Friday, October 31, 2003

Alright, I know I promised you an in-depth analysis of the Celtics and the Antoine Walker deal. But somehow the Sox managed to work their way back into the collective minds of the entire Boston Sports Nation by placing Manny Ramirez on waivers earlier today. And to tell the truth, I'm pretty pleased with it.

As a loyal fan, I'm tired of watching Manny dog it in the field and on the bases. He's getting paid $20 million TO PLAY A GAME. At least A-Rod makes that kind of money and still has a few gold gloves AND home run titles to show for it. Don't get me wrong, Manny is one hell of a good hitter. But he's a lousy fielder, a lousy base runner, has a lousy arm, and his head is usually not really in the game. So he's a 1-tool player. Plus, he's a divisive clubhouse presence. He's like Albert Belle with a healthy hip and without the anger management issues.

So that's the Sox update of the day. If someone like the Braves or Mets decides to claim him (The Yankees have already said they wouldn't), then more power to them. Both of them certainly have managers that might be able to get through to him. So, the Man-child is probably of Boston, one way or the other. And the Sox could possibly sign Bartolo Colon and Vlad Guerrero (yeah, right). But I guess that the whole Manny on waivers thing means that the Sox aren't looking at Mike Hargrove. Ah well.

Oh, one last thing. Was anything funnier than hearing the Yankees' PA play "New York, New York" after the MARLINS won the World Series? Oops.

Now, on to the Big Green Machine.

So, uh, anybody want an All-Star who averages over 20 points per game and who leads the league in 3-point FGs just about every year? Apparently the Celtics didn't. And I'm OK with it.

Now, hear me out here. I'm not agreeing with the move wholeheartedly. I'm just OK with it. I understand why the move was made (cap flexibility, draft status, team chemistry). And if Vin Baker turns out to be the rejuvenated man that every analyst in America is saying he is, he and LaFrentz (token white Celtic of 2003-2004) could probably fill the gap left by Walker.

So, why am I not totally behind this trade? Couple of reasons. First, timing. Generally, it is not a good idea to trade away one of the only two players on your team who has been a consistent scoring threat for the past few years. And you certainly don't do it a week before the season starts. But again, the whole Baker/Lafrentz duo picking up slack could have resulted in the decision.

Second, the message it sends. It was pretty well known that Danny Ainge was not a huge fan of Antoine Walker's game. Neither was I. I can't even count the number of times I watched 'Toine single-handedly squelch a fast-break opportunity by pulling up for a three-pointer. There's a reason he always leads the league in 3-pointers made, he always leads (by a large margin I might add) in 3's attempted too. Logic says that the more you take, the more you make. But anyway, Ainge publicly commented that he did not really favor Walker's game, and the big move he makes is to ship 'Toine out of town, in a contract year no less when Walker probably would have been off the charts. At least wait until the trading deadline when his value could land something better than Jiri Welsch, Chris Mills, and a draft pick.

Finally, I don't like the package deal that was made here. Tony Delk as a throw in for the salary cap could come back to haunt the Celtics. During last season, and the subsequent postseason, I can't remember ANYONE coming off the bench and giving the Celtics bigger shots. Walter McCarty may have added more of a spark, but Tony Delk just flat out makes shots. Couldn't Ainge have given up like a 4th round pick, or not taken Chris Mills? Delk is going to step up huge for a Mavericks team that needs defense, not more bench depth.

So I'm not going to endorse the deal completely yet. Let's wait until the Green starts beating someone a little better than a hobbled Heat team, although I do like last night's game as a great confidence builder for Vin Baker (who looked GREAT) and Raef LaFrentz. Maybe, just maybe, Ainge isn't the second coming of Rick Pitino. Sorry, I vowed never to use the P-word when discussing the Celts again, but just once.

Last thing I'm gonna do in this posting is give out football picks and player picks for the week. I'll pick games with the spread, and also pick one player that I think is going to have a breakout game. I play fantasy sports religiously, so I take this stuff pretty seriously. Here goes (Home team is in CAPS).

Giants (-3) vs. JETS - Well, no matter what I answer here, I'm going to get shit from friends down in Jersey (and other parts of the country). Good thing I don't care. I'm taking the Giants and the spread, and I'm looking for Kerry Collins to have another big day. You know the kind, 300 yds, 3 TDs, 4 INTs)

Jags vs. RAVENS (-7) - This one is pretty easy. Ravens by a lot. I like Byron Leftwich. I think he's still going to make a servicable NFL QB by the time he's all done. But he's not going to be able to do much against the Ravens' D. Look for Mark Brunell to be in this game at some point, which is for the best. Let Byron learn for awhile. Also, look for Jamal Lewis to go off again. The Jags' D is pretty awful.

