Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Now That The Dust Has Settled

"Walkin' down this rocky road
Wondering where my life is leading
Rolling on, to the bitter end."

So, much like I had anticipated, the Todd Helton trade talks fell threw. Anytime you have two teams being incredibly demanding, and with the Sox having a white-knuckle tight grip on their rop prospects after watching Hanley Ramirez win NL Rookie of the Year last year, I pretty much knew this deal was going nowhere. Fortunately, I've trained myself to not get too beat up by all this, but I can't help but wonder how Helton would have done in Boston. However, when the Rockies were demanding one of the Sox top five prospects (Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen, Daniel Bard, Jacob Ellsbury, and Clay Buchholz), all deals were off. I completely understand this. With Helton's health seemingly up in the air, and with an aging pitching staff (you got two guys at 40 right now), the Sox are going to see how their young talent develops. So, with all that being said, it would be safe to assume the Sox will stand pat going into Spring Training. So now, I'm going to give you an insight as to how I feel this team will perform.

For the first time in a long time, the Sox could not slug their way to wins last year. Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz both had tremendous years again, but the lack of a third power hitter really sunk the Sox chances. This totally explains why they went out and threw so much money at J.D. Drew. The Sox know that right now, they cannot overhaul their entire team strategy that they've had since the 50's, and that is to get on base and power home those runners. Drew represented an offensive upgrade over Trot Nixon (the same cannot be said about "heart" however), and the feeling was that he could provide at least a little pop to the #5 hole, which has been a question mark ever since Jason Varitek's numbers have been on the decline. I never felt strongly about the whole Drew signing, but anytime you add a guy coming off a 100 RBI season, you have to at least be somewhat optimistic that he can add a new element to the lineup.

Another questionable move, but a move they probably had to make, was Julio Lugo. The Sox have long been enamored with Lugo, and the Sox play Tampa 19 times a year (also, when you play for Tampa, and you're even halfway decent, you're going to look that much better), so they have plenty of reports on Lugo. He was horrendous after being traded to the Dodgers last summer, but the Sox feel like he can return to the form he showed in Tampa. The Sox can front all they want to about defense, but in the end, this is an offensive-first team. There's no getting around that. And simply put, management felt that Alex Gonzalez, who ended up on Cincinnati, did not have enough offensive potential to be effective in the AL East (although I think that's completely wrong). The Sox simply will not give anyone a chance since trading Nomar. It's as though the expectations are so astronomical for that position that, if you don't live up to the billing, you're axed within a year. The Sox have to learn to be patient with the new guys. It's a tough adjustment to come from Montreal (Cabrera) or Florida (Gonzalez), cities that aren't as rabid about their teams as we are, and expect it to be a smooth transition in their first year. I loved Gonzalez's glove, and I'm convinced that, given time, he would have been more than adequate at the plate. Plus, when you consider all the runs he saves, it's pretty much a wash between that and his offense. We'll see how Lugo does, but again, don't be surprised if he is not able to play out his entire four year contract.

You have to wonder what the effects will be on Mike Lowell and Julian Tavarez now that is what made publicly known by the Rockies' owner that they were definitely involved in the Heltion trade talks. You have to hope that, because they are veterans, that they can shake it off. Lowell, although incredibly overpaid, actually had a pretty decent offensive season last year (.284/20/80). His best attribute has to be his glove, as he made countless hit/run-saving plays last year at the toughest position to field in all of baseball, the "hot corner." Although the Sox were looking to dump his salary, in the end, they will probably be happy that Lowell is still at third. Although Kevin Youkilis' natural position is third, even he can't field nearly as well as Lowell can (I mean I love the guy, then again who doesn't? But still, it's the truth).

Rounding out the infield will be by far the biggest question mark of them all. How effective will Dustin Pedroia be in his first year at second? The hype for him has been gigantic ever since the Sox picked him in the second round in the 2004 Draft out of Arizona St. He quickly moved through the ranks of the farm system, making a major league stop last year, playing in 31 games. This guy will not be a 20/20 guy. Rather, the Sox are hoping that he can be the anchor of the lineup, setting the table for the top of the order. At just 23, he still has a long way to go in grasping the major league game, but the expectations are already rather large on this guy. The Sox were willing to part with Mark Loretta to make room for Pedroia. Look, if he's able to live up to even half the hype, we're in good shape. You can't expect too much from a guy playing his first full season at Fenway. Hopefully the fans and management will cut him some slack in his first go-around, because this guy really has the chance to be special.

Last but not least is the ongoing drama in the outfield that is Coco Crisp (I'm fully aware that I've made little mention of Manny, Papi, and 'Tek, but with those guys, you pretty much know what you're going to get from them; I'm trying to focus on what can be labelled as a "question mark") There's no question that Sox management has been kicking themselves over the past year for letting Johnny Damon (whose game is "tailor made" for Fenway, with the Pesky Pole in right, plus, he runs like Coco and was an electrifying presence in Boston for four years) walk and then giving a three-year extension to Coco while he was on the DL. Now, they are attempting to create a stop-gap situation with Coco for this season. Personally, come late July, unless Coco is playing out of his mind, he will probably be sent packing somewhere. Then, the Sox will call up David Murphy to see if he can handle an everyday role with the big club. The odds are good that he won't impress nearly enough, so look for the Sox next year to be pushing incredibly hard for Andruw Jones when he becomes a free agent. In this day in age, a center fielder either has to hit 25+ HRs or steal 50+ SBs, and Crisp does neither. I will say that I was impressed with his defense, but like Alex Gonzalez, that simply won't cut it here.

The most intriguing stories have to deal with the starting pitching. First, the biggest international splash in MLB history, Dice-K, will be front and center as far as criticism goes. When you throw that kind of money at a guy who has never played in the majors, the scrutiny will be coming at a furious rate (not like it already has been anyway). Again, this is a guy that people are going to have to let grow in Boston. This is his first time in America. I remember my first time in South Carolina, I had no clue what was going on, and it took me about three to four months to get fully adjusted. Now, I'm imagining that kind of scenario, only this guy doesn't speak English! This will be a trial run for Dice-K, but I am begging Red Sox Nation, please, do not get on this guy's back if he struggles this year. Adjustment is going to be the flash word this year. There is going to be a lot of adjustments to be made. This is a team built for next year. Again, it may be hard to swallow another transition year, but when you look at this team, the nucleus will be there next year. Dice-K has incredible stuff, and there's no reason to think he won't excel this year. However, if he doesn't, you cannot simply say that spending that money was a waste. This is a deal where you almost have to wait three years in order to determine if this was a good signing.

Speaking of adjustments, that will definitely be the case when talking about Jonathan Papelbon, as he will be in the starting rotation for the first time in his major league career. Papelbon, who lit the world on fire last year before going down with a strained shoulder at the end of the year. The real question is, can Pap stretch out his stuff to last 6-7 innings? There is no question he can do it for two, but it will definitely be an adjustment for him. Batters will be able to get multiple looks at him instead of just one at-bat, meaning that they will be better prepared to take him on knowing what kind of stuff he is bringing that particular day. You really do have to hope that Jon Lester will be back to somewhere close to 100%, because if this experiment fails, there will be a rather large hole at the back end of the rotation. Ultimately, I feel like Papelbon will be able to come out of the gate strong, but when the "dog days of summer" hit in July and August, things may get ugly. You have to hope that the Sox don't ride him too hard at the beginning of the season, letting him grow into a starter rather than forcing him to go out and try and dominate early.

Josh Beckett is another guy that has some question marks surrounding him. His first season, to some, was a bit disappointing, due to his 5.01 ERA. However, even the nay-sayers had to have looked at his first start against Texas and be impressed by how he handled himself. In fact, it was that same game the world was introduced to Papelbon, and for the first time in a long time, you had guys throwing the ball real hard. I mean real hard. The thing about Beckett is, once hitters were able to time his fastball, he got shelled. That is the difference between the AL and the NL. When you have the kind of hitters you have in the AL, you can't get away with just throwing smoke anymore. You have to be able to have a variety of pitches that you feel confident in. Beckett has a good curveball, and he is going to have to rely on that more and more as the season progresses. Varitek caught him for an entire season, and knows his strengths and weaknesses. If anyone is going to determine how successful Beckett is this season, it's going to be Jason Varitek. Beckett clearly has the stuff to be a top-of-the-line rotation guy, but still needs some guidance as far as what pitch to throw in certain situations. I feel like with a year of pitching in the AL, Beckett now can grasp what he needs to do in order to be successful. Also, now that he's been with 'Tek for a year, he can put more confidence in the decisions Jason makes instead of thinking he can just blow people away.

