Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sports Sunday

On the heels of his woeful performance in Friday's game vs. the Redskins, the Patriots have cut backup QB Kevin O'Connell. Considering the team invested a third round pick in O'Connell in the 2008 draft, this move comes as a surprise. However, it had been reported by Pro Football Weekly earlier in the week that the team wasn't happy with the way O'Connell was progressing even before the exhibition game vs. the Redskins. Right now, the Pats depth chart is Tom Brady, Andrew Walter, and undrafted free agent Brian Hoyer.

Here's hoping KC QB Matt Cassel is ok after leaving the game with a left leg injury in Saturday's game vs. the Seahawks. With the way Cassel handled taking over the QB reins from Tom Brady last year, he ranks as a favorite at this address and I'd love to see him tear up the AFC West for the Chiefs.

The Red Sox completed a sweep of the hapless Toronto Blue Jays today with a 7-0 victory. If I had been in Las Vegas, I would've lost a lot of money, because I would've put a bet on Roy Halladay to beat Paul Byrd. Byrd, in his first start of the season, was excellent, pitching six shutout innings. Halladay continued his August struggles.

Alex Gonzalez has come in and stabilized the SS position over the last two weeks. He's hitting well, too! Frankly, he never should've left after the 2006 season. Opting for Julio Lugo over Alex Gonzalez to play SS during that offseason ranks as one of GM Theo Epstein's biggest blunders.

In the Wild Card race, the Red Sox now are 5.5 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays, a team they have struggled against the last two seasons. I'm not concerned about the Texas Rangers, but the Rays do worry me. They seem to have the Red Sox figured out.

A big key to the Red Sox postseason chances is a healthy and "in shape" Daisuke Matsuzaka returning to the team. Supposedly, the team is happy with his conditioning and his arm should be well rested. We'll see how it goes, when he's back with the team in the next week.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pats vs. Redskins

The general rule of thumb in the NFL is the third exhibition game (yes, I called it the old name - exhibition game - the powers that be in the NFL don't like that) is the most important one of training camp. It's the barometer of where a team finds out how their starters are doing and an opportunity to seriously analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a football team.. I had the opportunity to watch last night's Patriots-Redskins game and here are my observations from what I saw:

Bad News for the NFL - Tom Brady and Randy Moss are back! They were so in sync last night, you would've thought it was November 2007. Moss terrorized Redskins CB D'Angelo Hall during the first half.

Young DB's Having Difficulty - Jason Campbell is a middle of the road QB. Last night he picked on Darius Butler. Butler struggled, getting two interference calls on one play. Patrick Chung muffed another punt and looks shaky as a returner.

Big Vince - Vince Wilfork really came to play last night. He was disruptive, both making tackles and clogging the line. Mike Wright looked good up front, too.

I Still Don't Like the OL - I still am not crazy about the OL. I'm hoping air craft carrier sized rookie OL Sebastian Vollmer can step in and supplant Nick Kaczur at RT. In pass protection the OL is good enough (although I still have nightmares over their performance in the Super Bowl vs. the Giants), but they can't run block. The Pats OL are more of the mauler type of linemen, not the gifted, light on their feet, athletic type. I'd love to see the team invest a draft pick in a big time left tackle, like Bryant McKinnie of the Vikings.

Kicking Game - The kicking game remains in good hands with Stephen Gostkowski.

Laurence Maroney - If he can finally stay healthy, I have high hopes for Laurence Maroney this year. He still tippy toes to the line instead of hitting the hole hard, but he looked better last night as opposed to the tentative style with which he ran with last year.

Backup QB - Kevin O'Connell - Yikes! A dreadful performance.

Brady's Shoulder - Tom Terrific got slammed to the turf on a clean play by Albert Haynesworth. It looked like he landed awkwardly, but after the play was on the sidelines and not receiving medical attention, so it didn't look too serious. Typically, Coach Belichick was vague in his response to questions regarding the health of the shoulder after the game.

