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Ten Free Minutes

On Patriots cuts, Bruins newcomers, and more

  August 30, 2013 12:22 PM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you ...

wilson-big.r[1].jpg1. I hope Adrian Wilson makes the Patriots. I don't think he will. And I don't know about you, but I caught myself daydreaming Thursday night, as he spent the fourth quarter on the field with far less accomplished players, about how much of a difference he might have made in the Patriots defensive backfield the past few seasons had they been fortunate enough to have him in his prime. If only they'd acquired him a couple of years earlier rather than a year too late. (Now watch: Bill Belichick will keep him rather than sending him the way of John Lynch and Tank Williams.)

2. The "surprise" cuts are already coming, what with the report that tight end Jake Ballard has been let go. Wonder if he ends up back with the Giants. I suppose it could be taken as a good indication that Rob Gronkowski may be back sooner than expected, or that Zach Sudfeld has the coaching staff's faith. Or maybe it just means Ballard hasn't recovered from his knee injury. This much we are sure of: If you're a veteran player on the field deep into the fourth quarter of the final preseason game, you're probably going to be turning in that playbook soon.

3. I cannot believe the Bruins opener is Oct. 3, barely more than a month away. Chicago feels like yesterday. But I can't recall being as eager for the start of a new season as I am for this one. Nathan Horton will be missed, but I can't wait to see what Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson bring. They should be ideal fits.

4. And that's one among the many reasons that Peter Chiarelli's contract extension, announced this morning, is great news. He, along with Cam Neely and Claude Julien, have built more than a team. They've built an organization -- pronounced or-gan-EYE-zay-shun, of course -- in which they acquire and develop players who fit a structure that is already in place.

5. Quick question: Which team has/had more individual talent on its roster, the current Celtics excluding the injured Rajon Rondo, or the 1996-97 Celtics that featured Rick Fox, David Wesley, Antoine Walker, Dee Brown, Dana Barros, Dino Radja, and Todd Day? That team, as mismatched and poorly guided as they were, had some decent talent. And they won 15 games.

.victorinoshane830finn.jpg6. You remember him as a Padre? I don't. Probably because he had a .410 OPS in 83 plate appearances in 2003. He didn't really break through with the Phillies until 2006.

7. Not sure how even the most delusional Yankees fan can defend Derek Jeter's defense after reading -- and watching -- this extraordinary piece by Ben Lindbergh at Grantland. It even demythologizes the value of the jump throw.

8. Sports Illustrated picks the Patriots to win the Super Bowl, beating Pete Carroll's Seahawks. ESPN the Magazine has them going 9-7, losing the division to the Dolphins and missing the postseason altogether. Do with that what you will.

9. I do hope Jerry Remy comes back next year, but it's a heck of a thing when the fill-in is arguably the best color analyst in baseball, national or otherwise. I hope NESN recognizes what it has in Dennis Eckersley.

10. As for today's Completely Random Baskeball Card:

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Happy 60th (60th!) to The Chief, the unsung member of the Big Three and so essential to those great '80s Celtics teams.

This should be Ray Lewis's last dance

  January 15, 2013 09:17 AM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you ...

lewis.r.jpg1. The chance to watch the Patriots end Ray Lewis's praise-the-Lord-but-keep-the-camera-on-me charade is almost too delicious to contemplate. In defeat on the road, would he dare to do one final dance, perhaps called "Squirrel to Hibernation and then ESPN,'' in which he orders the Ravens' p.r. guy to put extra turf and random acorns on the field for him to toss around? He belongs in the NFL and the Self-Promotion Hall of Fames, joining Deion Sanders among others in both. But he's much better at the latter than the former, and has been for years.

2. If the Patriots go with their accelerated offense -- and if they don't immediately against an aging, injured Ravens defense that is coming off a double-overtime game in Denver's high altitude, you have to suspect John Fox has somehow taken over the play calling for Josh McDaniels -- Lewis will be completely exposed, particularly if Aaron Hernandez plays with the explosiveness and consistency he did against the Texans. With Rob Gronkowski out for the playoffs, the Patriots need Hernandez to be steadily excellent -- he wasn't in last year's Super Bowl loss -- and he'll get a great opportunity Sunday to prove he's as dependable as he is talented.

morsemikefinn113.JPG3. I'm not sold on Mike Morse as a Plan B if the Mike Napoli deal falls through. He's never played more than 146 games in a season, which he accomplished during his his 31-homer, .910 breakthrough season in 2011, and he's played more than 102 just twice. There's some appeal in watching the 6-foot-5-inch, 245-pound former shortstop take aim at the Monster, but he's no safe bet to be durable, and acquiring him would cost legitimate prospects and/or roster players. Signing Napoli on a one-year deal seems like a better plan, even with the questions about how long his hip will hold up.

4. Wouldn't mind the Red Sox bringing back Casey Kotchman as a lefty option/defensive replacement. While it's probably fair to presume at this point that he's never going to live up to his pre-2005 billing as the sixth-best prospect in baseball, he's excellent with the glove, is one year removed from an .800 OPS season in 563 plate appearances with the Rays, and he won't be 30 until February.

Thumbnail image for eckersleyfinn114.jpg5. I mentioned on Twitter a week or so ago that on the back of Dennis Eckersley's 1992 baseball card -- the one pictured here -- he lists his favorite singer as Richard Marx. Good thing I let it stand on its own and resisted the usual snark or I might have had a story to tell along the lines of this one. (Is it me, or does the writer come across as the real jerk in this piece? I'll be right here waiting for your answer.)

6. Enjoyed my colleague Fluto Shinzawa's item in his notebook Sunday on Chris Bourque's quest for a spot on the Bruins' third line as he tries to establish himself as a member of the team for which his dad starred for so long. Figure it also has to be the first story in the Globe archives in which the phrase "Bourque's defensive shortcomings" appears, wouldn't you say?



7. Ed Reed was the 24th pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. Players chosen ahead of him included David Carr, Joey Harrington, Mike Williams, Wendell Bryant, Donte' Stallworth, William Green, T.J. Duckett, Ashley Lelie, and, by the Patriots, Daniel Graham. I suspect Reed, not Lewis, is the most respected opponent among the Patriots this week, and he's a free agent after this season. Though he's 34 and injuries have taken a toll, here's hoping Sunday's game at Gillette Stadium is a precursor to Reed playing his home games in Foxborough next season.

8. Even with Jared Sullinger's emergence as a legitimate starter on a good team -- his instincts, intelligence, and extraordinary hands, especially rebounding in traffic, have made him a favorite already -- the Celtics are going to require another rebounder if they're going to play on as far as they hope. Danny Ainge will make a trade. I just hope it can be consummated without giving up Courtney Lee, who after an ugly start has really found his niche as a dogged defender who can run on the break with Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley. He fits more than Jason Terry does at this point.

9. Bradley is so tenacious and matrix-quick that he's the rare player whom you look forward to watching play defense. He recently tormented James Harden so relentlessly that late in the game the Houston star probably half-expected Bradley to leap out of his beard to poke the ball away. And his ability to force turnovers and turn them into easy scoring opportunities is essential on a team that goes through weird droughts in its halfcourt sets. So we can say it, right? His value to the Celtics was not exaggerated whatsoever in his absence.

armondhillfinn114.jpg10. As for today's Completely Random Basketball card:

You might recognize him as the stoic assistant coach usually seated a few seats down from Doc Rivers on the Celtics bench, but he preceded Doc as the Hawks' point guard (and feeling the four-letter-word wrath of Hubie Brown) and was briefly his teammate during 1983-84, Doc's first season and Hill's last.

Iglesias, Ciriaco are pieces, not solutions

  October 18, 2012 12:10 PM

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Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you ....

1. Surprised how many readers I hear from whose rebuilding the Red Sox blueprint includes significant roles in 2013 for Pedro Ciriaco and Jose Iglesias. Ciriaco is energetic and fast, but he also had a .560 OPS in 111 plate appearances beginning September 1, and he's 27 years old. He's an upgrade on Nick Punto, but not much more. As for Iglesias, his potentially golden glove is mesmerizing, but until he hits better than .251/.302/.287 in Triple A (let alone .135/.210/.203 in the bigs), his upside is nothing more than the next Willie Miranda/Ray Oyler/Mario Mendoza/Name Your Favorite Lousy-Hitting Shortstop Here. And that will get old faster than A-Rod.

2. I like John Smoltz as a broadcaster, but did I actually hear him say the other night that Justin Verlander could become the best of all-time? Verlander's best season so far was the amazing replica he put together last year of Roger Clemens's 1986 season, when the Tigers ace won the American League Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards. His ERA+ was 172. Smoltz's former teammate, Greg Maddux, surpassed that number four times and had an insane ERA+ of 163 overall during his 11 years as a Brave. (And because I can't resist, Pedro Martinez's was 190 during his seven years with the Sox, and 154 overall.)

3. As much as would be great to still have Adrian Beltre here, you'd have to have Ted Williams's vision on your hindsight to suggest retaining him should have been their priority that offseason. He rebuilt his value here and departed, which seemed to be the plan all along. And Kevin Youkilis did have a .975 OPS that season.

4. One small blessing of the NHL lockout: It gives Nathan Horton just a little more time to make sure all of the clouds are gone.

