Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tim Thomas Jumped to Colorado, Media Jumps to Conclusions

CSN New England has reported that Bruins' goalie Tim Thomas "abruptly" moved his family to Colorado in the middle of the season.

I love how Joe Haggerty added the word "abruptly," which makes Thomas' move seem like he bolted in the night, having the movers tip-toe as they hauled away their furniture in covert silence.

Haggerty, and now others in the sports media, have jumped to the conclusion that Thomas decided his future in Boston wasn't going to extend past the 2011-12 season. Thomas has a no-trade clause which expires on July 1st, next year is the last on his contract, and the Bruins could use the cap space. And that's why he moved his family to Colorado.

I'm not saying that I think Thomas will be here next season. Because I don't. But I seriously doubt that his uncertain future with the Bruins was the motivation behind this move. It doesn't make sense. If he didn't think he'd be a Boston Bruin in the fall, why not wait and see what team he'd wind up with, then move there?

I think he got tired of living in Boston. The White House story set sports radio on fire. People insinuated that he was racist, some blamed him for the team struggling after that, some guy from TSN made a joke on Twitter about his three children all having names that start with K ('KKK').

His three children are 12, 7, and 6. Which means they were going to school with the sons and daughters of Bruins fans who were angry with Thomas for being a distraction. If I were a father, I'd get tired of my kids taking crap in school because someone else's parent was mad at me for not attending a White House photo op.

In Haggerty's column, he called Colorado "more politically conservative" than Massachusetts. Name me a state (apart from Vermont) that isn't more politically conservative than Massachusetts. It is impossible to move from Massachusetts and not move to a more politically conservative state.

Haggerty makes it seem as though Colorado is in the Deep South. Obama won Colorado in 2008. Both Senators from Colorado are Democrats. Three of the seven Representatives are Democrats. The Governor is a Democrat. It's a moderate state.

I think Thomas got tired of the incessant questions and aggravations he and his family dealt with in their daily lives in suburban Boston. Haggerty points out that his source mentioned Thomas might have wanted to be near Team USA's headquarters in Colorado Springs. Haggerty then dismisses this quite reasonable explanation because of that word "abrupt" I mentioned earlier. Why so quickly?

Again, how abrupt was it? Is there any way to know how long Thomas might have been planning to move and just didn't want to say anything because he was already trying not to talk about his personal life with the media?

Haggerty got a weird bit of info and jumped to the most sensational and exciting conclusion possible. He didn't bother to consider other alternatives to the conclusion he reached. He didn't even bother to look at a Wikipedia page about Colorado's Congressional Delegation. He just went with it.

Good job, Joe. Responsible journalism at its finest.

No wonder Thomas moved away from here.

Red Sox Use Long Ball to Beat Tigers

The Red Sox have an abundance of corner infielders. Gonzalez, Middlebrooks, Ortiz, and Youkilis. All of them had big hits last night. Three of them hit homeruns. Gonzalez hit a ground rule double to give the Sox a 5-4 lead in the 7th. Middlebrooks and Ortiz each hit two run shots in the 4th. Youkilis hit an insurance solo homer in the 8th.

Since coming off the DL, Youkilis is 9 for 31 (.290) in 8 games. He's getting on base. He's hit 2 homeruns and knocked in 12 RBI. He only had 9 RBI in 18 games in April. I think it's safe to attribute some of his struggles in April to his injury.

With players like Pedroia and Ellsbury on the DL, it's tough to trade Youkilis away. And at the same time his trade value increases, his value to the Sox also increases.

Jon Lester gave the Sox a good start. It's amazing how well the team plays when the starting pitching does its job. He went 6.2, throwing 120 pitches. He was charged with 4 earned runs, but 1 of those was an inherited runner that Albers allowed to score. He allowed 10 hits, but he didn't walk anyone, and he got 7 strikeouts.

Lester is a key figure to the Sox' success. It's hard to imagine the Sox making the playoffs (let alone winning in the playoffs) if Lester isn't performing. He's been a rock in the rotation for a few years now. This year he's been shaky. He needs to put together a few good starts in a row and get into a rhythm. He doesn't have to be an Ace. He just has to be consistent.

I'll give a tip of the cap to Alfredo Aceves, who's pitched in 4 straight games. I'll show more restraint with my appraisal of his performance this season. He's blown 3 saves. One of those came in this 4 game stretch. He hasn't been bad. But let's stop declaring him things that he's not. Only 4 other relievers have blown more saves this season.

Then again, he has stepped up and adequately filled a role the Sox needed to fill. It's not his fault that Papelbon wasn't re-signed, that Bailey got hurt, and that the Sox didn't acquire a starter so they were forced to put Bard in the rotation.

I'm liking Daniel Nava more and more each game. He had an outfield assist in the 7th that proved critical. If he doesn't throw out Avila at second, the 7th inning might have seen Detroit take a lead, not just tie the game.

Marlon Byrd also made a spectacular diving catch.

Guys like Nava, Byrd, and Aceves are easy to root for. There's no doubt that they're giving 100%, and that they're hungry to win.

The Sox are now 13-13 at home. They'll look to sweep the Tigers tonight. Beckett faces Max Scherzer. The Sox tagged him for 7 runs in 2.2 innings back in April (then lost 13-12). He's settled down since then, and has had a decent May. But the Sox should still win this apparent mismatch.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Celtics Run Out of Gas in OT, Celtics Fans Blame Officials

I'm not much of an NBA fan. And that's due partly to the officiating. I just can't seem to tell what's considered a foul and what isn't. I think NBA refs also struggle with that distinction. So when Celtics fans are in an uproar over bad officiating, it takes me a second to look back on the game and realize that the officiating was bad. I'm so accustomed to seeing puzzling calls that I don't really notice it as they happen.

The refs were bad. As bad as they've been in every NBA game I can remember. Get over it. Do people love NBA basketball because if their team loses they can just blame the refs?

Celtics fans had been clamoring for the C's to play a tougher, more physical game. Fans were encouraging fouling, especially of LeBron James. Then the Celtics get called for fouling James. And now fans are whining about it.

The refs did miss that face-rake of Rondo. That was too bad. But bad officials in the NBA Playoffs are like bad weather in the NFL Playoffs. It's something you can't control and have to be able to win despite it.

The Celtics played with a lot of energy for the first part of the game. Especially on defense. Garnett was everywhere. And offensively, the C's were driving. They were staying down low, hauling in rebounds, and Rondo took full advantage of how the Heat tried to cover him.

In the 3rd quarter, the Celtics let the game get away. With 4 minutes left in the 2nd quarter, the Celtics were up by 15. Late in the 3rd, they were down by 8. A 23 point swing in 16 minutes of basketball.

The Celtics rallied back in the 4th quarter. Then missed a few shots that could have won them the game. Ray Allen missed two rushed jumpers that probably shouldn't have been taken at all. I don't like the idea of Ray Allen taking late-game shots unless he is getting a near perfect look with his feet completely set.

Then the Heat gave the Celtics a chance. Wade missed a free throw. LeBron decided to cover Dooling instead of Ray Allen. And when Allen finally was able to take his time, set his feet, and take a clear look, he sank the three-pointer. Then LeBron missed twice going the other way.

But winning in overtime would be a tough task. Pierce had fouled out. Allen was drained. Garnett was utterly exhausted. Even if the refs called the face-rake on Rondo, I don't think the Celtics would have had enough in the tank to hold off the Heat.

On the bright side, the Celtics improved their shooting. They played better defense, they rebounded the ball, they made their free throws, they didn't get blocked 11 times. And we all saw that LeBron James has no heart whatsoever. I'm not counting the Celtics out yet. It'll be tough for them to win 4 of 5, but if they win Game 3 in Boston, things look significantly brighter.

Game 3 Friday night in the Garden.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pedroia Wants to Play Despite Injury

I'll give Dustin Pedroia two thumbs up (get it?) for wanting to play through injury and return to the Red Sox lineup as soon as humanly (or inhumanly) possible. He tore part of the adductor muscle in his thumb. The initial injury occurred weeks ago, according to Pedroia, but it was aggravated Monday afternoon against the Tigers.

Right now, the Sox are in a holding pattern on this injury, waiting to see how much the swelling goes down, and if Pedroia feels any pain. If it hasn't healed and he's not back in the lineup in the next 2 to 4 days, he'll likely be placed on the DL.

Pedroia is eager to play. He's declared a willingness to play even if it still hurts, even if he still feels pain. And the Sox' PR Machine hasn't been reluctant to mention this old-school grittiness.

At first, part of me thought that the Sox should sit Pedroia for 2 weeks, just to be safe. Then I remembered that I'm not a doctor. If this muscle has healed, it's healed. And it might even be medically unwise to avoid using it. From what we've been told, the tear isn't that bad. It's a slight tear in a thumb muscle, not a ripped hamstring or detached quad.

My opinion is this: I don't want Pedroia playing through this injury. If it's still injured, if it requires a splint or any sort of special treatment, I want Pedroia on the DL so this thumb can heal properly and he's available down the stretch. At the same time, I also don't want the Sox to be overly cautious. If the injury has healed, then let him play. Don't make him sit out with his thumb up his ass.

The next 24 hours will determine a lot. Is the thumb healed, or does it need further healing. I only wish the doctors announced the news in this manner:

Photo Credit (of Pedroia):
AP Photo

Red Sox Break The .500 Barrier

Normally, I would say that the Red Sox surpassing the .500 mark for the first time in a season after Memorial Day is hardly worth celebrating. However, I really like how the Sox did it.

