Friday, October 30, 2009
The Phillies didn't get the win in Game 2. And if you look at his line score, (6+ IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 2 HR), you wouldn't think anything more than "Pedro was decent, maybe good, nowhere near great."
But if not for Charlie Manuel, likely inspired by his lack of bullpen quality (the pen blew a would-have-been Pedro win in the NLCS), Pedro would have finished with a line score of:
6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 2 HR
A much much more attractive sequence of numbers.
Pedro wasn't lights out. He wasn't "the same guy we saw 10 years ago." Not even close. But he was good. World Series calibre, for sure. Had AJ Burnett not pitched the game of his life, Pedro could have left the Bronx with his 7th career playoff 'W.'
It might have been Pedro's last game. Probably not, but he barely pitched half a season this year, and will be another year older in 2010. It wasn't a John Elway type of exit, but if this proves to be Pedro's last stand, it was a pretty good one.
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
It's not easy to celebrate a 2-1 loss to New Jersey. But compared to the kind of efforts the Bruins have put forth this season, this wasn't so bad. This was a playoff-type game. Tight defensive play (but no trapping, thank God), and the Devils came out on top. But in the long run, the Bruins will win these kinds of games more than they lose them.
Scoring. The Bruins couldn't slap home any loose pucks in front of the net. On most nights, they'd build a 2-0 cushion, but they just couldn't get the blades of their sticks on the puck. And that was their ultimate undoing.
But the Bruins are building good habits. They're playing good games. They're going to be alright.
Bruins host the Oilers Saturday afternoon.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
Thursday, October 29, 2009
There's only one Pedro.
And he pitches tonight in the World Series. His second career World Series start. As much publicity as Curt Schilling gets for his playoff record, Pedro's isn't exactly shabby. He's 6-2 with a 3.13 ERA and 1.054 WHIP. In 86.1 postseason innings, he's struck out 83 batters.
Schilling had the bloody sock, Pedro had a less visible but more impressive effort in Game 5 of the '99 ALDS. With a bad back and an 88 MPH fastball, he mowed through a murderous Indians lineup (Lofton-Vizquel-Alomar-Ramirez-Thome, etc. The Indians scored 1,009 runs in 1999), pitching 6 innings of NO-HIT relief to win Game 5.
Later in the '99 ALCS, Pedro was the only pitcher to record a postseason win against the New York Yankees that year. That's right, the Yankees went 11-1 in the 1999 playoffs, and that 1 loss was thanks to Pedro (and Roooooooooooooooooooger).
In the latest NLCS, he was once again brilliant. 7 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs. He was lifted after 87 pitches because the NL sucks and makes pitchers get pinch hit for. Then the Phillies' bullpen blew the 1-0 lead.
Pedro is my favorite player in all sports. People think the Yankees will rock him tonight. Maybe. Maybe not. I just think it's fun to watch him pitch. He doesn't have the same blistering fastball, and his changeup is less effective, but now he's a crafty veteran who can outwit hitters and still make them look like fools.
I just wish Nelson were still alive to be his good luck charm.
It seems like the Sox play the Angels every year in the ALDS. And every time that happens, we hear about how great a manager Mike Scioscia is. How "aggressive" he is on the basepaths. How fundamentally sound his teams play. How great of a "strategist" he is.
Yet what nobody talks about with Scioscia is the attitude his teams have, the kind of personality and atmosphere the Angels' clubhouses display. In fact, managers like Terry Francona, who helps generate a calm and relaxed team atmosphere, are often criticized or even ridiculed for their strategic shortcomings. Being a "player's manager" is dismissed. When guys like Francona are compared to Scioscia, it's the guy like Scioscia who is often credited with being the better manager.
Mike Scioscia is 21-24 in postseason games. We saw in the ALDS, that his running Angels only stole 3 bases. They also ran into outs. And in the ALCS, we saw a tight, wound-up, choking performance by the Angels defense.
The Angels had the 4th best fielding percentage in the AL (.986), and the 4th fewest errors (85). They averaged 0.52 errors per game in the regular season. They made 8 errors in the ALCS. 8 errors in 6 games, 1.33 errors per game, well over twice as often as their regular season rate.
So maybe chess-masters like Mike Scioscia and Tony LaRusa can take a few tips from laissez-faire guys like Francona and Torre. Maybe Mike Scioscia isn't as amazing as some believe.
And I realize I should've written this a week ago, but I don't have a guy like Scioscia pressuring me, so I write when I want.
This was just sheer domination. The Bobcats had 10 points in the 3rd quarter. Come on. That's just sad.
What can you really say about this game? The Celtics are simply better. They also played 100%, and had the home crowd behind them. KG was +34. Rondo had a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists. Shelden Williams added 12 from the bench.
