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Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  December 8, 2009 12:19 AM

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If you missed our chat last Friday, you didn't miss much -- that is, unless you're into trainwrecks, epic disasters, public humiliations of moderately clued-in, semi-coherent sportswriters, and that sort of perverse stuff.

A quick and whiny recap: The questions didn't load. Then I couldn't see the answers. Then I turned into Fluto Shinzawa, at least according to the screen name. (OK, that part was a little bit liberating.) Then Cover It Live crashed totally. Then came the sobbing and whimpering and heaving. As you probably know, only that last part is usually included in my Friday routine.

If my year-old HD television hadn't blown out Sunday -- I suspect the doomed Samsung was as sick of watching the Patriots as I was -- the chat debacle might have been the most annoying thing to happen to me this week. Did I mention we bought the TV at Circuit City? At least returning it should be a breeze. (What?)

As usual I've drowned the actual point in blather. At last, here it is: Taking a cue from a fine football writer I once knew, I managed to salvage the unused questions from the chat. The numbers tell me I allegedly answered 28 of 222 on Friday, or roughly 12.612 percent.

Analysis: I'm stunned nearly 800 people stuck around for a chat that was clearly becoming nothing but a nitwit's confused monologue, the online equivalent of a hack comedian tapping a microphone and saying, "Is this thing on?"

So the least I can do is actually answer some of the questions here, in sort of a mailbag/chat/column combo. Hey, it's not like I have a decent TV to watch or anything.

(One last digression: We had to dig out our ancient non-HD model for the time being, the one with the tint problem that makes everyone look like they have hepatitis. When my 3-year-old woke up this morning, tuned in to Nick Jr. before school, and noticed the color issues, he immediately shot me a concerned look and said, "Daddy, you won't be able to watch the Red Sox -- everything is yellow!" I know, I know, it'd be cuter if your kid said it.)

Let's kick this sucker off with one massive answer to three Patriots questions, all of which apply to both last week's disheartening loss and this week's disheartening loss . . .

I am wondering if the Patriots' second-half collapses are due in some part to other teams' coaches continuing to adjust to the Patriots' adjustments. I still think Belichick is a genius but I am wondering if these up-and-coming young head coaches are starting to know what he knows and his knowledge/ideas aren't so innovative anymore. Like he's becoming a version of old-school or something. The resurgence of the Wildcat that we couldn't handle in the beginning of the season is one example. I'm not really explaining this well, but do you know what I mean and what do you think? -- Gracie

One problem with the Pats D is the lack of leadership, don't you think? That and Adalius Thomas being a bust, of course. -- Chris

Hey Chad, the problem with the Pats, in my opinion, is they have had substantial turnover in their front office/coaching staff the last few years and I think it's starting to catch up to them; the assistant coaches are inexperienced and it spreads BB too thin, why not bring Weis back to lesson the load for BB and also bring some ingenuity back to what I believe is a predictable offense (shotgun: long overthrown ball to Moss or dump off to Welker-handoff to Maroney up the middle of off tackle) Your thoughts? -- Kenny

Again: All of these questions came in (obviously) before the Miami game, but they're relevant since many of the problems from the Saints debacle were again evident -- and even magnified -- this Sunday.

Anyway, the short answer is that I'm with Bert Breer on this -- the defensive issues are due to an utter lack of a pass rush more than anything else.

I know I'm in the minority today, but I think Darius Butler and Jonathan Wilhite are going to be good cornerbacks. Wilhite reminds me somewhat of Asante Samuel in 2003-04, when he seemed to be just close enough in coverage to look like he almost made a play while getting burned. To expect them to cover receivers for five seconds or more because no one is getting within an arm's length of the quarterback, well, that's an impossible task even against the Hennes of the world.

(Keeping Seymour and Vrabel, by the way, would not have been the answer to the pass rush. Every time I've seen the Raiders, Seymour has been hard to find even when you're looking for him. And it's OK to admit it: Vrabel was declining before our eyes last year.)