5. Trading Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell goes down as a positive deal in my book -- sacrificing a briefly great young player for two players who were essential in winning a championship is the right thing to do. What I don't like about that deal isn't so much missing out watching Ramirez develop, but the sense that it emboldened Larry Lucchino as a talent evaluator.

6. If there's a funnier recurring bit on Boston radio than Toucher and Rich's "Goucher Goes To The Movies,'' please, let me know where to find it. Once hockey season returns, play-by-play voice Dave Goucher must find a way to work "And they're bringing out The Gimp!'' into his calls, possibly whenever the Bruins face the Canadiens.

swishernick1015.jpg7. Any Sox fans out there still interested in Nick Swisher? I've never been on that bandwagon -- he's covered with more mustard than any hot-dog in the league -- but his disappearing act this postseason and his thin-skin in dealing with some moronic Yankees fan (no, that is not an oxymoron) suggests going into right field in the Bronx while wearing a Red Sox cap might not be something he'd endure well.

8. I don't think it's a major problem, and I'm not about to portray him as Tony Eason here, because Tom Brady is as tough as hell. But anyone who says he isn't more wary of the rush and more prone to dodging shadows than he was before his knee surgery simply doesn't want to see it.

9. Can't be the only one wondering whether Derek Jeter's broken ankle was in part caused by his body's unfamiliarity with going to the left. (Too soon? It's never too soon!) In all seriousness, here's hoping he comes back as good as new as the Yankees' third baseman next year. Watching the Yankees in the postseason isn't the same without Jeter and Mariano Rivera around.

Thumbnail image for aingedannyfinn.JPG10. As for today's Completely Random Baseball/Basketball Card:

Since the final buzzer of Game 7 against the Heat, Danny Ainge has re-signed Kevin Garnett, Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox and added Jason Terry, Jared Sullinger, Courtney Lee, Leandro Barbosa, and Darko Milicic to a bench that was so decimated late last season that Ryan Hollins and Marquis Daniels had to play key minutes. It's an amazing bit of reloading, and related to that, those howls about Ainge's general manager skills seem to have finally subsided.

Also: Ainge hit .220 with a .533 OPS in the majors. Say, think Jose Iglesias can hit a jump shot?

@GlobeChadFinn

Good to see Jacoby Ellsbury in leading role

  July 16, 2012 10:39 AM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you ...

ellsburyjacobyfinn716.jpg1. I suppose the five hits he has in nine at-bats since his return to the lineup has served as a reminder, but I thought not enough was made of Jacoby Ellsbury's absence and the effect it had on the Red Sox. Based on MVP balloting, he was the best offensive player in the league last season, and his numbers (212 hits, 32 homers, 46 doubles, 39 stolen bases, .928 OPS) stand as a historically great season. Future NL-pinch-hitter-extraordinaire Daniel Nava filled in beyond expectations in Ellsbury and Carl Crawford's absence, and Scott Podsednik had his moments, but the Red Sox also had to endure 268 mostly fruitless at-bats from Marlon Byrd, Darnell McDonald, and Ryan Kalish while biding their time until the varsity (copyright Larry Lucchino) returned. Seeing Ellsbury back at the top of the lineup makes it easier to have optimism about this team without searching too hard for it.

2. A three-run homer every once in a while would be swell, but any grievances regarding Adrian Gonzalez should stop well shy of suggesting he's jaking it by missing games due to illness and a back issue recently. He's a player who prides himself of being in there every day -- the fewest games he's played any season among the previous five is 159. He may be a disappointment, but he's not a malingerer.

3. One way to kill time before the start of Patriots camp, which can't get here soon enough: Stare at the depth chart, rattle off the names, and marvel at the talent Tom Brady will have at his disposal this season in the passing game alone: Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Deion Branch, Donte' Stallworth, Julian Edelman, as well as Danny Woodhead out of the backfield. There will be attrition, of course, and someone like Stallworth may not even make the cut. The passing game probably won't be as productive as the record-setting Randy Moss/Wes Welker fireworks show of 2007, but it will be able to torment a defense in more ways.

4. As far as the running backs beyond Woodhead are concerned, you have to figure Stevan Ridley, who suffered from acute fumbleitis late in his rookie season, will pick up most of BenJarvus Green-Ellis's carries, presuming he spent the offseason carrying a football everywhere he went like Darnell Jefferson in the "The Program.'' I can't envision Joseph Addai being anything more than the new Fred Taylor. Shane Vereen, whose rookie season was lost from the beginning, is my sleeper. The kid is electric in the open field.

5. Bruins one-timer: I'm probably in the minority on this, but I'd rather trade Milan Lucic than David Krejci in a deal for Anaheim's Bobby Ryan or another top-shelf forward. As enigmatic as Krejci can be -- he reminds me of Rajon Rondo in that regard to some degree -- he also has a track record of playing his best when the spotlight is brightest. But if it's Krejci or Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, forget it.

6. The theory that he was having ex-Celtics Remorse is interesting, and Ray Allen was certainly subdued at his introductory press conference (perhaps he was expecting a house DJ and maybe some pyrotechnics?) but it's hard for me to figure anyone going to Miami for millions of dollars to play with LeBron James is going to be bummed about much of anything for long.

mantlemickeyfinn.jpg7. As you probably can imagine, I can't get over the story about the haul of rare baseball cards found in someone's attic in Ohio. It's every baseball fan's daydream. Or a fan of loot and money, for that matter. I spent hours as a kid scouring my grandmother's attic trying to find my dad's extensive collection of '50s baseball cards, with not a trace of vintage '52 cardboard to be found. We all have a similar story, don't we? I can tell you this: Those cards, estimated to be bring $3 million if they are sold or auctioned, will go for a lot more than that. I'd bet double.

8. So assuming that Andrew Bailey returns to the Red Sox while the games still matter this season, is he the closer immediately, does he have to prove himself in a setup role first, or has Alfredo Aceves done enough to keep it? I'm leaning toward the latter, though there are fantasy baseball biases at play there.

9. Brent Lillibridge has a minus-33 OPS+ in 16 plate appearances for the Red Sox. It's a puny sample-size to be sure, but I look at his career 67 OPS+ in 600 at-bats -- not a puny sample size -- and I find myself hoping that the Red Sox don't ditch Ryan Sweeney to keep Lillibridge around, even considering his speed and defensive prowess. For some noodle-bat perspective, Craig Grebeck had a minus-55 OPS+ during his 43 plate-appearances with the Red Sox in 2001, while Cesar Crespo put up a beastly minus-4 OPS+ in 79 plate appearances in 2003.

10. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

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Still waiting for Lucchino's report on how "cheerful" he was after Bobby Valentine called him out for a lackadaisical defensive play Sunday.

Too soon for judgment calls on Cherington

  December 20, 2011 07:25 AM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you ...

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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.

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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.

FULL ENTRY

Bedard is a good gamble for Red Sox

  August 2, 2011 11:38 AM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you (a.k.a. the column format just about made obsolete by Twitter, as if that's going to stop me.)

bedard0802-thumb-609x416-47210.jpg1. I love the Erik Bedard move for a basic reason: When the guy has been healthy in his career, he has been a well-above average pitcher with almost no exception. Yes, we all realize the caveat as always with Bedard is "when he is healthy," since he missed the entire 2010 season with a shoulder injury and made just 46 starts (winning 15) since joining the Mariners before the 2008 season. The question of when, not if, he will get hurt will probably hang over every start, which is one reason why I wish they'd also found a way to bring in Rich Harden; maybe between the two of them they could provide a full season of effectiveness. But Bedard, who whiffed 221 batters in 185 innings for the Orioles in 2007, still has top-notch stuff, as evidenced by his 2.90 K/BB ratio (the second-best of his career) and 87 strikeouts in 91 innings. The Red Sox, as a couple of astute readers have pointed out, were up against a numbers crunch in the offseason with so many quality prospects eligible for the 40-man roster, and so I have no problem with them dealing four decent prospects for Bedard. I mentioned this on the Sox podcast, which will be posted later today, but it's worth noting here that Bedard's No. 1 statistical comp all-time is Ubaldo Jimenez, while Harden is No. 3. I don't care if he's mean to my friends. This is a risk worth taking.

2. If all indications are correct and Ty Warren's Patriots career formally ended when he was cut Friday, that leaves just one member of the franchise's vaunted 2003 draft on the roster -- center Dan Koppen, fifth-round steal that year. Seventh-rounder Tully Banta-Cain was also sent on his way today. In retrospect, that draft wasn't as good as it looked the first couple of seasons. Fourth-rounder Asante Samuel became a star at least judging by his salary and interception totals, but Dan Klecko was nothing more than a fan favorite, Bethel Johnson is still running very fast in a straight line somewhere, and Eugene Wilson's decline still remains a mystery at this address.

ochofinn.jpg3. Not sure if this makes sense -- wouldn't be the first time I left you scratching your skull, I imagine -- but in regard to the Patriots' two recent big-name acquisitions, I have to say I think there's a better chance they get greatness out of Albert Haynesworth than Chad Ochocinco. That's no knock on Ochocinco, who is genuinely hilarious, good-natured, and accomplished. But I'm convinced that he's slipped a bit as a receiver (12.7 yards per catch, 53-percent catch rate), and his role with the Patriots is going to be closer to what Deion Branch provided last season than what a casual fan might expect from a player with Ochocinco's fame and public profile. I'm skeptical that he's capable of greatness at this stage in his career. But with Haynesworth, it's still possible. If Belichick can keep him motivated and engaged -- I know, that if is as big as Haynesworth's belly -- he still has the talent to be one of the premier defensive players in the NFL. I like the Ochocinco signing more, but the Haynesworth move is the one that could be season-changing.

haynesfinn729.jpg4. Still snickering at the thought of Andy Reid -- who probably doesn't do a whole lot subtly -- swooping in to steal Nnamdi Asomugha from the Jets and Cowboys. The Eagles are no dream team, but they are loaded, at least until Michael Vick gets hurt and they have to play Vince Young . . . or Favre. Still, the Jets would have been something to behold had they been able to convince Asomugha to join Darrelle Revis in their defensive backfield. It would have given them arguably the two best cornerbacks in the league and, if I'm hearing this right, allow Rex Ryan to send the other nine defenders after the quarterback on every down. While my instinct as a lifelong New Englander was to hope it doesn't happen -- Asomugha is probably the first quality player I've ever hoped would sign with the Cowboys -- from a completely subjective football fan's perspective, it would have been fun to see how it works. That said, spare me the hyperbole that they would instantly become the best tandem cornerbacks ever to play on the same team, and the same goes for the Asomugha-Asante Samuel pairing. Neither would start for the 1983 Raiders.