The victory within the victory was giving a rest to guys like Garnett. KG went 33 minutes in Cleveland Tuesday night. Doc was able to keep him to 26. and Pierce only needed to participate in 25 minutes. It was also a good opportunity to give the bench some minutes.
The C's host the Bulls Friday night.
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The Celtics did something they hadn't been able to do since 2004: win in Cleveland. The Cavs have a pretty impressive record at home, they went 39-2 at home last year. They're 0-1 this year.
The Celtics' newfound depth was very apparent in this game. Rasheed Wallace added 12 points to the cause in his 24 minutes. Marquise Daniels had 7 in 18. All told, the bench contributed 26 points.
I don't like the +/- stat in basketball, but if you look at it on Tuesday night, all four bench players had better +/- ratings than all 5 starters.
KG looked good but has room to improve. He still seems to be finding his legs. And I'm sure Doc Rivers will want to keep him to 30 minutes or fewer in the C's next game. Pierce had 23 points and 11 rebounds. Rondo had 10 assists.
The Celtics have a quick turnaround and host the Bobcats tonight at 7:30.
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Pedro Martinez, a.k.a. God, will take the mound for the Phillies in Game 2.
I'm not gonna lie, I've been having difficulties deciding who to root for in this World Series. On the one hand, I hate the Yankees more than almost anything in the world. On the other hand, does the world really need arrogant Philadelphia fans? Yeah, they've already won, but if they win back-to-back, then they're legit. And is that something we really want? Yankee fans are already cocky, win or lose.
But thankfully, the Phillies have Pedro, and that more than tips the balance in their favor.
On the eve of the Celtics' 2009-2010 "Reclaim What's Ours" Campaign, Glen Davis decided to keep it real. He was out Saturday night and early Sunday morning, with a friend. Then his friend said something about Davis' girlfriend. Davis and his friend kept it real, fought for 15 to 20 minutes, then cooled down and continued to hang out. Except Davis broke his thumb in the altercation. And now he's out for a few months.
Way to keep it real, Big Baby. And way to live up to your nickname.
AP via ABC News
That blank banner, just begging to be dressed with letters and numbers, adorns the Celtics' practice facility in Waltham. It both sums up the ultimate shortcomings of last season as well as the hope for this upcoming campaign.
The Celtics have something in 2009-10 that they lacked in 07-08: depth. Oh yeah, and a point guard. Rajon Rondo matured into a near-elite level PG last season, averaging 8.2 assists and 11.9 points per game. Compare that to the Championship year when he was 5.1 and 10.6 in those categories.
Marquis Daniels backs up Ray Allen at the other guard spot. I'm not a huge Ray Allen fan, and I think he's lost more than a step. He's also been inconsistent in big games, occasionally busting open with 25 points, and sometimes holding himself to less than 8. Daniels can eat up a lot of minutes, allowing Allen to keep his legs energized.
Rasheed Wallace is another starter-turned-backup that will play in support of a guy who needs extra rest. Last year when the starters went out, this team struggled big time to stay above water. With Daniels and Wallace, they might even be able to extend leads when they sit KG, Pierce, and Ray Ray.
Kevin Garnett is the X factor. It's a long season, and I wouldn't have minded if they kept him off the roster for the first month of it. He's got to be 90% or better for the Celtics to have a chance at Banner #18.
The C's should win the Atlantic Division with ease. Last year they beat the 76ers by 21 games. What really matters will be the playoffs. That's where I think Rondo, Daniels, and Wallace will have their biggest impact.
I think the Celtics go to the NBA Finals, before losing in a tight series against the Lakers. Hopefully I'm right about the finals berth and wrong about the victor.
Monday, October 26, 2009
94-7. That's how much the Patriots have outscored their last two opponents. The 87 point combined margin of victory is just 1 shy of the NFL post-merger record, set by Kansas City. And once again, it could have been a much wider deficit.
Inside the pocket, Tom Brady looked like 2007's Tom Brady. He stepped up at the right time, was patient with the ball, and made excellent decisions with his feet. He threw two interceptions, and both were his fault. His pick in the end zone was particularly painful, and was his first red zone INT since 2005.
The defense was solid once again. Meriweather picked off two passes, and both INTs came as a result of a consistent pass rush. The Pats stopped the run enough in the first few drives, and once the offense was up 21-0, the rushing game was off the table, and it was teeing off time. Chung, Burgess, and Wright each had sacks. Banta-Cain had 2 tackles for a loss. Adalius Thomas didn't play much, but seemed to play decently when he was on the field.
Wes Welker is back. He caught 10 passes for 107 yards and a TD. He also had 53 punt return yards (13.3 average). In the last 3 games, he has 343 receiving yards, 4 TDs, and 28 catches.
The running game was disappointing, especially since Tampa Bay is very vulnerable to a ground game. Maroney looked like his normal frustrating and frustrated self. Green-Ellis had 6 yards on 7 carries.
