Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Jayson Stark of ESPN wrote a brilliant column about Manny Ramirez's various exits from city to city. And while the ranks of Manny loyalists here in Boston have dramatically dwindled the past few years, there are still some out there who wish to praise this man.

It's true, the Sox won a pair of World Series thanks in no small part to him. That's two rings more than they'd won in the previous 8 decades. Then again, it was pitching that ultimately won those titles. Manny was indeed an irreplaceable part of those Championships, but not quite as irreplaceable as Derek Lowe in '04, or Josh Beckett in '07.

We didn't hear much about Manny's antics in LA, considering it was a few thousand miles, and a separate League away. But he pulled his same crap. He was always inexplicably hurting and couldn't play. He recently got kicked out of a game for arguing balls and strikes. Can you imagine that? Manny, while in a Red Sox uniform, was more docile at the plate than JD Drew. He'd only get kicked out if he wanted to, or if he didn't care if he did.

In Stark's column, he quotes an unnamed NL executive, who makes an exceedingly poignant point about Mr. Ramirez:

How could a true Hall of Famer be whisked out of town like this in two places? Not a lot of Hall of Famers get put on outright waivers -- just take the contract and he's yours -- two different times, the first time when he's still in his prime, right? You don't see that a whole lot.

Manny's career numbers are indeed astounding. 554 homers, 1,828 RBI so far. A career average of .313, with a .411 OBP and .589 SLG (that's an even 1.000 OPS, which is 9th all-time). Then there's 29 post-season HR in only 111 games, with 78 RBI. 12 time All-Star, 9 time Silver Slugger.

Manny Ramirez, despite that female fertility drug stuff, will likely make the Hall of Fame some day. But will he perhaps have an exit from Cooperstown as dramatic as his exits from Boston and Los Angeles? I wouldn't put it past him to harass some security guard, or maybe slap a fellow inductee during the speeches when he gets in.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Don't bury the Red Sox quite yet, but you may want to keep your schedule clear for their funeral. A heartbreaking weekend in Florida has all but sealed their fate. The Sox are now 6.5 behind the Rays and Yankees, and 7 behind in the loss column. With only 31 games remaining, they'd have to pick up one game on either team, once every four games, or about 3 games every 2 weeks. Barring a stupendous run, coupled by a collapse from either Tampa Bay or New York, it's safe to say that the Sox will see their season finish at 162 games.

I'll blame the injuries a bit for this weekend's failures. Certainly Youkilis and Pedroia would have scored some runs. Both teams pitched well, as evidenced by the 17 total runs scored in the series. The Rays just got a few more hits.

But a 162 game season isn't lost in 3 days. The Sox are now 5-9 against the Rays, their direct competitor for a playoff spot. They're also 5-7 against the Yankees.

The Sox play the Rays 3 more times. They also play the Yanks 6 more times. So there's still a glimmer of hope. But the Sox have been 23-19 since the All-Star Break. Like I said, it's not just been one bad weekend, it's been an extended period of slightly above average play.

The Sox have a day off then travel to Baltimore. Beckett faces Brian Matusz. The Sox are 6-6 against the O's this season.

But look on the bright side. It seems as though Manny Ramirez will be returning to Fenway, as a member of the White Sox. That series begins September 3rd.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Doubleheaders suck. It's very difficult to win both games, especially with bullpens constructed as they are. By winning the first game, you usually use up your top relievers. It becomes doubly hard to sweep doubleheaders when you have to jostle your rotation around.

Let's start with Game #1. Josh Beckett was decent. He was great through 6, then fell apart in the 7th, yielding a pair of homers. But that's been the problem with Beckett, hasn't it? When was the last time he put together 20 solid innings in a row? I don't mean 20 innings allowing 2 runs, nothing that ridiculous. Just 20 innings, scattering some runs here and there, but being consistent.

And it's kind of sad that 6.1 innings and 3 earned runs is now considered a good start for Beckett. That being said, it's technically a Quality Start, and it's his first since August 3rd.

Now to Game 2. Mister Reliable, also known as Daisuke Matsuzaka, had to be scratched from his start against Tampa. So the Sox moved Lester back, and put Wakefield on the mound in the nightcap. Convoluted, eh? But the good news is that Lester gets to go against Tampa Bay. And honestly, even with Lester on the mound, it would've been hard to beat Felix Hernandez.

Hernandez is now 10-10. But get this, last night was his 15th straight Quality Start. 25 of his 28 starts have been Quality. You can't help but feel bad that his talents have been wasted with such a terrible team.

Anyway, it's hard to be upset at splitting a doubleheader, especially considering the strange circumstances surrounding the 2nd game. Then again, the Sox were 6-3 on a homestand against some very beatable teams. Not bad, but not good enough.

