Touching All the Bases

Sunday Mail: Who Would You Rather Have on Your Team, Rob Gronkowski or Calvin Johnson?

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Quick addendum before we dig in here: In Friday’s Unconventional Preview, there was a segment in which I riffed on the specific teams and times of Bill Belichick’s career that are worthy of their own standalone memoir. If you read it, it was probably obvious that I forgot one book in the Belichick Football Volumes: His day, give or take a few hours, as HC of the NYJ. I’d read 400 pages on that the day it came out.

As for the hypothetical suggested in the headline, there can be only one correct answer: Both.

Can you imagine Gronk and Megatron on the same roster? It would be the greatest accumulation of superhero-caliber talent on one side since SuperFriends.

Greedy cop-outs aside, though, wouldn’t you have to choose Gronk at this point, presuming good health going forward? Johnson is more accomplished — only Jerry Rice and an interested Randy Moss are his all-time superiors, and the latter is debatable.

But he’s also older — he turns 30 next September — and it’s fair to wonder now whether he’s slowing down ever-so-slightly.

He has 34 catches for 520 yards this year, having missed three games with a high ankle sprain. Good numbers. But not the usual Megatron numbers.

Gronk, who doesn’t turn 26 until May, has 53 catches for 734 yards and 9 TDs this season despite being eased back into the offense over the first month. Plus, he has real value as a blocker, and I’ll say it again: There’s never been a superior all-around tight end in league history.

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Gronk gets the vote here. I imagine he has the check-mark on Sergio Brown’s ballot too.

On to …

THE MAILBOX

I disagree with all those that are writing/commenting that the Sox are abandoning their draft and develop philosophy. Signing Lester and Panda only enhance that philosophy in my opinion. You sign two key pieces without giving up a first-round pick and continue to develop your young talent. It’s far easier to integrate young players into a stable lineup or rotation when rookies and second-year players aren’t shouldering the load.
— Richard

Well-said, Richard. Drafting and developing talent isn’t solely for stocking (and stacking, hopefully) the big-league roster.

It’s to put the organization in a position to acquire established talent when it becomes available and it’s either A) an elite player or B) someone who fits the needs to the roster in a couple of ways. I’d put Lester in the A category and Sandoval in the B category.

There’s nothing more rewarding than watching home-grown players thrive in the majors, whether it was Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia on two championship teams. But there have also been situations in which top prospects have been dealt for big-time talent (Hanley for Lowell/Beckett after the ’05 season; Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Rey Fuentes before 2011 for Adrian Gonzalez).

It should be a smart, success-sustaining approach, and it’s one more reminder that the ability to evaluate your own organization’s talent is essential.

If the Celtics are going to be a sustained contender, we need to be patient for about three years when several of these draft picks come to fruition. We need to get lucky in the lottery one time, then all those pieces currently on the roster look a lot better. Then take use what will be the Nets lottery picks to create a roster that will contend for 10 years or so.
— Ben

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I’m with you, Ben, though there’s a duel priority: stockpiling quality young talent just in case a prime-of-career star becomes available. The Kevin Garnett trade is the obvious example, and of course we were hoping Kevin Love would become a second obvious example via Minnesota … but the Celtics didn’t have the pieces to make it happen. They’re getting there, though. I mean, we all love the Marcus Smart pick now, right? It’s a better roster this year than last.

Hey Chad, curious as to how you analyze and dissect the sports radio landscape. Do you pretty much switch from show-to-show? What do you think a fan should look for in a sports radio show around here?
— Ralph

Usually flip between the morning shows during my commute, depending upon guests and what they’re talking about. The midday shows and afternoon-drive shows are usually on in the office — Steve Silva has the radio on more than I do, actually. I leave the office at 6, and I’ll usually catch up on podcasts on the way home or flip between the two stations. If I’m working from scenic Wells, Maine, I’ll have it on in my home office or when I go for the inevitable lunchtime pizza at Alfredo’s. (Black olive and onion, thank you.) I don’t hear everything, but I hear everything I need to, and bless you guys for being quick to remind me when someone says something stupid or offensive. As far as what a fan should look for, pretty simple. Listen to what makes you laugh or keeps you entertained. Don’t listen to anything that leaves you feeling pissed off for having tuned in. I used to think sports radio was supposed to be insightful, but that’s not so much a priority for those in the business — they just want you to keep coming back, and antagonizing listeners is often a sadly effective way of doing so.

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Giants or Ravens are due to hit the cold weather kill-mode switch this week and ultimately beats the Pats in the playoffs, no?
— OilCan

No. Stop worrying about ancient ghosts. The Giants stink, and the Patriots have had the Ravens’ number plenty of times. The Patriots are the best team in football. If they stay healthy and get the requisite bounce or two along the way, they have a damn good chance of winning a fourth Lombardi. It won’t be easy. It’s never easy, and sometimes we need to remind ourselves of that. But it is very possible. Don’t fret about the imaginary obstacles. Enjoy the ride.

Why does everything think I’m so hard to make a trade with me? All I’m asking for is Mookie Betts, Henry Owens, Blake Swihart, Xander Bogaerts and your first born for Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard’s remaining contract.
— Ruben Amaro Jr.

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You forgot one other demand. The Red Sox have to pay Cliff Lee’s $25 million salary next year, but he will continue to pitch for the Phillies. Seems reasonable. In all seriousness, it’s going to be fascinating to see what Amaro gets for Hamels in the end. He has to trade him if he’s serious about rebuilding that decrepit roster. But he also has to win the trade. He’s done an awful job of getting a decent prospect return when he has traded veterans (Lee to the Mariners in December 2009, Hunter Pence to the Giants). He needs to hit the jackpot to save his job, rather than identifying the quality he wants, he’s going to ask for quality and quantity. The only player in the group you list that could/should be in a Hamels deal is Owens. The rest are untouchable. He’ll find that out soon enough, and then we’ll find out just how much he wants to make a deal.

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Chances Pablo Sandoval is using the Sox to drive up his Giants price?
— Zevon

Seems like it. I can’t imagine that if the offers are for the same length and relatively close in terms of loot that he’ll leave. He just won a third championship in five years. Great city, great ballpark, fans adore him. What more could he want? One thing: the most money he can get. There has to be a significant financial enticement for him to leave unless there’s some variable we don’t know, like he can’t stand Joe Panik’s face or something.

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

What’s that? Sure, this counts as music — basketball is jazz, right? Question: You think there’s ever been a tougher out in H-O-R-S-E than Pistol Pete?

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