5. I'm sure you keep reading the same vague rumors and conjecture that I do that the Patriots have one more big move on the way. Considering that no one in the national media other than occasionally Mike Lombardi has any clue what the Patriots are thinking, I'm skeptical. But that hasn't stopped me from hoping that Ricky Williams somehow ends up in the Patriots backfield this season. Like Ochocinco, he's not a malcontent so much as he is a person with a mind of his own, Belichick is open-minded and secure enough to worry that his authority could be threatened by a talented but free-thinking football player. I doubt it happens, because the Patriots have a deep backfield already. But I hope it does, and to me, it would count as a big move. (Related to that, I'm not sure that Matt Roth counts as a big move, and if the Patriots were interested, wouldn't he be signed by now?)


FULL ENTRY

Nothingman

  May 18, 2010 07:15 PM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

BWniSggWkKGrHgoH-CMEjlLl0rDjBKYRr2r.jpg1. OK, suckers, answer me this: Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Florida for Hanley Ramirez -- who blinks, Marlins or Red Sox?

(Yes, this is a test. If you're pondering the question seriously, I'm going to assume you're probably on hold with Ordway.)

We all heard the stories about Hanley's maturity issues when he was in the Sox system, but you'd think, at age 26, he'd be past the point where teammates want to beat him up every other day.

Yet there he was, dogging it so blatantly last night that even Manny Ramirez is probably insulted by his lack of respect for the game, then showing an utter lack of accountability and class afterward in undermining his manager and enraging his teammates.

At least there was usually a goofy charm to Manny when he was driving us crazy with his antics. Hanley's petulant insubordination seems a little more foreboding, and it's going to be fascinating to see how this plays out, because humility and contrition clearly aren't among his many tools.

2. To those of you who have wondered why I've always been steadily but vaguely skeptical of the alleged leadership virtues of Mike Lowell, today's passive/aggressive statement in which he says he might consider asking for his release -- coming a day after an absolutely devastating loss in which the club really doesn't need petty distractions -- goes on the board as a point in my favor.

3. I've always thought signing Lowell was the only truly sentimental move the Sox have made in Theo's reign. Fans desperately wanted him back, he'd just been named the World Series MVP. . . ah, hell, Jed, why not, we'll give him the three years.

I suspect today isn't the first day they've had some level of buyer's remorse, even with his decent production when healthy.

To Lowell's credit -- and this must be acknowledged -- he did turn down four years and $50 million from the Phillies to remain with the Sox. That home-team discount isn't ending well for either side.

4. NESN has been showing so many Taylor Hall highlights lately that you'd think the Bruins have the first pick rather than the second. Yet from what I've read outside of this market, it's very far from a sure thing that Edmonton will pick Tyler Seguin just because they need centers.

In a related note, this is the first time in my life I've been more interested in the NHL Draft than the NBA Draft, including the year the Bruins snapped up Joe Thornton first overall. You might recall that just four days after Jumbo Joe was drafted, Tim Duncan went to the Spurs, and Rick Pitino assured us that Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer were the future.

5. Ideal offseason for the Bruins: re-sign Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk, convince Methuselah Recchi to stick around one more year, swap Tim Thomas for a forward with a nose for the net, let Shaun Thornton depart, bring in a cheaper character fourth-liner or two, send maddening softy Blake Wheeler on his way to become someone else's enigma, tell Milan Lucic he was right to be frustrated that they went into the equivalent of a prevent defense in Game 7, send subliminal messages to Oilers GM Steve Tambellini to take Seguin, and hope David Krejci hands haven't lost any magic because of his devastating injury.

Voila . . . 2010-11 Eastern Conference champions, no?

(Don't you love how I'm suddenly Mr. Puckhead after covering two playoff games? OK, smart guys and girls, you tell me what the Bruins should do.)

FULL ENTRY

Confessions of a shrunken slugger

  January 13, 2010 11:38 PM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. Like wearing ill-fitting pants in public at all times and sidling in for seconds at the press center buffet, it is part of the sportswriter's code to opine solemnly whenever a baseball idol admits that, yes, those 520-foot home runs and 32-inch biceps might have been chemically enhanced. But try as I might to fulfill my duty, I just can't get too worked up about McGwire's admission. The summer of '98 was a true joy -- well, maybe true isn't the right word -- but anyone who has acquired a hint of skepticism along the way had to have strong suspicions even then about the method to McGwire's magic, particularly after AP reporter Steve Wilstein wrote about the androstenedione spotted in his locker. Though a forthright confirmation from McGwire was always lacking, we knew he was chemically enhanced long before yesterday, whether it was because of the eyeball test, the impossibly swollen numbers and biceps, reports from the credible (T.J. Quinn), creepy (McGwire's own brother) and the cartoonish (Jose Canseco), or his own whimpering performance before Congress. We also knew he'd have to address his past and provide his version of the truth if he ever wanted back in the game, and that was only a matter of time after he was named the Cardinals' hitting coach by his longtime manager, friend, and apologist, Tony La Russa. Yesterday, the time came. McGwire talked about the past, revealing nothing new beyond the fact that he is in serious denial about how much steroids helped him. His words should have come as no surprise. We'll reserve that emotion for the day he tells the whole story,

2. As far as McGwire's well-executed, semi-sincere, tear-stained mea culpa tour goes, the most staggering talking point was this: He used steroids in moderation because he didn't want to look like Lou Ferrigno. Child, please. He was huge even compared to "The Hulk," and he was probably one cycle away from telling rookie teammate J.D. Drew, "You won't like me when I'm angry." The only way his comment made any sense whatsoever is if he meant he didn't want to turn green. And I strongly suspect he would have been fine with looking like he had undergone photosynthesis had it ensured him of a few more home runs.

3. I'm not saying trading up 16 spots in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft was the Patriots' worst personnel maneuver of the Belichick Era, at least as long as Duane Starks and Monty Beisel aimlessly roam the earth. But it should be pointed out that in the Packers' 51-45 loss to the Cardinals in Sunday's varsity game, Greg Jennings had six fewer receptions for 41 fewer yards than Chad Jackson has in his entire NFL career. I'm going to assume no further explanation is necessary.

4. Which of these options would be the more appropriate way for the Patriots to start the offseason? Putting Adalius Thomas on the plane back to Baltimore after the game Sunday, or allowing him to join the Jets for their game this week since such an unholy union is inevitable next season? In a sense, the Thomas Error is one more sad result of the blown lead in the 2006 AFC title game. Had the Pats not lost to the Colts, Belichick wouldn't have been coaching in the Pro Bowl, and there a possibility he never would have been smitten with and suckered by Thomas's versatility. If ever a trip to Hawaii is regrettable, that was the one. (Update: Or maybe not. As reader Alex C. reminds me, "Robert Edwards and the Brady Bunch say hi.")

5. Maybe it's because he's been out of the public eye for five years, but McGwire looked strikingly older than we expected. Maybe the stress of his secret has taken its toll, but it was strange to see him looking like some bizarre, gray-bearded combination of James Hetfield and the Cowardly Lion.

6. Please give me a reason believe Wes Welker can come back a year from now at close to 100 percent of what he was before that ill-fated cut that caused his knee to collapse on the damned Reliant Stadium turf. Because right now, I'm having a hard time convincing myself that a player so dependent on quickness and cuts -- even one as uncommonly determined and dedicated as No. 83 -- can fully recover from such a devastating turn of events.

7. I can't blame Pete Carroll for pulling a Calipari, hopping in his vintage '91 Fiero convertable, and zipping up to Seattle before the NCAA posse can get to Los Angeles. What I can't figure is what the Seahawks are thinking, because Carroll is the exact same happy-go-lucky enabler of a coach that he was during his maddening time here, and there is no doubt that this will be his third strike as an NFL head coach. He'll get walked on by professional athletes -- hell, you could say that's what happened at Southern Cal. They were the college version of the '99 Pats, underachieving and relentlessly frustrating, mostly a lack of discipline. One difference: The Trojans might have had more depth than those disintegrating Pats of yesteryear. Southern Cal has roughly a half-dozen backs right now that are better than Sedrick Shaw '98.

