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Sunday Mail: For the resilient Celtics, it really is a win-win situation this season

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  February 8, 2014 11:02 PM

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My favorite line from the Baseball Prospectus annual so far is in the capsule writeup of a certain former Red Sox righthander and habitual nibbler who is now with the Mets' designated Human Ballgame-Elongator.

"If there's one way to further aggravate a disgruntled fan base, it's making them sit through Daisuke Matsuzaka."

So perfect, I had to share. Anyway, since my intended Celtics-centric lede to this column this week ended up arriving in the form of a question, let's just jump right to the ...

THE MAILBOX

chin020714celticskings_spt17.jpgWhen is Danny Ainge going to start making some trades? I'm getting nervous that the Celts are not bad enough and are destined to land in the dreaded 6-10 area of the lottery.
-- Guest

Well, they can probably get Marcus Smart in that range now. Quick aside: I was sort of taken aback by how many media people were quick to scold, ''He can't shove a fan no matter what was said. Tsk-tsk." That's baloney. Of course it matters what was said. And there aren't many other more reprehensible breeds of loser in sports than an adult who taunts a college athlete.

Anyway, to answer the question ... well, he has already made trades. The Courtney Lee deal was January 7 (and he's playing very well for Memphis -- he had 22 points Wednesday against Dallas and is shooting 54.2 percent since the trade). Jordan Crawford and future D-League scoring champ MarShon Brooks went to Golden State eight days after that. I'm sure he'd have moved Brandon Bass or Jeff Green by now had he been presented with a tempting enough offer. There are 11 days left to the deadline. He'll do more.

As far as tankapalooza goes, you know what? I'm just rolling with the punches and not worrying about whether they have the third-most ping-pong balls or the seventh-most. It's best for this team to lose, obviously, but it's damn fun when they win. And they deserve to win, to get a reward once in a while.

They play hard for the most part. They don't back down. They're well-coached. It's not really fair to them to be bummed that they won when they play like they did against the Kings the other night. I'll see the big picture when they lose, and be happy for them when they win, and you bet I hope that mind set brings the sort of karma that gets them some overdue luck in the lottery.

wellsdavidfinn226.JPGChances that 2014 mirrors 2005 for the Sox? Feels like we lost some key pieces (Jacoby Ellsbury/Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Stephen Drew maybe) similar to in 2004 (Pedro Martinez, Orlando Cabrera, Derek Lowe). Is this year different because instead of Matt Clement/David Wells/Wade Miller, they're letting the young guys play and didn't lose much in the rotation?
-- BoggsFan26

Yeah, I think that's a big part of it -- there's a ton of young talent on the way. The farm system was just beginning to recover from the Duquette-era neglect then. There wasn't a wild-card like Xander Bogaerts who was ready to contribute in '05. Hanley Ramirez was BA's 10th-rated prospect, but had played just 32 games above Single A at that point and had serious makeup questions.

There certainly wasn't the high-ceiling pitching depth at Pawtucket that there will be this year -- Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, and Anibal Sanchez had spent the previous year in Single A, with Abe Alvarez the closest thing to a pitching prospect on the verge of helping.

You know what else? I just can't see this team suffering from the hangover that the '05 team had, and actually deserved to have. They have organizational depth the '05 team didn't have, and an abundance of resources to make a big trade if necessary. The pitching is much better, and in retrospect, Theo Epstein was too clever for his own good in thinking David Wells was any kind of solution.

Remember, Curt Schilling made three starts in April, gave up 16 runs in 17.2 innings, then had to be shut down until July, when he came back as the closer because Keith Foulke also left it all out there the previous October.

The 2005 season was a constant uphill battle to make the playoffs, and it's pretty remarkable that they even managed that.

This time around, the Sox may not be as good as they were last year, because everything went right. But they won't have the lingering champagne headache of '05.

Can we all agree that there will never be a consensus on the greatest QB of all time? Too many variables exist, specifically the era that each QB played in, the philosophies employed in those eras & the officiating. Today's NFL is a passer's league with defenses hampered by how much they can hit, touch the QB, etc.
-- Jake From State Farm

The debate will never stop, because one of the fundamental joys of following sports is debating who was better over generations. But you're definitely right, there will never be a correct, totally objective answer, because the rules have changed the game too much. I mean, if Dan Marino were in his prime now, is there any doubt he'd have thrown for 65 touchdowns in a season by now? You know he believes it.

