Friday, January 28, 2011
As Terry Francona chews his tobacco and spits constantly in Fort Myers, he will have one of the toughest jobs to accomplish at the end of spring training- creating the most potent lineup he can for the upcoming 2011 season. Every Boston Red Sox fan has been trying to configure a lineup that will be most powerful, but Francona likes the versatility of the left/right alternation. Where will newly acquired Carl Crawford bat? He doesn't like to lead off. Where will Jacoby Ellsbury bat after only playing in 18 games in 2010? Pedroia? Adrian Gonzalez? If I was Terry Francona, I would be smiling from ear to ear. No matter where you put any of these guys in the lineup they will produce.
The way I see it is, Jacoby Ellsbury is best when he is the catalyst of this ballclub. Yes, he may have missed over 140 games, but he is still a dangerous lead off hitter. His OBP must go up, but he is still young and developing. Newly acquired Carl Crawford can excel in the number two spot no question about it. He is a five tool player that will change the game by himself. What about Pedey though? He is one of the best two hitters in the game. But, if you move Pedey to the three spot he will see many more fastballs with Adrian Gonzalez waiting in the on deck circle. Pedroia will be the first to tell you that he will be a beast as a three hitter. Batting cleanup, Adrian Gonzalez should be the no-brainer. Instead of having Chase Headley and David Eckstein protecting him, he will have Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford, and Kevin Youkilis protecting him. Difference? I think so. In the five spot, Kevin Youklis will fill that void. He is a top 10 MVP vote-getter every single year and this year should be no different. Look for Youk to have 25 HRS, 100 RBIs, 90 RS and a .310 average. In the six hole, David Ortiz. He is coming off another 30 HR 100 RBI year. Those numbers may rise with the lineup he will be a part of in 2011. Batting seventh, Jed Lowrie should finally get his shot. He is a switch-hitting shortstop that has some pop and is finally healthy. But, Scutaro will probably fill this spot Next in line, J.D. Drew could be the best eight hitter in baseball. He is aging, but the numbers are still there at the end of the year. Finishing off the most powerful lineup in baseball is Jarod Saltalamacchia. The numbers for him are gravy essentially because he will be concentrating on defense and keeping his pitchers in line. We do not need him to concentrate on offense with the names in the lineup.
My 2011 Red Sox lineup
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
LF Carl Crawford
2B Dustin Pedroia
1B Adrian Gonzalez
3B Kevin Youkilis
DH David Ortiz
SS Jed Lowrie/Marco Scutaro
RF J.D. Drew
C Jarod Saltalamacchia
It may go against Tito's strategy, but this will be the most effective lineup for the Nation. 12 days til Truck Day, get pumped.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Wes Welker and Logan Mankins are two stars on the Patriots that need to be paid in the next year. Yesterday, Welker told reporters that he doesn't deserve a big contract which is probably sending shivers down his agents spines. Come on Wes. He had seven touchdowns this year and 86 catches are coming back so soon from one of the worst sports injuries you can possibly get. Yes, his numbers were down, but over the past four years with the Pats Welker has an astonishing 432 catches, 4,536 yards, and 22 touchdowns. Contact extension? I think so.
Mankins on the other hand held out until week 8 of the Patriots season, and as usual gave Tom Brady the protection he needed to win an MVP award. Mankins is going to Honolulu for the Pro-Bowl only playing half a season that is how good this guy is. He is only 28 years-old and is a major factor in the Patriots protection. He is a three-time pro-bowler that the Pats should give first priority this offseason. He has played in 89 games out of a possible 96 and the seven games he missed were due to his contact hold up. This guy does his talking on the field and deserves to stay with the Patriots. He should have deeper pockets in 2012.
Many people thought not having a deep threat in the Jets game in the postseason is the reason why the Pats lost. I agree and disagree at the same time, but it would not hurt to explore options such as Larry Fitzgerald, Vincent Jackson, Chad Johnson, or someone of that caliber. A difference maker that causes no problems on the field (minus Chad Johnson). Larry Fitzgerald would be a perfect fit for the Pats system. Being young showed in the 2011 postseason, but it is a point in the right direction once these guys get more experience under their belts.
