Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I have no problems with the celebratory antics of DeSean Jackson, or any other guy that scores a touchdown. When the Pats allow a TD, I don't get pissed at the opposing team for over-celebrating, I get pissed at the guy who missed a tackle. Celebrate as much as you want. It's entertaining, and NFL games are on entertainment-based TV stations, not PBS or A&E.
And as far as autograph hound Tashard Choice goes; he was stupid to get Vick's signature out in front of everyone. You can get some locker room attendant to go get it for you once both teams are off the field. Stupid, not a big deal though.
Then there's the J-E-T-S. Think about how many millions of times over the years, on football fields across the country, players have run down the sidelines and WEREN'T tripped by an opposing coach.
What Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi did was something you'd see in a remake of The Longest Yard. It was a move worthy of the WWF. I'll bust out the vocab and say the best word to describe it is "egregious" (extraordinary in some bad way; glaring; flagrant).
The Jets have had sexual harassment issues all season (one in the pre-season, one from seasons ago), and now this. What kind of ship does Captain Rex run over there? I hate to blame some douchebag's actions on someone else, but to quote current Jet Ladainian Tomlinson, that team has "Absolutely no class. And maybe that comes from their head coach."
I usually don't talk about "class" or "sportsmanship," because I think most writers make mountains out of touchdown celebrations, and post-game handshakes. But this was a coach, interfering in a play, and doing something very dangerous to an opposing player. This is different.
Imagine a hockey coach reaching over the boards and grabbing a player's stick in the middle of play. Or a basketball coach grabbing a jersey. Or a 3rd base coach shoving an infielder. It's almost too ludicrous to envision. It really is something you see the manager of a bad-guy wrestler do.
If James Harrison gets big fines for his hits to fellow players, what does the Jets' 12th man get? At the very least, I think he should be banned from the sidelines for the remainder of the season. I'd like to see the Jets fire him, and to see his career in the NFL finished, but that's the Jets' business. And they have enough things to worry about.
As much as the media drools over Rex Ryan, for his quotability, unpredictability, and humor; maybe there's a bad side to his coaching style. Maybe a lack of discipline leads to things like reporters being sexually harassed, and coaches who trip players. I'm probably being unfair, because I hate Rex Ryan and the Jets. But his fault or not, his house is in disarray at the moment. And we'll all see how well he puts it back together again.
The Sox' owners heard the outcry from the masses, and acquired some serious, marquee talent last week. The finally went out and got guys you've heard of, guys that will appear on fantasy teams, true stars. They added a slugging first baseman, and a fleet-footed outfielder. These are likely the biggest off-season acquisitions since the Sox traded for Josh Beckett in November of '05.
Speaking of Beckett, I want to talk about pitching. The Red Sox offense has improved tremendously, and should be more consistent, more exciting, and will contend to lead the Majors in runs scored. And while I love the acquisitions, I can't quite jump on the bandwagon that's been fully loaded the last week.
What about pitching?
Well at the top, the Sox have Buchholz and Lester. Our most reliable pitchers are 25 and 26, respectively. Our rocks are 25 and 26. The hopes of the rotation rest on guys who are 25 and 26.
Buchholz was 2nd in the AL in ERA. He won 17 games, and emerged as an All-Star talent. But he also goes into 2011 with only one good year on his track record. I'm not predicting doom and gloom for Buchholz, but I don't think we can just assume he'll have a similarly outstanding year. We've all sort of taken for granted that he will.
Lester also esteemed himself, with 19 wins and a 3.25 ERA. His numbers don't pop as much as Buchholz's, but he's got a fuller history of success. In each of the last 3 seasons, his ERA has been below 3.50, he's won at least 15 games, and pitched at least 200 innings. He's as solid a #2 starter as you'll find.
Then there's John Lackey, whose numbers are more than respectable for a #5 guy. He led the Sox in innings. I'm fine with him in the #5 spot. So long as he's the ONLY #5 pitcher on this team. And that's the problem. We really have no idea what to expect from Beckett and Daisuke. They too might perform like #5 pitchers.