They have 3 absolutely vital games down in Tampa Bay this weekend. They must at least win 2. If they lose 2, then the Wild Card/Division is out of reach. But the Sox are 4-8 against the Rays this season.

Jon Lester opposes David Price Friday night.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Last year saw a BCS Bowl between two undefeated non-BCS teams. It was a convenient way for the good ole boys in the BCS to avoid embarrassment, while simultaneously pretending that the likes of Boise State and TCU don't scare them to death. Here's a preview of some non-BCS and independent teams that might make some noise this college football season.


BSU will wisely transfer to the Mountain West in 2011, which will make the non-BCS MWC a top 5 conference in my books. The Broncos have won 14 straight, and 26 of 27. Junior QB Kellen Moore returns after a 39 TD, 3 INT season. They're loaded at every skill position, including TE, and return 9 offensive starters. They need to figure out the alignment of their O-line, but that's the only real issue on offense. Defensively, they return 9 as well. Remember, this team held Oregon and TCU to 18 total points. Imagine, a 14-0 team returns 18 starters in an unbelievably weak conference. What do you get?

Prediction: 12-0

Key Games:
9/6 vs. Virginia Tech (Landover, MD)
9/25 vs. Oregon State
11/26 @ Nevada


Even though TCU lost to Boise State, they were also the last team to beat Boise State, in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl. QB Andy Dalton already has 29 wins under his belt going into his senior campaign. They return 9 offensive starters, including 4/5 of their O-line. They have quality and abundance at WR and RB. Defensively, they were 6th in the country last year in scoring, and 1st in total defense. They return 7 starters, but their 4 losses were huge. Cornerback could be a very susceptible position.

Prediction: 11-1

Key Games:
9/4 vs. Oregon State (in Arlington, TX)
10/16 vs. BYU
11/6 @ Utah


Even though TCU's lost some key defensive players, their rivals in the Mountain West have taken more significant hits. BYU welcomes a new QB, and RB Harvey Unga left the school for an "honor code violation." But they do bring back 4/5 offensive linemen, and some solid WRs. Unfortunately, only two of their defensive front 7 will be back. They also have to play TCU and Utah on the road.

Prediction: 8-4

Key Games:
9/18 @ Florida State
10/16 @ TCU
11/27 @ Utah


QB Jordan Wynn will start the season as a starter. He entered the fray midseason last year and struggled against TCU and BYU. But he excelled in the Poinsettia Bowl. 4/5 of the O-line returns, and they'll pave the way for a tandem of good backs. But the Utes have little experience at WR. The defense will need to rebuild quickly, as only 3 starters return. But they do have TCU and BYU at home this season. And TCU has never won in Salt Lake City in Mountain West play.

Prediction: 9-3

Key Games:
9/2 vs. Pittsburgh
11/6 vs. TCU
11/13 @ Notre Dame
11/27 vs. BYU


UH will once again trot out QB Case Keenum, who threw for 5,671 yards and 44 TDs. However, he threw 15 TDs, 9 in the last two games. He'll have a trio of 1,000+ yard receivers to throw to. But the Cougars will need to improve their 83rd ranked rushing offense. More importantly, they'll need to bolster what was the 95th scoring defense, and 111th total defense in 2009. The Cougars only play 3 games outside Texas, and should roll through C-USA.

Prediction: 11-2

Key Games:
9/18 @ UCLA
11/5 vs. Central Florida
11/20 @ Southern Miss
11/27 @ Texas Tech


Navy were 10-4 in '09, earning their 8th straight winning season, and 8th straight Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. QB Ricky Dobbs rushed for 1,203 yards and threw for 1,031 more last year. His 27 rushing TDs set a new NCAA record for QBs. The Midshipmen averaged 280.5 rush yards a game and will look to do similarly in 2010. Their defense last year allowed the 10th fewest points in the country. But only 5 starters return, and none of the LBs have much experience. This could prove volatile in a 3-4 system. But a nice schedule, a tried and true gameplan, and some athletic players will propel Navy far in 2010.

Prediction: 10-2

Key Games:
10/2 @ Air Force
10/9 @ Wake Forest
10/23 vs. Notre Dame (in East Rutherford, NJ)
12/11 vs. Army (in Philadelphia)


The Irish start the season ranked 34th in the preseason poll. That's still overrating them. They return 5 starters from their offense, and only 1 on the line. And their offense was their strength in '09. They were 63rd in scoring defense, 86th in total last year. They'll return 7 starters, including a strong D-line, some depth at OLB, and solid safeties. But they're still wholly overrated. The ND people gloss over some glaring flaws, and overly emphasize the Irish's few strengths.

