at least was a baseball player not a football player. If this wasn't enough Curt from the Car called in a pooped all over Manny, SHUT YOUR MOUTH CURT, your not on this team and you shouldn't be talking like you are.

- Michael Felger, I am not sure who thought it was a good idea to bring him back to WEEI, but everytime I hear his voice I cringe whether is was his conversation about cougars or his conversation about men he would do, lets point out that he is married to one of the prettiest anchors in the Boston Media Sara Underwood(pictured to the right). His worst transaction is during the Patriots pregame show when he went off on the caller for talking about out backup quarterback and told him that it doesn't matter cause he would never play. An hour later Tom went down. Damn you Michael Felger.
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Looking Towards the ALDS

Take-aways from the Tampa Bay series - some good, some bad


1) The Red Sox will not win the division. They will go to Anaheim to start the postseason and then if they can make it into the ALCS they will be the road team there as well. Not catastrophic, but given the difficulties they have shown beating good teams on the road, it certainly must be considered a factor in the negative.

2) Is Mike Lowell done for the year? Who knows. While that may sound pretty bad on face value, how much will the Red Sox really miss him? Yes, he plays great D and is an upgrade over Lowrie or Youkilis there, but will taking somebody who has sported an OPS+ of 70 since the All Star break out of the lineup really going to kill it? Probably not. Sean Casey and Mark Kotsay are not really setting the world on fire but are more than capable replacements. (And if you wonder where that logic comes from, you'd put them at first and then move Youk to third.)

3) Tony Mazz mentioned it on last week and I just can't get it out of my head. What's worse is how twice now it has been proven to be true - at least so far. Can the Red Sox win close, late inning games without Manny? I don't know, but it seems a lot tougher these days doesn't it? Maybe my mind is just skewing things though because Manny actually went through a few big slumps earlier this year most famously including the famous Mariano K so the difference may not be as large as it seems.

4) Some noise was made about no Jason Bay for the final two games of the series and no Bay or Lowell for the series finale. I guess I could include Jason Varitek in there for the series finale and JD Drew in there for both too, but I am going to refrain. Either way, the Rays were without their third and fourth best offensive players, BJ Upton and Carl Crawford for all the games of the series so that more than cancels out what the Sox missed. Sorry, not buying the injury excuse.

(But in a related note, what happens to the lineup when JD Drew returns? I actually think that will quietly be a huge development. They can give him all of next week to get tuned up and then hopefully he will be ready to pickup where he left off last October. Or he could hit .100 for the playoffs and strand countless runners. Such is life with JD Drew.)


1) The Red Sox will win the Wild Card. To put things in perspective, in order for the Red Sox to take the division, if Tampa goes 7-5 over their final 12 games, which seems reasonable to me, the Sox will need to go 10-0. That just isn't likely. Not impossible, but unlikely. Therefore, with the division out of reach and the Wild Card a few days away from being clinched, they can take the last 10 days of the regular season to focus on limited inning/pitch counts for their starters and relievers and plenty of rest for their position players. Sure the division would have been nice but healthy and fresh are both nice things too.

2) Papi crushed the ball and Beckett pitched another gem in a huge game. 'Nuff said. That's what you like to see heading into late October.

(Remember last year when Manny slogged his way through the regular season due to nagging injuries only to finally feel "good" - according to him - for the first time in October? Remember what he did last October, namely the K-Rod walk-off? Exactly. Let's not write off Papi just yet.)

3) This series proved that the Red Sox and Rays are about dead even. Both teams won a blowout and the Rays won the middle game which could have gone either way. I call it more or less a wash with of course the slight edge going to the Rays.

So, how do the Angels fit in? Well, through 9/18 their offense is about equal to the Rays (they've actually scored two fewer runs) and their pitching staff is inferior allowing twenty-one more runs. The difference is not huge, but might that be enough to inch the balance of power towards the Red Sox in a first round matchup? Considering that the AL East is a much tougher division than the AL West - the AL East features four of five above .500 teams to the AL West's one of four - I think you can safely say that the Rays are the better team than the Angels by a decent margin making the Red Sox a better team than the Angels too because they are about equal to the Rays.

Oh, and the great Angels pitching staff has allowed exactly nine fewer runs than the Red Sox on the year in one less game while the Sox have scored 104 more runs than the Angels. That's a compelling argument for the Sox too don't you think?

