Thursday, September 28, 2006

Red Sox wrap up

As the season limps to a close, I thought I'd wrap up the season with a few notes about the latest in Fenway news.

Pesky is finally getting the right field pole named after him. Despite being called Pesky's pole for years, it was never official, so on his 87th birthday, the Sox officially honored him by officially dedicating the right-field pole in his name.

Ortiz is auctioning off number 52.

Manny has only played once in the past month, but does it really matter? To be honest, I wish they had just brought everyone from the AAA up, sent everyone on the major league team home (put them on IR) and see what happens. See who prospers and who sinks, and let the chips fall where they may.

Clement has apparently had his shoulder fall off based on the comments on radio. He's superman for playing through the pain, trying hard to get back despite all the tearing inside his rotator cuff. But, at the end of the day, he'll be staying home next year too trying to recover, with little chance he'll ever pitch in a Red Sox uniform again (although the injury is being touted as not likely career ending).

Beckett came in with 16 wins (seems high, given his ERA of 5.01), Schilling with 15 (seems lower than what I thought he had). The next closest win count was 7 for Lester and Wakefield. This seems almost crazy to me. How did they do as well as they did if the pitchers winning were this low?

Whether the Blue Jays or the Red Sox come in third doesn't matter to me at all. All that matters is they are done for this year. Whether your down by 2 games or 50 doesn't matter.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Questionable calls

I have some questions about some of the play calling by the Patriots on Sunday. Now, it's a given that I am not an expert when it comes to calling the right play on the football field. But I am puzzled by some things.

Why was Maroney fielding punts? When Corey Dillon got hurt, Maroney was the best back on the field. Why risk him in special teams play when you have more reliable players (Brown, for one) capable of doing the job?

Also, why not kick the field goal? I know it may have been hard to get to scoring range the second time around, but you still needed to score twice. Even Madden got that one (although, I have to admit, Madden seems to be making more sense this year?)

I'll be the first to admit that Belichick has forgotten more about football than I'll ever know, and so these questions should not be seen as 'questioning' the coach. It's more about understanding what's happening.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Disappointment in the running game

What happened last night can be simplified into the following sentence: the running game was stopped, therefore the Patriots lost the game.

I just hope this doesn't turn into a pattern. Until Brady and his wide receiving corps (except for Brown) get onto the same page, this is what the various defenses across the league are going to try to do to the Pats.

Come in and stop the run. Dare the pats to take to the air. Why? Because the yardage after the catch is going to be lousy until a wide receiver catches the ball. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, but Maroney will only break out once a game after a catch. Brown isn't going to outrun anyone, neither is Faulk. Graham and Watson can run over a few players (and you have to be impressed by Watsons speed).

But without a receiving threat who can do what the Broncos did on offense (turn a little catch into a big play) a few times a game, the Pats aren't going to win in the playoffs.

I have no doubts they're going to make it to the playoffs. They're special teams and defense are too good. So is their running game. But if they fall behind early and have to rely on the passing game, they're going to be in trouble.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Ortiz for MVP

Who could be more valuable to a team than David Ortiz? After tying the record set by Jimmie Foxx in 1938 with his 50th home run, most players would have taken the ball (given back by a willing fan) and put it on display inside his house. A proud reminder of a huge accomplishment. Instead, David Ortiz decided to donate the ball (given back to him by a willing fan) to two charities (Source: - Boston Red Sox: Historic ball to help charities)

Ortiz plans to use the ball he hit for his 50th homer to raise money for a couple of his pet causes. The ball will be put up for auction on, with proceeds being directed to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Plaza de la Salud Hospital de Ninos, which is located in Ortiz’ hometown of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
According to Ortiz, the hospital specializes in open-heart surgery for children.
The online auction starts at 11 a.m. today and will close at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Those interested in making a bid may do so by visiting and clicking on the Ortiz auction link.

This is all part and parcel of why David Ortiz deserves the MVP of the league. He's no Barry Bonds, talking and taking care of only himself. He's no ARod (or Manny) looking for the biggest paycheck.

Ortiz sat down to meet the two fans (29 year old McGrath and 10 year old Tommy Valeriani) last night: (Source: Boston Herald
He posed for pictures with the two fans. He hugged Tommy. Informed McGrath has a girlfriend, he made note of the guy’s instant fame and said, "Now you’ll have two."

But before the game, Ortiz had this to say:
"This is not fun," he told me before last night’s 6-0 win against Minnesota. "You’re happy for the things you’ve done, but there’s still a sad part. And that’s not winning."

This guy is all about team. And isn't that what MVP is all about? Not just being on the winning team, but it's supposed to be about the player who helped his team the most.

How many walkoffs does he have to hit before he's going to qualify, anyways?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Denver issues

Denver has a better team than they've shown so far this season. Despite Jake Plummers struggles, there was a reason they went 13-3 last year.

So far this year, Jake Plummer has a QB rating of 38.6. He has, in his first two games, thrown four interceptions and a fumble, giving rise to a QB controversy with rookie QB Jay Cutler waits in the wings. But Jake's QB rating was 90.2 last year so you can't expect his struggles to last (his lifetime average is 74.6).