Prediction: 6-6

Key Games:
9/25 vs. Stanford
10/9 vs. Pittsburgh
10/23 vs. Navy (in East Rutherford, NJ)
11/13 vs. Utah
11/27 @ USC

Boise State will definitely crack into the BCS. TCU has an outside chance, and needs to really dominate the Mountain West. Houston has a shot too, but would need to run the table. I'll give credit to Virginia Tech, Florida State, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech, and UCLA for scheduling these teams. Extra credit to Oregon State who'll play BSU in Boise and TCU in Texas.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The Big XII remains at 12 teams in 2010. Nebraska will join the BigTen in 2011, and Colorado will join the Pac-10 in 2012. The offseason nearly saw the death of this central states Conference, as Texas and Oklahoma were courted by the SEC and Pac-10. But now it's football time again. And the traditional powerhouses will reign supreme in the conference, which has definitive upper, middle, and lower classes of teams. There are three Big XII teams ranked in the pre-season top 10, but the 4th highest ranked team is 37th nationally.


Texas is the popular pick to win the Big XII South, and then likely the Big XII title. But Oklahoma is looking good this year. Sophomore QB Landry Jones threw for 3,198 yards last season, with 26 TDs and 14 INTs. If he can stay healthy, he'll improve on that. RB DeMarco Murray also returns, although there's little depth at receiver. Only 5 defensive starters return, but Oklahoma's done a good job of reloading with talented players. The Big XII South winner will be determined in the Red River Shootout, with OU victorious.

Prediction: 11-2, Big XII South Champs, Big XII Champs

Key Games:
9/11 vs. Florida State
9/25 @ Cincinnati
10/2 vs. Texas (in Dallas)
10/23 @ Missouri
11/27 @ Oklahoma State

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No more Colt McCoy in Austin. Garrett Gilbert is the heir apparent, and was baptized by fire against Bama in the title game. So when the Horns start off at Rice, it should seem like a pee wee game for Gilbert. That being said, UT only returns 4 offensive starters, and they'll likely simplify their schemes, going with hard runs and a back-to-basics passing attack. They'll rely on their defense, which returns 6 starters, mostly in an excellent secondary, which is a must have in the Big XII. They'll excel, but lose to OU in the RRS. They'll likely still make a BCS Bowl.

Prediction: 11-1, 2nd in Big XII South

Key Games:
10/2 vs. Oklahoma (in Dallas)
10/16 @ Nebraska
11/13 vs. Oklahoma State
11/25 vs. Texas A&M


The Blackshirts are back. NU will return with a mostly intact offense, with some talent at the skill positions. However, that unit needs to improve their execution as the Huskers were 75th in scoring offense last year, and 99th in yardage. The defense lost Suh, but they're still deep and ferocious, especially up front. In a Conference loaded with powerful offenses, a shutdown defense can separate a team from the pack. Nebraska held 7 opponents to single digits last year. That's half of their games. They also have something every defensively minded team needs: an excellent, reliable, and accurate kicker. An easy non-conference schedule also helps.

Prediction: 11-2, Big XII North Champs

Key Games:
10/16 vs. Texas
10/30 vs. Missouri


Mizzou is a good darkhorse candidate in the Big XII North. Big Blaine Gibbert returns after a 3,593 yard, 24 TD, 9 INT season that saw him complete 59% of his passes. 4/5 of the offensive line also returns. However the Tigers need to fill some holes at WR. The defense isn't bad either. DE Aldon Smith tallied 11.5 sacks as a freshman. Although their depth on the line is worrisome. They're deep at linebacker, but have some forgettable DBs. A soft schedule to start their season will help them tie up all their loose ends.

Prediction: 10-2, 2nd in Big XII North

Key Games:
10/23 vs. Oklahoma
10/30 @ Nebraska

The remainder of the teams are listed alphabetically...


QB Robert Griffin returns from an ACL injury. He amassed 2,934 total yards in '08, along with 28 TDs. The offense should be solid, but the defense will be dreadful. The Bears allowed 405.6 yards a game last year. Part of that is from playing in the Big XII, but most of it is because that unit is simply awful. They'll benefit from a soft schedule with games against Sam Houston State, Buffalo, and Rice, but they still won't attain bowl eligibility.

Prediction: 4-8


I don't know if the Big XII will be happy to lose CU or not. On one hand, they lose a struggling program. On the other hand, they all lose a near guaranteed win. The Buffs have an experienced offense, but it wasn't a very good one. They allowed 44 sacks last season. The QB situation is a toss-up, they have no depth at RB, but they do have some good receivers. Their special teams units might be among the worst in the country. Apart from two very good CBs, their defense is air.

Prediction: 2-10


ISU is looking to build on a surprisingly good 7-6 season last year. They return 8 offensive starters, including RB Alexander Robson, who compiled 1,456 yards from scrimmage in '09. They're also very deep at WR. They have an inexperienced defense, but their secondary is very good. A tough schedule will keep them from winning more than 7 games, but they won't be a pushover. They have to play at Iowa, at Oklahoma, at Texas, and also host Nebraska.