The bullpen is the biggest question mark in general. First of all, the Sox went out and signed a bunch of set-up guys (Donnelly, Romero, Piniero to name a few), but still do not have a definitive answer as to who will be their closer. Right now, it appears Donnelly has the inside track. If you ask me, I would put Mike Timlin in that role. He doesn't have prototypical closer stuff, but he has played this role before, and has been successful in this role. The other aforementioned guys have been either set-up guys or starters, which doesn't compare to pitching in the ninthe with a one-run lead. You have to be excited about the young guys coming up through the ranks, with Papelbon and Lester flourishing last year, and now, this will be the decisive years for Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen. With a year under their belts, the excuses are gone. Now, it's time to find out if hanging on to these guys through every different trade scenario was worth it. Hansen has been groomed to be the closer for the future. Earlier in the year, they attempted to stretch him out in Pawtucket to become a starter after Papelbon was lights out in the closer role. Ultimately, he wasn't all that successful, and returned to the bullpen. Hansen is probably not ready to become the closer yet, but don't be surprised if he is able to claim the role at some point in the season, as he has the "stuff" that Timlin lacks (we're talking about a 23 year old guy who throws in the high 90s...that's good stuff). Delcarmen is someone who I have always liked, mainly because he is a local product from Hyde Park. Delcarmen has a wicked curveball that freezes batters. Throw in a mid 90s fastball, and you're looking at your "Timlin of the future." These are exciting times to be a Sox fan when you talk about these guys, because this kind of stuff never happened before. Four homegrown pitching prospects all playing at the same time? I don't remember the last time that's happened, but anyway, it's been quite some time. All of these guys have already shown incredible potential, and this is the year that they will have to step up amidst all of the question marks surrounding everyone else.

All and all, the offense will struggle at times. They simply don't have the bats right now to create the "bruiser" effect that they always have. Late July should be an interesting time for the direction in which this team will go in the future. Will they hold onto Coco? Will they continue to keep all of their top prospects and continue the never-ending re-building of the farm system? There are a bunch of question marks on this team, but in the end, I think the pitching is that good. I mean there is a never-ending supply of guys coming out of the bullpen that can dominate. The closer situation is one to watch, but I feel like there's probably someone there, whether it be Timlin, Hansen, or Donnelly, that will be able to perform well enough to carry the Sox along this year. If the Sox can come up with a decent amount of offense, I don't see any reason not to think this team wins 90 games. My prediction is 91-71 on the year, which should be at least close to earning a wild card birth. In any case, this will be one of the most fascinating seasons in the history of the franchise. You can make a case that this season could determine the direction of the franchise for the next five to ten years. With every word I write, I am becoming more and more anxious for this. I need to get NESN!

It's always nice to write about the Sox, and trust me, I could just go on writing about them all day, every day. However, being a Sox fan has been troubling from a social perspective ever since the Sox won it all on October 27, 2004. As with any team that is successful, there will be a fair number of bandwagoners. Ok, well this is almost unfair. In fact, it's completely unfair how many people climbed aboard and started wearing Sox gear. Look, I mean I appreciate anyone just getting on who has a legitament passion for the team and knows about the history of the franchise, but what I cannot tolerate are people just wearing Red Sox stuff because "it's the thing to do." Now I am starting to understand the horrors of being involved with a full-fledged bandwagon craze. So, being the "die-hard" fan that I am, the whole "pink hat" revolution is absolutely killing me (for those who are unaware, the pink hats refer to the yuppee crowd who goes to Fenway and watches games to fit in, instead of following them with a passion that is demanded of Red Sox fans). Trust me, the pink hats aren't checking "Dirt Dogs" every ten minutes to see if we traded for Todd Helton, or scour the internet to find out how the Dice-K signings were progressing, or reading Dodger message boards to find out what Dodger fans thought of J.D. Drew (overall, they weren't too thrilled). Being a Sox fan is a full-time job. I don't even care what anyone says. There is no such thing as taking it "too far" when you're a Sox fan. We have more passion than any other sports fans in this country (the reason I say this country is that, unlike in Chile or other places, we don't burn down our stadium when we lose, not to say that it's never been attempted though). Sure, life is about more than the Sox...but not a whole lot, at least to me. It just is so upsetting when I'm at a party, I see a Sox hat, and immediately want to know what their thoughts are on the prospects coming up, and them giving me a "far away" look, like I have three heads or something. Maybe being in a different locale has put this all into perspective for me. Then again, most of the Sox bandwagoners are in New England, and start rooting for the team if they are doing good, or if they are playing the Yankees, and take the rest of the year off, you know, kind of like Brave fans (ok, I know that's a cheap shot, but anytime there is a team that has won a gazillion division titles in a row, plays in a spectacular park, and only fills it up halfway on the weekends, then you know that you have a legion of bandwagoners). Anyway, the point is, every game counts. If you're a fan of this team, there is no off day. There was not one point in my life when I didn't care about how the Sox did on a particular night. Sure, beating the Yankees is great and all, and I do relish those victories a little more than others, but if you think about it on the whole, a game against Baltimore, Toronto, and Tampa are equally as important. They're all division games, and you never know if an extra inning loss to the Rays in May could determine if the Sox win the division (see 2005). With all that being said, I purposely take precautions to ensure that I will not be labelled as a Sox bandwagon jumper. I never wash anything that has to do with the Sox, especially my sweatshirt and my hat (big time emphasis on the dirty hat; the more "Trot Nixon," the better). When I see a bright, navy blue Sox hat, it screams bandwagon to me. I know that when I get a new hat, I immediately "dirty it up." To be a little philosophical, my hat is almost like why I love the Sox so much. The team gets down and dirty, finding any conceivable way to win a ballgame. I like that. I also purposely am long-winded when talking about anything relatable to the Sox (I don't know if you could tell from the above eight or nine pages). This almost gets to the point of annoyance, but when conversing with a fellow Sox fan, there is no such thing as "long-winded" as far as discussions go. Sure, you may run out of things to say, but you will have one hell of a ride getting to that point. So, the question now is, are you a bandwagon Sox fan? If you think you're not, here's a little test to help you decide:

1. October 27, 2004 was the greatest day of your life unless you have kids. I think marraige is a draw. Kids are forever, marraige, unfortunately, may not be. Truly a JFK/Challenger "where were you when this happened?" day

2. Anytime they air Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, you immediately change the station. Maybe it's because I was one at the time, but I can somewhat tolerate Game 6 of the '86 Series. I think winning it all definitely helped that, because before that, I felt the same way about that game as I did the '03 game. I remember after watching that game literally sitting outside my dorm room on my porch, almost in tears, with my head buried in my hands. Which leads to point #3

3. Outcomes can make or break your day. I'm even that way for a regular season game. If I see we blew a lead, I get in my truck, drive around, and listen to the Beach Boys to cheer me up. If we have a come from behind win, it's almost like anything that had previously happened that day is irrelevant. That day was a good day regardless.

4. Bucky Dent's middle name is "F***ing," not "Earl."

5. Bernie Carbo had the biggest hit in Game 6 of the '75 Series, not Carlton Fisk. Oh you'll hear about the Fisk home run at all ends (I mean that was the best homer in WS history hands down...maybe not significance-wise, because Maserowski and Carter had series-ending homers, but Fisk had the most memorable by far). Carbo hit a three run homer in the eighth to push the game into extra innings. Without Carbo, there's no Fisk. Cause and effect here people.

6. Bill Buckner was not the reason why the Sox lost the '86 Series. Bob Stanley was the reason the Sox lost the '86 Series.

7. When the words "Tony C" are uttered, last names do not matter (Tony Conigliaro for you bandwagoners...look him up!)

8. You don't look forward to Opening Day as much as you look forward to pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training.

9. Being in the bleachers at Fenway on a summer night is as close to heaven as any mere mortal will ever get.

10, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: Every year, outside of 2004, when the Sox have lost their last regular season game, or they have just been knocked out of the playoffs, you analyze everything that went well that season, as well as all that went wrong, and convince yourself that the positives outweigh the negatives, leading to the four most infamous words in Red Sox lore:

"Wait 'til next year."

Honorable Mention: On your AIM profile, voicemail message, and/or your car, you have something relating to the Sox. I know I don't have it on my profile , but I consider linking up a blog that is a never-ending Boston love fest to be sufficient enough.

I hope you passed the test, and for those of you that aren't up to snuff, get on the internet and learn about the team you're pulling for. Red Sox history is as, if not, more important than the Sox of today are, so if you want to be a true member of the "Nation," you need to get your priorities straight...

