Thursday, October 31, 2013


This is unreal. This team was picked to finish last in their division. Fans were hoping that they'd flirt with .500 and contend for a Wild Card spot. 108 wins later and it's duckboat time.

The bats finally woke up Wednesday night. Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli returned to the lineup. People not named David Ortiz got big hits. Victorino had a massive impact, going 2 for 3 with 4 RBI. Napoli hit an RBI single in the 4th. Victorino's 3-run double in the 3rd came with 2 outs. So Michael Wacha was only an out away from escaping that inning, just like he escaped the 2nd. Five of the Sox' 6 runs were scored with 2 outs.

It was only a matter of time before the bats woke up. And that the 22-year-old Wacha was knocked around. Who was going to adjust better after Game 2? Wacha to the veteran Sox batters, or the Sox batters to Wacha? The Sox lineup isn't loaded with stars, but it's packed with savvy players that know how to work at-bats and figure out pitchers.

The Cardinals did not figure out John Lackey. He wasn't dominant, but he made pitches when he had to. He allowed 9 hits in his 6.2 innings. He seemed to save his best pitches for the most important at-bats. He struck out Jon Jay with runners on second and third in the 2nd inning. He struck out David Freese to end the 4th, also with two runners on. Of the 9 hits he allowed, only 1 wasn't a single, and only 1 was allowed with runners in scoring position.

The Sox scored 5 of their 6 runs with 2 outs. Lackey shut the Cardinals down with 2 outs, at least until the 7th. Wacha's inability to get the third out and Lackey's ability to get it was the difference in this game.

What can you say about this team?

They never learned how to lose.

The 2011 and 2012 Sox found ways to lose. They seemed to go out of their way to lose. This team never learned how. They never lost more than 3 games in a row all season long. And they only had five 3-game losing streaks. Only one of those streaks came after the All-Star Game.

Losing was foreign to them. It was distasteful. They hated it. Once they lost they found a way to win the next day. They were 43-21 in games after a loss. That's a .672 pace, which would win 109 games in a 162 game season. In the playoffs they were 4-1 after a loss.

They found ways to win. When a reliever blew a save, the offense would rally. When the offense struggled to score, the pitching would bear down. Down 5-1 in the 8th against Detroit? No problem. David Ortiz will hit a Grand Slam to tie it.

Just magic. They made the city believe in them again. They made a cynic like me believe in them again. Faith restored.

I can't wait for Spring Training.

Photo Credit:
Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bill Belichick Explains Halloween Costume to Media

When asked why he chose to dress as a pirate for Halloween, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick explained to the assembled media "Well for this particular Halloween, we felt like a pirate was the best balance between frightening and fun. That's the balance we try to find this time of year. It also allows a lot of flexibility for a sort of group thing. So you can have multiple people dress as pirates together, or even have two sets of people dress as two rival groups of pirates. Then they can have pirate battles, swashbuckle, things like that."

One reporter pointed out that Belichick wore the same costume in 2009. "Right. That's one of the other advantages of the pirate costume. You can hang onto it, use it again later. We felt like that costume worked well in 2009, so while we haven't used it every single year since then, it's always been an option for us."

Another member of the press asked if the costume pulled a "Josh McDaniels," and spent a few years in Denver and St. Louis before coming back. Belichick stared at the reporter's forehead, cleared his throat, and blinked.

When asked if he had fun at the party, Belichick answered "We had as much fun as we'd expected. That's a good party they have over there. Lots of fun activities you have to prepare for. They have particularly large goodie bags, which is something that's always tough to plan for. Thankfully the pirate costume we used has ample pocket space, which real pirates used for doubloons and booty. We used that pocket space for treats."

Belichick was asked what his favorite Halloween party activity is.

"Bobbing for apples. First of all apples are healthy snacks. Secondly the bobbing itself demands a balance of different things. It takes skill and determination to find and capture the apples in the bucket. It also takes focus as the brain's supply of oxygen diminishes. It's a good test of abilities."

According to sources, Belichick has lobbied the NFL to include apple bobbing in the Combine.

Then there was a question about Belichick's favorite Halloween candy.

"KitKat. KitKats give you a couple of options. At the Fun Size level you can have all of it at once, or one piece now, save another piece for a later snack. Or you can share a piece with a friend. With the big KitKats you have four pieces, so you can have two, your friend can have two. Or you can have three and give your friend one. Or four friends can all have one piece. So you get to split up the enjoyment in the way you think works best for that particular snack time."

When asked if he viewed draft picks like KitKat bars, Belichick rolled his eyes, sighed, put on an eyepatch, and swung out of the room on a chandelier, effectively ending the press conference.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jon Lester Officially an Ace

Monday night Jon Lester was promoted from being a very good pitcher, to being an Ace. What's the difference? Ace is frequently capitalized. It's the most powerful card in the deck. It's an honor bestowed to fighter pilots who shoot down 5+ enemy planes. And it's a designation reserved for starting pitchers who are the rarest of the rare. It's for pitchers who make winning easy for their team. And that's what Lester has done in this World Series.

Lester was ruthlessly efficient. He only needed 91 pitches to go 7.2 innings, or 3.96 pitches per out, 11.9 pitches per inning. He struck out 7. He allowed a solo homerun. He didn't walk anybody.

In the 2013 playoffs Lester is 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA. He's struck out 29 in 34.2 innings, and allowed 8 walks and 25 hits for a WHIP of 0.952 WHIP. Which is ridiculously low for a starter.

David Ortiz might steal World Series MVP away from Lester. Although co-MVPs have been awarded before (2001: Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson), and we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. However, Ortiz was 3 for 4 Monday night with a double and an RBI. He's hitting .733 in the World Series, with 6 RBI, 5 runs scored, 2 doubles, 2 homeruns, an OBP of .789, SLG of 1.267, OPS of 2.056. He hasn't struck out since Game 2 of the ALCS against Detroit.

David Ross was inserted into the lineup for his defense. His bat made the difference in this game. The ground rule double he hit in the 7th knocked in the game-winning run. And he nearly scored himself on a Jacoby Ellsbury single. It took a great throw from Shane Robinson to eliminate Ross at the plate.

Koji Uehara ended the game, of course. That's 7 saves in the playoffs for Uehara. His emergence as closer after injuries to Hanrahan and Bailey might be the most important development of a very special season for the Boston Red Sox.

Game 6 Wednesday night at Fenway. The Sox have a chance to clinch a World Series in their home ballpark for the first time since 1918. John Lackey faces Michael Wacha.

Photo Credit:
Jeff Curry-USA Today Sports

Monday, October 28, 2013

I'm So Sick of these Fox Broadcasts

The World Series is now essentially a best of three series. And the best part about that is that we will only be subjected to three more Fox broadcasts.

At best Joe Buck and Tim McCarver are boring. I'm tired of the shallow Wikipedia talking points for each hitter. Did you know Xander Bogaerts speaks 4 languages and started the year in AA? Did you know that Will Middlebrooks and Michael Wacha both grew up in Texarkana, Texas? Not Texarkana, Arkansas, but Texarkana, Texas!

At worse they're overly critical and then when events unfold to prove those criticisms wrong, they rarely acknowledge them. They criticized the decision to put Lackey in the game in the 8th (how much would they have drooled if Verlander had been used in relief?). Now I can't say I liked that move, I can't say I didn't like it. But I got it. I understood the sense of it. Lackey pitched well and Buck and McCarver didn't allow the audience to hear them eating crow.

Then they criticized the Sox for holding Wong on first. How did that work out for the Sox?

All McCarver has ever done is point out and then complicated the obvious. He sounds like he's reading a 1949 book on baseball fundamentals. And then he goes on tangents about anything and everything related to 1960s baseball and pop culture.

I think if Buck had a more youthful, more dynamic partner, he'd be okay. I actually like how he doesn't scream and shout, and allows the spectacle of the moment to be enjoyed by the viewer. He's not trying to make a memorable call, he's just working.

But Buck's measured pace doesn't blend well with Fox's hyperactive camera shots. Fox missed the last out on their live broadcast because they were busy showing various 1.5 second shots of anxious Cardinals fans with their hands on their face. Because that's how you build tension.

Tension in the World Series builds on its own, it doesn't need a director's help to be conveyed trough editing and camera work.

Fox baseball broadcasts are close to unbearable to watch, and should be used at Guantanamo to extract information from enemy combatants.

Patriots Wins Not Pretty, But Have Great Personalities

The Patriots are 6-2. And Sunday afternoon was another so-called "ugly" win. But I prefer to see these wins as having good personalities. And some having rugged good looks.

Let's look at some of the positives. The Pats almost tripled their season total for 3rd quarter points with 17 in this game. They rushed the ball well. The defense forced turnovers. The defense allowed less than 20 points and only 2 touchdowns, even with all the injuries. They sacked Ryan Tannehill 6 times. After Tom Brady's interception in the first quarter, the Patriots didn't turn the ball over at all.