Sign Welker, sign Mankins, trade or sign Larry Fitzgerald. Come on Kraft, do your best Theo impression and open the checkbook for your home team.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
No one anticipated Kendrick Perkins returning tonight versus the lowly Cavs in Beantown, but why not? against a team who has not won in 18 straight games. His return date was suppose to be February 4th versus the Mavericks, but Perk was too anxious. Let's not forget this man because he is a huge part of the Celtic style of basketball.
With Kendrick Perkins now healthy, we can finally get a look at the starting five the rest of the NBA is going to fear heading into the playoffs. Pierce, Ray, KG, Rondo, and Perk have never lost a playoff series, Yes, ever. He is an enormous presence on the boards, down the defensive end, and on the offensive glass. He pushes Shaq to the bench and makes an already deep bench ever deeper. There is no question if Perk was healthy in game 7 versus the Lakers last year, the Celtics would be holding the championship trophy yet again but that was not the case. The Lakers outrebounded the Celtics by 17 and if you think that Perk would not have made a difference, then you are crazy.
It is great to see number 43 back on the hardwood. He has come into his own as an NBA player and has matured over the years. He is a difference maker with his ability to block shots as well as his defense along side KG. Look for the Celtics to go on a streak again because with Perk back they will be setting the tempo in the East. The best defense is the NBA just got even better. If you can believe that.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Talk about drama. The once almost untouchable closer was dangled in front of many teams' eyes this offseason. The Red Sox even made an offer to Mariano Rivera before he signed with the Yankees. The Sox finally offered Paps arbitration worth $12 million for this season. Paps is coming off his worst season as a Red Sox posting a pedestrian 3.90 E.R.A., 37 saves, eight blown saves, and seven losses. He did strike out 76 hitters in 67 innings and will be in a contract season so how will he perform?
Paps cannot be happy with the acquisition of Bobby Jenks almost saying that after this year, he will be the Boston Red Sox closer. We cannot forget about Mr. Daniel Bard who can bring the heat with a fastball that registers over 98 mph consistantly with a back breaking slider. If Paps has a chip on his shoulder all year, he could potentially have one of his best seasons as a Red Sox. The question is with this potent lineup will Paps get a chance to close the door on 35-40 saves? Will Jenks get the extra work or Bard? We will not know until they take the field in April, but we do know that Jonathan Papelbon is the 2011 closer for the Boston Red Sox.
He has registered over 35 saves in each of his first five seasons. He did not let up a run in the post season until 2009 versus the Angels. That is just a ridiculous stat. Fans are stabbing Paps in the back because he had one bad season, only throws a fastball, and was blowing saves left and right last season.
Let me say one thing. I am not saying sign Paps for $16 million per year next season, but it will be a mistake if they let him just walk. He does not deserve that kind of money, I get it. But, this guy has been nothing but nails since coming to the Nation. He makes Bard better and he will make Jenks better. If he uses that splitter that all Boston fans know and love, this could be one of his best years as a Red Sox and it will have them second guessing to let him go.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Rondo? - Yeah, right. The league leader in assists and the best general in the game right now. With him off the floor, every fan saw how this team operated. It was not a pretty sight. He creates so many open looks for his teammates and just makes the game easier for them as well. He runs the team like no one else. His experience now is an advantage for the Cs unlike his rookie years where he was lost. He is starting to develop a jumpshot which could be the last piece to the puzzle for a complete package for Rajon. He is a joy to watch and a future hall-of-famer.
Pierce?- The Truth, yeah right. His ability to take his man to the hoop or off the dribble is uncanny. He can shoot the three ball or take you to the elbow and create the seperation he needs to splash one in your eyebrow. He is the leader and captain of this team. This team would not be where they are today without this man.
KG?- We all saw what happened when this man was hurt during the postseason. His defensive urgency and intensity is like no other. He is too important to this team on the defensive end and can knock down 18 footers with no problem. With this guy healthy, this team can steam roll to the NBA finals.
Ray?- It is easy to say yes to him, but who has hit as many clutch shots this year than Ray? As I am typing this he just hit a go-ahead two pointer versus the Pistons. He is having one of his best years shooting and is a key piece to the 2010-2011 Celtics.
