Saturday, December 30, 2006


Boston College was an 8 point favorite in this game. Navy was 9-3, just like BC, but they had only beaten 1 D-IA team with a winning record: East Carolina. For most of the game, however, Navy was in control.

The Midshipmen threw the option at BC, who seemed unprepared to defend it despite having such a long time (37 days) in between their loss to Miami and this game. Navy wound up with 322 total rushing yards on 59 carries. Seven Navy players had multiple carries. Four had more than 40 yards on the ground, two had more than 70.

BC's failure to successfully defend against the option forced them to play it tighter. The safeties were kept in at the snap which made us vulnerable to deep passing routes. Navy exploited this weakness perfectly. They had 2 touchdowns in the air. The only had 5 during the regular season.

The Eagles did their part in screwing up just a little bit. A few stupid penalties to begin the game and a missed XP all of which might have been due to rust after sitting for 5 weeks. Ryan also threw two picks, one which was somewhat of a freak play as the linebacker who picked the ball was hidden from Ryan's view by the umpire. Nevertheless, BC wasn't playing perfectly.

They were still in the game, and halfway through the 4th, they had an opportunity to tie with a 2 point conversion. Ryan threw a bullet that hit Tony Gonzalez in the chest, but Gonzalez couldn't bring it in. After a great defensive series, BC got the ball back on their 42. But the Eagles went 3 and out and punted.

Navy rushed past midfield and were running the clock down. They forced BC to use all of its timeouts. Just under 2 minutes on the clock, Navy had a 3rd and 15 on BC's 47. They could run the ball, and run the clock down to just over 1 minute before pooching a punt and pinning the Eagles deep. Instead, they ran the option and fumbled the pitch. BC recovered at the Navy 40.

After a few plays BC was in field goal range and kicked the game winner.

Earlier in the game, one of the commentators was describing the advantages that running the option can give an offense. Some disadvantages he didn't mention, in no particular order:

1. More likelihood of holding penalties
2. Plays can easily be blown up for a loss
3. Gaining consistent yardage on short situations is difficult
4. Your QB is going to get hit, a lot
5. If you're behind, you're doing the other team a favor by eating up clock
6. What do you do in the shadow of your own end zone? Pitch it into your own end zone?

The thing is, Navy didn't need to be running the option so late in the game. It is very easy to say that in hindsight, but on a 3rd and 15 situation, you're probably not getting a 1st down anyway, so mind as well have a safe hand off or run a QB draw or something to run off 40 seconds.

I'm not going to say that BC is "lucky" to have won or that Navy "deserved" to win. There is very little luck in sports, and usually the winner deserves to win. BC deserved to win this game because they were able to put up 25 points, whereas Navy was only capable of putting up 24. It's that simple, end of story.

Hardly the most impressive victory in BC history, but considering the loss of O'Brien as head coach and the unsureness of the coaching situation and it isn't a meaningless win. The Eagles fought nicely in this game, and despite being run over by the option, were able to carve out a victory. That's what good teams do. It'll hardly be an Instant Classic, but it was a solid win.

This was also BC's 7th bowl victory in a row, which I believe is the 3rd or 4th best streak in NCAA history. Of course, the streak is deceptive as most of those bowls have been middling, late December bowls.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


I try not to use this word very much when it comes to sports. I feel like it gets overused and misused by people when they talk about sports. However, the Jacksonville Jaguars were LUCKY to be in this game when it came down to the wire.

The Pats knew the task ahead of them before the game. Win and you're in. Lose and you might not be. The Jaguars weren't going to be as easy to beat as Houston was. They were 8-6 and in the running for the Wild Card spot. They had a very good defense and a solid running game, the foundations of a good football team.

This was a test game for the Patriots. We hadn't played a contending team since November 26th when we beat Chicago. Since then, we had barely beaten the Lions and were shutout by the Dolphins. We had been 5-3 against contending teams coming into this one (only 3-3 if you don't consider Buffalo competitive). This game was going to be a late season test of the Pats.

The game began with an exchange of drives that ended in punts. The Pats forced the Jags to punt again and got the ball back at their 31. Tom Brady got his 3rd carry of the game in the 1st quarter. He would end up with 10 overall. The Patriots benefited from a 15 yard face mask penalty as the 1st quarter ended 0-0. At the beginning of the 2nd, they had a 4th and 1 on the Jaguar 26. Brady was lined up for another sneak, but the play was whistled dead. Brady was called for a false start. Now, I didn't see much of a false start, and it is very strange when the QB's number gets called for moving early. He typically knows when the ball has been snapped.

So anyway, the ball was moved back and on 4th and 6, the Pats kicked a field goal to take a 3-0 lead. The Pats kicked it off and with their first offensive play of the series, the Jags got into the end zone. Here's how:

Maurice Jones-Drew was given the ball in the backfield, he ran to his right behind his offensive linemen. The linemen, however, were unable to drive forward and Jones-Drew literally ran into his guard. The collision knocked him down to the ground. BUT, he had yet to be touched by a Patriot so he wasn't down. Jones-Drew got up, just as Tully Banta-Cain (too many hyphens) arrived at the line of scrimmage.

