Saturday, September 30, 2006

Omar's Folly

A bad situation got much worse for the Mets today, and to be honest, Omar Minaya had this coming. We already knew Pedro Martinez was going to miss the 2006 postseason because of a torn calf muscle; today, we find out he needs rotator cuff surgery and will be out a minimum of 8 months, meaning he probably won't return until June of next year. Why did Minaya have this coming? Remember when Pedro signed with the Mets, and didn't want to have to go through a physical exam? He was only getting $14 million per year or whatever the hell it was - why should a doctor be allowed to make sure it was a good investment? Of course, Minaya, with visions of a chock-full Shea Stadium and little tiny Dominican flags waving in his head, relented. Bad move, Omie.

There are some positives here, though. Finally, a good call on a player by the Red Sox -- and Pedro won't miss his father's birthday party this time around. Some of the Mets bloggers were wondering if Petey will be on the bench during the playoffs. Don't hold your breath. This is the same selfish prick who didn't make the short plane ride to NYC for Game 6 in 2004 for what could have been an elimination game for his team.

HH Week in Review

Another new feature for Hardball Heaven! (Can you tell I've completely checked out of baseball season?) Every Saturday morning - or thereabouts - I'll throw up a list of links from some of the best of the Web from the previous week, mixed in with some biting, edgy commentary. Hey, if Kim Etheridge can get a job with one of the most high-profile NFL players as his publicist, I can be a year-round blogger. For the record, I do not believe T.O. That span of 24 hours encapsulated every thing that's wrong with sports in America today.

* Bill Simmons, ESPN's Sports Guy, takes a hard one on the chin from the proprietors of Kissing Suzy Kolber in this absolute must-read. (Scroll down till you see Simmons' mug) As a long-time reader of Simmons - I remember reading his live blogs in e-mail style when he was just starting out back in the mid-1990s - I have always enjoyed his skills. His old site at Digital City Boston was pioneering, and when he was on -- his Roger Clemens as the Anti-Christ story comes to mind - he was really on. But his affiliation and higher profile with ESPN has caused some problems for him. He's almost become too big for his own good - with the stupid cartoon he attempted, the recycled columns, and the frequent references to his friends and family. Bottom line - I still read the guy, but he's become a bit insufferable. Witness his painfully long ESPN chat from this past week.

* Deadspin is another daily stop, and this post regarding comments made by Giants offensive (and I do mean 'offensive') lineman Bob Whitfield is a classic laugh-out-loud example. Suzy Kolber, thanks to an inebriated Joe Namath, is officially a Web legend.

* According to the sassy gals at the Boston Herald's most popular feature - the gossip column "Inside Track" - the E! TV network is planning an expose on athletes who aren't completely faithful to their wives. Former Sox hurler Derek Lowe will be one of the subjects. Hoo ha. Think the girls at On the DL are psyched?

* Will he or won't he? The annual guessing game as to whether the mercurial Manny Ramirez will be back next season has begun. TV broadcaster Jerry Remy - who obviously spends a lot of time around the team - weighed in with some telling thoughts this week on the local sports radio station. (Scroll down)

* All this talk about Tom Brady's "body language" is killing me. The guy signed for less money to be on a winner, and now he's throwing passes to Moe, Larry, and Curly. Wouldn't you be pissed too?

* Has there ever been a bigger choke job than what this year's Cardinals are pulling off in the NL Central? Even our beloved Red Sox are exempt.

* And last but not least, type the name 'Vida Guerra' into your Google search field, click on the third link, and make sure to thank me tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Saints March Home

Well, most football prognosticators - including the pros and the amateurs - had a tough week with their NFL picks last Sunday. Your humble blogger went 7-6-1, with good picks on the Vikings, Broncos and Saints, and bad picks with the fraudulent Bills and the perpetually crappy Lions. That brings the season total to 26-19-1, with plenty of room -- like our beleaguered Patriots -- for improvement. New England looked positively dreadful Sunday night against the Broncos on national TV, as Denver and Belichick foil Mike Shanahan figured out a way to cut off the Pats' running game and then dared Tom Brady to go to the air. Only problem with that is Brady had no one to throw to, though Doug "Dreds" Gabriel did show some spunk toward the end. The results were predictable, and the Pats lost again to their nemesis, 17-7. It doesn't get any easier this week as they have to travel to Cincinnati to face the well-balanced Bengal machine and hot QB Carson Palmer, who has a full stable of thoroughbreds (Johnson, Whoseyourdaddy, Henry) zig-zagging all over the field. The only hope is that Corey Dillon is healthy and is out for blood against his former team, and that Chad Jackson actually, like, suits up for this one. The Patriots will be putting a pretty amazing streak on the line this weekend, as they haven't dropped back-to-back games since 2002. All good things must come to an end, I s'pose.

