Monday, November 1, 2010

The New England Patriots and Other NFL Thoughts

Two months ago, I was scoffing at anyone who said the New England Patriots were going to win 10 or 11 games. Coming off of a disappointing season, I hadn’t seen the team make what I consider to be any serious improvements to a porous defense that dogged them through most of the 2009 season. I predicted an 8-8 season; a rebuilding year.

After seven games, the New England Patriots have a 6-1 record, the best record in the National Football League. It shows what I know, which apparently isn’t much. This team has been a very pleasant surprise.

Featuring a timely offense and a bend, but don’t break defense, the 2010 edition reminds me of the 2003 Patriots, who won the Super Bowl. The 2003 Pats played a lot of close games, often times it wasn’t easy, but in the end they made fewer mistakes than their opponent and that wound up being the difference in them winning the game.

That’s the way this team plays. On defense, they give up a lot of yards, but put the clamps on, once opposing offenses get within the ten yard line. Offensively, Tom Brady is still there, but the TD’s are scored by players such as Danny Woodhead, BenJarvus Green Ellis and Brandon Tate, none of whom are stars.

The Patriots also have superior special teams, a very underrated aspect of football. The Patriots have been fortunate to have terrific kickers the last 15 seasons with Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski. The team also upgraded the punting position with big legged Zoltan Mesko, a rookie from Michigan.

This has been an amazing coaching job by Bill Belichick, so far. Right now they have four rookies starting on defense – Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Deaderick, Brandon Spikes, and Devin McCourty. All have played very well. Besides veteran Vince Wilfork, the defense is anchored by second year player Pat Chung and third year player Jerod Mayo.

Almost halfway through the season, the 2010 Patriots have been a joy to watch.

Other NFL news…

This week the talk was of a possible NY Jets-NY Giants Super Bowl down in Dallas. After watching the Green Bay Packers defeat the Jets 9-0, in what can best be described as a “rock fight”, the idea of printing those Super Bowl tickets for the Jets is premature. Mark Sanchez still has a lot of work to do at the QB position. He’s a front running type of QB. When the team is going well, he plays well. However, when they need him to step up and make plays, he hasn’t shown the ability to carry the team, yet.

Another team having a surprise season in what was thought to be a rebuilding year is the Kansas City Chiefs. The last several seasons have been nightmarish for the Chiefs and their fans, but the team is run by former Patriots GM Scott Pioli. He and coach Todd Haley have things going in the right direction. It certainly helps that Haley has former Pats coaching alumni Charlie Weis as Offensive Coordinator and Romeo Crennel as the Defensive Coordinator . Led by the best running attack in football, featuring Thomas Jones and Jamal Charles, the Chiefs are off to a 5-2 start.

The Minnesota Vikings have a lot of talent. On paper, a team with Jared Allen, Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, and Brett Favre looks great. However, despite his performance before being knocked out of the game, Favre is no longer an elite QB. When he plays within the system and manages the game, like he did yesterday, he can still be effective. However, he’s prone to taking too many risks and throws a lot of interceptions. Unfortunately, for the Vikings, backup QB Tavaris Jackson isn’t the answer. Their coach Brad Childress was considered a fine Offensive Coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, but as a head man, he’s been mediocre. The Vikings, at 2-5, would be wise to fire Childress immediately, and promote Defensive Coordinator/Asst. Head Coach Leslie Frazier to head coach. The Vikings seem like a team needing a different voice from the top.

Speaking of teams needing a coaching change, Jerry Jones needs to end the Wade Phillips era in Dallas. The Cowboys have been an extreme disappointment and at 1-6, Wade has lost the team. They are so bad; Jones apologized to the fans yesterday. Even the defense has been a disappointment the last two weeks. Former Cowboys head coach Dave Campo is still on the Dallas staff, serving as the secondary coach. He’s definitely a candidate who could replace Phillips as an interim for the rest of the year. He’s worked under Jerry Jones before; it’s not his first rodeo.

At 0-7, the Buffalo Bills are the worst team in the NFL. I feel sorry for their fans. I really do. Owner Ralph Wilson is over 90 years old and doesn’t spend the money necessary to bring elite talent and coaching to the Bills. It is obvious that the team skimps on scouting, based upon their draft record, whiffing badly on first round Defensive Linemen such as John McCargo and Aaron Maybin in recent years. They replace head coaches constantly, this year, they have retread Chan Gailey as head coach. The Bills also went into the season with Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick as their QB’s. Edwards, initially the starter, was released. Fitzpatrick hasn’t played bad as the starter, but he’s not a long term answer. What a mess!

The Indianapolis Colts have been so devastated with injuries; they are the football version of the 2010 Boston Red Sox. I’ve read and heard media members say the Colts aren’t what they were. I don’t buy into that school of thought. As long as Peyton Manning is healthy and playing QB, the Colts are as formidable an opponent as anyone.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One week until Election Day

Are you sick of political advertisements yet? Some of these ads are as fictional as a typical John Grisham novel. The ads perpetuate a myth that a Barney Frank type is answering his call to “public service”, singlehandedly saving an elderly woman’s life by making a few phone calls to get her the prescription medication that she can’t afford. He’s making a positive impact for the district! Naturally, the ad doesn’t take into account the other 99.5 percent of what the politician’s activities are – voting in a fiscally reckless manner, taking stands on issues that go against the will of his constituents, and collecting dubious campaign contributions from lobbyists.

Never before has an election season brought out so much cynicism. The economy is atrocious, unemployment is rampant, and the Democratic majority in Washington has squandered a golden opportunity by ramming unwanted, so called “progressive” legislation down the throats of a bewildered public who foolishly fell under the spell of cuddly campaign slogans two years ago.

What is striking is that anyone actually believed the nonsense the Democrats were selling back in 2008. With the help of folks such as David Gregory, Katie Couric, and Oprah Winfrey, the Democrats managed to snooker an unfocused electorate, too busy updating their statuses on Facebook and watching Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Anne, to pay attention to the true intentions of the Democrats. Did these voters not see any of the 2008 Democratic Primary? Those primary debates made the Swedish and French look like knuckle dragging Neanderthals.

If these Obama voters had done any research, they would’ve found that the Democrats are the party of special interests. Once upon a time the Democrats cared for the working person. That is no longer the case. The 21st century Democrats are the party of trial lawyers, illegal aliens, welfare queens, unions, the abortion lobby, and the politically correct.

The latest polls show what will likely be a large Republican victory on November 2nd. However, I believe the polls are underestimating how large the victory will be; big surprise when most of the mainstream media is liberal. What these polls are underestimating is the energy that the Tea Party voters, Republicans, and independents will bring to the voting booths across America. They can’t wait to vote!

There is no energy for the Democrats. This election is a referendum on the healthcare bill, President Barack Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The poll numbers show Pelosi and Reid to be particularly unpopular. Good luck getting depressed Democratic voters to the polls.

Here in Massachusetts, other than moonbats and lockstep union members, does anyone believe that tone deaf Governor Deval Patrick is steering Massachusetts in the right direction? Independents, not Democrats are the largest voting bloc in Massachusetts. The dissatisfaction and disgust for the status quo will cause Republican tremors across the United States, including Massachusetts. I am looking forward to seeing it all unveil on Election Day.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday Morning Politics

Some quick hits:

That Massachusetts poll by Suffolk University proclaiming that Governor Deval Patrick has a 7 point lead has to be false. Governor Patrick has high negatives and Massachusetts state polls are notoriously inaccurate. For example, the polls that came out last winter where Attorney General Marsha Coakley (yes, I know her real name is Martha, but it's so much fun calling her by the nickname Patrick Kennedy bestowed upon her) had a 15 point lead over Scott Brown in the Massachusetts U.S. Senate race.

Congressman Barney Frank really has his hands full with Republican challenger Sean Bielat. Bielat has managed to frustrate Frank in debates, to where all he can do is demand Bielat stop interrupting him. Bielat has run a great campaign, has a strong grasp of the issues, and isn't intimidated at all. They have another debate in Newton being sponsored by the Newton League of Women Voters. Frank is sure to get some softball questions from that group.

To the people of Delware: How is a Marxist like Chris Coons a better choice than Christine O'Donnell? Haven't you already seen what damage can be done to the country under the 21 months of President Obama's stewardship of the economy? O'Donnell is definitely very conservative, but she's far less dangerous than a vote for continuation of socialist policies that have destroyed economic recovery. O'Donnell has been unfairly portrayed in the media, while Coons gets off easy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Deion Branch back with the Patriots

Count me as being thrilled that the Patriots re-acquired Deion Branch from the Seattle Seahawks for a 4th round pick. There are those who don't like the the deal, due to Branch being injury prone since going to Seattle. I can see their point, however, the Patriots have 2 picks in each of the first three rounds of the 2011 draft, so giving up the 4th rounder is no big deal.