Jones-Drew got up before Banta-Cain touched him. Banta-Cain had come up to the line, saw Jones-Drew was on the ground, and held up. He hadn't seen HOW Jones-Drew was knocked down and probably assumed he had been taken down by a Patriot. Banta-Cain also probably assumed that if he hit Jones-Drew after he had been downed, the flags would be flying.

Jones-Drew took advantage of this pause in the action, got up, and ran. The Pats D wasn't able to haul him down and he ran into the end zone for a touchdown.

Now, you can call Banta-Cain's hesitation a "mental error," but I think it's too simple for that. I think the play was simply screwed up and bizarre. Should Banta-Cain have put a hand on him? Yeah. But he also should have plowed him into the ground if he's going to touch him. Nine out of ten times, though, he'd get a personal foul for this.

The run was only the second 20+ yard run the Patriots defense has allowed all season.

The Pats replied with a stalled drive that lasted 4 plays before they punted away. The Jags went 3 and out and punted.

The Patriots next drive was vintage Tom Brady. 7 yard completion to Graham, 4 yard run by Maroney, 6 yard pass to Faulk, 5 yard pass to Childress, 6 yard pass to Faulk, 8 yard run by Maroney, 8 yard reception by Brown, 4 yard run by Faulk. These plays were all in a row. After an incompletion, Brady ran for 9 yards. On 3rd and 1, Brady hit Gaffney for a 1st down. On the play, the Jags rusher ran into Brady well after Brady got rid of the ball. To his credit, Brady didn't dive or flail on the ground or moan like a Manning, but the refs threw the flag anyway. 1st down on the 10. Faulk got 4, then Brady snuck for 5 to the 1. Dillon punched it in for the score. 10-7 Pats. The 1st half ended with that score.

David Thomas was the star of the next drive. He made a 5 yard gain turn into a 36 yarder. Then he made an amazing catch (off an amazing throw) in the end zone for his first career TD. 17-7.

The Jags and Pats exchanged drives that ended with missed field goals. For some reason CBS kept showing Gotskowski after his miss. However, the kick was a 49 yarder, not exactly a chip shot.

In the ensuing Jacksonville possession, we saw our 1,000th ticky tacky roughing the passer call of the year called on a Patriot. Richard Seymour, who was trying to sack the QB, ran into him after the ball was out. Flag thrown. Making the penalty even harsher was what happened with the ball. It found its way into the hands of Mike Vrabel.

The call was a ticky tacky call. We've seen it far too often this season. Instead of having the ball with a 10 point lead, 4 minutes left in the 3rd, and possession of the ball near midfield; the Jags were given the ball in our territory after the 15 yard penalty.

Immediately after the call, the Jaguars got to the 2 yard line and eventually punched it into the end zone. The Patriots responded nicely with a touchdown drive aided by some Jacksonville penalties. The Jags scored and we went 3 and out, but Rodney Harrison recovered a fumble that sealed the game.

The Patriots didn't play perfectly, but they played without screwing up in a big way. And if it weren't for that roughing penalty that negated a pick, the game probably would have been over much sooner than it was.

With the win, the Patriots wrapped up the AFC East for the 4th year in a row. This is also their 5th division title in 6 years. Since 2001, we've won 6 division championships, which is more than we had won in all the years before then.

Brady had maybe his best game of the season, not from a stats point of view, but from a leadership one. He had 10 carries for 31 yards (Dillon had 10 for 30), made some good throws, maneuvered in the pocket nicely, and orchestrated some nice drives.

As it is, the Patriots would be the 4th seed in the playoffs. They're tied with the Colts for the 3rd best record in the AFC, but the Colts hold the head-to-head win against us and it is the first tie-breaker. Indy hosts Miami next week.

At the moment, the 5th seed is the team we would play and that team is the vaunted Denver Broncos. But the situation is still very fluid. The Jets are the 6th seed, but they'll play tomorrow in Miami. Cincinnati, Kansas City, Tennessee, and Jacksonville are all 8-7 but are on the outside looking in right now.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


The deadline was looming. The entirety of Red Sox Nation was worried about whether or not we'd sign Daisuke Matsuzaka, and for what price. Rumors placed Boras's unyielding demands at $70 million for 6 seasons. It seemed like the possibilities of signing the WBC MVP were waning by the hour as the clock ticked.

Red Sox brass flew out to southern California to meet with Matsuzaka and agent Scott Boras. After talking, and reporting "frustration" to the ever attentive Red Sox Press Corps, things looked dreary.

The Red Sox issued a deadline of their own. Theo Epstein and associates would be boarding a private plane for Boston on Wednesday morning, with or without Matsuzaka. Wednesday morning came and Matsuzaka and Boras boarded the private plane with the minds behind the Sox. Things seemed to be looking up.

Reports popped up all over the internet, citing "unknown sources close to the negotiations." They were all saying that the team was very, VERY, close to making a deal for Matsuzaka. Of course, these were the same sites and reporters that claimed that the deal was essentially dead. posted a link that allowed fans to observe live updates of the private plane's flight path. I'll admit to checking it from time to time, to see how close it was. As a matter of fact, the plane flew very near Ithaca, NY, where I am currently situated. No, I didn't make any giant signs or anything, I was too busy doing work. Plus, any sign visible from 20,000 feet would have to be pretty monstrous.