They weren't supposed to do it last night. All the explanations and excuses were lined up in advance. Verlander was on the mound for Detroit. The Sox' #5 starter Bard was facing him. It seemed a foregone conclusion that the Sox would lose. But they didn't.

If you're going to wait until May 29th to go over .500, you'd better make it special. Or at least interesting. And the Sox did that. They got to Verlander, one of the top pitchers in the game. Bard had a very Bardlike game, but Valentine was able to retrieve him before any major damage was done. The bullpen did a solid job finishing the game. And Aceves didn't allow a homerun.

The Sox got 10 hits off Verlander, including 3 doubles. They also got 4 hits with runners in scoring position. Verlander's ERA increased 0.40 thanks to the 5 runs he allowed in 6 innings last night. It increased 18.6% from 2.15 to 2.55. If that happened to Beckett's ERA, it'd go up 0.77 points.

Daniel Nava's 3 run double in the 4th was the biggest hit of the season. There were 2 outs, the bases loaded, a full count, and the game would turn on the next pitch. Verlander would either escape the jam and the Tigers would eventually score on Bard and have a good chance to win. Or, Nava would get a hit, give Bard a cushion, and put the Sox in the driver's seat.

After that, the Sox didn't mess up and lose control of the game. The bullpen did its job. Ortiz had an RBI double in the 5th and a solo homerun in the 7th to pad the lead. Detroit's not a very good offensive team (9th in the AL in runs scored), and the Sox took advantage of that.

Ortiz has returned to his role as the heart of the Red Sox lineup. He leads the team in the following categories: runs, doubles, homeruns, total bases, walks, batting average, OBP, SLG, OPS.

Now that this hurdle has been overcome, the next step is to keep up some of these good habits we've seen lately. We've seen very few bad starts from the pitchers, the bullpen has stabilized, the offense is getting clutch hits in game-turning situations. That's a winning formula. It starts with the starting pitching, and the rest falls into place.

The Orioles, Rays, and Yankees all lost last night. The Sox are only 3.5 games out in the division, and 1.5 out of the 2nd Wild Card. The opportunity is there.

Jon Lester pitches for the Sox tonight. Drew Smyly is on the mound for Detroit. Smyly was good in April. He's been bad in May. He has a 6.75 ERA in his last 3 starts.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Red Sox Reach .500... Again

The Red Sox can't seem to pass the .500 mark. They're 0-5 the game after they reach .500.

The Rays finally took a series from the Sox. The Rays' pitchers quieted the Sox' bats. The Sox only scored 10 runs in their weekend series. And while Saltalamacchia won Saturday's game with a walk-off win, Alfredo Aceves returned the favor to Tampa Bay by blowing a save. His 3rd blown save of the season.

Jonathan Papelbon has yet to blow a save this season.

People have been praising the Red Sox bullpen. But such praise is merely selective memory. In the last 20 games, the bullpen has been decent. The 20 games before that, not so much. Looking at the guys that are out there, none of them are guys I'd classify as tough-situation-relievers. When the game is on the line, how confident are you when Padilla or Albers comes jogging in from the bullpen? Be honest.

The Sox scored some runs off Doug Fister yesterday, and that's not easy to do. They got 11 hits off him, including 3 doubles and a homerun. It was Saltalamacchia's ninth. He has 5 more homeruns than Adrian Gonzalez, in 69 fewer at-bats, and for $19.6 million less salary. He's been a nice and surprising offensive contributor.

The Sox got another very respectable start from Doubront. Prince Felix went 6, allowing 2 runs off 4 hits and a walk. He struck out 6. He's 5-2 on the season, which means he's the winningest pitcher in the rotation. He's the only Sox starter with an ERA under 4. Again, a nice and surprising contributor.

I enjoy rooting for the Felix Doubronts and Jarrod Saltalamacchias on this team. They try. They care. They're playing to the maximum of their potential. And they're the reason this team is .500 and within shouting distance of a playoff spot.

As I said at the start of this post, the Sox are 0-5 when they've had a chance to be over .500. Technically, I suppose it's 0-6 since they lost their first game (when they were 0-0). I'm not overly optimistic that they'll improve on that mark, as Verlander is on the mound for Detroit. Bard is pitching for the Sox.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Celtics Can't Keep Game Close Enough for LeBron to Choke

Against the Hawks and the 76ers, the Celtics were able to play 3/4 of a good game and still win. They could play half a good game and still have a chance to win. That won't be the case with the Heat. The Celtics can't afford 11 point quarters against Miami. They can't afford 15 point or 18 point quarters either. Especially not all in the same game.

There was so much that was bad about what the Celtics did last night. The free-throw shooting was tragic. 11 for 21. Ray Allen, one of the best shooters of all-time, was 3 for 7 from the line. Pierce never got to the line. 84 of his 251 postseason points have have come from free-throws. That's over a third of his total production. If he's not driving, he's not getting to the line, which means he's not scoring. All but one of his 20+ point playoff performances have seen him score 10+ from the line.

The Celtics only turned the ball over 9 times, but 4 of those came in the 1st quarter.

The Heat won the battles in the paint. They scored more points down there and out-rebounded the C's 48 to 33. The Heat also blocked 11 shots compared to the Celtics' 1.

The Celtics dug themselves a hole in the 1st with poor shooting, a lack of drives to the basket, poor free-throws, and turnovers. They dug themselves back to ground level, but then didn't seem to have enough gas to keep up with the Heat in the second half.

The Celtics aren't going to have any blowout victories in this series, like they had against Philadelphia and Atlanta. The best chance for the C's to win will be in close games in the 4th quarter. We've seen LeBron completely shit the bed in such situations, or pass responsibility to someone else.

But the Celtics only scored 44 combined points in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th quarters. They weren't atrocious on defense, but a team as talented as Miami should be expected to score. And LeBron can't choke if the Heat only have to run the clock out.

I expect the Celtics will wake up and start Game 2 with much more fire. Who knows how long that fire will last them. But it's better than playing an entire game from behind, forcing shots.

Game 2 Wednesday night in Miami.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, May 25, 2012

Are the 76ers and Celtics Like the Tortoise and the Hare?

Watching the Celtics and 76ers series reminded me of a story from when we were kids. The tortoise and the hare. The two race each other, and the fast hare jumps out to an early lead, but arrogantly stops to take a nap. The tortoise keeps moving forward. "Slow and steady wins the race," he repeats. Eventually, the tortoise wins the race. Teaching a lesson that just because you're naturally more gifted doesn't mean you can fuck around and still win.

In my version of the tortoise and the hare, I'd have the hare purposely losing the race because he bet on the tortoise in Vegas. Then he gets killed by mob guys who lost money betting on him.

Anyway, the Celtics remind me of the hare. Their record in games that they can eliminate an opponent speaks for itself. They struggle to beat teams that they've already beaten 3 times. That's weird.

They take a kind of break. Instead of 110%, they only give 95%. No big deal, right? So long as there's enough gas in the tank to win when it matters, then fine.

What worries me a bit is that in this series, I don't know if they can just step it up for Game 7 and be the odds on favorite to win. I have a feeling like maybe they've let the 76ers stick around for too long. And now Bradley is out. His replacement Ray Allen isn't capable of playing a full game of productive basketball (on either side of the ball).

The Celtics are more talented than the 76ers. But that advantage is hedged by the Celtics' age and health.

The 76ers have also shown more character in this series than the Celtics have. They've won a game in Boston, they've outplayed the Celtics in close 4th quarters, they've recovered after getting blown out, they came back from a 17 point 3rd quarter deficit to win. They have taken full advantage of every opportunity the Celtics have given them.

The C's have not taken advantage of the opportunities given to them by the 76ers.

The Celtics are still the hare. It's their game to lose. In the fable, if the hare simply stopped fooling around and picked up the pace, he would have beaten the tortoise. That's what the Celtics have yet to do but still can do.

The Matsuzaka Mystery Continues

When reading stories about Daisuke Matsuzaka's health, I feel like I'm reading a mystery novel. Is he healthy? Is he in pain? Is he telling the truth about his injuries? He's a soap opera spoken i foreign language. It's very hard to figure out what's happening.

Daisuke was recently placed on the 60 day DL, and his rehabs in AAA Pawtucket were cancelled due to pain in his right trapezius. People were wondering if Matsuzaka would pitch again in 2012.

They got a quick, surprising answer. He'll be pitching for the PawSox against Toledo on Saturday night.

So what is the story with this guy? Is he still feeling pain and lying about it so he can return to the mound? He's told similar stories in the past. And while the desire to pitch is commendable, the lack of honesty is annoying.

I don't think the Red Sox properly understood what they were getting into with Daisuke. They thought they knew how to convert him from throwing 140 pitches once a week to throwing 100 every 5th day. They took a guy whose body was accustomed to one style of training, and instantaneously switched styles.

I think all the throwing Daisuke did in Japan was what kept his arm strong. Without that exercise, his health deteriorated. So then he'd get shut down. Which meant even less exercise. So the health problems would reoccur.

It reminds me of Formula 1 racing cars, actually. An F1 car must go fast to be safe. If it goes too slow, the tires don't heat up, so they don't grip the road, so you crash and die. A Formula 1 car is dangerous when driven slowly. And the less Matsuzaka throws, the weaker he gets. It seems counter-intuitive, until you understand how abnormal of a thing/person you're talking about.