The Pats need to work on several things for the next 2 weeks. The left side of the O-line was heavily penalized, and frequently beaten by the outside pass rush. The afore mentioned running game could have been a lot more efficient and punishing. When Tampa Bay was able to absorb the pass rush, they exploited monumental inadequacies in the Pats' secondary. Those inadequacies need to be hidden better, and the pass rush needs to be more consistent.
But 35-7 is 35-7. 5-3 is 5-3.
It's bye week time for the Pats. And then starts an unholy stretch of games. From November 8 to December 6, they play 5 games. 3 of those are on the road. It goes Miami, @ Indy, Jets, @ Saints, @ Miami. That's make or break material.
AP Photo/Tom Hevezi
AP Photo/Stephan Savoia
AP Photo/Matt Dunham
Mixed emotions about this game. On the one hand, the Bruins scored 2 goals in the last 88 seconds to force an overtime, and eventually triumph in the shootout. On the other hand, they NEEDED 2 goals to force an overtime.
If this were just an isolated game, it would be a thrilling victory to be celebrated and enjoyed. But the Bruins have developed an awful habit of inconsistency. They played a solid 1st period, a fantastic 2nd period, and for 18 minutes in the 3rd they let the Senators dominate them. It's got to stop.
Tim Thomas was Jedi-like in this game. His stat line isn't impressive (27 saves on 30 shots), but without him this game would've been 5-1 or worse. And that's not an exaggeration. He made some inhuman saves, staying in plays that no other goalie could stay in.
Derek Morris has another good game. But not many Bruins did. Blake Wheeler scored a goal, but also had some dreadful giveaways. Bergeron, Ference, Stuart, and Wideman all made nervous looking passes.
This team's problem isn't a lack of fire, it's a lack of focus. They don't have that workmanlike attitude that characterized their regular season play last season. They'll be too casual for 15 minutes at a time, trying to make cross-ice passes that are broken up by a defender literally 2 feet from them. They'll lose battles along the boards, and make moronic decisions with the puck. Then after 15 minutes of this, and an opponent's goal or two, they'll have fire and play with a fury for 10 minutes.
They don't need a fire lit under them. They don't need players traded to "send a message." They need veteran guys like Chara, Sturm, Savard (when he returns), and Rechhi to play with a collected passion and an even keel. When Aaron Ward and PJ Axelsson left, this team lost some of its calm and confident character. That needs to be replaced from within. And I think eventually it will be.
The Bruins have 6 power play goals. They've allowed 3 shorthanded goals. They'd better find that character.
Almost a week off until the B's host the Devils on Thursday.
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Fred Chartrand
The Eagles were looking for their 7th straight win over the Fighting Irish, bowl eligibility, and their first road win of the season. But they turned the ball over 5 times in a closely fought contest in South Bend.
The BC defense was excellent, holding Notre Dame to 5 for 15 on 3rd downs, and coming up with some big stops. Combined with punter Ryan Quigley, the Eagles dominated the field possession battle, but didn't do much with that advantage.
BC wasn't supposed to win this game, but the 5 turnovers cost them what would have been a season-making win. Not only would they have secured bowl eligibility, they could have cracked the Top 25, or at least gotten themselves to the precipice of doing so.
BC comes home and plays Central Michigan on Halloween. But CMU is no pushover. The Chippewas are 7-1 (4-0 on the road, including @ Michigan State), so BC will have their work cut out for them.
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
Friday, October 23, 2009
The Bruins went in to Philadelphia with a lineup riddled with injuries and jet lag. Well maybe not jet lag, but they certainly weren't fresh after a hard-fought 3-2 win over Nashville on Wednesday and a flight down to Philly. Despite all this, they put in a solid effort, and nearly won 2 points.
This was the first time all season that the B's put together two respectable games in a row. If not for a touch of bad luck, they would've also had their first 2 game win streak of the season.
Two of Philly's goals were a bit fortunate. Although most hockey goals are lucky bounces that come after a series of good plays (or defensive mistakes). Philly's first score came off Mark Stuart, easily beating Tuuka Rask. Stuart was involved in the 2nd Flyer goal, too. He was hit by Steve Begin's stick in the face, went down in the slot, and Philly took full advantage.
Rask might be the best backup goalie in the NHL. He's got the skill-set, and he plays smart. He might have some regrets about Philly's 3rd goal, but he also made big positional stops on Flyer breakouts.
Derek Morris finally earned my unhate. I still don't like him, but I don't hate him. But he is on probation. He had a nice power play goal (set-up by beautiful work from Zdeno Chara) and an assist on Begin's game-tying goal.
Byron Bitz, Steve Begin, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci were all in top form.
I was a bit confused about the shootout lineup Julien put out there. Sturm, Ryder and Krejci would be my first choices. But I'll also give credit to Ray Emery, who made some game saving stops in regulation and the shootout.
Bruins host the Senators Saturday night.