The plane landed at Hanscom Field in Bedford. With a police escort, Matsuzaka was brought to Mass. General and underwent a physical. Reportedly, the deal had been struck and was impending only the results of said physical before it went into effect.

Even reported the deal as being all but finalized, with an official announcement expected to come Thursday afternoon. The deal is said to be $52 million over 6 years, or $8.67 million per year. That means that in total, the Sox will be paying $103.1 million for Matsuzaka. If we only keep him for the 6 years, that's a $17.2 million per season investment.

The price is good, though, trust me. Do you see what other teams are paying for 35 year old #2/#3 starters these days? Meanwhile, we get a 26 year old with stuff that could make him an Ace in the Majors. We also got Scott Boras to come down on his proposed contract by about $20 million. As far as accomplishments go, that's just a step below winning the World Series.

So why did Boras go down? Was the $70 million a ploy? Here's a couple of reasons why that number may have decreased. Firstly, his client could have urged Boras to get the deal done. Matsuzaka wants to pitch in the Majors, and perhaps didn't want to spend another year in NPB. Another factor is that he truly is an unproven commodity. Another factor is that he will be 32 when this deal ends, which means that if he plays well in MLB, he'll receive a very good contract. Another factor is that if the deal didn't get done, teams might be somewhat wary of posting a huge sum for him, knowing he'd want to get even more in his contract.

In the end, I think that Matsuzaka's desire to pitch in the Majors superseded his desire to get a massive contract.

The big question now is, will the Sox be able to churn out some Matsuzaka merchandise before Christmas?


Julio Lugo was introduced to the media by Terry Francona and Assistant GM Jed Hoyer.

The Sox also came to terms on a 1 year deal with Doug Mirabelli. The deal is said to be worth $700,000 and includes performance based incentives.

There's also a rumor that the Sox might be looking at Chan Ho Park as a potential closer. Reportedly, this was something discussed between Park's agent, Boras, and Theo on the plane.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Oh the drama of off-season baseball. The international cast of characters. The intrigue. The villainy. Fans clamoring for one company to pay another company millions in order to secure the rights of a pitcher, then being shocked that the pitcher wants even more money. Fans griping about high salaries, which are inflated because of fan demand for talent.

The Red Sox have just about 2 days (at the time I'm writing this, 10 PM Tuesday night) to sign Matsuzaka or he will return to Japan next season. The jubilation that occurred nearly a month ago when we won the rights to negotiate with him has turned into harsh reality.

Scott Boras, Matsuzaka's agent, has become the apparent antagonist in this drama. He wants a lot of money for his client. Is that supposed to shock us? An agent wanting money for his player? Is this news worthy of report on Why are we villainizing him?

Let's play agent's advocate. You're Scott Boras. You see the Red Sox willing to put up $51.1 million just to talk with Daisuke. You see every free agent in baseball getting paid salaries that range from a bit too high to way too much. The contracts for pitching are particularly high. Now, you also see that many other teams were willing to put up big money to sign Matsuzaka. It is logical to assume that they'd likely do so in the next off-season. Now, why wouldn't you try to get a boatload of money for your client?

A great many fans are moaning about greed. They're calling Boras and Matsuzaka greedy because they want money. Are you f*cking kidding me, people?

Let's just imagine you work for a company. You're very good at what you do, one of the best in the industry. But you work in Barre, Vermont. You'd like to work for the bigger companies in places like Boston and NYC. But you're under contract. The company you work for, however, listens to your requests. They agree to allow you to leave Barre and get work for a larger firm, but they will take half of the money the larger firm is willing to pay you. You think you might be a bit upset? You think you might be feeling gypped?

This is the situation in which Matsuzaka and Boras find themselves. If you want my opinion, the Sox kind of dug their own hole on this one. They put up the $51.1 hoping to sign Matsuzaka for about $50 million more. But now they're staring at a price tag of about $120 million total. Now they either have to pony up the money, or have to face disgrace and failure to acquire a #1 pitcher this off-season.

My opinion is that if it is the 0 hour and Boras hasn't budged, pay him and Matsuzaka the money. The sad truth is, we need Matsuzaka more than he needs us. And to be honest, we've already spent $100 million total on Drew and Lugo, two above average players, it would appear foolhardy of us to refuse to spend $120 million on a player who could potentially be great.

Great pitchers, like Matsuzaka is capable of being, win World Series. Above average hitters like JD Drew and Julio Lugo do not.

Former Red Sox utility outfielder Gabe Kapler retired from playing pro ball at the age of 31 the other day. He was then named as manager of A Greenville within the Sox organization. He replaced Luis Alicea who is now the Boston Red Sox first base coach.

It is good to see that the organization has been able to create some good relationships with players. The Yawkey trust/Dan Duqeutte years were marred with problems between personnel and management. But the new Red Sox seem to be a team that players and coaches want to stick with. With the notable exceptions of Shea Hillenbrand and Nomar Garciaparra.