Coach Mike Shanahan admitted they had scaled back the offense to protect Plummer this year. That's surprising giving Jakes strengths come to the fore when he starts moving out of the pocket.

Running backs Tatum Bell (5.5 yards per carry) and Mike Bell (4.4 yards per carry) are definitely carrying the load on offense. With a strong one-two punch at RB, it's surprising to see the offense struggle to score (9-6 win in overtime against KC last week).

And according to a story in the Boston Herald today:

While the Broncos have struggled badly on offense, their defense has been dominant. They haven’t allowed a touchdown through two games, with opponents going 0-for-7 in the red zone. While defensive coordinator Larry Coyer has committed to not relying so heavily on blitzes this season, the Broncos remain fast, athletic and aggressive on that side of the ball. . . .

It's not looking like an easy week for the Patriots this weekend.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Trot Nixons days are numbered

If this is a surprise to you, then you haven't been paying attention. That's why they traded Arroyo for Wily Mo. They're looking to replace Nixon, who is oft-injured. I'm not excited about Wily Mo replacing him however. Perhaps they really will go out and spend some big time money to get some big time free agents this winter.

Source: Boston Red Sox Nation: Another One Bites the Dust?

"I just can't imagine [Trot] playing for somebody else, it's just not something I can see. I don't have the ability to... like the whole seeing your grandmother naked thing, you don't want to picture it. I can't picture it.

"I don't know what they're gonna do in Trot's situation. I know I enjoy playing with the guy and I hope he's a teammate, but I'm not gonna say one way or the other because they have to do what they have to do." -- 9.19.06, Curt Schilling on WEEI's Dennis and Callahan show

Schill Still Thinks Henry Will Spend a Bundle This Winter

"I'm hearing things, and talking to people, just the feeling I get is there's gonna be a little different landscape here in how they operate this winter... in a sense if you don't kinda ignore that [payroll] threshold and you spend a little more openly, playing in a division with the Yankees is going to leave you with a severe disadvantage and I just think it's going to be a little bit different this winter." -- 9.19.06, Curt Schilling on WEEI's Dennis and Callahan show

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wakefield and next year

This is good news for anyone who cares about next year. Since the Red Sox signed Wakefield to a contract that allows them to re-up him every year, the fact that Tim felt good and played well is very good news for next season. The Red Sox basically fell apart starting from when he went down. Next year, with Schilling in his last year, will see a healthy Wakefield returning to the rotation to back him and Beckett up. - Boston Red Sox: Wake can’t revive Sox -- Knuckler gets no help

As late as two weeks ago, Wakefield could not throw a baseball 90 feet but his recovery since has been swift. Aside from some stiffness with the first couple of warmup pitches last night, he felt fine throughout the 78-pitch outing.
“I was excited, the butterflies were going,” Wakefield said. “Physically, I felt great. I could have gone one (inning) more but they put the brakes on.”

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Seattle is going to be a better team for the trade

With Jackson, Engram and now Branch as their leading wideouts and Alexander at RB, Seattle is going to be a tough team to crack this year.

I think the Patriots got what they could for Branch, and I doubt any other outcome would have been better for the team. But when you look at what Seattle could do (including running through the playoffs), I look at this trade as possible coming back to haunt the Patriots. Imagine if it comes down to Seattle vs the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

And yes, I know it's wayyyy to early to worry about the Super Bowl. - N.E. Patriots: What they’re saying in Seattle...

It’s a move that makes sense in the present and in the future, and that sound you just heard was the rest of the NFL gasping over how committed the Seahawks really are to winning a championship.
The beautiful thing about this deal is the Seahawks didn’t have to make it. No matter how poorly the offense performed at Detroit on Sunday, it still will be a productive unit. Even if wide receiver Darrell Jackson limps through the season, the Seahawks still have enough weapons to get by.
But who wants to merely get by seven months after a Super Bowl defeat? Go ahead and sing the chorus once more: the Seahawks’ time is now.

I have a tendency to root for the Browns

It's easy to do so, because I liked what Romeo did when he was here. And, he's not in direct competition with the Patriots. But I thought the team would be better this year. - NFL Coverage: Back to drawing board for Browns

"We didn’t play as well as we could have played or thought we could have played," he said. "We weren’t very good at all, particularly in the first half. ... We are only as good as we are, and we aren’t very good right now."
Woe, Romeo.
From their first offensive play (a 74-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards that was called back by a holding penalty) to their last play (a dropped pass by Edwards that turned into a game-clinching interception) the Browns were brutal in a 19-14 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Now, the Patriots played terribly on Sunday and I believe they are a better team than what they showed. But I'm not sure the same thing applies to the Browns. I know that one week doesn't make a season, and Cleveland will win some of their games. But they did look terrible.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Branch is gone

This bomb shell from the Boston Globe. Deion Branch is going to Seattle for a first round draft pick.
Patriots blog -- Reiss Pieces -

The Deion Branch holdout is over, but Branch isn’t returning to the Patriots. Branch, the fifth-year receiver, has been traded to the Seattle Seahawks for a 2007 first-round draft choice today

I have to admit I'm shocked by the news, but the trade does make sense. Branch probably could not have returned to the team in good standing. The Patriots made a good offer to Deion, but were rejected. Perhaps, after yesterday's win, management thinks they can get away without their number one receiver.