And a Random ALDS Prediction...

Assuming that Dice-K and Ervin Santana get matched up in Game 3, I see that as one of those brutal 4.5 hour 9 inning playoff games where the final score is 4-3, each team leaves about 12 runners on base, and neither starter makes it through the fifth inning. Because that game will be at Fenway, the temperature will probably be in the low 50's too. Games like that make HDTV all the better.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not Quite 4 Guinesses, But 4 Thoughts

1) Is this Pats team going to be a throwback to the ones that you know, actually won Super Bowls? They may not be as exciting as what we saw last year, but I can't help but think if they can mix an efficient passing game and a great running attack with excellent defense and special teams play then they have to at least be in the mix right? Maybe they won't be able to match points with the Cowboys, but is this Cowboys team more explosive than the Colts teams of yore? I really don't know, but the Pats did own the Colts back in the day before their defense got old and slow. Furthermore, the Pats offense may look pedestrian right now but in a few weeks, you would hope that Matt Cassell will start making reads a bit quicker than he has to date and can start taking advantage of some Randy Moss plays down the field. Of course maybe the entire defensive game plan against the Pats now is to deny Randy Moss and let Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, and the running backs beat them. Honestly, I really don't mind those odds. Especially considering Moss did have one breakaway play in the Jets game in which Cassell under threw him causing an incompletion instead of a 60 or so yard touchdown. In a few weeks does Cassell hit that pass? Again, maybe.

I don't want to blow the first two games out of proportion as the precise skill levels of all the teams in the league are still TBD, but from what I saw especially in the Jets game, I think the Pats might just be alright.

2) If I still have one concern about the team however, it still remains their offensive line. It was a question mark going into the season and it still remains the unit most capable of submarining the season. The front four however look just outstanding and honestly it is a unit capable of boasting three All Pro - not Pro Bowl, All Pro - players in Richard Seymour, Adalius Thomas, and Vince Wilfork. Not bad.

3) So what will decide the AL East? If the Sox can leave Tampa tied with the Rays then I think the division will come down to what Tampa does in the two more games they have than the Sox between Thursday and the end of the year - a game on Thursday when the Sox are off and double-header in Baltimore next Tuesday.

Assuming the Sox leave Tampa tied with the Rays for the division lead, I think the Sox win the division only if Tampa loses both of their "extra" games. If Tampa loses both of these then that gives the Sox the outright one game they need to take the division - tie goes to the Rays if the two teams split the next two games. If Tampa splits the two games, the Sox will need to be one game better than the Rays over the other ten, and if Tampa sweeps them then the Sox need to be two games better. Make sense?

If you want to crunch schedules, I say it is a wash as after this series, Tampa has four at home against the Twins and then four in Baltimore and four in Detroit while Boston has three in Toronto, four at home against Cleveland, and then wraps things up with three at home against the Yankees. After the Minnesota and Toronto series respectively, both teams will be facing teams in full-on "let's finish this season ASAP" mode. Furthermore, while both managers will "want" the division, neither will go overboard in trying to win (overusing pitchers, not resting position players, etc) because both teams will make the playoffs and a division title is pretty empty if it comes at the expense of your first round playoff series. As such I figure it will be real hard to gain any ground on Tampa during the final week unless Tampa completely collapses or Tito goes balls to the wall to win, which you know he won't.

In short, if you want to know whether or not the Sox will take the division, monitor Tampa's "extra" games real close. Anything less than two Tampa losses there and the Sox are most likely looking at the Wild Card.

4) I love how Sam Cassell keeps on insisting that he is coming back to the Celtics for this season and then he is going to become an assistant coach. What cracks me up is how he is the only person saying anything. The Celtics have not said a thing! Do you really think they want him back? I mean, was there a more despised Boston Athlete from April-June than Sam Cassell? Not even close right? Sam Cassell's statements this offseason are so laughable to me, the only way I could imagine a more ridiculous situation would have been if last winter Eric Gagne announced that not only was he throwing his hat in the ring for the closers job in 2008 but that he expected to be brought back the following year as pitching coach. Of course this whole Sam Cassell thing will probably happen fueling speculation even further that he has compromising pictures of both Doc Rivers and the Ownership Group.
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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thinking Wild Card

Do you know what this recently completed three game series against Tampa reminded me of? An almost identical three game series that the Sox had against the Yankees in Fenway over almost the exact same dates.