AP Photo/Michael Perez
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Later today, the Patriots will be on their way to London. They'll be practicing at a cricket field, and playing in a soccer stadium. This is part of the NFL's latest attempt to globalize their game. And it will also be their latest failure. Outside of the US, there just simply isn't demand or even room for American football.
Remember NFL Europe? Rohan Davey does. Teams in London, Spain, Scotland, Germany, and the Netherlands. By the end of the now defunct League, 5 of the 6 teams were German, the only country that seemed to develop any sort of fan following. Even there, most of the fans in attendance were transplanted Americans who worked or studied abroad and wanted to enjoy their nation's sports in another language.
England is the wrong place to try American football. The NFL thinks the game will translate there because the language already does. But ask Finnish hockey players, Chinese basketball players and Cuban baseball players if language matters in the globalization of a sport.
The NFL will point to the popularity of rugby in the UK as a reason to market American football there. To me, that's more of a seat-taken kind of sign, rather than a seat-open sign. If British sports fans want a hard-hitting game, they'll watch rugby. In fact, most Brits consider football to be slow-paced, because of all the stoppages. Europeans are accustomed to sports that rarely stop. That's why hockey and basketball have flourished there.
If the NFL wants to market in Europe, it should play games in Germany, not Britain. The Germans showed the most interest in NFL Europe. Germans like Sebastian Vollmer are gradually becoming part of the NFL. Germans don't have a physical sport of their own like rugby to play/watch. And unlike other Europeans, Germans love things that are efficiently planned and rigidly timed. NFL games are efficiently planned and rigidly timed.
And you know what, you don't need to play a game in Britain or Germany in order to get people to notice you. With global communications today, anyone everywhere can watch any sport they want. So just pay some popular German TV station to broadcast one NFL game a week. If it catches on, the station might start to pay the NFL.
But in the end, football will never be a popular sport worldwide. It's funny how it is the dominant #1 in the US, while the rest of the Big Four sports do much better abroad (basketball in 6 continents, hockey in Eastern and Northern Europe, and baseball in the Caribbean and Pacific Rim).
The world knows about American football, and few care. And I don't care that they don't care. That is until my team has to go to England to play in a promotional game that will ultimately be a marketing failure.
The lineup that took the ice Wednesday night wasn't exactly what Coach Claude Julien and Bruins fans had envisioned at the start of the season. But the one thing the Bruins had at the start of the season, and is being tested at the moment, is depth at forward.
There were several firsts in this game. Brad Marchand's assist of Michael Ryder's goal was his first NHL point. Steve Begin's game winning goal in the 3rd was his first as a Bruin. And he was assisted by Daniel Paille, getting his first point in a Bruins uniform.
It was a nice win, and a solid win, but Nashville sucks. And the trouble with the Bruins hasn't been winning, it's been winning two games in a row. Tomorrow night in Philly will be a much tougher test.
AP Photo/Winslow Townson
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Rookie WR Julian Edelman will not be catching passes or returning punts for some time (an undisclosed amount of time, as you may have already guessed), as the Patriots announced that he has a broken arm. Not surprisingly, there's no word as to when he broke it, how he broke it, where (in the arm) it's broken, or when he might be returning.
There's also no word on who will take his spot, as the pass-heavy Pats now have only 3 active receivers. Brandon Tate is an eventual possibility, and there are options from the practice squad. Don't be shocked to see more passing to the tight ends, and guys like Laurence Maroney or Kevin Faulk split out wide, or in the slot.
The Bruins and Sabres made their first EVER trade between each other today. The B's sent a 3rd round pick, and a conditional 4th rounder to Buffalo for winger Daniel Paille.
Paille is 25 and has been nothing short of a disappointment in Buffalo. As I said above, in 39 years, the Bruins and Sabres have never made a trade. The fact that Buffalo doesn't mind directly competing with a team that has Paille on it speaks volumes about how much they think of him out in western New York.
I'm pretty flaccid on this deal. This kid's getting $1.3 million this year for a guy who totaled 12 goals and 15 assists last year, with only 20 penalty minutes. That being said, he did score 19 the year before. And I remember hating the acquisition of Michael Ryder last year, so hopefully I'm wrong about this deal as well.
Just a few days after trading Chuck Kobasew, and placing Milan Lucic on long-term injured reserve, the Bruins lost another key forward in Marc Savard. The team announced today that the playmaking center has a broken left foot, and will miss 4 to 6 weeks. Savard scored twice in Friday's 3-0 win over Dallas.
On the bright side, it's better to endure these injuries in October than in April or May. In last year's playoffs, injuries to key players helped contribute to Carolina's 7 game series win in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Journeyman Trent Whitfield was called up from AHL Providence to take Savard's roster spot.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The Patriots came to terms with recently released linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. I think this is a great signing, as Banta-Cain should be able to learn the defense quite quickly, and be ready to play in Sunday's game against the Buccaneers.