Daisuke needed a heavy workload to maintain sufficient arm strength and health to avoid all these little problems that have nibbled away at his career.

I'm not a doctor though. I have no idea what the Sox should have done with him. But neither did the Sox. They were exploring uncharted waters without a compass, and acted as if they knew what the hell they were doing. They didn't experiment, they didn't test, they didn't research. They just put Daisuke on a 100 pitch count, severely limited his throwing between starts, and called it good medicine.

It hasn't been.

The Death of 38 Studios

It appears to be Game Over for Curt Schilling's video game company. 38 Studios sent a company wide email to its employees:

"The Company is experiencing an economic downturn. To avoid further losses and possibility of retrenchment, the Company has decided that a company wide lay off is absolutely necessary.

"These layoffs are non-voluntary and non-disciplinary.

"This is your official notice of lay off, effective today, Thursday, May 24th, 2012."

Now that's not the same as bankruptcy. It's actually worse. A bankrupt company still intends to do business after sorting out its debts. This looks like the factory is shutting down completely. I'm sure 38 Studios will sell whatever assets it has, such as the multiplayer game it's been developing. They can't develop it further as no developers work for them any more. After that, the company is, essentially, dead.

Schilling received criticism for being a political Conservative that railed against government assistance programs, then accepting a $75 million loan from the state of Rhode Island for his video game company.

I don't like government programs like this. The intention was to lend money to companies so they'd do business in RI. But they gave a huge chunk of the money to Schilling's company, violating rule #1 of investing: Diversify. And what do governments know about lending money to businesses?

It's one thing to lure successful companies with tax breaks. It's another to give money to companies that may or may not be successful. And if they can't get funding from the private sector, there's probably not much potential for profit.

In some respects, Schilling is a hypocrite. If he's criticized people who have received government assistance, he became a hypocrite the moment he agreed to this deal. Then again, there's a slight difference if he's only criticized the government for doing it. I can't blame anyone who takes advantage of government help. I would. I hate most of these programs, but if somebody sent me a check once a month, I'd cash it. Wouldn't anyone?

I have no problem with the people who use such programs, my beef is with the programs themselves. And if Schilling only criticized the programs and politicians, not the people benefiting, then he's not a hypocrite. It's un-American to turn down free money.

Anyway, I'm really glad Curt Schilling never ran for office in Massachusetts. He's not that bright. I kind of feel bad that this isn't working out for him. Then I feel worse for the people of Rhode Island who have to pay for it not to work out. Schilling has claimed that he put $30 million of his own money into this. But it's his project, his toy, his venture. Rhode Island's politicians were dumb, and now their people have to pay for it. 1,051,302 people live in Rhodey. That's $71.34 per person.

That's enough to buy a video game.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Maybe Bobby Valentine Should Avoid Using the "C" Word

"We play like this the rest of the season, we're going to win the championship."
-Bobby V

Well, I suppose if the Sox continue on a .769 pace (they've won 10 of 13), that statement will hold true. But it was just a weird thing to say about a team that is in 5th place with a 22-22 record. And one that hasn't won a playoff game since 2008.

Why does he feel the need to say such things? I like confidence and optimism, but why declare it so brashly through the media? Does he truly have no filter?

The rest of the quote confused me almost as much.

"I am so proud of this group of guys. I know it's an overstated line, but those men played 20 days of hard baseball, hard travel, hard competition . . . [there] were weather factors, injury factors."

Okay, the injury thing is fine. And the 20 games in 20 days is only a moderately annoying complaint. But hard travel? The Sox went from Fenway to Kansas City then to Fenway then to Florida then to Philly then to Baltimore. Where is the hard travel?

Those road trips to Kansas City can be brutal. Have you seen how much barbecue Josh Beckett can put away?

And weather factors? I know there were some chilly, drizzly days at Fenway this past month, but this is New England. How difficult will the weather be in September if Valentine thinks it was rough in May?

I don't like quotes like this. They're distracting. They lead to a lack of focus. And now the media has ammunition to ask Sox players about championships.

Championships are won in October. Bobby Valentine should know that. They can't be won in May. And they can't be won with words to the media.

Valentine's words also feed into the cocky, entitled attitude the Sox have had for a few years now. The title is theirs if they want it. Unless, of course, weather factors and hard travel gets in the way.

Whatever happened to coaches saying "we're going to take it one game at a time?"

Are the Rangers Choking?

I thought the Rangers were a strong candidate to win the Cup this year because they reminded me so much of last year's Bruins. They had a brilliant goalie, a sound defensive system, and could get goals from multiple guys on various lines.

But a defensive system only works if its followed. If players don't do what they're supposed to do, if they're not where they supposed to be, the system breaks down and fails.

That's what happened last night.

New Jersey scored their first goal when Ranger defensemen Stu Bickel left the front of the net and Stephen Gionta knocked a rebound past Lundqvist. A pinching Ranger defensemen eventually resulted in New Jersey's second goal. The Devils' third goal came when Ryan McDonagh made a desperate pinch, didn't get to the puck in time, the Devil's went up ice and Travis Zajac scored. It was a soft goal for Lundqvist to allow.

New York eventually tied it up. Thanks mostly to lucky bounces and Martin Brodeur losing a puck in his skates (as he tends to do from time to time). But another defensive miscue, this time by winger Carl Hagelin, led to New Jersey's winning goal in the 3rd. Ryan Carter was left all alone as Hagelin was focusing on a 2-on-2 puck battle along the boards and not on the dangerous central area of the ice. Carter went to that area, the Devils won the puck battle, and Carter scored.

The Rangers seem to have forgotten how they won 51 games and 2 playoff series. And when they were down 2-0 with 50 minutes of hockey left to play, they started getting desperate and impatient. New Jersey took advantage.

Then there's a guy like Gaborik, who technically scored last night but that goal was a result of Brodeur kicking the puck into his own net. Apart from that gift, Gaborik hasn't scored a point in this series. He had 3 goals and 4 assists against Washington. The Rangers need their 40+ goal scorer to score. Or at least help others to do so.

Give credit to New Jersey, though. They've played true to themselves. They know who they are and they're doing what they're good at. Their best players are playing their best. And now they're only one win away from the Cup Finals.

Game 6 Friday night in Newark.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Celtics Play Ugly in Philadelphia

If the Celtics lose this series, they really can't blame anyone but themselves. There was that collapse in Game 4, then this abomination. I'm sure some will point to injuries, but the 76ers just aren't that good. The Celtics played like crap last night and still had a shot to win the game.

The Celtics shot 26 of 78, or 33.3% from the field. They have NEVER shot that poorly since KG and Ray Allen donned the uniform. The last time they shot as bad as that was on January 7, 2007. They shot 23 of 73 (31.5%) and lost to Orlando. It was game #1 of an 18 game losing streak.

Last night they also turned the ball over 17 times. And these were mostly unforced, stupid, careless decisions.

They were dominated in the paint. The 76ers scored 42 of their 82 in the paint. The Celtics only scored 16 points down low. They did, however, get to the free throw line. Which allowed them to stay close until the 4th quarter. The Celtics also did a good job rebounding the ball. 48-37 in their favor. Including 14 offensive rebounds. If they had shot better, they really could have taken full advantage of those extra opportunities.

The win was there for the Celtics to take. They just didn't grab it.

Ray Allen looked hurt. He had trouble keeping up on defense, and he can't shoot. I don't want to see much of him in Game 7. It's not his fault, but he's more of a liability than an asset. It looks like Bradley will miss Game 7, so maybe Allen will have to play. I just don't want to see him playing a pivotal role, offensively or defensively.

Pierce and Garnett combined for 44 of the Celtics' points. Apart from those two, the Celtics hit only 12 field goals, and shot 25.5%. That's absolutely, inexcusably horrific. Bass was 2 for 12, Rondo was 4 of 14. The Celtics missed layups, jump shots, everything.

This team does stuff like this. They can beat an opponent with ease, then they make things difficult for themselves. They crushed Atlanta one night, then lost their next game to them. They've crushed Philly twice in this series, then lost both follow-up games.

Game 7 Saturday evening or night, depending on what happens in Indiana tonight.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Unlikely Sluggers Blast Sox Past Orioles

The Sox are 22-22 and just took 2 of 3 from the Orioles. Why am I so happy at this? Because I like the way the Sox won these games. And I prefer consistently winning 2 of 3 as opposed to stretches of 5 straight wins then 5 straight losses.

I'm not as optimistic about Daniel Bard. He's looking more and more like Daisuke Matsuzaka. He's not throwing enough strikes (49 strikes, 41 balls today), he's walking batters (4 more today, he's now walked more batters than he's struck out), his pitch count is getting high early, and he never seems to have the same pitches working for him from start to start.

It's not been a major problem. So far. He's not getting crushed. He's not wild. He got two very timely double-plays today that helped him avoid disaster. And with runners in scoring position, he held the O's at bay.

It doesn't seem like a long-term successful way to pitch, though. This is his fourth start that he's failed to go 6 innings. He's tied with Justin Masterson for the 6th most walks in all of baseball.

Bard only allowed 2 earned runs. The homerun he surrendered today was only the 3rd he's given up all season. That's why the walks haven't been deadly for him. And there's no alternative starting pitcher to take his spot. So for now, Bard is will remain the rotation. He hasn't been a significant problem. Yet.