Branch is a clutch player and he's also a winner. He may not have Randy Moss' pedigree when it comes to all time regular season greatness, but Branch won a Super Bowl MVP. Moss' performance in the Super Bowl vs. the Giants was average at best.

If Branch is healthy, he's still a quality NFL receiver. He and QB Tom Brady have always had good chemistry on the field. I believe he will be a serious asset to the Patriots offense the rest of this season.

Welcome back, Deion!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

John Lennon's 70th birthday

If he hadn't been needlessly gunned down 30 years ago by Mark David Chapman, John Lennon would've turned 70 today. Certainly, if he had remained alive, he would've written and produced more great music. I'm also of the belief that the Beatles would've reunited at some point. Stories have come out the last few years (courtesy of May Pang) that during his separation from Yoko Ono in 1974, Lennon was very interested in getting back together with the band. John and Paul McCartney were hanging out together in Los Angeles during this time frame. However, once he went back to Ono, that possibility dissipated. It wasn't in Yoko's best interests for the Beatles to get back together.

In looking at their songwriting partnership, Lennon and McCartney were perfect for each other. Lennon would add an edge to Paul's penchant for throwaway lyrics and let him know when a song wasn't good (Lennon was said to have hated "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" - and rightfully so. He refused to participate in the recording of it). I also don't believe John would've allowed "Mary Had A Little Lamb", to see the light of day. Paul would rein in some of John's over the top songs ("Cold Turkey" and "Mother" would never be allowed to appear on a Beatles album) and add melody to them.

Many people have different opinions on this topic, but I believe Paul was unfairly portrayed as a soft music artist, who was riding Lennon's coattails. Let's be honest. John was martyred after his death. If one were to look at the last three Beatle albums, John Lennon had mentally checked out.

John famously complained in a 1970 interview with Lennon toadie Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone that the band had tired of being sidemen for Paul. Other than being strung out on drugs a lot of the time, what did Lennon really contribute during 1968-69? "Revolution" is an outstanding song, as is "Don't Let Me Down". "The Ballad of John and Yoko" is, narcissistic, but excellent as well. That's pretty much it.

During the last 3 albums, some examples of the contributions from Lennon were "Happiness Is A Warm Gun", "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey", "Revolution 9", and "Come Together". Those don't come close to measuring up to his best songs. Paul McCartney's songs during that time frame include, "Let It Be", "The Long and Winding Road", "Golden Slumbers Medley", "Get Back", "Oh Darling", "Back in the USSR" - all Beatle classics.

It is obvious who wrote the better songs during those last albums. By Abbey Road, the Beatles turned into the Paul and George show. The two biggest classics from Abbey Road, are "Something" and "Here Comes The Sun" - both by George Harrison.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is considered by most critics to be the greatest album of all time. John Lennon readily admitted that the ideas behind the album came from Paul. John did contribute the great, "A Day In The Life", with the perfect middle part of the song written and sung by Paul. That is songwriting collaboration at its finest.

Now when it comes to the early Beatles material, I believe John Lennon's songs were much stronger. His contributions on the "A Hard Day's Night" album are a tour de force, too many to list. Other early Lennon songs, "Help!", "Please, Please Me", "Norwegian Wood", "Nowhere Man", and "In My Life", are some of the biggest Beatles songs.

In terms of their solo material, they badly missed one another. Both had their hits and misses. Paul has missed the mark badly, several times. Albums such as "Wild Life", "Red Rose Speedway", "London Town", "Pipes Of Peace", "Press To Play", and "Off the Ground" are only for the truest McCartney fan.

Lennon's penchant for radicalism and political songs went way over the top, thus leaving some of his material, such as the album "Some Time in New York City", unlistenable. I'm also not much into the tortured artist persona. I listen to music for enjoyment, not to hear songs like, "My Mummy's Dead", or bizarre material such as "Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)".

To me, there are four songs that are the essence of John Lennon's solo career.

"How Do You Sleep?" - from the Imagine album. A postcard of disdain to Paul McCartney featuring lyrical put downs with titles of McCartney songs. A slow bluesy type song, featuring a killer slide guitar solo, cheerfully delivered by George Harrison. In an interview a few years later, John attempted to back off the obvious fact that this song is about Paul and but instead was about himself. Yeah, sure.

"God" - John's song about what he believes and his standing in life when the song was written in 1970.

"Jealous Guy" - This song is my favorite solo song written by John. Where was this type of song in 1969?

"Stand By Me" - a cover song on the Rock n Roll album, but the song is sung with such a fantastic edge, it is truly a tremendous performance. This version blows the Ben E. King original away. This is Lennon singing and performing at his finest.

It is unfortunate that Lennon took 5 years off from music in the last years of his life to raise his son Sean. Maybe he felt he needed to be the father he wasn't to his other son Julian, or he had tired of the music business, or even had writer's block, no one will ever know for sure. Yoko Ono certainly won't tell the truth about it. It wasn't until 1980, when John heard Paul McCartney's "Coming Up" on the radio, a song which he supposedly loved, that he was inspired and spurred to start writing again.

Lennon's last album, "Double Fantasy", features strong material such as, "Just Like Starting Over", "Beautiful Boy", and "Watching the Wheels". Unfortunately, the album consists of several Yoko Ono songs. The song "Woman" is as sappy as any love song Paul McCartney ever wrote. Yet, Lennon never was taken to task for this, due to his death. Instead, Paul gets grief for "My Love", which is a better song than, "Woman".

Taking Yoko Ono out of the equation, if a Beatles reunion were to ever occur, I believe the one they would've had the hardest time getting on board would've been George Harrison. George didn't enjoy playing the part of Beatle George, and despite Paul's public appeals to the contrary, George was not a big fan of Paul. Even during the 1994 Beatles Anthology in sessions, there was tension between the two. He always felt marginalized by him. If you've ever seen the movie, "Let It Be", you'd understand why George felt this way. You'll see Paul in action, behaving like a jack ass throughout the movie.

Fortunately, both Ringo Starr and Paul are still around and still touring. Paul still sings great, plays super, critically acclaimed shows, and carries the Beatles legacy on his back. It's obvious he's still stung by the criticism he's received in the wake of John's death, by the number of Beatles songs he plays in concert (including Lennon and Harrison sung songs) as well as on the 2002 Back In the US live album, changing the songwriting credits to McCartney/Lennon.

Paul finally came to terms with the criticism he received for some of his Wings material (and yes, he deserved to get hammered for some of it), that on his 2010 tour he expanded the number of Wings songs on his set list and has added songs never played live before, as well as some songs that haven't been played live since 1976.

So, the legacy carries on - minus two members, the albums still sell millions of copies all these years later, and the "what if's", about what could've happened to the greatest music group of all time continue on, 40 years after the group broke up.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Taxes, Lies, and Democrats

Every day, I read columns from the Boston Globe, Boston Herald,, and The Drudge Report. I don't exclusively read conservative only columns, I also like to read those written by liberals. I like to try get inside the head of a liberal and understand how someone can be so out of touch with reality.

Here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we have a classic example of liberal scare tactics going on. We have a tight governor's race, where the incumbent Democrat, Deval Patrick, has high disapproval ratings, but is buoyed by the presence of straw man independent gubernatorial candidate, former Democrat Treasurer Tim Cahill, who all of a sudden saw the light and is now an "independent". Without Cahill's presence, Republican candidate Charlie Baker would win in a landslide. Right now, the race is too close to call, but I predict a Baker victory on November 2nd, due to the "energy factor" of disgusted independents and conservative voters.

We also have a controversial (to some) ballot question in which the recently raised sales tax will be cut to 3%. The liberals have already come out with the scare tactics. Old people dying in the streets, children in classrooms of 50 kids, your house will burn down because there are no firemen, etc.

What many of the "sheeple" don't understand is, police, fire, and teachers are mostly funded through property taxes! Local aid does come into the equation, but a vote for a sales tax reduction should not impact these jobs.

This is a classic example of distortion and lies that the Democrats in Massachusetts perpetuate. If you want "services", you have to pay for them. Frankly, I don't need a lot of services. Just plow my streets when it snows, educate my kids, have police and firemen available if I need them. That's not constituting "wanting it all".

I have health insurance through my job, I don't use the Mass Pike, I generally don't use Logan Airport (I fly out of Green in Providence), I don't have a broken family, thus don't require Human Services or public housing, and I don't take the MBTA.

In other words, I'm a productive member of society not requiring a government handout.