Great story unfolded in New Orleans Monday night, as the Saints scored a rousing homecoming victory against the hugely overrated Mike Vick and the Falcons. The Superdome, which served as a "shelter" in the aftermath of that bitch Katrina, was electric, and you know what - the Saints may actually be pretty good. Think Dolphins coach Nick Saban is kicking himself for signing Daunte Culpepper instead of Drew Brees during the offseason? Anyway, good for New Orleans and especially their fans. They needed this.

Oh hey, the Sox are still playing too. Almost forgot. The boys beat Tampa Bay last night behind a solid effort from Curt Schilling, and Big Papi cranked No. 54. Yankees, A's, Twins and Tigers are in the dance, with the Tigers and Twins still fighting it out for the AL Central title. The NL is still up in the air, as the Cardinals are currently taking the choke.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Happy Sunday

Last week was like taking candy from a baby. I went 11-5, with my best surprise picks being Buffalo and San Francisco, two of the great teams from the '80s and '90s who have fallen on hard times. That makes the season record 19-13 so far. This week's slate has a number of great games on the board, including a revenge match in Pittsburgh with the Steelers taking on the Bengals and Carson Palmer; the Bears and Vikings in Minnesota, where we'll find out if the Bears are as good as they seem; in Indianapolis, where the juggernaut Colts run into the smashmouth Jaguars; and finally, in Seattle, where the Seahawks and their crazed fans try to make life as miserable as possible for the New York Football Giants. Best of all, our Patriots play tonight against Denver, meaning we get the feeds for the Cincy-Pittsburgh battle, the Bears-Vikings, and the Seahwaks-Giants. Not a bad day of NFL watching at all.

On to the picks. Again, these are made against the spread published in my local rag.

Carolina (-3) @ Tampa Bay: The Panthers - the trendy pre-season Super Bowl pick - have stumbled out of the blocks and are winless entering this game against the Bucs. Is it because they haven't had All-World WR Steve Smith? Is it the loss of their middle linebacker Dan Morgan? Whatever it is, Carolina isn't as bad as their record suggests. They'll make Chris Simms look like Tony Eason today.

Chicago (-3.5) @ Minnesota: The whole world wants to know if the Bears are as good on offense as they are on defense, and today will give a good indication. Is Rex Grossman for real? Who is Bernard Berrian? How are they doing this? They've beaten up on bad teams in the first two weeks (Green Bay and Detroit), and the Vikings would appear to be a stiffer test, especially in the Metrodome. I may regret this, but I'm going with the Vikings to pull off an upset today.

@Pittsburgh (1.5) vs. Cincinnati: Should be a great game, with the Steelers coming off an absolutely dreadful performance last Monday night against the Jaguars, and the Bengals coming in with revenge on their minds. Cincy had legitimate playoff hopes last year until that big oaf Kimo von Oehlenwhatever rolled on Palmer's leg. The Steelers will be loaded for bear, but I'm going with the Bengals in this one. Too much firepower. Plus, Carson's on my roto team so I have to root for him.

@Detroit (-7) vs. Green Bay: A snoozer. Green Bay comes into Motown a wounded team, having lost to (gasp) New Orleans last week on the frozen tundra. Detroit, meanwhile, under offensive whiz Mike Martz, has scored a grand total of 13 points through two weeks. Take the under and the Lions to cover. Roy Williams said so.

@Indianapolis (-7) vs. Jacksonville: All sorts of intriguing angles here. Indy is missing Adam Vinatieri today, who is out of action for the first time in his illustrious NFL career with a groin problem. Those damn groins. Peyton has been Peyton, but the Jags have a better secondary than most people think. If the Jaguars want to be taken seriously this is a good place to start, but I just don't think Indy will lose at home. I'm going with the Colts laying the points.

@Buffalo (-5.5) vs. NY Jets: The Jets showed me something last week in their comeback against the Pats, but they're too one dimensional. They're entering week 3, and they still don't know who their starting running back is. Curtis Martin, where are you? Buffalo rides to victory on the back of their stout defense and hometown crowd.

@Miami (-10.5) vs. Tennessee: If the Dolphins don't win this one... but they will, even with Daunte Culpepper calling the shots. The question is will they cover the 10 and a half? I don't even remember the Titans anymore. Who plays for them? McNair? Eddie George? Or was that back in like 1998? What the hell - take the Titans and the points.

Washington (-4) @ Houston: Like the Dolphins, this is a must-win game for Joe Gibbs and the 'Skins. The Texans are one of those bad but competitive bad teams, but go with Washington in this one.