8. Revisiting the Carroll/Grier era actually helps temper any lingering frustration with the end of the Patriots season, and anyway, I'm perfectly content believing in the Belichick Way even after a loss so embarrassing that those who live to question his methods had some justification for once. But I do wish one aspect of his approach would change: He needs to be more forthcoming about injuries, not for any benefit of the media (though that would be swell, too), but because he's doing his players an injustice in denying the details after the fact. The perception of Tom Brady's performance Sunday might be different if Belichick revealed that, yes, Charley Casserly was right for once and Brady was playing with three cracked ribs, not to mention a busted finger that prevented him from throwing deep, a shoulder that was never quite right after Albert Haynesworth plopped on it in preseason, and whatever else ailed him or any other player who is perceived to be underperforming when he reality he's playing in agony.

9. Programming note for you Sox old-timers, sentimentalists, and baseball nostalgia junkies: The MLB Network will premiere the 1967 episode of "Baseball Seasons" Wednesday at 8 p.m. From what I gather, there may be a mention or two of some fella who goes by Yaz. Also, the episode on the 2004 season will debut by the end of February.

10.

As usual, I'm on board with my wisecracking cousins at Surviving Grady. "Chicks dig the longball" is the single greatest baseball-themed commercial ever filmed. Who'd have ever pegged Glavine and Maddux as such an effective comedy team? They're like Leary and Clarke, but, you know, funny.

Passing thoughts

  November 17, 2009 07:05 PM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. All arguments, real and contrived, have been spouted and shouted about Bill Belichick's gutsy and ill-fated decision to go for . . . well, you know. So I'm going to keep my opinion on the matter simple, then move along, because there's nothing more to see here:

While I had the same reaction you probably did during that split second when it hit you that, yes, Dan Koppen did just snap the ball to Brady, and yes, they are actually going for this -- mine was something like "Holy [cow]," except the word used in my household was not synonymous with "bovine" -- in the stunning aftermath of the loss, I still kept coming back to the thought that by going for it, Belichick, more than anything else, revealed his tremendous respect for both superstar quarterbacks.

He preferred the option of trying to get two yards from Tom Brady rather than trying to keep Peyton Manning from getting 65, 70, whatever it would have taken to reach the end zone.

I can't fault him for that . . . and beyond that, I'm glad the Patriots have a coach who is willing to disregard conventional wisdom in such a tense and crucial moment and do what he thinks is right.

He is not Grady Little.

Seems to me he is the exact opposite.

2. The results are always fascinating and insightful whenever Belichick agrees to be miked up on the sideline, as he was a week ago against the Dolphins. (Love how he foresaw Pat White's involvement in the Dolphins' game plan.) But man, I can't help but imagine the compelling audio had he been miked up this week.

3. Buster Olney is as good as it gets as a baseball writer, and I mean that sincerely -- his smart and newsy blog would be a must-read even without all of the links. But . . .

. . . well, it's just that when he tweeted yesterday that "[the] NYY are not interested in signing Holliday. They'll talk to [agent Scott] Boras to keep other bidders honest, but corner outfield not a priority for them," it was difficult to contain my cynicism, particularly when recent history is given full consideration.

I mean, really? We're going to do this again? We're going to take the Yankees at their word? If a denial of interest isn't a sign that the Yankees are slobbering over Holliday behind clossed, then we haven't been paying attention the last couple of seasons.

The Yankees are playing their patented, "Eh, what do we need him for, we have Bubba Crosby/Nick Swisher?" routine, then swoop in at the last moment and trump any and all offers.

The paranoia of a Boston sports fan in action? Perhaps. But we've seen this movie before with Johnny Damon . . . not to mention its sequel starring Mark Teixeira last year. And both times, Boras was the director.

4. While I can't see the Red Sox going for him unless the sticker price is greatly discounted -- and I believe Ken Rosenthal's suggestion here qualifies -- the idea of Miguel Cabrera is more than intriguing.

He's Manny in his prime, but without the charm.

5. Remember in those gloomy pre-KG days a few seasons ago, when there was talk of the Celtics swinging a deal with the Sixers for Allen Iverson? Yeah, good thing that didn't happen -- The Answer most certainly would not have been here.

I've always had tremendous admiration for Iverson's toughness -- I can't think of another little guy who was so fearless in attacking the rim, save for maybe the more elegant Isiah Thomas -- but apparently that pride that helped him become such a dynamic player is preventing him, at age 34, from recognizing that he's no longer the centerpiece superstar of his youth.

In other words: He should be a great fit with the Knicks.

6. Best sports news of the day? Easy: Royals' Greinke wins AL Cy Young Award.

Thank goodness, they got it right.

The kid had a vintage Pedro season, and around here, you know we don't throw around that phrase or praise lightly.

That he was a nearly unanimous winner -- he earned 25 of 28 first-place votes -- despite having "only" 16 victories for a non-contender is an encouraging example of enlightened thinking.

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Late hits

  September 4, 2009 04:43 PM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. CNNSI's Jon Heyman speculates today that the Red Sox will consider pursuing Marco Scutaro in the offseason. All things considered, I'd rather have Gonzo back, even at his $6 million rate. At least you'd know what you were getting -- a graceful defender who occasionally surprises you at the plate. Scutaro has had the definition of a career year at age 35, batting .283 with 11 homers and 92 runs scored. But he's never had a career adjusted OPS higher than 96 until this year. (He's at 110 right now.) I have a feeling that if the Sox signed him, he'd sooner rather than later end up as more evidence that Theo has a fundamental flaw in identifying useful shortstops.

2. I've never seen a football player turn pure passion into overachieving performance quite the way Tedy Bruschi did. We're not underestimating his talent here, because it was vast, but more than anything else it was his uncommon and unrelenting desire for his profession that allowed him to go from a pass rushing defensive end in college to one of the most versatile and dependable big-play linebackers of his era. Kudos to Bruschi for knowing it was time for him to go, and for leaving so many wonderful memories behind.

3. Quick Pats predictions: Preseason All-Star BenJarvus Green-Ellis makes it as the fifth running back, Terrence Nunn gets cut and claimed before Belichick can stash him on the practice squad, Brandon McGowan makes it because of Matthew Slater's injury, A.J. Feeley is acquired before the end of the weekend for a mid-round pick, and Ben Watson beats out Alex Smith for the backup tight end job.

4. Joe Mauer is the American League Most Valuable Player, Zack Greinke deserves the Cy Young Award, and if you think otherwise, you're either from New York and/or have forgotten the Royals exist.

5. If Josh McDaniels decides the Brandon Marshall headache isn't worth it, here's hoping he does his former employer a favor and deals the childish wide receiver to the Jets. With blowhard Rex Ryan as the coach and a rookie at quarterback, he'll have no trouble demolishing the chemistry on that team quickly.

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No, not K-Rod . . .

  June 15, 2009 05:50 PM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. Listening to Red Sox player personnel director Mike Hazen discuss the future of last year's No. 1 pick, pitcher/shortstop Casey Kelly, during a radio interview with WJAB in Portland this weekend, I could help think back to a similar decision a previous regime had to make with Frankie Rodriguez. Like Kelly, Rodriguez was considered a premier prospect as a pitcher and as a shortstop. The Lou Gorman-era Red Sox chose to make him exclusively a pitcher. Based on his 5.53 ERA in parts of seven big-league seasons, it was not the correct choice. Kelly has been outstanding on the mound at two levels of Single A this season -- he's currently at Salem after going 6-1 with a Gibsonesque 1.12 ERA at Greenville -- but the Sox are intent on giving him a look at short after he reaches his innings limit. Not surprisingly, that's a more prudent approach to the pleasant dilemma than the one taken with Rodriguez 18 years ago.

2. I imagine Clay Buchholz is going to catch a lot of heat for his comments about his frustration at being with the PawSox, and maybe he should have kept his feelings to himself considering he is in Triple A because he was such a disaster during an extended stint with the Red Sox a season ago. But in another sense, I liked hearing that he's ticked, that he thinks he's "wasting bullets" in Triple A and should be in the big leagues. Not only because he's essentially right, but because he's going to be on a mission to prove he belongs once he gets to Boston -- and he will get to Boston well before the season is done. Just a little patience, kid.

3. All right, now that I'm officially aboard the Brad Penny bandwagon, here's my revised version regarding what the Sox should do with their pitching surplus once John Smoltz arrives: Put Daisuke Matsuzaka on the DL with any alleged injury that they can come up with. If he resists that, either bury him in the bullpen or work Smoltz in as a spot starter -- with those spots conveniently coming on days Dice-K is due to pitch. Actually, snark aside, I feel like the Sox will come up with a creative solution for this that doesn't involve a full six-man rotation (meaning Josh Beckett and Jon Lester will still pitch every fifth day), but one in which Smoltz, Penny, and Dice-K all get a decent share of work. How this can be done, I have no idea, but that's why they pay John Farrell the big bucks, right?

4. The coronation of King Kobe was too much for me last night -- I lunged for the clicker with about five minutes remaining before I could discover if he now gets a throne to match Phil Jackson's.

5. David Ortiz, over the last 14 days. Thirty-eight plate appearances, 33 at-bats, 3 homers, 11 RBIs, .303 batting average, 1.001 OPS. So I ask you: Is it too soon to say he's back? Because it is very tempting, particularly after his Papi Classic bomb off A.J. Burnett.