And most promising of all is that the defense closed the game out. The offense didn't need to keep piling up points or run out the clock with an 8 minute drive. The defense sealed the win with interceptions and a blocked field goal.

The defense could also form a highly competitive volleyball team if they wanted to.

The refs helped. And for Patriots haters out there, that's actually good news. Because now maybe Pats fans will stop talking about officiating for awhile.

However I don't think Miami did much to win this game with or without favorable calls going the Patriots way. The Pats had a lousy first half, probably their worst half of the season. Miami got ahead, then the Pats woke up with their best third quarter of the year. And Miami had no answer. It wasn't a pretty win, it was a win, and this isn't college football with the BCS. There are no style points. Wins are wins, losses are losses.

The Patriots are 6-2 halfway through the schedule. Who saw that coming with all these injuries?

Who thought that Brady would have a 74.9 rating and the Pats would be tied for the 5th best record in the NFL and 3rd best in the AFC. Both their losses have been on the road and close, only a few plays or a drive away from being victories. And they're taking care of business in the division and at home. They're 2 games ahead in the AFC East and 4-0 at home.

These wins don't win beauty pageants. But they are fun, they are exciting, they make for interesting conversations. And this winter do you want a team that needs makeup to look good and can only win one way? Or would you rather a team that can find different ways to win?

Pats host the 2-5 Steelers next Sunday afternoon.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Steven Senne

Red Sox Win Game 4 Unobstructed

This series just gets weirder and weirder. Saturday night gives us the first ever walk-off obstruction call in World Series history. Sunday night gives us the first ever game-ending pickoff in World Series history.

The 2013 Red Sox find a way to to support each other. When one player struggles or makes a mistake, the others make up for their teammate's failures. John Lackey, normally a starter, pitched a scoreless 8th inning, bridging the gap between Junichi Tazwawa and Koji Uehara when Craig Breslow couldn't get an out. That's how the Sox have done it all season. Even when your starter is hurt and only manages to pitch 4 innings, a guy like Felix Doubront enters the game and pitches 2.2 innings of quality relief. He was charged with a run, but that was Breslow's fault.

While some members of the Red Sox picked up their teammates, others stepped up and made the big plays that decided the game. None more than David Ortiz and Jonny Gomes Sunday night.

Ortiz is red hot in the World Series. He's 8 for 11 with 2 homeruns and a double. That double came Sunday night, leading off the 5th. After Ortiz reached second base, he looked into the Red Sox dugout and screamed words of encouragement to his teammates in English and Spanish. ¡VĂ¡monos! He eventually scored on a Stephen Drew sac-fly.

Before the 6th inning Ortiz gave a motivational speech to his teammates in the dugout. And then Jonny Gomes hit the 3-run homerun that pushed the Sox to victory. How much did the pep-talk affect Gomes? There's no way to accurately measure that. Although in the postgame press conference Sunday night, Gomes beamed as he talked about Ortiz and his leadership.

Jonny Gomes hasn't gotten a lot of hits this year. But the hits he gets mean a lot.

In 2013 David Ortiz has taken on more of a leadership role. He isn't just everyone's friend in the clubhouse. He's expecting more from his teammates and pushing them to push themselves. After the game he spoke about what he told his teammates before the 6th:

"Let's loosen up... What got us to this level is doing what we normally do. If you run, run. If you play defense, play defense. If you hit, hit. If you pitch, you pitch. That's all it takes to win games. And it clicked."

I'm not looking forward to Craig Breslow's next appearance. He's looked dreadful in this series. Without him the bullpen gets stretched very thin. That means the starters must go deeper into games.

Hopefully that's exactly what Jon Lester does Monday night. He faces Adam Wainwright in a rematch of Game 1.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chris Lee

Friday, October 25, 2013

Red Sox Bresblow Game 2

In the ALCS against the Tigers, the Red Sox bullpen was a relative strength. Against the Cardinals, that advantage is no longer there. I'd venture to say that St. Louis has the edge with their top-level relievers. Craig Breslow had been very good in the playoffs. Last night he blew it. He entered a 2-1 game with 2 on and 1 out. His pitching didn't preserve the lead, and his throwing error didn't preserve the tie. Breslow blew it.

Offensively, the Red Sox only managed 4 hits. Give credit to Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha for that. David Ortiz collected 2 hits, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia had the others for the Sox. The Red Sox 5 through 9 hitters combined to go 0 for 17 with 8 strikeouts.

Give credit to the Cardinals pitchers in this one. Wacha was excellent. Then Carlos Martinez pitched 2 great innings, striking out 3. And closer Trevor Rosenthal struck out the side in the 9th. I was hoping Mike Matheny would pull Martinez when Ortiz came to the plate in the 8th. Ortiz hit a single, but I think the move to keep Martinez in the game was correct. He was mowing the Sox down.

The Red Sox could have stolen this one had Breslow done his job. Even if he kept the score at 2-2, then anything could have happened. I don't want to peg one loss on just one pitcher. Especially since most of the hitters did nothing. But Breslow didn't do his job, and it cost the Sox a win, and a 2-0 advantage going to Missouri.

Although I do have a feeling that if the Sox see Wacha again, they'll do much better against him.

Also remember that the Sox started the ALCS 1-1, and that ended well.

Now this series is 1-1. Which isn't the end of the world. The Sox lose the DH because stupid NL fans like watching pitchers bunt and strikeout. That's entertainment to you people? Anyway, Jake Peavy takes the mound against Joe Kelly Saturday night. Kelly was 5-7 this year, with a 3.53 ERA. In the NL. So hopefully the Sox can tag him for a few runs and Peavy can pitch well against an NL team, which he has done this year.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Red Sox Take Advantage of Cardinals Sins

Both the Cardinals and the umpires had a rough 1st inning. At least the umpires were able to confer and undo their mistake. Unlike the umps, the Cards didn't come together as a team and help each other out. They kept making mistakes. The worst was Adam Wainwright calling for an infield pop-up, then just standing there as the ball fell between he and his catcher.

The Red Sox took advantage of these mistakes, as they've done throughout the playoffs. Mike Napoli's bases clearing double took advantage of Pete Kozma's fielding error in the 1st. Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz knocked in runs in the 2nd after Wainwright let that ball drop.

Wainwright's pitching was worse than his fielding. If not for his right-fielders making two great catches, he might have given up 9 runs. Carlos Beltran robbed David Ortiz of a Grand Slam in the 2nd, and Shane Robinson took away extra bases (at least a triple, maybe more) from Dustin Pedroia in the 5th. Even when the Sox made outs they hit the ball hard off Wainwright.

Ortiz and Pedroia combined for 4 hits, 4 RBI, and 4 runs. If not for those catches by St. Louis right-fielders, they would have combined for 6 hits, and perhaps 8 RBI and 6 runs.

Jon Lester pitched brilliantly. He set the tone early, allowing only one baserunner in the first three innings and striking out 4. In the middle innings he had to work through some jams. In the 4th he escaped a bases-loaded, 1 out situation by inducing a double-play ball. A double play which he initiated, 1-2-3. He finished the game with 8 strikeouts and only walked 1 Cardinal, allowing 5 hits and 0 runs in his 7.2 innings.

Lester has been Ace-like in the postseason, starting each series with a topnotch performance. In ALDS Game 1 he went 7.2 and allowed 2 runs, striking out 7. In ALCS Game 1 he lost 1-0 but pitched well, 6.1 innings and only 1 run allowed. And now this start in the World Series opener. He's 3-1 in the playoffs with a 1.67 ERA. If baseball had a Conn Smythe type of trophy for postseason MVP, he'd be the leading candidate.

The Red Sox have won 9 straight World Series games, and haven't lost a game in the Fall Classic since 1986.

John Lackey takes the mound Thursday night to face rookie Michael Wacha. Wacha only started 9 games this year. He's been lights-out in the playoffs, with a 3-0 record, a 0.43 ERA in 21 innings, striking out 22, allowing only 8 hits, and only walking 4. So to say he's doing well is something of an understatement. The Red Sox need Lackey to continue to perform at the high level he has pitched in the postseason.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Apologies to New Balance, St. Louis Man Who Tweeted About Marathon Bombing Works for GROUP360 Worldwide

Bobby Metzinger, the jerk in St. Louis who tweeted jokes about the Boston Marathon Bombing, does not work for New Balance, as a now deleted post of mine had stated. Full apologies to New Balance for the misunderstanding. According to a LinkedIn page that Metzinger made about himself (and writes about himself in the 3rd person), he is the Social Media Manager for GROUP360 Worldwide.

Some of GROUP360's clients include Anheuser-Busch, Stop & Shop, Bass Pro Shops, Panera, Perdue, and Johnson & Johnson.