The Red Sox are negotiating with Doug Mirabelli to be the backup catcher next season. The deal would probably be short-term and not worth an exorbitant amount. Another possibility could be 40 year old Sandy Alomar Jr.

Eric Gagne is close to signing with Texas for $8 million guaranteed. That's a lot for a guy with a big time recent injury. Understandably, the Sox backed out of those negotiations. The Sox are rumored to be in trade talks concerning Chad Cordero, Akinori Otsuka, and Mike Gonzalez.

What about Jose Mesa? Why not?

I think that the recent decline of the Patriots isn't just their fault. I think that part of it might be due to the fact that the NFL has finally woken up and smelled the coffee.

When the Pats first started winning, they were underdogs. They were maligned for their short dump passes and screens. Bill Cowher complained that his more talented Steelers were gypped in the AFC title game in the '01 season. The Raiders similarly complained of outright robbery. The Rams just seemed to not give much attention to how the Patriots were playing in the Super Bowl that season. And it cost them.

The in 2003, the mystique began. After week 4, they simply stopped losing. They won high scoring shootouts like the 38-34 win over Indy. They'd win tight close games like the 9-3 win over Cleveland. They then went into the playoffs, beat the two MVPs (McNair and Manning) then edged Carolina 32-29. By then, the Patriots had not only earned respect from the NFL. They had earned fear.

In '04, we only lost twice. The loss to Pittsburgh was when we had no RB and no DBs. It was the exception to the new rule that the Patriots were unbeatable. The other loss was a silly 29-28 defeat at the hands of Miami in which everyone and their mother knew that the Pats simply dropped the ball in a relatively meaningless late season game. The playoffs saw the Pats completely dominate Indy, holding the best offense to 3 points. Then they routed Pittsburgh, scoring 41 against the best defense. Another Super Bowl win and the Patriots were crowned a dynasty. The best team in the NFL, by far. 34-4 in two years and truly unbeatable at home.

I remember those games, and even when it was close or we were behind, you just felt confident that we would win. I've been wondering lately, did the opposing team also feel so sure about the result. Did teams go into games, knowing in the back of their minds that they were playing the best team in the League and one imperfection would result in a loss?

Did our opponents in '03 and '04 fall prey to self-fulfilling prophecies. Did their fear of screwing up cause them to screw up. For some players, ahem Peyton Manning, this appeared to be blatantly obvious. One mistake would build on another. Meanwhile, we'd make mistakes (Brady's late INT in the Super Bowl against Carolina) but we'd recover. Were we that much better than the NFL, or was the NFL in such a defeatist mindset that subconsciously they quit when they made mistakes?

In 2005, we were somewhat exposed. Teams started beating us. The rest of the NFL picked up on that. These weren't freaky losses like in '04. Nor were these only to the best teams in the NFL. In 2005, we lost 6 regular season games. We lost to the 9-7 Chargers in Gillette, the 10-6 Chiefs, and the 9-7 Dolphins, along with losses to top teams like Carolina, Denver, and Indy.

It is entirely possible that the NFL is starting to play us with confidence, and not fear. We've only dominated our opponent in 4 games (@ Cincinnati, @ Buffalo, @ Minnesota, @ Green Bay). Our games against bad and mediocre teams are typically very close (19-17 win vs. Buffalo, 28-21 win vs. Detroit,). We've also been beaten, consistently, by good teams that are playing well. Some of these losses were absolute beatdowns. 17-7 loss vs. Denver, 21-0 loss @ Miami.

We no longer inspire fear in the NFL. That's a problem. We have the talent, despite the injuries and the loss of players to other teams, to win football games. We haven't been. And every loss inspires more and more confidence in the NFL.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


The Patriots poor play finally caught up to them as we were shut out by the Miami Dolphins 21-0. This was the first time we've failed to score a point since the infamous 31-0 loss to Buffalo in 2003. It is also the first time we've lost on the road since week 12 last season when we lost to the Chiefs. It's also the first time we've lost to a divisional opponent on the road since 2004.

There are so many reasons why we lost this game. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Injuries. We've endured another season filled with defensive injuries, particularly to the defensive secondary. You know, we've had 24 different DBs in the past 3 seasons. That's insane!

Anyway, in this game, we were without Harrison, Wilson, Seau, and Maroney. Seau and Maroney's absence didn't really seem to hurt us that much, but the lack of Wilson and Harrison in the defensive backfield bit us hard. On Booker's first TD catch, Wilson or Harrison would have been much more likely to break up the pass and even pick the ball off.

The injuries are getting ridiculous. I'm starting to suspect that this is some sort of problem. I don't know what the problem is, though. It could be we practice too hard during the week, not hard enough, or our training staff isn't good enough. However, so many seasons with these kinds of injuries to a particular group of the team, namely DBs, is probably not a coincidence. The Patriots brain trust needs to figure out what the problem is and fix it.

2. Penalties. We had 9 penalties for 71 yards. Some of them were not really our fault. The refs had trouble keeping their flag in their pockets on a few occasions. Vince Wilfork's roughing the passer penalty was just absolute BS. Seymour's was also ticky tacky. The Dolhpins did get flagged once for this and it was huge for us, or could have been if we had taken advantage of it. However, it seemed to me that Jason Taylor was getting away with what Seymour got flagged for. But we lost this game, the refs didn't lose it for us.