The offense was provided by some surprise sluggers. Nava, Shoppach, and Podsednik each hit homeruns. Adrian Gonzalez better watch his back because Nava and Shoppach are only 1 homerun behind him. They each have 2. Nava has 2 homers in his last 26 at-bats, and this is after going 171 ABs without a homerun. Podsednik hadn't hit a homerun since September 2010.

All season long, the Sox have been getting contributions from unexpected sources. Doubront has been the most reliable starter in the rotation. Cody Ross, Ryan Sweeney, Will Middlebrooks, Daniel Nava, Mike Aviles. Hell, Kelly Shoppach is hitting .281. These are the Bill Mueller, Mark Bellhorn kind of guys that added to the star power of the 2004 Red Sox. The glue that held the big pieces together.

Now we just need the star pitchers to consistently pitch like stars, the high-priced free agent slugger to earn his pay, and the bullpen to figure itself out.

Sox have an off-day, then host the Rays for 3 over the weekend. It's a great opportunity to claw back into the AL East race. The Sox have done well against Tampa Bay this season. Lester faces Alex Cobb, a 24 year old who was born in Boston and has made 10 Major League starts, 7 of which were Quality Starts. That makes me feel uneasy.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Sox Silenced

The Sox managed only 2 hits and apart from a Youkilis homerun, Brian Matusz utterly silenced the Sox' lineup. Aviles, Pedroia, and Ortiz went 0 for 12. It's unfair to single them out, though, because apart from Youkilis' homer and an Adrian Gonzalez single, the entire lineup was quieted.

Youkilis started at first. Gonzalez was in the outfield. Cody Ross' injury was convenient for Youkilis and/or Middlebrooks as it allowed them both to stay in the lineup. Gonzalez is not a long-term solution in the outfield, but the Sox don't have much of a choice.

Doubront had another good start. It went to waste last night, but it was still very encouraging. He struck out 9, which is just as many as Matusz. 6 innings, only 2 runs. Without him, the Sox would be completely screwed. Especially with how Bard and Buchholz have struggled. Not to mention Matsuzaka's health concerns. Doubront has anchored the bottom of the rotation.

The Sox got shut down by a good lefty. It happens. The problem with the Sox is they allow it to happen too often.

So today is a good chance to rebound. Daniel Bard faces Jake Arrieta. This is a great opportunity for Bard to step up and win a game when the Sox could really use a win to keep their momentum going. Arrieta's overall numbers aren't dazzling, but he's had the occasional brilliant start. His last one was 7 innings and 1 run. And on May 2nd he pitched 8 shutout innings against the Yankees. There were 10 innings and 13 runs between those starts, though. He's been inconsistent.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Kevin Garnett Calls Philly Fans "Fair-Weathered"

I love how much the media giggles at KG's jokes. Such jock sniffers.

Anyway, I know this was a passing remark. But of all the cities to accuse of having "fair-weathered" fans, Philadelphia would be at the bottom of my list.

Just as a warning to any Philadelphia fans reading this, prepare for some backhanded compliments as I compliment your loyalty while simultaneously insulting your teams.

Before 1980, Philadelphia fans were enduring a World Series drought that was longer than the Cubs'. They hadn't won a World Series in their existence (established in 1883) until 1980. 97 years of futility. Even now, the Phillies have the same number of rings as the Cubs. The Phillies were the first team to rack up 10,000 losses. And even though they've had success recently, they're still 1,056 games under .500 as a franchise.

Yet Philly fans were still there, still hurling AAs at JD Drew when he was a Cardinal. If the movie Rookie of the Year had been set in Philly, the kid would have been discovered at the Vet because he could throw a battery from the outfield to home plate without it bouncing.

Then we have the Eagles. The little brother of the NFC East. Dallas has 5 Super Bowls, The Giants have 4 (plus 4 pre-SB titles), the Redskins have 3 (5 total titles), and the Eagles have 0. They do have 3 pre-Super Bowl titles, but who cares? Their last championship was won in 1960.

The Eagles have had their share of good teams. They've been consistent contenders. But have also been consistent chokers. They're run of three straight NFC Championship losses is legendary. Then they actually make the Super Bowl and Donovan McNabb gets indigestion.

Yet Eagle fans are among the most loyal (and they won't hesitate to remind you of that) fanbases in the NFL. Just look at the wide variety of jerseys worn at an Eagles game. The throwbacks seen aren't new editions of old jerseys. The jerseys are vintage. These fans have been obsessing over their pathetic team for years.

Then there's the Flyers, who haven't won the Cup since 1975. The 76ers have won 2 titles in Philly, the most recent in 1983.

Philadelphia has seen 14 major championships. 5 of those were won by the Philadelphia Athletics, so I'm not sure those count. The 9 titles won by Philly's current teams took 300 total seasons to accomplish. And Philly teams have only 1 title since 1983 (1 title in over 110 seasons).

Yet Philly fans adamantly support their teams. I think it's really unfair of Kevin Garnett to call Philly's fans "fair-weathered." They've endured some shitty weather in Philly and stayed in their seats to cheer/boo their teams.

And it's not like we don't have fair-weather fans up here in Boston. Garnett doesn't know that, of course, because the weather's been great in Boston since his arrival in 2007.

Liverpool FC Fires Manager, Hires Bobby Valentine

Only one part of that post title is accurate. Although maybe Bobby V will manage Liverpool when they come to Fenway. After all, Bobby V invented bangers and mash.

Liverpool fired manager Kenny Dalglish after finishing 8th (out of 20 teams) in England's Premier League. We're still waiting to see if there have been reports of drug abuse leaked to British newspapers.

Liverpool are struggling. On the field and off it. Liverpool lost about $80 million in 2011. That's net. Most of that was due to costs associated with an abandoned plan to build a new stadium. Not to mention the severance package given to former manager Roy Hodgson, who was hired then fired after 6 months.

When Fenway Sports Group bought the Red Sox in 2002, they only had one New York Yankees to compete with. Liverpool has to compete against several giants in their league. There's Manchester United, the most valuable sports franchise in the world. There's also a team owned by a Russian oil baron (Chelsea FC), the current champions are owned by an Arab sheikh (Manchester City). The spending of these eccentric billionaires make George Steinbrenner look like Jeremy Jacobs. Imagine Mark Cuban with a royal title and billions in oil money.

And there's also Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham, and Newcastle United to compete with. Teams with more "traditional" owners, but are also well funded, well run, and well managed.

To compete with these teams, Liverpool will need to spend money. They need cash to buy better talent (in soccer, players' contracts are bought and sold, they call it transferring. It can be expensive). In Europe, even developing and acquiring young players requires hefty contracts and transfer fees. It's a completely different animal over there and I don't think John Henry or the Fenway Sports Group knew what they were getting into.

Unfortunately for Liverpool, winning is how teams make money. For instance, the top 4 teams in England are invited to play in the Champions League, a tournament among the top teams from across Europe. Participants receive a share of the huge TV revenues, and also receive cash rewards for winning and advancing through the competition.

Liverpool will have to make due with just their basic revenues. Furthermore, the top players in Europe want to compete in the Champions League. Liverpool can't offer them that.

And with the recent success of Manchester City, there's less domestic money and attention for Liverpool to capitalize on. And across the world, sales of Manchester City merchandise is skyrocketing. Finishing 8th place and being an historically powerful team doesn't do much to help your revenue stream abroad.

So far, John Henry's investment in Liverpool hasn't worked out. The team hasn't improved. The balance sheet is still as red as Liverpool's jerseys. Firing the manager is a step, but Daglish wasn't the problem. Liverpool simply didn't have the talent to compete with the stars on Manchester City or Manchester United. Nor were they solid or deep enough to compete with the well-rounded Arsenal or Tottenham.

Liverpool must spend or die.

The Fenway Sports Group would never directly take profits from the Red Sox and use the money to improve Liverpool. Conglomerates don't do that.

However, Liverpool will receive direct investment from Fenway Sports Group. The Sox won't. The Sox will have to make do with what they can make on their own, minus what John Henry withdraws and places in his crocodile skin wallet. Fenway Sports Group doesn't care about improving the Sox anymore. They're all set with the Sox. They want to improve Liverpool. They want to play Barcelona in the Champions League Final one day.

Fine. Whatever.

Maybe the Sox needed to go on a leaner spending diet. Look what Felix Doubront is doing compared to John Lackey. Or Cody Ross compared to Carl Crawford.

It's not the overall money spent that irritates me, it's what the lack of spending signifies. It demonstrates a lack of interest in winning. The Sox didn't even try to keep Papelbon. They didn't go after a frontline starting pitcher. This was a 3rd place team for back-to-back seasons that hasn't won a playoff game since George W. Bush was President. But the Sox did next to nothing to improve themselves. They fired their manager, lost a closer, put John Lackey under the knife, and had a 100th anniversary celebration.

And despite whatever fake sellout streak the Sox try to convince us they have going, there are less people at the ballpark, and there's less money being spent by fans on this team. As a business, the Sox are currently in great shape. Today. But the future is uncertain. If they finish 3rd this year, what happens to the Sox' valuation? What happens if it stops becoming trendy to go to Fenway?

That's the thing about building the coolest bar in town. If people go there because it's cool, it has to remain cool.

If Liverpool continues to struggle, I'll hate the Sox owners for investing in failure. If Liverpool does well, I'll hate the Sox owners for siphoning success from Boston to Liverpool.

But if the Sox do well, I can't hate the owners for anything, regardless of what Liverpool does. And by "do well" I mean compete for divisional titles, make the playoffs, make the LCS. That's doing well.