Prediction: 6-6


The departure of QB Todd Reesing has left a vacuum at the position. There'll be a competition for the spot with no clear favorite going into the season. The Jayhawks have astounding depth at CB (8 players vying for 2 spots), some good defensive ends, but they're weak at linebacker. Their offense is poor, and their O-line is supbar. They ended 2009 with 7 straight losses, and they won't improve much in 2010.

Prediction: 6-6


RB Daniel Thomas ran for 1,265 yards and 11 scores last year. He'll spearhead an offense that boasts 4 returning O-line starters. The passing game, however, is a big question mark. K-State also lost some key playmakers on defense. They have a pair of excellent safeties that will need to carry the D.

Prediction: 5-7


RB Kendall Hunter returns to Stillwater after missing 2010 due to injury. He ran for 1,553 yards and 16 TDs in '08. The Cowboys have an inexperienced O-line, only returning 1 starter. They were 31st in scoring defense last season, but only bring back 3 from that unit. This will be a rebuilding year for OSU, and the potent offenses of the Big XII will exploit that.

Prediction: 8-4


A&M is once again relevant. They feature an explosive and highly skilled offense. They were 5th in the country in yards and 19th in scoring last year. Although their O-line lost 3 starters. Their defense, however, is atrocious. They return 10 starters on D, so they'll likely be better. They were 105th in scoring defense, 90th against the run, 106th against the pass, 105th in total yards. They yielded 49 points to Texas, and 65 to OU.

Prediction: 8-4


The Red Raiders are a typical Big XII team. They're very talented and very deep on offense, with excellent skill position players. But their defense is susceptible. TTU was already weak on defense last year, and now they need to reload again, especially up front. They'll score points, but they'll get scored on by the big boys of the Conference.

Prediction: 8-4


The Red Sox put in a waiver claim for Tigers' outfielder Johnny Damon. Damon's hitting .272 with 41 RBI and 7 HRs in Detroit. However, he has a no-trade clause which includes the Red Sox, so he'd have to waive that before the Tigers and Sox could make a deal. If no deal gets done by 1:30pm Wednesday, then the Tigers can pull him off waivers.

"What we had in Boston -- I stress had, from 2002 to 2005 -- we had a special bunch of guys. And after the 2004 season, guys started leaving. And in 2005, how (Mark) Bellhorn left, how Alan Embree left, how Kevin Millar was being treated there. That's something that sticks with you. It was a totally new team."

So perhaps the way the Red Sox Front Office concocts injuries, and makes token contract offers to players on their way out has rubbed someone the wrong way.

Whatever. I don't think adding a mediocre OF/DH type would do much, especially if he barely wants to be here.

USA Today


Marco Scutaro had a pair of 2 run singles to lead the Red Sox in brisk, windy, rainy 6-3 win. John Lackey contributed another great start against an AL West opponent, going 8 innings, allowing 3 runs (2 earned), and striking out a season high 10.

I really don't have much to say about this game except that it's exactly what the Red Sox must do at this point. They have to beat 76 loss teams like the Mariners. They have to get excellent starting pitching, 2 out hitting (3 of the Sox' 6 runs came with 2 outs), and hitting with runners in scoring position (Sox were 3 for 6 in that situation).

Josh Beckett needs to show something tonight. He opposes David Pauley, a 27 year old with 12 career starts under his belt.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Monday, August 23, 2010


The ACC hasn't been too impressive in recent years. ACC representatives were 3-4 in Bowl Games. The struggles of Miami and Florida State are partially to blame. But this year might be the beginning of a resurgence.


The U is back, ladies and gentlemen. Jacory Harris looks to build on an impressive yet inconsistent (17 INTs) season. He has 4 excellent receivers to distribute the ball to, and some solid runningbacks to carry the mail. The defensive line is ferocious and deep. The DBs are also solid. There are still rough edges, and this team will still find ways to tokenly screw things up, but they're in the ACC, so it won't matter. They host Virginia Tech in November, so i'm giving the Hurricanes the edge to win the Coastal Division, which is by far the superior grouping in the ACC.

Prediction: 10-2, ACC Coastal Division winner, ACC Championship winner

Key Games:
9/11 @ Ohio State
9/23 @ Pittsburgh
10/2 @ Clemson
10/9 vs. Florida State
11/13 @ Georgia Tech
11/20 vs. Virginia Tech


The Hokies return 7 offensive starters, including talented QB Tyrod Taylor, a talented stable of WRs, and last but not least: Ryan Williams, who ran for 1,655 yards in '09, scoring 21 TDs. Virginia Tech finally has an offense again. However, their defense only returns 3 starters, 1 each on the D-Line, at LB and in the defensive backfield. And the new faces aren't that impressive, either. Thankfully for Tech, they're in the ACC, and reloading years can still be quite successful.