The so called dependency on government in this country has become almost mythical. If you don't have a huge state and federal government full of bureaucrats, then if you ever need to collect unemployment, you're out of luck. Are there people who need government assistance? Absolutely, and they should be assisted. However, that doesn't mean that the vast majority of the population requires this level of funding.

This is nanny state dependency has become completely ridiculous. Whatever happened to "rugged individualism"? What amazes me is the number of people who buy into the lies and distortions by liberals and believe their scare tactics.

This is not the 1940's where the Democrats worked out for the working man. The 2010 Democrats only look out for non working people, state workers, special interests, and illegal aliens.

Open your eyes folks. There's a lot to see that's going wrong. Don't vote to continue the free fall of government, where if you're one of them, things are great. If not, pay until it hurts.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Reduced Expectations for the 2010 Red Sox

Granted the baseball regular season still has seven weeks to go; however, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Boston Red Sox will not make the playoffs this season. It’s just not happening. The starting rotation has been inconsistent, the closer, Jonathan Papelbon has had his worst season, most of the relief pitchers have performed poorly, and there have been too many injuries to overcome.

Despite this, the 2010 Boston Red Sox have vastly overachieved. In terms of starting players, they’ve played significant chunks of games without Victor Martinez, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Varitek, and Josh Beckett. In three games back in June, the Red Sox starting outfield consisted of Daniel Nava, Darnell McDonald, and Bill Hall.

Josh Beckett has been atrocious all season (think Theo wishes he hadn’t extended that contract back in April?) and John Lackey has been at disappointment. More often than not, Lackey has pitched like a number five starter. He has allowed a career high 1.52 WHIP. In a rare case where ERA doesn’t accurately reflect the performance of the pitcher, Jonathan Papelbon’s ERA of 3.20, is very good, but his 6 blown saves have been killer. The 6 blown saves are a career high.

However, the season has been worthwhile to watch for a number of reasons. There have been several nice surprises on this team, none more than the offensive season Adrian Beltre has put up. Beltre leads the team in RBI and batting average. His defense hasn’t been as good as advertised, but he’s still very good at 3B. Darnell McDonald was called up in April to fill in the OF due to injuries. McDonald, a career minor leaguer, proved himself worthy of being in the majors with a hot start and playing steady ball. He’s hit .263 with 7 HR and 29 RBI – excellent numbers for a fourth outfielder.

Bill Hall has filled in at several different positions, and has 15 HR in a reserve role. Clay Buchholz has emerged as the ace of the pitching staff with a 13-5 record with a 2.49 ERA. Back in April there was media discussion that David Ortiz might be released after his horrid April. However, Big Papi put it together and has 26 HR and 77 RBI and is hitting .261. Daniel Bard has been lights out as the setup man, putting up a 2.01 ERA.

Looking forward for the rest of the season, it’ll be worth watching newly acquired catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He’s got a strong arm and in his two games so far, has received compliments for his work behind the plate from starters John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka. It will also will be fun to watch Buchholz continue to build on his success, whether Ortiz can get on a tear and get to 40 HR, and Jed Lowrie, now back from injuries and mononucleosis, to try and play up to his potential. Lowrie has looked very good since returning.

Some say that this is Terry Francona’s best job managing, yet. I’m not about to say it’s better than 2004, but he’s done a fine job plugging holes, managing to get veterans like Ortiz, Wakefield, Lowell, and Varitek to consider diminished roles without tearing up the team, and showing faith in struggling players.

So despite the likelihood of being on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture, the 2010 Red Sox have overcome a lot of adversity and performed beyond most folks’ expectations.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ranking the Boston Sports Team GM's

As Boston sports fans, we are very fortunate to currently have highly competent management teams running our pro sports organizations. Long gone are the days when the likes of Dan Duquette, Sam Jankovich, Rick Pitino, and Mike O'Connell caused local sports fans to gnash their teeth in anger. Dan Duquette quite possibly was the one primarily responsible for WEEI's ratings going into the stratosphere with his questionable baseball decisions. Fans would call The Big Show, looking for a place to vent their frustration at the mediocrity of the mid-late 1990's Boston Red Sox.

Due to three of the four teams winning championships over the last decade, ranking the GM's isn't exactly an easy task. As with any GM, there are some decisions that worked, and others that didn't work. Regardless of the ranking, all four of the GM's are doing a fine job with their respective teams.

1.) Theo Epstein - When then 28 year old Theo Epstein was named Red Sox GM in 2003, there was a lot of snickering from the cynical media and fans, who were in the midst of an 85 year drought since the last World Series championship. Seven years and two World Series Championships later, anyone who questions Epstein's tenure and success, should have their head examined. The Boston Red Sox were named The Sporting News Baseball Team of the Decade and Theo Epstein was named Baseball Executive of the Decade in December 2009. Here's why:

What Worked:
  • After years of a farm system that was barren during the Dan Duquette era, Theo Epstein turned the Red Sox farm system into a player development machine, particularly for pitching. Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, Clay Buchholz, David Murphy, Jacoby Ellsbury, Justin Masterson, and Daniel Bard are all quality major leaguers drafted by Theo Epstein.
  • Signing David Ortiz as a free agent in 2003. The Greatest Clutch Hitter in Red Sox history.
  • Signing Mike Timlin as a free agent in 2003. Mike Timlin is the most underrated Epstein acquisition. He was a stalwart in the Red Sox bullpen, providing the late inning bridge to the 9th inning for years, until Father Time caught up to him in 2008.
  • The trade in November 2003 for Curt Schilling for Brandon Lyon and three minor leaguers.
  • 2004 season - Signing Keith Foulke to be the closer. Hiring Terry Francona to manage the Red Sox. The 2004 trade deadline deal of Nomar Garciaparra and the acquisition of Orlando Cabrera, Dave Roberts, and Doug Mientkewicz.
  • Signing Hideki Okajima in 2007.
  • Trading for Victor Martinez in 2009.
  • Signing Adrian Beltre as a free agent in 2010.

What Didn't Work:
  • Signing Matt Clement and Edgar Renteria as free agents for 2005. Neither was cut out for the intense Boston atmosphere.
  • Drafting RP Craig Hansen in the first round in 2005. Once he reached the majors, Hansen's vaunted slider betrayed him. He was traded to Pittsburgh in 2008 as part of a package for Jason Bay.
  • Trading Bronson Arroyo to Cincinnati in the spring of 2006 for Wily Mo Pena. The Red Sox wound up short of starting pitching due to injuries that summer. The Red Sox were forced to start career stiffs like Kevin Jarvis and Jason Johnson during the pennant race.
  • Theo whiffed badly by signing Julio Lugo as a free agent in 2007 to a 4 year $40 million contract. Lugo's tenure was a dreadful one at SS in Boston.
  • Inability to develop power in the minor league system. The Red Sox first round pick in 2006, OF Jason Place, has been a major bust in the minor leagues. They drafted Place due to his power potential.
One of Epstein's best traits is his ability to admit a mistake. In the cases of Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo, Epstein was able to trade them away to other teams, albeit with the Red Sox eating a portion of their salaries.

NOTE - Theo Epstein was not the GM in 2005, when the trade for Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett was made. He was on his sabbatical at that time.

2.) Bill Belichick - When Bill Belichick took over the Patriots in 2000, the team was on the downside. After the departure of Bill Parcells following Super Bowl XXXI, the Patriots started a 3 year slide under the Pete Carroll/Bobby Grier era getting progressively worse each season. In his second season as Patriots Coach/GM, the Patriots shocked the sporting world by defeating the heavily favored Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. The Patriots also won Super Bowl XXXVIII and Super Bowl XXXIX, bringing the NFL its first dynasty since the 1990's Dallas Cowboys. Until 2009, Bill Belichick worked in concert with Director of Player Personnel Scott Pioli on Patriots player acquisitions. Due to Belichick's notorious secrecy regarding the team operations, it is unclear as to how much credit goes to Pioli compared to Belichick. However, Belichick does have final say on personnel matters.

What Worked:
  • Drafting Tom Brady in the 6th round of the 2000 draft. Sometimes you have to be lucky!
  • 2001 free agency - everything Belichick/Pioli touched turned to gold - Mike Vrabel, Antowain Smith, Roman Phifer, Bryan Cox, David Patten, Mike Compton, and Anthony Pleasant.
  • The draft - Richard Seymour and Matt Light in the 2001 draft. Daniel Graham, Deion Branch, and David Givens in the 2002 draft. Ty Warren, Eugene Wilson, and Asante Samuel in the 2003 draft. Vince Wilfork in the 2004 draft. Logan Mankins and Matt Cassel in 2005. Stephen Gostkowski in 2006. Jerod Mayo in 2008.
  • Signing Rodney Harrison as a free agent in 2003.
  • Trading for Corey Dillon in 2004 and for Randy Moss in 2007.
  • Trading for Wes Welker in 2007.

