The Boston Red Sox are the Best Team in Baseball

Go ahead Red Sox fans: Let that headline sink in.  Enjoy it.  Cherish it. Be proud of the home town team.  If  the last few seasons have pushed you away from the club, it is safe to come back now.  This team is a complete “180” of the 25 individuals from seasons past.  With one game remaining in April, the Red Sox are 18-7.  That is .720 ball, on pace for 117 wins.  Better than the winning? This team has to be the most likable team of any sport I can remember.

Since I last wrote, the city of Boston underwent the most traumatic week a city could possibly endure. During tragic events, like thedavid-ortiz-this-is-our-fucking-city-595x318 Boston Marathon bombing, cities generally gravitate toward their sports teams for a sense of comfort or hope.  It happened after 9/11 and it happened in Boston.  The Red Sox embraced this role.  Guys like Will Middlebrooks and Shane Victorino were quick to tweet out their support and love for Boston.  Dustin Pedroia paid visited the victims at the hospitals.  Probably most memorable was Big Papi’s quote when he addressed the crowd at Fenway Park the Saturday after that scum was apprehended.  “This is our F****** city!” (And to all the people upset about Papi’s language, grow up.  It was said with unparalleled emotion and it built pride in every single person that lives in that city. It needed to be said.) Best of all, the Red Sox came from behind to beat the Kansas City Royals behind Daniel Nava’s 8th inning three run blast into the bullpen.  What an amazing day that was!

The success the Red Sox have had can be attributed to the starting pitching.  Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have been outstanding this month.  Buchholz is 5-0 with a 1.19 ERA. He has to be the early leader in the American League Cy Young debate after 1 month.  Not far behind him in that race is Lester.  Lester is 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA.  The lesson learned here?  John Farrell was a great decision to lead this ball club.  Amazing what happens when the general manager gets to his job, huh Larry?

With Joel Hanrahan due to come off the disabled list, it will be interesting to see if Farrell sticks with Andrew Bailey, or goes backla_g_clay-buchholz_mb_600 to Hanrahan.  Bailey has been very good in the closers role with Hanrahan out.  I do not have a strong preference toward either guy.  I think they both can do the job.  What excites me is the potential to shorten the game with this bullpen.  The Japanese duo has erased the sour Japanese taste out of my mouth Daisuke Matsuzaka left behind.  Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara have been electric in the middle innings.  Clayton Mortensen has been more than serviceable as a long man. If Andrew Miller ever learned o throw strikes, I might like him too.

David Ortiz has silenced his critics early.  Remember how upset everyone was that he was not ready for Opening Day?  Remember how upset everyone was when the Red Sox signed him to a multi-year deal this offseason?  Well, through 8 games Big Papi has said “shut the hell up” to his critics.  Ortiz is hitting .516 with 11 runs batted in and 2 home runs.  The lineup of Pedroia, Ortiz, Napoli, and Middlebrooks could be a potential murderer’s row.  Napoli has been outstanding as a run producer.  He set the franchise record for most RBIs in April with 27.  He is currently averaging a little over 1 RBI a game!  If Ellsbury and Victorino can get on base for these guys, watch out.

Lastly, I understand Red Sox fans are upset with Stephen Drew.  Most people are upset with him because of his genes.  Others have a more valid reason to be upset.  Drew is currently hitting .146.  Yes, that is atrocious. In an effort to be positive on all accounts, I am going to ask the masses to silence their criticisms of Drew.  I am going to go out on a limb and say he will get the average up to about .230 by the next time I write about the Red Sox.  I am doing my best to write on their off days.  So Stephen Drew has until May 13 to make me look like a genius.

Get behind these guys! They have the pitching.  They have the defense.  They are playing with great energy.  They are everything they haven’t been the past 3 seasons.

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF

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Patriots First Round NFL Draft Options

UPDATE

* After trading down to 52, six players from original first round predictions are still available: FS Jonathan Cyprien, WR Justin Hunter, DL, Jesse Williams, WR Robert Woods, WR Terrence Williams & CB Jamar Taylor. *

*Patriots have 19 selections before they are on the clock, but could use extra picks from Vikings to move up and take a player early in the second round *

In about three hours the New England Patriots will be on the clock. Even though head coach Bill Belichick and the war room actually traded up last year, drafting defensive impact players Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower, there is a sense of a return to normalcy this season as the Pats will likely be up to their old tricks, trading down to accrue more selections, especially this season as their normal glut of selections is quite bare by Patriots standards.

However, lets surmise that New England actually stays put at No. 29. They will have several players to choose as the board is currently laid out and a player or two that could slide to the Pats and force them to pull the trigger on a player as opposed to a deal that would get them a future first or second round pick or extra second or third (and don’t count out another late round sixth or seventh for good measure).