Last year the Sox played a three game home series against the Yankees over the weekend of September 14-16. The Yankees took two of three in that series, but the Sox very easily could have swept. Sound familiar? In both of the Red Sox two losses in that series they entered the eighth inning with the lead.

Their first loss of the series in the Friday game, was the most shocking.

Heading into the eighth inning the Sox were up 7-2 and seemingly cruising to victory. And then Red Sox killers Jason Giambi and Robinson Cano led off the eighth inning with back-to-back homers which was followed by the next five batters reaching base and four of them scoring. I am not exaggerating when I say that inning still sticks out in my head as the fastest I have ever seen a team score six runs. It was just a barrage of hits and when it was over, you knew the Sox weren't rallying for that one run in their last two at-bats because the Yankees demoralized them so thoroughly with that eighth inning bludgeoning. To put in perspective how shocking a turn of events that eighth inning was after the Sox had been cruising for innings 1-7, my parents were in town that weekend and I stayed with them in their hotel that night. They went to sleep around the seventh inning - which of course meant it was about 11:00 thanks to the pace Sox-Yankees games go at - and the next morning when I told my dad that the Sox actually lost his response was, "you're shitting me". He's not a big curser or anything so when he responds like this, the news is clearly shocking.

I'm not sure which game was the more crushing defeat thinking in hindsight, that one or the Tuesday game featuring the Papelbon blown save after Bay's eighth inning go-ahead homer but I am apt to say that Yankees game. Why? Even though, the game from Tuesday featured the Sox blowing the perfect opportunity to move into first place for the first time since July, I still was not entirely shocked with the outcome. Papelbon has been very up and down this year, and sending him into a one-run game, pitching for the third straight day seemed like a risky proposition. Of course it was the right move to make, but when I saw the lead crumble in his hands I can't say I was shocked. That's kind of been his MO this year; either awesome or awful. Luckily it's awesome much more often than awful but doesn't it seem like you can sense a shaky Papelbon outing from a mile away? Maybe it's just me. Anyway, for as much as Tuesday's game sucked, that Yankees game was much worse considering that it cemented everybody's worst nightmares and fears at the time which were that the Red Sox were going to blow the division to the Yankees. Of course they did not, but that was Worry Number 1 on everybody's mind at this time last year.

Regarding their other loss in that Yankees series, the Sunday game, it was a loss just like their loss on Wednesday. Even though they lead heading into the eighth, they continually stranded runners in scoring position and failed to get THE hit when they needed it. And then Tito left Schilling in too long, bringing him out for the eighth inning when seven innings of one run ball from Schilling (where he was up to that point) was an absolute best case scenario. Of course he allowed two batters to reach, and then Javier Lopez was summoned to face Derk Jeter and surrender the most predictable Derek Jeter home run in recent history. That home run also proved to be the decisive blow in the game.

Of course if you don't remember that game very much then I don't blame you. If you recall, that game was an ESPN Sunday Nighter and NBC's Sunday Night Football Game that evening was the Pats and the Chargers. Not only was it a primetime matchup of two of the NFL's marquis teams and not only was it the first meeting between the two team's since the Patriots upset them in the playoffs at home the year before and got stupidly accused of over-celebrating by perpetual cry-babies Shawne Merriman and LaDanian Tomlinson. No, it was also the first game since Spygate broke. And it was also fresh off Tomlinson's - playing on a team with a number of caught steroid users - "if you aren't cheating, you aren't trying" comments RE: the Patriots. So obviously, that Pats game and how they responded was a huge deal and if you don't remember the Sox game from that night then I really don't blame you.

Speaking of which, back to the Sox...

Like Wednesday's game, the Sox lost a series finale they could have and should have won, but did not deserve to thanks to stranding legions of guys on base. Like turning the ball over in football, it seems like the one stat that always catches up to you in baseball is runners left on base. If you leave a lot of guys on base, most of the time you will lose. Furthermore, you could sense that Yankees loss coming from a mile away just like you could in Wednesday's game.