Prediction: 10-2, 2nd in Coastal Division

Key Games:
9/6 vs. Boise State (in Landover, MD)
11/4 vs. Georgia Tech
11/20 @ Miami


Don't forget that GT won the ACC last year. The Yellow Jackets averaged 295.4 rushing yards per game last year. They lost a few backs to graduation, but that's like taking a gallon of water out of the ocean, there's plenty more RBs where those came from. Unfortunately, the Yellow Jackets have some big leaks. Their defense couldn't make stops, their QB was erratic, and their special teams were a liability. Hiring Al Groh as a defensive coordinator should help the defense. It'd be hard to make that worse. Tech will be good, just not good enough to beat Miami or Virginia Tech.

Prediction: 9-3, 3rd in Coastal Division

Key Games:
10/23 @ Clemson
11/4 @ Virginia Tech
11/13 vs. Miami
11/27 @ Georgia


Florida State will cruise to an Atlantic Division title. Because who can contend with them? BC? Clemson? HA! The Seminoles will feature an experienced, balanced offense led by QB Christian Ponder. Their defense was awful last year, allowing 21+ points in 12 of 13 games (they held Jacksonville State to 9). They've changed their defensive coaching staff, adding Mark Stoops as defensive coordinator. They play in a weak division, but have some tough non-conference opponents.

Prediction: 8-4, ACC Atlantic Division winner

Key Games:
9/11 @ Oklahoma
9/18 vs. BYU
10/9 @ Miami
11/13 vs. Clemson
11/27 vs. Florida

The rest of the conference is listed alphabetically...


BC has especially strong strengths, and especially weak weaknesses. RB Montel Harris returns after a 1,457 yard, 14 TD sophomore season. The Eagles also boast one of the best LB corps in the country with Mark Herzlich slated to return. However, their receivers are inadequate. They'll miss Rich Gunnell. And QB David Shinksie struggles against competent defenses.

Prediction: 7-5


No more CJ Spiller for Clemson. No Jacoby Ford either. The Tigers will not be able to replace the 32 TDs and 2,616 yards from scrimmage these two provided. They will have some decent RBs, but they need one of them to emerge as a true #1. They have almost no offense. Their defense is solid, with a superb D-Line, but it's not good enough to win games on its own.

Prediction: 7-5


Duke has a solid passing game, but absolutely no rushing game whatsoever. The Blue Devils averaged 63.5 yards/game last year, and 2.3 per carry. Their defense is also quite bland. Then again, it's Duke. They're no longer utter pushovers, no longer guaranteed wins for opponents.

Prediction: 3-9


The Terps have some solid skill players on offense, but lack a line to protect their QB or make holes for their RBs. Their defense allows big plays, and gets a little too blitz-happy. Head coach Ralph Friedgen would be gone if not for a $4 million buyout that the athletic department didn't want to play. They're one of the worst teams in the country and didn't do much to improve. They were 2-10 in '09, with one of those wins coming against James Madison... in overtime.

Prediction: 4-8


People expect to see something from UNC this season, but not me. They return 9 starters from the 13th best scoring defense in the country. But they also return 9 starters from the 83rd ranked scoring offense. They have future NFL guys like DE Robert Quinn, who registered 11 sacks last year. But their offense is a joke. QB TJ Yates threw 14 TDs last season, along with 15 INTs. They'll compete, and could upset a big team in the Coastal Division, but don't expect them contending.

Prediction: 7-5


NCSU scored a nice 30.7 points per game last year. But they allowed 31.2 per game. And 110 of their 368 total points came against Murray State and Gardner-Webb. So their offense isn't as good as it might seem. If QB Russell Wilson decides to play football (he was drafted by the Rockies), then NCSU might win some games. Otherwise, they're completely screwed.

Prediction: 5-7


New coach Mike London inherits Al Groh's mess. UVA are one of the worst programs in college football. They lost to William & Mary last year. They were 103rd in scoring offense, 68th in scoring defense. London will bring things back to basics, which should suit his players better. But he has absolutely no talent to work with at all. The November 13th meeting between Virginia and Maryland will be an abomination to the game of football, and should be boycotted.

Prediction: 4-8 (they play Richmond and VMI).


With the departure of Riley Skinner, there's a 4 way competition for the QB spot. The Deacons boast some good WRs and dependable backs, so they might select a speedy QB and go with an option offense. That wouldn't be a bad idea, and it could do well in the Atlantic Division. They have some defensive ends that can pressure opposing QBs, but they're weak up the middle on defense. Token ACC team here.

Prediction: 6-6


While a 2 of 3 series win against Toronto is nothing to be ashamed of, quite frankly, the Sox cannot afford to simply maintain the status quo. They need to gain ground. It's time to move. And they very nearly lost 2 of 3 in this series.

