Wednesday, January 30, 2008


To the Mets, thank God. It was announced yesterday that the Mets and Twins have agreed on a deal that would send Johan Santana in the game to New York in exchange for four of the Mets top prospects. The deal is pending Santana's agreement to a new contract with the Mets, as well as all players involved passing physicals.

The four players the Mets will send to Minnesota are:

Carlos Gomez - OF
22 years old, good speed, negligible power, decent OBP, hit .286 in AAA New Orleans last year. Played 58 games with Mets, hit .232 in 125 ABs, 12 for 15 stealing bases, 27 Ks and only 7 walks. He's no Jacoby Ellsbury.

Deolis Guerra - SP
19 years old, tall right-hander. Spent all of 2007 in High A St. Lucie. Numbers weren't that good, but at such a tender age and low level of minor league ball, numbers are irrelevant. Was a member of the World Team at the 2007 Futures Game.

Phil Humber - SP
25 years old, another righty. Only his 3rd year in the minors. Went to Rice, where he racked up a 35-8 record and over 400 Ks in 3 years. Won the College World Series title with Rice in '03. Made 25 starts for AAA New Orleans last year, going 11-9 with a 4.27 ERA in 139.0 IP. Struck out 120, walked 44. WHIP of 1.24. Made a spot start and two mop-up relief appearances for the Mets. Threw 7 total innings, allowing 6 earned runs. He's kind of close to Jon Lester, only without the Major League experience. But he has the same upside.

Kevin Mulvey - SP
23 years old, another college boy and righty. Spent most of 2007 in AA Binghamton where he made 26 starts, went 11-10 with a 3.32 ERA, and only allowed 4 homeruns in 151.2 innings. Made one start in AAA and threw 6 shutout innings. Was a member of Team USA in last year's Futures Game. He looks pretty good. But he's no Clay Bucholz. And he's certainly no Phil Hughes.

So looking at this deal, and comparing it to the deals discussed with the Red Sox and Yankees, doesn't it seem as though the Mets got Santana for a bargain? According to Baseball America, these are 4 of the Mets' top 7 prospects, but there's very little Major League experience, and there's nothing really eye popping about any of these guys. So maybe the Twins overplayed their hand by trying to pit the Yankees and Sox in a bidding war, only to have them both leave the table.

That being said, as a Red Sox fan, I can't help but look at this deal and be somewhat disappointed. It's obvious that we could have gotten Santana if we had been willing to give up a bit more. And I think it would have been worth it. Santana, in my opinion, is the best pitcher in baseball. Put him alongside Beckett, Schilling, and Matsuzaka; and you're already in the 2008 ALCS. And he isn't exactly old. He's got a lot of good years left in that arm. I actually think he'll reach the 300 win mark one day.

But I understand where the Red Sox were coming from in this deal. In 2007, the homegrown talent really came to bat. Youkilis, Pedroia, Papelbon, Delcarmen, Bucholz, Ellsbury. It was the big-time acquisitions that fell short of expectations. Drew, Lugo, Gagne, Matsuzaka.

The Red Sox must also have been thinking about their financial situation. This is Manny's last year in his contract, Varitek is on the verge of becoming an offensive black hole, the young stars will be reaching arbitration eligibility in a few seasons, lots of money is tied up in Drew and Lugo.

The Sox will also be needing to fill many small holes in the years to come. Manny's replacement. A possible early replacement for Lugo (while we eat his contract). Lowell and Varitek are old. There's no way Schilling will play in '09. The bullpen is strong at the top but lacks depth. Wakefield will be turning 103 soon. Coco Crisp sucks. And God knows what's going to become of JD Drew. So hanging on to young, cheap talent appears to be a priority for the Red Sox right now, and I can't say I blame them.

But it could be worse. The Yankees could have gotten him. Or, we could be in a similar situation as the Yankees. If the H & H Brothers are anything like their father Georgie Porgie, then they'll obsess over who gets control over the New York Post's back page. And with Santana, the Mets have taken a first step in winning that publicity war.

We all knew the Yankees suck. But now it also sucks to be a Yankee.

Sources: -
The Baseball Cube


A goaltender standing on his head, the Captain pummeling an opponent in the crease, and a game changing fight. The 14,150 in attendance at last night’s Bruins/Predators game got all this and more.

After an impactful contribution to All-Star weekend (Zdeno Chara won the fastest shot competition with a 103.1 MPH bullet, Marc Savard scored the game winning goal in the East’s 8-7 victory, and both Chara and Savard were +3 in the game), the Bruins hosted the Predators in what amounted to a warm-up game before taking on the big boys from Ottawa and Detroit.

A relatively placid game between interconference opponents got emotional at precisely 8:33 into the 2nd period. J.P. Dumont, crashing the net, bowled over Bruins’ goalie Tim Thomas, toppling him into the back of the net. As the net skidded off its pegs, Chara pounced on the grounded Dumont, landing a few quick shots before Jason Arnott (who was Chara’s teammate just a few days ago) and the referees broke up the melee. Dumont received a penalty for goaltender interference. Arnott received an unsportmanlike penalty for mouthing off to the officials.

The 5 on 3 that ensued was executed to textbook quality perfection by the Bruins. They passed the puck around the outside (Savard), then up to the flank (David Krejci), then across the middle to Marco Sturm creeping from the right side into the slot. Sturm one-timed it into the net to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

But the Predators were not dead. For the remainder of the period they peppered Tim Thomas with a barrage of shots. But Thomas responded with a remarkable display of goaltending. He made the by-the-book saves thanks to good positioning and skill. But he also made the inginuitive saves on his back, belly and knees. He stopped one shot by diving from post to post and swatting the puck away in mid-air with the paddle of his stick. He was a wall.

But the wall was compromised with just 0:51 left in the 2nd, thanks to some sloppy passing. Chara, in his own zone, attempted to pass to defensive mate Dennis Wideman, but the pass went astray. Wideman was forced to corral the puck behind his own net, but some good forechecking by Arnott and Dumont resulted in a takeaway. The confusion and disorganization allowed Alexander Radulov to snap a shot in space from the right hash marks. Thomas had no chance to stop it and the score was tied at 1-1 going into the intermission.

The one knock I have on Zdeno Chara’s play this year has been the abundance of these giveaways and misplays. This was the second time he wrapped a gift for the Predators, and it wound up costing the team dearly. He’s been a steady force on defense all year, and a solid player on the offensive blue line; but he has made some baffling mistakes with the puck in his own zone. Perhaps it’s his overwhelming ice time. Chara’s average of 26:57 on the ice per game is 4th in the NHL. For a 255 pounder, this must be exhausting, so silly mistakes are somewhat understandable.

Going into the 3rd, the game was up for grabs. Nashville had tied it up, and appeared to be on the verge of scoring more goals. Through two periods, the Predators dominated in shots on goal, with 25. The Bruins had only put 16 shots on Chris Mason. Their only goal came on a 5 on 3, which was the result of a questionable penalty and another penalty for arguing about the first penalty. If momentum were leaning in a direction, it was toward the Predators.

But all that changed 5 minutes into the 3rd. Martin Erat was skating across the neutral zone when Andrew Ference derailed him with a hit that would make Rodney Harrison jealous. Sticking up for his fallen teammate, Scott Nichol goaded Ference into a fight. The bout was quick and decisive. Ference blasted Nichol to the ground with an onslaught of haymakers. In a matter of moments, Andrew Ference had rudely introduced two Predators to the Garden ice. Momentum now turned back to Boston.

While Ference and Nichol served their fighting majors (Nichol didn’t get an additional instigator minor, rightfully so), Glen Metropolit put the Bruins ahead 2-1. Metropolit got the puck at center ice and took it all the way from there, dodging to the right to give himself a one-on-one with the defender, curling the puck further to the right, then dragging it back, leaving the defenseman out to dry, and giving himself just enough space in the high slot to wrist a shot past Mason. It was Metropolit’s 100th career point.

But the night still belonged to Tim Thomas. After Mason stopped a Bruins breakaway dead in its tracks, Thomas made a calm and collected save on the ensuing counterattack. He made another ingenious stop later in the period. Nashville’s pressure had induced the Bruins defense to overshift to their left. Radek Bonk snuck in behind everyone, and the puck found his stick. Thomas was still on the opposite post. It seemed as though Bonk had an open net to shoot at. But Thomas acrobatically slid BOTH of his pads to the other side, double stacking them and closing Bonk’s opening with his feet. Not only was Thomas able to block the shot, but his kick deflected the puck up over the crossbar so there would be no rebound.