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Catching up

  May 18, 2009 04:54 PM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. Love the thought of the Sox poking around to see if the Indians might be willing to deal Victor Martinez. While genuine interest in the 30-year-old C/1B/DH might be taken as a sign that the Sox don't believe David Ortiz is going to snap out of this, there's no denying that Martinez, a lifetime .304 hitter with a habit of torturing the Sox in the Joe Carter tradition, would be an excellent fit, particularly given his versatility. You have to figure it would take at least one of the Daniel Bard/Michael Bowden/Clay Buchholz triumvirate to make it happen, and you know what? I'd be thrilled if Theo could pull it off for Bowden and a lesser prospect or two. I suspect Mark Shapiro may have other ideas, though, given that they are apparently more reluctant to trade him than they are Cliff Lee. At the least, it's something to keep an eye on if the Indians continue to stumble.

2. I just can't get myself worked up enough to gripe about the Celtics' no-show last night. Yeah, it's a bummer that the season -- not to mention the championship reign -- ended in such an anti-climactic manner. But time and again this postseason I've been impressed by the shorthanded Celtics' knack for delivering when the moment demanded it, whether it was Big Baby's buzzer-beater in Orlando, Ray Allen's string of big shots in the epic Chicago series, Rajon Rondo's triple-double binge, or a clearly weary Paul Pierce doing everything his legs would allow. These Celtics were true champions despite last night's conclusion, and they did their best to defend their crown despite losing their defensive fulcrum in Kevin Garnett and the admirable Leon Powe along the way. Yes, the ending was ugly, and it came a series short of where we expected them to bow out. But all things considered, I will remember this team with admiration. The better -- and healthier -- team won. No shame in that.

3. Words I'll probably regret writing: I want Stephon Marbury back with the Celtics next season. Seems to me we underestimated how long it would take for him to shake off the rust after roughly a year away from regular season NBA action. Provided he remains the same good and popular teammate he was this time around -- talk about your pleasant surprises -- I'd love to have him return as Rajon Rondo's caddy next year. Remember, the Celtics wouldn't have secured what ended up being their last victory of the season without his well-timed flashback. Maybe he has a few more in him.

4. You know shortstop remains the Bermuda Triangle for the Sox when Julio Lugo is the lesser of two evils. Nick Green did a nice job filling in early, but lately his true self has been revealed, at least defensively. He has eight errors in 23 games at short, which is almost enough to make one wonder if he's using a glove Edgar Renteria left behind.

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He's so old, he played with Tito!

  April 1, 2009 03:36 PM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. I doubt this is the end for Gary Sheffield -- fading sluggers always seem to get a couple of extra chances to prove their bat speed is going, going, gone -- but if it is, it makes for an interesting Hall of Fame debate. Sheffield has 499 homers, so he'll have his supporters for his counting numbers alone. Yet he was tainted by the BALCO scandal -- though not as badly as his good old ex-friend Barry -- and more accomplished players will apparently be banished from Cooperstown for their involvement with PEDs. Ultimately, I don't think Sheffield gets in, but I haven't quite made up my mind yet if he deserves to. Give me five years. (By the way, raise your hand if you knew Sheffield and Terry Francona were teammates on the 1989 Brewers. I bet Tito could tell a story or two.)

2. The Rangers released longtime Red Sox killer Frank Catalanotto tonight, eating roughly $6 million in order to keep the bloated carcass of Andruw Jones. Can he get to Fort Myers by the morning? Okay, I suppose they'd need to wait a little longer -- I think he has to clear waivers first -- but Catalanotto, a .314 lifetime hitter against the Sox, would be a good fit here. He has more versatility than the sweet-swinging but positionless Chris Carter, and he's a better player at this point than Mark Kotsay, whose spot Carter is keeping warm. Better yet, by signing him, the Sox wouldn't have to face him anymore. (Keep in mind, I'm still waiting for the Sox to sign Joe Carter, who I'm pretty sure averaged two homers and five RBIs per game at Fenway in his career.)

3. Three revelations I thought I spotted between the lines during Danny Ainge's interview with WEEI today. 1) Garnett won't have surgery until the season ends, but he almost certainly will after the season. 2) It was driving Garnett crazy -- well, crazier -- to play such a limited (in every sense) role. 3) The Celtics have absolutely no idea what they will get from their leader once the playoffs tip off.

4. The Red Sox are doing the proper thing by sending Clay Buchholz to Pawtucket to start the season. Until yesterday, he had enjoyed a practically flawless spring, one in which he reestablished himself as one of the premier pitching prospects in the game. That is undeniably encouraging, but the mistake the Red Sox made with him in the first place was expecting too much too soon. It's a credit to them that they're not going to let it happen again.

5. How did I miss this? Guess I don't check The Onion as much as I should. And yes, I'll admit I snorted at the one revealing Schill's "main goal about fighting Lou Gehrig's disease." I don't think that makes me a bad person. But it might.

6. Shaq's hugely popular and hilarious Twitter feed -- not to mention some choice recent one-liners (I heard what Chris Bosh said [about me]. Those are strong words coming from the RuPaul of big men.) -- have gone a long way toward confirming something to the general public that Rick Reilly has been writing for years: Shaq gets it. He's one Goliath all of us should be rooting for.

7. As a Patriots fan, the one wish I want granted right now from the football gods is this: Jay Cutler, quarterback, New York Jets. He's like a baby Brett Favre, except with an iPod full of Dashboard Confessional songs. I suspect the Patriots had a healthy disrespect for Cutler's decision-making heading into last season's matchup with Denver, and nothing since has changed Josh McDaniels's mind.

8. Had Oklahoma winning it all. So much for that, though while my bracket was going up in flames, at least it was interesting to watch Blake Griffin give Tyler Hansbrough a preview of what he can expect should he make an NBA roster. While the Heels -- my new favorite to be cutting down the nets Monday night -- steamrolled the Sooners, those who wondered why NBA scouts consider Hansbrough little more than Mark Madsen with better dance moves finally got their answers.

9. Hope the Red Sox resist trading the apparently coveted Manny Delcarmen, unless they get a legitimate heir to Jason Varitek in return. Delcarmen has the maddening tendency to lose his command in tense situations, but there's no doubting his stuff, and he was effective in a surprising way last season -- the righthander held lefty hitters to a .190 average and a .544 OPS with no home runs in 142 plate appearances. That's extremely valuable, and looks like he's going to be in a comfortable role this season. He's not someone you give up for the likes of Miguel Montero.

10. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

For the record, Win had three of 'em in his big league career.

Beyond the sea

  March 5, 2009 04:56 PM

1. I don't recall ever hearing of Marquis Cooper or Corey Smith on Sundays. But I can't stop thinking about them and their friend Will Bleakley now. The details of their doomed fishing trip off the coast of Florida become more chilling by the day. The Tampa Tribune reported that Nick Schuyler, the lone survivor barring a miracle, told the Coast Guard that Cooper and Smith, exhausted and most likely delusional after fighting the relentless waves, took off their life jackets and drifted away toward their fate. If you've seen the movie "Open Water," you probably have some idea of the mental and psychological regression the occurs when people have been in the frigid ocean for hours at a time, and why they might make such a decision. But whenever I read a reference to Cooper being married with a 3-year-old daughter, it only makes the whole thing more awful and, in a way, morbidly mysterious. As a dad myself, I simply can't fathom the physical and emotional horrors that would make me decide to choose another option besides fighting with all of my will and strength to see my kids again. It must have been a hell beyond our imaginations, and I wish I could stop thinking about it.

* * *

2. I remember reading somewhere this offseason -- way to be specific, eh? -- an anecdote about a current player who said he'd rather retire than play for a pittance of $2 million. (Pittance is my word, but the tone is all his.) Probably unfairly, a picture of Nomar Garciaparra popped into my head whenever I thought of that quote, and so I was happy to see that he'd decided to accept the A's offer of a one-year deal. It's been a long time since Nomar was a star, and the injuries and passing of the seasons seem to have made him cynical if not bitter. But I still fondly remember him as the toast of our corner of the world decade ago -- there are a lot of 10-year-old pets in New England named Nomar and Pedro -- and it's nice to still have him around. Especially if you don't have to deal with him.

3. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I don't believe A-Rod is seriously hurt. I figure it's either his transparent ploy to pull his roided-up butt out of the spotlight for a few weeks, or it's the Yankees' typically ham-handed way of getting Derek Jeter to move to third base five years after he should have when Single White A-Rod first arrived. And if you're not buying either of those suggestions, at least consider this: Had A-Rod been injured (or revealed his injury) a week ago, you've got to figure there's a good chance Nomar would be playing third base for the home team when the Yankees open their new ballpark. Of course, what they should have done in that scenario is sign Orlando Cabrera (who also became a Beane Bargain about a week ago) and move Jeter to third. But I'm pretty sure I already mentioned something like that.

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Nomah's bettah!

  February 5, 2009 03:41 PM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. While I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story (sorry, Insider access required) that makes the case that Nomar Garciaparra might be a more valuable player than Derek Jeter at this point -- yes, you read that right -- I'm not sure I buy it, considering that some of the logic is based on Nomar playing shortstop on a regular basis, and we all know every tendon in his body would simultaneously rip to shreds if he had to play more than 10 games in a row there at this point. But like I said, it was a fun and thought-provoking read, especially this part:

For those who think Garciaparra is no longer a shortstop, he actually played 31 games there last season. Based on Baseball Prospectus' fielding rate metric, he was three runs below average per 100 games. That's a small sample size, but for his career he is two runs above average per 100 games, so he was right in line with that. In case you were wondering, Jeter was 13 runs below average per 100 games in 2008, and six below for his career.