Last night's game was quite entertaining for an exhbition game and while the first team looked good vs. the Redskins, there are still some things that need to be worked on. The defense is the key to the team. If the youngsters in the secondary can gel and the front seven can get a pass rush going, the team will go a long way.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dogs, Dogs, Everywhere There's Dogs

Full disclosure: Other than Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds, I like dogs. I can't have one due to my allergies, but generally don't mind them.

However, when did we as a nation become so pet happy? Particularly dogs. What Michael Vick did was revolting, but he did 2 years in jail. Compare that to Donte Stallworth who did less than a month in jail for manslaughter. Yet, there's outrage over Vick being signed by the Philadelphia Eagles.

When did dogs become so part of a family, that they now go EVERYWHERE? I just spent a week on Cape Cod and I saw countless dogs on the beach. Sorry, but I don't want your filthy, smelly mutt around when I'm chilling, drinking my favorite adult beverage by the ocean. Leave it at home. You may think your dog's cute, but I don't.

The worst offender of the week, was when we were at Savory Pizza Grille and Sweet Escape Ice Cream in Truro. Terrific pizza and ice cream, which unfortunately was dampened by this idiot family that carried the dog inside a woman's purse, then proceeded to let it walk around the picnic area unleashed while we were eating. At one point, the dog walked under our table. What the heck? There's a reason why dogs aren't allowed in restaurants. Same thing in the outdoor picnic area. It's unsanitary.

Going forward dog owners, please take others into consideration, when you take your mutts with you on vacation. If you can't be considerate, put the dog in a kennel for a week or find someone to care for him.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Town Hall Troubles

Despite protestations to the contrary, the Town Hall meetings being held by Representatives and Senators across the country are really starting to backfire on the Democrats. Every night there's a new clip of a politician getting chastized by his constituents at these meetings. Yesterday, the best clip yet was released where Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee had the temerity to answer a cell phone call while a constituent was speaking at the microphone.

The Obama Administration and Democrats can spin these confrontations at the Town Hall Meetings as Republican shenanigans or not representative of the views of most Americans all they want, but the truth is in the poll numbers. Obama's approval rating is down to FORTY SEVEN percent today. These meetings are doing serious damage to a party that has obviously overreached on any mandate they believed they had to implement extreme left wing policies.

The Obama Administration is so desperate to turn the tide that they actually planted an 11 year old girl in a Portsmouth, NH town hall audience, where Obama presided over a meeting and had the girl ask a softball question. Turns out, the girl's mother was a big Obama supporter and worked on fundraising activities in Massachusetts during the presidential campaign. Naturally, the Obama Administration denies this "coincidence".

Right now, the Democrats look like a collection of out of touch amateurs with no clue how to govern. Other than tacking on $787 billion to the federal budget deficit in a stimulus bill laden with pork barrel projects and favors for supporters, what has Barack Obama and the Democratic dominated House and Senate accomplished in the seven months since Inauguration Day? The House of Representatives is run by crazies like Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, and Charlie Rangel. The Senate has lunatics like Barbara Boxer who asked a member of the armed forces to refer to her as "Senator", not "ma'am" and described the Town Hall Meetings as people "storming these town hall meetings".

Before the 9/11 tragedy, President George W. Bush had a very significant accomplishment that benefited the American workers. He passed a $1.35 trillion tax cut in the spring of 2001. Critics say that the cut disproportionately benefited the rich, but frankly it benefited everyone. Money back in people's pockets as opposed to the government coffers is always a good thing. I don't recall people storming town hall meetings complaining about tax cuts in the summer of 2001.

The Democrats are fortunate that November 2010 is a long way away. Maybe they'll get lucky and the economy will be growing by then. Right now, they can't stop shooting themselves in their collective feet with each policy initiative they propose bringing the U.S. closer to socialism. If they opt to hike taxes, 2010 will be a repeat of 1994. That was the year where the "throw the bums out" atmosphere was so prevailing that even Speaker of the House Tom Foley was thrown out of office.

