Monday, March 30, 2009

Opening Day Countdown

"You were lost in the silver spoon,
thought I pulled you out in time."

Apparently they are actually going to play baseball in Boston next week. Good luck with that. Today was like 35 degrees with 30 MPH winds and a steady downpour all day long. In other words, totally optimal baseball conditions. In any event, I'm totally stoked for this season. There are so many questions and so much intrigue. I feel like I say this every year, and every season, it ceases to amaze me about the ride that this team takes. I know that baseball is a long season, but really, the Sox start to make their way into the daily routine after about a week. That 7:00 game just works very nicely. You wake up, go to work, come home, have dinner, and then you're ready for the game. It all just kind of falls into place. So, again, I'm extremely excited, and if I do happen to be teaching on Monday and there is a TV that gets NESN present, all bets are off. Who can teach on opening day? That's just lunacy.

Random Prop Bet: Yankees' Winning % without A-Rod +50 vs. with A-Rod...I'm telling you, the last thing a Yankees fan will want to see is Alex Rodriguez donning the pinstripes. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Actually, that just inspired me to create a list:

The Top Ten Prop Bets of the 2009 MLB Season (completely made up):
  1. Bobby Cox's Ejections: +/- 3.5
  2. A.J. Burnett Trip To The DL +/- June 1 (The J.D. Drew DL Trip line has officially been taken off the board due to its absolute inevitability, and also for the fact that he may start the year on the DL anyway...were we suppose to expect more than a game winning grand slam and one really good month for $70 million?)
  3. First Manager To Get Fired +/- July 1 (in addition, who will it be: Cecil Cooper (Astros): 2/1, Jim Leyland (Tigers) 9/2, Clint Hurdle (Rockies): 5/1, Cito Gaston (Blue Jays): 7/1, Dusty Baker (Reds): 10/1, Joe Girardi (Yankees): 12/1)
  4. Major League Best for Home Runs: +/-42.5 HRs
  5. Triple Crown Winner: 100/1; Player Winning Two Legs of the Triple Crown: 7/1
  6. Red Sox Sellout Streak Continuing: 3/1; Not Continuing: 8/1
  7. Combined HRs by Red Sox catchers +4 vs. Matt Wieters' HRs
  8. The Higest Annual Salary of a Player Who Gets Traded Before August 1: +/- $12 million (2009 figures: Magglio Ordonez: $18, Todd Helton: $16.6, Miguel Cabrera: $15, Mark Buehrle: $14, Matt Holliday: $13.5, Jose Guillen: $12, Joe Nathan: $11.25, Carlos Guillen: $10, Brian Giles: $9.7)
  9. Both New York Teams Will Once Again Not Make The Playoffs: 11/1
  10. Total Number of Players Who Will Test Positive, or Have Tests Leaked That They, At One Point, Tested Positive For Any Performance Enhancing Drug: +/- 20
And here's what I'm taking:
  1. Under (I will use the Lethal Weapon "I'm getting to old for this s***" defense)
  2. After June 1 (I have the suspicion that Burnett will really start off on fire, much like I think the Yankees will, but then as soon as A-Rod is healthy again, the wheels will come off the wagon...and Burnett is going to the DL eventually...I mean there's no two ways about's happening)
  3. Before July 1 (If Detroit struggle again, Leyland will be gone real quick; also, keep your eye on the Houston situation, because that team, from all accounts, is going to suck pretty bad this year, so Cooper will also likely be on a short leash)
  4. Over (I think this will barely go over...the best candidates to hit 44, which I think will probably be the mark, are Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Josh Hamilton, and Adam the way, last year's mark was 48 by Ryan Howard, but he and Adam Dunn were the only player to hit 40 or more)
  5. Triple Crown: No, 2/3: Yes (If anyone does actually win all three legs of the Triple Crown, it will be Albert Pujols, but the NL is so loaded with power hitters that I see it hard for Pujols to win the home run title. In the 2/3 bet, I will take Miguel Cabrera (HR/RBI), Josh Hamilton (HR/RBI), Ryan Howard (HR/RBI, which he actually did last year), Ryan Braun (HR/RBI), Pujols (AVG/RBI), and perhaps a dark horse, but Lance Berkman (AVG/RBI)
  6. Not Continuing (This is sad I know, but really, when is the last time you could buy bleacher tickets at face value right now for over half of the Sox' home games?)
  7. Wieters (At the absolute most, a catching platoon of Varitek and Kotteras will hit 17...that's the ceiling. With Wieters, I can see him getting to 20...and that's after he comes up in June. I'm saying right now he's good for at least 15 this year, and honestly, I'm not even sure the Sox' catchers will hit double-digits this year)
  8. Over (I have convinced myself about Holliday, especially if the A's are out of it. Basically all these guys are ripe to be dealt "especially if the (fill in the blank) are out of it." I am absolutely amazed by Detroit's salary figures. Barring some unbelievable turn of events where they are both amazingly good and sell out every game, they are going to have to get rid of at least one of their big-name players)
  9. No (I have absolutely no idea how the Yankees are going to end up even second in the East. Right now, Tampa and Boston are just better than them, and even with all the Yankee additions, are they really going to make that big of a jump in the standings? They gain Teixeira, but they lose Giambi (.247/32/96) and Abreu (.296/20/100), and Teixeira alone cannot make up for that (.308/33/121). The pitching is better, but the bullpen is still awful. So I think the absolute best they could do is second. I don't know where people are getting this "9/5 to win the World Series" stuff. I have already said that the Mets will win at least 90 games this year, and the law of averages simply says that there's no way that they don't get in to the postseason this year. They are 7/5 to win the East, and the NL East has been installed as the 1/2 favorite to land the NL Wild Card)
  10. Over (I have to believe that more names will be leaked off of the A-Rod 2003 report, an entirely different report will come out penning another big name which will entail itself to others, 10-15 will get caught just because they're not smart/rich enough to get around it, or a combination of the three. Whatever the case, I don't think people who try and dig this stuff up will be completely satisfied until every last big league player who has played in the MLB from the years 1988-2008 one way or another get indicted for using something.)
The Celts and the Bruins are rocking and rolling lately. Let's start with the defending NBA Champions (I have no idea how much longer I'll be able to say it, so you'll have to indulge me for at least a few more months on that). The Celtics have been playing without Kevin Garnett for what seems like forever right now, and yet they have managed to stay in the hunt with Cleveland for the best record in the East (although right now, they're actually in third behind Orlando). I think it took a little bit for this to happen, but right now, and what has been true in the last few games, is that everyone is really stepping up their game to account for KG's absence. I know Paul Pierce is fully capable of running the team by himself, but really, when he's surrounded by the talent he has (even without KG, it's still quite a formidable team), he really shouldn't be put in the position where he has to take over ever game. Every once in a while...that's fine, but don't make it a habit. Now, you are looking at a team that is playing really solid at both ends of the court. Of course they are still having some trouble in the low post, but that generally happens when you lose your starting power forward and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Let's also not forget that the C's have been playing without Leon Powe for the last two weeks, a guy who you could have definitely made an argument for Sixth Man of the Year. Of all the guys on the team, I say Big Baby has made the most surprising impact in the past month or so. I mean this guy is just an animal. Last night, his forehead was basically ripped open, he had to get ten stitches, came back, and was able to put up a double-double (although most of his stats were put up before he had to leave the court). I was a huge advocate of Davis' play ever since he was drafted last year. I thought it was ridiculous how the media was ripping him for his slow start this year, saying that he should stop shooting and didn't possess the toughness needed to make an impact. Then, there was the KG incident, which just gave the critics more ammo. Sure, he wasn't shooting all that great, but that just comes with work, and now that Davis is actually getting some regular minutes, he's proving that he's a competent shooter. He has mastered that 13-foot shot, and that's just tough for another big man to defend against. Also, his defense has been outstanding. I'm just so impressed at how he's responded, because a lot of players have come to Boston and just got lost in the media scrutiny to the point that it totally went to their heads (a certain #5 comes to mind).