I'm not closing the book on them just yet. But the Sox need to gain about a game a week on Tampa Bay. They have 6 head-to-head games against the Rays, so there's still some hope.

There's slightly more hope that Clay Buchholz will win the Cy Young. He's not your typical Cy Young type of guy. He's a lanky 6' 3" 190 pounds, and isn't the dominant strikeout pitcher that usually wins that Award (79th in Majors in strikeouts). But his 2.26 ERA is best in the AL, and 4th in the Majors. Unfortunately, CC Sabathia has him beat with 17 wins, 151 strikeouts, and his ERA is at 3.02. But Clay's certainly been the MVP of Red Sox this season.

The Sox are 4-2 so far in their 9 game homestand against mediocre and poor quality teams. They host Seattle, and anything short of a sweep is an abject failure.

Lackey opposes Doug Fister tonight.

Photo Credit:
Canadian Press

Friday, August 20, 2010


It's preseason. That needs to be repeated every time you feel any emotion while watching one of these exhibition games. Any thrill at seeing Fred Taylor break a big run, any disappointment at a 14 yard gain yielded by the defense, needs to be tempered.

The Patriots tested two things in this game: Wes Welker and the running game. Brady threw at Welker three straight times, putting him in tough positions, and eventually getting him hit pretty hard. It was Welker's first appearance in preseason, and you can tell that the Pats want to appraise him before they rely on him.

The Pats ran the ball. A lot. And it caught the Falcons off guard. So the two rushing touchdowns, Taylor's 54 yards, and Morris' 52 yards shouldn't be taken at face value. Then again, Atlanta allowed the 10th fewest rushing yards, and 8th fewest yards per carry in the 2009 season.

This team doesn't need the ground attack to win games for them. But they do need other teams to respect it. They need it for short yardage, 3rd down, and red-zone/goal-line situations. They need it for play-action pass. They need it to slow down and wear out opposing pass rushes.

The biggest concern I have with the runningbacks is their age. Sure, Taylor, Morris, and Faulk looked great. But they played half the game. Half a game in August. Will they still be this good in November and December?

One very positive thing from this game was the play of Aaron Hernandez. He's not really a tight-end. I think he can be a challenging guy for opponents to cover, though. The Patriots haven't had a reliable pass-catching tight-end since Fauria. And Hernandez can present some real matchup problems for opposing defenses.

How will the defense be this year? Probably inconsistent. Matt Ryan was finding holes in the zone just before he was pulled. Give skilled coaches, QBs, and WRs 4 quarters to figure the Pats' defense out, and things will get difficult. I like Chung at safety. But I didn't like how the unit looked against a no-huddle offense.

So while a 28-10 win with rookie tight-ends catching touchdowns, and runningbacks amassing 120 yards on the ground is very pleasant, there are still some concerns that might not manifest themselves until snow starts falling.

Photo Credit:
Getty Images


I'll eat my share of crow on this one. I liked the Red Sox' signing Beckett until 2014. Good pitching is hard to find, and $17 million per season seemed only a little above a good price. I was wrong. So very, very wrong.

Since the end of 2007, Josh Beckett has a 4.40 ERA. That's fairly bad. That's not worth $17 million. He's not only been inconsistent, but when he's not on his A Game, it's an F performance. There's no middle grounds. He doesn't pitch his way through difficult games. He has no guile, little deception. He's a chucker.

Has it been a blessing in disguise that he's only made 14 starts this season? I think it is. 3-3, with an ERA at 6.67. That's the 2nd highest ERA in the Majors among pitchers with 60 innings or more. That's just garbage.

Dustin Pedroia was scratched from the lineup due to pain in his foot. I think the Sox should be extra careful with him. I'd like him to play in all 3 games against the Rays next weekend. But maybe he should only go every other day until then.

Honestly, risking further injury to Pedroia when the team is 6 out of the Wild Card doesn't seem worth it.

Toronto comes to town, and Brett Cecil opposes Jon Lester.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Thursday, August 19, 2010


A very nice, solid, hard fought victory last night. The Sox never looked much better than the Angels until the late innings. Lackey was able to extend himself to pitch 7 innings, then Bard and Papelbon finished the job.

Lackey gave up a big 3 run homer in the 5th. But other than that, he did his job. Thankfully, the Sox bats woke up once they got Kazmir out of the game. Beltre had a vital 2 run homer in the bottom of the 5th to keep the Sox in it. He's hit 23, and knocked in 83. His offensive contributions, and not his defensive ones, have helped save this team.

Seeing Pedroia back in the lineup just makes things seem better. Even if he doesn't rekindle how well he was hitting before his injury. He was 1 for 3, stole a base, scored a run, drew a walk, and had a sacrifice bunt. Just seeing how much he veered into the infield grass on his sac-bunt, giving him 0.0001% more of a chance to reach 1st base on an error, was just refreshing to see.