Baltimore (-6.5) @ Cleveland: Will Art Modell be at this game? The team he stole away to Baltimore takes on the city he abandoned. The Ravens have looked impressive so far, but still not sure how much improved the offense is. Then again, you don't really need an offense when your D is pitching shutout ball. Ravens win this one, 21-7.

@Seattle (-3.5) vs. NY Giants: This one has all the makings of a letdown game for the Jints. They won an emotional game against a division rival last week, and they're going into the worst (best?) noise den in the league. The Seahawks also may get a boost from Deion Branch today, which they may need with a hurting Shaun Alexander. On the flip side, young Eli continues to gain confidence. I'll go with a mild upset here and take the Giants.

Philly (-6) at San Francisco: This one could be interesting. The Eagles are banged up on both sides of the ball, but McNabb has been pretty impressive through the first two weeks. The Niners counter with their big three of QB Alex Smith, WR Antonio Bryant and RB Frank Gore. The Eagles find a way to win, and cover, but it won't be a walk in the park.

@Arizona (-4.5) vs. St. Louis: Kurt Warner goes against his old team, which bears zero resemblance to his old team. The Rams have some skill players, no doubt - with Marc Bulger, Torry Holt and Steven Jackson. They had a nice win against the Broncos in week one, but then fell to the 49ers last week. Arizona counters with Kurt, the Edge, Larry Fitz and Anquan Boldin. Take the Cardinals in an offensive shootout.

@New England (-7) vs. Denver: Another good one. Denver's gotten the best of the Pats in recent years, and that playoff loss last year still sticks in our collective craw. Win that one, host the Steelers at home in the AFC title game, and we may be looking at a 4th Super Bowl win. But hindsight's 20-20. We lost, although we'll always have that amazing visual of Ben Watson chasing down Champ Bailey and absolutely leveling him. I'm confident in the Pats' D-line and our running back play tonight; not so confident in Brady's throwing accuracy and our secondary. The key to me will be Brady. We know the D-line, Dillon and Maroney will show up, and we know Plummer and Rod Smith will connect a few times tonight. Brady needs to be sharp. Pats take it, but the Broncos cover in what may be a field goal game. Remember, the Pats don't blow anybody out.

Atlanta (-3.5) @ New Orleans: Lots of emotion for this one, with the NFL planning a big night to remember Hurricane Katrina. Two of my favorite bands - U2 and Green Day - are collaborating on what is supposed to be a fantastic song at halftime. And oh yeah, there will be some football played in the Superdome. Mike Vick. Reggie Bush. I think the Falcons will win and cover, but I'm going with my heart for this one and picking the Saints.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Saturday Morning Thoughts

* Everyone's been tiptoeing around the Manny issue, and Gordon Edes today finally takes a stand. I have to say I agree with Gordo. Nobody knows the extent of his knee injury, but it's safe to say that Manny is no warrior.

* The whole Doug Mirabelli-Kevin Towers thing this past week is highly amusing. Why wouldn't Mirabelli love it in Boston? What other town would give him a police escort from the airport to the park? Pretty ridiculous when you think about it.

* Mirabelli falls into that class of guys who act and behave like they're better than they really are. Mirabelli can't hit his way out of a wet paper bag, and yet he's the first one to bitch at an ump after he strikes out. Kevin Youkilis, to me, is a fringe player (more on this in my upcoming Sox post-mortem) and yet there he is last night cussing out the ump for a good 5 minutes after whiffing. He's always got this pained expression on his face, and he didn't do himself any favors when he called Sox fans irrational when the team was in their losing skid. We are irrational, but you have to build up your resume before you can say it. Another actor was Kevin Millar. He'd get a walk, and almost strut his way to first base like he had just done something special. Locker-room presence my ass. The guy shouldn't be starting in the major leagues (as evidenced by his crappy year in Baltimore) and he's the first one to mouth off at anything.

* What Sox fan in their right mind wouldn't give a historic home run ball back to Big Papi? Not to sound corny, but the big man has brought us much joy so it's the least we can do. And when you hear that he'd rather auction the balls off for charity rather than put them on his mantel in Wisconsin (yes, the Dominican slugger lives near Green Bay believe it or not), it's a no-brainer.

* It really blows not having any meaningful baseball games to watch. Makes for a looooong wait for Sundays.

* Nice moment at Fenway this week when Carlton Fisk helped commemorate Jason Varitek's record for most games played as catcher. Two good ones right there.

* New nickname for Johnny Damon surfaced this week, courtesy of a clever WEEI caller. Johnny Cash. Beautiful.