One thing I will say about Wednesday's game that I was doing and I can almost promise that every other Sox fan was doing the same thing, and that was keeping a running tab in my head of how long they could go before having to turn to Mike Timlin. I pretty much felt that if the Sox could get by without having to use Timlin then they would win. If Timlin entered a tie game however then the game was as good as lost. Of course he rewarded my faith by giving up a tidy three-spot in the 14th, which was the least surprising development of the evening, but let's not blame him OK. Let's blame the offense for leaving 13 guys on base and going 1-14 with runners in scoring position. And Papi, why the F are you bunting in the 12th inning even if you are going for a hit (which you failed at)? Aren't you supposed to be The Greatest Clutch Hitter in Red Sox History? Shouldn't you be going for the walkoff hit there? Or at the very least an extra base hit to try and bring Pedroia around? I was watching the ESPN guys and they gave him a free pass for that. I'd like to think that the Boston guys did not, which I am guessing is the case because say what you will about Jerry Remy, he always gets on Papi - and rightly so I think - when he pulls the bunt for a hit stunt when the third base side of the infield is wide open. I'm all for that if he is leading off an inning in a two run game, but absolutely not when he is hitting with a runner on in a tie game. Ugh. The Sox lost a game on Wednesday the could have and should have won, but the bottom line is that they did not deserve the W there. So it goes sometimes.

As far as the big picture goes, right now it will probably be pretty tough for the Sox to take the division from the Rays barring a sweep in Tampa next week which I would classify as unlikely. Combine that with a four game weekend set coming up with the Blue Jays who just terrify me - I'll take a split and be happy! - and the odds seem to dip even further. Of course the Sox can still take the division, but I am not too optimistic. The good news is though that they are a near cinch for the Wild Card holding a 5 game lead with 17 to play. Not an insurmountable lead, but pretty close.

If the goal is to get into the playoffs, the Sox are going to succeed there, but I will say that I think things will be much trickier this year going in as a Wild Card entrant than they have been in the past. While the Sox have improved recently on the road, they still do not inspire great confidence there. Furthermore, their road to the World Series most likely looks like it will start in Anaheim and then if they can advance past them, move onto either Chicago or Tampa. While I truly think the Sox have the best team as currently constructed right now, I am curious to see how not having home field will effect them. It didn't hurt in 2004 but it was absolutely crucial last year in their rally against the Indians. Given the choice, you'd always rather have home field and facing the White Sox in the Division round seems to be an easier draw than the Angels, although we said that in 2005 as well.

Bottom line though, the Sox are going to be in the playoffs again, will probably be close to World Series favorites when they start, and now that the division is most likely out of the picture they can focus on resting some key players when need be. If winning the Wild Card instead of the division results in having a healthy, rested, and full functioning team come October then I think that is a pretty good silver lining. If the team is as good as I think they are, playing one less home game per series in the ALDS and hopefully ALCS should not matter. Now, I say it is time to start focusing on the playoffs first and foremost and secondly to start hoping that the Red Sox do not embarrass themselves with another, excessive Wild Card celebration. You know they will though. Good problem to have I say.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bad Weekend

Brady’s knee is dead, long live Matt Cassel. That is all I have to say about that until I see Cassel play an entire game for the Patriots against the Jets.

- So the Patriots won on Sunday, a lot closer that I would have wanted it to be but they came out with the W, and I don’t think that just because the Jets won yesterday by barely scraping by the Fins, that they are now the AFC East favorites.
- I think the best stat Sunday was from the running game 126 yards, with just 28 carries I don’t care if all three of our RB’s share carries 126 yards works for me.
- The Sox got ripped on Saturday but thanks to the Toronto Blue Jays we were only a game and a half back and we started strong to make it a half a game. We are playing the Rays for 5 times in the next 5 games things are getting really interesting., we could be back in first by Wednesday night and I would love to stop having to read those stories about how great the Rays are and what a surprise they are.
- My fantasy teams are off to an interesting starts, in 4 out of 5 leagues I have won my games. The other one I am losing huge, of course it is the one that I paid to be a part of. I really got screwed by Chris Cooley and Torry Holt doing pretty much nothing for me. Also the other guy has Michael Turner who absolutely destroyed the Detroit Defense Yesterday.
- Can I just say who cares that we broke the sold out games record. That video last night was ridiculous during the fifth inning, so what we beat the Indains record, by putting millions of dollars into the pockets of the owners. I think the Indians record is more impressive, I mean their stadium holds 43,345, Fenway holds 39.928 right now, when the streak started though it only held 34.898.
- Apparently Lance Armstrong might be making a comeback, it would make cycling relevant for awhile until he retires again.

