Sunday, August 26, 2007

Back To The Grind

"That there, that's not me
I go, where I please."

So I guess there are a few things to talk about. Hopefully I get, I don't know, a few of them out of the way here.

The insurance job is no longer. I went to school for a month, learned all the products, practiced my speech and my presentation over and over again, and yet, when I was actually out there seeing people, I knew that this was not right for me. I had my doubts all along, but after just a few days of doing this, I realized two things:

A. If you don't have a sense of passion for a job...well...don't do it.
B. If you can't completely trust your boss and their intentions for what they do, that is not going to work out at all.

Actually, talking to a few of the seniors I saw definitely gave me some perspective. First of all, it's exceptionally tough to pull off the idea that you've been "doing this for a while" when you can barely pass for eighteen years old, let alone a polished veteran. Second, you can read and learn about every kind of insurance there is, but basically, what it comes down to is that you are making them think about the absolute worst things that could happen to them. Oral surgery, hospitalization, serious physical drawbacks, and yes, death. After I fully realized what exactly this was that I was getting into, I knew that there was no way I could continue on. Yes, I don't have a real job yet (I am a fitness consultant at Peak Fitness and still work for the Panthers), but at least I'm a lot happier now, and I'm not dreading waking up in the morning, and loathing the fact that I had to meet with a guy I didn't like, trust, or liked communicating with. His promises were smoke and mirrors, and I pretty much knew it all along, but once it got serious, I was 100% sure about what I had to do. So, the hunt for a new job is now in the works. Nobody said this would be easy, but actually living through it is pretty tricky.

The Sox just absolutely brutalized the ChiSox. I mean four games in a row scoring 10+ runs? I know the last time they did three was back in '00 against the Twinkies, but I can't even imagine the last time we did it four times. See, this is what happens when you play bad teams. The Yankees were able to cut into the Sox' lead big time while playing these same White Sox, Orioles, and other bottom feeders. Now that the roles have been reversed, the Sox gained 5 1/2 more games on the Stripes, and now, with a three game series coming up, this could be it right here. In all honesty, it's a strangely odd scenario to have this kind of lead going into September. Of course I wasn't around in '78, so I'm not quite sure what to think at this point. Sure, we won back in '95, but I was 10...a lot has changed...wait, no, no it hasn't. I still listen to oldies and dream about sitting in the bleachers on summer's night...I don't think that will ever change. So what do I think will happen? Well, I think we'll beat the crap out of them. The Yanks still have to play the Tigers tomorrow, and they're going up against Verlander, and you know how I feel about him (in case you forgot, extremely optimistic). So, I think they'll drop tomorrow's game, leaving them eight back. Sure, they know that a series loss against the Sox means that they're finished, but what are they going to do? They have no starting pitching outside of Wang, who, luckily for them, will be pitching the series finale (vs. Schill). Pettitte will be up in game one against the Dice man. I guess you can say he's done ok for the Yanks this year (10-7, 3.69 ERA), but he's not nearly as effective as he once was. The one thing that concerns me in this game is the Sox being unable to give Dice some run support. Remember that, although he's 2-0 against the Yanks this year, he gave up six and four runs in his those two starts. Also, he hasn't been getting the kind of runs needed to be giving up those kinds of numbers. One thing that Dice has to focus on is walks (currently sixth most in the AL). He needs to be able to trust that his defense will be there for him, and that it's ok if some of those balls get batted around. Despite being in second, the Yanks, statistically, are the most patient team in baseball. Therefore, you have to throw strikes in order to get anywhere. The rest of the series goes as followed: Beck against Roger on Wednesday, Schill/Wang Thursday. Truthfully, I would be disappointed if we didn't take at least two from them. The bats are heating up, and the Yanks are reeling. This would likely be the knockout blow if the Sox were able to have a 9 or 10 game lead following this series.