Stop & Shop, by the way, has its headquarters in Quincy, MA.

GROUP360 Worldwide has suspended Mr. Metzinger, according to their Twitter feed:

He's been suspended for these two tweets:

A suspension is fine by me. Although, the guy lists his title as "Social Media Manager" at GROUP360, and describes his job as "Managing social media communities for Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Marine. Internal social media management for Group360 WW." Then he makes a major social media blunder like this one, drawing all sorts of negative attention to himself and to his company (and to his former company), all just to make himself laugh.

That's who you want managing your social media, GROUP360? Good luck with that.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Joe Andruzzi: A Nice Guy Who Does the Little Things in a Nice Way

So I'm at a car dealership in Norwood, picking up my car after it needed its radiator repaired. There are two desks in the pick-up/drop-off/pay area, and the attendants at both desks are speaking with customers. One of the customers is a large man wearing Patriots gear, head-to-toe. I realize it's Joe Andruzzi.

I've seen Joe Andruzzi in person before. And I'm not one to get starstruck by athletes. And I think it's rude to interrupt a perfect stranger while they're busy with something and pester them to make marks on a slip of paper, or take a photo with you, or talk about what they're famous for.

One of the suits in the shop is trying really hard to please Mr. Andruzzi. I didn't pay much attention to the conversation, but the guy's body language was very deferential, very much trying to please. He's in uber-customer-service mode.

I stand a few feet back, waiting for one of the attendants to become free so I can drop $700 to fix my overworked car which deserves to be put out to pasture but I can't afford to replace. One of the attendants notices me, and it turns out he is free, it's just that Joe Andruzzi's stuff is on the desk. Some papers and a water bottle.

The attendant motions me toward the desk, and then Andruzzi, while still engaged in conversation with the guy in the suit, notices me in his peripheral vision, and moves his papers and water off the desk. This gives me and the attendant room to do our business. The attendant hands me a sheet of paper with mechanical terms I don't understand next to large numbers. I hand him a credit card.

It was such a small thing to do, noticing someone else needed the desk and moving your stuff. Basic politeness. And it came from a guy who is something of a folk celebrity in this town. A former NFL player, a 3-time Super Bowl winner, a 2-time All American in college, a guy who has used his post-playing days to do things for the community.

Maybe I'm making too much out of an everyday gesture. After all, this is a guy who did this at the Boston Marathon...

A guy who, with his family, co-founded this organization...

Which gives financial assistance to families affected by cancer and gives money to pediatric brain cancer research.

So maybe he's a nice guy because of stuff like that, not because he moved his stuff. Nevertheless, I think you learn a lot about a person from the little things. So this is further proof that Joe Andruzzi is a stand-up guy.

Joe Andruzzi Foundation website

How Absurdly Ridiculous Boston Sports Have Been in the 21st Century

The Boston Red Sox have only been to the World Series 12 times in their 113 year history, and 3 of those appearances have come in the past 10 years. From 1919 to 2003 the Red Sox only made the World Series 4 times.

It's not just the Sox who have enjoyed recent success. Since 2001 Boston teams have played in the championship round of their sport 12 times. The Patriots have been to 5 Super Bowls, the Red Sox have played in 3 World Series, the Celtics in 2 NBA Finals, and the Bruins in 2 Stanley Cup Finals. And they've all won at least once. The Pats and Sox have won multiple times.

You have to take a step back to appreciate it. It's hard to remember what Boston sports were like in the year 2000. Let's look back.

The Curse of the Bambino had recently turned 80, and the Sox hadn't been to a World Series in 14 years. Meanwhile, the hated Yankees were winning championship after championship.

The Patriots had NEVER won a Super Bowl, and only been to two. Who remembers how that felt? So when you're whining about a 5-2 team with no receivers, think about what it was like when Pete Carroll was the coach and the team almost moved to Connecticut. And before that, St. Louis.

The Bruins were mired in their own 28-year championship drought. The closest thing to a Stanley Cup in Boston was when Ray Bourque won with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001. The B's failed to qualify for the 2001 playoffs, as well as the 2000 playoffs.

Rick Pitino's Celtics were 36-46 in the 2000-01 season. In 1998-99 they were 19-31 (.380), and in 1996-97 they were an appalling 15-67 (.183). In the year 2000, the Celtics hadn't seen postseason basketball since 1995.

All that has changed now. It started with new owners. Since Bob Kraft purchased the Patriots in 1994 and saved them from moving to St. Louis, the team has been to 6 Super Bowls and won 3. They've also built a new stadium, replacing the aluminium eyesore that once sat next to Route 1 in Foxborough.

The Red Sox were purchased by John Henry and partners in 2002. Since then they've revamped Fenway Park, and invested heavily in player development. Their aggressive pursuit of a World Series title was what brought the likes of Curt Schilling to Boston.

Wyc Grousbeck and partners bought the Celtics in 2002. And while Jeremy Jacobs has owned the Bruins since 1975, when the NHL instituted a salary cap he went from being considered a stingy owner to a smart one. His "carefulness" with money would become an asset to the Bruins, not a detriment.

There have also been a set of GMs, executives, and coaches that are responsible for the success of these teams. Danny Ainge assembled the Celtics team that won the 2008 NBA title with Doc Rivers at the helm. Cam Neely has been a force in the Bruins front office and Claude Julien has been a rock behind the bench. Theo Epstein brought new ideas to the Red Sox. Terry Francona and now John Farrell instilled confidence in the players they managed. And of course there's Bill Belichick, who will go down in history as one of the best coaches pro football has ever seen.

And let's not forget the players. An impressive crop of stars, along with numerous solid role-players, have propelled these teams to their levels of success. Marquee names like: Tom Brady, Ty Law, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas.

Then there are the steadfast leaders: Patrice Bergeron, Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Mark Recchi.

Then there are the indispensable role-players: Kendrick Perkins, Shawn Thornton, Adam Vinatieri, Jonny Gomes, Koji Uehara, Shane Victorino, Bill Mueller, Mark Bellhorn, Mike Timlin, Craig Breslow, Doug Mirabelli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Doug Mientkiewicz, Mike Napoli, Orlando Cabrera, Xander Bogaerts.

And then there's the fans. We demand success. Look at how unhappy Patriot fans are with a 5-2 record and no Super Bowls since 2004. Look at the Red Sox in 2011 and 2012, and how much venom we fans had for them, and how we forced ownership to rebuild. All the teams in Boston compete with each other for our attention, our TV ratings, and our money. So they all know they must put a competitive product on the field/ice/court, or we'll spend our time and money elsewhere.

It's been a fun century to be a Boston fan. We have owners that want to win. Executives and coaches that know how to put together teams to win. And players that have the ability AND the hunger to win.

Bill Belichick Takes Responsibility for Pushing Penalty, and That's Why I Love Him

When speaking to the media Monday morning, Bill Belichick took responsibility for the 15 yard penalty that might have cost the Patriots a win against the Jets on Sunday. This was in contrast to his post-game remarks about the call. On Sunday Belichick pointed out that Chris Jones, the player penalized, was not a "second level" player, and therefore the rule about pushing a teammate into the pile should not apply to him.

The confusion seems to have been caused by the NFL's explanation of the enforcement of the rule, which mentioned that players in the defense's second level would be penalized for pushing their line of scrimmage teammates. However, the rule itself does not make such a distinction. According to the official rule, in field-goal and PAT situations, no defensive player can push a teammate into the pile, regardless of where either player was when the play started.

Belichick could have continued to make a stink, but he didn't. He could have pointed out that the rule hadn't been enforced for 6 weeks. He could have asked why it was called in that particular situation and not before, such as in Week 6 against the Saints.

Or earlier in the game when a Jet pushed his teammate when the Patriots were kicking a field-goal (watch the interior of the Jets line, just to the right of the Pats long-snapper).

Or Belichick could have done what he might be expected to do and ignore it. And try to convince the media to ignore it. He could have given a standard Belichick line like "We're focusing on Miami this week."

What he did say was wiser. He took responsibility for coaching Chris Jones to do that: "What he did was basically what he was being told to do. We just have to coach it better. That’s not Chris Jones' fault."

And when asked about the confusion over the rule Belichick stated "...obviously we are wrong. What else is there to say? We're wrong."

What taking responsibility does is kill and bury the story for Belichick and his players. The media can ask questions and the answer can be repeated: "We were wrong." The team can move on. Belichick can move on. The media will try to linger, but the story has been dictated by Belichick that he was wrong, so what else can the media do?

And moving on is what teams need to do after any loss, especially a tough one. After wins too, for that matter. Teams need to look forward at the next opponent, the next obstacle, the next practice. If any part of their focus remains on that penalty, they'll be missing something when they play the Dolphins.

By taking responsibility for the penalty instead of pointing out all the oddities and inconsistencies around it or asking questions about it, Belichick has allowed himself and his players to move on. Which is what we as fans must also do. The play is over, it was weird, but it's in the past.