But pitching is what will win or lose down the stretch. Lackey wasn't great, but he stayed out there until finishing 7. He had some nice efficient innings at the end of his outing that allowed Francona to keep him out there.

Speaking of pitching, and how important it is, the Sox will go for the sweep behind Josh Beckett tonight. He's opposed by Ervin Santana. I don't have a great feeling, as Santana shut down the Sox back in May. And Beckett's been a basketcase lately.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Where would the Sox be without Clay Buchholz? I remember before the season, that Buchholz was supposed to be the 4th or 5th guy, that could be good. And any contribution from him would be a bonus. 14 Wins, 14 Quality Starts later, and he's the Ace of this staff. And arguably the MVP of the team.

Buchholz wasn't razor sharp, but he pitched out of trouble. That's something he struggled with when he first came up. But he doesn't get nervy anymore. He keeps the ball low, induces ground balls, and maintains control of the game.

The big hits of the night came off the bats of the #8 and #9 hitters. Darnell McDonald blasted a solo shot in the 3rd. Ryan Kalish hit his 2nd career homer, and first career Grand Slam in the 4th.

Dustin Pedroia returned, and was 0 for 4. But I have to believe that having a guy with his kind of fight and desire can only help this team. It's nice having players who want to play. And yes, that's a veiled criticism directed at Jacoby Ellsbury.

The Sox need to keep winning against teams like the Angels. Lackey opposes Scott Kazmir tonight. Lackey has done well against his former team. Kazmir has often baffled the Red Sox.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


They made the AFC Championship game. They have a budding young star at QB, the #1 defense in the NFL, an All-Pro cornerback, the #1 rush offense, so on and so forth.

But let's not forget that they were 9-7 last year. And one of those wins was against a Colts team that practically forfeited in Week 16. Peyton Manning played slightly more than a half in that game. And let's not forget that "The Sanchize" had a QB Rating of 63 last season. He threw 20 picks, to go along with his 12 TDs.

Oh, but they added LaDainian "I'm a classy guy" Tomlinson. Who will split carries with Greene and Washington. Then again, LT's ex-teammates went out of their way to criticize Tomlinson for bitching about a lack of carries. Maybe splitting carries isn't the best role for Mr. Classy.

The Jets also lost Thomas Jones, who was by far their best offensive weapon in '09. TJ ran the ball 331 times, for 1,402 yards. He scored 14 of the Jets' 37 TDs. He only fumbled twice.

But then again, they have Reality TV star Rex Ryan. Watching Hard Knocks this season, it's like that episode of Family Guy when Peter was the star of a reality TV show.

Rex Ryan is utterly obsessed with himself. He thinks everything he does is worthy of being nationally televised, then replayed, dissected and analyzed. He's a loudmouth jerk. He was praised for being such a phenomenal coach last year, turning the Jets around from a 9-7 team into a 9-7 team. But how hard is it to give Thomas Jones the ball 300+ times? How much thought goes into telling Darrelle Revis to intercept 6 passes (plus 2 more in the playoffs) and shutdown half the field?

Rex Ryan will be exposed as a fraud, either this year or the next.

OK, so maybe the Jets don't suck. But many out there seem to think a bit too highly of them.

Monday, August 16, 2010


"Run Prevention" was the phrase bandied about by the Sox' Front Office before the 2010 season. And while the supposedly excellent defense has been average (7th best fielding percentage in AL, 14th in MLB), it's been the bullpen that has been preventing wins instead of runs.

Friday night, the Red Sox inexcusably blew an 8-2 lead. Josh Beckett was the ringleader of the collapse, but it was an entire cast of relievers that kept pouring out of the bullpen like clowns out of a Volkswagen.

Sunday afternoon, Daisuke was the victim. He had a hard-luck loss after going 6.2 innings. I don't pity Matsuzaka. He got plenty of fortunate wins in '07. But the bullpen allowed Texas to pull away, just as the Sox' bats were coming to life. Delcarmen allowed a homerun, turning a 2-0 game to 5-0. The Sox promptly scored 3. Then Bowden let the Rangers score 2 more.

Injuries have plagued this edition of the Red Sox, but not nearly as much as their 2 man bullpen. And even the duo of Bard-Papelbon have been far from infallible. Bard blew his 5th save of the season on Friday, and Papelbon's blown a career high 6 already.

Building a bullpen is difficult. It helps to have starters go deep into games (this was only Daisuke's 4th longest start of the season). It helps to have an offense that can create big leads, so you can save your closer and top set-up guys. But honestly, there are 2 current bullpen members I'd like to see wearing a Sox uni in 2011. That's it.

The Sox end a 5-5 road trip on a sour note. They didn't lose much ground. But the clock is ticking, and they need to be gaining ground. They're now 5 behind Tampa Bay, 6 in the loss column. There's also the White Sox to worry about, only 1.5 behind the Red Sox.