That is all I have for now. Read more!

Monday, September 8, 2008

I Talk You Off The Ledge?

WTF OK? I get home from a wonderful Hawaiian vacation only to first learn that Tom Brady left in the first quarter of the Pats season opener against the Chiefs after taking a hit and then to later learn that his season could be - and probably is - over. Seriously. W.T.F.

The sad thing is, I kind of saw this whole thing coming. Sure my fears were that his "foot" or "ankle" or whatever was worse off than anticipated and not that his 2009 season could end after taking a hit 7.5 minutes in, but still. Something just did not seem right about the Pats all summer and I even practiced what I preached here avoiding the the two Patriot Big Ticket Items in all my fantasy drafts, Moss and Brady.

Believe me, after the debacle from the Super Bowl that still haunts me - and I think all Patriot fans to this day - it was really, really tough for me to get back into football this year. Come about June though, when the psycho Redskins and NCAA football fans in this area start humming about training camp being just six weeks away, you can't help but get excited yourself. Especially when you consider that your "woe is me act" after the Super Bowl loss is pretty freakin' lame considering that at the time the Pats were in the "Super Bowl Favorite" discussion. In all honesty, you really can't ask more from your team heading into the season than that.

And then Training Camp happened, Tom Brady did not play, and the team as a whole looked like absolute trash. Not even "they're just running vanilla schemes so the other team can make the slightest of adjustments and move/stop the ball with ease" type trash. Straight up uncleaned out fridge, stanky-ass trash. The worst kind of trash.

Even despite all that, Mike Reiss told us that things would be just fine and ESPN told us that things would be just fine and even SI and Paul Zimmerman said glowing things and we believed all of them. We shrugged the preseason off as an anomaly and meaningless - despite what our eyes told us and the vibe emitted from it - and we moved on, obnoxiously cocky as ever and ready to finally ready to put last February's disaster behind us.

And then on a play which from what I have read - still can't bring myself to watch it as I was on a plane when it happened - seems eerily similar to the one that derailed Carson Palmer a few years back in the playoff game against Pittsburgh everything changed. And now we are more than likely looking at Matt Cassell from now through December as the quarterback of the Patriots. A guy that didn't even start in college. Yikes.

While keeping all of this in mind, also keep the below in mind:

1) Us Boston sports fans have been SO ridiculously spoiled of late that we needed a major catastrophic event to test our allegiance and show the rest of the nation that we are not front-runners and bandwagon hoppers - which many are admittedly. What would you have said if in the first week of the 2004 baseball season, with the memories of the Grady Little Game still fresh, you saw Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, and Keith Foulke all go down with injuries? All of a sudden that team that was set to bury the past and win that one extra game that would propel them to a championship saw their two best starting pitchers and their closer go down almost immediately. What does that do to your psyche? What does that do to your outlook for that year's team? It's crushing right? But still, you don't just give up.

While I know the pre-2004 Red Sox are a far different animal than the 2008 Patriots, I do think a baseball team losing it's two best starters and closer is roughly equivalent to a football team losing it's all world QB. So the comparison is not perfect, but I think you get the gist. This season that you had such high hopes for and you swore would make you forget one of the most crushing defeats you ever witnessed, just got seemingly destroyed almost before it even started.

But do you know what? If you really care about the team, you'll stick with them, find the positive, and not just throw in the towel and proclaim something like, "well I'm a Jags fan or I'm an SEC fan now". I know most people won't do this, but some will too. I'm here to tell you not to do this. And like I said, look at the positives.

What are the positives?

Here you go:

1) Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Jabar Gaffney are probably the best 1-3 wideout group in the NFL. Sure, they are a lot better with Tom Brady throwing to them, but so is everybody else. I say, you could not ask for a better set of receivers to help Matt Cassell exceed his talents and become better than he may have any right being. Just think about it. Randy Moss is an atheletic freak who turned a washed up Randall Cunningham into a league MVP, Wes Welker was a quality weapon when he played for the Dolphins and had Joey Harrington throwing to him, and Jabar Gaffney was a Steve Spurrier stud at Florida who is perfectly capable of putting up 75-100 yard receiving games if they are there for him on a somewhat consistent basis.