* My AL MVP ballot would look something like this: Johan Santana, David Ortiz, Justin Morneau, Derek Jeter. Santana, his start the other night against the Sox aside, has been unbelievable for the Twins in the second half, especially with Liriano out. As for the argument that a pitcher shouldn't win MVP, bull. It's Most Valuable Player, not Most Valuable Everyday Player. Ortiz finishes second just on the sheer numbers and clutch hits. The Red Sox would be in fourth or fifth place without him. Morneau is incredibly underrated. Check out these numbers: 33 HR, 125 RBI, .323 BA. We just don't know about him because he plays in Fargo-land. And finally, Jeets. Yes, he's a great player. Yes, I respect and admire his abilities, even though he wears pinstripes. But I've said it before and I'll say it again - if he goes down, the Yanks have the depth and money to withstand the loss. And Johnny Cash batting leadoff certainly hasn't hurt Jeter. MVP? No way. Just one man's opinion.

* And last, for all those husbands out there with long 'honey do' lists, remember this - be thankful you don't have Theo's 'to do' list. Man, does he have some work to do. No touring with Pearl Jam this offseason.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Congrats, Big Fella

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Bronx Brouhaha

Very telling story in this week's Sports Illustrated about how much not only Yankee fans despise Alex Rodriguez, but also the Yankees themselves. Imagine being lectured by the HGH-ingesting Jason Giambi? A-Rod also gets a few zingers off of his own. Gotta love a little discord in that clubhouse - maybe it will derail this overpaid band of a-holes from winning their first title this decade.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Sox, the Pats and Recapping the Handicapping

First things first, seeing as how we are a baseball blog. The big news from this past weekend is that the Red Sox were not eliminated from postseason contention, and they didn't allow the Yankees to clinch anything on their home turf. Our boys took three of four in the Bronx with the likes of Kevin Jarvis, Kyle Snyder and Julian Tavarez toeing the rubber, and got key hits from youngsters like David Murphy and Dustin Pedroia. Can't say I watched much of the action -- beautiful weekend plus college and pro football -- but I think the Sox and Tito should be very proud of how they've handled themselves over the past few weeks. They've had every reason in the world to roll over and play dead and they've continued to play hard. Big Papi hit his 49th in New York and the nation now awaits No. 50.

One other baseball note. Did you see what happened in the Red Sox West (Dodgers) game last night against the Padres? Four homers in the 9th inning to tie the game, and then Nomar cranks one in the 10th to win it, off... you guessed it, old friend Rudy Seanez. He's giving up bombs from coast to coast. Alan Embree and Cla Meredith also pitched for San Diego.

Now, onto football... since we're officially a two-sport operation here. I went a gaudy 11-5 in my pro picks this weekend, with Buffalo and San Francisco being my best upset specials. I actually thought this was a pretty easy weekend -- if I had some serious cash to blow, I would have put a lot on San Diego, Cincinnati and Chicago.

As for our Patriots, they looked terrific in the first half against the Jets, and then looked pretty bad in the second, allowing the inferior Jets to actually put a scare in them. Some notes and observations from the game:

- We all know how lucky we are to have Tom Brady as our QB, and I understand that it's going to take him some time to gel with his new receivers, but I didn't like the way he looked and played in the second half. Some of the beat writers mentioned his defeated body language at times, which I definitely noticed. He also continues to underthrow on the long ball, which he supposedly practiced all off-season (with Deion in mind, but that's another story). Just some things I've noticed - he's still the best in the game, and that drive at the end of the game was vintage Brady. He's also got this going for him...

- It was pretty funny seeing the horde of cameras and media types scurrying to mid-field after the game to capture the much-anticipated Belichick-Mangini handshake. Judging from the moment, it does seem like Belichick is pissed at his young protege for some reason. It was a very abrupt shake, 'good game', and that was it - from two guys who have spent an awful lot of time together, both coaching and away from the field. Belichick can be a supreme d-bag - he learned from one of the all-time best in Tuna - but three Lombardi Trophys make you look the other way.

- Of course, we all know how the Patriots are the Kremlin when it comes to injury news, and that all starts with Coach Bill. Did you see toward the end of the game, when Corey Dillon had to come out of the game and the CBS cameras tried to get a shot of him on the bench with the training staff? Some young peon stood up on the bench, shook his head, crossed his arms, and blocked the shot. I guess I understand it, but the pose was so smug and off-putting. Pretty lame.

- The Pats' secondary looked like bullfighters at times - OLE! - but the D-line was absolutely immense. This unit doesn't get a lot of respect, but that's going to change this year.

- Chad Jackson played his first game for the Pats and looked pretty good, catching a TD pass from Brady. Doug Gabriel also played, or was that Bob Marley back from the dead? Surprised someone hasn't yanked those dreads right off his head. Gabriel didn't have an impact, but maybe he just needs a little more quiet time with the playbook.

