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Mediocre bad guys

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  December 29, 2008 05:01 PM

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I leave the worst-case scenarios to others, and keep it simple: I enjoyed the hell out of watching Matt Cassel play this season -- he just kept getting better and better and better, until it got to the point that he was pretty much the least of the team's worries -- and beyond that, he seems like a genuinely decent and grounded person.

I hope he's someone else's starting quarterback next season -- every Patriots fan in possession of a clue hopes that Tom Brady returns to good health and good form -- but if Cassel's stint as the Patriots' starter is to end at 15 games, he's created an impressive and lasting legacy for himself in such a brief time. I couldn't be more impressed.

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Peter King's eternal man-crush on Brett Favre has long since rocketed past the point of amusement and now falls somewhere between creepy and annoying -- how predictable was it that he didn't list the chief perpetrator of the Jets' downfall among his "Goats of the Week" in today's column?

But it's more than just his unwillingness or ability to recognize Favre's flaws -- his blindness is such that he actually wrote this the week Tom Brady got hurt:

But my very, very strong opinion is that had Favre stayed retired, and if Brady got hurt, and if the Patriots came calling (which they most certainly would have), Favre would be in Foxboro today.

"Most certainly would have"? In retrospect, the thought is preposterous, but it was also a silly notion then -- yes, the Patriots supposedly needed a quarterback, but King should have recognized that Favre owns every single one of the attributes Belichick loathed in Drew Bledsoe . . . something he almost stumbled upon later in the column:

The Patriots had grown tired of Bledsoe in 2001, thinking he was too much of a signal-calling maverick rather than going with the flow of what the team had game-planned for all week.

A maverick. Much worse than a gunslinger, apparently. Sheesh.

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I hopped aboard the LaMont Jordan train as soon as the Patriots signed him, and while he wasn't as durable as the Patriots would have hoped, he added an extremely valuable element of a running game that was quietly one of the NFL's best.

I hope they find a way to bring him back next season. These last few weeks, he's reinforced my belief that he's a running back who can help a team accomplish meaningful things in December and January.

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Although they were generally little more than cardboard cutouts of their former selves in terms of production, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing old friends Junior Seau and Rosevelt Colvin do their best to help salvage the Patriots' battered linebacking corps these past few weeks.

Seau and Colvin may have had their greatest individual highlights elsewhere, but I'll remember both of them as the epitome of what we want a Patriot player to be. Beyond that, I think it speaks volumes about Belichick's perception among players that he essentially has a taxi squad of respected semi-retired veterans to call upon at a moment's notice.

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I like the idea of karma, but I guess I've always been skeptical of the notion; good things too often happen to lousy people without repercussions, you know? But yesterday at the Meadowlands . . . well, karma made a hell of a case for its existence.

You had Brett Favre, one of the most overrated, self-aggrandizing, media-savvy athletes of his time, coughing up yet another hairball in a big moment.

You had Chad Pennington, who is everything Favre isn't, efficiently sticking it to the team that casually dismissed him in favor of the washed-up Wranglers Warrior -- and at their place, no less.

And you had Eric Mangini, the NFL's King Rat, finally getting his comeuppance as the team's decision-makers realized that his (since severed) connection to Belichick didn't mean he was Belichick.

For a Patriots fan, there had to be at least a small measure of satisfaction in all of that.

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Oh, and while we're at it, almost forgot:

With the No. 6 selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select Vernon Gholston, linebacker, Ohio State. Final rookie numbers: 15 games, 13 tackles.

With the No. 10 selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select Jerod Mayo, linebacker, Tennessee. Final rookie numbers: 16 games, 128 tackles.

No, I don't really believe in schadenfreude, either. Why do you ask?

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I have a hard time pinning "blame" on anyone for the way the Patriots season played out -- again, it was a remarkably fulfilling and enjoyable year in pretty much every way other than the final outcome -- but if there's a chance of bringing Romeo Crennel back at the expense of Dean Pees and/or Dom Capers, let's just say I'm all in favor of getting the ol' band back together again, even if it means Belichick has to be extra ruthless to make it happen. (The "ol' band," of course, excludes Mangini.)

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As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

I don't think I've ever made it through a Pats column without a Sox reference, so why start now? Anyway, some admittedly cherry-picked (but still somewhat telling) numbers:

A.J. Burnett's age on opening day 2009: 32
Brad Penny's age on opening day 2009: 30

Burnett's career adjusted ERA: 111
Penny's career adjusted ERA: 105

Burnett's top three single-season adjusted ERAs: 122, 119, 115 (twice).
Penny's top three single-season adjusted ERAs: 151, 130, 115.

Burnett's contract status:Signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Yankees.
Penny's contract status: Agreed to one-year, $5 million deal (plus incentives) with the Red Sox.

Conclusion: If the shoulder is healthy -- and by most accounts, it is -- this is a tremendous low-risk, high-reward signing by the Sox. I know, in wake of the Teixeira bummer, we wanted a bigger name, something sexier. But this is shrewd, and I appreciate the Red Sox aren't doing something emotional and stupid in the aftermath of losing their coveted prize to their rival.


About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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