The Red Sox Are .500!!!

Joy to the world, the Sox are .500. It was thanks to a struggling Tommy Hunter, a red hot Mike Aviles, and some contributions from Pedroia, Ortiz, and Middlebrooks.

Clay Buchholz sucks. He has no confidence out there. Once one or two things go wrong, and he disintegrates. He falls into quicksand and can't free himself. If not for a double-play ball in the 3rd, he might have been tagged for 6 or 7 runs. Nevertheless, he still allowed 5 in 5.1 innings. Far from impressive.

Ideally, I'd put Bard in the bullpen and Buchholz in Pawtucket until he sorted himself out. Unfortunately, the Sox don't have replacements for these struggling SPs. We'll just have to endure both of them until Daisuke returns. Then decide which one to exile.

I don't see much progress with Buchholz. He's still laboring through innings. He got some fortunate bounces last night, and that helped. But without those bounces, he gives up 7 and doesn't go 5 innings.

But this was a good win, nonetheless. Hunter seemed like a guy the Sox should hit. And they did that. And not only are the Sox .500, they are tied with the Yankees for 4th place. Cue the duckboats.

Doubront faces Brian Matusz tonight. Matusz has had mostly bad starts with a few good starts mixed in. He's a lefty, so he has a shot against the Sox. But they should get a few across the plate against him.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Celtics Pull Away, Take Series Lead

The Celtics gradually pulled away in the second half to win this game. After halftime, they seemed more committed to playing defense, more committed to denying Philadelphia the chance to stay close. The Celtics didn't try to engage in a scoring contest. They focused on defense, the offense followed, and the 76ers were shut down.

The C's scored 54 points in the second half. Which is very good. Even better, though, is that they allowed 35. Just 35 points in a half of basketball.

The Celtics can play an offensive-focused game against the 76ers, and they might win some times, lose other times. But if they focus on defense and execute properly, they'll always win. At least they should.

Garnett had a good game. KG has done well in all 3 of the Celtics' wins in this series. He's done poorly in both losses. As KG goes, so go the Celtics. He had some senior-moments in the first half. But he stopped making defensive mistakes in the 2nd quarter, started scoring some points, and getting to the line.

Brandon Bass had a big night, which was needed with Avery Bradley sidelined. 27 points, 6 rebounds. He really stepped up when the Celtics needed someone to step up.

Rondo and Pierce each had good games. Nothing amazing, nothing disappointing.

Ray Allen played some good defense in the 4th. And hit one big shot.

The Celtics went back to basics with this one. It was about team-defense, about applying pressure to Philly, and about working to get the open shot. Ray Allen only had 7 field goal attempts, and I like that. He shouldn't be shooting unless the look is good. KG showed up offensively in the 2nd quarter, then defensively in the second half. Brandon Bass stepped up big time.

Celtics can close the series out Wednesday night in Philly.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Monday, May 21, 2012

Isn't It Fun to Say "Preakness?"

Some horse won the Preakness this weekend. It was the same horse that won the Kentucky Derby. I'll Have Another. Which means he has a chance to win the Triple Crown, the most prestigious achievement in the sketchiest sport.'s headline sums it up perfectly. I'll Have Another Wins Preakness, Forcing All of Us to Watch the Belmont Stakes.

It's true. You have to watch. Because if this horse runs faster than the other horses, he'll be the first horse to do so in these three races since another horse did it in 1978. And that makes it special.

I don't like horse racing. Jockeys freak me out and horses don't have souls. More than that, there's a wide range of sketchiness on display at these events. Not only do degenerate gamblers wager their kid's college funds on these animals, but the well-to-do rich people that breed and own them are even sketchier.

And those ridiculous hats worn by rich women in attendance are obscene. Is there any more grotesque example of excess than someone spending thousands on a hat that they'll wear for one day then never wear again? And once that day is over and those hats come off, those women just go out and get gangbanged by Arab sheikhs who don't believe in deodorant and own the horse that finished 5th.

Then there's the media that cover the events. It's always a weird set of the most abnormal people in the NBC Sports stable (excuse the horse pun). The outcasts. The peripheral guys. Bob Neumeier. And they all adore the "sport." They drone on and on, comparing horses from the 1920s to horses from today, arguing about Seattle Slew vs. Secretariat, and glorifying an event that is held for millionaires to stave off boredom and for gamblers to enjoy the thrill of risking their family's future on a horse ridden by a small man in tight polka-dotted pants.

Horse racing itself isn't that bad. It's not for me. But it's over too quick to be boring, too basic to be tedious, too obscure to be annoying. And not enough people use furlongs as a measurement these days, so I respect that.

But the people who love horse racing, the people who run it, the people who bet on it, the people who cover it, all make me cringe.

I hope I'll Have Another does win at Belmont, then tests positive for steroids. Or they do a DNA test and find out he's 1/8 cheetah.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Red Sox Leave Philadelphia All Smiles

Last year when the Sox played in Philadelphia, it might have been a more revealing series than we thought back then, or that seems apparent from the way the season progressed. The Sox lost 2 of 3 in Philly last year, after just having lost 2 of 3 in Pittsburgh. Then they whined. They complained about how much of a disadvantage playing in an NL park was, how much it hurt to lose the DH, et cetera.

It was a whiny sense of entitlement that was eventually forgotten because the Sox went on a 37-18 (.673) stretch of baseball after leaving Philadelphia. Then September started. Then the losing. Then the excuses again. Then September ended, and so did the season. Then came more excuses. Adrian Gonzalez blamed God. David Ortiz blamed the official scorer. The fans blamed Popeye's Chicken. The organization blamed Francona.

So maybe this time, the Red Sox' trip to Philadelphia would show some more desirable character traits. David Ortiz held a players only meeting a few weeks ago, after Josh Beckett was lit up by Cleveland. The Sox are 8-2 since that meeting. They went down to Philly and beat a hot Phillies team, fair and square. Maybe we are seeing a new kind of character from this team.

Beckett's last two outings have been impressive. 7.2 innings yesterday, allowing 1 run, walking 2, scattering 7 hits, striking out 5. He was brilliant for the first 7 innings, then tailed off in the 8th. He's allowed 1 run in his last 14.2 innings.

Mike Aviles has been a very pleasant surprise in 2012. I think it's safe to say that the organization was right about him and Bobby Valentine was wrong. He's hitting .275, he hit his 6th homerun Friday night, his 7th on Saturday, and his 8th yesterday. He's 3rd on the Sox with 27 RBI. This is very good offensive production from short-stop.

David Ortiz wasn't a liability in the field. He fielded his position quite respectably yesterday.

I honestly don't know how much the Red Sox' character has changed from last year to this. Winning tends to hide character flaws, losing tends to over-expose them. For instance, if the Sox were winning games and Beckett were pitching well, his golfing trip wouldn't have been that big of a deal.

There are still some things that irk me about this team. In the 8th, Jimmy Rollins advanced from 1st to 2nd on a "throwing error" charged to Daniel Nava on a sac-fly. The throw should have been cut off before it reached home, as Pete Orr (no relation to Bobby, although he is from Ontario and wears the #4, which I respect tremendously) was clearly going to be safe. Beckett could have cut the throw off, holding Rollins at first. Or Beckett could have been backing up the plate. He did neither. He just stood a few feet in front of the plate. And it might have turned into a big play.

What bugs me is that win or lose, this team seems to think that they're good enough that they don't have to get the little things right. They're overly confident. Cocky. When they lose, it's because of something external, like not having a DH. And in their minds, they don't have to play their asses off to win. They're entitled to win.

They have been winning lately. But take it with a grain of salt, Sox fans. The Sox have turned a corner. They've done it before. The problem is, once you turn that corner, you have to stay straight. It's like quitting smoking. It's commendable, but if you don't remain quit, then it's not that impressive.

The Sox are in Baltimore tonight. With a good series, they can claw themselves out of the cellar. With a bad one, they can dig their hole even deeper. They have the shovels. Will they dig themselves out or dig themselves deeper? Buchholz faces Tommy Hunter. Hunter seems like a guy they should hit.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Celtics Can't Close

When the Celtics pulled out to a 14-0 lead, I think we were all thinking the same thing: This is over. Both the game, and the series. The 76ers had been demoralized and beaten into submission. It was only a matter of playing out the remainder of the series.

Maybe the Celtics felt the same thing, because they gradually let their intensity peter out. The 76ers turned things around in the 3rd quarter. The Celtics didn't hit a field goal for the first 7 minutes. Philadelphia went on a 13-2 run and were suddenly within striking distance entering the 4th quarter.

But still, these are the Celtics. The veteran team. The ones with Championship experience. They'd prevail in a close 4th quarter. Right?

All the Celtics should want to forget what they did in the 4th quarter. Intercepted passes (4 of them), KG's travelling, missed shots, bad decisions on shots. They allowed the 76ers to get 6 offensive rebounds in the 4th. That's more than the Celtics had the entire game (5).

Kevin Garnett had a horrible 4th quarter. He had a horrible game. Only 3 for 12 shooting.

The Celtics lost their composure. Maybe the 76ers got under their skin with some rough play in the 3rd. Maybe the Celtics tried so hard not to engage in such shenanigans, that they lost their focus and intensity. Whatever the reason, the Celtics didn't play Celtics basketball in the 4th. At least, they didn't execute Celtics basketball in the 4th.