What Didn't Work:
  • Signing WR Donald Hayes in 2002.
  • Missing with 2nd round picks in the draft - Bethel Johnson, Marquise Hill, Chad Jackson, Terrence Wheatley. Last year's 2nd rounder Ron Brace appears headed for Bust-ville, as well.
  • Most of the drafts since 2005, have been bereft of impact players.
  • Free agent signing of Adalius Thomas in 2007, proved to be a bust.
  • Other than Sebastian Vollmer, not upgrading the OL from the same five starters who were manhandled in the Super Bowl loss to the NY Giants, destroying up to that point, an 18-0 season.
  • The Duane Starks and Antonio Langham debacles in the secondary.
Unlike Epstein, Belichick isn't one to easily admit a mistake. He kept Benjamin Watson around for too long. It is also perplexing how underachieving RB Laurence Maroney is still listed as the starting RB.

3.) Danny Ainge - Ainge was hired in 2003 as Executive Director of Basketball Operations and proceeded to dismantle a mediocre Celtics team that had made some noise in the playoffs the previous season. The Celtics took the proverbial "step back", with Ainge making some shrewd choices in the draft, as the team played terrible basketball. This culminated in 2007, with the Ray Allen trade and then the blockbuster deal of Al Jefferson and Ryan Gomes as part of a package to Minnesota for Kevin Garnett. The 2007-2008, Boston Celtics won their first World Championship since 1986. The Garnett-less Celtics gutted out two playoff series in 2008-2009, and lost Game Seven of the NBA Championship to the Lakers in 2009-2010.

What Worked:
  • Danny Ainge is a great evaluator of young collegiate and high school talent. Al Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins, Ryan Gomes, Delonte West, Tony Allen, Rajon Rondo, Glen Davis, and Leon Powe were all picks made during Ainge's tenure as GM. All have been solid to excellent NBA players.
  • Trading for Ray Allen and the pick that brought Glen Davis in 2007.
  • Signing high quality, high character veteran bench players James Posey, Eddie House, and P.J. Brown in 2007-08.
  • The blockbuster trade for Garnett, who changed the entire culture of the team to an unselfish, defense oriented group.
  • Signing Doc Rivers to coach.

What Didn't Work:
  • Signing C Mark Blount to a long term deal. Blount was a dog who stopped playing hard after he got his big contract. He also had the worst hands of any Celtic player in recent memory.
  • Missing on first round draft picks Marcus Banks and Gerald Green.
  • Trading Randy Foye in a package for Sebastian Telfair, so that Telfair could be the starting point guard.
  • Not re-signing James Posey after the 2007-08 season.
  • Acquiring big men Patrick O'Bryant and Mikki Moore in 2008-09.

4.) Peter Chiarelli - The Boston Bruins were mired in a decade of mediocrity, when finally the Harry Sinden/Mike O'Connell/Jeff Gorton group was removed in 2006, and Peter Chiarelli was hired from the Ottawa Senators to be GM. Chiarelli immediately put his stamp on the team by signing D Zdeno Chara and C Marc Savard in the early dawn of that free agent season. Alas, the Boston Bruins still haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1972, and in 2010, blew a 3-0 playoff series lead. This series wound up ending in an embarrassing loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7.

What Worked:
  • Signing free agents Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard in 2006.
  • Trading Phil Kessel to Toronto for the Leafs' 1st and 2nd round picks in 2010 and the Leafs 1st round pick in 2011. The Bruins wound up with the 2nd pick in the entire draft and selected C Tyler Seguin.
  • Hiring Claude Julien to be head coach in 2007. Julien was exactly what the Bruins needed at the time of his hire and despite heavy criticism during the 2009-10 season, has overall done a solid job.
  • Trading for Chuck Kobasew - he was a solid performer potting over 20 goals in his first 2 full seasons, until he was traded in 2009.
  • Acquiring steady defenseman Aaron Ward from the Rangers for Paul Mara in 2007. Ward was a key contributor for the Bruins before being traded before the 2009-2010 offseason.

What Didn't Work:
  • Hiring Dave Lewis to coach the 2006-2007 team. Lewis was overmatched in his only season as head coach.
  • Trading Brad Boyes for D Dennis Wideman - Boyes was in the midst of a scoring slump when he was traded to St. Louis. As a member of the Blues, Boyes scored 43 and 33 goals in his first 2 full seasons with the team. Wideman was a reckless player, who didn't take care of the puck in his own end.
  • Drafting Phil Kessel in 2007 with the 5th overall pick in the draft. Kessel is a fast skater and has a deft scoring touch. However, he's allergic to defense and is a soft player, who can easily be taken out of his game by physical play.
  • Not addressing the team's lack of scoring punch after the trade of Kessel. During the regular season of 2009-2010, the Boston Bruins struggled to score goals.
  • Chiarelli has yet to draft an impact player for the Bruins, since his tenure as GM began.

Based upon the above analysis, you can see that no GM bats 1.000 when it comes to personnel moves. The best GM's are the ones who know how to tweak their teams each year and add significant value to the teams via the draft. Other than Chiarelli, the GM's in Boston have been very successful in this regard. Here's hoping for the Bruins, youngsters like Zach Hamill and Tyler Seguin can be those draftees who can make a large impact.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cynicism regarding the Patriots

Some Pats related items:

I'm so cynical about the Pats chances this upcoming season, I gave up my season tickets for 2010. I finally stopped drinking the Belichick Kool Aid last year. Febraury 2005 was the last Super Bowl victory. Some of Belichick's personnel decisions are quite dubious. He felt the need to cut Shawn Crable, who's been very injury prone, but who may or may not help solve the team's biggest weakness - the pass rush. Belichick cut him the day before training camp. Now, pass rushing specialist (and I'm being very charitable with that description) Derrick Burgess may retire. Great roster management, Coach. Why axe Crable, yet he keeps stiffs like Pierre Woods, Gary Guyton and Eric Alexander around for years - none of whom do anything on the field? Second, how about ensuring that everyone's shown up to camp before trying to be a tough guy and that injuries won't be tolerated?

Also, Belichick has neglected the RB and OL positions. Other than Sebastian Vollmer, the group up front are the same bums who got mauled in the Super Bowl vs. the NY Giants. Pro Bowl G Logan Mankins is holding out for a contract, so he's not there. Nick Kaczur is now playing left guard. Kaczur was a turnstile when he played last season and lost his starting RT job to Vollmer.

Are the Patriots really going with Maroney, Taylor, and Morris at RB again? Maroney is a bigger bust than Ben Watson was. Both first round picks turned out to have great athletic skills, but no football ability.

Tom Brady is a fool for showing up to camp. No player in the NFL has ever had more leverage in salary negotiations. If the Krafts can afford that empty monstrosity known as Patriot Place, they can afford to pay Brady as one of the top 3 salaries in the league. What wil Coach Bill do, go with Hoyer at QB? Enjoy the 5-11 season and the empty stadium, Krafts. Yet there's Brady at camp, trying to be a good soldier. News flash Tommy, you get hurt, you aren't going to get paid the way you should.

Also, how about Brady standing up for his union brethren and making the Pats pay him? The NFL chews these guys up and spits them out. Many are cripples when they get older and they have the worst pension system of any pro sports. Brady should be holding out and thinking of how his salary helps backup OL's and special teams players over the long haul.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June is here

The Boston Red Sox are one team in baseball that didn't want the calendar to keep moving forward. Despite the team struggling to get going in April, the Boston Red Sox really started to hit their stride in May, running off a strong 8-2 streak against the Yankees, Twins, Phillies, and Rays. This stretch of play brought them back into the AL East race, where they sit 5 games back of the AL East leading Rays, and 2.5 games out of the Wild Card race.

Strong starting pitching has been the key to the team's resurgence. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have led the way, and both have been two of the best pitchers in the AL this season. However, there still is too much inconsistency from the other three starters. The Red Sox need Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield to step up and pitch better. Both are sporting ERA's just south of 6.00.

Wakefield is filling in for the injured Josh Beckett for now, and the Red Sox are fortunate to have six legitimate starting pitchers. Wakefield may not like being in the swingman role, but he's made for it, particularly at age 43, where his body has shown over the last several seasons that it can't hold up for 30 starts. Due to the flexibility that Wakefield brings to the staff, the Sox are wisely proceeding slowly with Beckett's back injury. Beckett has pitched poorly so far this year, and despite his desire to get back quickly and get rolling again, he's a key component to the pitching staff. Rushing him back and having him re-aggravate his injury is not the way to go. The best thing for Beckett, when he's ready to pitch again, is to go to Portland and Pawtucket and pitch one rehab start in each location. That will allow him to test out his back, as well as work on a few things with his delivery that have contributed to his poor start this season.