In other words: Nomar can barely play the position adequately -- but he's classic Ozzie Smith compared to Jeter! Or at least that's how I choose to read it.

2. Oh, and Jetes? You're no Manny, either. And while you're at it, Captain, take your glove and move to center so we can sign a real shortstop. Like Orlando Cabrera. Or Nomar. Or Luis Rivera. (Jeter-bashing: My sport of choice.)

3. Three things I want from tonight's Celtics-Lakers showdown: At least five 3-pointers from Eddie House; uncontrollable tears from Sasha Vujacic; and victory by the home team by a margin similar to that of Game 6. I don't think that's too much to ask, though if I had to settle for the latter only, I'd certainly be cool with that. Man, this Lakers team is easy to loathe, isn't it?

4. Still can't believe the Monty Beisel who played so well for the Cardinals in the Super Bowl is the same overpursuing stiff who looked so lost for the Patriots three years ago. In a related note, I'm pretty sure I saw Duane Starks, another member of the Pioli Class of '05, trying futilely to cover Santonio Holmes on the Steelers' last drive, though I'm not sure why it said "Francisco" across the back of his jersey.

5. Can't help but think that when it's all said and done, the Patriots will get one first-round pick plus another useful draft pick in exchange for Matt Cassel. While there has to be at least some concern that a portion of his success is due to having Wes Welker and Randy Moss on the receiving end of his passes, he is a considerably safer bet for a rebuilding team than some unproven Big Man On Campus such as Mark Sanchez or Matt Stafford. The Patriots will be happy with their haul in the end, and I bet the team that eventually gets Cassel will also be satisfied. He's the real thing.

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Financial relief

  January 20, 2009 06:21 PM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. The news that Jonathan Papelbon has agreed to a one-year, $6.25 million deal struck me as a shrewd move for both sides, though I have to admit, I think he would be wise to give more consideration to pursuing a long-term deal now. I'm not sure the club is convinced that he has a long shelf-life -- it is at least somewhat alarming that he gave up 28 more hits in 11 more innings last season than in '07 -- but I bet they would take the risk and lock him up for the next four years or so if they considered the financial terms reasonably favorable.

2. I can't think of a quarterback who has had more peaks and valleys in his career than the remarkable Kurt Warner -- the closest comparison I could come up with was Jim Plunkett, who went from Heisman winner to battered and beleaguered Patriot to worn-out Niner before finally finding redemption with the Raiders. And you know what? If the Cardinals somehow steal this Super Bowl, go ahead and count me among those who think Warner has a very legitimate shot at Canton.

3. Rajon Rondo confirmed Monday night what I've thought for some time now: Steve Nash is the worst defensive player, bar none, to win a modern NBA Most Valuable Player award -- let alone multiple MVPs. He got Rondo'd so often, I was beginning to wonder if his ankles were somehow fused together.

4. Sure, it felt like the end of an era in a sense when Scott Pioli departed New England and ended his historically successful partnership with Bill Belichick to run his own operation in Kansas City. But in the end, I look at it this way: Other clubs can pilfer the Patriots' staff all they want, but as long the captain in the gray hoodie is steering the ship, the organization will not stray off course. Everyone -- everyone -- is replaceable but him.

5. Could the Cowboys really be interested in free-agent linebacker/narcissist Ray Lewis? Seriously? Is it Jerry Jones's mission to collect every disgraceful character currently active in the NFL? Or is this part of a dastardly plan to get rid of Terrell Owens? Word of advice, T.O.: Watch out for the shiv.

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Small wonders

  October 27, 2008 04:14 PM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. Every time I'm awed by what Kevin Faulk has become -- in essence, the running back version of Troy Brown, circa 2000 -- I flash back to 1999, when he arrived in New England during the frustrating Pete Carroll regime. Back then, Faulk looked like the second coming of Jon Vaughn, an outstanding kick returner who was too small and mistake-prone to ever be considered a long-term contributor as a running back. In his NFL youth, Faulk was anything but Mr. Reliable. But here he is, a versatile and valued role player juking his way through his 10th season, having outlasted such fellow '99 draft picks as Andy Katzenmoyer, Michael Bishop, and Tony George, among others. It's credit to both Faulk and the current Patriots' coaching staff that he has become such an important and dependable piece of the puzzle.

2. I suppose I could be talked into the thought of Matt Holliday on the Red Sox, if only because his Coors/road splits were a little more balanced this season than in the past and I think he's a good enough hitter to do some damage no matter where he plays. But about that other Colorado "slugger" the Sox are speculated to have interest in . . . well, let me put it this way: If Garrett Atkins -- he of the .328 on-base percentage in '08 -- is calling Fenway home next season, it's only because Mike Lowell didn't recover from his hip injury, Kevin Youkilis suffered a horrific beard malfunction, and about a half-dozen other superior alternatives at third base fell through for one reason or another.

3. Of all of the encouraging developments for the Patriots the past two weeks, the most important, other than perhaps Richard Seymour's return to Beasthood, is this: Matt Cassel is undeniably improving, not only at the big things (like, say, throwing game-winning touchdown passes), but the small things as well. When Cassel first took the reins when Tom Brady's knee was turned into Grade D lunch meat, he had the obvious flaws of inexperience. He was much too quick to give up on the play and scramble -- now he's definitely picking his spots better. He also has a better feel within the pocket as -- he deftly stepped into a couple of throws yesterday when the rush was coming from behind him, and he's no longer blindly scrambling into sacks. He's actually becoming poised and confident, two of his predecessor's greatest traits.

4. All right, you've convinced me, dear readers: The Red Sox should not be suckered in to the Jake Peavy sweepstakes. He's had elbow issues, he's benefited from playing half of his games at a pitchers' park, he's been awful in the postseason, and chances are the cost in terms of players and prospects would be much too high. Consider me corrected.

5. I have to admit, I'd have paid more attention to the World Series had I known Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena would be 0 for 29 to this point. They're the Canseco/Vaughn of their time, and I hope Cole Hamels keeps the oh-fer going tonight. Yup, I think you could say the Rays are officially the enemy now.


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Hello, my name is . . .

  October 10, 2008 03:18 PM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. Recognize this guy? Nope, that's not Richie Sambora before he discovered booze. Look again, and picture this dude 30 years later, with a white buzz cut. Still nothing? Okay, try putting a pair of pretentious Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn classes on him. Got it now? I think you do. Yup, believe it or not, that's (here for the answer) . . .

2. I wish the Sox had slotted Jon Lester in the No. 2 spot, with Josh Beckett pitching Game 3, if only because, should the Rays win in 6, the Sox' ace lefty will have pitched just once in the series, which would pretty much be inexcusable. But the way the rotation is set up makes for a very compelling matchup in Game 2: Josh Beckett versus Scott Kazmir. We know about Beckett's situation -- the most dominating postseason pitcher of his time struggled in the ALDS, and there's still some debate as to whether that was because of injury or rust. But Kazmir . .. well, he's the real mystery here. While he pitched decently in the ALDS, allowing two runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings in the Rays' Game 2 win, I can't forget Jerry Remy's words after the Rays' lefty melted down against the Red Sox Sept. 15: "He looked scared out there." Kazmir has as much raw stuff as any pitcher remaining in these playoffs, but sometimes I wonder if he's the second coming of Mark Langston. No, that's not a compliment.

3. Huge test for the Pats this week, no doubt, but I don't fear the Chargers quite the way I did, oh, entering last year's AFC title game. Injuries have taken a toll on Antonio Gates and, to a lesser extent, LaDainian Tomlinson, and perennial pest Chris Chambers is also hurt. I think the Pats win with relative ease if three things happen: 1) Matt Cassel is as steady as he was against the Niners last week. 2) Darren Sproles is contained on the return game. 3) Norv Turner shows up.

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This ain't where the bandwagon stops

  September 10, 2008 02:46 PM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. Anyone who labels Tuesday's loss as "devastating" simply has lost all perspective. Sure, it would have been nice to finally surpass the Rays and take over first place, and yes, the stirring victory probably will rejuvenate Tampa Bay to some extent. But the Sox still have 18 games to make up the 1 1/2-game deficit starting tonight, and considering that Terry Francona again has them playing their best baseball at the end of the season, I like their chances. Besides, I agree with the way they stack their priorities: Winning the wild card while periodically resting regulars and setting up their pitching for the postseason is far more logical than gunning for the division crown at any significant cost.


2. The easy comparison around here is to compare these never-say-die Rays to the "Impossible Dream" Red Sox of '67, though I suspect those who were actually born then and savored that franchise-defining summer would say it's not even close. But to me, this Tampa team is reminiscent of the worst-to-first Braves of '91, with three talented young starting pitchers blossoming at once, a couple of sage veterans (Carlos Pena is playing the role of Terry Pendleton), a young slugger (Evan Longoria = David Justice), and a well-cast collection of role players. I'm not sure who plays the lovely and talented Juan Berenguer, however.

3. All right, all you blindly loyal grunts in the Varitek Army. Let me hear how you justify that pathetic bunt attempt in the ninth inning last night. Was he too busy fretting about his pitchers? Did he do it deliberately because he knew that if he succeeded, the Rays would just walk the next batter, David Ortiz? Is he secretly an extremist Sabermatrician who doesn't believe in giving up outs under any circumstances? C'mon, tell me. I know it will be good.

