Solving the Pedroia Problem

This weekend the Boston Red Sox were dealt a crushing blow by the injury bug as Dustin Pedroia broke his foot fouling a ball off of it in San Francisco.  The timing of the injury couldn’t be any worse for the Sox.  Then again any injury to arguably the franchise player never happens at a good time.  The Sox have gotten back into the pennant race over the past month, an absolute dog fight with the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays in baseball’s most competitive division.  Pedroia was also showing signs of getting white hot after going through his annual slump.  The Laser Show will be put on hold for close to 6 weeks, and that is being optimistic.

The question in Boston right now is what will Theo do to solve the problem of losing one of the biggest bats in the lineup.  Yes, the Red Sox are 2 and 0 with Pedey on the disabled list.  But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that they will be fighting an uphill battle without Dustin in the lineup.  Theo can stand pat and hope to catch lightning in a bottle with Bill Hall, much like he has with Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava.  Back in 2006 Hall did hit 35 bombs with 85 runs batted in.  Maybe there is hope that Hall can produce to some degree knowing that he will be penciled into the lineup at 2nd base everyday.  However  from 2007-2009 Hall hit 36 home runs combined.

If  Theo decides to make a move, there are a few options available that he can explore.  While I don’t claim to be an MLB insider, I do think that these guys are logical choices to fill the void left by Pedroia.

My number one guy that I would like to see back in a Sox uniform is Freddy Sanchez.  He came up through the Sox farm system and had a cup of coffee with the big league club before being traded to Pittsburgh a few years ago in the Scott Sauerbeck deal.  Yes, San Francisco is only 4.5 back in the National League West.  I’d understand if they didn’t want to part with Freddy but if Theo wanted to give away some prospects such as Michael Bowden and Felix Doubrant I would have to believe San Fran would be intrigued.  Plus when Dustin comes back, Freddy is versatile enough to move around the infield.  This would be a stretch to acquire Sanchez but I would definitely be happy if he came.

Ty Wigginton would be another option for the Sox.  He is currently stuck in Baltimore and going nowhere fast.  He will almost certainly be dealt before the trade deadline.  While he may be questionable defensively at second base he is hitting .270 with 13 home runs and 40 runs batted in.  I have never been a huge Wigginton fan but you can’t question his offensive potential.

It seems every year Cristan Guzman is in trade rumors involving the Red Sox.  Much like Wigginton his glove is a question mark but he does consistently hit around .300 and has plenty of speed where he can burn up the base paths.  The Nationals are doing a great job of rebuilding their franchise and a few prospects for someone like Guzman would be ideal for the Nationals.

The last guy I could say that I’d truly want would be Mike Aviles.  He has been stuck in the cesspool known as Kansas City his whole career.  He is currently hitting .320 and would be a nice number 2 hitter behind Marco Scutaro.  There is no real reason for Kansas City to hang on to him since they continually can’t make it to Memorial Day in terms of staying in contention. 

If I had it my way, I would see what Billy Hall could do over the next week and a half.  I’d be fine with a solid defense and about .270 average.  If he doesn’t do that Theo has to pull the trigger and make a deal.  This Sox team is a dangerous one should they make October.  To lose it when you have the opportunity to make a move to stay in contention would be foolish.  I would most like to see Freddy Sanchez come to town but doubt it will happen.  I do predict Theo gets Guzman and I will be ok with that too.

Must be Tough to be a Celtics Fan

I wasn’t going to write a post today about the Celtics because some of my co-bloggers are much more into the NBA than I am.  But, after logging on to Facebook this morning and seeing countless statuses all saying the same general, “It’s ok that Boston lost because they weren’t expected to go that far anyway,” I felt a rant coming on.

The now “Mediocrely sized three” (MST) were brought to Boston for one purpose and one purpose only, to win championships.  They certainly lived up to those lofty expectations in 2008, but have failed to regain that same form since then.  Granted they are two years older, but their all-star point guard is two years smarter, their bench is two years more experienced, and they have added Rasheed Wallace and Nate Robinson.  So, maybe the MST aren’t what they were in 2008, but I would argue that the talent level of the two teams (2008 vs. 2010) is similar.  That being said, to accept anything less than a championship as being a good season is an irrational act.  Since 2004, the Boston Red Sox are expected to compete for a World Series on a yearly basis.  Anything less that getting those rings would be considered a disappointment.  Since 2001, the New England Patriots are expected to compete for a Super Bowl on a yearly basis.  They went 18-1 in 2007 and people were pissed that they didn’t win the title.  Anything less than a Super Bowl is a disappointment.  Since 2008, the Celtics are expected to compete for an NBA Championship, and until Garnett, Pierce, and/or Allen are no longer a member(s) of the team, anything less than a championship IS a disappointment.  I don’t want to hear any more of this shit about how we are still happy for the Celtics that they just made it to the Championship game.  I don’t want to hear how we are happy that the “old guys” mustered up the courage to push the series to seven games.  And I certainly don’t want to hear how it’s ok that the Celtics lost because they still beat Dwight Howard and Lebron James.  You know last night you were pissed that the Celtics lost.  You know that their lack of offensive production in the 4th quarter was the sole reason they lost.  You know that they looked old last night.  But, you know they could have easily won that game.  So, cut the shit…anything less than a championship is unacceptable…and as we all know, the second place finisher is the first place loser.

Another thing that is pissing me off this morning is people complaining that the NBA fixes games.  The referees blatantly made calls all series to force a seventh game.  Cut the shit!  David Stern knows that if word ever got out that he was fixing games, the NBA would cease to exist.  On the court last night was probably 13 of the 100 best players in the world (may be a bit bold, but not too far from the truth).  To expect the series, with that level of talent, to not go to at least six, if not seven games, is pretty outrageous.  The so-called experts were even saying all along that it would be tough for teams to win back to back games, many predicting a seven game series.  On top of the level of talent, NBA referees have by far the toughest officiating job in all of sports.  NBA officials are forced to be very subjective.  In the MLB, a strike is a strike, an out is an out, a homerun is a homerun.  Granted there is a little wiggle room with strike zone size, or the occasional missed call, but the duties/job of an umpire is pretty clear cut.  In the NFL a hold is a hold, a fumble is a fumble, and a personal foul is a personal foul.  Again, there is a little wiggle room with what is and is not allowed, but it again is pretty cut and dry.  Not to mention that the MLB started implementing replay, and the NFL has been doing it for several seasons now.  In the NBA, 75% of whistles (if not more) are dedicated to fouls.  Your idea of a foul is much different from my idea of a foul, which is even more different than Joey Crawford’s idea of a foul.  These referees are put in a position where they need to make an instantaneous judgment call in front of 25,000 screaming fans, where undoubtedly they are going to get one fan base pissed off at a call.  So, to even entertain the idea that the referees blew the game for the Celtics is outrageous.  To even entertain the idea that the NBA rigged game to force the series into seven games is ridiculous.  To even entertain the idea that David Stern told Joey Crawford that the Lakers should win the series in game seven is downright stupid.  The referees made as many bad calls against the Celtics as they did against the Lakers.  The series was lost by the Boston Celtics and their inability to capitalize on the Lakers’ mistakes, and their unwillingness to show up in the fourth quarter.  Any explanation other than that is a true display for your inability to accept defeat and innate desire to create an excuse to lessen the pain that failure brings.

Celtics V Lakers Game 7

The title says it all.

The best rivalry in all of sports has reached its zenith.  A game seven between the Celtics and the Lakers is what David Stern and basketball purists across the nation had hoped for at the start of this season.  Anyone with a pulse and an affliction for the game of basketball will be glued to their television sets tonight. 

There is an interesting contrast between the two teams playing tonight.  The Celtics play a more team-oriented brand of basketball, the Lakers ebb and flow are dictated by Kobe Bryant.

The whole team for Boston must contribute in order to win this game.

 I fully believe that we are going to see something special from Paul Pierce tonight.  Game five was great to see, and I think game 7 will be a similar performance from the pulse of this team.  Rajon Rondo needs to be mindful to get Pierce involved early so that he can get into a groove.  If Pierce starts hot it will open up the rest of the offense.  Spacing is so important, and if Pierce can get going early it will open up passing lanes for everyone else. 

I think Ray Allen needs to be special.  He has proven that he likes the rims in LA better this series, tonight, he will need to love them.  KG will need to be on with his long-range jumper.  He needs to get Gasol out of the paint on defense so that there are second chance opportunities for the C’s.  Davis will need to knock down jumpers when he gets his chance.  I think that LA will make him prove he can hit a few before he sees any pressure.  With Garnett and Davis possibly pulling out the bigs for LA, the second chances could prove huge throughout the game. 

The glaring hole in the paint tonight for the Celtics in the absence of Kendrick Perkins will not be filled by one man.  It is going to take some minutes from players who have not seen much of the floor, one who hasn’t put on a jersey in weeks.  After Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis, the Celtics will need Sheldon Williams and Brian Scalabrine to step up tonight, frankly they need them to not screw up.  I feel more comfortable putting in Scal before Williams personally from a pure effort standpoint.  As awkward as he is he has shown in the past that his hacking mentality can be disruptive and his effort is something I believe the team can feed off of. 

Rasheed Wallace could very well be the X-factor in this game.   As I said earlier I see Davis getting the start tonight.  However, I think Sheed’s contributions on defense will be crucial to the Celtics winning the battles down low. Wallace has proven he can play solid defense in the post and his experience in big playoff games should serve him well to keep an even keel mentally, ( even keel for him of course).   The key is how long can he stay on the court and be effective.  I am not as worried about the fouls as everyone else seems to be, I know I should be, but I’m not.  I think the refs let the payers play a little more than normal given the levity of this game.  Wallace isn’t used to playing big minutes, and this is the concern I have versus the foul-trouble argument.  Back in January he was playing 30-35 minutes in games, so it can be done. 

I think that Doc has done a masterful job managing his veterans minutes down the stretch of the regular season.  With one game left I think he will run them all ragged.  I think they are all aware of that fact.  The experience on this roster should allow them to keep mindful not to get too high too early and to stay within the flow of the game.

 The Celtice are 6-1 after a loss this year in the playoffs.  This team needs to be resilient, it needs to be fierce, it needs an outright herculean effort from every man in green tonight.  There are no more second chances, no more second guessing, no more we’ll get em next time.  This is what all athletes dream about when they are children.  A chance to play in this kind of game does not come along that often.  You can look at the Celtics roster for prime examples.  Ray Allen has never been in a game seven, nor has Garnett, not even Pierce.  Not in the finals, not on this stage.  The last game seven in the finals was in 2005 between the Spurs and Pistons (Wallace was on that roster), before that it was 1994  between the Rockets and Knicks. 

Tonight I am looking to see the Celtics fly to loose balls, take care of the ball, and rebound.  The team that wins the rebounding battle has won every game so far this series.  Without Perkins this will no doubt be tough,  but it can be done.  Boston needs to work hard down low and make every shot difficult.  The defense will need to eliminate second chance scoring from the Lakers every chance they get.  The defense needs to set the tone for this team, it needs to be the focus of every Celtic to play above his ability tonight.  Something special will happen tonight, history will be made, and in order for Boston to be on the right side of that, they need to play as a team. 

The Mankins Situation

“Well, right now we’re just focusing on coaching the players that are here, I think we’ll go out and get things done, hopefully have a good practice today, and that’s where our emphasis is: the guys that are here.’’  Those were the ever-predictable words of New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick yesterday in response to a question regarding Logan Mankins’ contract situation.  Did you expect anything else?  Would you like Belichick to come out and say, “Oh man I don’t know what we are going to do without Mankins here, that beard is just so amazing!”  If that came out of Bill’s mouth, then you know that something would seriously be wrong.

I understand Logan’s point of view.  The man has performed since the day he put on a New England Patriots’ uniform.  Ever since being the 32nd overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, Mankins has been a model of consistency on the field.  Starting 16 games every season since being drafted, Logan was selected as a Pro Bowl starter twice (2007, 2009).  So, does he deserve to get paid?  Yes.  Should the Patriots pay him?  Absolutely not.

Nobody in the NFL really knows what is in store for the 2011 NFL season.  With the current Collective Bargaining Agreement situation completely unresolved, it is becoming more and more likely that there will be no football in the 2011.  Why would the Patriots dole out presumably top five offensive guard money (Saints’ guard Jahri Evans recently signed a 7-year $56 million deal) when they have no idea if they will play any games next season?  So, for Mankins to vocalize his disappointment isn’t completely outrageous, but he needs to realize that the team is in a very awkward position.  Balancing player happiness (or at least content) with being fiscally responsible is a fine line to toe, and we all know that if the Patriots waver off the line at all, it is certainly always towards the fiscally responsible side.

Also, let us not forget that back in December Vince Wilfork was a very large unhappy man.  He was complaining about the team not being loyal to him, vocalizing his desire to play in Miami, and voicing his complaints about the team’s disrespect towards veteran players.  But, sure enough the Patriots took care of their core players and gave Wilfork a 5-year $40 million contract.  I say this to you Logan: Stop complaining, bitching, moaning, and requesting trades, because as soon as the Patriots know when they will be playing football again after the conclusion of this season, you will get paid and be a Patriot for a long time to come.

Ouch!

Painful, embarrassing, and aggravating.   There are many more adjectives that could be used to describe the Celtics “effort” in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.  The morning after Game 6 has left a familiar taste in the mouths of New England sports fans everywhere.  Don’t believe me?  Think back to last year’s NFL playoffs when Ray Rice took the opening handoff 80 yards for a touchdown as the Ravens humiliated the Patriots.  Think to just a few weeks ago when the Boston Bruins were up 3 games to none on the Philadelphia Flyers only to successfully choke 4 games in a row bewildering a fan base.

The difference here is that these were games in which the hometown team was eliminated.  The silver lining with the Celtics is that, come Thursday, they have the opportunity to come back and play another game avenging the mortification of Tuesday night.  It had to be expected that Lakers would come out like bats out of hell last night and they were able to maintain their high level of play for 48 minutes while the Celtics never showed up.  Even the Laker fans were uncharacteristically loud and rowdy to my surprise.  It is not even worth analyzing what happened last night.  It is better to put to use the technology from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and erase any memory of what transpired last night.

If you are honest with yourself, you knew this series was going the full seven games.  I initially believed that the Celtics would take it in 6 but that was my homerism kicking in.  After Game One, my opinions changed.  I figured if the Celtics could split in LA, win 2 in Boston, and then split back in LA, they’d be marching in a parade come late June.  That is still the case.

After the 105 games Celtics have played in this season, it all comes down to one.  Game Seven is the greatest two words in all of sports.  We should embrace that we have a chance to see all that matters in the 2010 NBA season play out in 48 minutes.  Game 7 is Thursday at 9.  One team will be crowned champions of the world, the other will either have a long flight back across the country, or deal with losing the most important game of their careers on their home court.

As Red likes to hear, Let’s Go Celtics!

Is Game 6 Really It?

Once the Finals came, every game became the most important of the season, but no game is as important as an elimination game.  After a convincing performance in Game 5 the Celtics are about to play the most important game of the last 2 seasons, with an opportunity to stick it to the rival Lakers and celebrate a championship against the defending champions on their home court.  The Celtics ended the basketball title drought 2 years ago in Boston against their rivals, and this year, what would be sweeter than finishing it in LA….the answer is nothing.

As we have heard since Game 4, the Celtics bench has been the key to them being the first team in the series to win back to back games, an accomplishment that no one believed could be acheived.  For the bench to play as well as they did in Boston is based on two reasons: they did not have to deal a lot with Bynum in the middle and it is much easier for a teams bench to play well in front of the uplifting home crowd.  If the C’s bench can do in LA what they were able to do in Boston then see ya lata, series over.  Yet, you cannot expect that, so the key if that the bench just focuses on playing above the level they played at in games 1 and 2, and if you combine that with a revived Paul Pierce and KG, while assuming Ray Allen is not going to continue to struggle, then all signs point to the Boston Celtics wrapping this series up tonight in LA.

The Lakers have a problem.  Sadly, that problem is the non-Jordan Kobe Bryant.  He broke a cardinal rule with the use of the media to call out his teammates.  I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking that he tried to use it as a tool to motivate his teammates, hoping it would light a fire under them for this game at home.  Well, sorry killa, but you DO NOT cross that bridge in the NBA Finals.  Celtics by 4….see you at the parade in a week.

How Much of a Draw is the World Cup?

I haven’t stepped on to a competitive soccer field since I was five years old.  Before my fascination with the FIFA video game series, I had no interest in the game of soccer.  I did not watch one game of the 2006 World Cup.  So, why have I suddenly been overwhelmed by the desire to watch every second of World Cup action?  Maybe it’s similar to the nationwide phenomenon that was the Winter Olympics, and the simultaneous jumping on to the bandwagon that occurred with the U.S. hockey team.  Maybe it’s a slow building sense of globalization that is making its way into our daily lives.  Maybe it is the notion that if I fail to watch, I am missing a worldwide sport spectacle that occurs only once every four years.  Or, maybe the evolution of video games has subtly persuaded me into becoming an actual soccer fan.  But, whatever the reasoning may be, I am proud to proclaim that I am loving the 2010 World Cup.

The real question is, how much of a draw is the World Cup to Americans, and more specifically, to those of us living in the Northeast.  The Boston Celtics are currently one game away from winning their 18th NBA Championship.  The Red Sox are currently four games back of both the Yankees and the Rays, and are arguably playing the best baseball of anyone in the entire MLB.  The Patriots are getting their off season started again and already rumors are swirling regarding Brady’s dissension towards the team (Yahoo is completely fabricating this story), Moss’s desire to get paid, Welker’s knee, Belichick exchanging phone numbers with Boston rapper Sam Adams, amongst many other things.  The Bruins are already making some off-season moves in hopes to further their playoff run in the 2011 NHL season.  So, what time do people in New England have to dedicate to the World Cup?  Aside from die-hard soccer fans, I am hearing little talk about the World Cup as a whole.  But, Americans need to realize the importance of this event.  Soccer is the one game that is bigger than the United States.  Consider if suddenly the U.S.A. was removed from the world, the NFL, MLB, and NBA would immediately cease to exist, and the worldwide importance of baseball, basketball, and football would be severely diminished, if not abolished completely.  The NHL would also obviously no longer exist, but hockey has roots all throughout Canada, Russia, and other places around the world.  Even though hockey would still hold some importance, the NHL is the best hockey league in the world and without that, hockey’s global image takes a big hit.  Soccer is the one sport that would be unfazed by the lack of participation or following from Americans.  Well, unfazed may be a strong word considering that one of the World Cup’s larger television markets must be the United States, but soccer’s global importance is much higher than here in the U.S.  The best soccer players come from Argentina, Spain, Portugal, England, the Ivory Coast, Germany, etc.  The best international teams are Spain, England, France, Argentina, and Brazil, not the United States.  The top talent play their regular seasons in the English Premier League, La Liga in Spain, and the Italian Serie A.  The United States simply does not have a place amongst the great teams, players, or leagues in soccer.

That is the exact reason why the World Cup is something that every American should catch at least a part of.  There are very few instances where the United States is forced to play the underdog card.  This may help explain the popularity of the Olympics.  The United States is not always favored, and people certainly can latch on to rooting for the underdog.  How many people would watch curling if the United States won every single match for the last fifty years?  I would bet that curling would struggle to get televised at that point.  Now I’m ranting, but all I’m saying is that in order to see something that is bigger than the United States (which sporting events rarely are), the World Cup is what you need to tune into.  These countries that play in the World Cup have been waiting four long years for their team to once again have a chance at grasping greatness.  How big would the Super Bowl be if it occurred only once every four years?  So, this week when you get some free time, grab a beer, shut off the cell phone, tell the miss’s to hold off vacuuming or setting up patio furniture for a couple of hours, sit down and take it all in.  Realize the importance of the World Cup to people outside of the United States.  Realize how awesome this next month would be in the U.S. embraced the World Cup like the rest of the world does.  Then, after those ninety minutes of futbol are completed and you find yourself yelling at the television for Lionel Messi to fire off one last shot off his deadly left foot, embrace your new found appreciation and acceptance for a game that spans beyond your hometown bias, beyond your national pride, and realize how great the World Cup actually is.