2) Jeff Hostetler, Kurt Warner, Trent Dilfer, and Tom Brady. You remember Hoss and his moustache? Maybe, maybe not. If not, all he did was step in for Phil Simms - having only thrown 109 career passes to that point, thank you Wikipedia - after Simms hurt his foot in the Giants third to last regular season game, and lead the Giants to wins in their final two regular season games and a Super Bowl victory over the heavily favored Bills. You may also recall that the the upset most people equated the Pats victory in the 2002 Super Bowl to was that Giants upset over the Bills, quarterbacked by Hoss and defensively game-planned by a Mr. Bill Belichek.

You definitely know about Warner and Brady, but for the sake of consistency, we'll just say that each were early season injury replacements for their team's original starting QBs - Trent Green and Drew Bledsoe respectively - and each lead their teams to Super Bowl's right off the bat; Warner in 2000 and Brady in 2002.

So what happened in 2001? Well, that year the Ravens won the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer at the healm, who just so happened to take things over halfway through the season due to general incompetence by their original starter, Tony Banks. In eight regular season starts, Dilfer went 7-1 and then lead the team to the very difficult four win Super Bowl run following that.

While, I will admit that Brady was and is far more important to the Patriots than any of the aforementioned guys that were taken over for, the Patriots do also have a loaded roster around him and maybe with some luck and over-achieving, the 2008 Patriots can join the ranks of recent Super Bowl teams anchored by quarterbacks which started the year as number 2 on the depth chart.

3) Like I said, the roster is still loaded. And they have a laughably - at least on paper - easy schedule. While maybe the 12-4, 13-3, or 14-2 preseason predictions are out of the question now, I think 10-6 or 11-5 should still be within the realm of possibilities and that should mean playoffs. Assuming that Cassell does not play laughably bad of course. Which is ALWAYS a possibility when these situations arise. I'm just trying to harp on the positive.

4) For the first time since 2003 the Patriots can FINALLY start playing the "no respect" and "nobody believes in us" cards. It worked well then, and it could actually work well now. The only way that works now though is if the defense steps it up. That is how and why they won their first three Super Bowls and that is why they have not added two more to the mantle. If Richard Seymour can bounce back, if Jerod Mayo can be the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year we all want, if Addalius Thomas can be a disruptive pass rushing force, if Fernando Bryant reminds us all that Asante Samuel really wasn't as good as he thought, if 1 Part Rodney Harrisson + 1 Part John Lnych = 1 Competent NFL Safety, and if Ellis Hobbs keeps his self inflicted damage to a minimum I think the D can carry the team just like the old days. They probably don't have to do as much as back then, but they need more than they have gotten recently. Unfortunately, there are so many "ifs" in that earlier sentence that even Peter Gammons is appalled. You know that is the truth though.

5) Finally, I'll leave you with what could be the most important aspect of all this and that is Bill Belichek. Nobody is better at preparing an undermanned team to win than Belichek and I may daresay that this new and exciting challenge may be just the thing to get him going a little bit again. I'm not saying that he lost an edge or anything like that over the past few years but I will say that the recent Patriots teams have not been as mean and nasty as the old ones. Some of that comes from the players of course and I think some comes from Belichek. As weird as it may sound I think this whole Brady situation could very well bring out the best in him. More than anything else I have written above I believe this last fact to be the most true. We shall see.

And now because I'm a realist, a few things that I thought could have submarined the season in the playoffs with Brady, but now without him could lead to a truly mediocre to poor campaign:

(and all of these speak for themselves, so there is no further descriptions)

1) A shakey O-line

2) A shakey D, specifically the secondary

3) Randy Moss (This is new, but we know he can play nice catching balls from Tom Brady, but what happens when Tom Brady becomes Matt Cassell?)

And that's it folks. Kind of a marathon post, but I feel better now.

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Goddamn Plane Has Crashed Into the Mountain

Yahoo sports is reporting that Tom Brady has torn his ACL and is out for the year. This falls under "oh fuck" kind of news. I have no idea what more to say at this point. I am going to find my happy place, I suggest you do the same... Read more!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Some Predictions

Its kickoff weekend. Life is good. I started to prep my daughter last night during the Redskins game (notice I didn't say the G word.) She watched some of it while laying on my belly. It went okay, but lately she has hated the very sight of me, so it didn't last too long. We are working on it. I have a bunch of little things I want to say about the Pats so, I will just hit some little bullet points for now, and perhaps some of them will turn into full posts as the season rolls on. So...on with the show!

