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Monday, April 30, 2007

Randy fucking Moss

I love the NFL Draft. I mean, who doesn't these days? The cottage industry (hello, Mel Kiper) has turned into the NFL's second biggest event. It's endless fun, waiting to see who your favorite team will select while also hoping your rivals draft stiffs. Throw in a little human drama like Brady Quinn yesterday and you've got riveting stuff. The Pats had picks #24 and #28 in the first round yesterday. They used #24 to draft Brandon Merriweather, safety from the U. (Miami) as Michael Irvin would gleefully proclaim. Good pick, the Pats need help in the defensive backfield since Eugene Wilson is a ghost these days and Rodney Harrison is pushing Ken Griffey Jr. and Grant Hill for most injuries in professional sports in the past few seasons. Merriweather you might remember for his stomping of hapless FIU players last October and also from shooting at an intruder in his off-campus house who had shot his teammate in the butt. Why didn't I go to Miami? The Pats traded #28 to the Niners for their first round pick next year and a third-rounder this year (which they later traded to the Raiders). Merriweather was the only guy that the Patriots selected in the first three rounds of the draft, tying a club record for fewest on day one. The local media obviously had a field day with Merriweather's past history but other than that, yesterday was pretty quiet.
I went out to breakfast this morning and I came back to find a message from my buddy: THE PATS SIGNED RANDY MOSS. I rushed to the nearest tv and watched a few minutes of the fourth round (no mention of the trade). Then I hopped on, which didn't disappoint. It was true, the Pats had pulled off one of the great steals of the 21st century: a fourth round pick for Randy Moss. I had only one reaction, complete excitement. I can already tell you that this will be the topic ad nauseam for the next few months for talk radio/internet and bar sports talk. Moss comes with baggage: after seven unreal years in Minnesota, he was shipped off to the Raiders-the purgatory of the NFL-and spent the last two years there rotting away (though not as fast as Al Davis). It's a no lose for the Pats. They're making Moss take a pay cut and restructure his contract while also telling him that if he has a a bad attitude here, then see ya later. Sounds like a familiar story. Hmm? Talented veteran who has been on a losing team, getting his last chance to win a Super Bowl and cement his legacy in New England. Rodney Harrison and Corey Dillon would be the most recent and worthy examples of this trend. Both came from bad teams (the Chargers and Bengals) respectively and had reputations as jerks/me first guys. How'd that turn out? They both helped the Patriots win two Super Bowls in their four years here. Well, Moss is better than both of them and has more upside. He's only 30 so he theoretically could have 5-7 good years left in him. It's enough to make a guy crazy with football fever in late April.
After blowing a lead and losing in the AFC Championship to the Colts, the Patriots have been on a spending spree: they've brought in Adalius Thomas, Kyle Brady, Sammy Morris, Kelley Washington, Dante Stallworth, Wes Welker, Tory James and finally Randy Moss. All the while, only losing Tully Banta Cain (a 7th round pick who finally got some playing time this past year), a worn down Dillon (who supposedly has retired) and Todd Sauerbrun, who played here for a few games. Tom Brady who had few weapons in the passing game last year, now has nearly too many. Can you say 5-wide receiver sets? Damn, it's good to be a Patriots fan right about now.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The last time this happened, I was in 1st Grade

As the title refers to, the Sox did something they haven't done since 1990 (sweep three from the Yankees at Fenway). Let's not get ahead of ourselves, it is April 23. Last time I checked the playoffs start in October. With that out of the way, I've got to admit that it felt pretty sweet to beat this injury-depleted version of the Yankees.Each game featured a Sox comeback. Friday was most impressive, coming back down 6-2 in the eighth and knocking around Mariano Rivera en-route to the 7-6 win. A-Rod hit two homers and a double for four RBIs but the Sox still pulled it out. Reliever Hideki Okajima (the much less heralded new Japanese import) got the save since Papelbon had worked two games in a row. Saturday (a game that I was lucky enough to attend) looked like a big mismatch: Josh Beckett vs. Jeff Karstens (a rookie scrub the Yankees sacrificed since Pavano, Mussina and Wang are all on the DL). Beckett gave up four runs in the first two innings and ultimately battled until the seventh, only giving up one more run. Ortiz put the Sox up three with a big two-run blast and Papelbon closed it out (7-5). Finally, last night's game featured another mismatch: Dice-K against Chase Wright (another stiff the Yankees rushed up from Columbus). The Yankees got to Dice-K early with two in the first. The Sox woke up and hit an MLB record-tying four home runs in a row: Manny, Drew, Lowell and Varitek. Lowell later added a three run bomb and Papelbon once again closed it out in the ninth (7-6).