We had a massive amount of dumb, stupid penalties. False starts by wide receivers, Patrick Pass not lining up on the line of scrimmage in punt formation, and the double forward pass play.

3. Poor tackling. It seemed like most of the time, the Dolphins player would get an extra 1 to 3 yards on their run because we couldn't wrap up and haul down. This might be attributed to the injuries, especially with good tacklers like Seau, Wilson, and Harrison missing the game.

4. Graham's fumble. This was a big play. It gave the Dolphins control in the field position battle for the entire first half. At worse, we could have punted and pinned them back and possibly taken control of the game. Instead, we let them run it the entire 60 minutes.

5. Lack of a big play on defense. We forced no turnovers and only sacked Harrington once. We let him get away too many times on plays in which we were close to bringing him down. Then he'd find an open man and turn a potentially negative play into a positive play. We didn't get consistent pressure on Harrington and that eventually hurt us.

7. Poor pass protection. You have to give credit to Miami on this one. They won the battle in the trenches and got consistent pressure on Brady. But we didn't do much in an effort to stop the pass rush. We didn't try any screens or misdirection plays to punish the Dolphins' aggression on defense. We tried the short little passes to get the ball away quickly, but the Dolphins did a good job at tackling our guys.

This might be one spot where we really missed Maroney. His shiftiness as a runner forces defenders to stay more at home and pursue just a bit less. Dillon had a few good run plays in Taylor's direction, but Dillon is not nearly as elusive as Maroney.

8. The punt war. Miami won the punt war this game. They pinned us within our own 5 yard line on several occasions. The only time we did that to them, we were flagged for an illegal formation. Apart from that play, we gave them the ball at the 15 or better. Often times, we punted the ball and Miami would start in our territory. That's really hard on a defense to force them to defend such a short field the entire game.

9. Not enough rushing. We ran for 123 yards on the ground, but I feel like Dillon should have gotten more carries, especially in the 3rd quarter. We seemed to be trying too many awkward pass plays. Seeing as how we were struggling to protect Brady, and Dillon was doing so well at finding and exploiting holes, I think we should have given him the ball more.

10. Brady. He was inaccurate at times. I know he was under a great deal of pressure from the Dolphins, but he still missed a few passes in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters that could have been big. The best ball he threw was on the double pass play that was called back. He also made a great catch on that play, but unfortunately it didn't do anything but cost us 5 yards due to penalty.

We could have clinched the AFC East today with a win and a New York loss. Instead, we might be holding on to a mere 1 game lead in the division. Furthermore, we're only 1 game ahead of some of the Wild Card teams in the AFC.

And is it me, or does Wes Welker seem like he would be a perfect fit for the Patriots? Tough player willing of doing anything for the team. Remember when he filled in for Mare as a kicker against us?

The Patriots host Houston next week.


The UMass Minutemen advanced to the D-IAA finals with a grueling 19-17 win over Montana the other night. They will play defending champion Appalachian State next weekend in Chattanooga for the D-IAA title. Appalachian State, like UMass, is a 1 loss team whose sole defeat came at the hands of a D-IA opponent.

Is UMass's football team the best major sports team in New England this year, relative to their competition? The Red Sox finished 3rd in the AL East, the Patriots have looked like crap in a few games, Boston College football dropped the ball in some big games, the Celtics can't win a close game, and the Bruins are struggling to make the playoffs. The only other big team in New England that has done as well as UMass is the New England Revolution, who lost on penalty kicks in the MLS Cup.

If UMass wins, they'll be the best team in New England.

Friday, December 08, 2006


The quasi-deadline for the Red Sox to stop shopping Manny Ramirez came and went last night. Not surprisingly, the team was unable to find fair value for the slugger. It looks as though he will remain on the Red Sox. Hopefully that means he'll actually be playing for us. If not, breach of contract and he's gone for $0.

You know, I think most Sox fans will forgive Manny. Some probably don't even notice when he's asking for a trade and when he isn't. This is not the first time he's asked for a trade, and last season was not the first time he embroiled himself in controversy. Writers and die hard fans may grumble about Manny Being Manny, but the grumbling typically stops when he knocks in a run, which happens quite a bit.

Every season, Scott Boras is in the news for some new outrage. Okay, "outrage" is probably a bit too harsh of a word. Anyway, after having put up $51.1 million for the exclusive rights to talk to Matsuzaka, Scott Boras is doing his best to make sure his client gets paid as well.

It's easy to criticize Boras here. He's demanding that the Sox pay somewhere around $12 million a season for 6 years. That's $72 million total. That's a great deal of money to add to the $51.1M posting fee for a pitcher who has thrown 0 pitches in MLB.

Of course, Boras is seeing that the team is willing to pay about $100 million on Matsuzaka, but his client (and his commission) represents only half of that. The Seibu Lions are the ones cleaning up if the deal gets done. This is yet another problem with the posting system.