At the time, the Predators’ broadcasters were interviewing backup goalie Dan Ellis sitting on the bench. Ellis’ reaction perfectly summed up Thomas’s night. He dumbfoundedly asked the broadcasters: “That didn’t go in?”

Glen Metropolit sealed the deal with a snipe from the right hash mark at 15:57. The way Thomas was playing, there was simply no way Nashville was going to score two goals. The game was effectively over.

The game ended fittingly. Radulov slipped through three Bruins and got a free shot at Thomas. Thomas dove forward and smothered the puck, recording his 37th save of the night at 19:59 in the 3rd.

It’s not every day that a player gets 2 goals in a 3-1 game and is named the Second Star, not the First. But on this night Glen Metropolit won that rare honor. There was no doubt who was the true star of the night.

I intend to revel in this victory as much as possible. As mentioned above, the Bruins travel to Ottawa to face the best team in the Eastern Conference, a team they have played three times but have not beaten. Two days later, the best team in the NHL comes to town. So let the reveling commence!

The Bruins got all sorts of contributions in all sorts of ways last night. Thomas obviously did his thing between the posts. Chara, despite the giveaways, defended his goalie and was otherwise stalwart. Ference’s leveling hit then Flawless Victory over Nichol was a shot in the arm. Metropolit’s moves netted the game winning and game ending goals. Krejci, Savard, and Sturm played great on the power play. Savard also won 14 of 18 faceoffs. In his 10 minutes of ice time, Shawn Thornton was a very visible physical force. Milan Lucic brought physicality and assisted on both Metroplit goals.

With the loss of Patrice Bergeron, and the other injuries the Bruins have had to absorb, they have to all contribute and do their jobs in order to win. As mediocre as they are (especially compared to the other teams in New England), this has been an extraordinarily fun team to watch.

Will I still be saying stuff like that after we play Ottawa and Detroit? We’ll see.

Sources:, NESN, FSN-South,,

Photos: AP/Winslow Townson (absolutely spectacular photos, don’t you think?)

This article also appeared on ArmchairGM

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


The Bruins came into the Bell Centre riding a hot streak. They were 3-0-1 in their last four games, and 6-2-1 in their last nine. But the Canadiens officially own the Boston Bruins, acquiring them lock stock and barrel from Jeremy Jacobs for $100 (Canadian) just before the season started.

The Montreal Canadiens continued their utter domination of the Bruins, winning their 10th straight against Boston. Montreal got on the board 0:14 into the game, scoring their first of four opening period goals against Alex Auld. Seven different Canadiens scored goals, and thirteen players had at least one point in Montreal’s 8-2 thrashing. Montreal has outscored Boston 32-12 in their six meetings this season.

After watching this game, one may think it was lost in the first period. This is wrong. The game was lost much earlier, at the morning skate when Alex Auld led the Bruins onto the ice as the starting goalie for the game later that night.

Why was backup Alex Auld starting as opposed to All-Star and NHL Save Percentage leader Tim Thomas? That’s a good question. And I don’t think Bruins’ coach Claude Julien has a good answer. The last time these two teams squared off, Boston played with so much emotion that it seemed as if their lives depended on winning. This time around, Julien’s selection of Auld was almost as if he felt the game meant nothing. The Bruins need to make up their minds and decide how much they actually care about beating Montreal.

Montreal went ahead by two goals 3:12 into the 1st when Auld over-committed to a shot from the left hash marks, extending all but his toes outside the crease, which left a wide open net for Michael Ryder after he received a pass in the right slot.

Claude Julien then called his timeout in an effort to slow things down, and it appeared to work. A few minutes later, Phil Kessel got in on Huet, banged a shot off his pads, and Marco Sturm slammed in the rebound to make it a 2-1 game.

But Auld just wasn’t up to the task of keeping the game close. He allowed another easy goal to make it 3-1.

The game all but officially ended with 0:03 remaining in the 1st. Cristobal Huet had just made a brilliant save, denying the Bruins a chance to turn it into a 3-2 game going into the intermission. The Habs stormed up the ice. Maxim Lapierre embarrassed a poorly positioned Auld, and a potential 3-2 contest turned to a 4-1 blowout in a matter of moments.

Auld was pulled in between periods. He saw seven shots and stopped three of them. Since his impressive debut with the Bruins, Auld has regressed to his mean of below average goaltending.

After that, the only Boston player on the ice giving a constant and concerted effort was Tim Thomas. Bryan Smolinski scored Montreal’s 5th goal after a statuesque Zdeno Chara allowed a puck to bounce around his legs in the crease.

Mike Komisarek scored the 6th goal as the Bruins defense stood back and watched in an unchallenging umbrella type of penalty kill defense. The problem was that Montreal wasn’t on a power play. Huet made a few nifty stops on high slot opportunities by Marco Sturm and Glen Metropolit, but these goals would have done nothing except make the score a bit more dignified for the Bruins.

To Tim Thomas’ credit, although he allowed four additional goals, he played very well, making some tough stops as his defense played at half speed. Had he not brought his A game, the Canadiens would have put up at least 12.

Boston’s inability to beat Montreal is seriously holding them back. At the moment, the Bruins uneasily sit 8th in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Rangers for the final playoff spot. This season, the Bruins have earned 53 points in 48 games, or 1.10 points per game. In the 42 games they’ve played against teams not from Quebec, they’ve earned the same 53 points, or 1.26 points per game. This rate multiplied by 48 games results in 60.6. Only one team in the East (Ottawa) has more than 60 points. That’s how much Montreal has affected the Bruins this year.

But let’s think positively here. The Bruins host the Islanders on Thursday, and could go into the All-Star break in 8th place. This is nothing to sneeze at. Patrice Bergeron is apparently out for the year, Thomas missed a few weeks, Glen Murray’s hip has caused him to miss time just as he was heating up, ace penalty killer P.J. Axelsson has been out; yet the team is still chugging along at a respectable pace. The Bruins have had 189 games missed due to injury. They only had 162 missed last season.

One bright spot to emerge as of late has been the Kid Line, consisting of Vladimir Sobotka (20 years old), David Krejci (21), and Pascal Pelletier (24). Over the past 10 games, this line has probably been Boston’s most consistent line.

The Bruins will also be sending three players to the All-Star Game. Chara will be starting at defense, Marc Savard will be making the trip to Atlanta, and Tim Thomas was recently named to the Eastern team as the replacement for Martin Brodeur.

Hopefully the Bruins can take some lessons out of Montreal. Hopefully Claude Julien will only start Alex Auld when Thomas needs a break. Hopefully the Bruins can at least force overtime and get a point in one of their remaining two games against Montreal. They have until late March to figure these guys out.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


The Patriots are going to the Fiesta, I mean, Super Bowl in Glendale two weeks from now, thanks to a strange 21-12 victory over the San Diego Chargers.

Once again, the opposing quarterback threw for more yards than Brady. Once again, the Patriots outrushed an opponent whose bread and butter is running the ball. And once again, the Patriots came out on top.

Another surprise was the play of the Patriots defense. All season, the offense has been glorified, while the defense has been ignored, and even criticised by some. This was probably due to the offense being so overwhelmingly amazing, that a solid defense looked weak in comparison. Moreover, we're used to seeing the Patriots win BECAUSE of their defense (See: 21 game win streak in '03 and '04, and Super Bowl XXXVI), not because of their offense.

On Sunday, the defense came up big, especially when put in uncomfortable positions due to a mediocre offensive performance by Tom Brady.

The Chargers were also banged up and hurting before they even took the field. Tomlinson tried to play, but didn't have much to offer. He had a pair of carries for 5 yards, and a 1 yard screen reception, but didn't look like the LT we've seen in the past. He wasn't bad, he just couldn't get to the next level. He also whiffed on a blitz pickup of Rodney Harrison in the red zone, which allowed Rodney to pressure Rivers, forcing an incompletion.

As much of an unlikeable dink Phillip Rivers is, you've got to give him credit for playing hurt. Unlike the national media, I won't say he had a good game (19/37, 211 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT is not good), but he made an effort, and that's respectable.

Tom Brady had his worst game of the season, going 22 of 33 for 209 yards, 3 interceptions, and 2 touchdowns. Perhaps this lackluster outing was due to his ankle injury. More on that later.