I believe they do need him. They will be better off next year. But that's not this year. They're going to need a deep threat and, despite Watsons big run and catch yesterday, a tight end will not be out deep on every play.

Update: The Patriots have just confirmed the trade.

I'm not sure the Patriots had a choice in the matter, but this is not good news. After letting Givens walk this offseason, they didn't need this to happen.

Lesson Learned

There were lots of lessons to learn in yesterdays game, but as Brady said this morning on the radio: "It's better to learn a lesson and win than learn it and lose." -- I could be getting that wrong, but that was the general gist of it.

As I was driving into work this morning, I was thinking in the opposite direction. I was thinking it might have been better if they lost yesterday. I watched that game and kept thinking, the better team is losing this game.

The Patriots were obviously better, but they weren't getting the job done. Especially after Spikes and Vincent went out, I thought the Patriots offense was going to walk all over them, and yet, they didn't. The Patriots players had obviously believed the hype. They came out flat and had to work hard to make up for it at the end of the game.

And so, my reasoning was this. If they learn about how bad it is to underestimate a team early on, they will benefit from this later on in the season. And so, perhaps losing yesterday may have been a good thing in the long run.

But I had forgotten how well Brady and Belichick lead this team. They (in their minds) lost that game. By playing as poorly as they did, they know they couldn't (should not) have won against a better team. And that's the same lesson they learn (and teach to the other players) every year.

Oh, they'll take the win. But they won't be proud of it. They're going to sit and watch the film and be disgusted and angry and they'll pass that onto the other players. By the end of the week, they'll be better for it. They'll come out rearing to go next week. The 'win' part of the game won't enter into their thinking at all.

It's just funny to think they have to relearn the same lesson every year. But that's how football works. If you don't learn these lessons every year, you fade away in January. If you look past any team, you can lose to them. No matter how bad they are. Just ask the Rams players from the first Super Bowl.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Branch hearings delayed

After looking over both articles from the Globe and the Herald, I'm no closer to understanding the delay, but it looks as if Branch won't be back for more than a week.

The league had hoped to join the two grievances into one, but that was rejected. So, Branch will get two hearings by two different arbitrators. The first hearing will be held next Thursday and Friday on Branch's contention the team has negotiated in bad faith throughout his contract.

The second hearing will take place after that on how the team reneged on an oral promise to deal him.

All of this is quite ridiculous, if you ask me. Given the well known understanding from everyone (other than in Branch's legal team), the Pats weren't going to trade Branch unless they got an incredible deal. And as for dealing in bad faith, he's the one holding out on a contract he signed. The NFL renegotiates contracts all the time when a player plays above what he was signed at. But Branch got a new offer and a reasonable one at that.

But really, my biggest problem is he won't be playing this week or even next week. The Patriots need a number one receiver, even if he wouldn't be a number one on half the teams in the league.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tight Ends will be big this year

How can they not be? With Branch out for at least another week, if not more, the tight ends have to step up and catch and block more this season. The Pats will probably be better off running more this season, which means the tight ends will be out there leading the way more often. And when Brady gets the call to throw, who's he going to throw to other than those really big targets. - N.E. Patriots: Watson leads offense’s four-headed monster

“It’s exciting,” he said. “Not to take anything away from Mike Vrabel, because he’s a great athlete, but just to see all the tight ends out there together is exciting for us. Sitting in the meeting room together, we know we have a big part in the offense this year. This is going to be a big year for the tight ends.”

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Branch is likely out until Sept 15th

And that's at best. He has two grievances the NFL are hoping to join into one: - N.E. Patriots: NFL looks to combine Branch’s grievances

Branch’s first grievance claims the Pats didn’t live up to their promise to trade him if they received an acceptable offer.
His second grievance would claim the Pats have negotiated in bad faith through his holdout.

It looks like the Pats strategy of letting Deion look for a trade is backfiring. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, letting Branch get a whiff of reality about how the league perceives his value, it seems Seattle and the Jets have offered more than what the Pats were expecting them to.

While I have every confidence in Brady's ability to make his wide receivers look good, having Branch off the field is not going to help the Pats win games. Yes, the running game looks stronger this year. But if Brady can't 'spread the field', it won't matter how good a running back Maroney is. If the defense can fill the box up, he and Dillon won't be going anywhere.

I hope Deion can come to some agreement with the Patriots, but its definitely looking worse every day.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

No offense to Brady

But I'm hoping they figure this whole thing out with Deion Branch. Admittedly, Tom Brady has never had the best receiving corps in the NFL, but he hasn't needed it, either. And when asked this morning on the radio which was more important to him, he quickly pointed out the offensive line was much more important to a QB.

But still... Experience in this league matters. Also, you need someone out there to get double teamed, in order to free up the other guys. Brady may throw the ball to whoever's open, but if other teams don't need to double anyone up...

It's a good thing we have a decent running game coming up this year.