Now, after saying all that, I'm going to throw a shocker out there. I am almost, and I repeat almost, ready to settle for a girl who's a Yankees fan as long as they have a tenth of the passion I do about anything Boston (the whole Yankee thing...I'm not going down that road yet, when I say almost, I'm referring to literally scouring the Earth, coming up empty-handed, and having to settle for that, which technically doesn't make it blasphemy if I've worn out every other option there is). I mean maybe that's discriminating...actually that's the definition of discrimination, but really, what other choice do I have? It's like why fight it? Realistically, I don't want to convert anyone either. I have thought about it, but really, wouldn't that just be like creating another bandwagoner (and you know I'm not about to do that). I just don't understand people that aren't passionate about sports. I know that could be just me, but I don't get it. How could I conceivably be with someone who isn't? You can throw that "opposites attract" thing at me here, but that definitely does not apply here. And again, it doesn't necessarily have to be about Boston either (although I'm going to end up having to wear out all those options to move off of that). Some people have key issues they concern themselves with when they are looking for a potential realtionship. Politics, religion, looks, so how is that any less strange than me wanting to be with someone who is passionate about sports? This is come all, be all of key issues for me, so I'm thinking for someone else to be able to tolerate me, they are going to have to be able to relate somewhat to my incoherent babbling about how the Sox should have put in a lefty to face Giambi in the eighth and other things like that. Why would I want anything else? For those of you who don't know, I am perhaps the most patient individual alive (I'm a Sox fan, come on now!), so this search may go on and on and on, but the main point is that I gave it a shot, and I know that, in my heart of hearts, I've done everything possible, but it simply wasn't meant to be. And so the struggle continues...

Ok, so I was talking to one of my friends the other day, and we discussed how cheap we are. Here's the thing: If you try and take me on in a battle of how cheap can you go, you will get destroyed, plain and simple. I mean it's not even close. So, in case you don't know me personally, and if you're a college kid wanting to save a few bucks, here's my top 10 (no order) of cheap things I have done, and mostly, that I still do. Granted, some of these may be crossing an invisible line of sane and insane, but just roll with it.

1. Everytime I am in the vacinity of my school's cafeteria (RoHo), I always go in there and go to the juice machine, fill up a cup (see I use the 20 oz. cup, I mean I could be a total bastard and use the big 32 oz. cup, but I keep it somewhat under control) of OJ, and casually stroll out. The key here is that refills are technically allowed, so walking out with a beverage of choice, especially during the busy hours, does not look all that bad. This maneuver is much tougher to pull off when there are only three or four people there, but usually, it's not like that. Now, this could be labelled as "stealing," but considering they've jacked tuition up 20% since I've got here, I label it as "getting back what's mine."

2. After getting my free drink, I proceed to go to the bookstore, which happens to be located in the same building. The bookstore is run by Barnes and Nobles, so it pretty nice, with leather couches, TV's, and a coffee shop right there. Anyway, there are two sections of the store. There is the textbook section and the regular book section. However, it is not required that you pay for your books in the textbook section (located in the back) but rather, the register is up front. So, I came up with a theory. If you can take a book from the back, then pay for it in the front, then anywhere between that point is fair game. Also, when you consider the amount of money you have to pay for books, it's completely ludacrous. So, here's where my sixth sense comes in. If I have homework due in a class that requires you to have a book to answer problems, I simply take out my phone (which happens to have a camera in it...I think you know where I'm going with this) and take pictures of the problems. Now this is an art that needs a bunch of practice. First of all, sometimes, you have to take a couple pictures of each problem, which can get kind of confusing. To make it easier to read, label the pictures "#5 Part A" and "#5 Part B" so you will be able to interpret them easier. Secondly, I'm pretty sure someone will get pissed if they see you doing this, so you need to come up with some kind of diversion. A technique I've learned is to pretend like you are text messaging. I mean I've never text messaged in my life, but they don't know that, and as it has become such an accepted practice, you will look no more than a kid, reading a book, talking to their friend. I'm not saying this practice is for everyone, but if you ever get into a bind and you don't feel like dropping $125 on a book, this one's for you.

3. Reusing dryer sheets. Hey, it works. I've used the same sheet five times, and it still works. The key is to put the sheet back into the package as soon as the laundry is done. This way, when you let it sit, it absorbs some of the moisture from the other sheets, and becomes useful again. Think about it, the clothes are already washed, so it's not like the sheet is going to get dirty or anything like that. I hate having to keep buying those little things, so this definitely helps.

4. When I'm at Wendy's, or any kind of fast food place, I always get something pretty inexpensive (99 cent menu for sure), and then, no matter what I get, I go over to the little ketchup/utensil/napkin area, and just load up on crap. Generally, I take a fistful of napkins (guess who hasn't bought paper towels in two years?...this guy!) and like five forks, spoons, and knives. Hey, maybe they frown upon it, but if they didn't want you to do it, they would make a sign or tell you not to do that. Personally, I think most of the people working at these places aren't into the whole "giving a damn about anything" ideaology, so this is mint, and very effective.

5. Parking is a big hot button item with me. I feel like I should never have to pay for parking. It's bad enough to get taxed like crazy for road maintenence, but now you have to pay a quarter for every 15 mins of parking? What a joke. Anyway, a very easy way to avoid this is parking at a supermarket or a large establishment of some sort. Basically, the lot is so big that no one is going to notice that you parked your car in one spot without going into the store. I've noticed that a bunch of people have started doing this after I was doing it last year, so maybe the cat's out of the bag there. Also, if you have to park somewhere at night or on a Sunday, look for a bank. Sure, the sign says "customers only," but there are no customers at night or on Sunday, so therefore, it's all fair game. My cousin questioned why they don't hire someone to collect money on a Sunday after we parked at one to go to a bar out in California. The answer is: ???...Hey, keep doing what you're doing. There's no reason that banks would want to make money is there?

6. When you have an account with a local bank, and you are outside of an area where your bank's ATMs are readily available, here's an easy solution. Go to a supermarket, buy the absolute cheapest thing you can find (usually it will be Tic-Tacs or some kind of candy) and you can get up to $200 cash back from the cashier. Think about it. If you went to an ATM, you would have to pay $2.50 just to get your cash out. Basically, by doing my thing, you only have to pay like 70-80 cents, and you get something out of it. It's not bad.

7. Anytime I go to a sandwich shop (and believe me, living in a college town, they are absolutely everywhere), I feel obligated to tip the people there. For what reason I have no idea. I think it's just become accepted that, in certain occupations, a tip is expected. Wait staff and anyone who works for tips are out of this equation. I'm talking about sub makers. Now these people are paid decently, and yet, you're expected to give them more money for doing their job. Now I once held a similar kind of position, so I'm not completely removed from this issue on the other side of the counter. I mean, sure, tips are nice. Everyone loves more money. But in my opinion, tips came unexpectedly, as opposed to the majority standpoint that it is expected that you tip these people, no matter how badly they mess up. Why then do you not tip people at Burger King, McD's, Wendy's, or any other fast food place? Is it not the exact same thing? Basically, you have people working for minimum wage preparing food, and yet there is no tip jar there...yet. So, I don't get it. Therefore, if I'm going to tip them, I'm going to get as much free stuff on my sandwich is as humanly possible. Sometimes, I'll put some random stuff on a sandwich, but hey, not only do I want it, I want a lot of it. "Extra" everything. Build that thing so it appears like the sub rolls are croutons, that's my stance on that.

8. Hotels are very easy to scam. In fact, they pretty much know that they are going to get scammed, and set up accordingly. Now towels is a no-no as far as taking. Again, I have experience in this field (I could basically re-mix "I've Been Everywhere" and throw in all the jobs I've done...that's actually not a bad idea...on second thought, yeah it is), and towels are at a very limited supply in most cases. However, when you talk about shampoo, conditioner, and soap, they have plenty. The key is to go to the front desk and ask them to tell the cleaning woman to drop some off for you when she is cleaning the room. This way, she's already going to be there, so she doesn't have to make two trips, meaning that you only have to leave one tip instead of two.

9. Ok, so this one is kind of special to me, but I felt I had to share it. When I graduated from high school, I worked at Foot Locker for a few months before heading down to USC. Anyway, when you are employed by Foot Locker, you get a 30% discount to Foot Locker and Champs Sports, because they are owned by the same company. Anyway, that fully explains my whole fascination with jerseys and why I have so many, in case you were wondering. Ok, so I do the job for a few months, went to school, and that was it. Didn't quit, and never got guess who was still on the payroll? I decided, on a whim, to try and use it when I came home from school my freshman year, and it worked. Then, I decided to do it my sophmore year, and it continued to work (I never tried it down here because back home, the people at Champs know who I am, and they never question if I had stopped working at the store, and needless to say I never brought up the fact I didn''s all about creating the illusion that you are confident in yourself and not scared that you may get caught and, thus, get completely embarassed). Finally, the winter of my junior year (this would be almost two and a half years after leaving Foot Locker), they finally caught on to me. I've learned that if someone calls down to the place where you worked, and your old boss has "never heard of you" because it's been that long since you've worked there, that's generally not a good thing. Anyway, the last discount I ever got was on a Tom Brady Michigan jersey, which is totally sick, so I have absolutely no regrets.

10. Here's something actual human beings have discussed before. Coasting while driving definitely helps save on gas. However, I take coasting to a whole different level. It's almost an art of the way I go about it. Basically, if there is a downhill, all bets are off. I remember when gas was 3 bucks a gallon after Katrina, I literally was going 15 mph down a hill in a 35 mph speed zone, and absolutely did not care. I just refuse to be a slave to the gas industry, although inevitably, they will find a way to screw me over like it has done with everyone else. Surprisingly, none of my friends have really noticed. I think when you have a CD deck that shows random pictures of race cars and skiers and all sorts of other weird things, in tends to distract them from the fact that I'm driving like an 80 year old woman.