This was another Patriots victory that was much closer than it could have (and should have) been. Big miscues on offense prevented the Pats from exploding to an early lead and putting San Diego away before half-time.

After San Diego's first drive was stopped, they punted and Welker returned it to the 50. But a running into the kicker penalty allowed for a rekick (and came half a yard shy of giving the Chargers a 1st down). The second punt was fair caught by Welker on the 27, a 23 yard change in field position thanks to the silly penalty.

The Patriots' first drive was bizarre. First and 10 saw a relatively long pass (20 to 25 yards) attempt to Kyle Brady along the seam. He was in between two Chargers, and the ball was overthrown, almost as if Tom Brady thought Kyle had 4.4 speed and would accelerate to catch it. Third and 7 was another interestingly thrown ball, this one an incomplete to Moss.

The Pats' second drive came to an end at the New England 34, when Brady threw just behind Welker on a short route on 3rd and 2. It was a conversion we're just accustomed to seeing made all the time this year, and it was blown.

After failing to do much of anything in two posessions, the Pats' third drive would actually do something. But it wasn't good. Brady threw a Godawful pass intended for Stallworth. Brady apparently hoped to anticipate the movements of Quentin Jammer, but he anticipated wrong. Jammer sat on the route and picked the ball out of the air, giving San Diego posession on the Patriot 40.

An uncalled for 15 yard facemask penalty gave San Diego even better field position. The Chargers got as far as the 8 yard line before the defense clamped down and held them to a field goal. It was 3-0 Chargers but very easily could have been 0-0.

The Pats got back on the ball, and Maroney scored a touchdown to put the Pats up 7-3. This lead would not be relinquished, but it would take some doing to build it up.

San Diego once again drove down to the Pats' 8 yard line, where they ran into a wall and were forced to kick another field goal. It was 7-6, as close a game as you'd like.

On the ensuing posession, Brady threw to Moss on 3rd and 5, but Jammer was right there, batting the ball away and preventing the New England drive to continue. It was another misguided decision as Jammer was all over Moss, and is a good enough corner not to be muscled around.

After Rivers' first INT, Brady and the Pats executed a two play, 24 yard scoring drive, with Gaffney bringing it in. 14-6 Pats, but it could have been 14-3. What's the difference? 14-6 is a one score game, 14-3 is a two score game. That's a significant difference.

Then Rivers was picked again, but the Pats weren't able to do anything with the ball. Once again a failed 3rd and short conversion was the culprit. Brady threw about two inches ahead of Welker, who got the tips of his fingernails on the ball, but not much else. A well thrown pass would have allowed the drive to continue. Instead, the Pats were forced to punt into the wind, giving San Diego the ball back at their 35.

Thanks to a pair of Darren Sproles runs (one for 8 yards, the next for 26), the Chargers were able to kick yet another field goal. The score of the game going into half-time was 14-9. It very easily could have been 14-3, or 17-3.

On the first drive of the second half, Brady threw an interception on 3rd and 12. Granted, it was a tipped ball, but Brady was trying to force it into Stallworth. Instead of an incomplete pass and a punt into the win which would have pushed the ball back 30 yards or so to the San Diego 20, the Chargers got the ball on the New England 47. San Diego drove down to the Pats' 4 before being forced to kick yet another field goal. It was now 14-12, but very easily could have been 14-3.

The Pats drove down to the 2 yard line, thanks in large part to Laurence Maroney, who sliced up the defense for 39 yards on 6 carries in the drive. On 3rd and goal from the 2, Brady failed to see Antonio Cromartie underneath, and a pass intended for Watson was picked off in the end zone. The Pats could have tried running the ball in, but decided to throw it. Brady just didn't see Cromartie sitting underneath the pass. The Pats could have been up 17-3 or even 21-3 by this point.

The Patriots got into the end zone on their next drive, making it a 21-12 game. But it was still within reach for San Diego with 12:15 left on the clock and a 9 point deficit. It could have easily been 28-3 by this point. In other words, the game could have been all but over.

The Pats got the ball back with 9:13 and didn't give it up, driving for 15 plays and 56 yards, ending the game with kneel downs.

Obviously the 3 interceptions by Brady were the most glaring mistakes, but the Pats' performance on 3rd downs was equally inadequate. They converted 7 of 13, but 4 of those came on the final drive, making them 3 for 9 before that long game ending possession. Here were those 9 third downs, and the result of each play:

3rd and 7, NE 30: Incomplete intended for Moss
3rd and 2, NE 34: Incomplete intended for Welker
3rd and 1, NE 44: 3 yard run by Evans
3rd and 1, SD 16: 8 yard run by Maroney
3rd and 3, SD 40: Incomplete intended for Moss, broken up by Jammer
3rd and 2, NE 31: Incomplete intended for Welker
3rd and 1, NE 48: 4 yard run by Evans
3rd and 12, 50: Interception by Florence intended for Stallworth
3rd and G, SD 2: Interception by Cromartie intended for Watson

The three times the Patriots attempted 3rd down runs, they got the 1st down. They'd get two more such conversions in the 9:13 drive, making them 5 for 5 on the ground on 3rd down. This also made them 2 for 8 in the air, with one of those being a superhuman effort by Faulk and an 11 yard pickup almost all of which came after the catch.

On 3rd and 5 or less, the Pats were 3 for 7 before that lengthy 4th quarter drive. That's simply inexcusable. A team with an offense this good should convert almost every time it is 3rd and short.

As mentioned earlier, Brady had a bad day, but he's had random bad days in the past. Remember when he first broke into the League, and every 15 games or so he'd have a 4 interception outing? This was that kind of day. And on some of these drives he looked good enough. I'm not worried.

Kevin Faulk was perhaps the best player on the field. He led the team in receiving with 8 catches for 82 yards. Those catches came in big situations, keeping drives alive. A caller to WEEI after the game suggested we call third down "3rd and Faulk" from now on. I think it's a fantastic idea.

Laurence Maroney had another great day. He carried the ball 25 times for 122 yards (4.9 YPC), and had a 9 yard reception. He was the key to that clock devouring drive at the end of the game, getting big first down runs. This was his second 100+ yard effort in the playoffs. He only had 3 100 yard games in the regular season.

Randy Moss was once again quieted, this time by a combination of good defense, and poor passing. He only had one grab for 18 yards. But he did have a good run on a reverse for 14.

Wes Welker had a decent day, 7 catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. This could have been 10 catches for 70 or 80 yards, but Brady kept missing him. Welker also added his trademark block on a punt return, preventing the opposing gunner from downing the ball inside the 10 yard line.

Statistically Heath Evans had a quiet day, 2 carries, 7 yards, 1 catch, 13 yards. But both carries came on 3rd down and resulted in 1st downs, as did the 13 yard catch. Evans also did an amazing job blocking for Maroney, both inside and outside. It was a good fullbacking day for Heath.

Asante Samuel had a Pro Bowl calibre day on defense. He had an interception, and broke up several potential big passing plays. The fact that he had a mere 3 tackles tells you that the Chargers simply did not throw it much in his direction.

Ellis Hobbs also had a good day. Although he was thrown at a great deal, and allowed some big pass plays to guys like Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers. He did outmuscle Chambers for his interception. He also was surehanded at tackling, reducing the damage of completions against him.

Tedy Bruschi was huge. He racked up 8 tackles, and did a good job of covering Antonio Gates in the red zone. He broke up what would have been a touchdown to Gates, forcing a field goal attempt.

Rodney Harrison was the best defensive player on the field. He blitzed so perfectly. Although he never sacked Rivers, he forced some big incompletions, including one on 3rd and goal. He also got some nice shots on Rivers. And hey, no personal fouls this time!

Junior Seau looked really good out there. He got a sack, which was really thanks to Thomas and Vrabel. But he also made a good pursuing tackle from behind of Michael Turner on 3rd and goal, preventing a touchdown.

Adalius Thomas and Mike Vrabel may have not gotten to Rivers that much, but they put on enough pressure to force incompletions and bad throws. With an injured Rivers, just forcing him out of the pocket was a victory for the pass rushers, and Thomas did this a few times.

So the Patriots could have won this game 28-3, but instead played poorly (comapred to what we've seen this season) and beat a banged up Chargers team 21-12. But hey, the Colts didn't even beat a banged up Chargers team.