Apart from 2007, when he vied for the Cy Young, Beckett has been disastrous for the Sox. He outright sucked in 2006 and 2008. He was off-and-on in 2009, spinning gems one day, then dropping turds 4 days later. And in 2010, one could argue that he was the worst regular starting pitcher in baseball.
"He can't possibly be that bad again." That's the argument I keep hearing about Beckett. And that may be true. But his track record suggests that he won't be very good, either. And frankly, he CAN be that bad again.
Then there's Matsuzaka. Who is this guy? Is there anything about him that's predictable or regular? Will he be healthy? Does the team know if he'll be healthy? Does he even keep in touch with the team about his off-season training?
Since 2008, when he was brilliant, he's been a mess. When he is healthy, he walks the world, and needs 120 pitches to survive 6 innings of work. Perhaps he'll redeem himself in 2011. But I'm afraid the best I see him being is a middle of the road #3 guy. Even when he is on his game, his short outings tax the bullpen far too much.
Speaking of the bullpen, the Sox have one of the leakiest in the game. They blew 22 Saves last year, the 4th most in baseball. Think about that. 22 times, the Sox had a lead late in a game, and then lost it. And that starts with Papelbon, who set a career high in Blown Saves last year, with 8. He also set a career high in ERA (3.90) and WHIP (1.27). He's not a bad closer, but he's not Mariano Jr. And there are a number of closers that are on his level.
At least he and Bard are good. After that, there's nothing but torture.
Building a bullpen is hard to do. It can also be very easy. Most of it seems to be dumb luck. There are very few "premium" middle-relievers in this world. Those that excel become closers. Most have 2 or 3 very good years, then get figured out. In other words, Mike Timlin is not walking through that door.
The best thing to do is what the Sox used to try with their rotation: sign 3 to 5 has-beens/never-was-its, and hope that 1 or 2 don't suck.
In a rare bit of optimism, I think the offense will help the bullpen by putting it in fewer crucial situations. So there will be less opportunities for it to cost the Sox games.
I also don't want to come off as too negative. With the lineup the Sox have, and the few good pitchers they have, there's no reason for them to not make the playoffs. They should win 93 to 98 games, which is very good. And certainly an improvement over last year. They should whip teams like Baltimore, which they failed to do in 2010.
Unfortunately, pitching wins in the playoffs. The Giants and Rangers showed that. The Sox showed it in '07 and '04. And I don't think the Sox have the arms to get the job done in October and November. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Beckett and Daisuke will return to '07 and '08 form, respectively. Maybe someone unexpected will emerge as a hero in the postseason, much like Derek Lowe did in 2004. But I've never been one to be hopeful for hope's sake. I'm Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.
In an absolutely stunning turn of events, Cliff Lee has agreed to a 5 year, $100 million deal with his former team: the Philadelphia Phillies. Reports claim that he declined an offer from the Yankees worth $150M over 7 years. There are reports that there'll be an optional 6th year, or a very heavy buyout.
This is simply unbelievable. The Yankees offered him an average of $21.4 million per year (the Phillis is a $20M average, in case you suck at math), and for 2 years longer. Lee's contract will expire when he's 37 years old. So it's not like he's going to get another massive payday.
He must really love something about the Phillies, and/or dislike something about the Yankees.
As a Sox fan, this is the next best thing to signing Lee. Not only is he out of our division, he's out of our League! The Sox play the Phillies a few times in interleague play, but they won't have to compete with them for a playoff spot. So unless the Sox make the World Series, we don't have to worry about facing Cliff Lee in a truly important game.
Also, the signing of Crawford is looking even better today. The Sox paid a bit extra, but they've gotten him. If they hadn't locked that down as soon as they did, the Yankees might be courting him right now.
The Yankees can't be feeling too good today.