The one concern with the team is its bullpen. Other than Bard and Papelbon, no one has proven to be reliable. Manny Delcarmen's numbers look good, but he's gotten himself into some jams that he's managed to escape.

On offense, the story of May was the return to form of David Ortiz. After a hideous April, where there were whispers of a possible release of Ortiz, Big Papi batted .363 with 10 HR and 27 RBI. . When Ortiz is rolling, that's when the offense goes from being mediocre, to above average.

Unfortunately, the Red Sox are missing the element of speed with the continued inability of Jacoby Ellsbury to get on the field. I think the team's being a little unfair with their frustration of Ellsbury's injury to heal. He fractured ribs, it's going to take time for him to return to his play with abandon style. I don't doubt that it's really bothering him and with a rib injury, he'll hesitate when it comes to diving for balls in the outfield and sliding head first. He obviously came back to early from the injury, because he didn't look good at the plate, either.

The team has a stretch of games coming up in which they should really put the pedal to the floor. Games against Oakland, Cleveland, and Baltimore are the games the Sox need to win and keep putting pressure on the Wild Card leading Yankees and Rays.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

3-0 Celtics

It looks like the Boston Celtics will certainly be moving on to the NBA finals after completely dismantling the Orlando Magic last night, 94-71. Once again, the story was Rajon Rondo. Despite only shooting 4-13 from the field, Rondo made two absolutely jaw dropping plays - one where he faked out Marcin Gortat to lay it in and the other when he outhustled Jason Williams for a loose ball to grab it and lay it in.

Despite how fantastic both plays were, they also showed the difference in the energy level, as well as the effort level of both teams. No way should Gortat have allowed Rondo to just blow by him without at least a hard foul. Also, White Chocolate (Williams) had 2-3 steps on Rondo. Not only did Rondo beat him to the ball, but Williams also played poor defense in allowing Rondo to lay it in.

The Magic stars just are not stepping up in this series. Rashard Lewis belongs on the side of a milk carton. He's been missing the entire series. Kevin Garnett has eaten him for dinner this whole series. Last night Lewis made an attempt to take The Big Ticket to the hole. Big mistake. Garnett swatted the shot attempt away.

The series has been a combination of the Celtics playing their best basketball, particularly on defense, and the Magic being gawdawful.

The Magic have seemingly tuned out coach Stan Van Gundy. If the Celtics complete the sweep, how can Orlando bring Van Gundy back to coach the team. When you see the huddle, the Magic players are not even looking at him, basically ignoring him.

As a Celtics fan, these last two series vs. Cleveland and Orlando have been super fun to watch. I anticipate it continuing in the NBA Finals. Five more victories left for banner #18.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Morning Celtics

A Bruins free zone...

During the last few months of the regular season, the Celtics played awful basketball. Anytime the thought was floated that the Celtics could flip a switch and turn it on for the playoffs, it was dismissed by "experts" as not the case with this team. Guess what, after a listless regular season, they've put their foot down on the gas pedal and are now up 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals over Orlando. What has been the difference? Two things - the return of Kevin Garnett as a healthy impact basketball player and the commitment to defense.

In yesterday's game, the Celtics suffocated the life out of the Magic with tough, physical defense. Yes, Orlando made a run at the end of the game and cut what was once a 20 point lead to 2, but almost doesn't count. It wasn't a pretty game, but it all counts the same in the score book.

Besides the great defense, what surprised me most was only 2 Celtic starters, plus Rasheed Wallace scored double figures. Rajon Rondo was quiet and Kevin Garnett didn't have a good shooting game. Give credit to Orlando, they are a good defensive team as well. They held the Celtics scoreless for over 5 minutes as they made their 4th quarter run. Looks like we are in for some 83-78 type games this series.

Tony Allen continues to provide strong contributions off the bench. He's really stepping up and being the bench player Danny Ainge envisioned 2 years ago, when he let James Posey leave for New Orleans. Tony Allen has become a lock down defender, plus he is an excellent finisher, filling the lanes on the fast break. No longer is he the out of control player, prone to turnovers against good teams. He's playing within himself and not trying to do too much.

Five weeks ago, ESPN columnist and Celtics superfan Bill Simmons wrote a scathing column criticizing Rasheed Wallace describing him as "my least favorite Celtic ever". After a season and a playoff series of mailing it in, Sheed finally started turning it on in the last two games of the Cavaliers series. He's playing with passion and contributing some timely 3 point shots. He still is allergic to rebounding, but he's bringing some presence on defense.

If the rumors are true of coach Doc Rivers planning on leaving at the end of the season, it would only make sense for assistant coach Tom Thibodeau to be escalated to head coach. Thibodeau may be the best defensive coach in the NBA.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Another Yankee Series

It's early May and the Red Sox are already facing the New York Yankees for a second time. Ho hum. Remember when Yankees-Red Sox series used to mean something?

That being said, the inconsistent Red Sox, coming off a sweep of the Angels, will have their hands full with the Bronx Bombers. The weakness of this year's Red Sox is they can't hit good pitching. They'll be up against the Yankees' three best starters - Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett. Hughes, in particular, has been terrific. He's finally meeting the potential that was projected for him a few years ago when he was one of the hottest pitching prospects in baseball.

After getting swept by the Baltimore Orioles, the Red Sox played very well vs. the Angels and even overcame an erratic Daisuke Matsuzaka performance (is there any other kind of Dice-K performance?)) to come from behind and complete the series sweep.

The Red Sox will be pitching Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester in this series. Tonight's game is very important for Beckett to continue getting back on track. It would be good if Beckett can rediscover his curveball to compliment his 4-seamer and 2-seamer. The Red Sox need him to be the #1 starter. One concern about Beckett is his stubbornness. Despite throwing 96 mph, he's not a strikeout pitcher. Beckett throws a lot of pitches due to what seems to be a desire by him to pile up the K's. He should look to pitch to contact more, like John Lackey, and let his defense do the work.

As a team, the Yankees are hitting .276 - despite Nick Johnson and Mark Teixiera both still hitting under .200. Second baseman Robinson Cano has been the AL MVP, thus far. Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada still refuse to get old - both of them hitting well, as usual.

A key to this series will be keeping LF Brett Gardner (who?) off base. Gardner has a .430 OBP and has 13 steals already.

This series will be a good test for the Red Sox - are they an 85 win team or are they Wild Card contenders? It would be nice to see the Sox take 2 of 3 and put a small dent into the Yankees Wild Card.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Red Sox Struggles

There's an old Paul McCartney solo song called, "Junk", that refers to "junk in the yard". That is the song I was singing to myself as I watched the Red Sox get swept yesterday by the lowly Baltimore Orioles. Right now, the Red Sox are junk in the (ball) yard.

Nothing is going right for the local nine. Being a boring team to watch is only a small part of the problem. The larger scale issues are the pitching has been terrible, the defense has underachieved, and the offense still cannot hit good pitching. The offense's struggles don't surprise me, because they couldn't hit good pitching last season, either. Manager Terry Francona's game management has been very questionable as well. At 105 pitches, Josh Beckett should've gone out to the mound to start the 8th inning. In a tie game, why is Francona bringing in Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, when both have been overworked so far this young season? Granted the bullpen has been leaky, but at some point, Francona is going to need to trust Scott Schoeneweis and Ramon Ramirez in a close game.

The cumulative ERA of the starters this season is an unsightly 4.96 However, Daisuke Matsuzaka is back from injury and Saturday's 5th inning meltdown aside, he should help strengthen the starting rotation. Josh Beckett's outing yesterday was encouraging. Even though his curveball was MIA, Beckett allowed only 2 runs in 7 innings, albeit against the Orioles. For all the talk show chatter about Clay Buchholz being a trading chip, he's been the team's best starter since last August. Buchholz should be untouchable in any trade discussion. John Lackey and Jon Lester both look to be coming around, as well. Despite the controversy of the move of Tim Wakefield to the bullpen to make way for Dice K, it is the right move for the team.

The pitching and defense should stabilize, it's the offense that is most concerning. The Red Sox badly miss Jacoby Ellsbury. He's the catalyst at the top of the lineup and with his absence, the lack of speed in the lineup is glaring. Does any team in baseball go station to station more than the Boston Red Sox? On a base hit to left field late in yesterday's game, Jason Varitek, trying to score from second base, was thrown out at the plate by ten feet. The Captain is 38 years old and it's not his fault he no longer has average foot speed, but as a team, the collective lack of athleticism is an issue. Mike Lowell has to be the slowest runner in baseball. David Ortiz isn't far behind Lowell.