The problem is, every other top free agent is getting paid off. All the deals being announced across baseball are over the top. Furthermore, the demand for pitchers is absolutely massive. Boras is using this, comparing any proposed deal between us and Matsuzaka with deals given to other MLB Aces.

The problem is, Matsuzaka is not an MLB Ace. To sign him to a 6 year deal is a bit ridiculous. As talented as he is, we have no idea how he'll do against MLB hitters, or whether or not he'll have trouble accustomizing himself in America.

The Sox don't have as much leverage as you'd think in this one, either. Although if Matsuzaka doesn't sign with us, he can't sign with anyone else this season, he is an unrestricted free agent in two years. Then he can sign with any team in MLB he wants to. Also, he is likely to get paid more seeing as how no massive posting fee will be involved.

I'd like to see the Red Sox come to some sort of compromise on Matsuzaka. I know $123 million is a massive amount to pay for a single player. However, we really do need a frontline starting pitcher. Beckett and Clement were busts, Schilling is another year older, Lester is coming off cancer treatment, and God knows what we'll get out of Papelbon as a starter.

The fact of the matter is, we're desperate. But it isn't the end of the world if we don't sign him. It's important to remember that.

The Red Sox now have slightly less than one week to sign Matsuzaka before he is sent back to Japan along with his $51.1 million posting fee.

A recent CT scan that Lester underwent showed no cancer cells. Lester's been undergoing chemotherapy during the off-season after he was diagnosed with blood cancer. The good news is that it appears to be working well. Lester plans to report early for Spring Training next February.

Really puts some perspective on things like trying to sign a Japanese pitcher or trying to trade a left-fielder.

The Red Sox had been pursuing Dodgers closer Eric Gagne. However, the word is that the Sox are hesitant to give Gagne the kind of guaranteed money he is seeking. Gagne is coming off of back injuries and is seeking something like $5 million.

Another possible option at closer is no longer available. The Royals signed Octavio Dotel to a one year, $5 million deal. He too is coming off of injury. Dotel had Tommy John surgery in '05 and the Sox were reluctant to guarantee him so much money considering his injury trouble.

Two things this stuff brings to my mind. How come we were willing to invest $70 million in J.D. Drew who has spent an impressive amount of time on the DL, but we're now all of a sudden scared to get a closer who might break down? I guess with Drew, he can be substituted easily, and if he misses time, his absence won't be catastrophic. But closer's, on the other hand, can have stints on the DL that cost a team a playoff berth.

Another thing that comes to mind is crappy teams like the Royals spending massive amounts on their budgets on things like closers when:

1. They often do not have a lead.
2. Their mid-relief gives up a great deal of leads.
3. Their starting pitching rarely goes 7 innings.

It seems like bad teams who spend lots on closers like Dotel could better spend that money elsewhere. I always felt that a good closer is something a team needs if it is leading a great deal of games in the late innings. Otherwise, it is a waste of money.

Anyway, the Sox also offered arbitration to Keith Foulke, who turned it down. The Sox want/need a closer, but Foulke doesn't seem to want to pitch here anymore.

In practice this week, observers of drills reported that Laurence Maroney ran through a number of deals somewhat cautiously. He is still ailing from the back injury he received in Sunday's 28-21 win over Detroit. He is listed as Questionable (50% likely to play) and even if he does play, will probably not play as much as the Pats would hope.

This is where the two running back system is a huge benefit. Even though we're without a top playmaker in Maroney, we still have Corey Dillon, who isn't a bad running back himself (over 11,000 career yards on the ground after Sunday's performance). We also have Patrick Pass, Heath Evans, and Kevin Faulk in support. We won't be as dynamic without Maroney, but our running game will hardly be absent.

In other Patriots news, Tom Brady is suing Yahoo! for using his image without permission in an ad to promote their fantasy football.


The Bruins were down 1-0 about halfway through the 3rd period when they scored 3 unanswered goals to beat the Maple Leafs. We remain in 5th in the Northeast Division, but we're now only 1 point behind Ottawa and Toronto. Toronto is slipping and we may pass them soon. We also have played fewer games than any other team in the division, so that's an advantage for us.

In the Conference, we're tied for 10th with Washington, only 1 point out of the playoffs.

This could be exciting coming down the stretch with the unbalanced schedule and all 5 Northeast Division teams in the top 10 in the Conference.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Remember last off-season when we pretty much refused to sign Johnny Damon to a legit deal? The Yankees snatched him up for 4 years and $52 million, or $13 million a season. Part of the logic behind the decision to sign Crisp and not Damon was that Crisp was younger. Damon would be near 36 at the end of a 4 year contract. Guess how old JD Drew will be at the end of his reportedly 5 year, contract with Boston. Thirty-six.

I'm being a tad unfair, especially to Drew. Drew is not a replacement for Johnny Damon. However, it just strikes me as odd that we refused to pay Damon, a proven commodity, $52 million, pretty much because he was getting too old, even though he had no history of losing a large amount of time to injury. Then, a season later, we sign Drew, who is quite injury prone, to a deal that is 5 years long and worth $70 million, or $14 million a season.