It’s obvious that the Patriots have a need at wide receiver but adding depth at the cornerback, defensive line, linebacker, safety and offensive live spots is also prevalent.

If New England stays put (which we all know is highly unlikely) here is a list of players that could be joining the Patriots in just over 200 minutes.

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WR – Cordarelle Patterson – Tennessee

  • The perfect match of need and talent late in the first round. If he’s there, Patriots will definitely have to look at it, but there have been questions about his ability to grasp a complex playbook after a low wonderlic score.

CB – Xavier Rhodes – Florida State

  • Rhodes would need a big slide to reach the Pats, but New England would definitely pull the trigger if he was still there.

DL – Datone Jones – UCLA

  • A big body that fills a need in depth on the line.

CB – Desmond Trufant – Washington

  • The likely pick at corner should the Patriots stand pat and choose to go with secondary selection.

FS – Jonathan Cyprien – FIU

  • Another player that is not expected to be available at 29, but an immediate impact player in the secondary.

WR – Justin Huner – Tennesse

  • The player opposite Cordarelle Patterson, but a good player in his own right and the possible pick if the Patriots decide they need a wide receiver.

FS – Matt Elam – Florida

  • There have been plenty of knocks on Elam through the draft process, which means he’ll be available, but likely still there in the early second round as well.

DT – Jesse Williams – Alabama

  • An imposing force on the front line that would be an intriguing combo with Vince Wilfork. Could be the pick for the Pats.

WR – Robert Woods – USC

  • After the departures of Welker & Lloyd, the Patriots have been linked to just about every available wide receiver.

WR – Terrance Williams – Baylor

  • See! Williams took a back seat to Josh Gordon last year and lost Griffin this season but is still a solid player.

CB – Jamar Taylor – Boise State

  • Again, may be gone by 29 just like Rhodes & Cyprien, but would be a welcome addition to the secondary corps.

CB – DJ Hayden – Houston

  • I just said Taylor would be gone, and there is no chance Hayden is still there when the Pats pick… but hey, crazier things have happened.

WR – DeAndre Hopkins – Clemson

  • St. Louis was linked to Hopkins in the early going after losing Amendola, but buzz has cooled as of late. Could slip to Pats.

DE – Bjoern Werner – Patriots

  • The thought of this guy and Ninkovich on the ends with Chandler Jones running people down from all angles is scary. Might not be a bad idea for the Patriots to look at.

The Red Sox are Fun Again!

Baseball fans outside of the New England area are having a field day making fun of irrational Red Sox fans one week into the Unknownseason.  After starting the 2013 season with a 5-2 record, fans are talking about winning the franchise’s third World Series in 10 years.  Maybe that is taking it a touch to far.  The point being; After 2 years of miserable baseball, the Boston Red Sox are back and now relevant in New England again.  It is no secret the Red Sox have been throughly unlikable the past 2 seasons.  Even during the stretch of 2011 when “The Greatest Baseball Team Ever” was playing like it, they were behind boring.  If anything the 2013 version of the Boston Red Sox is the antithesis of the past two years.  In one week, the Red Sox played with more emotion and fire than they had in all of the last two seasons combined.

Many in Boston are wondering if what the Red Sox are doing is sustainable.  Can they continue to play well over the course of a 162 game season and contend for a playoff spot?  There are bound to be peaks and valleys over such a long stretch of time.  A 5-2 record is playing .714 baseball.  They certainly will not win at this pace all season long.

The most promising aspect of the Red Sox hot start has been the pitching and defense.  Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are pitching like the 1 and 1A Red Sox fans believe they are.  Lester is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA.  Buchholz is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA.  Whether it’s the absence of Josh Beckett or the presence of John Farrell, I do not know, but these guys have been lights out.  The bullpen has also been effective and are in the discussion for best bullpen in baseball.  Andrew Bailey has been dominant in his 8th inning role.  Joel Hanrahan has been able to shut the door in every game he has appeared in featuring his 99 MPH fastball.  Jonathan who?  And how about the defense?  Through 7 games, ZERO errors.

The unsung guys have been contributing in a big way.  Jose Iglesias is batting .450.  (Speaking of things that won’t last).  Daniel Unknown-1Nava hit a game winning home run from the right side of the plate against the Orioles.  David Ross has made it clear nobody will steal any bases under his watch.  Will “Misslebrooks” launched three rockets out of the Rogers Centre.