Alright, I know that was a lot to swallow, but when you mix the Red Sox and having a forum that has no maximum for how much I can write, forget it. Anyway, I'm working on my first mock draft, which should be up around this weekend. Take care everyone. Peace.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Now What?

"Doesn't have a point of view.
Knows not where he's going to.
Isn't he a bit like you and me?"

So now this will be trying times for a guy writing about the Boston sports scene. With pitchers and catchers reporting on February 17, the Daytona 500 still two weeks away, and football season over, we are entering the proverbial "black hole" of sports right now. However, there have been some newsworthy events that have taken place. So, without further ado...

The hottest baseball rumor to surface over the past few days, besides Roger Clemens going to the Yankees, has been the recent speculation that the Sox and Rockies have been discussing a trade that would send Todd Helton to Boston, and again, the media has my attention. As soon as I saw this, my mind started dancing with all kinds of thoughts about the lineup, my heartrate immediately went up about 30 beats, and I started pacing around in my room...just pondering the potential of this deal. Apparently though, the Sox have stated that everything would have to be just right in order to pull this deal off. The words "just right" obviously have to do with the "prospects" they will have to be sending Colorado, in addition to third baseman Mike Lowell and relief pitcher Julian Tavarez. If it is required that the Sox send Manny Delcarmen and/or Craig Hansen, there's no way they will do this trade, at least in my opinion. The idea is that the Sox are continuing to try and make up for lost time in which the previous regime repeatedly sent their young players packing to another team for veterans, a strategy that almost never worked. So now, the Sox have a plethora of young arms, and they seemingly will not move them for anything. The thing about it is, at some point, you're going to have too many guys performing the same role, and you're going to have to think about moving some of these guys while their stock is still high. Me, personally, I would want to see both these young guys play for the Sox, but the thing is, what is going to make you better right now? The Sox can talk all they want to about building for the future, but here's the thing: When you have a payroll that is hovering around $140 million, you have to start winning right now. When you have the resources that the Sox have, they can re-build every year if they really wanted to. Also, another option the Sox want to pull is moving Matt Clement. My question is this: Why are the Sox being so demanding right now? It's almost like they don't want to make this trade. They have been quoted as saying that they are "happy with how the team is structured right now," but when you have the chance to get a guy who is a career .333 hitter (Ok, he played in Denver, which obviously pumped his stats up, but I mean come on, .333? That's batty.), you have to take advantage of it. If the Sox continue to try and push up their demands, the Rockies will likely sour, and the deal won't get done. Think about what they are asking for:

1.) The Rockies will send us one of the best players in franchise history (ok, so they've only been around for 14 years, but still, the guy's pretty good)
2.) Shipping out Mike Lowell, who is due almost $10 million next year, and Julian Tavarez, a guy who never fit into the Sox, and personally, I can't stand him. Don't ask me why. "We were like water and vinegar, we just didn't mix."
3.) The Rockies will be responsible to cover almost half of the remaining money due to Helton. He will earn $16.6 million a year for the next three years, and $19.1 million in 2011. Helton also has a $23 million option for 2012, which the Rockies can either pay, or they will have to execute a $4.6 million buyout. Without the option, that is $85.5 million owed to Helton in the next five years.
4.) The Sox refuse to give up Delcarmen and Hansen, meaning that the prospects that will be sent will not be up to the level that the Rockies would be expecting in trading their franchise player.
5.) If they are going to force the Rockies to take Matt Clement, you're talking about a guy who may not even pitch this year. Plus, he is in the last year of his contract, and is owed $9.5 million this year.

So, all that being said, are the Rockies that desperate to move Helton. That remains to be seen. From what I can gather, you're looking at kind of a "Manny Ramirez" situation, where you have a team that knows they will not be getting equal value for a trade, but want to move the player so bad that they will do almost anything to do just that. But what makes this different is the fact that the Rockies will be called on to cover a ton of Helton's mega contract, plus, they will be picking up anywhere from $15-$25 million more in contracts this year. So really, what sense does that make? My logic is that the Rockies are trying to re-build thorugh their younger players, and that basically, this year will be a wash if they pull this trade. They are already looking forward to 2008, meaning that they are willing to except bad contracts that end this year, which also means that they will have financial flexibility after this year. I mean that has to be the reason the Rockies are even involved in all of this. Again, here is my feeling. Sure, the Sox may think they have a good team right now, but when you talk about a guy like Todd Helton, you would be improving on the team they currently have right now. I am aware that Helton's numbers have been declining over the last few years. Actually, rather than talk about it, let me throw this out visually (stats provided by


1997 Col

35 93 13 26 2 1 5 11 .280 .337 .484 .821
1998 Col

152 530 78 167 37 1 25 97 .315 .380 .530 .910
1999 Col

159 578 114 185 39 5 35 113 .320 .395 .587 .982
2000 Col

160 580 138 216 59 2 42 147 .372 .463 .698 1.161
2001 Col

159 587 132 197 54 2 49 146 .336 .432 .685 1.117
2002 Col

156 553 107 182 39 4 30 109 .329 .429 .577 1.006
2003 Col

160 583 135 209 49 5 33 117 .358 .458 .630 1.088
2004 Col

154 547 115 190 49 2 32 96 .347 .469 .620 1.089
2005 Col

144 509 92 163 45 2 20 79 .320 .445 .534 .979
2006 Col

145 546 94 165 40 5 15 81 .302 .404 .476 .880
Total --

1424 5106 1018 1700 413 29 286 996 .333 .430 .593 1.023

Still, take a look at the batting averages. This is a guy who fits the mold of the what the Sox look for. AVG, OBP (on base percentage), and OPS (on base plus slugging). A career OPS above 1? That's ungodly. Consider this: Right now, Boston's main offensive threat, David Ortiz, who in the last three years has hit over 40 homers and driven in at least 137 RBIs. Still, he has had an OPS of .983, 1.001, and 1.049. Now look at Helton, and again, he did play half his games at a hitter-friendly park, but five years in a row, his OPS was over 1. Five years. Now it could be conceived that I'm living in the past with all that, and that his numbers have been declining, but I'm basing this on potential. You're looking at having three lefty power hitter in a row. That is completely unheard of. Plus, you add another dimension of protection for Ortiz and Drew. The Sox are known for being a team that pounds the ball. There is no finesse involved, which is why guys like Coco Crisp do not fit in (10-15 HR and 30 SB a year). Plus, you are able to move Kevin Youkilis back to his natural position at third. With Helton playing at first, you get a legitament power threat that the Sox haven't had since Mo Vaughn. Also, Helton is no slouch in the field, with a career .996 fielding percentage, with only one season of double-digit errors. Again, all of these words may mean nothing. In the end, the Sox are going to have to back off on some of their demands. Any kind of trade involving both Delcarmen and Hansen should immediately be stomped out, because the value would almost be slanted towards Colorado, which you definitely don't want. However, the Sox will probably be required to give up one of them. In that case, you really have to sit down and kind of weigh your options. When you talk about getting Helton, you are getting him for a sizable discount. Plus, Helton is signed through 2011, meaning that you will have a pretty stable lineup for the next few years. In my opinion, Matt Clement will probably not end up going. I don't think that should concern the Sox too much, considering he is a free agent at the end of the year, so eating up one more year isn't that bad. I have always been a big Todd Helton guy, so hopefully, this deal gets done with minimal damage to the farm system.

In a recent poll, the question posed the following: "Who is more dominant in their respective sport, Roger Federer or Tiger Woods?" I got to thinking, and realized that if you break it down, and compare each of their accomplishments, Federer wins in a landslide. Tiger will go on to be one of, if the not the, greatest golfers to ever live. In addition to that, Tiger has won 10 majors, second only to Nicklaus' 18. However, when you talk about domination, no one can top Federer right now. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the history of sports who was as dominant as Federer is right now (Joe Louis maybe?). Not only does he win all the big tournaments, he steamrolls the competition. In winning the Australian Open, he now has 10 major titles. When Tiger goes out to play a major, you expect he will do very well, but realistically, you have to know that he can't win them all. That's the thing...Federer wins them all. He's simply a robot. The one he has trouble with is the French Open, which he has not won, and his best finish came last year, losing to Rafael Nadal in the finals. He's won three of the last four Aussie Opens, three U.S. Opens in a row, and four Wimbledon titles in a row. No one is running hotter than Federer right now.

Alright, I know that was reasonably short, but still, to get anything out of this week was good enough for me. I'll be coming with my mock draft pretty soon, so be on the lookout for that. Thanks for reading. Peace.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Super Bowl Prediction

"This is the end of the innocence."

Alright, Super Bowl next week...

Colts 41, Bears 24

That's all for that.