Darnell McDonald has been a nice surprise since his call up from Pawtucket, but he's started to cool off and the more he plays, the more the holes in his game are exposed. He's a fifth outfielder at best. The same goes for Jonathan Van Every. McDonald and Van Every were two of the three starting outfielders for the Red Sox yesterday.

This team's biggest area of need is another slugging corner outfielder. Jason Bay filled that role last season, but he and his 36 HRs in 2009, are in New York now. There was hope that 3B Adrian Beltre would provide some thump from the right side, but so far, he's been nothing but a singles hitter. Ortiz can no longer catch up to a good fastball and unless he picks it up in the next three weeks, he is a candidate to be released - a scenario no one could have imagined three years ago. Victor Martinez has struggled so badly behind the plate, that it looks to be affecting his bat. Martinez's defensive struggles have Jason Varitek catching more than the team wants him out there. Varitek's bat has been the one of the few highlights of the season.

There doesn't seem to be any hope either in the farm system or externally via a trade. As the team continues to play poorly, the higher the price tag will be for a premium player in a trade. The off season talk was about the team acquiring 1B Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego. However, the Padres are off to a surprising start, leading the NL West by 1.5 games. Also, the Red Sox have a logjam at the 1B/3B/DH positions with Kevin Youkilis, Beltre, Ortiz, Lowell, and Martinez. Other than Youkilis, who's untouchable, none of them have any trade value right now. This current configuration doesn't exactly make for a flexible roster.

There has been much mockery in the media of the "run prevention" philosophy that was espoused this off season by Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. This mockery has escalated recently due to the pitching and the defense being a let down. However, the bats just aren't there. Even when Ellsbury and Mike Cameron come back, the offense still can be shut down. The Red Sox have two reliable run producers right now - Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia.

The Red Sox have over $162 million invested in the roster. There are too many old guys (Ortiz, Varitek, Cameron, and Lowell), under producers (Victor Martinez and J.D. Drew), and players masquerading as sluggers (Adrian Beltre). They have only one starting position player who can really run and put pressure on a defense - Ellsbury. He's on the disabled list. So much for the idea of manufacturing runs.

The team is hitting a mediocre .259 with runners in scoring position. By comparison, the AL East leading Tampa Bay Rays are hitting .323 with runners in scoring position. The offense hit 8 HR in this weekend series vs. the Orioles. Only one of these HR's (Kevin Youkilis - Saturday night - 2 run HR) had a man on base. Of the 33 HR hit by the Red Sox in 2010, 21 of them have been solo shots.

Will things change as the season progresses? I doubt it. If you can't hit against the Orioles, then you won't hit against the Yankees, Angels, and Rays. If you think it's bad this season, wait until next year, when the contracts of Ortiz, Martinez, Lowell, Beltre, and Varitek all expire. The team is very good at developing pitchers, but their minor league organization is bereft of any young sluggers, Lars Anderson's hot start aside. Given that situation, the offense has the potential to be even worse in 2011.

The Red Sox will eventually play better ball, fill Fenway Park to capacity most nights, and make a run for the Wild Card. However, this is a flawed team that is not built for playoff success. The roster balance just isn't there and unless Theo Epstein trades the team's prize minor league prospects like Casey Kelly, which he is wont to do, this won't change.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sox/Pats/B's/Celts - Who's Hot and Who's Not

Right now is a very exciting time for fans of Boston's pro teams. The Bruins and Celtics are in the playoffs, the Patriots just completed their draft, and the Red Sox season is underway. Here is a look at who's hot and who's not among the teams:

Bruins G Tuukka Rask - HOT - Rask was the dominant force for the Bruins in their defeat of the Buffalo Sabres 4 games to 2, in the first round of the playoffs. He outplayed U.S. Olympian goaltender, Ryan Miller, considered by many to be the best goaltender in the world. Rask has become a cult figure at the Garden with chants of "TUUUKKAAAA!" throughout the game.

Bruins D Dennis Wideman - NOT - Wideman made a very poor decision in his own end with an errant clear attempt that led to a Sabres goal. Despite the fact he redeemed himself later in the game with an assist on Miroslav Satan's goal, Wideman has been careless with the puck all season long.

Bruins C David Krejci - HOT - After a season where he fell well short of last season's achievements, Krejci has elevated his game in the playoffs with 3 goals and 2 assists in 6 games.

Bruins D Johnny Boychuck - HOT - Boychuck was considered a spare part at the start of the season, but consistent play and heavy hitting has made him the second best defenseman on the Bruins behind Zdeno Chara. Boychuck is a rock on the blue line.

Red Sox Bullpen - NOT - It is well known that the performance of relief pitchers is volatile year to year, but the Red Sox bullpen has looked dreadful so far this season. Ramon Ramirez and Hideki Okajima have been atrocious, as has Scott Atchision. Manny Decarmen, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon are the only relievers manager Terry Francona has faith in right now.

Red Sox P Josh Beckett - NOT - In his five seasons in Boston, Josh Beckett has pitched up to his potential only once - 2007. It's not a coincidence the Red Sox won the World Series that year. Too often, Beckett has been inconsistent, unable to harness his world class "stuff". I was ambivalent about him getting a contract extension, and since he's received it, he's had one terrific outing, one good outing and two poor ones. It's time for him to stop pitching like a number 5 starter and more like the ace he's supposed to be.

Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia - HOT - What fan in Boston doesn't love Pedroia and his slashing, hard nosed style of play? He is a treat to watch play. Excellent with the glove and he's a doubles hitting machine. When will major league pitchers realize that you can't sneak a high inside fastball by him?

Red Sox C Jason Varitek - HOT - This is exclusively for his bat, which has been a nice surprise this season. No Sox fan bashes Varitek as much as me, but he's hitting well in his limited role.

Red Sox DH David Ortiz - NOT - It is getting to the point where I've started wondering how much longer does he keep a roster spot? Big Papi can no longer catch up to a fastball and has 19 strikeouts in 60 AB's.

Celtics G Rajon Rondo - HOT - Rondo still cannot shoot, but that's ok. He's a terror on the basketball court. No point guard rebounds better than him, he's tremendous on defense and his ability to push the ball wrecks havoc on defenses.

Celtics F Rasheed Wallace - NOT - Rasheed continues to be a disappointing signing. He doesn't rebound at all, leisurely coasts up and down the court, and his attitude towards defense is mostly one of indifference.

Celtics F Kevin Garnett - NOT - The Big Ticket can still shoot from outside, but is a shadow of himself on the defensive end. He's no longer an intimidator, due to his lack of explosiveness from his knee injury.

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick - HOT - After the questionable first round pick of CB Devin McCourty, Belichick redeemed himself on day two with several players who could be impact players, specifically LB Brandon Spikes and and TE Aaron Gonzalez.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What is going on with the Patriots?

What is the deal with the New England Patriots? Since the start of free agency, division rivals such as the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets have made moves to acquire impact players, while the Patriots have been silent in the marketplace. Instead the team opted to resolve an internal issue - re-signed Vince Wilfork to a long term deal. Now, Vince Wilfork earned his big contract, but he was the least of the team's problems last year. The Patriots also inexplicably re-signed 33 year old right guard Stephen Neal to an extension. Neal underperformed last year and is injured every year, so the purpose of that signing is questionable.

The Jets acquisition of the talented Antonio Cromartie gives them the best pair of starting cornerbacks in the NFL. Cromartie may not be much of a tackler and has some child support issues off the field, but he can cover receivers. as can Jets star CB Darelle Revis. The Dolphins signed middle linebacker Karlos Dansby. Dansby is productive and would've looked great next to Patriots LB Jerod Mayo in the team's 3-4 scheme.

Do the Patriots realize that this is an uncapped year? The last five years of bargain hunting for 'value" has not worked out. Memo to the Krafts and Bill Belichick - you are no longer the smartest guys in the room. While you've been busy patting yourselves on the back for past success, the rest of the league has caught up to you.

The Patriots have both drafted poorly and misfired on free agents since 2005. I'm not asking that they turn their operation into one similar to Dan Snyder's in Washington, but a change in their philosophy needs to occur. It hasn't worked for a while now.

The team's biggest areas of need are as follows: pass rusher, wide receiver, tight end, interior offensive lineman, running back, inside linebacker.