I think the Red Sox have realized that letting Damon go so easily to New York was a bit of a mistake. But signing JD Drew hardly fixes that mistake. Drew is a slight, very slight, offensive improvement over Trot Nixon, whom he is replacing. Drew has a better OBP and his OPS is consistently higher. However, to invest $14M into a player who has had such a history of evidence is a bit over the top. Especially when part of the reason we refused to retain Damon was because we were afraid he'd break down.

Drew will slot in nicely to the Sox lineup, when healthy. He'll hit after Manny and Ortiz, which will give us a nice lefty-righty-lefty combo. I think if Lowell produces close to what he did last year, you'll see Mike hitting 6th behind Drew. Drew is capable of good production, which is what you want out of a #5 hitter. He also plays pretty sharp defense, something which Willy Mo lacked. Speaking of WM Pena, he'll find himself as a 4th outfielder, but I wouldn't be shocked to see him see a good amount of playing time in a platoon situation.

Yesterday was a $100 million day as the Sox also reportedly signed short-stop Julio Lugo to a 4 year, $36 million deal. Lugo has been long sought after by the Red Sox. Lugo will be 31 next season. He hit .308 for Tampa last season before going to the Dodgers where he hit a mere .219. Lugo should hit in the .280 neighborhood for the Sox with about 15 homers. He'll probably bat 8th or 9th in our lineup which will provide him with some mop up RBI opportunities after the big bats. He doesn't offer a great deal in the power department, which is typical of short-stops. He only had 36 extra-base hits and 12 homers last year. His OBP is also not all that stellar at .341 last year and .340 for his career. He struck out about twice as often as he walked.

Lugo does offer some defensive versatility in that he can play pretty much any position. Defensively he is solid, but not as good as Gonzalez.

He is an offensive improvement over Gonzalez, which is nice. But he isn't four times the improvement, which is what the Sox are seemingly paying him as. $12M a season just seems like a lot for a guy whose career high in RBI is 75, career high in HR is 15, career high in OBP for a full season is .362, and who seemed to struggle with moving to a new team in the middle of last season.

The Manny Ramirez talks have, as I predicted, remained talks. They've also cooled down. The sox were shopping Manny around baseball during the recent winter meetings. However, there were no takers. It seems to me that we were almost asking too much for him. We asked for the Dodgers' top three prospects, and the best two pitchers San Diego has. All for an outfielder with 2 years on his contract for $20M a year. It was almost as if we were trying to make it seem as though we were trying to trade Manny, but knew we really wouldn't be able to get the deal done by asking for so much. Anyway, Theo and the Sox have declared a quasi-deadline for shopping Manny and that is midnight on Wednesday. After that, the Sox say they will continue to listen to possible deals, but will not be as actively seeking them.

So the lineup is starting to take shape. Here's what seems to be what will be the '07 Sox offense:

C - Jason Varitek
1B - Kevin Youkilis
2B - Dustin Pedroia
3B - Mike Lowell
SS - Julio Lugo
LF - Manny Ramirez
CF - Coco Crisp
RF - JD Drew
DH - David Ortiz.

Now a possible batting order:

1. Coco Crisp
2. Kevin Youkilis
3. David Ortiz
4. Manny Ramirez
5. Jd Drew
6. Mike Lowell
7. Jason Varitek
8. Julio Lugo
9. Dustin Pedroia

Not that bad. But expensive, though.

Monday, December 04, 2006


I don't think I'm using that French profanity correctly. I just did a simple Google search for it. In case you haven't noticed, the Boston Bruins are back in the playoff mix. They've won 4 of their last 5 games, including last night's thrilling 6-5 victory over Montreal at the Bell Centre.

The Bruins are still 5th in the Northeast Division, 28 points behind first place Buffalo. However, the Bruins are in one of the best divisions in the NHL. At the moment, the Northeast Division would have three teams in the playoffs, with 4th place Ottawa one point out of post-season qualification. The Bruins are now tied for 10th in the Eastern Conference with 28 points. They also have a few games in hand so they're in decent shape.

The Bruins have some big games with top teams in the next few weeks. They play the Devils twice, the Maple Leafs twice, the Habs twice, Ottawa once, Nashville once, and Vancouver once. And the season doesn't get much easier after December. The Bruins face a difficult road to the playoffs thanks to the unbalanced schedule and being in the top division in the NHL. But we have a shot to make it in, and we all know anything can happen in the Stanley Cup playoffs.


This past weekend was supposed to be when Manny Ramirez was signed, sealed, sent, and delivered to another team. Of course, the sports writers around the country couldn't figure out where he would be sent. The big rumor the past few days was that Manny would go to Los Angeles to play for Grady Little's Ex-Sox. However, the Dodgers describe any deal for Manny as being "5 percent likely." It seems as though the Sox are stumbling into the biggest road block in trading Manny: getting sufficient value for him.

In the attempted deal with LA, the Sox wanted a bevy of prospects, including 22 year old Jonathan Broxton who is projected as being a closer in the near future. The Dodgers didn't want to give that up. Who could blame them? Why mortgage your future for a player who will play for 2 years, eat up $40 million, and is extremely flighty and flaky.