The guard play has been off the charts for the C's as well. Of course, when you have a starting backcourt duo consisting of Rondo and Ray Allen, it definitely helps the cause. Not that those two haven't been playing great...they have...but I'm even more impressed with the play of Eddie House and Stephon Marbury. House is as lethal of an outside shooter as you can find in the NBA. It's gotten to the point where it is justifiable for him to shoot any shot within 30 feet, and even if he air-balls it, it's like "yeah, but he'll still make that shot 7 out of 10 times." I think he's on a Ray Allen level with me in that he can just take any outside shot, and if he misses, I don't think twice about if they could have got a better, that's Eddie House...he's not bashful...when he gets the ball, he's shooting. Marbury was someone who I thought would have a positive impact on the C's because he is very much in the "Randy Moss mode" of being able to set aside ego and individualism for the good of the team and the ultimate goal of winning a championship. Really, outside of an MVP, what has Marbury not done individually for a point guard that's left? Do you realize that he is in the top 15 all-time in assists? Yeah, I was surprised by that too, but it's true. He gets the bad reputation because he's on bad teams and gets frustrated. I love how his "strained" relationship with KG in Minnesota was brought up before he ended up in Boston. He was 21 when they traded him! Of course he's immature. You don't even want to know half the stuff I did or thought about doing when I was's frightening. In any event, you have a kid, for all intensive purposes, who was brash and didn't really understand the "team" concept, and yes, maybe it took him a bit longer than most players in the league to fully understand that concept, but I keep going back to Moss because it's just a bizarre parallel that these two have created. Both were superstars in the league, fell on rough times, were labelled as having "bad character," then move onto a team completely willing to take the risk for the above-average reward that could come, and both have benefited greatly from their moves. Marbury's timing couldn't have been better. With Tony Allen basically done for the year, Marbury then pushes Eddie House from the backup point guard to backup shooting guard, a role that I think even he will tell you is just much more suited to his game. This is all just coming together very nicely, but still, the C's are going to need to get KG and Leon back for the playoffs, because as well as the C's are playing right now, they're going nowhere without those two guys.