I would like to see the Patriots put more emphasis on the offensive line. As a group, the team's OL is ok. QB Tom Brady was hit a lot last season and spent the second half of the season banged up. This group can't handle speed rushers or consistent defensive pressure. Sebastian Vollmer is a stud and Logan Mankins is a Pro Bowler and one of the best guards in the NFL I'm not a big fan of C Dan Koppen and RG Stephen Neal. Koppen can be manhandled by big nose tackles and the Patriots have difficulty running the ball, unless it is a draw play. Matt Light would be better off playing right tackle, where he'd be decent. However, Light has only played left tackle, which is where Sebastian Vollmer needs to play going forward.

Tight End is a real problem and has been a hole since Daniel Graham left. First rounder Ben Watson never met the high expectations the team had for someone so athletically gifted. The since released Chris Baker was a decent blocker, but didn't provide much of an impact in the passing game.

Randy Moss did not have a good season for the Patriots last season. WR is one of the easier positions to fill, hopefully Brandon Tate can come back from a knee injury and fill the second receiver role. Julian Edelman isn't Wes Welker, but already is a decent slot receiver. Sam Aiken is not a good WR, and is best suited for special teams where he thrives.

The Patriots have attempted to add pass rushers via free agency in the past with the free agent acquisitions of Rosevelt Colvin and Adalius Thomas. Colvin looked to be the real deal, until he badly hurt his hip during the 2003 season. He came back the following year, but was never the same player he was before the injury. Thomas, who made his bones as a pass rusher, was inexplicably used in different roles such as middle linebacker and dropped into coverage. He was not the effective player in New England that he was in Baltimore.

I sometimes believe that Bill Belichick outsmarts himself with strategy such as over disguising coverages. Do the Indianapolis Colts ever ask star pass rusher Dwight Freeney to do anything other than go get the quarterback? I'd like to see the Patriots take that same approach with the next pass rusher they get.

Despite staying healthy and getting a full opportunity to be the feature running back, Laurence Maroney has proven he's not a full time starter. However, as long as he doesn't fumble, Maroney can fill the Kevin Faulk role as the 3rd down back. Maroney can catch the ball, run in open space, and adequately pick up the blitz.

Gary Guyton is not the answer next to Jerod Mayo at middle linebacker. Despite superior athleticism, Guyton is too often chasing ballcarriers, instead of hitting them square in the mouth. There's a reason he was an undrafted free agent coming out of college. It's an uncapped year, and it would've been nice to see the Patriots get Dansby to replace Guyton next to Mayo.

The way last season ended with the Patriots being embarrassed at home by the Baltimore Ravens with a first round knockout in the playoffs, has left a bitter taste in the mouths of the team's fans. The Patriots could use some positive "buzz" surrounding the team. Last season there were lots of empty blue seats in the upper levels of Gillette Stadium and the Patriots had difficulty selling tickets to the Ravens playoff game. If the team continues their current philosophy of looking for value over talent and the economy continues to struggle, I predict the Patriots 16 year sellout streak will be in jeopardy.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday Sports Talk

After running errands all morning, it's time to unload some sports thoughts I've been carrying around lately...

Considering this is the last year of his current contract, I'm hoping Josh Beckett steps up again and pitches like the ace he was in 2007. Too often the last two seasons, Beckett has not pitched to his talent and during the second half of last season, was surpassed by Jon Lester as the ace of the staff. He was still a good pitcher, just not a #1 starter. Beckett is well respected by the pitching staff for the way he prepares and is considered the leader of the staff.

I can't quite put my finger on whether the Celtics are treating the regular season as a tune up for the playoffs or if they really are an inconsistent team. The talent is certainly there and they do have players coming back from injuries. However, their inability to hold a lead has been a problem since the turn of the new year.

The NFL Scouting Combine is this weekend. I've been thinking about the Patriots and what they need. First order of business is a pass rusher. I'd also like to see them look into an interior offensive lineman, a tight end, and a feature running back. While the wide receiver position may look weak, they can always acquire one via a trade or through free agency.

Despite the way last season ended, Jonathan Papelbon is still an elite closer. He did get a little fastball happy last year and I'm hoping he spends spring training refining his splitter, so he can keep hitters off balance better this season.

The inconsistency with the way the Red Sox treat their aging former star players is puzzling. They can't wait to ship classy 3B Mike Lowell out of town and were willing to eat $9 million of his salary in a trade with the Texas Rangers that fell through. However, they seem content with Jason Varitek at backup catcher making $3 million when he was the worst player in the major leagues the 2nd half of last season. I can't understand why they wouldn't opt to give Dusty Brown the opportunity to be the backup catcher. The Red Sox defense at the catching position is below average. Brown brings excellent defensive skills and a strong arm to the table, and he couldn't possibly hit worse than Varitek did the second half of last season. While Mike Lowell doesn't have much range in the field anymore and might possibly be the slowest baserunner in the game, he can still flat out hit.

Kendrick Perkins has to be one of the most underrated players in the NBA. He's developed into a quality center who can score around the basket and is a tremendous defensive player. Perkins works hard and knows his role. He is one of those "Glue Guys" that good teams find indispensable.

The Red Sox are very excited about their young prospects P Casey Kelly and SS Jose Iglesias. They look good so far, but let's not start the plans for induction into Cooperstown, yet. Let's see how they perform at AA and AAA. Last year, the hot prospect the Red Sox were crowing about in spring training was 1B Lars Anderson, and by all accounts, he had a dreadful season at AA Portland. Take it easy and let the kids develop on their own timetable.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Celtics acquire Nate Robinson

The Celtics just traded Eddie House and the little used J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker for Nate Robinson. This is a good deal for the Celtics. Despite House's 3 point shooting skill, he's had an off year, he can't handle the ball, and his defense is a weakness.

House was a good soldier for the Celts over the past 2.5 years and was a key contributor to their championship in 2008. Giddens, despite being a first round pick in the 2008 draft, never saw much action.

Robinson will bring improved defense, better ball handling, and some scoring touch. It will be interesting to see the contributions he makes.

Monday, February 1, 2010

February Hits

The month of January flew by! I can't believe how quickly a winter month just passed. I'm not complaining, though. Here are some things on my mind...

I know what's wrong with the Boston Celtics. They lack the toughness coming off the bench that would help fill the void of a healthy Kevin Garnett. Specifically, I'm talking about my man, Leon Powe. Leon is tough, a good defender, takes offensive fouls, rebounds and can run and finish on the fast break. GM Danny Ainge underestimated the contributions of players like James Posey and Leon Powe.

At what point will President Barack Obama and the Democrats realize that people are scared of their spending initiatives? We have a $1.6 trillion budget deficit and the national debt is up over $12.4 trillion. They've lost all credibility after their stimulus plan, which was nothing more than a handout to key constituencies, didn't stimulate anything. Unless there's some new GOP scandal, I predict the GOP will take over both the House AND Senate in November 2010.

It really is THAT bad for Democrats across the nation. Obama has lost the moderates and independents. And I thought only MA Democrats like Governor Deval Patrick were that tone deaf and arrogant.

Toyota is having problems with gas pedals and has stopped sales of several models due to a massive recall. I'm not surprised. I never got the hype about Toyota quality and reliability. I've had two Toyotas and they were terrible. They were two of the worst cars I've owned. I doubt I will ever buy another.

My new "go to" TV station is National Geographic. There's almost always something good on there in prime time.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

NFL Playoffs

The NFL season is down to its final four teams. In tomorrow's AFC Championship, the NY Jets face the Indianapolis Colts and in the NFC Championship, the Minnesota Vikings travel to New Orleans to play the Saints.

The Colts, Vikings, and Saints have been the three top teams in the NFL all season long. The Jets, who made it as a Wild Card, are the surprise team still remaining.

As a Patriots fan, I despise the Jets. However, I can't help but admire them. I really like their rookie head coach, Rex Ryan, who's not afraid to speak his mind. Ryan is a brilliant defensive coach who implemented the same attacking style of defense as the Defensive Coordinator in Baltimore that he now runs in New York.

This year's Patriots team was a big disappointment to me. They were a soft, pass happy, flag football style team who fattened up their record against the Weak Sisters of the Poor in the NFL. When facing a good team, the Patriots were outhit and outcoached all season long. The 2009 Patriots were a team that could be bullied. The defense wasn't physical or stout and was seemingly back on their heels most of the time. The offense was very predictable and showed weakness at all the offensive positions other than QB. Even Tom Brady didn't have a very good year.

The NY Jets play the way the 2001 Patriots used to play. They go out there and hit hard. They run the football and they attack on defense. That's the way football should be played.

As much as I despise the Jets, I dislike the Colts more. Therefore, I find myself in the odd situation of rooting for the Jets. J-E-T-S, JETS! JETS! JETS!