And now it's a rematch against the Giants. This is actually the 3rd time the Pats and Giants will be meeting on the same field (and it's the 3rd different field, as well). They met in pre-season at Gillette, then in week 17 at Giants Stadium, and now at the Super Bowl in Glendale.

The Giants gave the Pats their biggest challenge. It should be a fun and anxiety filled 2 weeks leading up to the big game. Early prediction: Patriots 24, Giants 13.

But for now, let's revel in our 4th AFC Championship in 7 years, and our 6th ever.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

17 DOWN, 2 TO GO

The Jaguars executed their gameplan to near perfection Saturday night, taking away the deep threat, keeping everything in front of them, but they didn't count on two things:

1. Laurence Maroney cutting up their defense like a kid with ADD and a pair of scissors.

2. Tom Brady having a nearly perfect night.

In a strange statistical turn of fate, the Patriots outrushed the Jaguars 145 to 80. And the Jaguars outpassed the Patriots 270 to 258.

Tom Brady's 26 for 28 performance, for 262 yards and 3 scores was reminiscent of games played in 2001 and 2003, back when the Patriots had no deep threat, and every pass was to a check down receiver. By the way, Brady's numbers add up to a QB Rating of 141.36.

In the latest edition of Post-Patriots Sour Grapes, Jacksonville safety Reggie Nelson had this to say about Tom Brady's performance:

"He ain't all that He's all right. It was a check down game. Anybody can go 26 of 28 in a dump-down game"

I understand that Nelson must be frustrated, especially after helping to shut down Moss's downfield routes, then watching guys like Welker, Faulk, and Gaffney collecting yards underneath. But he really needs to grow up. Nevertheless, he's joined a massive and ever growing club of whiners that includes: every Oakland Raider fan in the universe, Bill Polian, Jerry Porter, Marvin Harrison, Eric Mangini, and Ladanian Tomlinson.

What did Bill Belichick have to say about Tom's day?

"It was a little disappointing he missed two."

The funny thing about that is if I didn't tell you Belichick was smiling, you probably would assume he was dead serious.

Although the game was 31-20, and the scores were close the entire night, the Patriots weren't in as much jeopardy as it may have appeared. They fell victim to several bang-bang plays, plays in which the Pats were inches from making a big play, but Jacksonville turned it around and made a big play of their own, also by inches.

Wisconsinan and the Boston Herald's resident BS pusher Michael Felger claims that "For arguably the fourth time in the past seven games, the Pats were played evenly up and down the field by an inferior opponent."

This simply was not the case. The Jaguars played a hell of a game, but at no point were they a threat to win. There were so many close plays, and a couple of bad/questionable calls. Even if the Jags did "play evenly up and down the field" with the Pats for 3 quarters, we all know that the 4th quarter is when losers fade and Champions are made.

The first Bang-Bang play came on Jacksonville's opening drive. On 3rd and goal from the 8, The Pats collapsed the pocket around Garrard. Vrabel got in on him and began taking the 245 pound quarterback down. Garrard's shin was half an inch away from the turf when the ball left his arm and found Matt Jones in the end zone for a touchdown. The Pats were millimeters away from a field goal forcing sack, and instead allowed a touchdown.

In the second quarter, Jacksonville had tied it up 14-14 with a 95 yard drive. The Patriots drove downfield, but the drive stalled, and Gostkwoski missed a 35 yard field goal, keeping the score tied. The Pats were unable to recover from a 15 yard chop block penalty. However, the refs missed what should have been a 15 yard facemask penalty on Terry Cousin as he yanked down Wes Welker by the grill on 3rd and 14. A personal foul would have given the Pats a 1st and goal opportunity from the 8. Instead, it was 4th and 6 from the 17, and Gostkowski's kick banged the right upright, keeping the score level.

In the 4th quarter, Ernest Wilford made a spectacular leaping catch for a gain of 15 yards. Rodney Harrison stupidly speared Wilford after he had been downed, which tacked on another 15 yards to the play. Later in the same drive, Harrison fell a few inches short of tying up Garrard by the feet. Then Garrard threw into triple coverage. Rodney got two hands on the ball, but Tedy Bruschi also got his fingertips on it, disrupting what would have been an interception in the end zone. Jacksonville kicked a field goal to make it 28-20.

On 2nd and 9 from the 21, Brady hit Stallworth with a deep pass up the sidelines. Stallworth did a great job tipping the ball against his facemask, then gaining control of it without breaking stride. But Rashean Mathis made a shoestring tackle to prevent the touchdown. Later, on 3rd and 1 from the Jacksonville 17, Brady threw to Welker, hitting him in the hands about neck high. But Wes took his eye off the ball for a second and dropped what would have been a 1st down reception at about the 13 yard line. The Patriots settled for a field goal, making it 31-20.

My point is this: although the game was tied 14-14 at half-time, and the game wasn't sealed until Rodney intercepted Garrard with 4:17 on the clock, it very well could have been an early blowout. Garrard's miracle touchdown pass to begin the game, a no-call on Welker being dragged down by the facemask, a missed field goal, some stupid personal fouls committed by the Pats, Harrison not intercepting the ball in the end zone, Garrard barely slipping away from sackers, and Welker's dropped ball were all contributing factors to the apparent tightness of the game. What was a 31-20 score could have very easily been a 42-13 game.

Moreover, Garrard's performance when forced to throw was atrocious. He threw the ball well all game, but that was because he didn't really have to. But their drive in the 4th quarter that ended with Rodney's pick was simply horrible. With no sideline threats, Garrard forced the ball and was nearly picked off twice before Rodney got the ball. He tried throwing over the head of Adalius Thomas, who tipped the ball high in the air and came a few feet shy of catching it himself. Another tipped pass slipped in and out of Brandon Meriweather's hands.

Had a few plays gone just a bit differently, and the Patriots had built their lead earlier, Garrard would have been forced into a pass only offense, and the Patriots probably would have made him pay for it.

But I'll give all the credit in the world to Jacksonville. They shut down Randy Moss. The only big passing plays they allowed were a 39 yard screen to Maroney, and a 53 yarder to Stallworth on an attempted screen play that had been busted up.

But I'll also give all the credit in THE UNIVERSE to the Patriots. Brady had one of his best performances of the season (how many times have I said that this year?). His favorite target was taken away, but he still had a spectacular game. He was 26 for 28, or 92.9%. That, by the way, is an NFL playoff record for completion percentage (minimum 15 attempts). And both incompletions hit the receiver in their hands. Brady also pulled off that fake direct snap play to perfection. Stuff like that is just fun to watch.

Brady didn't throw an incompletion until 10:37 in the 3rd quarter. He completed his first 16 pass attempts.

Maroney had his best game of the season. He had 162 total yards of offense, a rushing touchdown, and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. To put that in perspective, Taylor and Jones-Drew combined for 66 rushing yards (about half of Maroney's total of 122), and averaged 3.5 yards per carry.

Wes Welker had a decent day, although his slipperiness and evasiveness came and went. He had 9 catches for 54 yards, including a touchdown catch, and a 13 yard end around. He had a rare drop, and averaging 6 yards a reception is low for him.

Kevin Faulk had another great game. He made a touch one handed catch for a first down, and had 5 catches for 36 yards. He also picked up the pass rush as good as always.

Donte Stallworth led the Pats in receiving yards with 68 on 3 catches. He's been somewhat forgotten about this year, so it was nice to see him get a big 53 yard catch, that was one perfect tackle shy of going the distance.

Jabbar Gaffney had one of his best games all year. He only had 26 yards off 3 passes, but one of those catches was a 13 yard (half of which was from a dive) to set up 1st and goal. He also blocked extremely well, allowing Maroney to get to the outside with room to move.

Randy Moss's stat line looks sad. One reception for 14 yards. But that reception was on a 4th and 5, and it kept alive what would be a touchdown drive (Note: the rhyming in that sentence was unintentional). Moss also had some big blocks downfield springing Maroney several times for big gains.

Ben Watson was a victim of my criticism in the week 17 game against the Giants. But Saturday night he did his job perfectly. He had a pair of catches for touchdown passes. He used his size and speed in the end zone to get the small amount of separation a player like him needs to make a catch.

The absence of Ellis Hobbs was very noticeable. Randall Gay found himself out of position on short passes on the flat and across the middle. Hobbs is often lamented for being burnt deep, but he is a smart player that rarely finds himself out of position, unless a receiver has simply outrun him. That being said, Gay did break up a potential touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone.

