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Touching All the Bases

Sunday Mail: Even After the 'Final' Cut to 53 Players, Changes Will Come to Patriots' Roster

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A couple of quick thoughts on the Patriots roster after the hardly final roster pruning to 53:

1) Betcha some team offers the Patriots a sixth-rounder for Ryan Mallett between now and next Sunday at 1 p.m. Betcha they take it, too. Should the unthinkable happen to Tom Brady, the ideal is to have a quarterback at least experienced in the system, if not in actual NFL games, to step in. That's a big reason Matt Cassel succeed in 2008. He paid attention during his three years as the understudy, and so when he had to play, what he was being asked to do was familiar. But this circumstance would be different. Even if Jimmy Garoppolo knows no more than, hell, 3.2 percent of the playbook at this point in time, he's already established himself as the superior quarterback, and that gap will only widen as he gets more acclimated. Mallett is the same thing now as he was when arrived: a tall dude with a big arm who seems to believe that's enough to get by. His stay is nearing its conclusion.

2) Josh Boyce was fast. Yep. Now tell me if you saw any other attribute out of the kid besides that speed that suggested he could play wide receiver in the NFL. I sure didn't.

3) There's no way Rob Ninkovich is the Patriots' long snapper. They'll sign someone else, as Belichick all but admitted today. Putting Ninkovich, such a versatile, valuable member of the defense, in that grunt-work role is the equivalent of using Gronk to block on extra points or Richard Seymour as a blocking fullback. It's asking for trouble.

4) Always fascinates me how Belichick and Nick Caserio shuffle and reshuffle the back end of the roster after the supposed final cutdown. I love that they'll scour the waiver wire for discarded talent, but you'd also think that the familiarity with the players they have had in camp would give them an advantage in sticking around. It really doesn't.

On to ...

THE MAILBOX

With Koji Uehara's recent struggles should he have been shopped also? Should have been able to get a decent return for him at the break.
-- Rear View Mirror

Sounds like they got offers, just nothing enticing enough to seriously consider. Seemed to me the most logical destinations (Detroit, LAA) addressed their bullpen issues elsewhere before the deadline. There weren't contending teams beyond that with closer situations desperate enough to pay a ransom for a 39-year-old closer in his walk year, even one as effective as Koji. I hope and believe he'll be back next year, but geez, there's really no need to have him throw another pitch this year. Give him the rest now that he didn't get last September and October. Same goes for Junichi Tazawa. John Farrell overworks him like he has a two-for-one coupon on Tommy John surgeries that he really wants to cash in before it expires.

Chad, Correct me if I'm wrong, and he did have a good run in St. Louis, but in Allen Craig's short time in Boston, his approach at the plate looks suspiciously like WMB's. I hope I'm wrong.
-- Bill from CT

penawilymofinn8.JPGSaw your WMB there (Will MiddleBrooks, I guess?) and read it as WMP (Wily Mo Pena). Which, in essence, is the same thing, or at least the same approach to attempting to hit a baseball. Craig has had some Middlebrooksian tendencies this year for sure -- he looks out of whack against breaking balls away, which has been a common and probably incurable issue for Middlebrooks. It also seems to confirm some scouts' assessment of Craig -- that he's still having some balance issues at the plate, perhaps because of bad habits developed while trying to compensate for his foot injury. I'm skeptical that he's going to work out the way the Red Sox hope, but I'll say this: Craig already had a better run than Middlebrooks ever will. His .373 on-base percentage last year is like two Middlebrooks seasons added together. OK, maybe it's not that bad. But man, where has Middlebrooks's power gone? Two homers in 166 plate appearances this year. Who would have thought the Mark Reynolds comp was wishful thinking?

Any chance I make a Foxboro return?
-- BenJarvus Green-Ellis

Nah. At his best, he was just dependable more than anything else. Now he's 29 and coming off a season in which he averaged 3.4 yards per carry. Running backs age in dog years, man. And remember his extraordinary stretch without a fumble that we always talked about while he was here? Think it dated back to high school. Well, he's fumbled five times the last two years -- just two fewer than Stevan Ridley. I'd rather see them give a shot to a potential next BJGE like Jonas Gray.

Thoughts on the NHL adding four(!!!) new teams to the league?
-- JB

Well, the report began with that Tony Gallagher guy in Vancouver, who strikes me as the Skip Bayless of hockey, so take it for what it's worth. But if there's some legitimacy to it, I do like the four potential cities (Vegas, Seattle, Toronto and Quebec City). Toronto can handle a second team easy, and I'm all for a Nordiques revival. I'm pleasantly surprised half of the allegedly proposed four are in Canada given that NBC, which has huge clout with the league, gets no ratings or benefit from teams based north of the border. What I don't like is that the league is already watered down talent-wise, and the best idea -- whether based in reality or not -- would be to add these four teams and contract or move at least four, starting with the usual suspects among the warm-weather-based teams in the US.

Whatever happened to Boston Sports Live? I like that show -- you, Gasper a little pepper from Shaughnessy and salt from Ryan. Will it come back?
-- Chris M.

I hope so. I really enjoyed doing that and Globe 10,0, which is also on potentially permanent hiatus. The way I understand it, management decided to reallocate our video resources toward more long-form stuff, which certainly sounds worthwhile. But I miss bickering with Gasper every Monday and filling in as host and all of that. And it had value to me beyond that stuff. Because I turn down opportunities to appear on local shows -- I want to avoid as much as possible potential conflicts of interest regarding my media coverage -- it was my only outlet to do that sort of electronic media stuff. It was also a decent opportunity to learn first-hand what the people I'm writing about deal with in terms of live television, how to carry yourself on camera, ad-libbing, that sort of thing. Being absolutely horrible at it, it gave me extra appreciation for those who make it look easy.

Until next week, the mailbox is closed. Exit music, please:

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