As for the guy in the hoodie . . .

Maybe Belichick isn't quite as sharp or devious or singleminded as he was a decade ago, when he had so much more to prove and his legacy was that of a defensive mastermind who failed in his shot as a head coach (Parcells reportedly was not shy about reminding him about this); his legacy is secure now as one of the greatest coaches in the sport's history, and it's natural for him to be less hungry, even if it's a subconscious thing.

I'm not saying that is definitely the case, but I do agree that maybe he is spread too thin, particularly when it comes to the offense. If you can tell me what Bill O'Brien's offensive expertise is other than apparently saying, "What the hell, let's chuck it deep!" on the third and 6, please, clue me in. But for all of the caterwauling today after two straight ugly losses, I challenge you to name a coach you'd rather have leading them out of this mess than Belichick. I thought so.

What the hell am I going to do now? -- Charlie Weis

What are you going to do? Here's exactly what you're going to do:

When you see that 617 area code pop up on the caller ID, and it's your old buddy Bill on the other end of the line, and he mentions getting band back together, he's not talking about Bon Jovi, OK? Hop in the Cadillac, stop to pick up ol' Romeo along the way, and be here by, oh, 1 p.m. next Sunday.

And when a guy who is dressed like a GQ model and looks like he might have cuddled a goat or two along the way hugs you like you're a Brazilian supermodel or something, don't be alarmed. That's Tommy. He might have changed a little, but trust us: He's really, really missed you lately.

if you were Theo, and money were available for a game-changing trade or acquisition, who would you sign? -- SAJ

Well, that's tough to answer directly because the free agent market is so thin that the two biggest names are obviously Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, and since they are so similar, signing one or the other is basically the status quo from last year. Plus, the level of compensation in a trade also has to be taken into consideration. But all things being relatively equal, I'd put Felix Hernandez and Adrian Gonzalez at 1 and 1A of any and all names that we've heard.

And as I've written 10 times if I've written it once, the steep price is worth paying for players of that magnitude.

Casey Kelly -- who, as Peter Abraham reports, has decided to pitch full time -- and Ryan Westmoreland are terrific prospects, but again, you just don't know. You don't. You're going to make me do it again, aren't you? OK, I'll do it again -- I'm grabbing a random old Baseball America Prospects Handbook here and rattling off their Top 10 prospects in the game from that year.

Here goes, from the 2005 Handbook (with Delmon Young on the cover). This is BA founder Allan Simpson's list:

    1. Joe Mauer. OK, decent start to the rankings, I'll grant you.
    2. Delmon Young. Career .322 OBP.
    3. Felix Hernandez. Not helping my point whatsoever here, King.
    4. Joel Guzman. Point helped. A complete and epic bust, rated 10 spots below Hanley Ramirez,
    5. Rickey Weeks. Talented kid. Injuries happen.
    6. Scott Kazmir
    7. Ian Stewart
    8. Lastings Milledge
    9. Casey Kotchman
    10. Jeff Francouer.

And these are the alleged can't-miss guys. I don't believe Kelly, whom the consensus seems to view as a No. 2 starter, and Westmoreland, who is still in A ball and has had injury problems, are viewed in that regard. Hey, Lars Anderson was a year ago, and all it took was one lousy season in Double A to damage his status.

The Red Sox in the Epstein Era have an excellent track record of separating their true prospects from the minor-league mirages, but it's safe to say there are no Mauers or King Felixes in the system right now; everyone should be available for someone like Hernandez. All but the most elite prospects are nothing more than lottery tickets. Lottery tickets. You have to trade them for the sure payout when you can.

Scutaro may be no great shakes, but there's something exciting about waking up to discover the Sox have a new everyday position player, no? -- Booyah

Oh, sure, absolutely, even if the Red Sox's press release earlier Friday that they would have a "major announcement" later in the day certainly stretched the boundaries of the phrase. Matt Holliday or Roy Halladay = major announcements. Marco Scutaro, at least in a well-balanced baseball universe, is a couple of paragraphs leading a Red Sox notebook and a line in the transactions.