Ok, on to more important things:

Ok, it's been over 50 days now since the initial statement Theo Epstein made about coming to an agreement with RF J.D. Drew, and yet still, he remains unsigned. Now it wasn't like everyone didn't see this coming for obvious reasons ("let's pay a guy $14 mil a year for five years who has stayed healthy for an entire season twice" would be #1 on the list), but now we're almost in February, and this guy still isn't here? You know what, the Sox made a bad move. In fact, they made a horrible move here. Again, I have to go back to my original logic. Drew opted out of a deal with the Dodgers that would have paid him $33 million over the next three years so he could test the free agent market. It was because of that move that, suddenly, he was worth $13-14 million a year. It's not because his skills have gone up, or he shows a great amount of potential, but he priced himself in that range because he said he was worth that much. Granted, when you have Scott Boras at the helm, you know you are going to be paying on a premium. That's why the guy is so good at what he does, and that's why he's the most powerful agent in sports. Drew Rosenhaus looks like a fairy to the way Boras operates. Anyway, getting back to my point. The Sox now are coming around to the fact that they were going to pay this joker all this money, and they don't even know if he can play out his contract. So, they are trying anything they can to get out of it, but here's the problem: Say the Drew deal falls apart, and he winds up on another team (has already garnered interest from San Francisco of all places), what are you going to do now? Trot Nixon is long gone to the Tribe, and the list of available free agent RF's is getting kind of slim (Jeromy Burnitz, Michael Tucker, and Bernie Williams...giddeup!). The only logical thing that would have to happen is if the Sox called up David Murphy, who has been groomed to play CF once they figure out how to get rid of Coco Crisp, from AAA Pawtucket to play in right. First of all, this guy is an outstanding prospect, and he has seemingly limitless potential, but can you really start two rookie position players on a team with a payroll of $140 million? I think Murphy needs another few months, because once the trade deadline comes around, you know the Sox will be looking to get anything they can for Coco, meaning there will be a spot open for Murphy to take over. So, I guess what I'm trying to say here is that the Sox are stuck. They made a terrible move, now they're going to have to live with the consequences. You have to give Drew his money, because basically, they have opted out of any kind of reasonable alternative left. Oh Theo, where did it all go wrong?

While we're on the subject of baseball, did anyone realize that Barry Bonds still has not technically signed with the Giants yet? Could this be more fantastic? I know that this issue has been beaten to death, but I just have to say I hate Barry Bonds. Not even for the fact that he took steroids (I know nothing's been official except for the positive amphedamine test, but I got two words that will back me up:...come on...come on!), but for the simple fact that he is allowed to run his little masquerade out in San Fran while Giant fans turn a blind eye to the whole thing. To a point, I kind of understand where they are coming from. I mean think if David Ortiz were to ever be mentioned to the degree Bonds has been mentioned about taking steroids, would you automatically start hating him? Probably not. Remember all those times he came through for the Sox? You can't automatically discount all of that can you? Anyway, the Giants were basically a nothing team and had been a nothing team going all the way back to the times of Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell in the late 80's. Then, they Giants got Bonds from Pittsburgh, and he resurrected that franchise. So, obviously, the Giant fans are going to be a little hesitant about throwing their star down the river. Anyway, the whole notion that he hasn't signed with anyone has me absolutely giddy. Do you have any comprehension for how great this would make baseball? Here you have a guy who has obviously done something wrong (no one in their right mind, while stating the truth, could ever say the words "I'm tired" in one press conference ninety thousand times like Bonds did), and now, you prevent him from breaking the immortal home run mark set by Henry Aaron. All this talk about him not being caught is one big sherede. Baseball, for the longest time, turned a blind eye to all of it. The Sosa/McGwire race, the increasing home runs, they didn't care. They were getting record numbers at the stadiums (apparently not just chicks dig the long ball). Now, with Congress breathing down their necks, baseball is doing everything in their power to seperate themselves from any kind of accomplishment Bonds has, or any kind of record he breaks. The thing is, baseball has let this go on for too long, and now they are going to have to face the consequences of a junkie breaking one of the single greatest records in the history of American sports.

Can anyone please explain what the NHL All-Star game was doing on a Wednesday night? Are you kidding me? Look, I am fully aware that hockey may not get the biggest draw, or have the most interest of any sport, but it's still one of the four major sports in this country. It still has a rabid fan base, and now, most importantly, it has marketable players! What else could this league possibly ask for? In the last two years, there have been three guys (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin from Pittsburgh, who single-handedly stopped that franchise from moving to Kansas City, along with Alexander Ovechkin from Washington) who have taken over the game. Now, when you add guys who are solid veterans (Martin Brodeur, Jerome Iginla, Joe Sakic, Paul Kariya are great examples) and the new wave of up-and-comers (the three mentioned earlier, plus Dion Phaneuff from Calgary and Eric Staal from Carolina to name a few) you're talking about a league that has right around the same level of marketable talent as the NBA. Call me crazy, but hockey is one more superstar away from becoming a huge success again. Crosby is obviously the best thing to happen to the league since Gretzky. Here's a kid who's 19 and already is getting consideration for the Hart Trophy in his second year, leading the NHL in scoring. I mean there is a gigantic wave of the future that is coming right now on the NHL, and to not be outdone, the veterans are continuing to play world-class hockey despite the recent trend. To have one of the major sports' all-star game not only on a Wednesday, but on Versus, a channel that only half the country can get, is appauling. The NHL needs to realize that having a majority of their nationally televised games on a widely unavailable channel is not the best route to go for them. Instead, they should have been shopping around the league while taking less money than they had originally hoped for. Hockey needs to make a compromise and bite the bullet somewhere along the lines. If they were able to get, say, a 3-year deal with ESPN/ABC at a bargain basement price, at the end of the deal, I am almost 100% positive that the league would have gotten a ton more exposure, thus making its asking price for a new deal with ESPN or another major network much more lucrative. The NHL will start having games on NBC, but really, I can't enjoy any kind of sport on NBC outside of golf. I don't know what it is, but when I watch it, I just feel like everything is ancient. It's all very old-fashioned, maybe too old-fashioned for their own good. Also, the announcers all being around 70 doesn't help that image much either.

Anyone see the State of the Union?...Yeah, me neither. Just thought I'd bring that up to prove that I did know about it, but managed to stay off of the low channels to avoid that guy. Is it 2008 yet?

Is it my imagination, or is Dunkin' Donuts about to take over the world in about five years? I look at it almost like a plague (it's a good plague, I can't hate on DD's). It may destroy everything in its path. Now I know that Starbucks is still "the trendy place" to get your mocha cocoa lattes or whatever the hell (I was quoting Lady Marmalade, but I would not be in the least bit surprised if that's actually offered). But the times are changing. Slowly, Dunkin' has been making its way across the country, and everywhere it's gone, it has destroyed the opposition, even Starbucks. Here's my theory on this. As a New Englander, I take pride in basically anything that represents where I'm from. The Pats, Sam Adams, Aerosmith, stuff like that. Anyway, DD's was a big part of my life growing up. Who doesn't remember Coffee Coolatas? I don't even drink coffee and I was completely addicted to those. So as more and more people like me continue to migrate across the country, the demand for DD's will start growing and growing. Right now, there is one Dunkin' in Columbia on Broad River Road. Let me tell you something. If you're a northerner down here, and you ever get lonely, go to the Dunkin' Donuts. There's going to be twenty kids there just like you! It is the Yankee haven. The key here is that Dunkin' Donuts has a phenomenal overall quality. Sure, Krispie Kremes taste good out of the oven, but from what I can gather, their coffee blows, which was their downfall when they attempted to set up shop in Massachusetts. People are no longer impressed with Krispie Kreme. They've had them from the supermarket, and there really isn't much of a difference after you put them in the microwave for a few seconds (the "reccomended" time is eight seconds, but I've done ten, and the difference is negligible). Starbucks is amazingly expensive, and also, is a complete yuppee-fest. We're talking about Dunkin' Donuts here. Styrafoam cups, "Cup of Joe," "Mucnhkins," Boston Cremes the way they were meant to be! (By the way, you can insert any kind of Tim Allen grunt anywhere in this general vacinity.) This is the blue-collar breakfast place. You want a dozen donuts and a decaf, you go to Dunkin' Donuts. You're not finding any dozen donuts at Starbucks. They may have some kind of flan pastry thing going, but no crellers. I am almost positive you will not be walking out of a Starbucks with crellers. So as the northerners go on and take over this country (I mean I think it's about time we did, don't you? How many more southern presidents can you possibly stomach?), so too will Dunkin' Donuts. At least this is my dream. Sure, people have aspirations for world peace and illness treatments, but I like to think of myself as "Joe Everyman," and Joe Everyman wants a GD jelly filled donut and a decaf!