Raiders (-3.5) vs. LIONS - This one isn't as easy as it looked when the season first started. As much as I'd love to see the Raiders collapse for the rest of the season, there's still a part of me that... no, wait, I hate the Raiders. And I can't rely on a QB named Tuiasosopo (wow, spelled that right the first time). Lions and the points, but Jerry Rice has a big day.

Chargers vs. BEARS (-2.5) - Yeah, I know. They do actually have to play this game. Tomlinson is going to have a big day. A-Train will have a nice day. Both QB's will put up good numbers. THERE'S NO DEFENSE! And yet, I have no idea who's going to win this one. Take the Bears, if only because the Chargers' players, like most of San Diego, has their minds on bigger things than football right now.

Colts vs. DOLPHINS (-3) - How the hell are the Dolphins 3-point favorites in this game? They're good, don't let anyone tell you different. But the Colts are the complete package right now. Look for Reggie Wayne to have a good day for your team as Marvin Harrison sees a lot of double-teams from the 'Phins secondary. Also look for the Colts to take this one and stake a serious claim to the AFC South (wait, Indy is in the southern part of the US? And Dallas is in the east? Huh? Didn't re-alignment take care of all of these issues?...)

Saints vs. BUCS (-8) - Well, the point spread says just about everything here. It absolutely kills me that I have no other option than to start Deuce MacAllister this week. I've got a bad feeling that he's going to worry about that OT fumble last week and not play his own game. That being said, the Bucs take this game, but don't cover the spread (look for a 4-6 point Bucs win), and Brad Johnson has another nice day against a horrid New Orleans secondary (anybody see the Saints/Colts game a few weeks back?)

Redskins vs. COWBOYS (-5) - Ouch. Tough game to call here. Spurrier's coaching for his job. If he loses to the 'Boys, he's gone next week. If Parcells loses to the Skins, the Dallas media is going to go off the deep end. And through it all, I have to start Quincy Carter, only because Drew Bledsoe is on a bye (thank God). I think that the 'Boys win but don't cover, and I'll even pin the loss on a "Jet-Skin"; look for John Hall to miss a crucial field goal at some point. Also, if you have a Dallas reciever, start him. The 'Skins' secondary is good, but the Dallas receiving corps is probably the best in the league.

Panthers (-7) vs. TEXANS - Damn. I wish I'd been paying attention when this game first came out at a Panthers win and only a 2-point spread. Houston is not good, and now their starting QB, the franchise, is out. No wonder it's a 7-point spread. Take Carolina. As for big games, look no further that Steven Davis. The man is possessed ever since Steve Spurrier let him go after last year.

Bengals (-3.5) vs. CARDINALS - Corey Dillon should be back, and I think he'll play well in what might be his last game as a Bengal. Jon Kitna will tear up the Cards' secondary. Anquan Boldin (Best first name in the NFL...) will torch the Bengals secondary. Bengals win, and cover, but look for this to stay under a 6-point game most of the day.

Steelers vs. SEAHAWKS (-4.5) - Well well well. People sure shut up about the Seahawks being the "sleeper" team this year. This is what happens when you rely on a Hasslebeck, as I quickly learned in one fantasy league. Shaun Alexander is good, but way too inconsistent. Koren Robinson has vanished from Planet Earth. And the Seahawks defense isn't all it's cracked up to be, at least not in the secondary. Shawn Springs can't cover every receiver. I think the Steelers take this one, but only if Bill Cowher comes to his senses and plays Amos Zereoue as the #1 RB that he is. Jerome Bettis is old, slow, and broken. Not good adjectives for an NFL running back.

Eagles(-5) vs. FALCONS - Easy money. Eagles win in a laugher. When a team benches it's entire secondary (all $8M plus of it) in favor of four nobodies, that's not a good sign. It's even worse when Donovan McNabb is standing across the line of scrimmage from said secondary. Injured or not, McNabb's legs still work, and his receivers are bound to get open eventually. Donovan has a big game, Duce Staley might get more carries with Westbrook hurt and put up nice numbers, or you could just pick a receiver (my pick this week is James Thrash) and hope for the best.

Rams(-4.5) vs. 49ERS - Um, the Rams throw the ball really really well. The Niners secondary couldn't cover Ike Bruce and Tory Holt with a fishing net. You do the math. Take a receiver or Marc Bulger.

Packers vs. VIKINGS(-5) - Brett Favre never does well in the Metrodome. And this year, he's got a broken thumb. Not good. However, the Vikings are showing signs of weakness (I know, it's only one loss), especially in their young corners. And with all that, look for the Vikings to win and cover, and Ahman Green and Daunte Culpepper will combine to turn the ball over about 347 times.

Patriots vs. BRONCOS(-2) - What were Vito and Tony over at the Bellagio smoking when they came up with this line. Danny Kanell vs. one of the greatest defensive minds to ever coach an NFL team? Yeah, I'm sure gonna to bet on Kanell’s team in that one. Clinton Portis runs wild, but the Pats still win. Live, on MONDAY NIGHT!

So, quick recap. Manny's gone eventually. Antoine's gone now. And I like the following games in Week 9 of the NFL: Giants / RAVENS / LIONS / BEARS / Colts / Saints / Redskins / Panthers / Bengals / Steelers / Eagles / Rams / VIKINGS / Patriots.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Well, I certainly picked a good week to start writing. The Boston sports scene is in hyperdrive right now, so I'm only going to focus on one major story. The question is, which one?

Perhaps I'll write about the Patriots trying to win their fourth-straight game against a subpar Cleveland Browns team. Or maybe about the Boston Bruins fast start to the young NHL season (first team to get 10 points...). Or the biggest new news story, the Celtics trading Antoine Walker to the Mavs for two stiffs, an unproven second-year Euroballer, and a draft pick.

But no, being the hardcore diehard Red Sox fan that I am, let's talk about GAME 7. (The Celtics will be next)

The only way I can think to express my feelings after the game ended is this: Why?

Not "Why did Grady Little leave Pedro Martinez in the game for the 8th inning?", or "Why was TimWakefield pitching the 11th?" But just: Why?

I've lived and died with this team for two decades now. Yes, I realize that I'm not quite 22 yet, but trust me, I watched the Sox when I was 2. I remember watching Bily Buck in '86. I remember feeling sorry for the horse that Mo Vaughn rode around Fenway after the Sox clinched in '95. I remember jumping up and down at work when Troy O'Leary launched two rockets and when I saw Pedro come out of the bullpen in '99. And this year just plain hurts.

Let me set the scene a little. I drove into Boston to celebrate or mourn with my friends, regardless of the outcome. I was packed like a sardine into Beckett's Pub on Packard's Corner with about 250 of my closest friends, only 4 of which I knew before the night started. After each Red Sox put-out, the bar erupted with cheers, or boos from the scant few Yankees fans daring enough to open their mouths. Every time Pedro got another K, we all lifted out mugs in respect. And then a funny thing happened. Up 5-1 with one out in the bottom of the 8th inning, a guy i had just met about 3 hours earlier, a friend of a friend, turned to me and said "Only five more outs to go!"

"Yeah, but the Cubs only had 5 more to go too, and look where they are now." That was the only response I could muster. Not joy, not happiness, not even remote anticipation of the first World Series berth for the Sox since 1986. I've watched them for too long; I'm just too damned cynical. "When I see that fifth out, then I'll celebrate." Oops.

I had already spent the past five minutes berating Grady via the television above teh bar for sending Pedro back out in the 8th. But maybe I was wrong. Maybe this was my one chance to see a World Series title. It's not like the Yankees had enough left to come back from a 5-2 deficit...

Pop. The bubble burst. Jeter doubles to right. Williams singled him home. 5-3. Matsui hit a ground rule double, sending Williams to third. "Thank God, we got a big break there..." "Not yet we didn't". Posada snaps his bat and still manages to bloop in the tying runs. But if that bat hadn't broken, there's no doubt in my mind that Posada would have knocked the pitch out of the yard and given the Yanks the lead.

So here is my next question: why did the Sox warm up Alan Embree if they weren't going to let him face Matsui? There are only two lefties in the bullpen (Embree and Scot Sauerbeck), both of whom were acquired over the past two seasons explicitly to face big-time left handed hitters, namely Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui. So if you trade for a player for only one purpose, and then don't use that player in the situation he was acquired for, what was the point of the trade? Just to say you that you made moves at the trading deadline? Please.

As you can tell by now, I'm still not fully recovered from the shell shock of that game. I don't really remember the rest of the eigth, ninth, tenth or eleventh innings. I think Mariano Rivera pitched, I know I watched every pitch of the game, yet I don't remember seeing it. I didn't even watch Boone's walkoff; I didn't have to. I saw the pitch leave Wakefield's hand, and I turned away, saying my goodbyes and congratulating the Yankees' fans on my way out.

This one hurt.

But there is a silver lining to every cloud. And here is the only one I can get from this massive cumulus thunderhead currently stuck over most of New England is this: Grady Little will probably be fired. And whether or not he deserves to be I'm not going to speculate about, I'm still too angry. But when he is let go, the Red Sox should. and hopefully will, sign either Mike Hargrove or Bobby Valentine, or Kevin Kennedy. Any one of them would be a great fit.

Bobby V has the personality to keep a clubhouse loose over 162 games, and he can certainly deal with the Boston media. But he's never won anything. In fact, the only time he even had a halfway decent team, in 2000, he had a pitching staff of career-year guys. So I don't like him here.

Kevin Kennedy already coached the Sox once, and he actually managed them the last time they beat the Yankees in the A.L. East. But he was fired for a reason after that season; he couldn't win the big games. The Red Sox were embarassed in the '95 playoffs by the Hargrove coached Indians.

So that leaves Mike Hargrove. When given even a modicum of talent, he shines (see Cleveland Indians 1994-1997). When given no payroll and mediocre talent, he still keeps the team hovering around .500 (see Baltimore Orioles 1998-2003). He's been to the World Series, and he came within a Jose Mesa blue glove of winning it. He's got a good repore with the Red Sox' best hitter, Manny Ramirez, whom he coached for many years in Cleveland. So why doesn't he fit? The only reason could be the media. He's always struck me as a mild mannered guy, a lot like Grady "I have a bullpen?" Little or Jimy "5-inning start" Williams.

My money's on Hargrove to get the job. As for the personnel he'll be dealing with, it should be the same basic principle, with a few notable exclusions. There's no question Byung-Hyun Kim is gone. He'd be booed at home and cheered on the road. That's not a good sign for a pitcher. John Burkett will probably retire. Lou Merloni, as much as he is good for the team, will probably be gone. Casey Fossum, who is aparently doomed to long-relief for the rest of his Boston career, may be traded. Although I don't see them getting Javier Vasquez straight up anymore. Shrewd GM'ing there, passing on a "Fossum & Hillenbrand for Colon OR Vasquez OR Millwood" deal. One of the only problems I have with Theo Epstein so far.

Free agency moves that are possible, and that should be made: Sign another big-game starter (Colon, Millwood, Loaiza, Maddux, Pettite). Sign a closer. Shop, but don't ship Nomar. At least not yet. Last year the hot rumor in May was Eric Gagne and Adrian Beltre for Nomar and Hillenbrand. Again, good move there, it's not like the Sox could have used a dominant closer and more speed on the bases last year. Ugh.

So, there's always next year. But man, this is gonna be one hell of a cold winter. Just 5 more outs...

Thursday, October 23, 2003


So, here goes nothin'. Welcome to my brain. Let's hope you don't all get lost inside, I know I've been looking for an exit for a few years. Anyway, please allow me to introduce myself. Big D, your personal sports guru, at your service.

This running column/diary/log/overflow of my thoughts is meant to serve as a way to communicate what I am feeling about the current sports climate, both in my city (Boston) and around the nation. I have friends all over the country from school, and I plan to use each and every one of them to further this column.

I hope to someday break into the sports world. Given the choice, I'd play pro baseball. But that's not happening anytime soon, so I'd like to manage. But for now, maybe I'll just write about it and inform/entertain those of you who choose to read along the way.

Over the course of this column, I'd like to emphasize that while I a writing for myself, if there’s anything you'd like my opinion on, or any questions you might have, don't hesitate to ask. Also, please subscribe folks. This probably won't be a daily column for starters, but I'd like to write at least twice a week. So send me along to your sports-minded friends, and tell them to do likewise, and maybe I'll get noticed and you can say you read my columns way back when...

One last little detail. Well, actually 2. First, Xanga doesn’t' have a spellchecker that I know of, so if something is misspelled, I apologize. I'll try to catch mistakes, but...

Secondly, I am very opinionated. Anyone who has ever had a face-to-face with me about sports, or life in general, knows this first hand. I'll try not to offend anyone, but I believe very strongly in the whole first amendment thing, so if you don't like something I have to say, then don't read it. I won't object, but I probably won't back off either. Now that that is out of the way, let the fun begin....