A 9 game homestand begins Tuesday night, as the Angels, Jays, and Mariners come to town. These are 3 very beatable teams, and the Sox need to win 6 or 7 of these games.

Buchholz faces 11-7 Jered Weaver Tuesday night.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, August 13, 2010


The first pre-season game is about as meaningful as the day of training camp preceding it. The opponents aren't really focused on beating you. They haven't studied you, haven't focused on you, haven't devised a gameplan to exploit your weaknesses and avoid your strengths. It's a scrimmage in a Stadium. Not much more.

Julian Edelman was the standout offensive performer. He caught 6 passes for 90 yards. Everyone touts Edelman as a stopgap replacement for Welker. He's not, folks. Welker is one in a trillion. But I would like to see Edelman as a 4th receiver in a bunched up kind of 4 WR formation. Welker on one side, Edelman on the other. They could run some interesting routes that would give Brady two outlets, and really mess with the opposing defense's coverages.

Aaron Hernandez has had an impressive camp, and looked good last night. He's athletic, and knows how to use every ounce of the speed he has. The Pats haven't had reliable tight-end play since the Fauria era.

The running game looked good last night. But Maroney has to do a lot more to convince me that he's worth a roster spot. We've seen him have good games before. It's the consistency. And that's priority #1 with a running game.

The defense contained the vaunted Saints offense, especially when the starters were in there. But as I mentioned above, it's not like the Saints schemed anything to play the Pats. They, like the Patriots, are evaluating their own strengths and weaknesses.

Darius Butler is too undisciplined to be a truly reliable CB.

It's hard to get any accurate assessment from this game, especially on the defensive side. The Patriots defense was statistically good last year, allowing the 5th fewest points in the NFL. But it was a matter of when and how those points were allowed. The Patriots didn't come up with the big stops in pivotal and pressured situations. There are no pivotal or pressured situations in pre-season.

Photo Credit:
Getty Images


With all the injuries the Sox have endured this season, and with a Wild Card berth just now in grasp, they need all their star players to perform like star players. Jonathan Papelbon failed to do so last night.

John Lackey had a great start, going 8 innings, allowing 3 earned runs, and keeping his pitch count down. You can understand why Francona pulled him after allowing a homerun in the 9th, but it was still one of Lackey's best outings of the season.

Then Papelbon... well, what else can you say except that he blew it.

This was his 6th blown save of the season. That's matching a career high. It was his 5th loss, a new career high. He's allowed 6 homeruns, a new career high. He's allowed 13 doubles, a new career high. His 3.26 ERA is 1.21 higher than his career ERA, and nearly a run higher than his highest season's ERA.

His WHIP is actually the same as it was last year, at 1.15. But he skated around trouble in '09. In 2010, he's been unable to do that.

Now it's silly to replace Papelbon with Bard at this point. Papelbon is still a very good closer. But he's not great, folks. That yokels who'd started to compare him with Mariano Rivera are strictly morons. And most closers don't maintain that near unhittable quality to them. It's unnatural for any pitcher but guys like Rivera to remain that flawless.

I'd say Papelbon is a low Top 10 closer these days. Not a liability, but it's not a guarantee in the 9th anymore. And when his contract comes up, I won't weep if the Sox replace him with a cheaper Top 10 closer.

The Sox face the Rangers tonight in Arlington. Beckett opposes Tommy Hunter (9-1, 3.01 ERA, yikes).

In other news, Kevin Youkilis was at the pre-season Pats game last night, looking very forlorn.

Photo Credits:
AP Photo

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Jacobey Ellsbury, Marco Scutaro, and Ryan Kalish went hitless. That's about all that went wrong for the Sox last night, as they cruised to a 10-1 victory behind Clay Buchholz's arm and Bill Hall's bat.

Buchholz has truly been the Ace of this staff. He has the lowest ERA in the League at 2.49. He's tied for 4th in Wins with 13. And a lower WHIP than Sabathia or Price. I think he should at least be considered for the Cy Young, even though his 86 strikeouts are only 38th in the AL. More importantly, he's been reliable, steady, and capable of going 7+ innings. And with the Sox' bullpen, that makes him especially valuable.

The Sox abused Shawn Marcum, then the Blue Jays bullpen. The 10 runs was the most the Sox have scored since July 9th, when they tallied 14, also against Toronto. The afore mentioned Hall was the biggest hitter. He cranked 2 homeruns, went 3 for 5, and knocked in 4. Drew and Beltre also homered.

With the Rays losing, the Sox are now only 3.5 games behind them for the Wild Card. That makes those losses to Cleveland sting even more.

John Lackey will try to complete the sweep this afternoon at 12:30. He opposes Brad Mills, who's `1-0 with a 4.09 ERA in 2 starts this season.

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