Touching All the Bases

Sunday Mail: Forget the Dolphins — Will the Patriots Be Unbeaten When They Face the Broncos?

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Uh, read this whole column forward and backward and I’m still searching for one reason the Red Sox would trade Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets. Bobby Parnell ain’t getting it done …

Anyway … football!

Gronk’s back, Revis is here, and those Brady and Belichick fellas are still doing what they do as well as anyone has ever done it. What should be a fun and fulfilling season is finally underway. So let’s kick off …

THE MAILBOX

… with some appropriate opening-Sunday optimism:

True or false: Pats will be undefeated heading into Denver. The defense is markedly improved. Offense gets back Gronk and loses Mankins. What am I missing?
— Bob Z.

So you’ve got them at 8-0 heading into Week 9 before they’ve even played a snap this season?

No — that is great, Bob. Love the optimism. If you can’t jump the gun on opening day, when can you, right?

Reading this question brought two thoughts immediately to mind.

1) It’s damn hard to go 8-0 under any circumstances.

2) Given the talent on this roster and a schedule that upon first glance doesn’t look particularly grueling, it’s possible. Not likely — there are games you could see them losing, whether it’s at Kansas City in Week 4, home against the Bengals the next week (back-to-back prime-time games, actually) or even that Thursday night game in Week 7 against the Jets. The Bears in Week 8 should be pretty tough too.

They’ll probably lose one or two along the way, just because even the best teams stumble once in a while.

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I’m actually more curious what Denver’s record will be coming into that game. They play at Seattle and at the Jets and host the Chargers, Colts and Niners all before the clash with the Patriots.

I did some quick prognosticating, and it appears they will be coming into that matchup at 1-7, 2-6 at best.

All right, I’ll bet that the Pats are 7-1 and the Broncos are 6-2, provided Manning survives that Seattle defense in one piece.

You compared Rusney Castillo to Deion Sanders. Does he really have that kind of speed?
— Arthur

I’m not sure he has that kind of speed, because few athletes that I can think of across just about any team sport have that kind of speed. I mean, go to the 30-second mark for indisputable evidence:

But we’ve heard that Castillo has legitimate game-changing speed, and the Sea Dogs announcers were saying the other night that he was even faster than they had expected. And they had expected fast.

The Deion comments stemmed from a question in Friday’s chat in which Mike Hazen’s comparison of Castillo to former Braves 30/30 guy Ron Gant came up. I’m skeptical of that — they are build similarly, but it’s hard to figure Castillo with hit 32 homers in back to back years like Gant did.

So I kept it in the context of ’90s Braves outfielders and suggested that the better comp might be what Deion would have been had he focused on baseball.

Which he never should have done, obviously. But he was better at his hobby sport than many remember, especially when he treated it as more than a lark. In 97 games with the ’92 Braves, he hit .304/.346/.495 with 8 homers, 26 steals, a league-best 14 triples and, weirdly, just 6 doubles. He could play when he committed to it.

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Hey, at least I didn’t compare Castillo to Otis Nixon.

Do you have a team in each conference that might surprise people? To me, I think Cleveland with that defense could surprise. It’s more of a hunch. And everyone is down on the NY Giants. But I feel like they could actually be tough with that secondary. Thoughts?
— AC

With you on the Cleveland pick, Slater. They have some high-end players on that roster — Joe Haden, Joe Thomas, and if first-round pick Justin Gilbert plays well right away, they could be tough to throw against. And I’m a Brian Hoyer believer, at least to the point that he’ll be competent and won’t make mental mistakes or flip off the opposing bench.

In the NFC … does Detroit count? Getting that goon Jim Schwartz, who never seemed to hold anyone accountable and probably even fed into the chaotic culture, off the sideline should allow them to start playing up to their talent level, even if it’s never quite certain whether Jim Caldwell is awake.

Which of these do you think is the bigger story: a World Series Championship in the past three years…or two last place finishes in the past three years? Obviously, I’ll take the World Series any day, but the inconsistency since Ben Cherington took over has been pretty drastic.
— BoggsFan26

It took them, let’s see, 86 years to win a World Series. During that drought, the Red Sox finished in last place 10 times and second-to-last another 10 times. Please don’t let the three World Series wins in the last 11 seasons change your perspective on how difficult it is to win just one.

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To put it another way: If you told me they’d finish last two years out of three but win the World Series during the other season from now until Commissioner Jeter’s retirement in 2044, I’d take it without a second thought.

Besides, it’s not as if the future looks grim, like it did in ’12 until the Dodgers bailed them out. Now, the farm system is loaded, and they are set up for their most eventful offseason since … I don’t know, 2003/04 when they signed Keith Foulke and made the Curt Schilling trade?

it’s a lousy year, but it’s not an indicator of any organizational incompetence.

Chad, How much credence do you give the latest rumblings that JBJ is uncoachable? Is it a matter of him feeling slighted that Betts has surpassed him on the depth chart?
— Bill from CT

Well, there’s obviously something to it. John Farrell was pretty candid about it. Seems like the brunt of the frustration stems from the fact that he got a prolonged chance — I mean, they gave him weeks beyond what most young players would get to snap out of it — and he didn’t seize the chance, or do everything he could to seize the chance. Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s uncoachability as much as it is confidence on Bradley’s part that his approach got him this far, so why abandon it now? He’s a good kid, a smart kid, but at some point he needed to set aside his stubbornness and put in some extra time doing what the coaches wanted. There comes a time when the “ah, I’ll snap out of it” approach doesn’t cut it anymore. Conversely, from what I’ve heard. Xander Bogaerts has done everything and more to work his way out of his struggles, and it’s only emboldened their belief in him.

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Do you see this as the last year of the window? BB has lost his fastball and is an awful drafter. Brady is no longer elite, and we know the Krafts are only going to stick to their *ahem* budget and not spend money to improve the team. Seems like this is the last bite at the apple, no?
— Mike

I have to ask … is this a parody of a Felger and Mazz caller? If so, bravo. Hit all the talking points, with the requisite cliches (“lost his fastball” “elite” “budget” “window”) scurried right up to the line of poor taste with the implication that the Krafts are cheap, called Belichick “BB” (other acceptable option: Hoodie), and claimed his drafting is awful when the roster is dotted with talent at various stages of their careers. Most impressive of all, Mike, you dumped all over a franchise that has been in the final four the last three years during this ridiculously prolonged run of success in the salary-cap era. and you did it so concisely, with just 59 words. We have a master satirist among us, folks. Oh, on the slim chance that this was meant seriously. Go root for the Bills for a year, then get back to us.

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

Because nothing says the beginning of football season like Richard Marx, am I right? Of course I am! Also, I couldn’t find a clean version of Jay Z’s “Public Service Announcement.”

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