I'm tired of watching Ray Allen flying in the air, his flight path perpendicular to the shot, trying to make desperate jumpers with plenty of time on the shot-clock. He did that in Game 2, and he had an ugly looking 26 foot attempt in Game 4. He's trying to be Derek Jeter or something, throwing off-balance in mid-air, across his body.

The Celtics seem too committed to getting Allen the ball in certain situations. And I don't like that. If the shot isn't there, it isn't there. There needs to be a Plan B.

Ray Allen might be the least criticized athlete in Boston. He's quiet. He just does his job. And since he's "a shooter," it's understood that he'll go through cold streaks. He was cold Friday night. 2 for 6 from the field, 1 for 4 with his three-pointers, and the Celtics were an abysmal -24 when he was on the floor.

The bench as a whole didn't contribute much. With Garnett missing his shots, they could have used a strong bench performance. That's more on KG's shoulders than the bench's, though.

We've seen the Celtics lose two close 4th quarter games, and win one. We've seen them blow the 76ers out. We've seen them lose a big lead.

I think we can give Philadelphia some serious credit for a pair of good 4th quarter performances. And even more credit for coming back from a 17 point 3rd quarter deficit. They've certainly got more character than Atlanta. And the Celtics can't afford to ease off the throttle and relax anymore.

The 76ers have an aggressive instinct about them. And they'll attack any sign of weakness. They have alligator blood.

Game 5 tonight in Boston.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Product Review

Recently I was given two keychains to review. They came from Wholesale Keychain. I must say I'm very pleased with them.

The first was a Boston Bruins Keychain and Bottle Opener, which I've "tested" on a variety of domestic and import beers. It's handled everything from Sam Summer to Newcastle Brown. And you have to love anything that's associated with both beer and the Bruins.

The second was a USB Flash Drive Keyring. This little nodule has a 1.0 GB capacity. That's not mammoth, but you can squeeze the flash drive between two fingers. It's going to be a permanent addition to my set of keys and will be a convenient way to convey documents, pictures, and videos from one place to another.

Good stuff.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sox Struggle in Philadelphia

Here comes Interleague Play. Which gives the Red Sox an excuse for losing in National League parks.

Daniel Bard isn't working out as a starter. He's not horrible. He's obviously a talented pitcher. But he's not throwing enough strikes. 5 more walks last night. He also hit 2 batters. He's walked 25 batters on the season, in 42.2 innings. He's hit 4 batters. His strikeout to walk ratio is close to even (26 strikeouts, 25 walks).

These are similar to the problems he had in the minors when he was a starter. In 2007, in 22 minor league starts and 75 innings, he walked 78 batters. He also threw 27 wild pitches. He's not as wild now, but he's still struggling to throw strikes, and hitters are being very patient with him.

When and if another starter comes off the DL, I think it would be best for Bard to go to the bullpen. When he only has to go one inning, his fastball is faster and he doesn't save any of his stuff for the second time through the lineup. He throws strikes.

The question isn't do you want 200 innings from Bard or 75 innings. It's do you want 200 slightly below average innings or 75 very good innings.

On the bright side, Mike Aviles had a good night. So did Cody Ross. Aviles was 2 for 4 with a double and a homerun. Ross was 2 for 3 with a homerun. Adrian Gonzalez also hit a homerun. Unfortunately, they were all solo homeruns.

The Phillies have a reliever named Antonio Bastardo, and I find that hilarious. Sounds like the name of a mustachioed villain in a Jack Black movie.

Jonathan Papelbon got the save, his 12th of the season. He hasn't blown any. Must be nice to able to acquire talent like that.

Jon Lester faces Joe Blanton tonight. Lester's coming off his best start of the season, a complete-game 1 run outing against Seattle. Blanton is coming off a 7 inning, 1 run outing against Houston.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, May 18, 2012

Can Anyone Beat the LA Kings?

The Kings are 11-1 in the playoffs after beating Phoenix 2-1 last night. That'd be a remarkable run for any team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's an even more astounding achievement for an 8 seed.

This is, however, no ordinary 8 seed.

The Kings allowed the 2nd fewest goals in the NHL. But unlike the team that allowed the fewest goals (St. Louis), the Kings did so using primarily one goalie. Jonathan Quick. Quick is the top Conn Smythe candidate by a significant margin. We all saw last year what a great goalie can do for a team on a Stanley Cup run.

The Kings don't score many goals. They scored the second fewest in the NHL, and were one of only two teams to score fewer than 200 goals. Only three Kings scored 20+, none scored more than 25, and only five scored 10+. They don't have marquee names, but they have some tough playoff style players. Dustin Brown, for instance. He has 15 points in these playoffs. Jeff Carter and Mike Richards have contributed. Dwight King, a 22 year old from Saskatchewan has scored 5 times in the playoffs. That matches his career regular season total (in 33 games).

The Kings have the formula. Epic goaltending, mistake-free defense, physical play, strong penalty killing, don't do anything to lose, timely scoring.

How do you beat them? So long as Quick, Brown, and Drew Doughty continue to play as well as they're playing, I don't think anyone can.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wes Welker Playing a Game He Can't Win

After signing his franchise tender, Wes Welker later told the Boston Herald that his negotiations with the Patriots for a multi-year deal had "gotten worse." The Patriots were offering him a deal worth less than the $16 million 2 year deal he declined in 2011.

Instead, the Patriots seem perfectly willing to pay him $9.5 million for 2012, then allow him to become a free agent in 2013. They could franchise him again, but that would cost the Pats over $10 million.

People are scratching their heads at the Patriots' decision. Why offer him less than $8 million a season? I understand the injury worry reluctance with a 31 year old WR, but there was no reluctance when they made the offer in 2011. Why lower the bid? What if Welker remains healthy and the Pats want to keep him. By franchising him, they'd be paying him $21 million for two seasons, instead of $16M for two years.

My guess, and I can't emphasize the word GUESS enough, is that if Welker has a productive, healthy 2012, the Patriots won't franchise him for 2013. They'll give him a 2 or 3 year deal or let him leave. A year from now, Welker will want a multi-year deal even more than he does now. The Pats can then offer him a 2 year, $17 million deal. Or if Welker's not as productive, or if other WRs step up in 2012, the Patriots can let him leave.

People like Tony Massoratti are confused by what the Patriots are doing. So am I. But just because you and I don't see what the Patriots' plan is, doesn't mean they're operating without one.

And I think Massoratti insinuating that the Patriots are trying to teach Wes Welker a "who's boss" lesson is baseless, inflammatory, and foolish. The Patriots don't make personnel decisions with vindictiveness. More importantly, they don't do things that could potentially hurt the W-L column just to make a silly little point.

I think Welker's being unfairly criticized too. His intelligence has been questioned for signing a franchise tender then being surprised that the Pats aren't giving him what he wants after he surrendered all leverage.

Wes Welker is a football player, not an agent, not a lawyer, not a professional negotiator. He majored in management at Texas Tech but I'm sure his minor in the spread offense consumed most of his study time.

David Dunn and Brian Murphy are Wes Welker's agents. An agent's job is to get their client what they want. Baseball players who want money hire Scott Boras. And they get money. Dunn and Murphy don't seem to be doing a good job of getting Welker what he wants.

More than that, Dunn and Murphy have completely failed to make their client understand the situation. Welker got tired of sitting around, so he decided to give in. Dunn and Murphy didn't seem to explain to Welker that he'd be giving up all his leverage, and he'd have to do anything the Patriots wanted him to do.

Wes Welker seems like a nice, naive guy. I'm looking at the web-site for Dunn and Murhpy's agency, and they seem nice too. They seem like an agency that wants to give their clients a Jerry Maguire level of personal service. Which is great. Welker seems like a guy who'd want to have an agency that cares about him, not one that sees him solely as a paycheck.

But when you make decisions like that, you have to accept being pushed around when you want to play hardball. The Patriots aren't going to play anything but hardball with their players. Nor should they.

I sympathize with Welker, but he decided to draw a line in the sand. He and his representation were playing by rules in a game that doesn't have any. They were never going to win this fight.

At the same time, Welker will be getting $9.5 million to play football. It's difficult to feel bad for him for too long.

Prince Felix and Sox Beat Rays

How vital has Felix Doubront been to the Red Sox? The Sox are 6-2 in his starts. That's a full third of the Sox' total wins. He hasn't been amazing, he's been just good enough to get the job done. And that's what you want from a middle of the rotation guy. Last night was another very Doubrontish type of start. 5.2 innings, 2 runs, only 1 of them earned. He struck out 7. He allowed 6 hits and 4 walks, but only one of those hits was for extra bases.

Doubront has been a life preserver for this team, keeping them from sinking completely.

Another surprise performer that has kept the Sox afloat is Cody Ross. He drew a bases loaded walk in the 1st, hit a solo homerun in the 3rd, and a 2 run single in the 8th. His 4 RBI night raised his season total to 27. All of his RBI came with 2 outs. Last night he was the only Sox batter to get a hit with runners in scoring position.

It was nice to see the streaky Sox bounce back from a loss and get a win on the road. Especially against a divisional opponent. The Sox are 4-2 against Tampa Bay.

They'll lose the DH this weekend down in Philadelphia. I'd rather they sit Gonzalez than Ortiz. Ortiz's average is .072 higher than Gonzalez's, Ortiz's OBP is .066 higher, and his SLG is .207 higher.