Field goal images originally found on the New York Daily News website and Barstool Sports.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Pushing Rule

On Sunday Patriots rookie defensive lineman Chris Jones made history by being the first NFL player to be penalized for pushing his own teammate into other people. NFL Rule 913 (2b) was adopted before the season, but had not been enforced by the League's officials. Although it had been violated. So much so that the League emphasized enforcing the rule in a weekly training video distributed to officials. This video included footage of the rule being broken this season, and no penalty flags being thrown.

So a rule that hadn't been enforced for 6 weeks and 93 games finally got called in overtime on a potential game-winning 56-yard field-goal attempt. The resulting 15-yard penalty moved the Jets from hopeful field-goal range, to probable field-goal range.

We should remember that even if there hadn't been a penalty, the Patriots were not assured of victory. Their offense struggled all day. Who knows what would have happened.

And I do appreciate the intention of the rule. If two behemoth linemen are engaged at the line of scrimmage, using every ounce of strength against the other, then a third person uses their strength and weight to help push their teammate forward, it could become unsafe. And such plays have ended in injury.

Then again, how many plays in football are unsafe? Should we ban receivers from crossing the middle of the defense, or outlaw quarterbacks scrambling, or try to eliminate blocking from the game entirely? Safe football is an oxymoron.

And why is the penalty so harsh? You lose 15 yards because you push your teammate into the pile? So this penalty has the same consequence as decking a defenseless receiver or bodyslamming a quarterback to the ground. Does that make sense?

Well, rules are rules, right.

Except that for 6 weeks this rule wasn't enforced. Then the League decided to enforce it. So the officials knew about this change. Did the teams know that the League had instructed its officials to look for this violation? Because if you fail to enforce a rule for 6 weeks and 90+ games, then decide to enforce it to the letter without any notice, that seems a bit odd. And if the motivation behind the rule is player safety, wouldn't you want to tell the teams that it will be enforced, so that they might emphasize to their players that it might be enforced, so then it ideally won't need to be called? If something is illegal because it is dangerous, isn't it better to prevent it from happening at all than to catch someone in the act?

Maybe the NFL does inform teams of such things. And if they do, then the onus is on the coaching staff to pass that information along to the players.

Although I'm not so sure the NFL does a good job of explaining these rules to teams. In September there was an online article that discussed this rule, and stated that players from the "second level" could not push their teammates who had been on the line of scrimmage. That was how the NFL explained the enforcement of the rule.

This article was altered Sunday evening, not long after Bill Belichick's press conference. It now reads that pushing of any kind is illegal.

For the record, the NFL rule book stipulates that pushing teammates into the pile on a field-goal or PAT is illegal, and doesn't specify which players pushing which other players is illegal. So the rule was properly enforced Sunday, it just wasn't explained very well in September.

The NFL tried to clarify the rule, yet their explanation only muddled things.

Some might think this is justice for those evil Patriots to finally be punished for their history of rule violations and also karmic retribution for the Pats benefiting from things like the Tuck Rule. Some might find it fitting that the team that brought us SpyGate was undermined by a video, this time an NFL officials' training video.

All I see is a defensive linemen doing what he's been doing all season long, then getting penalized for it. I see two sets of large men pushing into each other. One of those men, Jones, barely pushes his teammate forward while he's trying to move forward himself. Then I see a referee throwing a flag, and a ball moved 15 yards forward, and a game being won because the League decided that Week 7 was the time to take a stand on the relatively innocuous thing that Jones was doing.

There's no grand conspiracy. It's just stupid. And silly. Rules are rules, but enforce them from Week 1 if they're in the book. And don't explain the rules one way, enforce them another, and then go back and change the explanation to suit the enforcement. That's ridiculously sketchy. Thankfully, Tom E. Curran noticed the modification.

The Patriots had ample opportunity to win that game before the penalty. And the responsibility for the loss is solely on them. However, the absurdity of the situation should not be ignored. It's ridiculous that a 15-yard penalty resulted from a harmless play that looked like a million other plays. Meanwhile 4 quarterbacks left games with injuries this week. Good job protecting players, NFL.

Patriots Did Enough to Lose Before the Call

I'm not going to discuss the 15-yard pushing penalty in this recap. There will be a discussion of that in a separate post. The Patriots did more than enough on their own to lose Sunday's game. And victory shouldn't be dependent on the officials (or anything else you can't control, such as the weather) being perfect or going your way.

The 2013 version of Tom Brady does not look like any previous year's model. People have been blaming his lack of talented receivers for his lack of performance, but we've seen that Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson can play, Julian Edelman is a quality receiver, and now Rob Gronkowski is back. How many more weapons does he need to complete more than half of his passes?

Look at the passes themselves. His accuracy is nowhere near what it once was (or what it once seemed to be). He underthrew Gronk up the seam for what could have been a touchdown, he overthrew Dobson on the sideline for what could have been a touchdown, he throws low to the flat, throws behind receivers running across the middle, and has no touch when he tries to lob it. Did Tim Tebow rub off on him in training camp?

The interception he threw came at a time when the Patriots had all the momentum, had an 11-point lead, the Jets had been struggling to get first downs, and Brady throws a flat ball intended for Gronkowski and Antonio Allen jumped on it. The first step in the Jets' comeback was taken by Tom Brady.

Brady lost this game.

However, I don't think he's on the proverbial Back 9 of his career. We saw against the Saints that he can still make the amazing throws. I don't know why he's been inaccurate at times. I'm sure sports-radio callers will concoct a number of ingenious possibilities. "He spends too much time with his kids," "He wants to screw Belichick for not signing Welker," "He's trying to get traded somewhere else."

By now he should know how fast Dobson and Thompkins run in order to hit them in stride. Maybe Brady is the one who's struggling to adjust, trying to throw to a set of receivers who don't make phenomenal catches on inaccurate balls in their general vicinity. Welker, Hernandez, and Gronkowski could catch anything near them. Now Brady actually has to make accurate throws for his non-Pro-Bowl receivers to catch.

The Pats defense sucked for three Jet possessions, then they suddenly stopped the run and hassled Geno Smith. After those three drives the Patriots held New York to 38 total yards on their next five drives. In the 4th quarter the defense gave the ball back to Brady and the offense multiple times, and in OT they forced the Jets to try a 56-yard field goal.

The defense did their job, without Wilfork, without Mayo, without Kelly, without Talib. The defense only allowed two offensive touchdowns. The offense didn't hold up their part of the bargain.

Here's a frightening stat: the Patriots have only managed to score 9 points in the 3rd quarter this season. That's 9 points in 7 quarters of football.

This game was a great opportunity for the Pats to push themselves higher than the Jets, as well as the Dolphins who lost in Buffalo. And the Pats didn't take advantage.

How good will Brady be going forward? I don't know. It's not to the point where you're worrying about how he'll do. He's still Tom Brady. He's had bad games before. He's capable of doing better and hopefully that's exactly what he does.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I love the smell of Grand Slams in the morning. Smells like... Victorino.

This is crazy. I'd say that I don't believe it, but with this team I can believe anything. The Red Sox are back in the World Series, a year after being a shambolic travesty.

This team finds different ways to win. They're like a Swiss Army knife, employing the necessary tools to get the job done. Clay Buchholz didn't go deep into the game, so the bullpen stepped up for him. Brandon Workman got 5 outs. Junichi Tazawa only got 1 out but it was Miguel Cabrera.

Sidebar: Tazawa totally owned Cabrera in this series. Cabrera had several big at-bats with runners on in the late innings, and Tazawa neutralized him. Tazawa deserves an honorable mention for ALCS MVP.

After Taz, Breslow pitched a scoreless 8th, and Koji Uehara threw 11 straight strikes for his third save of the series. That's what Koji Ueharas do.

Shane Victorino has not had a good series. He was 2 for 23 in the ALCS when he stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the 7th. He was down 0-2 in the count. Then he smacked a hanging curveball into the Monster seats.

In the top of that same inning Stephen Drew, who has struggled at the plate in these playoffs, got to a Cabrera grounder up the middle and prevented Detroit from adding to their lead. He was 1 for 20 in this series, but he did his job defensively.

The maturity of Xander Bogaerts staggers me. He started the season in AA Portland, last year he was in High-A Salem, now he's in the ALCS and having quality at-bats like a veteran. I'm so happy he is the short-stop of the future and not Jose Iglesias. Iglesias had a chip on his shoulder as if he were already an established Major Leaguer. Bogaerts just plays like an established Major Leaguer. Brandon Workman remarked to Bogaerts post-game about being a "Long way from Portland." He certainly looks like he's a long way from AA.

John Farrell has managed superbly in the playoffs. He's been patient with guys like Victorino, and that's paid off. He's been willing to acknowledge his mistakes and adjust his tactics. He's been selectively aggressive. And you can tell from the general attitude of the team that he instills confidence in his players. If the Sox are a Swiss Army knife, he is the one who decides which tools to utilize in different situations.

This team makes you proud. The way they fight and claw for every base and every out. The way they're able to win in different ways. The way they don't quit. A year ago we were ashamed of our baseball team in Boston. Now we beam with pride when thinking about them.

Game 1 of the World Series is Wednesday night in Boston.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo - Matt Slocum

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bruins Get Revenge on Tim Thomas the Traitor

The Bruins finally got the opportunity to exact revenge on Tim Thomas, the goalie who abandoned them last season, and forced them to carry his large cap hit on their books for almost three whole weeks before his contract was traded to the Islanders. That extended period of Thomas' contract being on the books most likely was the difference between the Bruins winning the Cup this summer and not winning it.

Oh, and don't forget that Thomas was the reason the B's didn't go deep into the 2012 playoffs either. Because his politics became a distraction.

Thankfully, the Bruins got their chance to avenge themselves on this saboteur, this rambunctious loudmouth whose political beliefs completely and totally hijacked the 2012 Bruins season and turned it into a farce. Nobody, especially not the media who begrudgingly discussed Thomas' political views, knows why Thomas' psychotic agenda didn't derail the 2011 season. Perhaps because it wasn't an election year. And perhaps Thomas' influence was countered by leaders who weren't around in 2012 to do the same thing. Evidently, Mark Recchi wasn't just a force on the ice, he also kept Thomas' insane views from distracting the team.

Thomas was the only athlete in the history of sports to refuse to visit the White House after winning a championship. I don't need to double-check that fact because the reaction to his not meeting and greeting Barack Obama speaks for itself. Why would the media and fans react with such uproar if such a thing has happened before or since?

Tim Thomas' tenure in Boston was marked with his desire for nothing but personal glory. His two Vezinas and his Conn Smythe trophy are exhibits A, B, and C of his scheming to draw all the attention on to himself.

His departure was one of the messiest exits in the history of sports in this town. He was, brace yourself, disloyal to a team that was shopping him around the League. He took off the final, lowest paid year of his contract in a season that nobody was sure would even be played. His actions seriously hamstrung his team. Even though Cam Neely was actively trying to get rid of him, he still should have been loyal to the team that gave him so much. After all, the Bruins were the team that put Thomas on their NHL depth chart behind Manny Fernandez, Tuukka Rask, Steve Shields, John Grahame, Andrew Raycroft, Hannu Toivenen. The B's are the team that gave Thomas a chance, once everyone else had a chance and sucked.

Thomas threw the loyalty and faith of that relationship in the proverbial toilet when he didn't stay in Boston to be traded somewhere else. That selfish bastard decided to take the abbreviated season off, instead of allowing his benevolent team to send him anywhere in the NHL. How could you be so disloyal to a team that had consistently tried to get rid of you and give you a new home, from before the 2010-11 season, to after the 2011-12 season? It's just so appalling that he wasn't loyal to the Bruins, and to the fanbase that only criticized him for half a season because of his political beliefs.

Thankfully, the Bruins got their revenge on the traitor Thursday night with a 3-2 victory.

Red Sox Escape Detroit in Drivers' Seat

The Red Sox have adjusted to Anibal Sanchez since Game 1. They got their first hit of the series off him in the 1st inning. Then scored the first run off him in the 2nd. The Sox came out swinging in this game. They were not on the backfoot, not on the defensive. As we've seen all season with this team, losing only makes them more aggressive and ferocious in their next game. They don't fall back and regroup. They instantly counterattack. Like a cornered animal.

Mike Napoli spearheaded the Red Sox offense. He went 3 for 4 with a double and a homerun. He's hitting .375 in the series. His solo homerun in Game 3 was what gave the Sox a 1-0 lead (and eventual win). His solo homerun in Game 5 turned out to be the difference in Game 5. In a series of three one-run games, Napoli's two solo homeruns have won two games.

Jon Lester was not Ace-like in this game. He didn't have to be. He played with fire throughout his 5.1 innings, giving up 7 hits and walking 3. Though he never got burnt. Only 2 runs scored on his watch but his inability to go deep into the game made the Sox vulnerable. Lester did his job, but he also made the jobs of others harder.

I like Junichi Tazawa, but I don't trust him. Not in a 1-run game. I have partial trust in Craig Breslow, barely enough for a 1-run game. I trust Koji Uehara implicitly, any game, any situation. Red Sox starters need to pitch into the 7th inning in order to avoid exposing the soft underbelly of the bullpen. Breslow and Uehara are the only bullpen arms Sox fans should want to see in the late innings.

The series returns to Boston Saturday evening at 4:30pm. Clay Buchholz faces Max Scherzer. I honestly have no idea what to expect in that game. And that's what has made this series such a thrill to watch.

Photo Credit:
USA Today

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Yuengling Is Coming! The Yuengling Is Coming!

I wonder if Sam Adams would get pissed at his buddy Paul Revere if he rode from town to town yelling to the citizens of Massachusetts that Yuengling is coming to the Commonwealth.

For those of you who don't know what Yuengling is (it's pronounced Ying-ling), it's a beer from Pennsylvania, from the oldest brewery in America. It's a quality beer, in the same class as Sam Adams. Taste wise it's interesting like Sam, only more drinkable. It's good in a bottle but fantastic from the tap.

And after a 20-year absence it's returning to the Massachusetts market.

Those of us who have been introduced to Yuengling and fell in love with it are rejoicing. For years we've depended on friends and relatives travelling from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to supply us with Yuengling. There's a grey market (not quite a black market) trade along I-90 and I-84 of Yuengling Lager being legally smuggled to thirsty residents of Massachusetts.

Why has such an acclaimed beverage remained absent from Massachusetts markets?

That is where the Myth of Yuengling truly begins. Everyone has a theory to explain it. Some say that Sam Adams pressures Mass. lawmakers to keep Yuengling out. Others suggest that there's some obscure regulation about imprinting bottles and that Yuengling doesn't want to spend the extra money to do that. Even "official" explanations are cloudy and vague. When reading about this story one explanation from Yuengling was that in 1993 they left Mass. because demand wasn't high enough. Another explanation said they left because demand was too high and their out-of-state operations couldn't keep up. Which doesn't quite make sense that they would leave because demand for their product was too high.

Nobody seems to know exactly why Yuengling wouldn't cross the Hudson. But now they're returning. I wonder when they try to ship beer to Mass. in 2014 if their trucks will vanish into thin air when they try to cross the border.

Series Starts Over Again

Once through each team's rotation. The Tigers SPs did much better than the Red Sox. John Lackey was the only Sox starter who outclassed his opponent. Jon Lester was good, but not as good as Anibel Sanchez. Clay Buchholz wasn't good, and Jake Peavy was godawful. Only Detroit's bullpen struggles, Lackey's great start, and David Ortiz's grand slam have kept the series tied 2-2.

Jake Peavy didn't have it Wednesday night. Maybe if Dustin Pedroia turns a double-play then Peavy gets out of the jam and who knows. I'm not going to blame Pedroia for Peavy's poor pitching, though. Pedroia had one chance to bail Peavy out. Peavy had several opportunities to bail himself out.

It's easy to say this in hindsight: I wanted Peavy to be pulled when it was 4-0. He looked terrible. He struggled to throw strikes. And the strikes he threw were far too hittable. Brandon Workman or Ryan Dempster at least provided the possibility that the score would remain 4-0. And if it had, as the Red Sox scored a scattering of runs in the late innings, who knows what might have happened.

Then again, maybe Workman enters in the 2nd inning and gives up three straight homeruns. Who knows.

The Red Sox continue to struggle at the plate. Although in this game they scored their second most runs of the series. They also recorded 12 hits, which is how many they had in Games 1 through 3 combined. They out-hit the Tigers 12 to 9. However the Tigers were 4 for 9 with runners in scoring position, the Sox were 2 for 16. It isn't how many hits you get, it's when you get them.

Jacoby Ellsbury had 4 of those hits, and they mostly wasted. Shane Victorino, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Mike Napoli went a combined 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position. That's the 2 through 5 hitters, that's where the offensive production is supposed to be generated.

On the bright side, this is essentially now a best of three series and the Red Sox have homefield advantage. On the not-so-bright side they have to face Sanchez, Scherzer, and Verlander, and win two of three. Which they already have.

Game 5 Thursday night. Anibal Sanchez against Jon Lester. Time for Lester to be an Ace again.

Photo Credit:
Rick Osentoski - USA Today Sports

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

John Lackey Outduels Justin Bieber... I Mean Verlander

Justin Verlander (not Justin Bieber, as Erin Andrews almost called him during a post-game interview) entered this game with all the momentum and all the hype. And he lived up to that with a fantastic performance. However it wasn't quite as fantastic as the effort John Lackey put in. Verlander went deeper into the game and struck out more batters, but Lackey didn't allow a run at all. He also didn't walk anybody. The few times he was close to being in trouble, he pitched his way out of it. He needed to be absolutely magnificent for the Sox to win, and he delivered.

Mike Napoli also delivered. His 7th inning homerun was only his third hit of the playoffs. In postseason baseball you only need 1 hit to have a good series.

The bullpen continues to roll. The Tigers' starting pitchers have overall done better than their Red Sox counterparts in this series. The reason the Tigers aren't up 2-1 or 3-0 is because the Sox bullpen has significantly outperformed Detroit's. Detroit's bullpen has pitched 5 innings in this series, and allowed 5 runs, all in Game 2. The Red Sox bullpen has been asked to pitch 8.1 innings and has yet to allow a run.

The bullpen is the reason the Red Sox lead the series 2-1.

It's crazy to think that despite three brilliant outings by Tigers starters, and despite Red Sox hitters going 12 for 90 at the plate (.133), the Sox have the edge in the series.

Jake Peavy starts Game 4 for the Red Sox Wednesday night. This type of situation is the reason why the Sox traded for him. His purpose is to add depth to the rotation for moments like this one. Doug Fister will start for Detroit. Peavy has a good track record against the Tigers' lineup, except Miguel Cabrera who has 3 homeruns off him and Torii Hunter who is 7 for 14 against him. The Red Sox faced Fister twice this season. They were shut down on September 2nd, but knocked him around for 6 runs in 3.1 innings in June. Daniel Nava has crushed Fister in the past, going 5 for 12 off him with 3 doubles. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is 5 for 11 against him.

All three games have been incredibly entertaining. And close. If this series goes the full 7, it will be Lackey facing Verlander again.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Carlos Asorio

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bruins' Comeback Falls Short

Unlike the Patriots and Red Sox, the Bruins' comeback effort fell short Monday afternoon. And I'm blaming the power play for the lack of offense. The B's were 0 for 5 with a man advantage, including an extended stretch of 5-on-3 play.

I think the Bruins coaches are trying too hard to get the power play to work. Gimmicks and tricks like putting Zdeno Chara in front of the net and keeping forwards on the point seem like clever ideas in theory, but they don't work on ice.

All the good things Chara does in the crease are countered by things he doesn't do. He's a big body, he blocks the goalie's vision, he's impossible to dislodge. At the same time, his massive wingspan works against him when pucks are around his feet. He's not able to work his stick properly in the closed quarters phone-booth environment of the crease. You also lose his blistering slapshot from the point and all the other dynamic things he does as a defenseman.

I don't mind putting forwards on the point, so long as you have enough talented power play worthy forwards in traditional positions. Unfortunately, the Bruins don't have surplus forwards to station on the point. And a few of the Bruins that saw power play time Monday don't deserve to. Jordan Caron (1:07 power play time on ice Monday) is NOT a power play forward. Nor is Gregory Campbell (1:22 PP TOI). And I don't think Milan Lucic (3:42 PP TOI) is either. At least not for nearly 4 minutes.

Lucic reacts very well to scoring opportunities, but he doesn't do well trying to create them. He's like someone who has great comeback lines, but struggles telling the initial joke. Lucic hasn't scored a power play goal since March 3, 2012. Let that sink in. March 3, 2012. The one spot on the power play I'd like to see Lucic play is in front of the net. He's good at those reflex-based, so-called "junk" goals. Better than Chara.

On the bright side of things, being in the same division with the Red Wings should produce tremendous entertainment this season.

Being in the same division as the Florida Panthers probably won't. And that's who the Bruins are playing on Thursday.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Monday, October 14, 2013

More Red Sox Magic

How fantastic is it to have exciting playoff baseball back in Boston? Games 1 and 2 have been "stand-while-you-watch" games in the late innings. The games are so tense that you cannot stay sitting.

Here's a positive thought, Detroit's starting pitching has been stellar. Like freakishly stellar. And the series is tied 1-1. For how well Detroit's starters have done, being tied 1-1 is a fantastic result for the Sox. Detroit's SPs have been nearly perfect and the series is even.

Sunday night I realized something about these Red Sox. I want to go out and drink with them. Or hang out with them even if alcohol weren't involved. But preferably involved. And the key thing is that I want to GO OUT with them. Josh Beckett and the 2011-2012 Sox STAYED IN and got drunk while eating chicken and playing video games. We didn't want to go anywhere with them. We did want to go out with Kevin Millar and the '04 Sox. We did want to go out with the idiots of 2007.

How fun would it be to go to a karaoke bar with Koji Uehara and Jonny Gomes? Then go clubbing with Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz? Then go to Supreme Pizza on Mass Ave at 2:00am with Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli?

I also think that the energy of the fans in Fenway plays a part in how the Red Sox perform. Detroit has pitched so well in this series that each time the Red Sox manage a basehit, the crowd releases several innings worth of pent-up energy. And the crowd sees how hungry this team is, and the team feels how hungry the crowd is, and they feed off each other's energies. It's a vicious cycle.

David Ortiz's grand-slam was one of the biggest hits in his storied October career. And it was, importantly, a line driver homerun. In the cold air, high fly balls that arc upward are more likely to be slowed by the cold air and fall in the outfield. Warning, physics lesson approaching: in cold air, air molecules are packed closer together, so a baseball has to push through more of them as it flies from the bat through the air. Each molecule slows the ball down and causes it to lose speed which then causes it to lose height. A high fly ball has a longer path through the air than a direct line-drive, so it has to push through more air molecules. So Ortiz's line drive went through fewer molecules than a fly ball homerun, and that's why it was able to get out. Physics lesson over.

If the series were 2-0 in Detroit's favor, going back to Detroit, I wouldn't like the Red Sox chances. Now at 1-1 the Sox aren't up against any walls. We'll see if Verlander pitches like he did in the regular season or like he did in the ALDS against Oakland. We'll see if Detroit's starters fall back to earth. The series is still wide open thanks to Sunday night's insane drama.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Thursday, October 10, 2013

NFL Will Force Teams to Do Hard Knocks

The NFL owners agreed on a new policy regarding the League's HBO reality show Hard Knocks. If no team volunteers to be the subject of the behind-the-scenes show, the NFL will simply pick a team to be featured. And that team will be required to be the show's subject. Teams that will be exempt from selection include those with new head coaches, teams that have made the playoffs in the previous two seasons, and teams that have been on the show in the previous 10 seasons.

It sounds unfair to force a team that doesn't want to grant that kind of access to do it. I also think the playoff provision is unfair. Why should playoff teams be free of such scrutiny but the struggling teams be forced to deal with it?

What I would do if I ran a team is volunteer to get it out of the way. Then I'd get creative. I'd hire screenwriters from the best soap operas, acting coaches, makeup people, special effects gurus, the whole nine yards. I would make a complete mockery of the series and show fake stories about fake issues. I'd give the cameras enough artificially generated meat to sink their teeth into so they didn't pay attention to what was really happening within the team. Fake fights, fake confessionals, fake incidents, fake rivalries, fake enemies that become friends, fake friends that become enemies.

It would be like Wag the Dog meets the NFL.

Either that or I would volunteer and make the most boring show on in the history of television. I think if somehow the Patriots found their way onto the show, and fans rated it as the most boring season in series history, that achievement would satisfy Bill Belichick more than any of his Super Bowl titles.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Red Sox Coming Back to Boston, Rays Staying in Tampa Bay

This was why the Red Sox got Jake Peavy. They wanted a good pitcher to anchor the bottom of the rotation. And Peavy came through for the Sox last night. So did Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, and of course Koji Uehara. Those 4 pitchers combined for 9 innings, allowing just 1 run, 6 hits (only 1 for extra-bases), 0 walks, and struck out 10.

By the way, Jose Iglesias is 1 for 12 in the other ALDS. That trade's looking better and better.

The Rays played with fire for most of this game. Their pitchers enjoyed some fortunate double plays to get out of jams. Manager Joe Maddon went with an unorthodox strategy that seemed to work for a time. But how many different pitchers can you bring into a game before one of them just doesn't get the job done?

Joe Maddon has a bit of Bobby Valentine in him. He tries too hard to influence the outcome of the game through his managerial decisions. Sometimes the best thing a manager can do is step back and let his players play, choosing the right time to make one or two smart moves, instead of trying to make a dozen good moves every night.

John Farrell will get credit for pinch-hitting Xander Bogaerts in the 7th, but give the credit to Bogaerts for working a walk. He didn't look like someone who just turned 21 on October 1st and started the season in AA Portland. That was a mature plate appearance for such a young player.

Then the Rays made mistakes. Which they've done all series long. And the Red Sox capitalized on those mistakes. Which they've done all series long. The Sox used their speed to exploit Tampa Bay's miscues. Bogaerts scored on a wild pitch, Ellsbury advanced to third after stealing second on the play, then Victorino legged out an infield single. The Sox scored the tying and winning runs without a ball leaving the infield.

That's how they've won all season long. Whatever it takes, they'll find some way to win. The pitching was great, the offense struggled at first then took advantage of one mistake to score 2 runs. This team seems to will itself to victory.

Now they have a few days off, waiting for the Athletics/Tigers series to resolve itself. Jon Lester gets to rest while those two teams hopefully wear each other out.

Game 1 of the ALCS is Saturday at Fenway Park.

In conclusion, here's Jonny Gomes doing a crazy sprinkler dance...

Photo Credit:
Steve Mitchell - USA Today Sports

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Dear Tampa Bay Rays, Your Ballpark Sucks

Tropicana Field is the stupidest, silliest ballpark in the Majors. The park's ground rules are like backyard wiffle ball rules. I remember in my backyard our porch jutted into the field of play, slicing across the imaginary foul line. So if a ball landed in the fair part of the porch, it was a ground-rule triple. It was a stupid, silly rule and we knew it. Tampa Bay is a Major League facility with stupid catwalks. If a ball hits them in foul territory, then the ball is dead. If a ball hits some of them in fair territory, it's a homerun. What the hell?

Then the white roof. What was wrong with a darker shade?

Fenway Park has its own weird set of nooks and crannies. But those have history, and were often out of necessity. There's a story behind each one of Fenway's quirks. The story behind each of the Trop's annoying oddities is that the stadium is poorly designed. Plain and simple.

Then there's the onslaught of noise pumped through the speakers. Listening on the radio and the artificial sound generation is obvious. The music blares, and it's relentless in both volume and frequency.

Everybody clap your hands...

Finally, the fans suck. The Oakland Athletic removed tarps in their park to accommodate the demand for tickets to their recent playoff games. The Rays didn't have to do that with their tarped off sections. For Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS, the biggest game in their franchise's history, a friend of mine was able to get tickets at face value the day of the game. That shouldn't be possible for a game of such magnitude.

Everyone always said that when the Rays became competitive, the people would come. That hasn't really happened. The people come when the Red Sox and Yankees come. The Rays were dead last in attendance this year. 18,645 per game. 900 more people per game went to see the 100-loss Marlins play. On average, 45.3% of Tropicana Field's seats are empty. And that doesn't include the tarped sections.

Worst ballpark in the country, worst fans in baseball.

Red Sox Can't Sink Rays

It was a game of mistakes. Fielding mistakes, pitching mistakes, maybe even some managerial mistakes. And the winner was the team that capitalized on those mistakes just a little bit more than the loser.

The play of the game was Evan Longoria's 3-run homer in the 5th. If Clay Buchholz is able to get Longoria out, or even hold him to a 1-run or 2-run hit, then the game plays out in a completely different way. All Buchholz had to do in that at-bat was not give up a homerun. Longoria won that battle.

The Rays continued to make fielding miscues and errors. Even the umps made mistakes. The Red Sox took advantage of most, but not all of these mistakes. The Sox never made any big hits on their own. They scored their runs off groundouts, a wild pitch, and a soft David Ortiz single. That run knocked in by Ortiz was the only Sox run driven in by a hit. The Sox were 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position.

The Rays took advantage of a glaring Red Sox weakness: the middle relievers. Franklin Morales and Brandon Workman combined to allow the Rays to take the lead in the 8th inning. Overall, the Rays bullpen executed slightly better (4 innings, 2 hits, 1 run) than the Red Sox bullpen (2.2 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs). And that was one of the deciding differences.

So Game 4 tonight at 8:37. That start-time worries me because Monday night's game took 4 hours and 19 minutes. If that happens tonight then the game will end around 1 o'clock in the morning.

Jake Peavy takes the mound for his first playoff start in a Red Sox uniform. He faces Jeremy Hellickson. Peavy has only made 2 career postseason starts, the last in 2006. He was lousy in both. Fortunately the Rays don't hit him very well. Unfortunately, the Red Sox don't hit Hellickson very well either. Except for Ortiz (.375 with 3 HRs in his career against Hellickson) and Saltalamacchia (.320, also with 3 HRs).

Expect another game decided by mistakes and the ability to capitalize on and minimize the impact of those mistakes.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Mike Carlson

Monday, October 07, 2013

Six in 'Nati (Get It? Like Cincinnati, and Also the Painfully Low Number of Points the Patriots Scored)

We should have known this type of game was possible. In the past we've seen the Patriots' offense fail to do enough to carry the team to victory. But Sunday afternoon they did NOTHING to help win the game. The defense played well enough for the team to win. The offense didn't. The offense lost the game.

The Patriots haven't been held to 6 points since 1996. That meaningless touchdown streak Brady had came to an end. The Pats were 1 for 12 on 3rd down. Brady threw 20 incompletions compared with 18 completions. The best non-defensive performers on the team were Stephen Gostkowski and punter Ryan Allen.

And I'm primarily going to blame Tom Brady. He just doesn't look sharp. Every catch seems difficult, miraculous at times. On Sunday he overthrew, underthrew, and completely missed receivers. There were occasions when Dobson didn't run the route that Brady expected, there were also occasions when Brady was horribly inaccurate when throwing downfield, especially in the middle of the field. Even when he and the receivers connect, the catches are hard and off-stride.

Smaller portions of blame go to Danny Amendola, who had a big drop in the 4th quarter (he's looking more and more like Wes Welker). Brandon Bolden dropped a few passes. LeGarrette Blount fumbled. Let's not forget all of that.

I'll also blame the play-calling. The wide receivers still don't seem to be on the same page with Brady. So maybe it's time to go with a simpler page. Especially in the 4th quarter when you're down by a score. I don't remember the offensive playbook being so complex when the Patriots didn't have Pro Bowlers running routes, back from 2001 to 2006. Maybe going back to basics wouldn't be such a bad thing.

And the Red Zone play-calling irritated me more than anything. A token jumbo package run that failed. By the way, I've been told that Blount isn't a very good short yardage back, despite his bulk. I believe that. The Pats then went from simple play to cute trickery, throwing a pass to Nate Solder. Why? The 3rd down play was a good call, it just didn't work. I would have liked to see the Patriots try that on 2nd down, then again on 3rd if it failed.

On the bright side, the defense continues to play well. They pressured Dalton, and sacked him at key times. They held Green, Gresham, and Eifert to 138 combined yards, which isn't bad at all. And they were a 4th down stop away from bringing this game into overtime, despite how Godawful the offense was playing. The defense gave Brady so many chances for a game-winning drive. Brady and the offense failed to deliver.

The Patriots host the Saints next weekend. That's kind of a big game. But as we've seen between the Pats win over Atlanta, and now their loss to Cincinnati, you're only as good as you play each week. So don't panic about this loss, and don't develop an anxiety disorder if the Saints come to town and win (and don't plan a Super Bowl trip if the Pats win). This is a week to week spot, take it one week at a time.

Photo Credit:
Marc Lebryk - USA Today

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Patriots-Bengals Drinking Game

In honor of the game's host city, Cincinnati, a.k.a. The Nati, massive bonus points will be awarded for drinking Natty Light/Ice during this game. God bless you, you sad, drunken mess. Here are the guidelines for this week's game:

Anytime a commentator says...
"Patchwork" = take 1 drink of beer
"Rookie" = 1 drink
"No-name" = 1 drink
"Amendola" = 1 drink
"Trust" (when talking about a Patriots WR and Brady) = 1 drink
"Comfort" (same condition as above) = 1 drink
"Wes Welker" = 1 drink
"Chad" = 1 drink
"Johnson" = 1 drink
"Ochocinco" = drink for 85 seconds
"Corey Dillon" = drink for 28 seconds
"Hole" = 1 drink
An abbreviation for Michael Hoomanawanui's last name = 1 drink
A joke about the difficulty of Hoomanawanui's name = 1 drink

Anytime this is on screen...
A tiger statue or other facsimile of a tiger = 1 drink
An actual tiger = 1 whole beer
Iso-shot of Aqib Talib covering someone = 1 drink
The Ohio River = 1 drink
Image of Rob Gronkowski = 1 drink
Bob Kraft = 1 drink
Kraft talking to someone = drink the entire time he's talking
Bill Belichick's sock(s) = drink an entire beer and a shot

Anytime this happens...
You get frustrated at a Patriots WR making a mistake/drop = drink a shot
Tom Brady gets frustrated at a Pats WR = drink beer for 12 seconds
Tom Brady yells "Aplha Milk" = Drink 1 White Russian
Brady points out the "Mike" = 1 drink (or 3 drinks from Mike's Hard Lemonade for bonus points)
Patriots WR runs wrong route = 1 drink
Patriots WR drops pass = 1 drink
Brady throws to a tight-end (excluding Gronk) = 1 shot of liquor

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Red Sox Win First Playoff Game In 5 Years

It's been 4 years since Boston hosted playoff baseball. It's been 5 years since we've seen our team win a playoff game. That drought came to an end Friday afternoon thanks to a flood of Red Sox runs, and an outstanding performance by Jon Lester.