What I can't wait for are the September call-ups. I have never been more excited than I am right now to have the rosters expand, because let's face it, normally, we would have no one to call up, and we would watch all of our prospects flourish in other places while our "can't miss" veteran additions were tanking (except 2004...that was a bizarre, yet fairly good year). Now, the Sox have been able to keep virtually all of their best prospects (except David Murphy), and now, they get to help the best team in baseball make a push for a title. It's significant because not only are these guys really good, but they will be able to add depth at crucial positions, namely the infield and the bullpen. In the infield, Jed Lowrie, who has had an amazing year in the minors, hitting .300 and driving in 68 RBIs while splitting time between Portland and Pawtucket. Alex Cora, who I still love, has been victimized by about a three month slump, so having a guy like Howrie, who can give Dustin or Julio an occasional night off, and can add some pop, will go a long way. One guy that may be overlooked is Chris Carter, the first baseman acquired from the Nationals in the Wily Mo Pena trade. Carter has been doing some big things in the minors. Two years ago, Carter went off in A and AA for Arizona (Carter was still on the D-Backs this year, but the Nats traded for him in order to get Pena), hitting .297 with 31 homers and 115 RBIs. The past two seasons, Carter has hit over .300, and his RBI production has still been rock solid. Plus, it never hurts to have a lefty hitter coming off the bench, especially when the entire starting infield hits from the right side. Eric Hinske is there, but Carter is a guy who is an above-average fielder, and would provide an even larger spark to the lineup. In the bullpen, it will be the return of Clay Buchholz, who I've literally been drooling over (baseball-wise) for months and months. He finally made his major league debut last week, and while his walks were on the high side, and he wasn't completely on top of his game, he did enough to vindicate the amount of buzz that Red Sox Nation has has about him. This guy is the real deal. In addition, he will likely be joined by Michael Bowden, who has also had a rapid rise through the Sox farm system, and although he is in AA Portland, I expect that he will get the call up. What's funny is that AA has become the new AAA. See, the best prospects are now playing at AA before getting called up to the majors, and AAA is reserved mostly for veterans who are on the cusp of making it to the show. In any event, Bowden and Buchholz represent the future of the staff, but for now, they will be relied upon to pitch innings from the 'pen, sparing the arms of Snyder, Delcarmen, and Gagne (give the guy a chance!). Of course, along with those guys, Jon Lester, who was sent down temporarily to Portland, but will be recalled in early September, and my personal favorite, Jacoby Ellsbury, will be up with the big team as well. This is going to be some fun stuff.

So I made my Guest Relations debut Friday at the BOA (Bank of America Stadium...that was my attempt at anagram greatness) as the Pats put a whooping on the Panthers 24-7. Panther fans showed their true colors by vamoosing in the third quarter. Apparently they had better things to do on Friday night. Maybe it's just me, but if I pay for a ticket, whether it be a preseason game or the postseason, I am not leaving until the final snap is made. You never know what you're going to miss. Anyway, I can kind of understand why they were leaving, because their team was stinking up the place. They had one standout play (the Colbert TD), and other than that, they seemed completely hesitant and reluctant to try and make a big play happen. In addition, their ground game did not look like the two-headed monster that has been advertised since last season. Sure, the games don't count, but I can already see Carolina will be in trouble in terms of their line and their inability to stop the first contact from being made behind the line. DeAngelo went for 29 on nine carries, and DeShaun, well, you don't even need fingers or hands to count how many yards he got...0 on three carries. Delhomme actually played well, throwing for 162 yards and cumulating a 109 passer rating. I'm going to go ahead and chalk that up to the fact that if he keeps stinking it up, he'll soon be riding the pine in favor of David Carr, who in comparison looked really bad. Defensively, they looked just as miserable as Carr and the running game. Of course, when you're playing against Tom Brady, you're bound to look really bad. It was nice to see Dan Morgan back out there. He received a loud ovation every time he was involved in a play. Their secondary got torched on numerous occasions, and their run defense was terrible. The Pats had numerous third/fourth and shorts, and seemed to convert all of them. They drafted Beason from the U to try and help out, but it seems a little bit unrealistic to expect a rookie to somehow make up for the weakest part of the defense. Again, their unwillingness to bring back Will Witherspoon is biting them in the you know where, and frankly, they are deservant of what they are going to get this year, which is another season on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

Ok, enough about the Panthers, let's talk about a real team. I don't know what kind of grace period a dynasty gets, but I think if you give it to us, we're going to keep this thing rolling on. The weakest part of this team right now is the kicking, and given that Gostkowski had a great year last year, and that Baugher will probably need a little time to get used to punting in the NFL, I'm not worried at all. As long as TFB (Tom Curse Word Brady) is under center, this team is bound for a big-time Super Bowl push. Laurence has his first carries of the year, and if anyone was concerned about his health, at least for right now, they were silenced on Friday. Getting called on a whole bunch at the beginning of the game (I think it was something like 13 of the first 16 snaps), Maroney was able to show off the toughness that made him an instant fan favorite in New England, going for 58 yards on 15 carries. The question still remained about who would help Maroney out if he needed a breather. Well, turns out that we are in fairly good hands. Sammy Morris looked awesome on the couple carries he had, and looked good on both of his receptions from out of the backfield. Heath Evans also made a lot of noise, ripping off a 43 yard rush, and a goal line touchdown. All and all, the Pats rushed for 148 yards, which is huge for this team. Clearly, Bill and the rest of the staff wanted to emphasize the running game, and with a 4.1 average per rush, they hushed much of the skepticism surrounding how effective this unit could be. The passing game was brilliant, and Tom looked incredibly poised, even though his mind couldn't have possibly been entirely focused on the game given everything that went down in his personal life. Brady did what has become his trademark, hitting a boatload of different receivers (eight that night), and doing it with tremendous accuracy (17/22, 169 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 128.4 rating). Now imagine that, while this team is banging on all cylinders, we still haven't seen what Randy Moss will bring to the table. Yeah, remember...we got him too. It's hard enough to cover Donte, Wes, and Reche now, but imagine what it will be like in five-wide sets, with Moss and Jabar, Troy Brown, or Kelley Washington added in. Yikes. This is going to be an offensive explosion this year, and while nothing is etched in stone yet, there is no way this offense won't be one of the top 5 or 6 in the league...absolutely no way. Another thing that is going to happen is that we're taking the AFC East...yes, again. Those guys in the Meadowlands and in Orchard Park can do whatever they want to do (Miami is even worth mentioning), but there's no way they will be able to stop this freight train.

Oh by the way, we have defense too, in case you were wondering. Watching the linebackers move around was awe-inspiring. This group is just filthy. Ok, and coming off the bench will be Junior Seau and standout rookies Oscar Lua, who had an interception, and Justin Rogers, who the coaching staff has been nuts about so far. Then, the D-Line features arguably the best end in football, Richard Seymour, one of the top 5 nose tackles in Vince Wilfork, and the recently well-compensated Ty Warren at the other end position. While Warren did not play on Friday, and Seymour has seen limited action so far, the line will be healthy at the start of the season, and rounds out the best front seven in the whole damn land. In the secondary, there were a few lapses, but overall, the D-Backs played well, especially Rodney Harrison, whose absence is one of the biggest reasons the Pats did not make the Super Bowl last year. Meriweather played corner for most of the second half, and while he made a team high five tackles, I just don't see him as a corner in the NFL. This guy just seems to be meant to be a safety. He is a heavy hitter, and makes that sound when he tackles like the big-time hitters do, like Urlacher and Zach Thomas. However, in terms of need, corner is probably higher on the priority list, especially when you consider how well The Colonel played last year (that's James Sanders for those of you on the outside). Speaking of corners though, a gigantic question may be close to being answered. Rumors were swirling all over the place in connection to the imminent return of Asante Samuel. If Asante signs his one-year franchise tenure...forget about it. Just forget it. Your team doesn't have a shot, and even if they do somehow pull a miracle, we'll probably play you again, and then beat the crap out of you (see Pittsburgh in '04). With a Samuel/Hobbs/Harrison/Wilson starting backfield, the team officially will have no holes. This is the best team in the league, and while this may sound a little premature, could end up being one of the best of all-time. You have to play each game one week at a time, but you know I can't wait until that Indy game this year, where it stands to reason that the Pats will be coming for some revenge. I'm going to go to the bar and demand that "Payback" by James Brown be played at least three or four times.

Ok, well I hope I gave you a little insight into what the doings are. I'm looking for a morning gig, and hopefully, everything will get figured out soon. Call me the breeze kiddo. Hope everyone is doing good out there. Take it easy. Peace.


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