The real answer is that the Celtics could not win an NBA championship without any of them. They are too valuable in different ways. If this team can stay healthy, they could be hoisting the NBA championship trophy this year and not Kobe Brant.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Say what you want, the Patriots did not come to play today. All the jabber conducted by the Jets all week must have got to the Pats finally because they did not look in sync for the entire 60 minutes. Mistake after mistake led to Jets scoring points. When is the last time you said mistake by the Patriots? or interception by Tom Brady? Not for a very long time. The Pats looked great on the opening drive before Tom Brady over threw Ben Jarvis on a screen pass. That is where the wheels fell off. The crowd was out of it and the Pats were stunned. A dropped touchdown pass in the hands of Alge Crumpler. A fake punt muffed by a dropped snap by Pat Chung. Dropped pass after dropped pass and under thrown balls to overthrown balls all over the field. The Jets backed their talk this time leaving the Pats packing their bags for not Dallas, but for vacation.
The clock management in the fourth quarter was also questionable. They may have been moving the ball by running it, but down 10 with less than eight minutes to go? Every Patriot was walking to the line of scrimmage with just defeated body language. Brady was sacked five times, the most he has ever been touched all year. The bye week may have put the Pats at a disadvantage because they looked nearly unbeatable two weeks ago and today they may have had trouble beating Foxboro high school. It is a shame that we will have to listen to Rex Ryan for the next week and for the rest of the year, but he outcoached Belichick today. I never thought those words would come out of my mouth, but he did.
Sportscenter is off limits for the time being. 29 days until pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers. The Celtics are first in the East and the Bruins are steam rolling. We thought we were cueing the duckboats for the 2010-2011 Patriots, but maybe we need to ride the wave of the Cs and Bs until the summer comes along.
Friday, January 14, 2011
He stands at 5 feet 9 inches on the ice for the Boston Bruins, but he plays as if he is 6 feet 9 inches. Brad Marchand is quietly contributing to the home team significantly as a rookie. He has nine goals and 10 assists in 40 games. He leads the National Hockey League in short-handed goals this season with three. In his last five games Marchand has three goals and two assists helping the black and gold keep the win streak alive and their fight for the top seed in the Eastern conference. So, is this rookie comparable to Danny Woodhead of the New England Patriots?
Marchand is a scrappy player who draws penalties night in and night out. He is very physical at such a disadvantaged height in hockey. He never really got his chance until this year and did he ever make the best of it. He is a factor in every single Bruins game much like the Pats Danny Woodhead. As Woodhead, Marchand doesn't pay attention to what anyone thinks, he just goes about his business and plays the game of hockey that he loves.
You may not recognize either of these two stars when they walk down the street, but they are quietly making a significant difference for their home team and they don't even have a big household name Brady or Chara. Credit Woodhead and Marchand for defying the odds and becoming difference makers for their first place squads.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Every basball fan knows the moves the Boston Red Sox made this off season. The club signed one of the most dynamic players in baseball in Carl Crawford and traded for one of baseball's elite power hitters in Adrian Gonzalez, but what is still a question mark is the health of Josh Beckett and the consistency of John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka at the back end of the Sox rotation.
The Red Sox will score runs. There is no question about it. They were second in the league last year in runs scored without Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youkilis for a majority of the year. Now add Adrian Gonzalez and Crawford to the mix, are you serious? The Sox also bolstered their inefficient bullpen by signing many new arms that look to contribute in 2011, but we need Beckett, Lackey, and Matsuzaka to step up to their 2007 forms. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz were dominant last year. Now we need these three guys to earn their money and pitch like the 20 game winners that they are. The Red Sox finished 17th in the league last year in starters E.R.A. which is unacceptable when you had two Cy Yound award candidates in the front of your rotation. Beckett's 5.78 E.R.A. was the highest of his career. One can blame the injuries he suffered, but we need this guy back to his old form as well as Lackey and Daisuke. It is the only way this team can ride the ship because they may have the most feared lineup in baseball, but if the Sox give those runs back, it could be a long season for the Nation.
Look for these guys to adjust, work hard, and compete in the 2011 season. The Texas natives (Lackey & Beckett) are two of the most competitive pitchers in baseball. I know they will bounce back along with Daisuke who not long ago finished with a 19-3 regular season record.
Pray for the American League to win the All-Star game because the Sox are going to the Ship' (what what), they going to the Ship'!
To name a few...Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Devin McCourty, Danny Woodhead- all the young guns that have been contributing and playing at the highest level will all play in their first playoff game on Sunday versus the New York Jets. Should Pats fans be worried that these players will fold under pressure and not rise to the occassion? Let's be serious. During the regular season, these Patriots faced teams such as the Colts, Steelers, Ravens, Chargers, and the Jets, all playoff contenders. These players have played their best football against the stiffest competition in the league. There is no need to worry about these kids. They are young, full of energy, and ready to compete.
Bill Belichick will let them know how big this game is, but on the other hand he will reassure them if they continue to do what they have been doing and execute, there should be no problem when the whistle blows Sunday afternoon. Do not buy into what Rex Ryan and Antonio Cromartie (Who has nine childen and eight different mothers) are saying. Do not deal with the trash talk. Use that nonsense for the bullentin board and bury the Jets like December 6th.
Brady losing in Foxboro? Yeah, right. Not to mention, he is also 24-4 when the weather is below 32 degrees. There is a better chance of getting struck by lightning than Brady losing in Foxboro.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Many reports have been swirling on the internet that Rasheed Wallace will come out of retirement to play for the Boston Celtics. This will be a move to have insurance incase KG goes down again (God forbid) or Jermaine or Shaq need a rest. I think it is a move the Celtics needed to make because they are getting killed on the glass especially with the absence of their defensive leader Kevin Garnett. His last year with the Celtics in 2009-2010, Sheed averaged 14.4 points per game as well as 6.6 rebounds. He is another piece to the puzzle that will help the Celtics down the stretch. This will also deepen the bench with Kendrick Perkins coming back. One would need to think Shaq will be stripped of his starting duties, but we will see.
His size and ability to shoot the three could be another weapon to the Celtics run to the Championship in June. Having another seven footer who can knock down jumpers as well as play in the post is a luxury the Celtics would love to have. I would love Rasheed back if he does not take ill-advised threes as Antoine Walker use to hoist up there.
If Sheed decides to return to Beantown look for a hungrier Sheed. His last game as a Celtic he lost in Game 7 of the NBA finals and he does not want to face that situation again. I will welcome Sheed back to Boston with open arms. He knows his role for limited minutes and off the bench. He is a veteran now. He is no longer the dominant player he was with North Carolina, but I'll still take him and another thing.... Ball Don't Lie.
Monday, January 10, 2011
The Boston Bruins trailed the entire game until 4:23 left to play in Pittsburgh where they exploded for four goals in the third period and may have saved Claude Julien his job. The B's were down 2-0 for almost two periods where they ended up fighting back against one of the hottest teams in hockey to edge the Penguins 4-2.
The Bruins scored two goals in :12 seconds. One was a powerplay goal from Captain Zdeno Chara and the other by Brad Marchand. The ageless Mark Recchi buried the game winner on a power play goal with :50 seconds left assisted by Seidenberg and Michael Ryder. Gregory Campbell put the dagger in Penguins fans hearts with the empty netter with :08 seconds to play.
This game has to be the turning point in the Bruins season, a come from behind win against a very talented team on their home ice. Tuukka Rask had 23 saves on 25 shots notching a victory the Bruins desperately needed after the collapse in Montreal a few nights back. Oh by the way, Claude Julien is smiling somewhere as well.
Celtic fans held their breath once again when Kevin Garnett went down versus the Detroit Pistons a few weeks ago because his injury looked almost identical to the one he suffered two years ago versus the Utah Jazz that kept him out for the entire year. Tonight, Kevin Garnett may be back on the court when the C's take on the Houston Rockets on their first game of a six game home stand. But, the question still looms, are the Celtics rushing back Kevin Garnett?
Kevin Garnett would not rush a comeback. He knows the reprecussions at his age and at this point in the season. If it really is only a calf strain, KG should be fine and ready to go. Sure, the Celtics are playing okay without Kevin Garnett with a 28-8 record, but without KG the C's will not go the distance. They need this man back in the lineup to assure themselves home court advantage throughout the 2011 playoffs. No Celtic fan wants to see what happened last year. I know it is a totally different mindset in the playoffs once you get there, but home court advantage is crucial in the playoffs. I don't want the Celtics to cruise into the playoffs like last year finishing 25-25 in their last 50 games, make it to the finals, then lose in Game 7 because it was not on their home floor. The Celtics need to play for home court advantage in the playoffs, but rest their veterans.
It is a tough decision for coach Doc Rivers, but he handles his players very intelligently. Look for the C's to stay within the top three of the conference for the rest of the year, but let's hope they stay along the top.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Rex Ryan finally got the victory he wanted versus Peyton Manning. Now, the entire sports world has to listen to this man speak about how good his team is and why they are going to the Super Bowl, but what he does not understand is that he is going back to Foxboro where the Patriots embarassed them on a Monday Night stage on national television 45-3 just about a month ago.
Earlier this week, Ryan stressed that Peyton Manning knows how to manage a game and Tom Brady thinks he does, but he just gets all of his insight from his genius of a coach Bill Belichick. Well, Rex Ryan will get a taste again of what Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are like next Sunday in Foxboro. There is no question Ryan wanted to win this game to advance, but it was more for his ego. He wants a piece of Tom Brady next.
Rex Ryan and the New York Jets will be high on this win until next Sunday, but we know that Belichick and Brady and the rest of the 14-2 Patriots are just all about business and improvements. The Jets made improvements from their week 17 game clearly to win in the playoffs because that is tough to do, now it is time for the Patriots to improve one more week to beat these Jets and send Rex Ryan packing for foot massages with his wife.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Believe me, there is not one other quarterback I would want under center in any situation on a football field other than Tom Brady, but as statistics indicate he is 4-4 over his last eight playoff games. In 2009, there was an early exit by the hands of the Ravens. In 2007, we know that story. In 2006, the Patriots lost to Peyton Manning and in 2005 the Broncos took down Brady. Although Tom Brady is playing the best football of his career (36 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 65.9% completion), it is the playoffs and anything is possible. It is a brand new season and every team is 0-0 as coach Belichick and Tom Brady indicated earlier in the week. Coach Belichick has won two Superbowl titles when his Patriot teams win at least 14 games in a season and the New England Patriots have to be the favorites this year after beating teams such as the Steelers, Ravens, Colts, Chargers, Jets, Green Bay, and the Bears.
Tom Brady is just too good at home. He still has not thrown an interception since October 17th versus the Ravens and Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, and Drew Brees have thrown a combined 46 picks in that time period. As Bill Belichick says "Stats are for losers". Look for Tom Brady to silence everyone once again and punch his trip to Dallas in February no questions asked. He is the best quarterback in football.
If Rondo is not named in the game's elite after last night's NBA Jam stat line performance, I do not know what else he has to do. Rondo tallied his 11th triple-double of his career with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 22 assists, yes 22 assists! He came two assists short of his previous career high of 24 recorded earlier this year versus the Knicks and is still six assists away (28) for the Celtics franchise record held by Bob Cousy.
Rajon Rondo has missed games due to numerous injuries and you can tell the team does not gel when he is not quarterbacking the them. Rondo has instincts that no other play has in the NBA. Sure, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Derrick Rose are among the best in the game, but Rondo has to be the best right now. He has the Celtics at 27-7 and in first place in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics go as Rondo goes. This guy needs to be healthy because if he can put up a stat line as he did versus the best team in the league, it will be scary for opponents playing the Celtics leading to their championship run.
In my opinion Rajon Rondo is the most valuable player on this team. I know we cannot win a championship without Kevin Garnett because he is the heart and soul of the defense, but there is no possible way that the Celtics win a championship without Rajon Rondo. He has intangibles that no other players have. His quickness and matchup versus any other point guard in the league is usually a plus for the Celtics.
The Celtics need to rest Rondo if he is hurting, but by the looks of last night Rondo looks back to normal. The team is in rhythm. Look for this team to not make the mistake of being rewarded home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Monday, January 3, 2011
The mastermind, the man with the plan, and the Socrates of football...does he deserve the National Football League's coach of the year award?
If anyone deserves coach of the year it is Bill. He led his Patriots to a 14-2 record with a running back that was on the practice squad last year and with a very young defense. It is easy to say he still has Tom Brady at quarterback, but these players have drastically made a difference due to their coach. Make the right choice because once he rocks his fourth ring, there may be no argument that he is the best coach of all-time never mind of the year, but rest assuredly Bill wants the Lombardi trophy not the coach of the year award.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
It is great to be in Beantown. This city has the ability to do something special and this dream can become a reality. The duckboats need to get their engines ready because in two months it could be the start of a very long tourney for their drivers with the Patriots making moves toward Dallas, the Celtics taking care of the Eastern Conference, the Bruins becoming relevant again, and the Red Sox assembling potentially one of the best lineups in baseball since murder's row in the Bronx.