Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you ...
1. I'm a long-time admirer of Rany Jazayerli's baseball writing. He was one of many terrific full- and part-time hires by Grantland, and his thoughtful Rany on the Royals blog actually makes me interested in, of all things, the Royals.
So it gave me pause yesterday morning when his assessment of Ben Cherington's job performance thus far was lukewarm at best. But upon further consideration, I'm going to have to kindly suggest he swung and missed. I don't think you can praise the Astros' acquisition of Jed Lowrie ("A switch-hitting shortstop with a career .252/.324/.408 line? Yeah, I'll take two.") without acknowledging his significant flaws. Lowrie's range is subpar (minus-17.4 UZR last season). His arm couldn't be trusted, in part because he seemed to be casual with his throws. He'll be 28 in April and has never played more than 88 games in a season because of recurrent injury issues. There's a not a lot of risk on the Astros' part in acquiring him, but there is a chance he never pans out there, either.
And while it's fair to be skeptical about the probability of Daniel Bard succeeding as a starter, citing his awful statistics the last time he was full-time starter (Single A, 2007) needs to come with the caveat that the Red Sox fiddled with his mechanics and his command returned when he was allowed to use the delivery that made him a first-round pick in the first place. It wasn't as simple as sending him to the bullpen and, presto, instant relief ace.
It's understandable to conclude Cherington should have done more so far this offseason -- a proven righthanded-hitting right fielder would be nice -- I like the way he's gradually filling in the roster around the core stars. I hated the Punto signing at first -- yes, hated is the right word -- but upon deeper consideration, he's a utility guy who knows he's a utility guy, and who has consistently excellent defensive metrics at three infield positions. If Bobby Valentine doesn't play him more than he should, he can be a valuable asset. Melancon seems like a worthy addition to a bullpen that is not yet complete, whether he's the closer or replaces Bard as the relief ace. Yeah, I'll take two of him.
It's apparent that Cherington is looking for useful -- and yes, inexpensive -- secondary pieces who fulfill a certain need, the belief being that the core of an excellent team is already in place. I wouldn't call his offseason "distressing." I'd call it a promising work in progress.
2. The seven-year contract extension Adrian Gonzalez signed with the Red Sox last April kicks in this coming season, and for those who wondered last year why the Red Sox gave up three fine prospects to acquire him from the Padres rather than waiting for him to hit free agency (other than the chance to get his bat in the lineup a year earlier), perhaps Albert Pujols's deal with the Angels helps provide some context.
Pujols is two years and four months older than Gonzalez, had a lower OPS last season (.906 to Gonzo's .956), will be under contract for three years longer, and will make $100 million more over the length of the deal.
If Prince Fielder ends up landing a deal in the $200 million range, the Sox's deal with Gonzalez has to be considered a relative bargain, even considering the talent they parted with to bring him here.
3. Not to belabor the point, but the Astros are going to discover what Terry Francona often hinted at but never said outright -- that Lowrie doesn't defend well enough to play shortstop on a regular basis. Brad Mills, who was Francona's bench coach before becoming the Astros manager for the 2010 season, probably has some idea what he is getting. But Lowrie has slipped defensively in the two years since he left.
But if he stays healthy -- yup, that's one Rauch-sized if -- he can be a productive super-utility player for Houston, a .280/15 HR/.775-OPS-type, especially if he realizes he's much better off hitting from the right side, The change of scenery was necessary, and the time is now, but he has the talent to do well, and I hope he does.
4. A victory over the Patriots would have brought the Tim Tebow hype to levels even beyond their current insufferable state. Even in defeat, I doubt the hype will die down -- the theme for this week on "ESPN: First Tebow Featuring Skip Bayless Based On The Novel By Sapphire" will be, "Can Tim Tebow bounce back?"
Yes, the saturation Tebow coverage got to be a little much leading up to the Patriots game, but the justification is in the numbers -- ratings, page views, and all of that stuff that nowadays influences content decisions. After watching him play from the first whistle to the last against the Patriots, I'm convinced the buzz will probably fade out early next season.
He's a fine football player, but does not throw well enough to play quarterback, and I think we'll eventually look back at Sunday and realize it was the end of his entertaining but unsustainable small-sample-size run of football miracles.
5. Mike Aviles can't really be in the picture as a righthanded-hitting option in right field, can he? Um ... I think he can, or at least will, and I'd love to see Jazayerli weigh in on that.
He's hit lefthanded pitching well (.299 average, .814 OPS) over the course of his four-year career, and while he looked shaky during his five games and 19 innings worth of cameos in the outfield last season, he's athletic enough to take to the position.
I'll keep saying it until you agree with me: If they weren't going to get involved on Carlos Beltran, Josh Willingham, or Michael Cuddyer (now an overpriced member of the Rockies), taking a shot at lefty-masher Andruw Jones would have been an appealing solution.
6. While in the big picture it is of course an extraordinary blessing that the Celtics caught Jeff Green's heart problem during his physical, it's a bummer from a basketball perspective that he will miss the entire season while recovering from surgery for aortic aneurism.
But please, can we refrain from using Green's health status to blame Danny Ainge yet again for trading Kendrick Perkins? No, the deal did not work. But it was a gamble he had to take -- the Celtics knew they'd need more help on the perimeter in the postseason against Miami and, though they never faced them, Chicago.
Perk, as admirable as he was, was injured, ineffective in Oklahoma City after the trade, and was headed toward free agency.
He couldn't have saved them against Miami, either, though I'll admit he probably could have frightened Chris Bosh into going all fetal once or twice.
7. With the revelation about Green's health, it's even more disappointing that the reports that David West was headed to the Celtics proved premature.
He'd have been a great fit with his toughness and scoring ability, and you know Larry Bird enjoyed swiping him out from under Ainge's nose and bringing him to the Pacers on a two-year deal. Bah. I hate lamenting things before the season has even begun.
8. It seems to me that the conventional public perception of Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo is that he's a talented, bright linebacker who, despite leading the NFL in tackles last season, probably doesn't make enough highlight plays to be considered truly elite.
The suspicion here for a while has been that he's recognized as much more than that within the Patriots locker room and meeting rooms, and his essential importance to Bill Belichick's way of doing things is confirmed in his new five-year deal. He's a damn valuable player who is worth more than outsiders can comprehend.
9. The initial reaction here as a giddy collection of Kansas City Chiefs emptied a bucket of Gatorade on Romeo Crennel's head Sunday: RAC can still really coach, and I wish he had somehow found his way back to the Patriots sideline after he was dismissed in Cleveland.
Second reaction? Man, those guys must have really loathed Todd Haley, the NFL coaching embodiment of Clint from "Dazed and Confused." I have no doubt he tried to beat up Matt Cassel at least once down by the moon tower.
10. As for today's Completely Random Basketball Card:
I'll keep the recommendation simple, since it's one I've made before: If you're a basketball fan and you've never read David Halberstam's 1981 masterpiece "The Breaks of the Game,'' which elegantly uses the narrative of a season spent with the post-Walton 1979-80 Trail Blazers as a device to consider the condition of American society, do yourself a favor. Buy a copy on Amazon or your neighborhood used bookstore and jump it ahead of all the new bestsellers you'll get for the holidays.
I'm not one to re-read many books, but I break this one open every few years, and it's always as wonderful and fulfilling as I remember.
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.