I could go on and on about these three games but the previous paragraph is enough. The bigger question is what does this series mean for the season? The Yanks and Sox meet 15 more times over the course of the season so it's a little early to start printing AL East champion t-shirts and talking about playoff rotations. The Sox capitalized on a very vulnerable Yankees team, much like the Yankees absolutely stomped the Sox in a demoralizing five game sweep at Fenway last August. Those Red Sox were complete frauds as their team was falling apart with injuries. The same could be said for the Yankees at this time. Despite what George, Cashman and the assorted stooges think, it's pitching and timely hitting that carries teams through seasons and deep into the playoffs. My dog could have dissected what the problem was for the Yankees in last season's playoffs: no pitching. When at full power, their lineup is one of the best in history but that doesn't matter when you start facing the Detroits (or Boston now) that have more than 1 or 2 quality starting pitchers. Yankee fans will say, they have Phillip Hughes waiting in the wings. Mussina and Wang will get healthy. And Pavano....... I don't think even the biggest Yanks fan could say much good about that clown. For once, they have a lot of question marks.

The Sox are in a unique position. They look like the team to beat in the AL East and possibly baseball. For most of my rooting days, we're always chasing much more talented and free-spending Yankees teams. Not the case this season. A-Rod is unstoppable. Jeter, Damon, Abreu and Giambi to a lesser extent can still do a ton of damage but they can't always be counted on to put together double digits runs (which is what this pathetic staff needs).The Orioles are currently hot (11-7, four wins in a row), Yankees are 8-9, Toronto is 8-10 and Tampa Bay is 7-11. You just know the Yankees will be hanging around at the end of the season. They have too many great hitters and money to let this season slip away. The Orioles are not going anywhere, a .500 season would be good for them. Toronto could be a threat but without B.J. Ryan, they're much less fearsome. The Devil Rays are only useful for fantasy baseball.

It's April 23 and 80 degrees outside. The Sox just swept the Yankees, it's a good day to be alive.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

your 2007 Red Sox

It's only eight games into the season (4-4) but it's never too early as a fan to start forecasting how your favorite team will do. So far, the Red Sox have been pretty inconsistent as their middling record indicates. They won 2 of 3 at the Royals (who you might not know are still a major league team), lost 2 of 3 to the Rangers (who still don't have pitching) and have most recently split-1 and 1-with an average Mariners team.
It's been famously said that a baseball season is like a marathon, a grind, horse race, etc. With that said, I think at different times in this long season, you can point to possible weaknesses and troublespots that almost certainly will arise at some point. For the Red Sox, the two biggest problems are quite obvious: 1) the bottom of the lineup and 2) the back end of the rotation.
The 2003-2005 Sox teams were all stacked lineups, a big reason why they reached the playoffs all three years. Last year though, the wheels started to fall off as a ton of injuries happened and the Sox could never recover not to mention guys were getting past their prime (Trot Nixon, Jason Varitek I'm looking at you). This past offseason the Sox went out and got Julio Lugo and J.D. Drew. Both moves were met with criticism as Lugo has never played for a winner (other than sitting on the Dodgers bench for the 2nd half of last season) and Drew is only slightly less injury prone than Ken Griffey Jr. So far so good from these two though, Lugo seems to be a capable leadoff man and shortstop and Drew is very talented. Right now the batting order goes: Lugo, Youkilis, Ortiz, Manny, Drew, Lowell, Varitek, Crisp, Pedroia. 1-6 is top-notch, Lowell proved last year that he can still hit. The question lies in the last three. Varitek got hurt last year and was out for a long stretch of the season (coinciding with the Sox completely folding) and it looks like he has completely lost his way at the plate. He swings at everything (and misses) and can't drive anything. But he's still an outstanding defensive catcher that does so much for our pitching staff and Doug Mirabelli is the backup so he's not going anywhere. Coco Crisp is a complete bum. He broke a finger in the beginning of last season and has never really recovered since then. He was supposed to be our leadoff guy last year but he's not suited for it so now he's buried at the 8th spot. He has no paitence at the plate and to compound that, he's just not a good hitter. He's fast but given that he can't get on and the Sox never run, that doesn't matter. Which leaves us with Dustin Pedroia. The young second baseman must have incriminating pictures of someone in the Sox front office because he got called up last season (and did absolutely nothing to impress) and yet the Sox let Mark Loretta (a cheap, reliable, veteran 2B) walk to the Astros. Pedroia is the equivilent of Turtle on Entourage. He has basically been given a golden ticket and he's just happy to be along for the ride on a MLB team. A little harsh? Probably but if you had to watch this guy regularly, you'd wonder how he's gotten here. There doesn't seem to be much to hope for other than the Sox somehow dumping Crisp and Pedroia on some unsuspecting team, pretty unlikely.
As for the back end of the rotation. Schilling has looked terrible and great in his two starts. Beckett good and great and Dice K great and ok. All three of those guys should be fine, all could win anywhere from 12-20 games. Tim Wakefield to a lesser extent and whoever is number 5 (currently Julian Tavarez aka Freddie Kruger) are the guys I would worry about. Wake had a good first start against the Rangers, only giving up two runs but the Sox once again forgot to provide support. Something that they haven't done for Wakefield in years. Tavarez is just the answer while Jon Lester recovers from cancer in the minors or maybe Roger Clemens decides to come pitch for the Sox again. There are very few rotations that can touch this one still you want something more reliable than Tavarez and Wakefield, who can give up 8 home runs on any given start. Bottom line: this is a good team and could be great. The Orioles and Devil Rays are still awful, the Yankees have zero pitching and the Blue Jays are unproven. The AL East is right there for the taking. Other than that, we'll worry about it later.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Suns-Mavericks running diary (April 1)