What will be interesting is when the August recess is over and a government health care plan is actually voted upon. Will the House and Senate members vote to commit political suicide with their careers or vote against a bill to save their seats? I predict health reform will ultimately fail due to political expediency.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Unrelated items on a Monday

Why is it that liberals don't afford the same tolerance for demonstration to conservatives and mainstream Americans that they expect when they protest wars or former President George W. Bush's policies? It's amusing that the so called "party of tolerance", the Democratic Party, isn't accepting of voices that disagree with theirs.

I'm curious as to when my Congressman, Barney Frank, is going to hold a Town Hall Meeting? I'm not holding my breath for that unaccountable phony to hold one. I'd absolutely go if he did schedule a meeting.

I'm greatly looking forward to the new WBZ sports station on FM 98.5 that launches this Thursday. Boston has desperately needed a second sports talk station, and the signal on 98.5 is very strong. There have been other challengers to the WEEI throne in the past, but the signals for ESPN Radio and AM 1510 are pathetic. While I enjoy the Dennis and Callahan show on WEEI, Glenn Ordway's Big Show in the afternoon is mostly unlistenable, due to the presence of Ordway. On WBZ FM 98.5, Michael Felger will be hosting the afternoon show and I always enjoy his presence on the radio.

I know it's early, but the fat lady is now singing for the 2009 Boston Red Sox. Six losses in a row to key AL East teams is not the way to stand up and be the alpha dog of the American League. The Red Sox are now 6.5 games behind the surging New York Yankees, but incredibly are still tied for the AL Wild Card lead. However, the Tampa Bay Rays are only 1.5 games behind the Red Sox and the Rays have mostly owned the Sox the last two years.

The problem with the Red Sox is the lack of offense. Jason Varitek can no longer be an every day catcher. He's a .220 hitter who doesn't hit in the clutch. David Ortiz has been awful for most of this season. Jason Bay's been in a 2.5 month slump. J.D. Drew has been invisible and unproductive. There just aren't any clutch hitters other than Victor Martinez, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia.

The SS position is a black hole. Right now, there isn't a major league SS on the Red Sox roster. I'm all set with Jed Lowrie. He can't stay healthy and he has been terrible at the plate when he has played. Nick Green is a mediocre defender whose batting average is .118 since the All Star break. There's a reason Chris Woodward was released by Seattle, so I don't believe he's the answer.

It's Camp Tranquility down in Foxboro where the Patriots are getting ready for the upcoming NFL season. Nary a word is heard from camp where all seems to be quiet and moving forward as expected. Coach Belichick runs a tight ship, so controversies are kept to a minimum.

Only 13 days before President Obama comes to Martha's Vineyard! Hooray! Seriously, who really cares? I have more important things than to be concerned with than where a President spends his vacation time.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Concert Review

Last night, I made a trip to Fenway Park to catch Paul McCartney play the second of two shows there. While walking up Commonwealth Ave and cutting over to Beacon St., I could hear the sound check and him playing Coming Up and All My Lovin'. That certainly boosted my already good spirits and set the tone for the pre concert dinner and cocktails with my sister.

Paul hit the stage around 7:50, with Beatles classic "Drive My Car", then "Jet" in which he butchered the lyrics, followed by two unknown solo songs "Only Mama Knows" and "Flaming Pie".

Despite being 67 years old, he sounded great, moved around with plenty of energy, and put on an impressive performance. I was concerned about the vocals, but those concerns were quickly put to rest as he growled through "Jet".

However, the set list made for a boring first half of the concert. There were a lot of lower key obscure post Wings solo songs, and classics like "Blackbird", Long and Winding Road" and "My Love" couldn't raise the overall interest of the crowd. .

The set list bizarrely ignored the timeframe of 1974-1981, where a string of Wings classics, such as "Listen To What the Man Said", "Silly Love Songs", "Let Em In" and "Coming Up" were neglected. It remains bewildering why Paul doesn't play those songs - everyone knows them and "Silly Love Songs", in particular, is still played often on oldies stations. "Maybe I'm Amazed" wasn't played either, but that may have had more to do with Paul's inability to no longer be able to sing the vocally challenging song. During a past tour, he dropped it from the set list because it took too much of a toll on his voice.

It wasn't until halfway through the show, when "Band On the Run" was played, that the crowd's interest really piqued and everyone started singing along to the third section of the Wings classic. The show was so flat up until that point that a WINGS SONG was what got the crowd going! After that, the show kicked into high gear with a flurry of Beatles hits such as "Back in the USSR", "Paperback Writer", "Something", "Hey Jude", "Day Tripper", "I Saw Her Standing There", and finishing up with with "Get Back", "Sgt. Pepper/The End"

Another criticism is the double John Lennon tribute. First there is the 1982 song "Here Today", then there's "A Day In the Life/Give Peace a Chance". Lennon's been dead for almost 30 years and the extra tribute seemed a bit exploitative. "Here Today" is a buzz kill. For what it's worth, Paul sings "Something" far better than George Harrison ever did. The song starts off as a ukelele version, until after the first verse, when the rest of the band kicks in, the ukelele is ditched for an acoustic guitar, and the song sounds oustanding.

Highlights of the show: "Live and Let Die" (with fireworks sailing over Fenway - I wonder what those on the Mass Pike thought as they drove by during this), "Band on the Run", "Something", "Day Tripper", "Paperback Writer".

Lowlights of the show: "Jet (which is usually stellar)", "Dance Tonight", "Here Today", new songs "Highway" and "Sing the Changes".

Of the five times I've seen Paul McCartney, this was probably my least favorite of the shows. However, the performance of the songs and energy brought to them were excellent and those who attended can say they got their money's worth. Show grade: B-

Set List:
01. drive my car
02. jet
03. only mama knows
04. flaming pie
05. got to get you into my life
06. let me roll it/ foxy lady
07. highway
08. long and winding road
09. my love
10. blackbird
11. here today
12. dance tonight
13. calico skies
14. michelle
15. mrs. vanderbilt
16. eleanor rigby
17. sing the changes
18. band on the run
19. back in the ussr
20. i'm down
21. something
22. i've got a feeling (with extended jam)
23. paperback writer
24. A day in the life
25. let it be
26. live and let die
27. hey jude

Encore #1
28. daytripper
29. lady madonna
30. I saw her standing there

Encore #2
31. yesterday
32. helter skelter
33. get back
34. Sgt Pepper reprise into The End

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Trade Deadline Moves

The Victor Martinez acquisition by the Red Sox will benefit the team tremendously. He's a great hitter from both sides of the plate, can play catcher and 1B, and brings some much needed thump to the lineup. He's known as an excellent game caller behind the plate, but supposedly isn't great at throwing out runners. Defensively, that scouting report seems similar to current Sox catcher Jason Varitek.

I'd like to see the Sox play Martinez behind the plate - a lot. Varitek historically wears down at the end of the year, and this year seems to be no exception. There are rumblings that he's had a bum left shoulder which has dogged his hitting for the last month. However, I doubt Sox manager Terry Francona will do that; instead he'll create a log jam at 1B and DH. Tito's loyal to a fault to his guys.

The Sox gave up young minor leaguers Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price. They are both a long way from the majors. No big deal there. It's too bad that they had to trade Justin Masterson, who was untouchable this time last year. Masterson has had some struggles this year, particularly against lefties, and projects to be a set up man out of the bullpen.

Despite the Red Sox claiming that the second trade gives them more flexibility and consistency off the bench, the trade of 1B Adam "We Hardly Knew Ye" LaRoche to the Braves for 1B Casey Kotchman makes no sense. LaRoche wasn't in Boston long, but I really liked him from what I saw. He can hit. Kotchman is a better defensive 1B than LaRoche, but isn't the power hitter that LaRoche is. To me, LaRoche is the better player. I'm definitely disappointed by this trade.

Looking at the big picture, the Red Sox definitely improved themselves with the Martinez acquisition, but what's even better is the Yankees didn't do much other than acquiring journeyman Jerry Hairson, Jr. from the Reds as infield depth.

Feathers may be ruffled in the Sox clubhouse due to some players (Varitek, Ortiz, and Lowell) sitting out games, but Victor Martinez will definitely give the Sox offense a shot in the arm and make it more consistent.