- Revenge game coming up this Sunday night against Denver. The Broncos are 1-1 but are struggling. They lost to a bad Rams team in Week 1, and barely squeaked by the Trent Green-less Chiefs last Sunday. Jake the Snake and the offense have scored a grand total of 19 points in two games. Doesn't bode well for what is sure to be an amped up Pats squad and a crazed Gillette Stadium crowd.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Pigskin Heaven

Well, we didn't install this feature in time for the first week of NFL action, so let's say we split at 8-8 for recordkeeping purposes. Pro football is by far the most popular sport in America today, and I'm not even going to listen to the rednecks who think NASCAR should be one of the four major sports in our land. Shut up, put your wife-beater t-shirt on, and go shoot some beer cans in your backyard. Football is the sport of choice because it's got it all -- strategy, vicious hits, hot cheerleaders, and of course, gambling -- not necessarily in that order. Has any sport ever been so wedded to the wiseguys in the desert? Boxing, sure, but football reigns supreme in the hearts of America's gamblers, from making actual wagers to participating in office knockout pools. My Dad was in Vegas for the opening week of NFL action, and he said the tables at the Mirage were all filled at 6 a.m. for the 10 a.m. start times. Breakfast and football. When the first game started, he said, the ovation was deafening.

Without further ado, onto the Week 2 picks. The selections are made against the lines published in my local Sunday sports page:

@Baltimore (-12.5) vs. Oakland: Tough call on this one. The Raiders played like they were blind last week against the Chargers, and logic says they won't lay two absolute eggs in a row. You'd think that Aaron Brooks could connect with Randy Moss a couple of times, and Lamont Jordan's no stiff at RB. But then you think about that terrifying Ravens defense - playing at home - and an offense that's been revived with Steve McNair at the helm, and you realize that two eggs is very, very possible. Take the Ravens laying the points.

@Indianapolis (-13.5) vs. Houston: Easy call on this one. Peyton is just happy to have the Manning Bowl over with, and his relief will show with several touchdown passes against the Texans. Houston doesn't know who their starting RB will be from week to week. Go with the Colts.

@Cincinnati (-10) vs. Cleveland: The Bengals' firepower is just too much for the Brownies, who are led by quarterback Charlie Frye. Carson Palmer didn't have to light it up last week, and they still cruised by the Chiefs in Kansas City. Memo to Frye - don't go into a slide with Robert Geathers lurking around. Cincy wins big on their home turf.

@Miami vs. Buffalo (+6.5): Miami wins this game, with Ronnie Brown running like a madman, but Buffalo covers. As a Patriots fan, I think I speak for all my fellow fans when I say that we're very pleased that Daunte Culpepper is the starting QB of the Dolphins.

@Chicago vs. Detroit (+8.5): Similar result here. Bears won't lose to the Lions at Soldier Field, but Detroit will keep it somewhat close. We're still waiting to see Mike Martz' fingerprints on the offense. Take the Lions and the points.

@Minnesota vs. Carolina (+1.5): This could be a pretty entertaining game. The Vikings are riding high after beating a pretty good Redskins team on the road, and Brad Johnson looks like he's in a groove. On the other hand, Panthers coach John Fox won't let his team fall to 0-2 out of the gates. Carolina was the trendy pick to go to the Super Bowl this year, and while the loss of All-World WR Steve Smith hurts, they'll find a way to win this one. Carolina in a tight one.

@Philadelphia vs. NY Giants (+3): All the makings of a great game. Both teams are talented on each side of the ball. The T.O.-less Eagles look refreshed under Donovan McNabb, and the Jints have something to prove after losing to the Colts in the national spotlight last week. Look for the Giants' two-headed RB monster of Barber and Jacobs to make big contributions. Giants take this one by a field goal.

@Atlanta (-5.5) vs. Tampa Bay: Mike Vick versus Chris Simms. 'Nuf said. Falcons and their underrated D win easily.

New Orleans (-2.5) @ Green Bay: Unbelievable how quickly the wheels have fallen off in Cheesehead Land. Who would have thought that the Saints would ever be favored on the frozen tundra? But Drew Brees and Reggie Bush are providing some much-needed entertainment for the hurting Crescent City. Take the Saints.

St. Louis @ San Francisco (+3): Minor upset here. The Niners are better than people think, and QB Alex Smith is a big reason why. With him connecting with Antonio Bryant, and Frank Gore making a name for himself at RB, things are looking up in San Fran. For the hell of it, I'm going with 'em.

@Seattle vs. Arizona (+7): Things are looking up in Arizona, too, thanks to Kurt Warner and Edgerrin James. Seattle's a damn good team, for sure, and Deion Branch will make them better - but the Cards will keep it close. Take the points.