But even with a less-than-major signing, I'm always a sucker for the little dog and pony show. You have to love it when the new guy awkwardly tries on new jersey over the dress shirt and puts on the Jimy Williams-stiff hat; it makes it seem like the new season isn't that far away.

My favorite, and here's the evidence, is the Manny presser right around Christmas in 2000. What was his comment? "I guess I hate the Yankees now?" Not sure anyone bought that even then, but it was a few months before they acquired his buddy Enrique Wilson.

OK, let's narrow down the teams the Red Sox will pay to take Marco Scuturo in 2011 ...-- Patrick

Ouch. You know, while I'm somewhat wary of signing a 33-year-old shortstop who has had one above-average statistical season in the six in which he's played more than 100 games -- and a 33-year-old shortstop who had to convince you in a workout that he was healthy before you signed him -- I really don't mind this deal for a couple of reasons.

It's a much, much more favorable contract than, say, the Julio Lugo money pit, and at worst (and if he remains healthy), he'll work the count, draw some walks, and field the position well. He is a better all-around player than Alex Gonzalez. And that the A's, for whom he played for four seasons, apparently outbid the Sox is a telling sign that there might be more to Scutaro than meets the eye.

Of course, that last sentence is also a crucial part of the David Eckstein Is An Adorably Good Player And I Don't Care What Your Calculator Says argument. My apologies. That sort of thing happens when you talk yourself into approving of a signing.

So Allen Iverson returns to the team he had a messy divorce with on the same day Ron Artest admits he used to drink at halftime. Then, Tim Donaghy says he didn't even need to rig games because the referees were so predictably biased. How much does David Stern love his job right now? -- GreasyWindow

Now that you mention it, I'm starting to wonder if he had someone bust Greg Oden's knee just as a distraction. I'll never understand why the Donaghy story isn't a bigger deal; maybe it's because people don't trust him, maybe it's because there is indifference about the NBA, maybe it's just that it's been assumed for years that the refs are crooked. But if this happened in the NFL or MLB, we'd never hear the end of it.

By the way, I'm too cynical -- or realistic -- to feel bad for professional athletes, but Oden, a likable, determined person cursed with either a brittle body or awful luck, is an exception. Being a Blazers center is the equivalent of . . . well, I'm trying to resist another "Spinal Tap" drummers reference here, but you get this gist. Walton, Bowie, now Oden. Heck, even Kevin Duckworth, who died much too young.

Please tell me I'm not the only guy who says, OK Tiger cheated, lets see what he cheated with!! OK she is at least hot, because if she was so-so, then I would be really mad at him.

In that case, I'm guessing you were downright enraged at Steve Phillips.

Chad, Bay versus Holliday, Aren't the Sox going to wind up settling for whoever the Yankees don't sign? -- Bill from CT

If they're lucky. The worst-case scenario -- and the one I think is going to happen -- is that Bay signs in Anaheim or (most likely) Seattle, then the Yankees pull their usual stunt with yet another big-ticket Boras client who fills an NY need (Damon, Teixeira) and swoop in at the last minute to outbid everyone for Holliday.

I'm almost as convinced that he's going there as I was with Teixeira last December, and I challenge you to find a national baseball writer who saw that coming. If you're still skeptical about Holliday's desire to be in pinstripes, here's a comment from his father in The New York Times after Holliday was dealt from the Rockies to the A's last November:

“If someone would have called me today and said Matt had gotten traded to the Yankees, I’d have been hunting for a place to celebrate."