In the NFC, 40 year old Brett Favre continues on his Redemption Tour. He's had an excellent season with the Vikings and has mostly played within the confines of the offensive system put in place by Coach Brad Childress. The New Orleans Saints are led by QB Drew Brees, who's the best QB in the NFC. The Saints showcase a high flying passing offense that can strike early and often.

The Saints are a sentimental favorite. The combination of Hurricane Katrina as well as the Saints' pathetic franchise history, makes them a team you want to see win.

A Saints and Jets Super Bowl is what I want. After tomorrow, I'll be pulling for the Saints to win it all.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Scott Brown Shocks The World

In a special election in Massachusetts for the U.S. Senate, in which Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 3-1 margin, little known state senator Scott Brown shocked the country by soundly defeating Attorney General Martha Coakley by a 5 point margin, 52-47. This surprising election result sent tremors across the country and struck fear in incumbent Democratic politicians facing election this November. If Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts wasn’t safe, what seat is for the Democrats?

How big was this? This was huge, really HUGE. This was David vs. Goliath, the Goliath being the Massachusetts Democrat dominated political establishment. The Senate seat has been held by Democrats; mostly the Kennedy family since 1952. This is a bigger upset than the NY Giants defeating the 18-0 New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. How can Massachusetts vote Republican for Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat?

It is easy to pin the blame on the poorly run Coakley campaign or this being a rejection of the Obama agenda, however there is more to it than that. Below is what happened that brought about a Republican being elected to the Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy for 47 years.

Scott Brown – He worked HARD to win. He pounded the pavement, shook hands in the cold and snow, put forth brilliant TV commercials and annihilated Coakley in the debates. His “every man driving a truck” persona was a big winner. Two keys for Brown – the TV commercial that caught all the Democrats off guard, where he compared JFK’s pro tax cut economic policies to his own, and when he told debate moderator David Gergen that it wasn’t Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat or the Democrats’ Senate seat, but the people’s seat. Brown was a terrific candidate.

Martha Coakley – Martha, or Marsha as Patrick Kennedy called her, was an aloof, stiff, tin eared, gaffe prone candidate. During the last two weeks of the campaign, she couldn’t stop putting her foot in her mouth. Put that together with the fact that she tried to run a Rose Garden campaign strategy gave a vibe to voters that she didn’t care about what they thought and that she her elevation to the U.S. Senate should be a coronation

Massachusetts Democratic Politics – Governor Deval Patrick is despised by Massachusetts voters for not fulfilling his 2006 campaign promises and ultimately turning into the stereotypical Beacon Hill insider. During last year’s recession, Patrick hired 1300 people to the state payroll, plus pushed through a sales tax hike, which rose from 5% to 6.25%. Considering the unemployment rate is 10%, people are tightening up their personal finances, and private sector jobs are scarce to come by, the electorate was in a foul mood. Complicating matters is the fact that the last three Massachusetts House Speakers have been indicted and 3 state senators have left their positions due to various crimes.

Barack Obama and the Democratic Majorities in the House and Senate – Exactly 364 days since his inauguration, President Obama’s agenda was derailed by Scott Brown's election. The Democrats had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate and blew it by overreaching, passing a $900 billion stimulus bill that did not help the economy or the unemployment rate, and trying to rush through deeply unpopular healthcare legislation in a partisan manner. Now that Scott Brown has been elected to the U.S. Senate, the health care bill in its current state is likely dead. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid share the responsibility with Obama for this defeat.

Repudiation of the Liberal Agenda – After one year in power, the Democratic/liberal agenda has already been rejected. The massive debt accrued and the $1.3 trillion dollar budget deficit has put a major burden on our children’s future. In the U.S. Senate, there is no such thing as a moderate Democrat anymore. They are all extreme liberals looking to pass bills that would move the U.S towards Socialism. President Obama ran as a moderate, promising change and rode into office with a mountain of goodwill. He quickly squandered it, by going hard to the left, and not looking to work with Republicans and compromise. Pelosi and Reid wrote bills without any Republican input and worked to ram them through their bills respective legislative bodies. Also hurting the Democrats was their views on terrorism where they wanted terrorists tried in a criminal court of law, instead of a military tribunal, as well as their efforts to close the base at Guantanamo Bay.

Scott Brown holds mostly conservative Republican views, but ran as an independent thinker, reaching out to those who are unaffiliated with either major political party. Brown’s common sense approach on tax cuts, terrorism, and health care resonated with an anxious electorate.

Senator Brown has given the GOP the blueprint it needs to add seats during the mid term elections in November in Washington DC, as well as at the state level. The GOP will definitely pick up seats in November in Washington. What will be most interesting is if the Brown phenomenon makes the GOP a viable party in Massachusetts come November. The beauty of the Brown victory is the hope it gives to every Republican in Massachusetts who’s ever dreamed of running for the Legislature or statewide office. Many Republicans will think, “why not me?” I predict there will be more contested seats in MA than there’s been in a long time. Could the bluest state become purple? One can dream.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Scott Brown for US Senate

Here's hoping the MA voters truly reflect the recent polls taken and Scott Brown wins by a landslide. Brown's stance on taxes, terrorism, healthcare, and the economy are why he should be elected.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Working Out

The New Year has arrived and along with it are many resolutions to work out and eat well. With the holidays now behind us, what better topic to talk about than working out? I've never made a New Years resolution to work out or eat better, because I already eat well and work out 6 days a week.

Last year was an eye opening year when it came to work outs. I did two rounds of P90X - one where I faithfully followed the nutrition program and the second round, where I did my own thing nutrionally. It's an easy guess as to which round produced the best results!

Exercising is easy. Anyone with a little motivation can bring the intensity over 45-60 minutes. Eating well is hard. REALLY HARD. It takes a lot of discipline to opt for a bowl of steamed broccoli over a piece of pizza. It can be extremely difficult being out with friends and opting for the bottle of water over a cold beer.

In 2009, I learned A LOT about exercising and diet. Here are some of the key things you can do to have great success with a diet and exercise program.

1.) Mix it up - falling into a comfortable routine of weightlifting and running is a recipe for failure. Your body adjusts over time to what you are doing and is no longer really "challenged" by your easy, mindless routine.

2.) Tony Horton is a GENIUS. This man with his P90X program taught me so much and he's changed so many lives with his P90X program. An exercise routine for 3 months with no running? How's that going to work? Oh, it works! P90X works like magic.

3.) Running is not the be all/end all of an exercise routine - Weight training is more important, plyometrics is far harder than running, and a Tae Bo/Kenpo karate type of routine provides good cardiovascular exercise. As a fat burner, running doesn't work that well. I've tried it, and it didn't work nearly as well as P90X.

4.) It's gotta be intense - going through the motions whether it be lifting or running isn't going to give you any results. Anyone under the age of 55 who walks as their main source of exercise is wasting their time. You have to get your heart rate up and your lungs out of breath.

5.) The produce aisle is where it's at - salad, broccoli, zucchini, baby carrots, summer squash, green beans. Lunch and dinner should have a vegetable as part of the meal. I'm of the belief that broccoli is the best food you can put in your body. Do I like vegetables? Not particularly, but I know they are very important.

6.) Eat every 2-3 hours. Sounds like a lot, but if the meals are small, it's just the right formula to keep your metabolism burning. Whey protein powder mixed with water or milk is a quick and easy way to get 20g of protein in your body. Almonds are a terrific snack. Don't eat more than 20 of them, though.

7.) Drink your water - lay off the diet soda, regular soda, and juice and opt for the H2O. Your body needs to stay hydrated. A diet soda now and then is ok. My opinion on regular soda is, if I'm going to drink 150 calories, it's going to be a beer. At least beer won't rot your teeth out.

8.) There is nothing wrong with good carbs. Whole wheat breads, whole wheat crackers, brown rice, medium sized baked potatos, are all healthy and should be a part of a good diet.

9.) Perdue Oven Stuffer Roasters are a better alternative than meat from the deli counter. Cook the Oven Stuffer Roasters up, peel off the skin, and carve them up. The carved chicken is a very flexible source of protein that can be added to salads, sandwiches, or by itself.

10.) I really, no REALLY despise yoga. Some people swear by it, but it's not for me. I find myself bored by it and not accomplishing much of anything other than seemingly wasting 60-90 minutes of my day. I'd rather stretch or do something light for 30 minutes instead.

In four days, I will begin Insanity by Sean T. It is advertised as the toughest workout ever put on DVD. I'm looking forward to it, but it's going to be hard as hell. The nutritional piece doesn't look to be as difficult as P90X, but when it comes to the workouts, I have my work cut out for me.