4. A healthy, effective, playmaking Richard Seymour would go a long way toward making this Patriots season far more successful than the alleged experts currently believe it can be. Hard to believe, but he's only 28. If he's knees are okay, he should be able to dominate again, and I don't need to tell you how much a dominant Seymour means to the Patriots' defense.

5. According to the oddsmakers at Bodog.com, the Dallas Cowboys are the new favorites to win the Super Bowl with 4-1 odds. Having watched a "Hard Knocks" marathon on HBO last weekend, I can say with assurance that there's a better chance Wade Phillips will win a gold medal in racewalking than he will a Lombardi Trophy.

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The last word

  July 26, 2008 07:10 PM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. Manny could save himself and his exasperated fans so much grief if he just called the media over to his locker and said, "Listen, guys. My knee is killing me despite what the MRI says, but I realize the Yankees are closing in on us, our offense is struggling, and the team needs me out there, so I'm going to try to play through it. Understood? Good. Now go ask Tito why he never pinch hits for Varitek in the late innings. That's the real crime against baseball around here."

2. As umpire Marty Foster was expanding the strike zone to Eric Gregg proportions Friday night, for the first time in a while I found myself wishing Sean McDonough was still calling Red Sox games rather than Don Orsillo. McDonough never hesitated to call out an incompetent umpire - yes, sometimes to the point of annoyance - while Orsillo seems to go out of his way not to be critical, even when the evidence is right there on the screen. I'll take the former over the latter every time.

Tedy Bruschi
(AP Photo)
3. Brett Favre to the J-E-T-S? Please, please, please, football gods, make this happen. If I may be so vindictive, I want this self-absorbed fraud's Namath-on-the-Rams moments to come against the Patriots.

4. I'm not saying the "Mad Men" marathon I zipped through this weekend has completely altered my view of the world, but I'm seriously considering taking up smoking Lucky Strikes and drinking scotch in the office, and from now on I'm going to openly refer to my wife and her friends as "the hens." Or maybe I'll go with "chickens." I'll be sure to let you know how it goes. (Seriously, this is a brilliant, if impossibly bleak, show. Thanks for the reluctant tip, Matthew Gilbert.)

5. Believe it or not, I'm actually glad the Celtics re-signed Tony Allen. He might be a numbskull, but he's our numbskull, and at least he can play defense. He was the best of an uninspiring collection of alternatives to replace James Posey. What, you'd prefer Darius Miles?

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And where were Fisk and Yaz, anyway?

  July 15, 2008 10:12 PM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

Tedy Bruschi
(MLB.com Photo)
1. I'm not saying the Yankees' pregame ceremony was a transparent attempt to duplicate the Red Sox's transcendent and still-unmatched festivities from the '99 All-Star Game, but the only thing missing from making it a complete ripoff was a hitter.net hat atop George Steinbrenner's head.

2. James Posey wants four years? As far as I'm concerned, James Posey gets four years. I won't fault him if he ends up taking more money to join the Hornets, though. Byron Scott's smart, tough team would be an ideal fit for him.

3. Well, I think it's obvious now why few questioned Tampa Bay's decision to take Josh Hamilton over Spring, Texas phenom Josh Beckett in the 1999 MLB Draft. You know a kid has uncommon gifts when he takes off nearly four years to smoke crack, gets his life together, and somehow returns with his immense talent intact. His is a story even ESPN can't overdramatize, though bloviating Chris Berman sure tried his best.

4. With each new Melrose Place-style antic in the A-Rod divorce saga - seriously, he was spying on his wife? - I catch myself wondering how history would be different if he had ended up coming to the Red Sox in the winter of '03. For starters, there's a pretty good chance we'd be whining about a 93-year curse right about now, and it's also worth remembering that the admirable Jon Lester was the Single A pitcher the Sox were sending to Texas along with Manny in exchange for A-Rod. Sometimes the best deals . . .

5. Old friend Steve Solloway paid appropriate tribute to the Official Defunct Minor League Team of TATB with this well-written and melancholy piece on the Maine Guides. Hard to believe they've been gone 20 years. I'd also love to read Steve Buckley's take on the Guides at some point. Back in the day, he was the must-read beat writer for the Press Herald, and some of his best work still occupies a place in my keeper file.

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Liner notes

  June 30, 2008 01:41 AM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. While the Pink Hatters' relentless shrieks when he steps to the plate can get a little annoying in an eardrum-shredding sort of way, it's been nothing but a pleasure to watch Jacoby Ellsbury in his rookie season with the Red Sox. Even with his recent struggles, there's no doubt he's going to be a star here for years to come. But anyone who thinks he, and not Tampa Bay phenom Evan Longoria, is the frontrunner for the AL Rookie of the Year award needs to start watching "Baseball Tonight" once in a while, or at least something other than NESN propaganda. While Ellsbury's batting average is a point higher (.272 to .271) and he obviously blows him away in steals, Longoria has a huge edge in homers (15 to 5), OPS (.874 to .739) and OPS+ (134 to 94), among other categories. Frankly, as much as we admire Ellsbury, the competition and comparison isn't even close. Longoria, coming off a torrid June in which he had a 1.066 OPS, is the superior rookie. I just hope he doesn't show as much in the next few days.

2. The win total (216) is low, and the ERA (3.46) is probably too high, but in the end, yes, I think Curt Schilling will get into the Hall of Fame. He was a crucial-to-heroic contributor on three World Champions, won 11 of 13 postseason decisions, and will be remembered as one of the greatest big game pitchers in the annals of the sport. Thanks to the bloody sock, he may be one of those players whose legend and legacy continue to grow. And while Schilling plays it humble and says he doesn't belong in Cooperstown, I betcha he has a rough draft of his speech already written.

3. So Carlton Fisk is now doing radio spots for "Just For Men" hair color. Funny, after seeing him at RemDawgPalooza the other night, I was pretty sure his dye of choice is Valvoline. We should all look so good at 60, though. (Wait . . . Pudge is 60? Good heavens, where did the time go?)

4. I've long thought Lance Berkman was baseball's most underrated great hitter - his most similar player according to baseballreference.com is David Ortiz - and he only enhanced my opinion of him while tormenting Sox pitching this weekend. But he does have one stat this season that caught even a longtime fan by surprise, and it's not the .363 batting average. Berkman is third on the Astros, behind burner Michael Bourn and Kaz Matsui, with 12 stolen bases. He must be a hell of a savvy baserunner, because he doesn't look like he could take a one-legged Sean Casey in a footrace.

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I've been meaning to say . . .

  June 17, 2008 03:12 PM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. It's not possible to exaggerate it: tonight is set up to be the defining moment of Kevin Garnett's career. A strong individual performance in a Celtics victory would secure his legacy as a champion, as the player whose arrival revived Celtics Pride, and as one of the sport's 25 to 35 all-time greatest players . . . or, should he play as poorly as he did in Game 5, it would only enhance thearguments of those who say he swallows his tongue in the biggest moments, that he'll never be a true superstar because he habitually shrivels in the spotlight. I think I've made clear over the course of this wonderful season how much Garnett his admired around here, and while I'll agree that he does make curious decisions on occasion, I believe wholeheartedly that he will deliver one of his classic 24-point, 15-rebound performances in front of the home crowd tonight. Other than watching Paul Pierce celebrate as a champion, I can't think of another angle I'll enjoy more than the KG redemption.

2. I have to admit, I didn't think the Celtics would miss Kendrick Perkins as much as they did in Game 5, and it's reassuring that he's going to try to give it a go tonight. In his absence, and with KG in foul trouble, Pau Gasol actually asserted himself, which he hasn't done since his mother tried to talk him out of wearing his sister's leotard to school in fourth grade.

3. I guess this means the advertising was effective, because I'm actually curious to see how those NBA split-screen, talking-head commercials end once the Finals are over. Gotta figure it will be Garnett's mug alone, rhapsodizing about winning a championship, followed by Pierce and Ray Allen, right? Oh, and Scal, obviously. Just as long as Larry in a tank top doesn't make another appearance, we should be cool with whatever they come up with.

4. In case you ever catch me offering fantasy baseball advice in this space again, please, remind me that I recommended and coveted these three players at the start of this season: Justin Verlander, Troy Tulowitzki, and Aaron Hill. Yikes - even Bill Bavasi wasn't that inept. I'm just grateful I didn't get any of them, and stumbled into Brandon Webb after Verlander went a few picks earlier.

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When the Legend was born

  May 22, 2008 02:05 AM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. Because I enjoyed this piece so much, I'm kicking off this post with this week's discovery from the addictive and potentially life-altering SI Vault: A February 5, 1979 story, titled "Flying to the Top," on a certain painfully shy basketball star for Indiana State who was just then arriving on the brink of fame. While the one and only Larry Joe Bird eventually became comfortable in his superstar's skin, revealing a dry, biting sense of humor and proving the son of French Lick was far from a dumb hick, he refused to be interviewed for this story - in fact, he was so media-phobic then that he refused to be interviewed for nearly every story. But even without fresh quotes from the subject, this piece was fascinating. Not only was it frank about part of Bird's appeal having to do with his skin color, but it also revealed some petty jealousies among his less gifted teammates. (Where have you gone, Carl Nicks?) I also got a kick out of this paragraph breaking down his skills:

Southern Illinois Coach Joe Gottfried has said somewhat facetiously of Bird, "If this guy has a weakness, it's that he can't shoot the 20-foot jumper lefthanded." But most pro scouts agree that Bird is not particularly quick, is only so-so on defense and is a bit too reluctant to dribble under pressure. Still, Laker General Manager Bill Sharman calls Bird "one of the best college forwards I have ever seen." And Slick Leonard, coach and general manager of the Pacers, says, "I've seen two great passing forwards in my time. Rick Barry is one, and Larry Bird is the other. Bird seems to see guys before he even gets the ball."