In a related note: Are you excited about a Hermida/Xavier Nady left field ticket in 2010?

chad, using the mindset of red sox ownership, do you think they have asked for the medical records of Bob Feller yet? -- michael

You'd think they'd have learned their lesson after Smoltz, Penny, and Bob Lemon didn't work out last year. Seriously, might my favorite line I've ever read in the chat, Michael. Congratulations -- your prize, a coveted Garry Hancock rookie card, is in the mail.

Your favorite Boston movie....Good Will Hunting, The Verdict, Eastwood's Mystic? Please don't say The Departed. I hated that one. -- Alex

What, no "Celtic Pride"? I'd probably go with "Good Will Hunting." I'll admit it, I think Affleck is a cool dude who has it all figured out, and it was so good not even Robin Williams could ruin it, though I pretty sure he still has no idea who Carlton Fisk is.

"The Departed" was too implausible at the end, Nicholson chewed scenery so shamelessly, even Al Pacino said, "Sheesh, tone it down, man. Hoo-HA!," and the Boston accents were atrocious (even Damon's was over the top) . . . but I still liked it quite a bit, though it's no "GoodFellas" by any stretch. DiCaprio convinced me he's legit in that movie, and I'll watch anything with Vera Farmiga, even though she sort of looks like Marilyn Manson's super-hot and popular sister.

The best truly Boston movie I have seen might be "Gone Baby Gone," though it was exceedingly depressing at the end. I told my wife the general plot and she has absolutely no interest in watching it even though it's been on our DVR for about a year.

What do you think Tito's nickname will be for Scutaro? I'm thinking Scoot, or 'Co. Or perhaps, Nick Green Ice. -- Pete

Tito sometimes throws a curveball with those. He called Alex Gonzalez "Gonzi" when everyone else was going with the logical "Gonzo," and it's always amused me that he's the only person on the planet who refers to Big Papi simply as "David."

I suspect for Scutaro, he'll go "Scoots," plural, just to mix it up. Though "Millsy" is another possibility. Even with Brad Mills in Houston, he'll never be able to quit that one cold turkey.

If Theo is unable to re-sign Bay and Holliday is either unavailable or unwilling to agree to a fair contract, would you be willing to give an Adrian Gonzalez-type trade package to the Brewers for Ryan Braun? -- CloakandSwagger

So if Theo calls Shapiro and offers to take Kerry Wood and his silly salary and offer back Ellsbury and Bowden, might Theo be able to get Grady Sizemore coming back to Boston too? -- Velvet Jones

Can't imagine the Brewers would trade Braun, Cloak. According to Cot's, he signed an eight-year, $45 million deal in May 2008, and isn't even making the big bucks yet; he's down for $1 million in '10, then that jumps to $4 million in '11 and $6 million the year after.

Given that his most similar player through age 25 is Manny (Braun has a pretty eclectic top 10, including Mike Greenwell, Fred Lynn, Vladimir Guerrero, and Danny Tartabull), I'd say he's going to be in scenic Milwaukee for the foreseeable future.

As for Sizemore, I've also wondered if he might be available, Velvet. He's coming off elbow and abdominal injuries that negatively affected his performance last season. He hit .248 and his slugging percentage and on-base percentage were career-lows in his five seasons as a starter.

Again, most if not all of that has to be fallout from the injuries, and at 26, it's logical that he'll bounce back. Even if he isn't exactly what he was before the dual surgeries, I can't see the club trading him, because he's still young -- just a year older than Jacoby Ellsbury -- and a total bargain. He's signed to a team-friendly six-year, $23.5 million deal through 2011, with a club option for $8.5 million in '12.

Does your wife ever get angry at you watching sports or can you watch it endlessly with no negative comments from her because she knows you can simply say, "It's my job; it puts food on the table!"? -- Michael

Let's just say that approach -- and I do break it out every now and then, usually when "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" is on -- is not nearly as effective as I'd hoped.

Chad, how about for this entire chat we all type in baby talk and you type in Elvis talk? Oaky-doaky Chaddi waddie? -- Peter

Chad is no longer in the building.


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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