Friday, January 09, 2009


Eric Mangini is the new coach of the Cleveland Browns. The NFC North rejoices, but now the Jets better prepare to be ratted on. Funny how Cleveland despises Belichick more than any other city hates him, yet their club has hired two of his former pupils to run the team.

Former Brown head coach, and former Patriot defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has made it clear he'd be willing to assume the coordinating duties for Cleveland. Why not try to convince him to take that job in New England?

Current Patriot DC Dean Pees has done an adequate job with minimal depth, ancient middle linebackers, and incessant injuries. But when Crennel was in Foxborough, the Patriot defense was fierce, something which it most certainly is not these days.

Statistically the Pats have a very good defense. But it consistently fails at delivering the big plays with the game on the line. The 2006 AFC Championship against the Colts. Last year's Super Bowl. The 3rd and 15 against the Jets in OT.

Earlier this decade, the Pats' defense made the big plays. In the 2001 AFC Championship against Pittsburgh. In Super Bowl XXXVI they contained Marshal Faulk. During the 21 game winning streak they won games 12-9, 9-6, 14-10. In 2003, the Pats beat Indy 38-34 thanks to a 4 down goal-line stand, punctuated by Willie McGinest's game ending tackle of Edgerrin James behind the line of scrimmage.

Maybe the personnel changes on the field are the main reason why the Patriots defense doesn't make the game-changing play anymore. No more Ty Law, Tyrone Poole, Willie McGinest, Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi got old. 

But remember guys like Bobby Hamilton and Roman Phifer being playmakers? I do. The Pats defense was based on the idea that if every individual player just does their job, they put their teammates in position to make big plays. The Patriots don't do that anymore.

Maybe it's time for a change back to the way things were in Foxborough.


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.

I originally started the process with about 20 potential nominees, there were that many thrilling games this season. But those were narrowed down to 5 contests. Here are the nominees:

2/3 - Super Bowl XLII: Giants 17, Patriots 14
4/19 - Stanley Cup Conference Quarterfinal Game 6: Bruins 5, Canadiens 4
5/30 - NBA Conference Finals Game 6: Celtics 89, Pistons 81
6/8 - NBA Finals Game 2: Celtics 108, Lakers 102
10/16 - ALCS Game 5: Red Sox 8, Rays 7

This was a really tough choice. The Super Bowl, as painful as it was, was historic. The back-and-forth 5-4 game between the Bruins and Canadiens was the most exciting hockey game I've ever seen. The Celtics comeback in Game 6 against Detroit catapulted them to a championship. The Celtics also stymied a Laker comeback in Game 2 to take a 2-0 lead to LA. But the 8-7 come from behind win in an elimination game was one of the most amazing things you'll ever see.

That's why the winner is...

Game 5 of the ALCS, when the Red Sox came back from a 7-0 deficit to force a Game 6!

TBS announcer Chip Caray before the bottom of the 7th in Game 5: "They're dancing in the streets of Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg."

With 2 outs and 2 on in the bottom of the 7th, down 7-0, Dustin Pedroia hit a single that scored a run and extended the inning. Then David Ortiz did something he hadn't done in 61 postseason at-bats: hit a homerun. A 3 run shot that made it an interesting game again. JD Drew homered in the 8th, Crisp added an RBI single to tie it. Youkilis reached on an infield single in the 9th, advanced to 2nd on an error, and Drew bounced one over the right field wall to win the game.

It was the biggest postseason comeback since 1929, and the biggest comeback in an elimination game.

The Red Sox took Game 6 4-2, but came up short 3-1 in Game 7. The Rays went to the Series and were destroyed by a real team with real fans in a real city. With hindsight, a pessimist might look at the miraculous Game 5 as merely cheating death or postponing the inevitable. But to me at least, Game 5 was special. It was so amazingly thrilling and unbelievable. It was so surreal that it had to be real, no screenwriter or author would dare pen such a story for fear of losing the suspension of disbelief.

Had the Rays won Game 5, the Red Sox would have been embarrassed. Losing to a "team" like the Rays in 5 games and in Fenway would have flat out sucked. This game extended the series and allowed the Sox to lose with some dignity.

Red Sox fans have some optimism for 2009, and this game is one of the reasons why. There's just something about this team.


The Red Sox didn't repeat as World Champions, or even AL East Champions. And in the end, they were beat by a bunch of upstart kids on a team that shouldn't exist in a converted hockey arena of a stadium in a town where the home team is the 3rd most popular team behind the Yankees and Red Sox.

But it was an interesting season. A very interesting season. Manny Ramirez left early, Jon Lester emerged as an Ace, so did Daisuke, the team suffered some key injuries, and Pedroia won the MVP.

Here are the nominees:

Dustin Pedroia - 2B
Kevin Youkilis - 1B
Jon Lester - SP
Jonathan Papelbon - CP
Daisuke Matsuzaka - SP

The winner is...

Kevin Youkilis!

I know, I know, Pedroia won the MVP and he's not very tall. But Youkilis is 6' 1" and was the better player this season. Sorry folks, it's the truth.

Youkilis his 29 homers with 115 RBI, a .312 average, .390 OBP, and .569 slugging percentage. He was 6th in the AL in OBP, 3rd in slugging, and 4th in OPS. He played Gold Glove calibre defense at 1st, but also played 3rd when Lowell went down. He even spent some time in right field. He started the All-Star Game and won the Hank Aaron Award as the American League's best hitter.

Youkilis filled the offensive gap left by Manny Ramirez. His versatility in the lineup allowed Francona to bat him 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th. He hit .374 with runners in scoring position, and .328 with runners in scoring position and 2 outs.

Pedroia got hot down the stretch, but Youkilis was consistent all season long. Youk also had one of the few great performances in the ALCS against Tampa. He was 10 for 30 with 2 homers, 3 doubles, and 6 RBI.

With all due respect to MVPedroia, Youkilis was the best Red Sox player in 2008.


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.

The winner is...

Mike Lowell, 3B, Boston Red Sox

I guess technically Lowell has yet to "come out" of his injury. But the Award is about toughness, grit, determination, and that kind of thing.

Lowell played most of 2008 with one injury or another. He hurt his thumb, then his hip started acting up. The Sox shut him down in September and tried to get him ready for the playoffs. He played in games 1 and 3 of the ALDS against the Angels, but it was painful to watch.

All things considered, he had a decent year. He hit .274 with 17 homers in only 113 games. He was, without a doubt, the toughest player on the Red Sox this season.