Rick Barry passed? Have to admit, I thought of him as merely a chucker. Anyway, if you're not going to click on the link for the Bird story, then maybe I can entice you with this: Christie Brinkley was on the cover.

2. If I wasn't convinced after his first start, you know I am now: Justin Masterson is going to be a significant factor for this team before the season is through, possibly as the seventh-inning setup man. My only concern with him - and it's a fairly minor one at that - is that his stuff moves so much that it's often out of the strike zone by the time it finds the catcher's mitt.

3. David Ortiz, the last 28 days: .319 average, 1.080 OPS, 8 homers, 21 RBIs in 91 at-bats. Yup, I think it's safe to declare his mystifying season-opening slump officially dead.

4. Last season, Josh Beckett allowed 17 home runs in 200.2 innings. This season, he's coughed up nine already in 54 innings. Should we be worried that he's reverting to his '06 form, when he allowed a league-high 36 in 204.2 innings? Nah, not so soon. Beckett gets a lot of leeway here as a repeatedly proven Legitimate Ace, and I'm still chalking up any mistakes he makes to his delayed start to the season. I'll leave the shrieking to the WEEI crowd for now.

5. My apologies for failing to crank out the usual Starting Five post after the Celtics' Game 1 win over the Pistons Tuesday night. I was in the office, saw the game only in bits and pieces, and returned home to discover I forgot to DVR the thing. I get stupider by the day. Anyway, for once I'm not going to pretend to have any sort of expert take on the game, other than to say I'm more confident than ever that Rajon Rondo can hold his own and then some against the overrated, arrogant, and ailing Chauncey Billups. If Rondo plays the rest of the series like he did Sunday - and I realize that's a major if given how inconsistent he has been in the postseason - the Celtics will have an easier time finishing off schizophrenic Detroit than they did LeBron and the Cavs.

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Paper Tigers

  May 8, 2008 01:54 AM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. I'll admit, I bought the hype about the new-look Tigers in the offseason, but after catching their act the past few days, I'm beginning to think they're a classic looks-good-on-paper ballclub that has too many crucial flaws to succeed consistently. Jeremy Bonderman (career ERA+: 93) is sadly miscast as a No. 2 starter, the infield defense is brutal, Gary Sheffield (.202) and Pudge Rodriguez (.252) are showing their age, and the bullpen is such a disaster that I expect an infuriated Jim Leyland to put out his cigarette on a relief pitcher's forehead one of these days.

2. I hope Jonathan Papelbon was appropriately scolded for taking out his frustrations last night on the water cooler. If he wants to kick something, he should know to start with Julio Lugo and go from there. Sometimes I can't believe the Sox won a World Series with that high-strung, scatter-armed mediocrity playing shortstop. You'd think he'd have screwed it up along the way.

3. All right, Dice-K, I give up. Just when I think he's on the verge of establishing himself as a legitimate, consistent No. 2 starter, he goes out and coughs up an excruciating five-inning, 109-pitch, eight-walk hairball, ends up with the win anyway, and I end up as perplexed as usual with this ridiculously enigmatic pitcher. And enigmatic is the right word - just look at his stats this season: 5 wins, 0 losses, just 22 hits in 40 innings, a 2.43 ERA, and a 1.20 WHIP. Outstanding, right? Yup . . . until you notice the 33/27 K/BB ratio, which is both alarming and inexcusable. Like I said, I give up. I can't solve this mystery. I'll leave that to John Farrell.

4. I almost feel sorry for Matt Walsh, who it seems to me is about to be exposed as an insecure, scorned braggart who simply wanted to feel more important than he is or ever will be. (The key word there is "almost.") I hope all the Easterbrooks and Kings who have been reveling in this controversy, often at the expense of logic and facts, have their mea culpas ready now that it's apparent that Walsh didn't have anything more than what the Patriots already divulged.

5. The early scouting report on NESN newcomer Heidi Watney: Certainly easier on the eyes than, say, Eric Frede, but in terms of baseball knowledge I suspect she's going to make Tina Cervasio look like Buster Olney. And that's no easy feat.

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10 spot

  April 28, 2008 11:20 AM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

Tedy Bruschi
(Scout.com photo)
1. We all know it's good policy to give it at least two or three years before ultimately judging an team's draft class - it helps to actually see them play an NFL game first - but at the moment it's easy to be encouraged by the Patriots' picks for two reasons. 1) They added youthful talent at two positions on defense (cornerback, linebacker) where they needed it most. 2) Bill Belichick seemed absolutely giddy - well, for him - during his press conferences the last couple of days, and it's pretty obvious he thinks Jerod Mayo could be a special player.

2. I admire Al Horford's relentless style of play, and if I had a rookie of the year vote, he'd probably get it over inefficient Seattle scorer Kevin Durant. And I don't blame him for getting in Paul Pierce's face at the end of Game 3 - don't you want your young players to play the game with such passion and confidence? That said, I have a feeling he's going to learn a lesson in humility from ol' No. 34 and the rest of the Celtics in Game 4 tonight. Horford may have the game to back up the talk, but I'm fairly certain he picked the wrong hornets' nest to whack with a stick.

3. Call me a Tito Apologist if you must, but I don't blame him at all for leaving Clay Buchholz in during the eighth inning Saturday night, when his spectacular performance was spoiled by Akinori Iwamura's two-run homer. Seems to me the same people who were charbroiling Francona for leaving Buchholz in are the same ones who would be yowling if he pulled him and either Hideki Okajima or Jonathan Papelbon had coughed up the game. The kid was cruising, and he was beaten when a good hitter hit a good pitch. Sometimes that happens.

4. Felger pointed this out on his radio show the other day, and frankly, it terrifies me: According to baseball-reference.com's Similarity Scores, the player most like David Ortiz at ages 25, 29, 30, as well as tied for the most similar through age 31, is Maurice Samuel Vaughn. Now, provided Papi's knee problems aren't worse than we are led to believe, he should have a longer career than Mo, who was doomed at 35 by injuries, his addiction to bacon, and his Foxy Lady lifestyle. But just the thought of Papi suffering a similarly rapid decline is almost enough to make you pop in "Faith Rewarded," just to catch a glimpse of him when all was well.

5. Right about now I'm missing the punchline Devil Rays of Victor Zambrano, Ryan Rupe, Tanyon Sturtze, and 12-3 losses to the Red Sox. This sweep was not a fluke, folks. The Rays are stacked with young talent - the long-term signing of rookie Evan Longoria was brilliant and progressive - and while the Sox should still beat them more often than not, I'm convinced they're the third-best team in the AL East right now. And they'll only get better as their young pitching arrives and develops.

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You find out who your friends are

  April 18, 2008 03:13 AM

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

Tedy Bruschi
(AP Photo)
1. Wonder if Pistons fans are aware that Kevin Garnett's good buddy Chauncey Billups advised him, when KG was uncertain if Boston was the right fit, that accepting a deal here would be a wise career move, in part because it would be "easier to win." You have to give Billups credit for being a loyal friend, though should the Celtics bounce the Pistons from the postseason, I wouldn't blame Detroit fans for questioning his loyalty to them.

2. Sure, I admit it. I've hopped aboard the Bruins' playoff bandwagon much in the same way noted college hoops aficionado Bill Simmons suddenly thinks he's some sage combination of Jay Bilas and Pat Forde every March. So take my opinion on this with a whole shaker of salt, but from my mildly informed perspective, it seems like Claude Julien has handled his team brilliantly in this series. Consider: After a gruesome Game 1, he decides his team's only chance of making this a series is to emphasize smart aggression and discipline, so he sits talented softie Phil Kessel. That strategy works for the most part and the Bruins scrap to make it a series, yet they struggle to put the puck in the net, so Julien brings back a clearly motivated Kessel for Game 5. Not only does Kessel (who looks like a young Gary Busey) score a goal, but he tries to do all the little things that he usually avoids. Pretty astute coaching and knowledge of your personnel, I'd say.

3. One more Bruins item: Got a kick out of watching the Montreal "faithful" stream out of Le Ribbit Centre Thursday night after the Bruins took a two-goal lead with about 10 minutes remaining. Who knew those little towels they like to wave were actually white flags? In that sense, the Canadiens fans reminded me quite a bit of Yankees fans, except with a much better command of English.

4. Just can't imagine the Falcons will spend that No. 3 overall pick on BC quarterback Matt Ryan. They've already had Joey Harrington once.

5. Manny's turning Mike Mussina into his personal batting-practice pitcher while crushing the ball like he's 28 again. Papi's hitting like he's possessed by the ghost of Calvin Pickering (until last night, thank goodness). And strangely enough, both developments have left me with the same thought: Man, we've been so lucky to watch these two phenomenal hitters do their thing all these years. Savor it while it lasts, because, damn, is it ever going to be a bummer when it ends.

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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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