New England (-6) @ NY Jets: The big story line here is the protege (the HC of the NYJ, Eric Mangini) vs. the mentor (BB), but I think it comes down to the two quarterbacks. Chad Pennington looked pretty damn good last week, but I'll take a focused Tom Brady and the Dillon/Maroney 1-2 punch. Should be interesting to see who lines up at WR for the Pats. Doug Gabriel will most likely play, but will we see Chad Jackson? Pats win by 10.

@San Diego (-11.5) vs. Tennesee: The NFL schedule-makers were awfully kind to the Chargers. After annihilating the woeful Raiders last week, they'll lay the hammer on the equally woeful Titans. Give the points.

@Denver (-10.5) vs. Kansas City: A bounceback game for the Broncos if there ever was one. Denver did not look good last week against the Rams, and Mike Shanahan will have his troops revved up for the home opener. Plus, Damon Huard is playing QB in Trent Green's place. Think the Broncos will know where Larry Johnson is on every down?

@Dallas (-6.5) vs. Washington: A week of practices with a very unhappy Bill Parcells has the Cowboys ready to play, Drew Bledsoe notwithstanding. Dallas will ride their much-hyped defense to victory in this one, but Drew's play will make the QB controversy talk heat up. I can't wait for the Tony Romo Era.

Pittsburgh (-3) @ Jacksonville: A pretty attractive Monday Night matchup, and we should see some smashmouth football. Big Ben plays and the Steelers win by 6.

Any thoughts?

Last week's record: 8-8 :)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Rivalry Weekend -- Sort Of...

In the past, this weekend would have been truly glorious for both Red Sox and Patriots fans. The Sox are in the Bronx to play their arch-enemy, and the Pats travel to the swamplands of Jersey on Sunday to take on Eric Mangini and the Jets.

Unfortunately, the Sox-Yankees series has been reduced to a Papi/Jeter MVP debate, and a chance to see what some young'uns can do. All you need to know is that the Sox are throwing Kyle Snyder, Kason Gabbard, and Julian Tavarez at the potent Yankee lineup. Take the over.

On the bright side, we have our Pats, who are moving on after saying goodbye to Deion Branch. Tom Brady even said this week that his mind wasn't totally in the game last week against the Bills because he was thinking about Branch. (One more reason why you gotta love Brady - he can be honest about these things, without throwing management under the bus. Hmmmm - maybe he does have a future as a politician.)

Expect Brady to come out guns a'blazing on Sunday - the only question is who will catch the bullets. Former Raider Doug Gabriel is now in the fold, and should see plenty of time. And we're still wondering when rookie WR Chad Jackson will step foot on the field. We keep hearing about how gifted this kid is, and if he's half as good as people are saying we may have something. But he's gotta get out of the training room.

As for the Jets, of course, the big story line revolves around Bill Belichick protege Eric Mangini trying to outwit his former boss. They're not sure who their RB is -- Derrick Blaylock or Kevan Barlow -- and Chad Pennington looked pretty good last week against a poor Titans team. It will be interesting to see how good or bad the Jets are. Again, something tells me the Pats are going to be pretty fired up for this one after sleepwalking through the first half last week. Fast start, boys.

Today's a huge day for college football, with seven marquee matchups on the board, including Notre Dame-Michigan, Florida-Tennessee, Auburn-LSU, Nebraska-USC, Oregon-Oklahoma, and Miami-Louisville. Best bets: ND, Auburn and USC.

We'll have some pro predictions later today or tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Switching Gears

For all 10 of you still paying attention, the Sox are in Baltimore tonight for the first of three completely meaningless games, and then they're off to the Apple to face the Yankees over the weekend. Any time you start feeling sorry for yourself over this team's self-immolation, just remember - you could have splurged on tickets to Yankee Stadium this weekend in what you thought would be a sure-fire battle for AL East supremacy. That would really suck. It would also really suck to be Sox TV announcers Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy, who must continue to travel with the team and sound somewhat upbeat. Remy just made mention of the fact that the Baltimore Ravens scored a decisive victory over Tampa Bay last weekend, which must have made Baltimoreans happy.

And it got me to thinking - if the RemDawg, who's all about baseball - can mix baseball with football, so can I. Make no mistake - this blog is powered by baseball. It's our lifeblood, it's what we grew up on, it's what we know best. But we have room here to discuss other topics, and after all, I have to keep my faithful readers (really only one, my buddy Jam) interested throughout the fall and dreary winter. So, starting this weekend, we're going to morph into HardballPigskin Heaven.

We're going to blog about the Patriots, the NFL in general, and college football, and gambling talk (for entertainment purposes only, of course) is very much encouraged. Each Friday morning, I'll make my weekly NFL picks against the spread and I'll give you my top two college football picks. Why the hell not? Everyone else does. The Sports Guy is even taking on his wife this year.

So let's begin the festivities with some quick thoughts on our favorite NFL squad, the dynastic New England Patriots. My Dad's in Vegas right now and I had to ask him what the odds were for the Pats to win the Super Bowl this year. "6 to 1," he said. "Not too bad." We planned to split a small $50 wager - basically, bet $25 for the chance to win $150 if Brady & Co. are hoisting the trophy in Miami in February. The next day, he calls me back and says he made a mistake. "I did it for $100, so you're in for $50." Only problem was that in the interim, the Pats had finally decided to trade their star wideout, Deion Branch, to the Seattle Seahawks. Both parties got what they wanted - the Pats get a first round pick for '07, albeit most likely a later one; the Seahawks get a quality receiver/person, and Branch gets his money. All the Pats' rumpswabs are saying it's the best trade since Varitek and Lowe for Heathcliff "Seat Belt" Slocumb, gushing over the value of a first-round pick. I, however, feel like this team is suddenly not as good as it was last year. Its Super Bowl chances certainly aren't as good as they would have been had Deion signed. Yes, we've got what seems like the best 1-2 RB punch in our lifetimes, but you have to spread it out with receivers and right now the Pats receiving corps is paper thin. Branch and Brady really had something good going, and it stinks to see that washed away. I want my bet back (I think).

Monday, September 11, 2006

Always Remember

Saturday, September 09, 2006

All This Negativity Sucks

I think I may be a fair-weather blogger. It was awfully fun to post every day when we were contend-ahs. Now, with all this team has been through, it's a tough slog. A slog blog.

Let's see. Since we last left you, the Sox lost the series finale to Chicago, as the White Sox bats awoke against Kyle Snyder. Thursday was an offday, and then the boys welcomed the Royals into town for three. When last we saw KC, their fans were gleefully brandishing brooms as the Royals swept the free-falling Sox.

Last night's game was a tough one - they battled back from an 8-3 deficit to take a 9-8 lead in the 8th (on a Papi 'beat the shift' single to left, no less) and the crowd was electric. Then Timlin came in for the save (with Papelbon out) and proceeded to blow it -- giving up a walk, hitting a batter, and giving up a double to Joey Gathright that gave the Royals a 10-9 lead and deflated the Friday night Fenway crowd. The beers in the Back Bay didn't taste so great last night.

I wanted to quickly opine on a couple of issues that have been in the news lately: the boobirds at Fenway, and the incredible Red Sox Alumni All-Star team currently barnstorming across MLB.

The booing thing intensified this week when Julian Tavarez walked off the mound to a rousing standing ovation Monday night and he refused to tip his cap. His explanation after the game was that these fans had treated him and his bullpen mates pretty badly all year long (Hello, Rudy), and he wasn't about to forget that in exchange for acknowledging the famously fickle Sox fans. At least he didn't resurrect the BK Kim salute (above). Anyway, Tavarez went on to say that he didn't understand how fans could boo their own players when the team is 5 or 6 games up in first place. "They need to know that we're out there trying to win all the time," he said. "Sometimes, we're going to fail." Again, I agree with Tavarez that players shouldn't be booed strictly on failure. Hitters are successful if they get three hits out of 10 tries. That said, there are times to boo. Boo when Manny chases a liner like he's trying to catch a pigeon, or when he saunters down to first, or doesn't even attempt to break up a double play. Boo when Coco Crisp quadruple-skips the ball into second base like he's skipping stones at the beach. (Note: I once booed Ivan Calderon when he bounced a ball into the infield, and I'll never forget the death stare he gave me. I'm still shaking.) But when a guy goes 3 for 45, or makes a crucial error -- the booing is unnecessary. They feel like shit already. Instead, hit 'em with silence. I still wish the whole place went dead silent during Johnny Damon's first return at-bat.

The second thing concerns the Sox Alumni All-Stars, which got a little harder to take this week after seeing multiple replays of Hanley Ramirez clinching Anibal Sanchez' no-hitter against Arizona. Bob Lobel's "Why can't we get guys like this?" line has never been more appropriate. Freddy Sanchez, Hanley Ramirez, Mike Gonzalez, Anibal Sanchez (hmmmm... keep the guys with z's in their names?), Bronson Arroyo, Josh Bard, Cla Meredith, David Wells, and oh yeah, Johnny Damon -- it's all right here in Rob Bradford's story from earlier this week. It's downright ugly, and it really boils down to the fact that whoever gets the final evaluation call isn't doing their job. I'm not ready to pile onto Jed and Ben for the Beckett/Lowell for Ramirez/A. Sanchez deal. I'm more worried about Ramirez blossoming into a 30/30 guy than I am about Anibal being the next Greg Maddux. In terms of what we got, Mike Lowell has played Gold Glove-caliber D at third - really, the best defense we've seen at third since Wade Boggs - and while Josh Beckett has certainly been a disappointment this year, he's still young, he's still learning, and when he puts it all together he could be scary.

But the other deals are inexcusable. The question is - is anyone doing anything about it? My guess is probably not, not with marshmallow owner John Henry at the helm. Maybe Henry hit the nail on the head during the Theo press conference when he famously said 'maybe I'm not fit to be the owner of the Boston Red Sox.' Maybe you're not, John. Maybe you're not.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Is This Real... Or Is It Memorex?

What in the name of Win Remmerswaal is going on here? The defending champion White Sox had to be licking their chops when they arrived in Boston, what with the tantalizing prospect of facing Julian Tavarez, Kason Gabbard (that's him, to the right there), and Kyle Snyder in succession. On paper, it looked like a slaughter. But they don't play the games on paper now do they?

Lo and behold, Tavarez and Gabbard have thrown gems through the first two games, and Snyder goes for the hat trick tonight. The bad-luck Sox have been infused with some good news lately - the return of several regulars, including Big Papi last night, and the news before last night's game that Jonathan Papelbon is okay, and just suffering from shoulder fatigue (hey - we'll take our good news any way we can get it).

We're in a strange, surreal place right now, us Red Sox fans. We realize the playoffs are a distant hope, but we also know we've got a bunch of games coming up against teams in front of us - and this team is only getting healthier. On the flip side, how can we think positive for this year when the front office (via the David Wells deal) has pretty much waved the white flag? We're still watching the games, mostly to see if Papi can break the Sox' single-season record for home runs, but we're starting to turn our attention to football. In the back of my mind, I wonder if this is what Theo envisioned all along - an off year in 2006 (are we prepared to accept a Yankees' World Series win for our long-term betterment as an organization?), and then full throttle in 2007. I know one thing. I sure wish Theo had been around to put the kibosh on the Beckett/Lowell for Sanchez/Ramirez deal. Have you seen Hanley's numbers?

On a side note, one interesting moment from this series against the White Sox came when Tavarez left the game after pitching so well. The Fenway fans rose to their feet to acknowledge his performance, but the crazy Dominican didn't respond on his way to the dugout. When it happened live, I was thinking - 'the guy's pissed off about how he's been treated this year. He's been a punching bag. Would I tip my cap to this fickle lot?' I've never understood the concept of booing, and apparently Julian doesn't either. I personally think he's right.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Hometown Kid Comes Through

A feel-good game at Fenway tonight, as the Sox pull it out 3-2 in the 10th inning on a walk-off home run from Carlos Pena, the former Northeastern star from Haverhill. Pena launched a rocket about 15 rows up in right field, triggering a much-needed celebration for Sox fans who have been through the wringer over the last couple of weeks. Must have been awfully sweet for Pena, too, who seems like a genuinely nice guy.

The Hits Keep Coming, But Help Is On The Way

Well, well, well... a lot has happened in the last week - some good, some not so good. The Sox ended up getting swept in Oakland, and then they split four with the Blue Jays at Fenway. As things stand today, they are 9 games behind the Yankees for the division (kiss that goodbye) and they're 6 1/2 behind the White Sox for the wild card. They're playing the first of three against the ChiSox tonight so they can make up some ground if they can string a little run together. The game is now in the bottom of the 6th, with goose eggs on the scoreboard. I can't believe I'm about to type these words, but Julian Tavarez is actually pitching a gem. He started tonight in place of David Wells, who was traded off to the San Diego Padres last week for a young catcher. Like I said, a lot has happened.

As we all know by now, rookie lefthander Jon Lester was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma last week, and is scheduled to begin treatment soon. If he battles off the mound like he does on it, he's going to be in good shape. Our thoughts are with him and his family. Of course, Big Papi also had a health scare within the past week, as he was thoroughly checked out at Mass General for the source of an irregular heartbeat. Papi felt strange at least twice, but he has been given the go-ahead to resume playing, which he'll probably do tomorrow. Oh - and considering everything that has gone wrong this year, what's the worst possible thing that could happen next? Against the Blue Jays Friday night, closer extraordinaire Jonathan Papelbon was forced to leave the game with what looked like a painful shoulder injury. All we've heard so far is that it's a strain. He's supposed to have an MRI soon.

Now for some good news. Tonight against the White Sox, we witnessed the return of three regulars to the lineup - Jason Varitek (goodbye, Javy - thanks for coming), Trot Nixon and Alex Gonzalez. Nixon just knocked in the first run of the game. Sox lead the Sox 1-0. Now it's 1-1 thanks to a Jim Thome Monster seat bash, and Julian Tavarez is walking off to a standing ovation. I am not making that last part up.

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