I think if you are having Tic-Tacs, and you are within 5-10 feet of someone you know, you are obligated to offer some. Let me tell you, I got snubbed the other day. Granted, I had only met this person one other time, but it was a friendly exchange, at least so I thought. When she broke out the Tic Tacs and had at least 15 without offering me any as I sat next to her...well all bets are off now. I think that should be a common courteousy if you're going to shake around your little maraca and distract the bejeezus out of me while I'm trying to find out if I'm going to get screwed over on Social Security (the answer to that by the way is a resounding "yes"). I understand that, perhaps, you may not be the giving type, and if this is the case, I have a suggestion for you: Chew Lifesavers! Mentos! Anything that doesn't sound like it should be played by Tito Puente! I mean it's the little things people. Letting someone go ahead of you in traffic, leaving short, succinct voicemails, holding doors open for people, offering up the last beer. It's those little things that we seem to have taken for granted, and now, with a select few of us still out there (you really have to find us too, it's almost like looking for the "Lost City" or an American Condor at this point), these little things which I hold near and dear to my heart are being threatened to be completely abomished from society. We need to watch out for each other. There is an "I" in American, but there is also a "man," and a "care," and a "rican," which means that this is not about just you, it's for everyone, especially the kids. You gotta cherish the kids!

Take it easy everyone. Peace.


Monday, January 22, 2007

I Know You Don't Want To Hear It...But For Closure's Sake

"You were only waiting, for this moment to arrive."

Ok, so before I get to the most polarizing day of my life, I just want to give a shout to all my family and friends who have been turned on to this in the past couple of weeks. I just want to say I really appreciate all you guys taking time to read this and letting me know how much you like it.

And now onto the bad news. Yup, they climbed the hump. Peyton's finally in the big game. Whoopidy doo! If any Colt fan (and there have actually been some) who are about to tell me that the better team won yesterday, you're nuts. The Colts didn't prove very much to me again yesterday. I mean what do you want me to say? "Oh Peyton Manning looked invincible. They can't be stopped." No, it's not like that at all. However, one of the greatest brains in football history got himself. What happened Bill? Well, I have one theory on this. The last drive the Colts had before halftime (by the way, at this point, I became incredibly concerned), they were able to pick apart the Patriots, setting up a Vinatieri field goal to make the score 21-6. From then on, Belichick implemented a weak defensive game plan which called for a four-man rush and seven to be in zone coverage. What did I say? What did I say!? You need to put pressure on Manning all the time. And what happened? Manning was able to sit back and throw at will. Granted, the few times they rushed him, they were able to rush his decision, and most of the time, got a hit in on him. Look, when you're playing without one of the best safeties in the game, you have to be aware that the offense will be looking for ways to exploit that. I just really felt terrible watching Manning go back time after time and throwing over the middle for big yards. Richard Seymour getting banged up in that game didn't help matters at all. When he was on the sidelines, and Jarvis Green was in the game, the Pats completely threw out their original gameplan that worked so well in the first half. Again, I never felt confident at any point of that game. When Asante got his pick six, and the score was 21-3, I still wasn't satisified. Think about it, Pittsburgh did the exact same thing to them last year! Had it not been for an ungodly tackle by Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Vanderjagt hitting one of the biggest shanks in recent memory, the Colts probably win that game. So, needless to say, I was still praying that they could score another touchdown and put the game a little further out of reach. I will give credit to Peyton Manning. The guy did take a beating on Sunday, but he hung in there the whole game, and in the end, was able to "one-up" Tom Brady in the playoffs, something that no one thought would ever happen.

The mistakes the Pats made in the game were absolutely crucial. Some of them were very close, but others were blatently obvious. The close ones include the "faceguarding" penalty against Ellis Hobbs in the end zone and the "roughing the passer" on Tully Banta-Cain. First of all, faceguarding is exactly that, guarding the face. If a guy happens to not look back on the ball, and then knock it out of the air while not causing any kind of visual disruption to shield the receiver from seeing/attempting to catch the ball, then it is not a penalty. It's simply an instinctive play, and a great one at that. Anyway, that penalty set up a Dan Klecko? Anyway, then there was the roughing the passer penalty. This penalty would have been even bigger if the Pats recovered Reggie Wayne's fumble, which seemed to hang in the air for about five minutes before Wayne was able to recover it. Still, if a guy is coming at the quarterback, and a lineman pushes him, causing his hand to hit the quarterback's head, you cannot call that. What do you want him to do? It's not that he intentionally went in after Manning's head. He got pushed into him! That gave the Colts another nine yards and ultimately set up their final, game winning touchdown. Of course, the ultimate in mistakes was basically anything having to do with Reche Caldwell. I mean that guy choked real good, I mean real good. He was the antithesis of how the Pats of old (going all the way back to two years ago) played. They stepped up in the big situations. Caldwell could have changed the outcome of the game. He got bailed out on his first drop in the end zone after fellow newcomer Jabar Gaffney made an amazing, and somewhat controversial, catch in the back of the end zone. The second one was inexcusable. Literally no one was playing on him. He had at least twenty yards of daylight in front of him. I mean even if he doesn't score there, he gets you at least 10-12 yards, which would have set up a 3rd and 1 from around the 4 yard line. But it just wasn't happening for Caldwell, who's lack of big game experience shown the brightest on Sunday.

Ok, just one more observation and then I will officially be switching into NFL Draft mode with the Patriots. The running game, what happened? I mean I realize that the Colts had a great push up the middle, but was it that good? I mean Maroney and Dillon were never able to get it going in the second half after having a good deal of success in the first half. What happened to the double TE set? That's what you need to do against an undersized defense. You need to put a buch of big guys out there that can wear them out. Again, once it stopped working a few times, they were never able to regain any composure. I mean here's my bottom line: I hope they learned something out of this. They had this game won, and then, they became ultra-conservative, and completely self-distructed. I just hope that they learn to keep a gameplan for four quarters no matter what. You need to stick with your guns. Playing ten yards off of receivers is not going to do. You need to be up at the line, jamming them and disrupting their routes. So, that's all I really have, and better yet, want to say. Go Bears.

And now, I have some observations to share. Maybe something to think about. Ok, so the Dodge "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot" commercials are getting neck and neck with Mellencamp's Chevy ads for the most annoying thing on TV. Ok, you know, the first few times, I thought "oh wow, I remember playing with those when I was a little kid, so that's pretty cool." But I mean the more times I see it, the more I start to analyze everything. What's the robot's beef with a Dodge truck? How does the robot lose if it's not getting hit? Why are those people wandering down an alley that leads to nowhere? Maybe it's just me, but if I keep watching something over and over again, I start to look at the little flaws in it and start to make a huge deal of it.

Another issue I have, while I'm on commercials, is every McDonald's ad that has been made in the last five years. Do they really have a marketing team? When they have meetings and sit around, do they really think "yeah, this is what kids are into." Clearly they have been attempting to do anything humanly to tap into anything related to the hip-hop community and failed miserably. This time around, they've attempted to parody the show "Best Week Ever," which again they do a horrible job in doing. What happened to Jordan and Bird playing horse? What about "two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, on a sesame bun?" Did those guys die? I mean that was the bread and butter of McDonald's. They were able to expand around the world with those campaigns. Now, they're like third on the list behind Wendy's and Burger King. I mean McDonald's will sit back and watch what the other guys do, and then steal it. It's almost as if they have completely given up hope and are just trying to compete now. This was the fast food chain, and now, slowly but surely, they are starting to drift away, with sudden flashes when they re-introduce the McRib every year. I don't know why I'm getting fired up about this, but they need a kick in their golden arses if they want to stay relevant, and for God's sake, stop running those commercials!

Anyone catch "Maui Fever" on MTV last week? I mean really, how far can this teen drama thing go? It's like every network is trying to capture the magic in a bottle and continue to overload the airways with a bunch of crap featuring good-looking people going through "real" issues. I mean I have to say that I watch them because it's almost I have feelings that are somewhere between jealousy and pity for them. I could see myself surfing all day, having no financial restraints, and hooking up with random girls even though I'm labeled as "trouble." I could see it. However, what I can't see is living my high school years, the supposed "best years of my life," to the tune of MTV making me act a certain way, say certain things, do something overdramatic, all just for the glorification of ratings and sponsors. When are we going to draw the line? Is this kind of stuff going to start creeping into middle school? You don't have to be a genius whatsoever to know that the times are changing. Kids are growing up, literally and figuratively, faster and faster with each generation. A show like "Laguna Beach" or "The Hills" has an extremely wide range of viewers. There are plenty of viewers that are within the 25-40 bracket, but you are going to see that the majority fall into the 13-25 age group. Yeah, 13, landing them right around the 8th grade. MTV (hate to pick on them, but they are the big culprit) and others make no bones about targetting younger viewers. All I really want to say is that it's enough already. There are already too many shows on TV that are like this, but when you keep adding more and more, it may almost be viewed as "the norm" for kids to be growing up like this. I just think that it's the wrong message to be sending to them. I know that it is all for entertainment value, but they are almost beginning to cross the line with the total inundation of the whole high school drama specials.