Lester faces Joe Blanton tonight. Blanton's had an up and down season. Although he already has four starts in which he's gone 7 innings or more.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Edmonton's Spectacular New Arena

It looks grand. That's the purpose of these kinds of presentations. There are green trees, and no traffic whatsoever around the arena. It does look nice, though. And even with layers of snow (which tends to happen in Edmonton, Alberta), and bumper-to-bumper Dodge pickups in gridlock waiting to park, this building looks pretty sick. Outside and inside.

Devils Even Series With Rangers

Martin Brodeur might be taking the same Geritol as Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. He looked very good last night, and has been excellent in the playoffs. He's just a savage between the pipes.

The Rangers scored twice thanks to traffic in front of Brodeur. But New Jersey was willing to play the same game, capitalizing on a deflection to score the game-winner. This contest is making me remember how important net-front presence is, how important the timing of that presence is, and how important Mark Recchi was to the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Bruins.

The Rangers blocked fewer shots in this game, a sign that the Devils are more aware of when they should be driving pucks toward the net.

However, the Rangers once again scored a Power Play goal against the Devils. Kreider deflected a puck past Brodeur, and the Devils allowed their 14th PP goal of the playoffs. They only allowed 27 in the regular season. This series might be 1-1, but I do think the Rangers have the key advantages.

Game 3 Saturday afternoon in Jersey.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Thunder Beat Lakers... Again

Is anyone outside of Hollywood rooting for the Lakers? Not only is Kobe a scumbag, but Ron Artest is a violent sociopath. The Thunder remained undefeated in the playoffs with a 77-75 win over the Lakers. Kobe Bryant didn't get the last shot. Then again, he wasn't open. Then again, Steve Blake shouldn't be taking the most important shot of the game. Then again, players like Kobe Bryant should make themselves available, so the Steven Blakes of the world don't have to take such a shot.

But Kobe is a scumbag, so he'll blame his teammates. He'll have rough sex with some woman in Oklahoma. He won't care if she consents or not. Then he'll move on.

Game 3 will be played Friday night in LA.

The employees and bars in and around the Staples Center must be cleaning up this Spring with the Lakers, Kings, and Clippers all deep into the playoffs.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Hellickson Silences Sox Bats

There's no shame in being shut down by Jeremy Hellickson. So I'm not too disappointed by this game. In fact, there is one strong positive to take from this: Buchholz doesn't suck anymore. He's gone from horrible to not-so-bad. He had to be pulled in the 6th, after only 87 pitches, but he's not stinking up the joint like he was back in April.

He's improving. And that's good.

One thing that isn't good is that the Red Sox lead the world in balks. Three more balks last night. There have been 45 balks in all of Major League Baseball this season. The Red Sox have 6 of them.

Balks are a bit freakish. But what irritates me is how much attention Sox pitchers give to baserunners. It just isn't worth it. Bard has struggled with this, and so has Buchholz. I miss the days when Joe Kerrigan was the pitching coach and the Sox didn't give a rat's ass about what baserunners did. Who cares if a runner steals second so long as the batter grounds out to third or flies out to left?

Sox' pitchers need to stop worrying about baserunners and focus on hitters.

Good job by the Rays for selling 20,843 seats. They have a first place team, hosting a divisional rival that happens to be one of the most storied in the game. And they barely fill half their park. Yes, baseball definitely belongs in the Tampa Bay area. Just like hockey belongs in Arizona.

Will Rhymes was carted off after being hit by a pitch on the wrist. He passed out due to an adrenaline rush. Jonathan Vilma blocked me on Twitter after I told him he owed Scott Atchison $10,000 for the cart off.

So the Sox' streak is over. But as I said in the first paragraph, there is no shame in being shut down by Jeremy Hellickson.

Doubront faces Matt Moore tonight. He isn't that good.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Celtics Dominate 76ers

I thought the Celtics would win, but it would be close and low-scoring. As long as I got the first one right, I'm happy.

Paul Pierce isn't injured. He might be experiencing some pain, some wear and tear. But he's not injured. He scored 24 points, he drove to the hole all night (14 free throws) and hauled in 12 rebounds.

All the Celtics played more aggressively. It seemed like they didn't want to wait for the 4th quarter to win. They wanted to win in the 2nd and 3rd. And they did. Convincingly so.

Rondo was amazing. He took his shots, scoring 23. And he had 14 assists.

Garnett also had a big night. 13 rebounds and 27 points.

All the Celtics were physical. They ran all over the 76ers. They sped the game up. Before this series, the experts didn't think the Celtics could play a full court game against the 76ers and be successful. The C's proved that wrong last night.

The Celtics have Rondo. And Rondo can run all day. And by speeding up the pace of the game, the Celtics put the pressure on the 76ers to execute on every possession. You could almost hear the Celtics collectively saying "Try to keep up with us." The 76ers started making mistakes, turning the ball over, missing shots. It wasn't rampant, but it was enough to give the C's chances to add to their lead, and also add to the pressure.

The Celtics sprinted in the first three quarters, then walked through the 4th. But by then, they had a big enough lead that they didn't need to run anymore. So essentially, it was a 3 quarter game. The Celtics can run for 3 quarters. And after running, they're better at executing than the 76ers.

There are simply too many weapons on this team to lose a series to Philadelphia. The 76ers aren't equipped to stop Pierce, Garnett, and Rondo every night. Now Pierce has started his engine, KG is rolling, and Rondo is red hot. Which is more likely, that two of these guys are shut down, or that Lavoy Allen will score 10 and get 8 rebounds off the bench?

Game 4 Friday night in Philly.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tim Wakefield Day at Fenway

Yesterday was Tim Wakefield Day at Fenway Park. And like all ceremonies at Fenway these days, I get mixed feelings. Sentimentality swells in me. Then I remember that I'm witnessing a show, made to pull on my heartstrings and convince me to spend money on a product that I don't really enjoy watching anymore.

One nice moment was when Doug Mirabelli was introduced. He was chauffeured into Fenway Park in a Boston Police cruiser, an allusion back to 2006, when Mirabelli was escorted by Massachusetts State Police from Logan Airport to Fenway Park in order to reach Fenway in time to catch for Wakefield in a game against the Yankees.

I wonder if the State Police are a little upset that the BPD got recognized in this ceremony. Then again, a Statie parking in centerfield at Fenway Park would probably lead to all sorts of jurisdictional tugs-of-war. "I'm in charge of this ceremony!" "Not anymore you're not." Et cetera.

Anyway, throughout the game, pre-recorded messages of former Sox players were displayed on the jumbotron between innings. Pedro, Nomar, and others talked about how important Tim Wakefield was as a player and a teammate.

It was a nice touch. It wasn't just a token pre-game ceremony, it continued on throughout the game.

I liked Wakefield. I miss Wakefield. Not so much for his pitching, more for his character. He did whatever the Sox needed him to do. He started, he closed, he was a setup-guy. Right now the Sox lack character guys like Wakefield. There are a number of Anti-Wakefields currently pitching for the Sox. One is from Texas and is named Josh.

It was nice to see Wakefield honored yesterday, even if it was an orchestration of the Red Sox propaganda machine.

The Sellout Streak Ended Yesterday

According to the Red Sox, 37,292 fans attended yesterday's 5-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners. It just isn't true. There were noticeable empty patches of seats in the bleachers, grandstands, and boxes. And these patches remained empty all game long, so they weren't seats owned by people going to get a beer or take a leak. These seats went unoccupied for the duration of the game.

Even the parking lots around Fenway failed to fill up. Which is surreal actually.

And there's no shame in it. It was a work day, a school day, a rainy day, and an uninteresting opponent was in town. There's no disgrace in announcing an accurate 32,500 fans in attendance. There is, however, shame in lying.

The Sox want to continue their sellout streak. Their definition of a sellout is that all tickets have been distributed. In other words, the ticket for every seat has been sent/sold/allocated/given-to-charity/given-to-friends-and-family. If the Sox sell a few hundred tickets to StubHub or AceTicket and those companies can't sell them, the Sox technically did sell them. So they call it a sellout.


And of course, actual ticketholders are occasionally prevented from attending. Family emergencies, unexpected projects at work, MBTA mishaps, the recently divorced neighbor finally inviting you, with a wink, to The 99 for drinks and popcorn.

But the spirit of the streak is that the ballpark is filled to capacity (or near it). And it wasn't yesterday. Not even close.

And the Sox don't even distribute all their tickets, at least not according to this Globe exposé. They have plenty of tickets, in their possession, undistributed, and going to waste. How is that selling out?

Tuesday marked the 9th anniversary of the sellout streak's beginning: May 15th, 2003.

I remember almost a month before that, I went to a game that the Sox failed to sell out. I was in Row 50 of the bleachers on a blustery mid-April night. The temperature was 41 degrees at the first pitch, and it steadily decreased from there thanks to a harsh wind blowing off the ocean. Jeff Tam couldn't throw strikes in the 7th (the fans around us started a variety of Tam-pon based chants), and the Sox beat the Blue Jays 7-3.

31,440 fans were there. Not a sellout. But everyone there was a fan. Or a psycho. Or a problem drinker. An entertaining collection of people.

It's funny. As the attendance in Fenway has increased, the number of true fans in attendance has decreased. The other night, I actually heard a girl ask her friend, with bewilderment, "you mean you actually stay the whole game?" It was as if her friend had said she stays in movie theaters until all the credits are done.

Fenway Park has become a trendy bar, with a high cover charge, and mediocre entertainment. It's the place to be, the place to meet, the place to be seen.