The Bruins, yes, your Northeast Division Champion Bruins, currently hold a seven point advantage over the Caps for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins just went through a stretch where they didn't play for almost a week, which I think definitely helped them. Credit does have to go to Claude Juilen, who apparently was real hard on his team in the week-long hiatus from the ice, putting them through extensive practices with drills, scrimmages...the works. They played with a purpose in their two games back, going off on Toronto on Saturday in a 7-5 contest. They then turned right around the next day, flew to Philly, who is fourth in the East right now, and came away with a 4-3 victory to all but clinch the top spot going forward in the playoffs. I think a lot of it has to do with the deadline acquisition of Mark Recchi, and getting all of their pieces aligned around Recchi's arrival. When you add a guy like that, there is definitely some shifting of the lines that will take place, and there was obviously some adjustments that had to be made because of that, but now that everyone seems to be on the same page, the B's have looked pretty impressive, winning five of their last seven in this most critical time of the season. The B's are in a precarious position in that, if the playoffs were to start today, they would get the #1 seed, and guess who would be waiting for them in the #8 seed? You guessed it, those damn Montreal Canadiens, who have given the Bruins nothing but grief recently in the playoffs, starting with the 2003-04 season, a season where the Bruins were the top seed, and the Habs were #8 (deja vu is contagious). Boston was up 3-1 in the series, and watched then-Hart Trophy winner Jose Theodore put on a goalie clinic from Games 5-7, reeling off three straight wins to bounce the Bruins out in Game 7. Then, last year, the B's, who this time were the underdogged #8 going up against the top-seeded Canadiens, rallied back from 3-1 to tie the series, forcing the action to move back to Montreal for a Game 7...where we got annihilated. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I really just would rather avoid the whole Montreal thing. Then again, you're looking at a championship drought that has lasted for over 35 years (although this drought was more or less the product of terrible ownership and not a curse), and seemingly, it's always coming down to the arch-rival to move on...maybe the B's can use some of that '04 Red Sox magic to conjure up a Cup run this year (also, how long do they want to be so-called "black sheep" of the Boston sports landscape for not winning a title?).

I'm so happy I did not buy into the Julius Peppers story. See, I bet a lot of people were let down by that, but not me. I steered clear of that whole saga. Sure, I mentioned it to people, but in the same breath, also noted how much skepticism I had about it. Peppers hasn't even signed his franchise tender, so the Panthers can't even have direct communication with the Pats even if they wanted to trade him. Okay, so now, I'm just hoping the Pats get Jason Taylor, or at least someone proven to play OLB. In my latest mock draft, I have them taking Aaron Maybin from Penn State, which may be wishful thinking considering there's a very real possibility that he doesn't make it out of the top 15. Even if the Pats get Maybin, I would like to see some kind of Plan B being inititated. Jason Taylor, as I've said all along, makes way too much sense considering the talent you would be getting for the price tag that will come along with it. People are rushing to try and determine who had the best offseason. I think we should wait until after the draft to really start assessing how each team has fared. With that being said though, I really like what the Pats have done. They have brought experience (Taylor, Springs, Galloway) and youth (Bodden, Lewis) into the fold, and armed with eleven picks, including six in the top 100, you know the Pats will be major players on the first day of the draft.

I've thought about this Cassel trade for literally months now, and here is my final conclusion: Yes, a second round pick was probably not as much as the Pats may have been able to get. However, with the 34th pick, they suddenly find themselves in a position where teams could be willing to trade up to that pick and be prepared to ship New England a first-round pick in next year's draft. I don't think a lot has been said about this, but the Pats could absolutely bank a first-rounder out of this. For some precedence as to what I'm talking about, back in the '07 Draft, the Niners traded a fourth round pick in '07 and a first rounder in '08 to Indy for the #42 overall pick. So, based on that model, the #34 overall could be turned into a first-round pick. I guess I'm just throwing this out there because I've been thinking about this, like most Pats fans have, for months, and I think this is an idea that really hasn't been mentioned yet.

Well, I figured I would just check in and give you something other than college B-Ball. Next week is going to be crazy, starting this weekend with the Final Four, then onto Monday with the Sox playing their Opening Day game against the Rays in Fenway at 1, then the NCAA Championship game being played that night, and finally the Masters, easily the best tournament in golf, starts up on Monday and will feature Tiger Woods fresh off of his amazing finish at Bay Hill yesterday. Yeah, he's good. Well, hope all is right with you out there. Peace.


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