The play of the game was a miscue by Rays right-fielder Wil Myers. Pitcher Matt Moore was cruising until the 4th inning when David Ortiz hit a long fly to deep right-field. As Myers tracked the ball, he waved off the center-fielder. Myers suddenly stopped and ran away from where the ball was going to land, as if he'd heard center-fielder Desmond Jennings call him off. The ball landed, bouncing into the Red Sox bullpen for a ground-rule double.

I have a strong suspicion that some of the Sox relievers in the bullpen yelled at Myers, "calling" for the fly-ball, making the 22-year old rookie think that his teammate was right behind him, waiting to make the catch. Center-fielders typically have the authority to wave off other outfielders when trying to catch fly-balls.

So instead of 1 on and 1 out, the Sox had runners on 2nd and 3rd with 0 outs. A 5-run rally ensued. Jonny Gomes hit a wall-ball double, Stephen Drew ran out an infield single that saw Gomes hustle to score from second. Will Middlebrooks hit a double, knocking in Drew. Then Shane Victorino singled to drive Middlebrooks in.

Myers received quite a bit of heckling from the Fenway crowd after the play, which was scored a double and not an error. However, Tampa Bay pitcher Matt Moore should be forced to eat a few slices of the proverbial blame pie. After the miscue, Moore allowed two more doubles in the inning, four hits total, he failed to cover first base in time on Drew's single, then didn't notice Gomes running home in time to throw him out. And in the next inning Moore allowed more doubles, more runs, and was eventually pulled.

So blame Myers for the rally starting, and blame Moore for the size of the rally.

Every Sox starter got a hit in the game and scored a run. The only two who didn't record an RBI were Pedroia and Ortiz.

Meanwhile, Jon Lester dominated the Rays with the exception of 2 pitches. He allowed a pair of homeruns, although crucially they were solo homeruns. He only allowed 6 baserunners in his 7.2 innings, and he struck out 7, including the first 4 Rays he faced. He established his dominance in the 1st by striking out the side, and he shut down the Rays in the top of the 5th after his teammates gave him a lead. Lester pitched like an Ace in his first postseason game since 2009.

John Lackey faces David Price Saturday evening at 5:37 P.M.. Lackey pitches better at Fenway which is why he gets the ball for Game 2 and not Clay Buchholz.

Photo Credit:
Bob DeChiara - USA Today Sports

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Koji Uehara's High-Five Tour

Thanks to MLB Fan Cave for the video.

Holy Shit It's Hockey Season Already?

So you're telling me that the Red Sox are in the playoffs, the Patriots are in first, and the NHL is going to start on time? How different does October 2013 feel from October 2012?

The Bruins have changed more this off-season than they have changed in years. Most of the core remains. But no more hoping Tyler Seguin explodes for a 40-goal season. No more quiet, steady leadership from Andrew Ference. No more strong forward play from Nathan Horton.

Oh and the division and playoffs have completely changed. Joining the 5 teams from last year's Northeast Division will be the Red Wings, Lightning, and Panthers. The Panthers just signed a goalie named Tim Thomas, by the way. For the playoffs, the first two rounds will be within the division, with the possible inclusion of a wild-card team from another division.

The B's replaced Seguin and Horton with Loui Eriksson and Jaroma Iginla. I'm excited to see Eriksson and what he can produce. He scored 36 goals a few years ago, hasn't scored more than 30 since. Nor has he scored less than 20 in a full season. So is he a solid contributor that you notice, or does he score random, easy goals when everyone else is scoring?

Then there's Iginla. Who will have to win me over. Most true Bruins fans have one Bruin that they strongly dislike. I don't know who that will be for me this season. Iginla is a strong candidate. The world knows Iginla can play hockey. Can he play Bruins hockey? I wasn't impressed with the defensive play of Pittsburgh's forwards in last season's playoffs. Was that a team thing, or is that how Iginla will play here? I hope he wins me over.

The Bruins are looking at a new generation of young players to fill other holes. Torey Krug electrified in the playoffs, now he has to play strong defense day in and day out. Dougie Hamilton will be asked to take another step forward in his development. 21-year-old Ryan Spooner will start the season in Providence. Carl Soderberg has tremendous talent and fire, but he's 27 and has yet to escape Sweden and make the NHL. Why is that?

The Bruins need to score more. The formula that won the Cup in '11 no longer holds. The defense is still strong, the goalie is great, but neither the defense or the goalie is superhuman like they were in 2011. The offense needs to take the pressure off the defense to be perfect.

The B's can't afford to have a 3rd line that doesn't score at all. Not unless the top two lines seriously increase their production. Or even more feasibly, the PP unit scores in games that the B's can't get anything going with their even-strengthed offense. The Bruins were ranked 26th in power play scoring last year. They were 13th in overall goals per game. The power play is the area of offense that has the most room to improve.

If the power play becomes a decent threat, then the Bruins will have a very good offense.

If the power play becomes a dangerous weapon, then they'll have one of the best offenses in hockey.

Eriksson can produce on the power play. So can Iginla. So can Krug. But so could Seguin. More forwards need to figure out how to score when the B's have a man advantage. It's preposterous how long the power play has been an issue with this team. It doesn't have to be great, just okay would be nice.

This season is going to be long. 82-games plus a break for the Olympics. And we'll see how the new playoff format works out. I'm not a big fan. If it wasn't broken, why did it need to be fixed. One exciting thing is that the B's have had great playoff series with the Leafs, Canadiens, and Sabres. That's exciting, but it could also be dangerous.

Prediction time. The Bruins win the Atlantic Division but lose in the 2nd round of the playoffs in a 7-game series. Hopefully I'm wrong. If they can get their power play to function, then the sky's the limit.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

So Terry Francona Is a Pretty Good Manager

After the 2011 collapse of the Boston Red Sox, it was time for Terry Francona and the team to part ways. Like a relationship that just wasn't going anywhere and was becoming dysfunctional. And then the Red Sox did the equivalent of going on Facebook to badmouth their ex. Francona was blamed for being unaware of the deep-seeded problems that plagued the Red Sox clubhouse. And if he was aware, he was accused of not having enough respect from the players to do anything about it. And most despicably, he was accused of having a prescription drug problem.

Then in 2012 the Red Sox discovered that the clubhouse was just as toxic without Francona. And the team realized that players like Josh Beckett were the real problem.

Were the Red Sox still smart to let Francona go? I suppose they were. It had to happen. But I do think that if he were managing the same 2013 Red Sox team that John Farrell currently manages, the results would probably be similar. But that's just a hypothetical question.

Anyway, how about those Cleveland Indians? We've heard Francona jokingly remark about his team's success, attributing it to avoiding chicken and beer. I would love to hear what John Henry and Larry Lucchino think of the Indians' success, and how their former manager is doing in Cleveland.

I confess that I don't follow the Indians that closely, and have no idea why or how they went from a 68-94 record in 2012 to a 92-70 record in 2013 (an improvement of 24 wins, very close to the 28 win improvement the Red Sox made from 2012 to 2013). Masterson and Jimenez are pitching much better in 2013, just like how Lester and Lackey are pitching much better in 2013. The Indians have allowed 1.13 runs less per game in 2013 than they did in 2012. That's huge.

How much of that is the manager's doing? Not much. Essentially nothing. The players are playing better. Francona has little to do with that.

And that's what makes Francona a good MLB manager. He doesn't try to do more than manage. He lets his players be themselves. He let Kevin Millar be a goofball. He let Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling be prima donnas. He let Manny be Manny and he let Kevin Youkilis be a prick. And the team won.

That was also Francona's ultimate undoing here in Boston. He let slackers be slackers. But out in Cleveland he has a group of no-names, a couple of has-beens, and a hodgepodge of semi-notable pitchers. Brett Myers found his way into 4 games out there. Jason Giambi, Nick Swisher, Matt Albers, former Devil Ray Scott Kazmir, Mike Aviles. It's like a roster you'd get in a 20-team fantasy baseball league and you didn't have a pick until the 5th round.

So Francona is a good manager because of what he doesn't do. He doesn't try to force people to be something they're not. He doesn't use the media to make examples out of people. He doesn't give inspirational speeches or come up with clever schemes to steal games. He manages with a relaxed confidence, and sometimes teams respond to that and play with the same kind of calm swagger.

Terry Francona isn't the reason the Indians improved by 24 wins. He, in a uniquely Francona way, allowed Masterson, Jimenez, Kazmir, and the rest of the players to become the reason.