The Sox tried addressing an issue in their talks with LA. We need a closer. There just weren't many closer free agents out there this season. The Sox even made strides to acquire Brewer Derrick Turnbow, who had a great first half of the season before imploding. He has great stuff when he's on, but he has trouble staying on. I'm sorry, but we need consistency at the closer's spot, not a giant question mark.

The Sox are so desperate, they might even try to get Keith Foulke to return to the team.

I still think we should sign Jose Mesa. He's had experience closing in the past (320 career Saves) and had a solid season in Colorado last year as a set-up man. He had 72.1 IP in 79 appearances with an ERA of 3.86. He also led the team with 19 Holds. He is pretty old, will be turning 41 in May, but I think he'd be a good addition to the bullpen as either a closer for a season, or a set-up man taking some of the stress off of Timlin.

The Sox also did not offer arbitration to Trot Nixon, Mark Loretta, Gabe Kapler, and Doug Mirabelli. They did offer arbitration to Foulke. Will Foulke take it?

So Trot Nixon, who has been with the organization since the days of Lou Gorman, is gone. My reaction? Meh. If you want my honest opinion, Trot was a solid player who was injury prone and ineffective vs. LHP. I feel as though this town overrated him a great deal because he hustled. Isn't hustling a ballplayer's job? All that Dirt Dog, football mentality crap was BS, if you ask me. He was a decent player, but hardly a star. In any other town, he would barely get recognition, but Boston has a way of picking an individual player and falling head over heels in love with him (See: Rico Brogna, Michael Bishop, Butch Huskey, Pokey Reese, John Valentin, and Kevin Millar)

I still remember when there was a rumor that Nixon would be traded for Sammy Sosa, and most of Red Sox Nation bemoaned the idea because Trot had so much potential. That potential was never fully realized. His best seasons were 2001, 02, and 03. Trot averaged about 26 HRs and 90 RBI in those 3 years. Since then, his playing time has dramatically decreased. His production numbers followed. Funnily enough, his salary had increased from $4.5 million in 2004, when he hit .315 in very limited time, to $7.5 million in '05 and '06 when he played a bit more, but still sat out 86 games over those two seasons.

Right now, here's the best I can do to show the composition of the 2007 Sox:
C Jason Varitek
1B Kevin Youkilis
2B Dustin Pedroia?
3B Mike Lowell
SS ?????
LF Manny Ramirez??????????
CF Coco Crisp
RF ???????
DH David Ortiz

SP Curt Schilling
SP Daisuke Matsuzaka?
SP Josh Beckett
SP Jonathan Papelbon
SP Tim Wakefield?

CP ????????
RP Mike Timlin
RP Julian Tavarez
RP Hideki Okajima

Still many question marks.

Do you ever get the feeling as though the Red Sox lack a bit of a long term plan? It seems like the past 6 years, we've had more than our share of players for one or two seasons. Just think, this will be the second time that both Kapler and Mirabelli will be leaving the team. Loretta was a one year acquisition. The Sox will be getting a new short-stop this season for the 3rd season in a row. They also might have a new closer that is actually their old closer. If we do sign Matsuzaka, it will be yet another in a long line of expensive attempts at getting a top of the rotation pitcher.

Since the 2004 championship team, we've seen a new first baseman, will see two new second basemen, three new short-stops, a new third baseman, possibly a new left-fielder, a new center-fielder, a new right-fielder, and at least six new starting pitchers (even more if you count all the part-time #5 starters we had last season).

Sunday, December 03, 2006


The Lions outsucked us. Both teams tried their best to lose the game, the Lions just wanted to lose it more than we did.

The Patriots barely escaped the clutches of the hapless Lions. We really only played a few minutes of football and were fortunate to come away with an important win.

The Pats turned the ball over three times in this one, but thankfully, the Lions either failed to fully capitalize, or simply turned the ball back over to us. We allowed Jon Kitna to pass for over 300 yards on us. That's inexcusable. We went down to the wire with the worst team in the NFC North. That's inexcusable. We continued to put the ball on the ground. That's inexcusable.

I'm glad we won, because if we didn't, the AFC East would be a 1 game affair between us and New York. Also, any hopes of a first round bye would fly out the window. We've got to play better than this, though. Miami will probably not play as poorly as Detroit or Chicago did. We either have to stop playing crappy football, or we will pay for it.

Speaking of 9-3 teams that are capable of doing better, Boston College was officially invited to the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte. They'll play the Midshipmen of Navy. This will probably be another Bowl win to add to the streak, but it will also be an empty win, as we could have been playing a Bowl game that mattered.

Speaking of Navy (good transitions today), they were the only team this year to beat the UMass Minutemen, who advanced to the I-AA semi-finals after beating UNH yesterday. UMass will play Montana on Friday night in Montana. The game can be seen on ESPN2. UMass alum Bill Cosby will be watching, and so should you.

Speaking of college football playoffs. Don't you think it's about time Division IA had one. They're the only league in college sports without a playoff system. They're the only majorly watched American sport that doesn't have playoffs. And don't you think it's weird that in the 32 team NFL, 12 teams are selected as being worthy of contending for a championship, but in the larger 119 team D-IA, only 2 teams are deemed worthy of that right? Seems kind of silly.