Hobbs' absence was also visible on special teams. Chad Jackson was okay, averaging 19.5 yards per return, but he never threatened to get a big chunk of yards. Hobbs, every once and awhile, will return one 40 yards or so, putting the Pats in striking distance. Hopefully Hobbs will be able to play more snaps next week.

Seymour, Warren, and Wilfork had a solid game. Warren got the only sack of Garrard and also forced the fumble that set up a score. The Patriots' front three did a good job slowing up Taylor and Jones-Drew, allowing guys like Seau to rack up 10 tackles and Bruschi to get 7. They also did a great job of breaking off their blocks and helping take down the runner when they were held up at the linebacker level.

Rodney Harrison had a strange game. He made some bonehead hits that resulted in personal fouls. But he did a good job of blitzing Garrard, forcing incompletions and bad passes. He also wound up with the game sealing pick. Rodney has an interception in 4 straight playoff games, tying an NFL record.

The Patriots look to eliminate victim #18 next Sunday. San Diego comes to town, fresh off a grueling win in Indianapolis. The Pats destroyed the Chargers 38-14 in week 2, but this is an entirely different Chargers team. It should be a good game.

Oh, and by reaching 17-0, the Patriots have tied the 1972 Dolphins for most wins in a season.

Friday, January 11, 2008


The Bruins have played several bad games this year, but last night was the first time all season that they made me mad. And what did they do to make me mad? THEY were mad.

The Canadiens came to town last night, looking to go 5-0 against the Bruins on the year. Canadiens/Bruins is supposed to be a rivalry, but this year it is no contest. A packed Garden crowd of 17,565, many of which were Quebecois vacationing in the relative tropics of Boston, saw the Bruins fly onto the ice with fire and passion. Almost immediately, a Bruin was in the penalty box. It was Chuck Kobasew, who got 2 minutes for boarding at 1:59.

Now I love physical hockey. There are many occasions when taking a penalty is appropriate. But not against Montreal, and the best power play unit in the NHL. Montreal scores on 25.1% of their man advantage opportunities. Meanwhile, the Bruins’ penalty kill rate of 78.2% is good for 27 th in the NHL. The Bruins should have been trying to reduce their shorthanded time, not increase it.

The Bruins killed their first penalty in impressive fashion, not allowing Montreal to cycle the puck much, disrupting the Habs’ power play before it could really get set-up. Then Marco Sturm got 2 minutes for elbowing about halfway through the first. Tomas Plekanec snuck in the back door of the crease, tipping in Andrei Kostitsyn’s pass to make it 1-0.

But penalties weren’t the only evidence of the Bruins playing on edge. When given scoring opportunities, they made questionable decisions and stuttered passes. They were pressing and uncomfortable when close to Montreal‘s net. Before the Canadiens’ opening goal, David Krejci hesitated in the high slot just long enough to be poke checked and lose the puck. It was the first of many glaring miscues for Boston.

Then came Montreal’s second goal. Milan Lucic and Aaron Ward both went for a hit on Michael Ryder in Montreal’s defensive zone. But Ryder was still able to get the puck out, and thanks to all the additional attention, the Canadiens were off to the races. Maxim Lapierre, Christopher Higgins and Roman Hamrlik were on a 3 on 2 breakaway. Higgins wristed a shot that burrowed underneath goalie Tim Thomas, then slowly dragged across the crease behind Thomas before Lapierre finished the play by knocking it in. 2-0 Montreal.

In the 2nd, the Bruins came out a bit calmer, but it didn’t last. Another power play goal put Montreal up 3-0. Boston got one back thanks to luck. Aaron Ward shot wide of the net, the puck bounced off the end boards, then off of Cristobal Huet’s skate, and into the net. If there were such a thing as And1 Hockey, this would be the ultimate goal, but it was simply a lucky bounce.

Lucic scored a real goal in the 3rd to make it 3-2, but Mathieu Dandenault scored a brace of goals, one at 11:56 (thanks to some horrible neutral zone play), the other at 18:49 to wrap it up. The Bruins fell to 0-5 against Montreal on the season, and have lost 15 of 18 against their northern rivals.

What irritated and surprised me was the lack of emotional control demonstrated by the Bruins. This was a team that kept its cool against the Flyers team that injured Patrice Bergeron, but somehow let their tempers go crazy against Montreal. Stupid penalties, poor passing, defensive miscues, and anxiety in the face of scoring were the fruits of Boston’s emotionalism. A 5-2 loss was the ultimate result.

The Bruins now sit at an uneasy 7th in the Eastern Conference with 46 points, only 1 point ahead of the 9th place Rangers. Keeping emotions in check won’t be easy as the B’s travel to Philly on Saturday.

But there is some good news in the “Hub of Hockey.” Zdeno Chara was voted in as a starter for the All-Star Game. The Providence Bruins of the AHL are a blistering 25-5-3. The Baby B’s will be sending a pair to the AHL All-Star Game.

Boston is in a vital stretch of games. They go to Philadelphia on Saturday, then host Toronto, and the Rangers before playing the Rangers at MSG, then traveling to Montreal, then hosting the Islanders. In the tight race for the Eastern Conference playoffs (7 th through 12 th separated by 3 points), this sequence of games may make or break the Bruins’ campaign for post-season hockey.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Every time Jacksonville makes the playoffs, ESPN gives them the distinction of being "the team nobody wants to face." I guess Peyton Manning's Colts and the 16-0 Patriots are teams people would rather face than the Jags?

Coach of the Year Bill Belichick, and NFL MVP Tom Brady host the 12-5 Jacksonville Jaguars, who edged Pittsburgh in a 31-29 debacle. The Jags are led by their runningback tandem: Maurice Jones-Drew and veteran Fred Taylor. These two combined for 390 carries, and 1,970 yards (5.1 yards per carry).

The Jaguars were 4-3 against playoff teams. Each victory was won through defense and clock controlling rushes. Bill Belichick put it best: "They play well from ahead." They squeeze out a lead, hang on to the ball, don't make many mistakes, grind long drives, tee off on the opposing QB, and come out on top.

When the Jaguars get ahead early, they are 10-0. When they fall behind early, they are 2-5. The biggest deficit they've overcome this year was 6 points. In other words, the nature of this game will be determined in the first quarter.

If the Patriots get out to a 10-0 or 14-3 lead, then the game will be over. Jacksonville simply does not do well playing from behind. David Garrard is a solid mistake-free passer, but he and his receivers aren't good enough to be the centerpiece of a drive.

The Patriots defense is renowned for its ability to take away the best part of an opponent's attack. Although they've been maligned for struggling to stop the run, when all an opponent has is a running game, the Patriots have stifled it, or at least minimized its affects. Jacksonville may be able to mount some long drives with a few first downs, but once they get close to the end zone, I think they will be stopped and forced to try field goals.

The Jaguars defense rushes the passer well, but it's a simple pass rush. Moreover, the Jags have some injuries in their front 7, weakening their ability to put pressure on Brady. Tom will get hit and sacked a few times, but I don't think Jacksonville will be able to pressure him with any consistency. And as we've seen, it only takes the Patriots one play to put up points from anywhere on the field.

I predict that the Patriots will get out to a 14-0 lead, and continue to pile up the points. If the Patriots score 28, they will undoubtedly win, because Jacksonville simply cannot put up that many points against our defense. My prediction: Patriots win 31-13.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


It’s time for the Second Annual Boston Blood Sox Awards Post. It’s been a phenomenal year for Boston sports. The Red Sox won the World Series, the Patriots are undefeated, the Celtics are 25-3, the Bruins are in the playoff hunt, the Revolution went to the MLS Cup, and BC football won their 8th straight Bowl game. There’s been no shortage of heroes in Boston, and no shortage of great moments.

I'm going to keep this post at the top of my page until all the Awards are given out, post by post. I thought about doing this all in one posting, but it's extremely long, so I decided to break it up.

Here's the awards I'll be giving out. Next to each Award, in parenthesis, is last year's winner.