-John Lynch will be back with the Patriots next week. Because he is a veteran is salary becomes guaranteed if he is on the week one roster. Pioli and the boys hate to guarantee money, so it makes sense to give him some time off, and bring him in next week. We shouldn't need him against the Chiefs anyway. He looked good during the preseason, so it would make sense that he would have already signed with another team if he did not get some indication from the team that he would be brought back with haste. Also, let's not forget the cryptic comments from both him and Bill when he was cut.

-File this under the you heard it here first category. Rootbeer & Bacon called it months ago when we said that Ty Law would be a Patriot again this season. Now I know he has not signed with the team yet, but I think that he falls into the same category as John Lynch. That is, a veteran that the Patriots do not want to guarantee money to, but would like to have on their team nonetheless. I am calling it now, Law will sign with the team next week, and be on the field in week 2, and possibly starting in week 3. Think about how much sense this makes. Belichick likes to have veterans around to coach the new guys. The team cut Bryant, the only real veteran CB on the team. Now, he was soft, and could not tackle, but he is still a veteran. Law makes perfect sense on a year to year basis. He went looking for one last payday, got it, but wallowed in a quagmire of mediocrity in both New York, and Kansas City. He is another player, that has not worked out for any teams this preseason, has not announced his retirement, and has stated that he would like to come back, and that he and Belichick are close and talking regularly. With that shiny new Patriots Hall of Fame about to open, you have to think that Law is thinking about finishing wit the Pats, and having his number put up in there. Because after all, once you get paid, all thats left is posterity.

-I am sick of people complaining about Brady not working out with the team and giving up the parking spot. Are you serious? Do you really think that after nine seasons, he doesn't know how to get ready for a season? Also, he has a kid. I can tell you from experience that it takes some time up. Just a little...Can you blame him for wanting to spend more time with his new family in LA? No you can't. Shut up, sit down and enjoy what should amount to a monster season from Tom and Moss.

-I love Jerod Mayo, and I am not sure why. He is around the ball a lot, but has yet to really catch my eye, and he has not played in a regular season game yet. I don't know, I just have a good feeling.

-I am predicting a 14-2 season for the Patriots. With the losses coming from San Diego and the New York Jets.

Thats it, see you after the game for my regular "What I learned from the game" post.

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Notes for the Weekend

The football season has started and we head into our first big weekend of football I am looking forward to it and a couple of other things.

- As you know the Pats play on Sunday, I will be parked on the couch at one oclock to watch the game and to hope that Tom's back to normal and they can rip apart the hapless Chiefs. Watch out for Jabar Gaffney I think he could have a big game this weekend.

- The Sox are in texas to play the Rangers. The big match up for us is tonight when Josh Beckett is back on the Hill. I can say with certainty that we will make the playoffs but how he pitches over the next several weeks is goign to have a lot to say about how far we go in the playoffs.

- High School Football also starts this weekend, my Alma Mater St. John's Prep is facing off for the first time against local rival Masco. I think the Prep will win 28-16. I wish I could go to the game but I am heading down to the cape for one last hopefully summer like weekend before Hanna comes into ruin my fun.

- BC is also playing this weekend against Georgia Tech, while tech is no national powerhouse they should be a good early test for the Eagles, as the game last week agaisnt Kent State was an absolute joke.

- Nationally the US Open is coming to a close this weekend it looks like Nadal and Federer could be on another Collision course with eachother. Speaking of Tennis if you want to see how sexist John Mcenroe's father is read this article will mention Golf only because of my future Father In Laws love of the sport, this is the second to last round of the Fedex cup, next week will mark the end of a very long and boring PGA Season.

So that is all I have for now, hoepfully the other guys will be back soon to post again. Read more!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Quick Thoughts

Wow we have all been slacking lately, even though it is late I thought I would give some quick thoughts to anyone who is listening.

- Darts sucks, my new season started tonight and in typical fasion we got rocked hardcore. We arent even that bad but we can never seem to pull it together. I lost three times, it will take me all season to get good then I won't practice for a long time in the off season only to suck again.

- The Sox are begining to come together, Dustin has been on an absolute tear lately. he better be in the MVP hunt.

- Some links for you out there is a great web comic that I read about in a couple of days ago it is fairly interesting. Also which is great to watch tv shows or movies if you are bored.

That is all I have for now I will write more tomorrow when i am at work. Read more!