In all seriousness, Banta-Cain, whose contract expires at the end of the season, was released then re-signed by the Pats to a deal that extends into next season, but for a lower salary. So Banta-Cain gets job security, and the Patriots get a lower cap number.
The Patriots cut Joey Galloway today, in a not so surprising move. Galloway had been a healthy scratch the past few games, not even making the trip to Denver. There had been rumors of a trade today, but apparently there were no takers. Cutting him now, before the trade deadline at 4, does allow him to choose a new team to sign with, instead of being placed on waivers. Yeah, Belichick's a real classless jerk.
The Sporting News
The Sporting News
Yesterday the Patriots cut 3-4 specialist Tully Banta-Cain, but he'll probably be back on the team. I wouldn't understand dropping him completely, as he leads the team with 3 sacks, and has played solidly on the outside of the defensive front. He expects to be back with the Patriots.
Joey Galloway has not been cut. It's probably because he's a veteran, and would therefore be getting paid anyway. The Patriots did not make any trades with him (despite wild speculation in the National Sports Media) yesterday. But I think they're only hanging onto him in case something awful happens to their receivers.
Speaking of receivers, rookie Brandon Tate out of North Carolina might be able to return to practice this week.
And there's still the case of the missing outside linebacker. There's not much to report on Adalius Thomas' absence from Sunday's game. He has been underperforming all season, and I suspect the coaching staff saw some things in practice they did not like. Thomas has been a disappointment since joining the team, but he has shown sparks of brilliance. If he doesn't play in London, then I think he'll likely be cut.
Monday, October 19, 2009
The Tennessee Titans and NCSU Wolfpack should get together, go out for some hot cocoa, and bitch about the weather in New England. Both teams traveled to Massachusetts this weekend, both had to deal with the cold, and both gave up 50+ points.
A week after being embarassed by Virginia Tech, the Eagles returned to the creamy middle of the ACC and pummelled NC State. The win puts BC on top of the mediocre Atlantic Division, half a game ahead of Clemson and Wake Forest.
Montel Harris set school records with 264 yards rushing and 5 TDs. He's rushed for 756 yards and 5.6 YPC this season. He had 900 yards on the ground last year. He's got 5 more games to surpass that mark.
BC isn't amazing. They don't deserve to even be considered to be ranked (they got 3 votes in the latest Coaches' Poll). But they're better than what everyone thought they'd be. They only need 1 more win to attain bowl eligibility, and they lead their division.
They play Notre Dame in South Bend next Saturday at 3:30.
Sidenote: I was disappointed with BC fans at this game (actually, the fans NOT at this game), particularly the student section. It was about 5 rows from full, and in 3 years of working games at BC, I've never seen that. Leaving a cold blowout game early is one thing, but not even being able to fill the student section is just sad. When BC fans like myself complain about not getting big bowl bids, we should point the fingers at our fellow fans, and not some vague Dixieland good ole boy conspiracy.
AP Photo/The News & Observer, Ethan Hyman
The Bruins placed bruising forward Milan Lucic on extended injured reserve. He's not eligible to return until at least 10 games and 24 days have passed. Lucic broke a finger in Friday night's victory in Dallas.
After trading Kobasew, the Bruins needed forwards so they called Guillaume Lefebvre, Brad Marchand and Vladimir Sobotka up from AHL Providence. Lefebvre played decently in Satrday's loss to Phoenix. Marchand was solid in preseason. And Sobotka's been up and down for a few years. He's tallied 10 points (4 G, 6 A) in 10 games with Providence.
Byron Bitz will likely move up the depth charts to the 3rd or 2nd line, replacing Lucic. Bitz had to fill that role in the Montreal series last postseason, and did so admirably.
But this is the worst news the Bruins could get. Lucic is the kind of guy that can spark a team to turn around. Now he's out until at least mid-November.
Last night, the Bruins traded winger Chuck Kobasew to the Minnesota Wild. As surprising as this move was, it was simply stunning what the B's received in return: Alexander Fallstrom, Craig Weller, and a 2011 2nd round pick.
Fallstrom is currently playing for Harvard. He's a freshman. In the NHL, you can draft a player and they can remain with their junior team, or their college team. He's a 6' 2" 200 pound forward.
Weller scored 1 goal and 2 assists last season for the Wild. He's 28 and has 4 NHL goals. He's good for a bunch of penalty minutes, and maybe he might fit-in on the 4th line. I'm not really sure. All I know is the guy spent 6 seasons playing for the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL.
So the Bruins traded a solid 3rd line forward for a POTENTIAL 4th liner who hardly ever scores, a college freshman, and a draft pick 2 years away.