Harry Frazee Award for Goat of the Year (Manny Ramirez)
Dan Shaughnessy Award for Worst Sports Writer (Dan Shaughnessy)
Alex Rodriguez Award for Biggest Disappointment/Choke (Boston Red Sox)
Boston Blood Sox Award for Hottest Patriots Cheerleader (Ashleigh van Gerven)
Doug Flutie Award for College Athlete of the Year (Craig Smith)
Bobby Orr Award for Bruins Player of the Year (Patrice Bergeron)
Bill Russell Award for Celtics Player of the Year (Paul Pierce)
Drew Bledsoe Award for Patriots Player of the Year (Asante Samuel)
Ted Williams Award for Red Sox Player of the Year (David Ortiz)
Tom Brady Award for Biggest Surprise Out of Nowhere (Jonathan Papelbon)
Curt Schilling Bloody Sock Award for Toughness (Jon Lester)
Boston Blood Sox Game of the Year Award (3/24, BC men's basketball vs. Villanova)
Red Auerbach Award for Best Executive (none given)
Boston Blood Sox Award for Lifetime Achievement (Red Auerbach)
Boston Blood Sox Award for Athlete of the Year (David Ortiz)
Boston Blood Sox Award for Team of the Year (UMass football)

Now, keep in mind that Awards are purely subjective, and determined completely by me. These are also given for the CALENDAR year of 2007, which sort of cuts winter sports like basketball into two seasons.

So without further ado, the Second Annual Boston Blood Sox Awards!!!


This is the big one. The Lombardi Trophy, the Stanley Cup, the Green Jacket, the Heisman, and every other award pale in comparison to this one. Of course, this Award goes to the most impressive New England team of the calendar year.

Here are the nominees:

The Boston Red Sox
The New England Patriots

It’s obvious that these two are the only possible options. The Celtics may have been considered, but keep in mind that these awards are for the calendar year, and the Celtics sucked from January to March in 2007.

These two teams are the titans of New England, the 1 and 1A of the region. Both seem to one up each other in terms of success. In 2003, the Patriots won the Super Bowl. Then the Red Sox one upped them by winning the World Series. In 2007, the Red Sox won the World Series. Then the Patriots went 16-0.

It’s difficult for me to select this one because although the Patriots are making history, the Red Sox are already in the clubhouse with a title.

The winner is…

The New England Patriots!

What pushed the Pats over the top was the fact that NO TEAM has done what they have done this year. No team has ever had a 16-0 regular season. Moreover, the Patriots beat some of the best teams in the NFL in order to reach 16-0. Using CBS SportsLine’s Power Rankings, here are the teams the Patriots played, and beat:

#2 Indianapolis Colts, 24-20
#3 Dallas Cowboys, 48-27
#6 San Diego Chargers, 38-14
#7 Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-13
#10 New York Giants, 38-35
#11 Washington Redskins, 52-7
#13 Cleveland Browns, 34-17
#17 Philadelphia Eagles, 31-28
#21 Cincinnati Bengals, 34-17
#22 Baltimore Ravens, 27-24
#24 Buffalo Bills, 38-7, 56-10
#30 New York Jets, 38-14, 20-10
#32 Miami Dolphins, 49-28, 28-7

This team went to Indianapolis and beat the Super Bowl Champion Colts. This team went to Dallas and beat the #1 team in the NFC. This team beat the winners of the AFC North, South, and West divisions. This team cut through the NFC East (all four teams .500 or better) like a hot knife through butter.

This team scored more points than any team in NFL history. The Patriots also allowed the 2nd fewest points in the League.

Within a few games, we may just be able to say that this is the best team in the history of the NFL, New England sports, and maybe even American sports.

Congratulations to all the winners of the Second Annual Boston Blood Sox Awards. 2007 was one of the best years in New England sporting history. The Red Sox won their 6th World Series title. The Patriots went 16-0. The Celtics exploded back onto the scene. Heck, even the Bruins have improved from suck to mediocre. So enjoy it, New England. But let’s be greedy and hope 2008 is even better!


The Boston sports scene saw the addition of a number of new great athletes. Matt Ryan became a Heisman hopeful. Josh Beckett emerged as the best pitcher in baseball. Randy Moss came from Oakland and dazzled us all. Kevin Garnett came from Minnesota and helped turn the Celtics into one of the top teams in the NBA. This may have been the most difficult category for me to select because of the abundance of great performances in 2007.

Here are the nominees:

Matt Ryan - QB, Boston College
Tom Brady - QB, New England Patriots
Randy Moss - WR, New England Patriots
Wes Welker - WR, New England Patriots
Mike Vrabel - LB, New England Patriots
Josh Beckett - SP, Boston Red Sox
Jonathan Papelbon - RP, Boston Red Sox
Kevin Garnett - F, Boston Celtics
Paul Pierce - F, Boston Celtics
Patrice Bergeron - C, Boston Bruins
Marc Savard - C, Boston Bruins
Taylor Twellman - F, New England Revolution

And the winner is…

Tom Brady of the Patriots!

Tom Brady has always been a good quarterback for the Pats, never putting up amazing numbers, but consistently doing what it took to win games. But since being armed with Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Donte Stallworth, he’s become a statistical record holder, which only further demonstrates his greatness.

Critics may argue that without so many potent weapons, Brady wouldn’t be that good. Some will argue that it is Brady’s offensive line that is the reason behind the fantasy football bonanza that was 2007. These people are partially right. Brady’s teammates are a big reason for his success, and he’ll be the first one to say it.

But Randy Moss never caught 23 touchdowns before Tom Brady was his quarterback. His career high was 17 coming into this season. Since 2003, Moss’s numbers were below expectations, as he struggled with mediocre quarterbacks. But he gets to New England and now he’s back to the Pro Bowl.

Wes Welker saw an even more dramatic rebirth in New England. Welker caught 16 more passes in 2007, than he caught in his other two years in the NFL combined. His 1,175 yards this year more than doubled his career total. In 2 seasons in Miami, he had only caught 1 touchdown. In ‘07, he hauled in 8.

Then there’s what happened last year. With Reche Caldwell as his #1 receiver, and an aging Troy Brown as his most reliable option, Brady still managed to lead the Pats to the AFC Championship game. We all forget that the Patriots were underdogs to San Diego the week before, but managed to pull it out. In 2006, Brady managed a solid 87.9 QB rating, impressive considering Ben Watson was his best downfield threat.

Brady is going to the playoffs for the 6th time in his career. He’s also starting the Pro Bowl. He’s the NFL MVP. And, oh yeah, the 16 game winning streak the Patriots are currently riding, is the SECOND longest of Brady’s career.


This year, the Boston Blood Sox Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Robert Kraft.

Kraft bought the Patriots in 1994, saving them from a move to St. Louis. He already owned Foxboro Stadium, which gave him the leverage to buy the team. The purchase price was $175 million. The Patriots’ current value: about $1.2 billion. That’s a spicy meatball.

Then again, making money in the NFL is like getting fat while locked in a McDonald’s: it’s pretty easy to do. The average NFL franchise is worth about $925 million, so a $1.2 billion team doesn’t say much.

So let’s look on the field for what Mr. Kraft has done.

In 1994, the Patriots were a joke. They were coming off of 5 consecutive losing seasons. They had won a meager 4 divisional titles in their history. Being demolished by the Bears in Super Bowl XX was their greatest achievement.

In 1994, the Patriots won the AFC East. In ‘96, the Pats won the division, as well as the AFC title before losing to Brett Favre and the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI. But the Pats made the playoffs again in ‘97 and ‘98. Then in 2001, the Patriots went all the way to their first Championship. Then their second in ‘03, and their third in ‘04. Now the club finished the 2007 calendar year with a 16-0 record heading into the post-season. Vegas has put the odds at 5:11 that the Pats will win. That’s not a typo.

Since 1994, the Patriots have made the post-season 10 times. Before 1994, it was only 6 times. Before 1994, the Patriots had a 4-6 record in the playoffs. Since 1994, they’re 15-6 in the post-season. They’ve won 4 AFC titles under Kraft, and three Super Bowls. He’s turned what was once a laughing stock bound for St. Louis into one of the best franchises in American sports.

What makes Kraft a phenomenal owner is that he balances a love of the team with good business sense. He wants nothing more than to see the Patriots win, but he is smart enough not to meddle or overextend himself. Instead, he delegates responsibility to the best people he can find. Men like Scott Pioli, and Bill Belichick. Robert Kraft has also helped secure the future of his sporting empire by involving son Jonathan Kraft. Jonathan currently serves as president of the Patriots, owner of the Revolution, and COO of the Kraft Group.

But Robert Kraft isn’t just the man behind the Patriots. He’s the man who tore down shabby Foxboro Stadium and built the jewel that is Gillette Stadium - with his own money. He’s also the man behind the New England Revolution, who have made it to 4 MLS Cup finals in 6 seasons. The area surrounding Gillette Stadium is being developed into Patriots Place, a shopping and entertainment center that will make Gillette Stadium a destination for millions 365 days a year.