Speaking of TV, I have to applaud the general viewing audience for the declining ratings of reality TV. There are really only two giants left (American Idol and Dancing With The Stars). Shows like "24" and "Prison Break," you know, shows that actually have substance to them, are starting to rise to the top. I think, for the most part, everything has been said and done concerning reality TV. I think FOX basically thought of everything it could conceivably have put on TV without being completely illegal (however, they were going to put that O.J. thing on...which reminds me, how on Earth is he going to pay the Goldmans $43 million? I know the NFL Players' Union has a great pension plan, but really...). I feel that the average viewer is starting to realize the the "compelling factor" that they got when watching reality shows could be translated into these dramas, like "CSI" and "Lost," where you have actual writers creating human drama stories for characters that can almost be labelled as more "realistic" than anything "The Surreal Life" has ever offered.

Recently I was shopping around online for car insurance, and a thought came to me: What if car insurance was decided not only by your prior driving history, but also by intelligence? Think about it. Would that maybe solve the amount of idiotic drivers there are in the world? Now I know that this may be a little harsh, but stay with me on this. Ok, every time someone needed to re-purchase their insurance (usually every six months), they would have to take a written driving test, made up of maybe 20-25 multiple choice questions (none of which are going to be insanely difficult), and then, their premium would be either lowered or raised based on the outcome of the test. Now, as far as eligibility goes, I would impliment a "3 strikes" plan. This plan would look at a certain person's history. If within the last two years, they have had less than a combination of speeding violations, at-fault accidents, or any other violations equalling three, then they would take the test. When you're talking about repeat offenders that have more than two violations, you obviously know that this person is already realizing their driving woes through their ever-increasing premiums, so therefore, they should already be aware that they are not "on top of their driving game" to begin with. Also, anyone that has ever been convicted of a DUI or has any history of drinking or substance abuse would not be eligible, under any circumstances, to take the test. Basically, you would be rewarding people who follow the law and understand how to operate a motor vehicle, and you would be able to "weed out" potentially bad drivers who have just been fortunate and lucky that they have not been involved in more incidents. I think someone who was caught going 15 mph over the speed limit, and someone who doesn't know what "yield" means, should be punished the same way.

I was watching ESPN the other day, and they were running their preview ad for "NASCAR on ESPN" and I started to think "how long can the country lifestyle stay popular?" I mean it has been around for a while no doubt, but recently, it has taken a bigger share in pop culture than ever. The idea of being "country" was all of a sudden cool. Does anyone remember, oh I don't know, maybe 15 years ago, when Alabama and Vince Gil were the top country artists, NASCAR was on ESPN2 (trust me, the TV rights were just a little smaller back then...maybe $2-3 billion cheaper), and if anyone had a southern accent, they were labelled as "dumb rednecks?" I just find it amazing that now, not only has it been embraced, but it's a staple in society. Now, rednecks are being paid millions of dollars to be...rednecks. However, this past year, I made an observation. Country's relevance is based entirely on how well NASCAR will continue to do. The whole NASCAR boom happened right after the death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001. His legacy was so profound that it took on a life of its own. People started reading about him in the news, they started showing highlights of him being "The Intimidator" on the track, and gradually, people began to start to take interest. All of this culminated to Dale Jr. winning the 2002 Daytona 500. After that, forget about it. You couldn't go anywhere without seeing someone with a #8 or a #3 sticker on their car, country music acts like Kenny Chesney, Lonestar, Keith Urban, and Tony Keith started selling out football stadiums that, at the time, had really only been reserved for one country act (Garth Brooks). The Blue Collar Tour, taking place around 2002, was the highest grossing comedy tour in history. People could not get enough of the country way. Now, I'm not so sure if this has the main-stay ability as everyone thought it once had. With NASCAR ratings dropping 10% (I attribute that entirely, by the way, to the fact that FOX does not cover all the races, and that NBC and TNT, with their below average telecasts, picked up half the schedule, including last year's Daytona 500 and the entire "Chase For The Cup.), I think country may be going down with the ship. Now I have nothing against country music. I'm not really into it, but there are a lot of talented artists out there. All I'm trying to say is that it seems that NASCAR is at the proverbial wheel in determining the impact country will have on society. Personally, I think ESPN is about to lose a ton of money in this deal. I feel like when you're watching a race, you can't watch it on any network but FOX. Their innovations, as I have said thousands of times before, have transcended sports and have made racing fun for people who don't even like NASCAR. They emphasize the action of the sport, and seemlessly integrate racing terminology so as to not lose the hardcore fan. Then, they will explain themselves, so that they will not be alienating people that aren't necessarily "gearheads." FOX should have ponied up the loot to get the entire schedule, but instead, turned its attention to the BCS, and now we'll be stuck with what's sure to be a below-average effort from "The Total Network."

On a final note, you may or may not now that I am a "listoholic" (yeah I made it up and it's completely cheesy, but when you consider other -oholics I could be, a listoholic isn't all that bad) and recently I was thinking about what kind of list I could contrive. Then, I was listening to The Hollies' "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress," and thought "there have been a lot of good songs with "woman" in the title. So, I expanded on that, and now, I present the top 50 songs, from 50 different artists, that have either the word "girl," "woman," or "she" in the title:

  1. Black Magic Woman- Santana
  2. When A Man Loves A Woman- Percy Sledge
  3. Something In The Way She Moves- James Taylor
  4. No Woman No Cry- Bob Marley
  5. Isn’t She Lovely- Stevie Wonder
  6. My Girl- Temptations
  7. Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress- Hollies
  8. Brown Eyed Girl- Van Morrison
  9. American Woman- Guess Who
  10. L.A. Woman- Doors
  11. Witchy Woman- Eagles
  12. Breaking The Girl- Red Hot Chili Peppers
  13. She Talks To Angels- Black Crowes
  14. Just Like A Woman- Bob Dylan
  15. California Girls- Beach Boys
  16. Brandy You’re A Fine Girl- Looking Glass
  17. Pretty Woman- Roy Orbison
  18. Hey There Lonely Girl- Delfonics
  19. Honky Tonk Woman- Rolling Stones
  20. Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon- Neil Diamond
  21. I Got A Woman- Ray Charles
  22. More Than A Woman- Bee Gees
  23. She’s Out Of My Life- Michael Jackson
  24. Ain’t No Woman Like The One I Got- Four Tops
  25. She Drives Me Crazy- Fine Young Cannibals
  26. American Girl- Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
  27. Woman- John Lennon
  28. Jessie’s Girl- Rick Springfield
  29. She’s Leaving Home- Beatles
  30. Here She Comes Again- Cars
  31. Is She Really Going Out With Him- Joe Johnson
  32. Sour Girl- Stone Temple Pilots
  33. Cinnamon Girl- Neil Young
  34. Material Girl- Madonna
  35. Evil Woman- Electric Light Orchestra
  36. About A Girl- Nirvana
  37. I Need A Hot Girl- Hot Boys
  38. And She Was- Talking Heads
  39. Fell In Love With A Girl- White Stripes
  40. She’s Crafty- Beastie Boys
  41. China Girl- David Bowie
  42. Girls, Girls, Girls- Motley Crue
  43. She’s Not There- Zombies
  44. The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair- Led Zeppelin
  45. Steady As She Goes- Raconteurs
  46. Uptown Girl- Billy Joel
  47. Girls, Girls, Girls- Jay-Z
  48. Hey Girl- O.A.R.
  49. Are You Gonna Be My Girl- Jet
  50. She Hates Me- Puddle Of Mudd
Take care everyone. Peace.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Come All, Be All Of Games

"See you two need to work on trust, and then, and only then, will there be a free exchange of sex and discounts...the cornerstone of any healthy relationship."

So with the days dwindling until Sunday, I have been thinking about this game...basically every second of the last four days. The more I think about it, the more I realize that this is one, if not the most important game in franchise history. Think of all the times the Patriots got into the Super Bowl before this (5 in all). The only time we have advanced to the "big game" on the road has been at Pittsburgh. Now, the game is in Indy. Indoors. No weather reports needed. This is new territory for New England. The Indy faithful will most likely reach a decibal that has not been heard inside the RCA dome, which has never hosted an AFC Championship game. Right now, the Colts defense is playing out of their minds. This can all be put on the re-emergence of safety Bob Sanders. Sanders is a hard-hitter, something the Colts' defense had been lacking for most of the year. With their new found confidence in the playoffs this year, they have stimied two high-powered running attacks and have not allowed either team to score in double digits. This is going to be their biggest test by far however, as the Pats are seemingly running on all cylinders, with new-found trust in their receiving core, which is made up mostly of other teams' "spare parts," and a duo at tailback that has proved to be one of the most potent combinations in the league this year.

