Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thursday Night Live

I cannot believe that Nikolay Davydenko was left off of Russia's Davis Cup team. Absolutely, positively a horrendous coaching decision.

Just joshin'.

I'm one of the lucky ones tonight. Thanks to the fact that I ponied up $7 to that sadistic empire known as Comcast, I'm able to watch the latest "NFL Game of the Year" - the Cowboys vs. the Packers - in lovely high-definition TV. Right now, there's about three minutes left in the first half and the Cowboys are on the verge of putting this one out of reach with a 27-10 lead. The Pack is driving, however, and to everyone's shock, it's not ol' No. 4 steering the ship. Brett Favre hurt his right forearm when he got sacked earlier in the game and hit a Cowboy helmet. No official word yet, so in the meantime it's in Aaron Rodgers' hands.

The Celtics are also in action this evening, this time against the Knicks at the Garden (ah, it feels good to type that). After a tough loss to Cleveland the other night, I had a hunch the Celts would want to administer a Patriots-like ass-kicking - and who better to inflict said beating on than a team from New York? With five minutes to go in the third quarter, the C's have a, ah, shall we say comfortable lead. It's currently 72-35 and the Knicks look positively hapless in all phases of the game. Oooh - with this type of lead, Doc Rivers just sent Garnett back in. I tell ya - the lack of respect he's showing for the Knicks right now is disturbing. It's now officially a 43-point lead, at 80-37. Oh my goodness. We're witnessing a complete and utter meltdown. The Knicks have given up.

Football update: Cowboys are up 27-17 at halftime.

Will the Rich Get Richer?

Those stingy Minnesota Twins are at it again. In the last week, they've lost free agent CF Torii Hunter to the Angels, and they've let it be known that their ace - the best pure lefty in the business - is on the table for the right price. Much like Carlos Santana is a virtuoso with the gee-tar, two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana is a force on the mound.

Of course, you knew the Yankees would get involved first. They need him more than anybody if they want to stay close to the Red Sox. The days of having Mike Mussina and Kei Igawa in their rotation are over. Reports surfaced last week that the Yanks were engaged in talks with the Twins, and that the price would likely involve losing Phil Hughes (their Clay Buchholz) and two or three top prospects. Personally, if I'm the Twins, I'm not making that deal without Joba Chamberlain in it but that's just me.

Over the last couple of days, our boys - the World Series champion Red Sox - have dipped their toe into the Santana pool. Most thought it was an exercise aimed simply at helping to bankrupt the Yanks' system as much as possible by driving the price even higher. After all, we've got a great blend of youth and experience on this team, we just won our second title in four years, and we resolved our two biggest offseason questions (Schilling and Lowell) in the span of a week. Things are rosy, right? My stance all along has been if Jacoby Ellsbury has to be a part of this trade to get Santana - and that's what the Twins have reportedly been demanding - then count me out. I truly believe Ellsbury will be a centerpiece for years to come. Can you say Hanley Ramirez?

Today, though, we read about a new twist. The Twins yesterday made a deal with Tampa Bay in which they're sending their starting SS (Jason Bartlett) and a young, promising pitcher (Matt Garza) to the Rays in exchange for stud rookie OF Delmon Young. What's the twist, you ask? Well, the Twins now need a SS. Unfortunately, Julio Lugo ain't going anywhere for a while - especially not to the money-conscious Twins - but it just so happens that the Sox have another SS in the minors in Jed Lowrie that a lot of teams like. In a noontime post on headlined "Sox may lead pack to get Santana," the parameters of a potential deal now would include Coco Crisp, Lowrie, Jon Lester, and Justin Masterson. So not only no Ellsbury, but also no Buccholz?!? Hankie Steinbrenner must not be very happy at this latest development. Lots of ways this can go, but if that's a deal the Twins will accept, Theo had best be on his BlackBerry right now. GET IT DONE.

One other item that bears mentioning - if you haven't read this ESPN feature story on Bo Jackson, do yourself a favor and check it out. Very cool piece about a guy who still seems surreal in every way.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Catching Up

As always, lots happening on the local sports scene. Let's start with what my eyes just witnessed, which was a very tough Celtics loss to the LeBronavaliers. At about 8:30 tonight, it finally hit my wife. "You're back into the Celtics, aren't you?," she asked with a tone of annoyance that another sport is back in the rotation. "I can't believe it."

Well, believe it. The Celts are must-see TV these days. With KG and Ray Allen in green, they're fun to watch again. Between tonight's game and a scintillating last-second win over Charlotte over the weekend, I actually yelled at my TV a couple of times. Actually got mad or pumped a fist. For the Celtics. Yup - the bandwagon's rolling down the road and I'm sitting up front. Tonight's loss in Cleveland should have been a W, and if Allen - a career 89% free throw shooter - had made two measly freebies they would have won this one in regulation. Unfortunately, Allen missed, LeBron took over in overtime and the Celts suffered their second loss on the season. But it gonna be a fun season.

The Patriots got a scare from the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday night, eking out a 31-28 victory to remain unbeaten. Very impressed with how the Eagles played, and with the game plans they drew up on both offense and defense. Brady was pressured all night long, and took one brutal hit early in the game that was positively bone-rattling. It looked to my untrained eyes that the Pats lost the battle at the line of scrimmage (the Eagles O-line was outstanding), but in the end they did just enough to win. Brady stood tall, as always. He's your game MVP - or maybe co-MVP with Asante Samuel, who had two big picks. Next up for the Pats: at Baltimore on Monday night.

Sticking with the NFL, a very sad story with the shocking murder of Redskins safety Sean Taylor. As you know by now, Taylor was shot early Monday morning in his Miami-area home by an intruder. Reports said he was in tough shape, but then news came that he was responsive to a nurse. This morning, it was shocking to wake up and hear that he had died. The kid lived a tough life from all accounts, but it seemed like he was turning things around. And he was one hell of a player.

As far as the Red Sox go, it's been pretty quiet since they inked Lowell. The big news of the last couple of days is that the Yankees and Twins are talking trade for Johan Santana. We knew this was coming, of course, but I'm still hoping Theo is doing his due diligence and at least driving the price up. If the Yankees only give up Phil Hughes and no other name players, it's a sham. The Twins have every right to demand, say, Melky Cabrera and Joba Chamberlain. Santana is the creme de la creme, right up there with Beckett.

We also got word today that Dr. Charles Steinberg - the marketing and promotion maestro for the Sox since the Henry group took over - is leaving to take a job with the Dodgers. I say don't let the door hit your ass on the way out. Steinberg was just way over the top with some of the crap (Red Sox Nation card, dating show) he foisted on us loyal fans year after year. Wonder if he'll get Terry Cashman to sing at Dodger Stadium?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Greatest American Holiday

In my humble opinion, Thanksgiving is the best holiday on the calendar. No religion, no hassles, no stressing about which gifts to get, no returning gifts to the store. You just have to show up to eat, drink, watch some football, have some more pie, and then take a nap. Those Pilgrims were definitely onto something.

Anyway, we have plenty to give thanks for this holiday. Boston has re-claimed its position as the best sports city in the country. Athletes (hello, Mike Lowell) are turning down more lucrative offers elsewhere to stay in this environment. Our long-suffering, beloved baseball team has won two championships in four years. The Patriots are destroying everything in their path, and are very much on course to go undefeated, set all sorts of records, and raise another Lombardi in the desert in February. Hell, even the Celtics have become a hot ticket, thanks to the arrivals of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. While the mid-1980's was an awesome time around here for sports, this particular period may take the cake. We are on a serious roll, and it shows no signs of letting up. If only the Bruins could find a new owner.

So let's start there. I'd like to give thanks first and foremost to a guy that I believe transformed this city by dint of what he's done with his own team. Say what you want about Pats owner Bob Kraft, but he has set the example around here and the other teams are following suit. Remember how close the Patriots came to actually leaving Massachusetts? If James Busch Orthwein and Stan Kroenke had gotten their way, the course of history would have been dramatically altered. Instead, Bob Kraft came to the rescue, he hired a name coach in Bill Parcells, and they took a stud QB with the first pick of the 1993 NFL Draft in Drew Bledsoe. You can make the argument that these three guys are the most influential figures in Pats' history. So I hereby give thanks to Krafty, Tuna, and Drew.

You can even argue that Kraft has had a major influence on what the Sox have been able to do in the last few years. The Henry/Werner ownership team reached out to the Patriots early in the process, eager to soak up the secrets of success. The results are not coincidental. The Red Sox have made themselves into a first-class destination for players. They know ownership will do everything in its power to win, they know they'll be well taken care of beyond dollars, and they get to play in front of the most passionate fans in sports.

Now the Celtics are catching the "winning" bug, thanks in large part to the fact that Danny Ainge finally decided to blow up the win-by-building philosophy. They've accomplished something huge in a short time - they've got people around here interested and engaged, after only 10 games.

So while the rest of the country hates us - especially the new scorched earth policy of the Patriots - we can take solace in knowing that this is what it was like back in the 50's and 60's, when the Celtics won every year, and back in the mid-80's, when we truly were a four-sport town. Times are good here in Boston. We know it, we appreciate and respect it, and we give thanks for it.

Happy turkey to all.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lowell, Sox Reach Deal

Depending on your news source, Mike Lowell and the Sox today have either signed a deal or agreed to its basic structure to keep Lowell in a Sox uniform for three more years. The total dollars are around $37.5 million.

Very good news for the team and for Lowell, whose inside-out swing is tailor made for Fenway. We'll never know what he would have looked like playing 1B for the Yankees, and we'll never know what the team's Plan B was in case he jumped ship. Will he ever duplicate his 2007 numbers? Probably not, but you have to figure that Manny (contract year in '08) and J.D. Drew will revert to their normal offensive output next year, which will take some pressure off Lowell.

The next Hot Stove story for the Sox will likely revolve around Coco Crisp. A number of teams have a need for a low-cost, superb glove center-fielder. Should be interesting to see what teams are willing to put on the table.

Just Plain Sick

What the Patriots are doing to the rest of the NFL right now is very similar to what the Harlem Globetrotters did to the Washington Generals for so many years. A different punching bag each Sunday, with the same incredibly easy result.

Last night, the Pats rolled to a 56-10 victory in Buffalo against the Bills, and the poor Bills never had a chance. As has been their custom, the Patriots scored on their first seven drives last night - and kept scoring until the final whistle blew.

Tom Brady and Randy Moss continued their assault on the record books, with Brady going 31 for 39 (at least three incompletions were terrible drops) for 373 yards and 5 TD's, including four to Moss. Randy no doubt knew that T.O. had put up four scores earlier in the day against Washington. On the season, look at these numbers for the dynamic duo:

Brady: 250 for 338 (74%), 38 TD's, 4 INT, 3,059 yards
Moss: 66 receptions, 16 TD's, 1,052 yards

Pretty good stats for a full year, right? But we're just past week 10. Absolutely, utterly amazing. Let's say Brady throws an average of 3 TD's and 300 yards in each of the six remaining games. His final numbers: 56 TD's (bye, Peyton), 4,859 yards. The record books are being re-written before our very eyes, and there are some cranky old men down in South Florida who are starting to get a wee bit nervous.

The Pats now only need six more victories to run the table. They've got Philly next Sunday night, followed by Baltimore, Pittsburgh, the Jets, Miami and the Giants. Can you even contemplate a 15-0 record going into that last Sunday game against the Gints? Something tells me the network suits would find a way to get that one broadcast to the whole nation - right now, it's only on the NFL Network, which a lot of people don't get.

So now we wait seven more days for the next demolition. Watch and savor, folks, because when we're old and gray this team is going to be talked about in the same vein as those old Steelers and Cowboy teams. When it's all said and done, this is the year that will lift the Pats into the NFL pantheon for eternity.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Not a Good Day for A**holes

Not a very good day yesterday for high-profile dinks. In the most unsurprising breaking news ever, we learned last night that Barry Bonds has been formally indicted on steroids-related charges - specifically, that he perjured himself in front of a grand jury, and that he obstructed justice. Many trees have died detailing this sad, pathetic mess over the last couple of years, and it now takes on - if possible - a whole new level. While I don't think ol' big-head will spend time in prison, I think it's safe to say that a) his career is over, and b)the asterisk applies in every form and fashion when discussing Bonds' career.

But that's only one big-time a-hole that had a tough Thursday. How about Scotty Boras, baseball's uber-agent? His penance for mis-reading the market for A-Rod and demanding that talks with the Yankees begin at $350 million? He was barred from any of the in-person conversations over the last couple days between A-Rod and Yanks' execs. And you just know that had to be killing him and his massively inflated ego. Boras haters throughout the world of sports had a rare moment to rejoice.

Other than that, not much else to report. Rumors popped up yesterday that Mike Lowell had received a couple of 4-year offers worth more than the Sox have offered so far. The Yankees were supposedly one of the suitors, but they want him to play first base for them now that A-Rod is almost in the fold. My gut instinct: Lowell signs with Boston for four years/$50 million or so.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Land of the Unbeatens

Amazing factoid for you today: since October 16 - almost a full month ago - the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics are a combined 22-0. Not too shabby.

We know what the Red Sox did, and what the Patriots are doing. But it's the Celtics that are the underrated story in town. Their offseason makeover is working quite nicely, thank you, as KG and Ray have fit in nicely with Paul and the boys. I've watched a couple of games - not in full - but have come away impressed with the overall athleticism on the floor and the unselfishness of the new Big Three. When news broke that Allen and Garnett were coming here, my first thought was 'are there enough basketballs to go around?' Watching these guys play early on, though, has calmed any concerns. Someone on the telecast last night made what I thought was a pretty salient point - each member of the Big Three brings something different to the table, and together, it all works well. Garnett's your presence in the post who's not afraid to pass before he shoots; Allen is your long-distance weapon; and Pierce, who had a monster game last night against the Pacers, is a classic slasher. Add it all up and it's been pure poetry on the floor so far.

Let's see... what else is on my mind?

The AL Cy Young went to C.C. Bigassia yesterday. I don't really have any qualms about him winning it over Beckett, but maybe MLB should re-consider its policy of having the voting only reflect regular-season performance. Shouldn't any best pitcher award take into account all clutch performances? The Indians also took Manager of the Year honors, as Eric Wedge topped the field. Again, it's deserving. Terry Francona - he of two rings and a soon-to-be fat bank account - finished fourth. But he's first in our hearts and minds.

Switching to pigskin, the big news of the last couple of days is the freefall that the Colts are in. They looked awful on Sunday night - minus Harrison and a couple other key players - and to make matters worse, they found out this morning that super-pass rusher Dwight Freeney is out for the year with a foot injury. This is a HUGE loss, and very favorable for the Patriots.

As far as hockey goes... rumor has it the season has started.

Back to football after that brief break - I wonder what Bill Belichick thinks about the NFL scheduling Gods. Due to the new flex TV schedule - which allows the league to shift game times around for TV - the Pats are now playing four of their last seven games at night time. This week's game against Buffalo and next week's game against the Eagles are on at 8 on Sunday night, and the following week has them playing Baltimore on Monday night. Lots of waiting around on game days.

Regarding the Pats and their mission to dethrone the 1972 Dolphins as the greatest team of all time, it seems like the stars are aligning. First Freeney goes down, and you know if he can't go in the playoffs, that's big for Brady & Co. And then we get word today that Bills stud rookie RB Marshawn Lynch is banged up and has missed practice.

And we'll end it on a baseball note, since that's our first and true love. The Yanks have made news in recent days, signing Jorge Posada to a 4-year, $52 million deal, and offering aging closer Mariano Rivera 3 years and $45 mill. Rivera still hasn't accepted what everyone believes is an overly generous offer, and the Yanks are a bit mystified. Also, A-Rod has supposedly been talking to the Yanks' brass without Binky Boras in the room. Interesting development. No news on any potential suitors for Mike Lowell yet.

Monday, November 12, 2007

More Hardware for the Sox... Lowell's Free to Talk... Youk to Shave?

Another busy day for the World Champion (it just doesn't get old) Red Sox. A week after hearing that Kevin Youkilis had won a Gold Glove at 1B, pint-sized Dirt Dog Dustin Pedroia took home Rookie of the Year honors today. Much deserved, and adding to the Pedroia legend is the news that he played with a broken bone in his hand during the postseason. My two favorite moments from this past year: his three-run homer in Game 7 against the Indians, and the great play he made on Miguel Tejada to help preserve Clay Buchholz' no-hitter. As our senior senator would say, Pedroia plays with some vim and vigah.

The free-for-all - aka MLB's annual free agency period - officially gets underway in 11 minutes. is reporting that Theo Epstein failed to seal a deal with Mike Lowell's agent, so Lowell will be free to talk to other teams. Most reports say the Sox wouldn't budge on three years; Lowell wants four. It'll be interesting to see how this ends up - losing Lowell would be a big loss. But never say never.

Finally, I bring you the shocking news that Youkilis is planning to shave off his trademark goatee. All for a good cause.

And that's all I've got for you today.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


It's been another week of basking in the euphoria that is the Boston sports scene right now. The Red Sox won their second World Championship in four years, sweeping the overmatched Rockies. The Patriots rallied big-time last Sunday against the Colts in their epic showdown and are 9-0. The Celtics are 4-0 for the first time since the prime Bird years. The friggin' New England Revolution - that's our soccer team, for those who care - are playing for the title in a couple of weeks. It goes on and on and on. The only blemish, really, was BC's loss to Florida State last Saturday night, which knocked the Eagles from the unrealistic #2 spot in the polls.

Let's see - how best to organize some scattered thoughts? We'll go by team.


The parallels to what they did this year vs. what they did in 2004 are eerie. In each year, the ALDS (both times vs. Anaheim) was a breeze, the ALCS (Yanks, Indians) was a battle, and the World Series (Cards, Rockies) was a cakewalk. Add in the fact that they came back from 3-0 and 3-1 holes to the Yanks and Indians and it's more amazing.

Some developments since the last out in Colorado: Curt Schilling accepted an incentive-laden deal to come back for one more year, and the Sox have reportedly offered 3B Mike Lowell a 3-year deal worth between $12-15 million per year. I was surprised that they came to an agreement with Schilling, but he'll be a good value as a back of the rotation guy. As far as Lowell, I haven't heard one Sox fan say 'don't sign him.' Everyone wants him back, most importantly his teammates. The key point is the length of the deal. Here's hoping they get it done. Other player rumors/news: the Sox are willing to trade Coco Crisp so Ellsbury can take over, but will wait for the right deal. They talked very briefly with Scott Boras about A-Rod (noooooo). One other note - Kevin Youkilis won the AL Gold Glove at 1B this year. Not too bad for a converted third baseman. Youk didn't make one error in the regular season, an astounding feat considering how many times he touches the ball.

Non-Sox item: It was positively strange seeing Joe Torre wearing the Dodger blue as he was introduced as the team's new manager. Was that a fast process or what? From listening to Torre talk with Bob Costas, I think Joe's got a major chip on his shoulder. My theory is that the Yanks braintrust (Shallow Hal and Hank) somehow some way implied that Torre's skills as a manager have been greatly enhanced by the caliber of players he's been able to trot out night after night for the last decade. Will be interesting to see how hard LA goes after A-Rod.


The Pats are enjoying their bye week, sitting high atop the pile of dung that is the NFL these days. Last week's exhilirating comeback against the Colts made the Patriots 9-0, with a real chance to go undefeated and shove it up Don Shula's arse (more on that in a moment).

What was most impressive about the Colts win to me was that the Pats pulled it off in the face of some adversity. The refs were positively brutal - calling at least three questionable pass interference calls - and the noise in the Dome (genuine or artificial, take your choice) was deafening. The Pats were down 20-10 with under 9 minutes to go, and ended up winning 24-20. So cool to see Indy and their fans in stunned silence. A nice payback for last year's AFC title game, and probably ensures that the Pats are sleeping in their own beds through the postseason.

Now the talk will turn to 'Can they go undefeated?' I for one think they can. There are four games remaining that could be tests, including at Buffalo next week, at Baltimore, at home against Pittsburgh, and on the road in the finale against the Giants. Out of those four, I think the Giants game could be the toughest.

Shula got himself into a little flap this week when he said that if the Pats do go undefeated - and surpass his '72 team's accomplishment - the record should have an asterisk next to it because of the videotaping. I can't even justify that opinion with a response.


They made the decision to spend the money to be relevant again, and it looks like their investment may pay off nicely. Wednesday's game against Denver was the first time in at least 10 years that I've actually looked forward to watching a Celts game. I even made tentative plans with a buddy to get out and see them play Detroit. Imagine - going to a bar just to see the Celtics play. What a turnaround. Oh yeah, it's only been 4 games.

Idle media thought: Tom Caron + Dennis Eckersely = Sean Grande + Cedric Maxwell. The polished, articulate anchor and the goofy ex-athlete with his own unique language.

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