Robert Kraft just might be the best owner in American sports, and that is why he is the winner of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Monday, January 07, 2008


This goes to the GM, head coach, owner, front office person, or any other guy/gal who doesn’t actually play, but makes a major impact on a team. Here are the nominees:

Scott Piloi - VP of Player Personnel, New England Patriots
Theo Epstein - GM, Boston Red Sox
Danny Ainge - Executive Director of Basketball Operations, Boston Celtics
Bill Belichick - Head Coach, New England Patriots
Josh McDaniels - Offensive Coordinator, New England Patriots
Terry Francona - Manager, Boston Red Sox
Doc Rivers - Head Coach, Boston Celtics

And the winner is…

Danny Ainge!

Ainge has been much maligned in this town, but in one off-season, the people have forgotten things like trading Antoine Walker (then reacquiring him), skipping over Ben Wallace in the draft, and hiring Rick Pitino as head coach. Pioli and Epstein have both assembled amazing teams, but their task this year was to take a good team and make it great. Ainge, on the other hand, took a horrible team and made it great. The trades orchestrated for Garnett and Allen have thus far paid off as the Celtics have returned to relevancy, will probably return to the playoffs, and may just return to their old stomping grounds: the NBA Championship.


This goes to the most exciting, exhilarating, exhausting game that involved a New England team. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a victory for the good guys. It just has to be an amazing contest.

Here are the nominees:

1/22: AFC Championship Game - Indianapolis Colts 38, New England Patriots 34
4/7: NCAA Hockey Championship - Michigan State 3, Boston College 1
4/20: Okajima Emerges - Boston Red Sox 7, New York Yankees 6
10/25: Soggy Comeback - Boston College 14, Virginia Tech 10
10/25: World Series Game 2 - Boston Red Sox 2, Colorado Rockies 1
11/4: Super Bowl XLI ½: New England Patriots 24, Indianapolis Colts 20
11/16: Celtics Hang on in Miami: Boston Celtics 92, Miami Heat 91
12/29: Pursuit of Perfection - New England Patriots 38, New York Giants 35

And the winner is…

World Series Game 2!

This was a great year for great games, as you can see from the nominees. I could have probably come up with 20 more great games to nominate, but I think this post is long enough as is, don’t you?

The Red Sox destroyed the Rockies 13-1 in Game 1 of the World Series, but Game 2 was the first nail in the coffin. It was a neo-classical pitcher’s duel, and by that I mean it turned into a battle of bullpens.

Curt Schilling got the start for the Sox, and the Rockies went ahead 1-0 in the first inning. A hit batter, an infield single, and a throwing error allowed Todd Helton to get an RBI groundout. The Red Sox got a few free passes in the following innings, but didn’t get a hit until the 4th. That’s when Colorado starter Ubaldo Jimenez was figured out by none other than JD Drew. Drew’s base hit advanced Lowell - who had walked - to third. Varitek hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Lowell and tying the game at 1-1.

In the bottom of the 5th, a two out walk to Ortiz, followed by a Ramirez single, set-up Lowell. The soon-to-be World Series MVP hit a double off the Monster to score Ortiz and give the Sox a 2-1 lead.

Then it was Schilling’s turn to come undone. After Matt Holliday singled and Todd Helton walked, Francona hooked Schilling, replacing him with Okajima. Hideki got out of the jam with a groundout and a strikeout. He retired the side in order in the 7th, and struck out the first two men he faced in the 8th before being relieved by Papelbon. Okajima retired 7 straight batters, four via strikeout.

The Red Sox came close to adding on to their lead, but were unable to get the big hit. It was up to Papelbon to save the game.

Papelbon’s first batter was the dangerous Matt Holliday, who reached on an infield single. But Jonathan had something tricky up his sleeve. Knowing that opponents know he doesn’t throw to first very often, he baited Holliday into taking a big lead. Papelbon gunned a pickoff throw to first, beating Holliday and ending the top of the 8th in dramatic fashion.

Papelbon pitched a 1-2-3 9th, striking out Helton to begin the inning, and Hawpe to end the inning and the game.

The nerve wracking win all but sewed up the World Series. The red hot Rockies had been derailed in a 13-1 blowout, then a 2-1 nail-biter. They seemed off. They couldn’t get the big hit, and their pitchers were being brutally exposed.

The Red Sox would win Game 3 10-5, then wrap up the Series with a 4-3 win in Game 4. But Game 2 was the back-breaker. Colorado wanted desperately to split the games in Boston, but were forced to go back to Denver empty handed, with 2 demoralizing losses under their belts, and a ferocious Red Sox team circling for the kill.


This Award goes to a player or players who went through tough times - through injury, through illness, through personal matters, through a harsh slump - but came out on top.

There was only one nominee I could think of off the top of my head, so he wins it. And the nominee/winner is…

Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox!

Pedroia wasn’t a highly touted prospect like Nomar Garciaparra, Hanley Ramirez, or Jacoby Ellsbury were. He was a solid player in the minors, hitting .305 with 5 homers at AAA Pawtucket in 2006. He came into what has been a tough position for the Red Sox the past few years. In the last two decades, second base has seen the arrival and departure of Mark Bellhorn, Tony Graffanino, Mike Lansing, Jose Offerman, Mark Loretta, Todd Walker, Rey Sanchez, Mike Benjamin, Jeff Frye, Luis Alicea, Scott Fletcher, Jody Reed, and Marty Barrett.

When Pedroia entered the fray, he struggled. He hit .182 in April, with a poultry .236 slugging percentage and only a pair of RBI. Despite the success of the team, Dustin was becoming the focus of scrutiny from the fans. It appeared as though he didn’t have what it took to be a Major Leaguer.

But Terry Francona and the Sox stuck with him. And it paid off. Pedroia had an outstanding month of May, hitting .425, slugging .600, and getting on base 47% of the time. In June he hit .333, then .299 in July, .346 in August, and .302 in September.

He finished the season with a .317 average, a .380 OBP, 50 RBI, and 86 runs scored. He was 10th in hitting in the American League. Placido Polanco and Chase Utley were the only 2B to sport higher averages. Pedroia won the Rookie of the Year Award, getting 24 of 29 first place votes.

Pedroia hit .345 in the ALCS, with 3 doubles, a homer, and 5 RBI. In the World Series, he hit .278, with a double, a homer, and 4 RBI. He also filled a spot in the lineup that had been tossed around like a hot potato: the leadoff spot.

He stayed strong despite all the negative attention. He remained confident that he would find his groove. It’s hard for a player to begin a season in a slump, especially when it’s your first season. But Dustin’s ability to stay inside the game was a big reason why the Red Sox won the World Series.


This Award goes to a player or team that nobody expected to do well. It goes to someone that people had hardly heard of, but who has since become a hero.

The nominees are:

Dustin Pedroia - 2B, Boston Red Sox
Tim Thomas - G, Boston Bruins
Randy Moss - WR, Patriots
Hideki Okajima - RP, Boston Red Sox
Boston College football

And the winner is…

Hideki Okajima of the Red Sox!

Nobody knew anything about Okajima when the Red Sox signed him to a modest $1.25M per year contract. The signing occurred almost simultaneously with the Daisuke circus. With the Red Sox adding Matsuzaka, JD Drew, and Julio Lugo; Okajima didn’t get any attention.

Most fans saw Okajima as a perk given to Daisuke, a buddy from the old country to help ease the adjustment to the new, a fellow speaker of Japanese in the locker room who could be Matsuzaka’s surrogate big brother.

But we all found out that Okajima was in fact, a phenomenal pitcher. The wakeup call came on April 20th. Before then, Okajima had been used in somewhat of a mop up role, pitching in blowouts or losses. He had impressed Francona, though, so Terry put him into the fire.

On the 20th, the Yankees were in town. The Red Sox scored 5 runs in the 8th to go from 6-2 down to 7-6 up. But Papelbon wasn’t available to pitch the 9th. So Francona called on Okajima to face Jeter, Abreu, and Rodriguez. Hideki got Jeter to groundout, walked Abreu, A-Rod lined out, and Thompson struck out to end the game. It was Okajima’s first save of his Major League career, and it was about as hard as a save can get.