The AFC Championship has never been held indoors, and only twice has the NFC title game been held in a straight-up dome (St. Louis both times...I don't consider Texas Stadium to be a straight-up dome like Indy or St. Louis has considering it has a gigantic hole in the roof). So this is uncharted waters. Both teams are excellent in domes. The Colts did not lose at home this year. If there is one bright spot, consider this: In games being played after Wild Card Weekend in Indy, the Colts are 0-2 at the RCA Dome (Pittsburgh last year, Titans in '99), so that is encouraging. Of course both games were decided by three points. Here's where the problem comes in. You're looking at a kicker in Adam Vinatieri, who simply is the most clutch kicker ever. There is no debate. No one has any conceivable evidence to say otherwise. The snow game, the first Super Bowl, the second Super Bowl, and all the game-winners in between. No one has the resume like #4 has. He has never missed in the RCA Dome. Never. The guy has been in the league eleven years, and has not missed at Indy. So if the game comes down to a last second Indy field goal, let's say I'll be a little less than confident. The Patriots need to expose the middle of the field, because frankly, the Indy linebackers are garbage. The reason they have been having success is that they get an incredible push up the middle from their defensive line, led by tackles Anthony McFarland and Raheem Brock. They are able to disrupt running plays and funnel the running backs right into the linebackers. One of the keys to the game will undoubtedbly be protection not only for Tom Brady, but for the running backs. Dillon and Maroney must be able to penetrate the line on their own and not be forced to make plays happen behind the line. In my opinion, the Pats should attempt a lot of toss plays and misdirections. A reverse play can be very effective, as the Colts, like the Chargers, are undersized on the ends. Also, they are very aggressive, so using that against them could be a smart idea. You have to hope that Sanders does not have the same kind of effect he did in the first contest between these two teams this year (11 tackles and an interception). It is painfully obvious that he keys this defense. If you are able to confuse him and try to make other players besides him attempt to win the battle of both sides, you are likely to see that the Colts will not be able to handle this offense. In their first meeting, Brady threw for 201 yards and four interceptions. Two of the interceptions came one tipped balls, which has been an achilles' heel all year long (especially in that game and the Bears game). Realize though that the Pats were still experimenting with who was catching balls for them, but now it seems that they have found some legitament receivers (basically all from Florida with Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney, Chad Jackson, and Kelvin Kight...yeah I don't know about Kight either). The running attack was successful for the most part, gaining 148 yards and accounting for the two TDs. However, the biggest play of the game came on Corey Dillon's fumble, which was recovered by Brock and returned for a TD. Again, Dillon may prove to be ineffective in this game because of his speed (18 yards last week against the same style defense). Maroney didn't get nearly enough looks last week (5) as the Pats turned in a dreadful performance on the ground, managing only 51 yards (anytime Kevin Faulk is your leading rusher, and everyone is healthy, you know you had problems). Look for the Pats to try and set up the run with the pass. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see New England come out in a no huddle, five receiver set. This play call works nearly every time. You keep the defense on their toes and exploit their below-average corners. Whether this happens or not remains to be seen, but I can almost guarantee the Pats will be in no hurry to start out giving the Colts any momentum by running Corey Dillon. Again, I expect Caldwell and Gaffney to have huge games. If you look at this defense, it resembles San Diego as far as their general defensive strategy, but as far as personnel goes, the teams aren't even close. Brady will be looking to spread the ball around as he's done so effectively in his career. The tight ends need to play a bigger role in not only the passing game, but in the blocking game. The line, on a whole, did a good job as far as pass-blocking, allowing the always-blitzing Chargers to just two sacks in the game. I anticipate that mistakes will be made, allowing potential rushers to charge in. Brady needs to realize that him making a play will not change the outcome of the game. If he forces anything under duress, that will change the outcome of the game. Turnovers have to be kept to a minimum. The Colts have played well on defense, but when you consider what they've been up against (KC was good, but the play-calling was some of the worst I have ever seen, and Baltimore has absolutely no receivers and was playing with a hobbling Johnathan Ogden), then you can tell that they will be put under the microscope by Belichick early and often.

When the Pats line up on defense, they have to realize one thing: Any time Manning has tried to go deep in the postseason, it either hasn't hit its mark, or it's been picked off. Therefore, Manning will be looking to go over the middle to try and exploit the one conceivable weakness the Pats have: their safeties. It's still uncertain whether or not Rodney will play (listed as doubtful), but for the sake of arguement, let's assume he's not. This will put a lot of pressure on the D-line and the linebackers to make sure Manning does not have too much time, or have too many open looks when he steps back to pass. The aggressive Raven defense only got to Manning once last week, again holding up the Colts' reputation for having one of the most under-appreciated offensive lines in the history of the game. In their first contest, the Pats managed three sacks, all of which were accounted for by the linebackers (Colvin 1.5, Seau 1, Vrabel 0.5). Too many teams have become overly conservative when it comes to playing the Colts. They feel like if they don't have eight men in coverage, then Manning will pick them apart. Well guess what? When they drop all those guys back, he still picks them apart! The only way to stop this offense is to come up with cleaver blitzing techniques that involve pressure from all directions and all positions. The front seven will also be tested as far as stopping the run. Addai and Rhodes were shut down in the first game (61 yards combined), but they have been showing improvement as of late (95 combined against Baltimore last week). Belichick seems to understand the flow of the Colts' offense as the game progresses. Unfortunately, there have been many mistakes made in the last two contests that have come back to haunt the Pats. Things like picking up men in coverage, capitalizing on Manning mistakes, and controlling the line of scrimmage. Addai seems like he runs a lot of "north-south," so Vince Wilfork will definitely be called upon to step up in this game. Because the Pats run a 3-4 defense, they are going to be forced to run blitz a lot. This is where Manning will try and take advantage, using play action and other play fakes to catch the defense off balance. The key, again, will be the middle of the field. I feel that Asante Samuel (who may be playing his last game as a Patriot...hopefully not) and Ellis Hobbs are good enough to defend against a big play to Wayne or Harrison. The X-Factor will be the effectiveness of Dallas Clark, Addai, and Rhodes catching balls over the middle. If the Pats are able to stop them early, I think it will force Manning into some bad situations later on in the game. Maybe forcing balls into places that they simply shouldn't have been thrown to. "Red Zone" defense will also be critical. Do anything and everything to keep them out and gladly let Vinatieri put up a 3-spot. This will be critical, as the Colts really haven't looked great inside the 20 in their two other playoff games. They have to keep this game managable. I'm expecting that this will be a low-scoring game, so stopping drives outside of scoring territory is a must.

This is like two freight trains from hell about to collide with each other. The Colts seemingly have a ton going for them. It's almost like they're "due" to go to a Super Bowl, much like the Eagles were due to go two years ago. The difference will be Bill Belichick and how he schemes Peyton Manning. Manning has never looked right against the Pats in the playoffs. However, his recent two-game winning streak over the Pats will probably boost his confidence some. If Belichick is able to confuse Manning early, then New England has a great chance of pulling this off. Sometimes, like last year, you kind of wonder how much longer the Pats can keep their postseason winning ways going. Last year, in a game against clearly an inferior opponent (see last year's AFC Championship game), and with a chance to host the AFC title game, they turned in arguably their worst performance in the Brady-Belichick era. Execution is going to have to be there. If the Pats come out looking sloppy, they are going to put themselves behind the eight ball early. They need to come out and quiet that Colts crowd. If you let them build momentum, and put up a sizable lead early, then you might as well just call it a day. There is no reason the Pats should not win this game. Harrison being out is huge, but great teams do not fold up because of one guy not being there. That's why they are great teams. They do not rely on one individual. Rather, they go out as a unit and do their jobs. They don't try to do anything over the top or anything to get attention. The Colts run on one man. This is why they have had a great deal of success in the regualar season, but very limited success in the postseason. The Colts need to become a unit. Obviously, if we didn't have Tom Brady, we wouldn't look too hot, but think if the Colts didn't have Manning. That team would be in disarray. See if opposing teams know the one piece that makes a team run, then they are going to go after it, almost like in ancient war-time, when one side knew who the leader was of their enemy, and did everything to try and eliminate his presence, because they realized once he was gone, the enemy would not have its driving force and its leader to rally them and to charge them up. The Pats have always been good at getting to Manning, but they are going to need a huge effort on Sunday. They need to keep coming after Peyton. Look at what the Ravens did last week. They kept blitzing him over and over, and he threw for exactly zero touchdowns. I'm not saying that we have as good of a defense as Baltimore, but we're not too far off. If we are able to neutralize the crowd, force Manning into mistakes, capitalize on those mistakes, and have an efficient, turnover-free offense, then there is no reason the Pats don't win this. I go back to my original predictions and look at how every AFC game up until right now has gone the way I thought it would, so I hope I keep the streak alive.

Patriots 24, Colts 14

And the NFC Championship, why not pull for a rematch? Too much Bears defense, and not enough stopping of Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson.

Bears 28, Saints 21

Alright, hopefully I will be writing about the Super Bowl next week...I mean I will anyway, but hopefully I'm real happy when I'm doing it. Take care everyone. Have a great weekend. Peace.