Honesty what is there not to like about this team?  After two seasons of watching boring, unlikable, prima donnas this current team is a breath of fresh air.  The Red Sox have 19 straight games before their next scheduled off day. It is my hope I will be able to report back to you with even more positive feedback at that time.  As it stands at the time of this writing, the Red Sox are 5-2, 2 games ahead of the Orioles, Yankees, and Rays in sole possession of first place.

 

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF

2013 New England Patriots Mock Draft

Now that I’ve completed my 1st round mock (https://ntcf.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/2013-nfl-mock-draft-version-1-0-by-the-better-looking-mel-kiper/), it’s time to take a look at the 2013 NFL Draft from a New England Patriots perspective.  Unlike most years, the Pats are not loaded with 12 or 13 selections.  They have 5 picks (two 7th round selections) in this draft, and need to hit on almost all of them.  I’ve already mocked the Patriots’ 1st round pick in my entire 1st round mock, so I’ll start there and then move through the rest of their selections.  Let’s do it…

1st Round: #29 – DeAndre Hopkins, WR Clemson

For a team drafting this low in the 1st round, it always seems that the Patriots have so many needs and so many directions that they could go in.  After the release of Brandon Lloyd, the Pats have a big need at wide receiver.  With Alfonzo Dennard’s unknown future, the Pats have a big need at cornerback.  Vollmer has been resigned, so their needs on the offensive line are diminished, but they could use some improved depth.  On the defensive line, they could use another rush guy on the outside (i.e. John Abraham) and another big body up the middle.  I’m projecting a wide receiver here for the Pats, but who the hell knows.  Their track record with selecting wideouts isn’t very good (i.e. Chad Jackson, Taylor Price, Brandon Tate).  DeAndre Hopkins is the best route runner and has the best hands of the remaining wideouts.  Sounds like a Pats guy to me…

2nd Round: #59 – Tyrann Mathieu, CB LSU

Controversial isn’t necessarily the Patriot Way on draft day, however I think that Mathieu’s talent forces teams looking for cornerback help in the 2nd and 3rd round to consider selecting him.  Let’s not forget, the Patriots have taken on controversial players before (i.e. Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco, Albert Haynesworth).  More recently, guys like Ryan Mallett and Alfonzo Dennard were draft picks that had “character” questions surrounding them.  From all reports, Mathieu has impressed NFL teams throughout the interview process, and impressed at the combine considering he was out of football for a year (4.50 40-yard dash, 4.14 shuttle, 34 inch vertical).  In my opinion, taking a risk on Mathieu at the end of the second round it a worthwhile endeavor for the Patriots.

3rd Round: #91 – John Simon, DE/OLB Ohio State

John Simon came to Ohio State from high school as a 280-pound nose tackle, transitioned to a defensive end, and now is looking to impress scouts enough to be considered a 4-3 DE of a 3-4 OLB.  Simon has been dealing with shoulder issues this offseason, so he hasn’t been able to display his strength.  However, at his pro-day Simon displayed great athleticism for a guy his size (6’2”, 260 lbs), posting a 4.68 40-yard dash, 7.10 seconds in the three-cone drill, and a 34 inch vertical jump.  Simon isn’t necessarily ideal Patriot size for a 3-4 OLB (they usually like guys 6’4”+), however Simon benefitted from the tutelage of Mike Vrabel over the last couple of seasons (Vrabel is the defensive line coach for the Buckeyes) and has the makeup the Pats look for.

7th Round: #226 (TB) – Joe Kruger, DE Utah

Joe Kruger, younger brother of former Ravens and now Cleveland Browns OLB Paul Kruger, isn’t as highly touted as his brother was coming out of school.  With that being said, Kruger has good size and can be viewed as a “potential” type of pick if he is able to fill out his frame and continue to develop strength.  Kruger’s combine measures were 6’6”, 270 lbs, and he posted a 4.83 40-yard dash, 34’ vertical jump, and 7.17 3-cone drill.  Kruger has good athleticism for his size, but I’m projecting him as a 3-4 defensive end for the Pats.

7th Round: #235 – Jasper Collins, WR Mount Union

Collins was the only Division III invite to the 2013 East-West Shrine Game, and deservedly so.  Throughout the 2012 season, Collins amassed 92 catches for 1,694 yards and 22 touchdowns.  Collins is looking to be the next Mount Union wide receiver to produce in the NFL, following in the footsteps of Pierre Garcon and Cecil Shorts.  At 5’10”, 180 lbs, Collins’ size is similar to a slot receiver.  However, Collins also has good speed (4.47 40-yard dash), decent strength (12 reps on the bench), good explosiveness (34.5” vertical jump), and good quickness (6.85 3-cone drill).  This late in the draft, Collins is a great pick simply based on potential.