The next game, also against New York, Okajima pitched a perfect 0.2 to earn the first Hold of his career. He’d go on to get 27 Holds, good for 3rd in the American League. He also added 5 Saves, and only 2 Blown Saves.

By the end of the season, he appeared to run out of gas. On July 14th, his ERA was 0.79. This would balloon up to 2.22 by the end of the season. Until games 3 and 4 of the World Series, he was not scored upon in the playoffs. He still had solid post-season numbers, with a 2.45 ERA and a WHIP of 1.091, but removing those last two outings makes his numbers look astonishing. Apart from the last two games, he pitched 9.2 innings, allowing 5 hits, 3 walks, and 0 runs. That’s a 0.00 ERA, and a WHIP of 0.827.

Okajima went from a shot in the dark signing perceived by most to be an effort to please Dice-K, to an All-Star, to an integral part of the Red Sox World Championship. The only thing that would make him more like Tom Brady would be a degree from Michigan and a supermodel girlfriend.

Friday, January 04, 2008


With all that’s going on with the Patriots and Celtics, the Red Sox winning the World Series is almost at the backs of our minds. But they lead from wire to wire, spending more days in first place than any other Red Sox team in history, winning the AL East for the first time in 12 years, and becoming the first two-time World Champs in the 21st century.

Here are the nominees for Red Sox Player of the Year:

Jonathan Papelbon - Closer
Hideki Okajima - Reliever
Mike Lowell - Third Base
Dustin Pedroia - Second Base
Kevin Youkilis - First Base
Josh Beckett - Starting Pitcher

And the winner is…

Josh Beckett!

After what we saw in the post-season, is there any doubt that Beckett was the best pitcher in baseball In ‘07? But Beckett’s playoff performance may have overshadowed what was a truly amazing regular season. Beckett went 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA. After allowing 36 homeruns last year, he yielded a mere 17 in 2007. After walking 74 batters in 2006, Beckett only issued 40 free passes this season. He only hit 5 batters, as opposed to 10 in ‘06. He only threw 3 wild pitches, as opposed to 11.

Then there was what Beckett did in the post-season. He started 4 games, winning them all. He threw 30 innings (7.5 per start), allowing 4 earned runs (1.20 ERA), 2 walks, 19 hits (0.677 WHIP), and striking out 35 batters (10.5 per 9 IP). To do that in the playoffs, against the best teams in baseball, is absurd.

Combining his regular season and post-season numbers, here’s what Beckett gave us:

34 starts, 230.2 IP, 24 wins, 7 losses, 3 no decisions, 2 complete games, 1 shutout, 208 hits, 42 walks, 80 runs, 77 earned runs, 229 strikeouts, 3.00 ERA, 1.083 WHIP, 8.9 K/9IP, 6.78 IP per start, and a 5.45:1 K/BB ratio.

That’s insane.


Here’s another Award that could go to about a dozen different people. The Pats are the best team in the NFL, and may just be the best team ever.

Here are the nominees:

Tom Brady - Quarterback
Randy Moss - Wide Receiver
Wes Welker - Wide Receiver
Logan Mankins - Guard
Kevin Faulk - Runningback
Vince Wilfork - Defensive Tackle
Ty Warren - Defensive End
Mike Vrabel - Linebacker
Asante Samuel - Cornerback

And the winner is…

Wes Welker!

Yes, Brady and Moss have the numbers, the records, and the highlights. In fact, Welker isn’t even going to the Pro Bowl. But the player who has impressed me the most on the Patriots has been Welker.

He was a workhorse. He got the couple yards here and there that kept drives alive, and set-up the big downfield plays to Moss. Welker had 112 catches, surpassing Troy Brown’s club record of 101. Wes was a lot like Deion Branch in terms of dependability. Of his 112 catches, 65 were for first downs.

He was a diversion. Defenses couldn’t put all of their focus on Moss going down the sidelines because Welker would be lurking underneath and exploit deep coverage for a big gain after the catch.

He was a slippery SOB. I could count on one hand how many times the first attempted tackler took Welker down. He seemed to get an extra 3 yards on every play, sometimes getting 10 or 15 bonus yards.

He did everything. He rushed the ball 4 times this season, breaking one of those for 27 yards. He returned 7 kickoffs for 176 yards, or a 25.1 average. He returned 25 punts for 249 yards. Although he never returned one all the way, his 10 yard return average always gave the Patriots a nice boost to start their offensive onslaught. And in a pinch, he could have replaced Gostkowski as the place kicker.

He did everything he was asked to do, and did it well. He had good numbers and was Brady's most dependable option.


Last year this Award was a no brainer. There wasn’t even another nominee besides Pierce. But this season, I think you can guess as to who the three nominees are:

Paul Pierce - Forward
Kevin Garnett - Forward
Ray Allen - Guard

And the winner is…

We have a tie. The entire PGA Tour will be sharing this award!

We all know the story. Last year, the Celtics were in the lottery. This year, they’ve already surpassed their win total from the 06-07 campaign, and are on pace for a staggering 74 wins. The C’s are 11 games ahead of Toronto, the largest divisional lead in the NBA. The PGA Tour just finished a 4-0 West Coast road trip, something unimaginable last season.

Combined, Pierce, Garnett, and Allen are averaging 20.0 rebounds a game, 11.6 assists per game, and 59.5 points per game. They’ve also made other players better, like Tony Allen, Kendrick Perkins, Eddie House, Rajon Rondo, and Glen Davis. And defensively the Celtics have held opponents to 87.8 points per game, the lowest points allowed total in the NBA.

The Celtics are back in business, and it is thanks to the PGA Tour.


Patrice Bergeron would have probably won this were it not for his injury. Without him, the Bruins have still remained in the mix, but he has been sorely missed.

Here are the nominees:

Tim Thomas - Goalie
Chuck Kobasew - Center
Marc Savard - Center
Marco Sturm - Right Wing

And the winner is…

Marc Savard!

The veteran from Ottawa is fourth in the NHL in assists with 34. He’s been the key to most of the Bruins offensive opportunities this year. Last season, he totaled 74 assists and 96 total points in a career year. With the absence of Bergeron, he’s become the Bruins’ most potent offensive weapon with 9 goals, and 43 total points.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


This goes to the New England college athlete that performed the best. Included for consideration is the size of the stage an athlete performed on. In other words, Boston College dominates this Award.

Here are the nominees:

Jamie Silva - DB, Boston College football
Matt Ryan - QB, Boston College football

And the winner is…

Jamie Silva of Boston College!

Matt Ryan got all the attention and the Heisman hype in the middle of the season, but his lackluster performances to finish the year eliminated him from contention for this Award. Silva, on the other hand, is a Rhode Island product; and was an absolute beast on the football field, leveling some mammoth hits and making big plays in big games, including a pick in the Champs Sports Bowl.

I don't think Jamie will get drafted, and if he does, it will be in the 5th round or later. But I do think he'll wind up in the NFL. He's got a nose for the ball, and his ability to set-up and execute big hits is something that could prove very valuable on special teams.


An extremely objectifying Award, but trust me, these girls are athletes. Unfortunately, they’re all so gorgeous, my simple male mind can’t get past their hotness in order to determine which one of them is the best cheerleader.

And the winner is...

Alyssa Caddle!

Yeah, that's nice.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


This Award is one of the more vague ones. It can be given to an individual, a team, an executive, a group of players, anyone really. I named it after A-Rod because we all know he’s a choker.

Here are the nominations:

Alex Rodriguez - 3B, New York Yankees
Derek Jeter - SS, New York Yankees
New York Yankees
New York Jets
Boston College Football
Roger Clemens - SP, New York Yankees
Daisuke Matsuzaka - SP, Boston Red Sox

This is a tough one to decide. A-Rod had a mediocre playoff series. Jeter flat out stank in the ALDS. The Yankees came in second place and once again exited early. The Jets went from a playoff team to a pack of scurvy rats. BC Football went from being #2 in the country to playing in the Champs Sports Bowl. Roger Clemens was exposed as a phony. And Daisuke didn’t really live up to the hype in ‘07.

And the winner is…

Roger Clemens of the New York Yankees.

We all knew Clemens was a jerk, a liar, and a traitor. But as much as we hated him, we had to begrudgingly respect his outstanding pitching over the years. Until the Mitchell Report came out. Now his numbers are tainted, his artificially extended career tarnished. Those extra Cy Youngs he won in Toronto, New York, and Houston have been sullied. Roger, we’re all very disappointed in you.