I'm not too happy. But I am quite confused. It's not a bad deal for the future, but it hurts the team right now. And the last thing this team needs is to be hurt. Kobasew only has 1 assist so far, but he has played decently in every game. And if this was about clearing cap space, why not do it before the season, and perhaps create enough room to re-sign Kessel.
The Bruins' biggest weakness seems to be at defense. Hopefully this move clears space for the Bruins to make another deal for a solid defenseman who can play the penalty kill. But I have my doubts.
I'll miss Kobasew. He was what he was, and wasn't going to get markedly better. But he was a solid backbone-of-the-team kind of guy. He played the Carolina series with 2 broken ribs for Christ's sake. Yet folders like Blake Wheeler get to stay with the team.
Hockey Data Base
Last year when the Cardinals came to Gillette, they were smoked 47-0 in a snowy, freezing rain, wintry mix, crappy winter day. They simply didn't want to be there that afternoon. The Titans looked the same way, on and off the field.
When the visiting team exits the tunnel at the very last minute to warm-up, you already know the Pats have won.
This was the biggest shutout in the NFL since 1976.
Tom Brady looked outstanding. It was against a crappy defense, but Brady finally clicked with Welker and Moss. 9 different Pats caught catches, Welker for 150 yards and 2 TDs, Moss for 129 and 3 scores. Brady's 5 1st quarter touchdowns is a new NFL record. He got me 51 fantasy points.
Laurence Maroney was decent. Then again who wasn't.
I wouldn't get too accustomed to games being this easy for the Pats. The combination of a listless 0-6 team with wretched weather rolled out the red carpet for the Patriots. They did show some improvement in certain areas, and it was nice to face a cupcake after taking on some quality opponents. It was also nice to give Brady an opportunity to get back on track.
Next week is another easy team, but in a weird place. The Pats play the Buccaneers in London. The Patriots have yet to win away from Foxborough.
Also, the Bills beat wunderkind Mark Sanchez and Coach of the Year Rex Ryan. So the Pats are atop the AFC East once again.
And this picture is just awesome:
Saturday, October 17, 2009
The Bruins did something last night that they'd failed to do in all 5 previous games this season: they didn't allow a power play goal. They didn't allow any goals, in fact. Tim Thomas registered his most impressive outing of the young season, stopping 27 shots.
It's difficult to overshadow a goalie's shutout, but the collective efforts of the Bruins did just that. Marc Savard had 2 goals, Bergeron had a goal and an assist, Ference was a well deserved +2 with 3 blocked shots, Lucic and Chara were credited with 5 hits, and Derek Morris blocked 5 shots.
As a team, the B's blocked a staggering 24 shots. Dallas could not get through the vaunted layered defense the Bruins mounted. It was this same team-oriented defense that gave the Bruins the #1 seed in the East last year.
None of the Bruins goals were magnificent. There was a touch of luck to them. But the opportunity for that luck was a result of good play. Savard's 2nd goal was an absolute snipe from an extreme angle beyond the faceoff circles. Savard's 1st goal, and Bergeron's goal were deflections. Very fortunate deflections.
This roadtrip along with a nice shakeup in the lines (the Sturm-Savard-Ryder line played excellent in this game) could be just what the doctor ordered. The Bruins travel to Phoenix to take on the Bankrupts. The puck drops at 9 Eastern.
AP Photo/Mike Fuentes
Friday, October 16, 2009
The season ended with a Jonathan Papelbon blown save. The Sox have a young fireballing reliever named Daniel Bard. Some have suggested trading Papelbon and passing the closer's role to Bard. But why?
Daniel Bard clearly has the stuff to be a quality closer. If you can get 3 outs in the 8th, you can get them in the 9th. Does he have the mental makeup for the job? Well the only way to find out is to have him pitch the 9th. There's no amount of "mentoring" or "tutelage" that can help him. If he's got it, he's got it. Another year under Papelbon, or a year under Billy Wagner won't change this.
But the Sox have an opportunity to considerably shorten their games by having Papelbon close and Bard set-up. Furthermore, Papelbon has an innings limit, so Bard can spot-close when Papelbon's worked 2 games in a row.
It's clear that Bard is the future closer of the Sox, or at least that's clearly the plan. But unless the Sox can get A LOT in return for Papelbon, there's no point to getting rid of him, at least not now.
So keep Papelbon (unless he's part of a deal to get Felix Hernandez, in which case he's somewhat expendable), have Bard set him up, and you've got an excellent bullpen.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
It's inevitable, and fun. The Sox get eliminated and for a week (or more) all you can think about are the possible acquisitions for the next year's campaign. And the big name being bandied about is Felix Hernandez, a.k.a. King Felix.
Hernandez turns 24 in April. No typo, he'll only be 24. He was 19-5 for a mediocre Seattle squad this year, and registered a 2.49 ERA. He's got 58 career wins in the bank, and has the potential for 200+ more.
Yet people will not want to trade their precious prospects for this potential Pedro Jr. But Hernandez is worth almost the entire Red Sox minor league system. He's younger than some of the guys people here in Boston don't want to use to acquire him. But he's an Ace.
And if you have a rotation of Hernandez-Beckett-Lester-Matsuzaka-Buchholz, you're in the LCS without even trying.
The local morons will disagree with me. "The Sox lost because they didn't score enough runs. We need bats. We have enough pitching. So don't sell the farm to get Hernandez." And while that seems true on the surface, think about this: Did the Sox lose because they didn't have enough offensive might, OR did the Angels win because THEY had great pitching?
Pitching wins. Pitching wins. Pitching wins. Pitching wins. Pitching wins. Pitching wins. Pitching wins. Pitching wins. Pitching wins. Pitching wins. Pitching wins. Pitching wins. Pitching wins. No beer and no TV make Homer go crazy.
Felix Hernandez is worth Jacoby Ellsbury. He's worth several Jacoby Ellsburies. He's worth Bowden, Bard, and all the "untouchable" prospects the Sox have in their nursery.
He might struggle in a more competitive environment. His track record of success is very short. He might not be able to handle postseason baseball. But like I said earlier, he's got the potential to put up 200 more W's in his career. And that's what it's all about.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
It's pretty much official. The Patriots will welcome back Junior Seau, who is now 40 years old. Hopefully this is an acquisition intended to increase depth and add insurance to a position that's been riddled with injuries for the Pats. If Seau plays more than 8 snaps a game while guys like Mayo and Guyton are healthy, I'll be very disappointed.
I wasn't impressed with Seau in '07, and I can't imagine he's improved much.
I know what I'm gonna be for Halloween: the Bruins' penalty kill unit. Because it's fucking scary.
Going to B's games the last few seasons, and in each section there'd at least one loudmouthed, simple-minded, one-step-logic moron screaming obscenities at PJ Axelsson. I'd like to meet these jerks now and ask them how they enjoy the PK without the PJ.
The Bruins' penalty kill is 20th in the NHL. The power play unit isn't exactly inspiring to watch either. That's 25th.
All true Bruins fans have a nemesis on the team, a guy that just annoys the piss out of you. That used to be Shane Hnidy for me. Now it's Derek Morris. I just don't understand what he's trying to do. He shoots too often when he's got a guy on him (resulting in blocked shots that rebound into the neutral zone), he misses easy passes from Chara, and in the defensive zone he's a ghost.
The Bruins have a few days off before a nice little road trip to the Southwest. The dry air might help clear their heads a bit. I'd like to see some lines get changed around. I've never been a fan of Lucic on the 1st line. I'd rather see him with Ryder and Krejci. That combo worked well today. And Bitz needs more time, which should come at the expense of Blake Wheeler, who didn't win a single one-on-one battle in this game.
The penalty kill unit might need some external help in the form of a trade or signing. But there's no excuse for an impotent power play. The Bruins are loaded with fast, talented skaters who can make tremendous passes.
Bruins @ Stars Friday night, then Bruins @ Coyotes Saturday night.
AP Photo/Steven Senne
Monday, October 12, 2009
I'm not ashamed to admit that the Denver Broncos own the New England Patriots. Tom Brady is 1-6 against them. He's 104-23 against everyone else. And Sunday afternoon said ownership continued unabated.
The Patriots lost this game in so many ways. Certainly the officiating wasn't Pro-Bowl calibre. Throwing a taunting flag before the alleged taunt occurs is just weird. Maybe the ref was a pre-cog from Minority Report or something. My theory is he was going to call a late-hit flag on Meriweather, but realized it was a clean play. Then Meriweather provided enough material to call a taunting penalty. That being said, the penalty amounted to 15 yards of Denver's 98 on the drive, so the Patriots bear the responsibility for the resultant touchdwon, and no the refs.
If Gostkowski hits that last field goal. If the Patriots win the toss. If Orton's 3rd & 12 pass that bounced off two Patriots and landed in Gaffney's hands had found the ground. If a Patriot falls on a fumble instead of a Bronco. If the refs didn't call taunting. If the refs didn't have quick whistles. If the replay booth actually replayed questionable calls. If, if, if. If is a middle word in life
The big "if" is, IF the Patriots had played better. Plain and simple. Tom Brady is the leader of the Patriots, and he led them in poor play Sunday. Bill Belichick is an aggressive coach, who loves to pass the ball. So why do you think he was calling so many running plays late in the 4th quarter? He didn't have faith that the pass would work for them. Not at that particular moment.
On paper, Brady's day wasn't awful. 19/33, 215 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs. That's a 97.4 rating. But those incompletions. Missing a wide open Moss for an easy touchdown. Underthrowing and overthrowing. He's comfortable in the pocket now, but he's not yet in tune with the playing field beyond the pocket. He and Welker haven't clicked and gotten those YACs we're used to seeing. And he has looked awful when trying to hit Moss deep.