4:03 pm-Mavs @ Suns, Mavs up 3 (29-26 after one quarter) in the last regular season meeting of the season between these two powers. I've never done a running diary before so I felt like this sweet matchup was as good a time as any to get it started. For my money, these two teams are the only teams that matter in the N B A (as Bill Walton would say). With apologies to the Spurs (solid and dull as usual), Utah, Houston and Detroit, Cleveland (gotta love LeBron), the Mavs and Suns are on another level. They have been all season too. They both play an offensive-minded and thoroughly entertaining brand of basketball that the NBA lacks. Too often, the NBA revolves around star players (LeBron, Carmelo, Wade, et al.) who are fun to watch but are usually filled with well-payed, freakishly-sized stiffs. Not the case with Phoenix or Dallas. They both have stars: Dallas-Nowitzki, Terry, Howard; Phoenix: Nash, Marion, Stoudemire; and they also have some great role-players. The NBA season like all pro seasons (except for the NFL) is too long. Therefore the product is watered down with too many bad games and bad teams. Can we just let these two teams advance to the Finals? I don't think anyone would complain.
4:10pm-foul on Dallas' Austin Croshere (a fellow PC alum and white guy).
4:13pm-as much as I love March Madness, I must say it's a nice feeling to be watching a meaningful basketball game and not have the insufferable Billy "Fudge" Packer and his boy Jim Nantz giving me all the details. CBS choice of game commentators has to be one of the worst parts of this year's tournament. No Gus Johnson past the second round? James Brown, teaming up with Len Elmore? Yikes.
4:16pm-Devin Harris just swished two free-throws. If you had told me three years ago, that he'd be a starter on a great NBA team, I would have thought you were crazy. Then again, I can't stand Big Ten basketball or football.
4:17pm-some of the producers of the broadcast decided to switch the camera angle to sideways, an innovative albeit semi-nauseating view.
4:18pm-along the same lines as the Harris comment, Howard just hit two FT's as well and who would believe what an NBA player he'd be? I saw him a ton at Wake but I guess I wouldn't be a good scout since I can't objectively guess how good many college stars could be. Then again, I should probably be on the Celtics payroll, the way that they've evaluated talent the last few seasons.
4:20pm- Is their a more versatile forward than Shawn Marion? OK, maybe he's on his team and his name is Boris Diaw.
4:21pm- One of the things that has always bugged me about NBA games in the last few years is the constant blaring of rap music during the game. Don't get me wrong, I love rap as much as the next white kid from the suburbs but I feel annoyed when a night of basketball has turned into a night at the club.
4:22pm-How old is Jerry Stackhouse, who just drilled a three? I feel like he is in the Julio Franco range. Maybe not, but since he's been a fixture in the Association since my formative years it feels like that.
4:23pm-Oden or Durant? I feel like this debate consumes my life these days thanks to my beloved Celtics. I feel pessimistic about getting either one of these studs. Like either, one of them won't come out and the Celts will get the number 2 pick. Or maybe something completely dumb will transpire: the Celts fend off all logic and scouting and pick Aaron Gray #1, forcing me to jump off a bridge. If you're wondering, I'd take Durant. I think he has more upside. Oden has been so hyped but I feel like against NBA big guys, he won't nearly be as powerful. But what do I know? The media sweats him almost as bad as I sweat Sharapova.
4:27pm-just had my first Cuban sighting, behind the Mavs bench but sadly minus the Mavs football jersey-must be at the cleaners.
4:28pm-the Mavs are 22-3 in their last 25 on the road? The Celts have 22 totals wins this year, no lie.
4:29pm-Barbosa is amazing, easily the best 6th man in the NBA.