Yesterday, about 33,000 real fans showed up to honor Tim Wakefield, and see the Sox play. I know the Red Sox Front Office wants to beat the Portland Trail Blazers' sellout streak of 814 games. But how empty is the achievement if it's based on technicalities and semantics?

And I'll take the 31,440 real fans who saw the Sox beat the Jays in 2003. They're better than the 37,292 fake fans that go to Fenway now. And by fake fans, I mean people who aren't actually in attendance (fake numbers generated by the Front Office), and the fake fans who are actually in attendance, but aren't paying attention to the game.

There's very little reality in Fenway Park these days.

Welker Signs Franchise Tender

Patriots receiver Wes Welker unofficially officially announced via Twitter yesterday that he would be agreeing to the $9.5 million franchise tender offered by the Pats. Welker's tweet read:

"I signed my tender today. I love the game and I love my teammates! Hopefully doing the right thing gets the right results. #leapoffaith."

Welker is a loyal foot soldier (forgive the joke), almost to a fault. I think he knows that the Patriots don't bend much on contract issues, and they never break. I also think he realizes that sitting out a season, or even part of a season, would be unbearable for him to endure.

The Patriots always had the leverage in this situation. The Pats need Welker, but they also realized that Welker needs to play. If the Pats were a no-limit Texas hold-'em player, they'd have 10 WSOP bracelets and 3 Main Event titles. Because they apply the pressure. They're willing to take the risk of losing big-name players. They'll go all-in and put you to a decision for all your chips.

So maybe Wes Welker folded. Maybe he called. Maybe he realized he wants to play football (and get $9.5 million to do it) instead of poker.

In any case, the Patriots are wide-receiver wealthy. Welker will have other WRs who will spread the field and allow him to get open underneath and get YAC. I am very eager for football season to start.

117 days until Week 1.

Beckett Gives Himself a Birthday Present

Since Josh Beckett was booed off the field last Thursday, the Sox rotation had made 4 very good starts in a row. If Beckett didn't make it 5 against a weak Seattle lineup, on his birthday, and in front of Tim Wakefield, then I think people would have spat on him as he left the field. In other words, there was no excuse to not pitch well today. He certainly hadn't been strained in his previous start. Hell, he'd only thrown 2.1 innings in May.

He did his job yesterday. He struck out 9 Mariners in 7 innings, making quick work of a lineup that has 0 players hitting over .300, and 2 hitting below .200. Only Ichiro gave Beckett a problem with a pair of singles and a pair of stolen bases. Beckett only threw 93 pitches in his 7 innings, and easily could have gone deeper into the game.

That was unnecessary. The bullpen was fresh thanks to Lester's CG on Monday. And the Sox had a 4-0 lead. With the way Beckett was pitching, and the way Seattle was missing, a 4-0 score looked like a 14-0 score. Ortiz hit his 8th homer of the season. Aviles had an RBI double. Middlebrooks had an RBI single. Aviles added another RBI double in the 8th to erase any doubt.

The Sox ended their homestand on a positive note, with 5 straight wins. They're still very streaky. They were streaky last year, too. Streaky is the mark of inconsistent starting pitching. Good SPs prevent losing streaks. Streaky teams might win 5 straight (the Sox have done that twice), but they'll also lose 5 straight (the Sox have done that twice, as well).

Even after winning 5 straight, the Sox are still 2 games under .500.

So they've made steps. They have more steps to go. Beckett and the Sox are very similar. Inconsistent and unpredictable. We've seen brilliance from Beckett before. That's never been his problem. His problem has always been consistency.

The Sox go down to Florida for a two game series against the Rays. This will be a good test for them. Tonight Buchholz faces 3-0 Jeremy Hellickson. Unlike Buchholz, Hellickson has actually earned his wins.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rangers Block Devils

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 21 shots that reached him last night. His teammates kept 25 more shots from reaching him at all. Dan Girardi and Marc Staal each blocked 5 shots. Girardi also scored the Rangers' first goal of the game, which didn't come until the start of the 3rd period.

Chris Kreider, who struggled during the Washington seires, scored a Power Play goal. Girardi had an assist on that one. It's Kreider's 3rd goal of the playoffs. This guy has never played a regular season NHL game. How weird would it be for him to win an NCAA Championship and a Stanley Cup in the same season?

The Rangers are just a little bit better than the Devils in a few key departments. Lundqvist is better than Brodeur. The Rangers' defensive system is slightly better than the Devils'. The Rangers are better at capitalizing on mistakes and scoring breakaway goals.

For the Devils to win, guys like Kovalchuk and Parise must have a huge series. And that's going to be tough against Lundqvist.

Game 2 Wednesday night in New York.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wes Welker Likely to Sign Franchise Tender

Wes Welker stated he had "9.5 million reasons to play" football in 2012. The remark essentially announced that he would accept the franchise tag and not holdout.

This is great news for the Patriots, who have added a busload of players at WR, but none of them are as prolific as Welker. Brady is extremely comfortable with Welker, and the two have been in sync since Welker arrived in New England in 2007.

It doesn't look like he'll participate in off-season workouts. But will be dressing in blue, red, silver, and white when the games mean something.

This off-season has been the most joyful Patriots' off-season since 2006-07.

Lester Sinks Mariners

This was the type of start the Sox needed and Lester needed. Jon Lester scattered 8 hits, didn't walk anyone, only allowed 1 run, and went the distance.

He was efficient. He finished the game with 119 pitches, but 22 of those came in the 9th. He only needed 97 pitches to go 8 innings. He retired the first 11 Mariners he faced, and by the time Seattle started to make him work, the Sox were already up 5-0.

Daniel Nava was a big reason for that lead. He hit a 2 run homer in the 4th. Kelly Shoppach hit a solo shot later in the inning.

Nava has been hot since joining the team. He's 7 for 12 (.583), with 4 doubles, a homerun, and 6 walks. He's gotten on base in three fourths of his plate appearances. Pawtucket has given the Boston Red Sox some nice boosts this season.

I know that some have speculated that when Youkilis comes back, the Sox might keep Middlebrooks at third and put Youk in left. But which outfielder do you sit? Ross, Sweeney, even Byrd have all been solid. And now Nava.

The Sox are a better team than the Mariners, despite having similar records. They should beat Seattle. They did it once. It'd be great if they could do it again and end this homestand on a positive note.

But guess who's starting for the Sox today...

Josh Beckett. He'll face Blake Beavan, who is 1-3 with a 4.32 ERA and dealing with elbow problems that shortened his last start. So it's Beavan and Butthead (Beckett). Lame joke, I know.

It's a weird start time today. 4:00pm.

Photo Credit:
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Celtics Can't Complete Comeback

Let me start with the illegal screen Kevin Garnett was called for. It was a foul. Stop complaining about it, people. I'll talk more about that call later.

The 82-81 score is misleadingly close. The game was tight, but not that tight.

The Celtics dug themselves a hole again. But they couldn't recapture the same clutchness that propelled them to victory in Game 1. Frankly, they didn't play very well in the 4th quarter after they'd made it a close game. They had several chances to take the lead from Philly, but didn't hit the shots.

Then there were some bad decisions. Why is Rajon Rondo shooting jumpshots with less than a minute left? I'm a big Rondo supporter, and don't mind him shooting when he wants to, but in that situation? The Celtics had let the shot clock tick down and Rondo didn't have much of a choice. But why let it come to that?

Philly had turned the ball over with a shot clock violation. Rondo took the ball up the court. KG was setting screens, trying to get Ray Allen open. Pierce and Bradley were on the other side of the court standing around. Rondo was also standing still, directing Garnett and Allen. The shot clock ticked away and Rondo missed a rushed 16 footer.

Philly got the rebound and Evan Turner gave them a 76-75 lead.

The Celtics wasted an opportunity. The 76ers took advantage of one.

After that, Ray Allen missed a weird sideways fade-away. There was time for the Celtics to work for a better shot (13 seconds on the shot clock), but I guess the called play was to get Allen the ball. He got it. He wasn't in good shooting position. He shot. He missed. Philly scored again.

Then it was 78-75, and that's when Garnett committed a foul. And notice how I phrased that. I didn't say "was called for a foul." He committed a foul. The ref called it. Boston is exploding in rage over an official making a correct call.

There will be moaning from Celtics fans about how it was a foul but the ref shouldn't have called it because there were 10 seconds left in the 4th quarter. So the ref made the right call at the wrong time?

There's some weight to that argument, but not much. It was a foul. Garnett was called for the same thing earlier in the 4th.

And the Celtics were still down by 3 even if the call isn't made.

I hate NBA officiating. It's one of the reasons I find regular season games almost unbearable to watch. The refs are inconsistent. To me, it's an unpredictable variable. Like the weather. The key is to be good enough to win in any weather, or win no matter what inconsistency the refs have on a given night. Last night's inconsistency was that KG was called for the same foul at 7:46 and at 0:10 of the 4th.

The Celtics weren't good enough last night, regardless of what the refs called. Before KG's foul, Rondo messed up, Allen messed up, they missed shots, they scored a total of 24 points in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, they allowed Philadelphia to go on a 14-0 run in the 3rd quarter.

There are legitimate things the Celtics have had to struggle through. Pierce is clearly hurt. Losing Bradley for most of the game had an impact. But the refs didn't cost the Celtics this game. The Celtics cost themselves the game.

Game 3 in Philly Wednesday night. I'm still very confident.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo