Sunday, April 06, 2008

Bring Us Home, Josh

I come today to pay homage to the months of April and October. If you're a sports fan, these two months bear the greatest gifts by far. April is awesome because baseball is just starting up, you've got the NBA and NHL playoffs, NCAA hoops, the Masters, college hockey, the NFL draft. In fact, did you know that the word 'April' is derived from the Latin 'aperiere' - meaning 'to open?' Consider yourself educated. In October, you've got playoff baseball, the NFL in full gear, basketball and hockey seasons starting up, college football. Oh, and yours truly was born in October, which was obviously a historic moment in the world.

But enough of that gobbledygook. There's a hell of a lot going on so let's get to it...

* At this very moment, Josh Beckett and the Sox are playing their weekend finale against the Blue Jays in Toronto. It's Beckett's debut this year, and his stuff so far looks unhittable. Looks like he's picking up right where left off, and it couldn't have come at a better time. The Sox need him to be a stopper today after losing the first two, including yesterday in embarrassing (10-2) fashion. Win today, day off tomorrow, rings and banner on Tuesday. Incredibly, they've been on the road since March 19. Jacoby Ellsbury just went deep to give the Sox a 1-0 lead.

* As for the on-field performance so far, it's way too early to call anything a trend. The middle-relief has looked shaky. Dice-K and Lester have each submitted a bad and good outing. Manny and Papi aren't stroking it the way they will. And to be perfectly honest, the opposing teams so far this year have gotten more of the little bounces that can collectively decide a game.

* The big surprise in the league so far is the loaded but winless Detroit Tigers, who are 0-5 heading into today's games. The big-name offense hasn't delivered, and the same could be said for the Yankees so far as well.

* In the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" department - I guess there are a couple of hawks that nest in and around Fenway Park. Last week during a school tour, one of the hawks swooped in on a young girl and did a little bit of damage to her forehead. The girl's name? Alexa Rodriguez, aka A-Rod.

* As for the Celtics, they hit the 60-win mark this week and clinched home court throughout the playoffs. It's officially the single greatest one-year turnaround in NBA history, and a lot of people around here - right or wrong - are thinking this is the year for banner number 17. At the very least, they have to get to the Eastern Conference finals to justify this season as a success, and I think that will happen and more. I'm calling for a rematch of that tremendous 1976 Finals between the Celtics and Suns.

* By the way, someone in the media needs to do one of those rambling, fawning profiles on Celtics GM Danny Ainge. Danny had a plan and stuck with it, got some luck along the way, and he's proven himself to be a pretty damn good evaluator of talent. Apart from the Big Three, the complementary pieces he's added through free agency and the draft (Posey, House, Rondo, Powe, Big Baby, etc.) have been very impressive.

* As for the Pats, nothing too big. Still no word from our little golf pro friend out in Hawaii. The latest news reports literally have Roger Goodell calling Walsh out to come forward with whatever "evidence" he has, which seems like a possible indicator that nothing else will be coming out. As I've said before, it's not good enough for this story to just die down and fade away, if that's indeed what happens. Someone needs to be held accountable for dragging the Pats' name in the mud, and it will be fascinating to see what Kraft's legal moves might be, if any. Does he want to keep the story alive and go after someone or just let it die?

* With the draft coming up (April 25-27), talk will start to heat up over what the Pats will do. Keep the #7 pick or trade up or down? I like this Gholston kid from Ohio State, but you just know Mangina will swoop in and tweak us by grabbing him. We shall see.

* One last note - you may remember my fondness and frustration for the University of New Hampshire men's hockey team. UNH always has a good team, but the knock on them through the years has been that they don't play well when it counts. Last year, I started to mention that the coach, Dick Umile, needs to be put under the microsocope a little more. I mean, I realize that it's college hockey we're talking about, but this guy signed a monster contract a few years back and he hasn't come close to delivering the goods. It's now the University of No Hardware. Anyway, an enterprising soul put together this site dedicated to putting Umile's feet to the fire. It gives you the year-by-year disappointments and it ain't pretty. Since 2000, they've played in 8 postseason games and have scored 11 goals. And they've been one and done each of the last three years. I'm working on my letter to the AD as we speak.

* Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Kansas-Memphis tomorrow night should be a pretty good one.

just not against the blue jays
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