4:31pm- The Reaping? Honestly, are there any good movies that come out these days? I'm no Siskel but I like a good flick as much as the next guy. It seems like there's so much garbage coming out of Hollywood these days. At least Eddie Griffin seems to be getting plenty of work.
4:33pm-in the How the Hell Did He Make the NBA Dept: I submit Devan George. After collecting rings on the Lakers, he's now on the Mavs. Sweet life.
4:34pm-Nash hits Barbosa with the backdoor pass, that's just fun to say.
4:35pm-Hey, Michelle Tafoya is here! Wish it was Erin Andrews.
4:36pm-Stoudemire with a pick and roll, And-1 dunk from Nash. I could watch those two all day, every day.
4:37pm-It's a beautiful thing when one of the best players in the NBA is German. The US needs more prominent Germans, they're so entertaining.
4:38pm-along with Diaw's standard info, they listed his favorite tv show as the Simpsons. The Simpsons in French? Interesting.
4:40pm-Finally figured out what ex-NBA player is doing the Color-Mark Jackson. He of the constant backdown move on helpless guards.
4:42pm- Suns up 60-56 at the half.
4:48pm- Wilbon doing halftime with Dan Patrick and Jon Barry. Love Wilbon. PTI is my drug of choice, I get the shakes when I haven't seen in for a while. And it would be nothing without Wilbon. I like Tony K but Wilbon brings a whole lot more to the table (see MNF this past season). Nothing in my life is more disappointing than when Wilbon is gone and Dan LeBatard is filling in. He's awful.
5:11pm-Nash hits Marion with an unreal assist. A three-time MVP? Get used to it.
5:13pm-Jackson seemed to have gotten verbal diarrhea. He can't stop spewing about Nash. And who can blame him?
5:16pm-first lame April Fools reference, I'm surprised it took this long.
5:19pm-between "Dancing with the Stars" and "American Idol", I don't know where anyone has the time to live their own life these days.
5:20pm-Stoudemire is 24 years old, makes me feel like I should do something with my life.
5:23pm-Barbosa with a nice drive to the basket. The Suns are looking unstoppable.
5:26pm-Howard gets poked above the eye, causing him to leave the game.
5:28pm-Suns up 89-82 after three quarters. I can't imagine being able to watch the Suns every night, must be nice.
5:32pm-Win or lose, I hope we get the obligatory Cuban shot/interview post-game. He is must-see tv in my book.
5:34pm-back to the crazy view, someone is taking a leak.
5:38pm-wow, there's a reason nobody watches ABC outside of Lost and Desperate Housewives. The other shows look brutal.
5:41pm-Barbosa hits a 3 and simultaneously gets clotheslined. Must be Wrestlemania night.
5:42pm-Suns up 98-88 with 7:28 left, think they'll make it close?
5:46pm-the graphics jinx worked like a charm; after making its first 15 Ft's, Terry bricks one for the Mavs
5:46pm-Nowitzki out after turning his ankle
5:47pm-after the Suns scored, they cut to the shot from behind some Suns fans, who are jumping up and down? weird.
5:47pm-Think Stackhouse was bald as a kid? I do.
5:48pm-Nash hits a shot (with some player yelling "bucket!") and gets fouled. Nash is from another planet. Aka Canada.
5:51pm-Marion hits a floater in the lane. Has he ever taken two shots that looked alike?
5:58pm-Oh no, with the season-opener Sunday Night Baseball promo featuring Jon Miller, I just realized that Joe Morgan will be there too. He is unbearable. It feels like he's never gone away even though we haven't heard him since October. Worst announcers in sports off the top of my head: Morgan, Tim McCarver, Packer and Joe Buck.
6:01pm-We have a Jose Barea sighting for the Mavs, from Northeastern (yeah that one). I don't know what it is but I have a fascination with garbage-time in the NBA. I love looking at the box scores or better yet the games and seeing the has-beens, never-weres and never-will bes that I've followed for years.
6:03pm-when you shoot 11-20 from 3-point land, even James Jones is drilling 'em.
6:04pm-Diaw hits a 3 from the corner. Suns 65% from the field for the game. Final score: Suns 126-Mavericks 104. This has been fun. Don't know when I'll be at it next, probably sometime later in the week as the Sox get the season started. Go Sox.