The good news is that these things SHOULD come back to him. The bad news is they might not. The clock is ticking. Then again, to be 2-1 after playing Atlanta, Baltimore and Denver ain't too shabby. Then again, the Patriots haven't won outside of Gillette Stadium since December 2008.
Tennessee comes to town in a nice respite from these big games. Then it's Tampa Bay in London and a much needed bye week.
I anticipate that after that, Brady & Co. will be on the same page. Which is good because it goes Dolphins-Colts-Jets-Saints-Dolphins after the bye.
This has not been a season without frustration for the Sox. They'd go on a stretch when they'd score 6 to 9 runs a game, but the pitching would allow 7 to 10 runs a game. Then they'd go on a stretch when the pitching would keep opponents to 1 to 3 runs. But the offense would score 0 to 2 runs. Occasionally, both would click, and the Sox would be unbeatable for a ten day stretch. But that didn't happen against the Angels.
Did Jonathan Papelbon have a good year? That's a question that will now be asked for at least a month. He had 38 saves, in 41 attempts. That's 92.7% conversion. That's an excellent rate. His WHIP was excellent, as was his ERA. But was he the dominant Papelbon we grew accustomed to? No.
This was an awful way to lose. It seemed as though Fenway Park and October had once again conspired for a storybook Red Sox come-from-behind series triumph. Or at least a chance to stave off elimination for another day.
But when you put yourself down 2-0, you run risks. Sometimes an error will cost you a game. Sometimes a missed call by an ump. Sometimes a lack of clutch hitting, or a bad managerial decision. This time it was a closer who brought nothing to the table.
You go down 2-0, you're on the edge, where even a slight breeze will knock you off. And Sunday that slight breeze was an ineffective closer.
And give credit to the Angels, who thoroughly outplayed the Sox these last 3 games. Their pitching was better. Their bullpen. Their offense. Their defense. Actually, the Sox may have run the bases slightly better than the Angels, which is ironic because people accredit Mike Scioscia with being some sort of baserunning guru.
There's work to be done. The Sox need more pitching. Who doesn't? They need to build a more consistent offense, instead of simply hoping that 4 guys within 6 lineup spots are all hitting hot at the same times.
And honestly, Red Sox Nation, you'd only be surprised by the way this series went if you had refused to see the truth: that this team can be as hot as Scarlett Johansson, and as cold as a dead penguin's ass. This was a bipolar club.
Pitchers and catchers report in... well, I don't know, but they will report. And that's what I love about baseball.
AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I keep hearing people complain that the Red Sox "aren't showing any intensity." How the hell can a baseball player show intensity? Baseball requires a calm and relaxed attitude. In '04, the Sox were down 3-0 to the Yankees but won 4 straight because they were relaxed, not "intense." In '07, they were down 3-1 to Cleveland, but calmly and confidently came back in that series. And if they have any chance of producing another miracle, they'll need to remain cool and collected.
Sox fans who paid attention for the regular season have seen a familiar thing these past two nights: a Sox offense with everyone slumping. This lineup is capable of a relentless onslaught. It's also capable of what we've witnessed lately. Maybe 2 or 3 guys put up good at-bats, and nobody can string hits together.
The good news is that this is self-correctable. And returning to Fenway won't hurt. The Sox scored 90 more runs at home than on the road. They average 1.1 more runs per game in Fenway. So that's something to look forward to.
But the Sox have dug themselves a deep hole. They can come back from this 2-0 deficit, but the hitting has to improve ASAP, and the pitching also has to be lights out.
Game 3 Sunday afternoon at 12:07 PM. Apparently TBS wants all Sox fans to lose sleep at night, and Angels fans to lose sleep in the morning because that's 9:07 AM in Anaheim.
Friday, October 09, 2009
The B's utterly dominated the 1st period of play. Even though they only had a 1-0 advantage to show for it, they put 19 shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes. They only had 15 for the rest of the game. Give credit to Jonas Hiller for keeping the Ducks in this one early.
The problem with the Bruins in this young season isn't heart or fire. It's focus. They weren't focused in the Washington game. They were focused in Carolina, and focused for 20 minutes last night. Then they just stopped. Perhaps it was complacency, perhaps it was over-confidence. But even though they were up 1-0, they played like they were up 4-0, or down by 4.
Hunwick and Sturm committed silly penalties. Light stuff, but the kind of stuff that's clearly against the rules and is almost always called. Pair of power play goals and Anaheim was up 2-1 only 3:36 into the 2nd. I miss PJ Axelsson.
The Bruins looked awful from that point on. Impotent power plays. Really dumb turnover. I've seen college hockey games between a drunk team and a sober team. The Bruins looked buzzed.
Hopefully they recover with some maintained, consistent, slow-burning fire. They host the worst team in hockey Saturday night when the Islanders come to town.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa