Thursday, October 11, 2007

So Much To Say

"I find, sometimes it's easy to be myself."

So, I caught a day off today, so naturally, I have so much I need to throw out.

Let's start on the diamond with the Sox, as they will look to get back to the World Series for the first time since that magical '04 season. The Indians will be their LCS opponents. In a surprise move, at least to me, the Tribe decided to sit Sabathia for Game 4 against the Yankees, instead choosing to go with Paul Byrd to pitch what was the eventual series clincher. Byrd turned out to be just good enough, pitching five and giving up two, getting the win. So, now the Indians and the Sox both have their rotations in the order that they wanted.

Game 1 tomorrow features arguably the best pitching matchup of the year with Sabathia going up against Beckett at Fenway. One of the two is definitely going to win the Cy Young. My argument is that Beckett put up similar statistics to Sabathia, and was able to reach 20 wins despite starting four less games than C.C. The argument for Sabathia is that he is simply an innings machine, leading all of baseball in innings pitched, and had four complete games. In any event, let's look at how it might play out head-to-head. Despite pitching since '01, Sabathia has only made three starts at Fenway. going 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA. In his one appearance against the Sox this year, Sabathia was outstanding, going seven, scattering five hits, and only allowing one run. Unfortunately for him, Dice-K was just that much better, tossing seven shutout innings as the Sox went on to win 1-0. Sabathia is a guy who gets his fastball way up on the radar gun, and is absolutely relentless on the strike zone. This is another example of a guy you have to play small ball with. Sure, it's not totally what the Sox are about, but this isn't the '04 Red Sox we're talking about. This team actually runs fairly well. You have two burners at the bottom of the order, and some professional hitters at the top. So, chipping away at Sabathia is critical, because rarely does he ever lose control and give up big innings. Josh Beckett...well, what can you say? You wanted an ace, you got it. I think last year, people saw a glimmer of what this guy could actually do. Also, after the '03 Series, you knew the guy had it in him. So, really, kudos to the Sox on signing him to a three-year, $30 million contract, especially in this market. Ted Lilly got $9 million a year, so an extra million to get a guy who has the potential to keep putting up 20-win seasons seems like a fairly good proposition. Although Beckett has had a stellar career, he has been less than stellar going up against Cleveland. In four starts, Beck has gone 1-3 with a 6.57 ERA. However, this may be misleading considering that last year, he was 0-2 with a 13.97 ERA. This year, he is 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA. So, quite the turnaround in a year. Beckett was also short-changed in one of his outings this year, going eight and giving up one run on four hits. Again, the opposing pitcher (Fausto Carmona) was just that much better. The O/U on this game is 8.5...if gambling were in fact legal, I am begging you to go out and bet the under. If this game goes over four, I will be shocked. This game is all about who can get to two the fastest. The first team to get to two runs will have about a 90/10 chance of winning, and the only reason it's 10% to lose is because if the Tribe are able to get those two runs, they will be relying on Joe Borowski to close. Borowski has had an absolute roller-coaster season. Despite having 45 saves, he had a 5 ERA, and although he did record a perfect ninth and a save in his only appearance against the Sox this year, he is still inconsistent as anything, so there's a chance the Sox can break him if he gets into the game. As far as the other Indian relievers...good luck. The same really goes with the Sox' relievers. If a team gets a lead in a game, it will be hard for the other team to come back.

The running storyline for Cleveland has to be the re-emergence of Kenny Lofton. He received standing ovations every game at Jacobs Field, and had a monster series against the Yankees, hitting .375 (despite going 0-5 in Game 4), and scoring the winning run in Game 2. This scares me. I hate playing against the sentimental story because it's incredibly hard to root against a guy like Lofton, who has bounced around baseball for years after leaving Cleveland (for those of you scoring at home, that would be the White Sox, Giants, Pirates, Cubs, Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers, and Rangers). I've always been a huge fan of Lofton because he plays such a great center field, and in his absolute prime, around the mid-90s he was arguably the best base-stealer in baseball. He was the catalyst of all those great Indian teams that went to the playoffs in those years. So, with Lofton on this team, they have their "hero." Remember, the Sox had the "idiots," the bloody sock, the guy out-casted to the bullpen only to win all three clinching games, and of course, Big Papi. Now, look at this year's we have a hero? I'll go on record and say this: Manny Ramirez has got to be the guy to get the Sox moving in this series. They still have Papi, they have Lowell, they have the little engine that could in Pedroia, but this team will sink or swim on Ramirez's bat. Manny is the one guy who has yet to be the hero on this team, that is until the LDS against the Halos in Game 2. Manny has been on this team almost as long as anyone in this lineup, and while his numbers have been phenomenal, I really think that he needs to step it up against his former team. They will be booing him relentlessly as they always do. He did have a good year playing at Jacobs this year, going 7-for-14, hitting two homers and driving in six. The good news is that Sabathia and Carmona will be pitching on the road, meaning you will see Westbrook and Byrd at Jacobs for Games 3 and 4. If Cleveland is going to win those games, it will be because they will out-bat the will not be due to their pitching. There's just so much karma going on against the Sox, with Lofton, Carmona, who got absolutely decimated last year, and now is one of the best starters in the game, the long drought in between championships (last one was in 1940), the former Sox catcher (Eric Wedge), who will likely be manager of the year, returns to face his former team...I guess all I'm saying is that don't expect this series to be a cake-walk like the Angels series was. I'll leave you with this, the last time the Sox and Indians played each other in the post-season, Pedro turned in the best post-season pitching performance I, and probably a lot of people, have ever seen, and I know I keep referencing this a bunch, but when you see true greatness, you can't help but to start bumbling on like a total idiot. In any event, I can't wait until this series gets off and running.

Quick Picks:

ALCS: Boston in 5
NLCS: Arizona in 6

And then, there's the Yankees. In 50 years, could this be the point in time you could pinpoint the official death of the Yankee dynasty? First, Joe Torre, unless some incredible set of circumstances come about, will be axed. Now, it seems like if Torre goes, so will Mariano Rivera. Then, Jorge Posada is a free agent...the wheels seem to be falling off the wagon. You lose those three guys, and only Jeter would be left as the lone "Yankee that actually won something" left on the team. I'll say this: If Brian Cashman makes it through another off-season, he will officially become the "teflon GM." This guy has done almost everything in his power to get himself fired, figuring he can dump money on problems, and then they will go away. He should have been fired three years ago after the Yankees dropped four straight to the good guys and now, have lost three straight division series. Maybe it's because I know I could do better, and that I'm secretly jealous that this guy gets paid $3 million a year to play fantasy baseball, and I get nothing, but I do really despise this guy...even though he's the one behind the tanking of the Yankees this decade.

Once again, A-Rod managed to massacre his playoff stats. How can he possibly show his face in the Bronx next year? I guess the only good thing is that most of the Yankee fans are so short-sighted that they'll probably forget about all of this once he hits a few dingers. Please, Chicago, pay him $300 million. This way, you can get even closer to the World Series, get your collective hopes up, and then wallow in more misery than you even thought was possible...then, after ten years of A-Rod, hopefully, the Cubbies will win the whole thing, because at that point, they'll probably make the playoffs every year, lose in some outrageous fashion, and then be so passionate and embittered by the whole thing that when they finally do win, it will be almost relieving...

That's what baseball fans need to go through to get their stripes.

This is just the just is...this is something that will never get old.

(By the way, Suzyn Waldman tried to defend herself in Newsday...ok, calling people "sexist" because they are making fun of you crying is totally ridiculous. Trust me, if a guy did that, he would never, and I mean never hear the end of it. The reason everyone is on you is because you are so biased towards the Yankees that it makes people sick. Sure, I've cried about the Red Sox...but I'm not an announcer for them. I'm a fan. As someone who reports the game, you cannot be so wrapped up in emotion that it ruins the coverage. Joe Castiglione did the call on the final play of the '03 and '04 seasons for the Sox. Sure, he had a little more hop to his voice when they won, but it's not as though he was screaming and going crazy. No, he simply reported what had happened, and that was it. That's the sign of a professional. Listen to Erin Andrews on Sports Guy's podcast when she talks about playing it straight even though she's a die-hard Sox fan. That's a professional. If the Yankees won the World Series, she would have been going ballistic and nuts, but she's upset because they didn't, and now, Torre might leave. I'm not saying that I would be any good, but I know, if given the chance, I would be a what I'm doing right now isn't professional. What I do is give my honest opinion about how I think things are playing out, and since it's a forum, I have the right to be biased towards something, just as people equally have the right to dog me if they don't like what I'm saying. So, please spare me the indecency of having to here this woman who's crying (again) because people are taking shots at you. If you didn't want this, you shouldn't have gone ape when Clemens decided to come back...

A lot of good that did you by the way.)

The Celts played a pre-season game on ESPN on Tuesday, and I have to say that all of those people who are picking us to make a serious run at a title this year may have something. Sure, the games don't count, but just the presence of this team on the court literally had the Timberwolves shaking (by the way, if your name isn't Marko Jaric or Rashad McCants, there's a strong chance that if you play for the T-Wolves, you played with the Celtics in the last five years). I know that Doc thought it was offensive that the "Big Three" was being thrown out to describe Garnett, Allen, and Pierce because it is disrespectful to Bird, Parish, and McHale, but honestly, what else can you call them? Garnett is the big man Celtic fans have been craving since The Chief left in '94. Dude, we've had Eric Montrose, Vitaly Potapenko, Chris Mihm, and Tony Battie to try and fill the role...let's just say this was something that was a long time coming. The ball movement was incredible, especially on a few choice plays which SportsCenter was nice enough to break down that night so I could see it in slow-mo and with nice video graphics. I am always excited before a Celtics season. I'm the same way with every team I pull for. Why? Because it's a new season. You can say all you want to about the team, the players, the coaches, the ownership...the team starts at 0-0, just like everyone else. Sure, the Bruins and the Celtics have hit the skids over the past few years, but am I supposed to just throw it all away because the team is losing? In this present time, if someone is not doing their job, they are booted out, and someone else is brought in to do the job. Sure, Doc Rivers will likely look amazingly good this year because he has a freakish amount of polished talent compared to the raw athletes he had since his tenure began. Danny Ainge knew that, despite his brain wave theory and his blueprint for the future, he was going to get canned if he didn't do anything drastic. Again, this is the beauty of sticking with a team through thick and thin. When that team comes out smelling roses and looking as dominant as anyone in the league, it's so much sweeter when you've had to trail through the muck and the feeling of being alone in the world. This is basically where I'm at with the Bruins right now. Hey, all of a sudden, people are talking about the Celtics, like the team was started as soon as they traded for Garnett. Anyway, back to the team itself. I think that the C's have found a pretty nice formula for success. Here's how I think the Celtics can somehow will they're way back to the Finals this year...I'll call it "The Blueprint For Success In The NBA."

1. At Least Two Superstars. They have three.
2. A Selfless Point Guard. Look, when they got Rajon Rondo, I was a little skeptical, and I have to say the reason for that is because I'm a Gamecock, and the guy didn't really impress me when he played us. Now that I've seen how he's humbled himself when he got into the league, I am really starting to like the guy. He wants to get everyone much so that he almost over-did it a few times last year when he was coming off the bench for Delonte. If you look through time, there hasn't been a giant, superstar point guard to win a championship since Isaiah Thomas. B.J. Armstrong, Sam Cassell, Derek Fisher, Jason Williams, and even Tony Parker aren't really "superstars" of the league. Simply put, they knew their roles. They knew that, no, they were not the most talented players on their team, but if the opportunity arose where they would have to step up and make a play happen, they did. However, their motive was to get the stars involved in a play so they, in turn, could get the rest of their team involved. Rondo definitely has that going for him, and has looked great so far.
3. Lights Out Shooting. Ok, it's already a fact that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are two of the best pure shooters in the game today. Pierce had to be because basically, he's been the lone shooting threat on the Celtics for the last four years. Ray Allen has been a sharpshooter since his days at UConn. With Pierce's ability to drive through the lane, it stands to reason that Allen will get a lot of open looks this season. Plus, add guys like Eddie House and Tony Allen coming off the bench, and you're looking at a team that has the ability to make threes to put a game away, or to make up a deficit.
4. The Unpolished Diamond. Kendrick Perkins received a lot of fanfare when he was drafted, but then fell out of favor with the team and a lot of people (including myself) when he got out of shape and his fire kind of died out. Now that the path to the starting lineup has been cleared for him, Perk has undergone a noticeable change in both his physical appearance, and perhaps more importantly, his attitude. Plus, when you bring in a guy like Garnett, you know that they will be bouncing ideas off of each other, and it will only help Perk's game down the line. It feels like he's been with this team forever, but he's only 22 years old! To say he has time to grow is an understatement. I expect Kendrick to have a big year, not so much on paper, but on the overall impact on the offense and defense in the paint.'
5. A Foreign Guy No One Wants To Mess With. I don't know if you've seen Esteban Batista yet, but man, this guy demands attention. 6'10, 270 pounds...he could almost be like the "enforcer" of the Celtics. If you screw with Garnett, they'll bring in Batista to bodyslam you or something.
6. Hungry Players. Pierce, Allen, and Garnett are amongst the top seven for career scoring without an NBA Finals appearance. This experiment was tried in LA with Malone and Payton, but the ego clash was too big for any group of talent to overcome. This team doesn't seem to have any real "bad seeds" on it. You know, guys who live to stir the pot. Garnett bit his tongue in Minnesota while the team self-destructed under McHale (it all comes full-circle). Allen's career was left to die in the great Northwest as the Sonics seemingly didn't care about their existing players, but rather, they were more concerned about making the team more marketable for their move to Oklahoma or Kansas City. And with Pierce finally getting the support he's lacked since he played with 'Toine, all three are hungry to win a ring. Plus, the guys who make up this current roster have a combined one championship ring (James Posey with the Heat), and almost every one of them have not made it to the Finals. You have a lot of passion on this team, even a rookie like Glen "Big Baby" Davis is going to add a huge amount to the fire this team will play with.

So, given those six points, I'm officially buying into the "Celtics could be big this season" hype. I mean I wanted to be modest, but I could only hold out for so long after the C's made move after move in an almost blitzkrieg-like fashion to go from one of the worst to one of the best. In getting back to Glen Davis, I do want to say this: Keep an eye out for what happens with him and Jeff Green this year. Green would have come to Boston, but was traded to Seattle for Ray Allen. In that deal, the Celts received the pick to acquire Davis. I guarantee that Davis will have more of an impact on this team than Jeff Green will on Seattle, even though Davis is coming off the bench. This guy is such a lightning rod of energy that if the team needs a pick-me-up, which may be rare this season, this is the perfect guy to bring in to spark the team. I saw what kind of player he was at LSU, and I know that he can have a similar impact coming off the bench in the NBA.

Finally, I have to mention "The Chase" because...well...I haven't mentioned it, mainly due to the fact that Denny started off in 8th despite being third in the points going into the last ten. Also, the race is in Concord at Lowe's this week, so it's probably the best reason to start learning the backroads that I can possibly think of. In any event, ESPN was running a headline of "Can Jeff Gordon be caught?" Does anyone realize that Jimmie Johnson is nine points behind him with six races to go!!! Of course he can be caught. Oh by the way, here comes Clint Bowyer, driving the car with the best paint, best sponsor, and seems to finish first or second every other week. So Jeff Gordon, who clearly has been the best driver all year long, is definitely not out of the woods fact, he only just got the lead back by winning at Talladega, so isn't it just one enormous aberration to ordain Gordon as the king already? There is a chance he could get a DNF, which would throw him completely off track. In terms of what I expect from Denny is his final six races driving a Chevy (switching to Ford next there such thing as a junior slump, because I think Denny may have that going on next season), I expect him to do well at Martinsville, where he got his one pole this year and finished third. He also had a top 10 at Texas and started and finished third at Phoenix...I'm just dreading having to go to Ford next year. This is not going to go well for Denny. I just think that switching him just as he's getting used to Chevy's set-up is not going to be a smooth transition. The same thing applies for Kyle Busch, who also is joining Gibbs Racing, taking over the departed J.J. Yeley. They have a great team, but the switch to Ford could not have been worse, especially given the fact that Hendrick is going to drive Chevies with Gordon, Johnson, and Earnhardt, Jr. I'm predicting ugliness...I don't know, maybe that's me. I'm a worrier...that's why my friends call me whiskers.

I have to save football for a totally different entry. Look for the picks in one, and the preview from Big D, which will run on Patriots Insider, to be in the other. So, I have more work to do, so let me get to that. For now, enjoy, and I'll be back in a little bit. Peace.


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