Did you watch the NFL SoundFX footage from the Super Bowl. Manning basically blames everyone else but himself for multiple plays. He yells at Welker at one point for not catching a ball that was 5 feet too high telling him "Come on Welker we need that catch"... and at the start of the game after the safety John Fox says "wow it is louder then I thought it would be" and Manning says 'We should have started with the silent count."
-- PJ

I didn't see it, but I'm going to seek it out now. Sounds like the feel-good film of the winter. Was Fox covering his ears while he mentioned how loud it was?

You know, all quarterbacks rip into their teammates at times, especially when things aren't going right. We've seen Brady freak at Joey Galloway among others through the years. But it seems just a little whinier when Peyton does it, doesn't it?

He's never been the most accountable loser, even when it's obvious he's trying to say all of the things Archie taught him that a quarterback says after a loss.

Ever listen to the Effectively Wild podcast with Sam Miller and Ben Lindbergh? It's pretty funny and I certainly appreciate their candor and honesty mixed in with sabermetric ideas.
-- Willie

I like it a lot, even though Ben speaks in a manner that makes every statement or comment sound like a question. Good chemistry, subtle humor, and it's smart -- I mean, both of those guys are open-minded and creative; they like talkng baseball and they like thinking baseball, but you don't get the condescension you get from someone like Joe Sheehan, whose attitude does no favors for the perception of sabermetrics.

Ben's piece for Grantland last year on Derek Jeter's hideous defense was incredible in the way he used video to help illustrate his clear writing on a complicated subject. And Sam wrote a piece for the Hall of Nearly Great book on Brian Downing in which he illustrated his career from the perspective of all the times he wasn't supposed to be good enough.

Chad, simply put our defense is slow, plodding, and predictable. It doesn't scare anyone, it doesn't put pressure on anyone, and unless it generates turnovers, it is thoroughly mediocre. I really think that BB & Patricia gets too many passes from the media (injuries, it's about a team concept, etc) when for the past 4 years, the Pats season has ended in losses because the defense remains unable to stop above average teams on 3rd down. Why does the BB kool-aid drinking continue?
-- ChadinDallas

Is this for real? Honestly don't know. Maybe it's performance art, an attempt at, I don't know, merging all of the stupid alarmist calls to the Felger and Mazz over the entire season into one perfectly obnoxious question.

I don't think it's that, though -- while "kool-aid" is a nice touch, he would have definitely included the word "concerned" somewhere. And there'd definitely be a reference to the game passing him by or Hoodie the GM letting down Hoodie the Coach.

But I'm not going to believe it's real, either. I can't. Because if it were real, the failure to note that the middle of the defense got torn out early and they survived somehow ... or that the irreplaceable Pro Bowl cornerback got hurt in the AFC title game against the most prolific offense in league history ... or that the defense has become much younger and quicker since the last Super Bowl appearance two years ago ... well, all of that would suggest to me remarkable, even willful ignorance on what's really happened for the sake of having something to complain about.

And despite growing proof to the contrary, I'm still trying to convince myself that Patriots fans aren't taking Belichick and this era for granted. Let's move on before my ears start to bleed.

charafinn125.jpgBruins have been hot. Even in [the OT loss to the Blues Thursday] they managed a point with two goals in the third. Think the Olympic break hurts them because they're so hot, or helps keep vets like Zdeno Chara fresh come playoff time?
-- John McNamara

I think the break offers more positive than negative. They've been playing great since that Montreal debacle, with three wins in four games. And the loss was the Blues game you mentioned, coming back to tie from two down during the first Z-free game, when they had a ready-made excuse if they needed one. But they went into the break on the right note, smoking Ottawa Saturday, and this team has enough professionalism and character that you can pretty much count on them being ready to go when the 18-day break ends February 26.

I do wish there were more of a break for the players who will need it most -- Chara and Bergeron, both of whom were weary and battered by the time the puck dropped for Game 6 of the Finals in June, are playing in Sochi. And so is Tuukka Rask, who is 12th among goalies in ice time this season and could use a few more days off over the final 25 games. But I suppose Sochi is less of a grind than they'd be dealing with in the NHL over the next 2 1/2 weeks.

I just hope they get through this break without Louis Eriksson getting hit by a bus or having an anvil fall on him. Poor guy has had no luck this season.

Until next week, the mailbox is closed.

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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