Brother to Brother: Episode 3

In this edition of Brother to Brother, I present the topics, and Big Bro responds.  My comments will be in regular font.  Steve’s will be in italics.  Please note: My comments were made January 21.  Steve took some time responding.  His comments were made January 23.

In this edition we talk about the Patriots season, top 10 Friars we have seen play, Jeff Green, and various other topics!

1) The Patriots have no reason to be upset with the season they had.  They lost to the better team on Sunday.  To be honest, I expected them to get walloped to the tune of 42-24 or so.  I still believe the Patriots can make another run next year because there is no clear cut team in the AFC ready to make the next step.  Keep in mind the Pats will be healthy coming into next season.  All in all you might be able to say the Pats overachieved this season.  Still hurts to lose to Peyton though.untitled

Pats –  Great season.  Something very difficult for NE fans to keep in perspective.  The Pats have been to the AFC Championship 8 times and 6 Super Bowls in the last 20 years, plus amazing winning percentage.  Pats fans are spoiled because of all the success.  Think of the following teams:  Browns, Bills, Jags, Texans, Cowboys, Lions, Dolphins, Bengals, Raiders, Bucs, Redskins, .  Cowboys have not won a playoff game in 20 years.  Think about that.  They had a great season and the future looks bright.  You could make the argument that their off-season acquisitions will be the return of injured players (Wilfork, Kelly, Armstead, Mayo, Talib, 3 rookie receivers, full season of Vereen, Gronk, Amendola at full health).  I read they were the second youngest team in the NFL.  Health was the biggest factor for them.  I also saw that Amendola should have been on season ending IR in Oct, maybe people will give him a break, he must be tough.

2) Everyone is bashing Richard Sherman.  You know I like to stick up for the guy everyone hates.  Let’s be honest, his cough adrenaline cough was flying high after the biggest play of the season to send his team to the Super Bowl.  You interview him 10-15 minutes after that play on the field?  He is still emotional.  Everyone knows his history.  Of course that outburst was going to happen.  He was jacked up.  And I have no problem with it.  I like seeing emotion a lot more than the usual “yes man” athlete.  I thought it was fantastic to see the unadulterated emotion.

 Sherman – Ehhh, an example of a non-story becoming a story.  Wow, an NFL player talked trash, gee I never saw such a thing.

3)Eddie Cooley has the Friars at “first 4 out” in the latest Bracketology.  Amazing he has the team this competitive with the adversity the team has faced this season.  He is basically playing 6 guys.  Bryce Cotton has played 50 minutes twice this season.  Cooley has said he will come out of the game when he graduates.  Cotton has crept into the 10 top Friars I have ever seen.  I know my list will vary greatly from yours but here it is.  1) Eric Murdock 2) Austin Croshere 3) Eric Williams 4) Ryan Gomes 5) Michael Smith 6) John Linehan 7) Bryce Cotton 8) Dickey Simpkins 9) MarShon Brooks 10) Jamel Thomas.untitled

Friars – In no particular order – Billy Donovan, Eric Murdock, Soup Campbell, Otis Thorpe, Eric Williams, Ryan Gomes, Austin Croshere, Ron Jackson, Joe Hassett, Michael Smith.  Ask Dad if he remembers Ron Jackson.  They very best were before my time:  Ernie D, Marvin Barnes and Jimmy Walker.  Special note to Marty Conlon, became a solid NBA player, but no one saw that coming.  And special note to Harold Starks, the greatest energy, defense first guy they ever had.

4) The Longhorns had a big win over #8 Iowa State the same day PC beat #20 Creighton.  Our squads are looking up?  Frankly, Iowa State is a one and done candidate come March.  I don’t think they get out of the first round.  After PC beat Creighton, Creighton turned around and smacked #4 Villanova by 30.  Too bad the transitive property doesn’t pertain to college basketball. Keep in mind Nova smashed PC by 30.

Longhorns & Barnes – Crazy program.  It is obviously a football school, but he has built a great basketball program.  The team is 2-3 recruits away from being very, very good.  Problem is when they get the talent, they are not around long.  But something to think about, here is a list and again in no particular order of the guys UT/Barnes has placed in the NBA.  TJ Ford, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Avery Bradley, Cory Joseph, DJ Augustin, Daniel Gibson, Jordan Hamilton, Dexter Pittman, Royal Ivey, Damion Jones, Tristan Thompson, PJ Tucker, Chris Mihm.

5) It is time to explore trade options for Jeff Green.  The Celtics are in a complete rebuild mode.  Green is a fringe player.  He has shown signs of being a top dog in the NBA, other times he completely disappears.  I don’t see him as a guy that can lead a team anywhere.  Remember the old line Bobby Knight used referring to Steve Alford?  That applies to Green.  The Celtics should rebuild around Rondo and Sullinger.  I compare Sullinger to Charles Barkley.  Both are undersized power forwards, who have a knack for cleaning the glass.  Sullinger is trying to develop some range similar to Kevin Love.  As long as his back holds up, Sullinger can be a great guy to build around.  Remember he was supposed to be a #1 overall pick after his freshman year but he stayed in school.  Time to trade Green for a first round pick somewhere.untitled

Jeff Green – Dropped 39 last night.  I still go back to my comments last year during the playoffs.  This is a guy who has been Option #3 for most of his career. He is an outstanding athlete, but does not have the instinct for selfish play and may not be a natural leader.  That is not a bad thing, when you think of the alternative, which is someone who wants to lead but can’t or sends the wrong message.  Also, you cannot have a locker room full of so-called self-appointed leaders, then you have nothing, sometimes having no drama guys who follow is a great thing to have.  Ainge actually did a good job with him from a contract standpoint.  He did not overpay.  I would rather have Green and his contract than Wallace and his contract.

6) Now that the Patriots season is over, the focus in the region will be the Bruins.  The Bruins are in second in the Eastern Conference, 5 points behind Pittsburgh.  They could be in trouble come playoff time because they lost Dennis Seidenberg for the season to an ACL injury.  The defensive pairing of Chara and Seidenberg has completely shut down high-flying offenses in years past.  Seidenberg might be the most underrated athlete in Boston.

Bruins – I have to do a better job following hockey.  My lack of hockey knowledge is apparent.

7)The Olympic break is one of the more interesting conundrums in sports.  Hockey owners must hate sending their best players to Sochi.  The beauty of the Olympic hockey is hockey players are a different breed. Cam Neely said it best when asked why the hockey players compete in the Olympics and do everything they can to win (as opposed to NBA players who coast through these competitions) “because they don’t know any better.”  The Olympics will serve as the true All Star Games fans want to see.

Olympics – Ehhh, used to love it, now it just feels like a pre-cursor to Campbell’s soup commercials and Wheaties boxes for the lucky winner.

8)Not much news on the Red Sox.  I am praying the Mets sign Stephen Drew so Xander and Middlebrooks will not have to look over their shoulder and have their development stunted by Drew.  The Grady Sizemore deal is reminiscent of when the Red Sox signed Rocco Baldelli.  Low risk/ high reward.  He offers competition for the center field spot with Jackie Bradley Jr.  I can’t honestly say I am expecting anything from him.imagesCAUU54PH

Red Sox –  Grady Sizemore!  Way to go all out Cherrington.  Reminds me of when Sinden ran the Bruins knowing they would always make money so never signed the talent to get to the Cup.  Although, I think the Sox really learned their lesson with Crawford/Gonzo signings.  They saw the burden those contracts might present, the animosity of the fans when they don’t perform.  Boston fans would rather have guys killing themselves to prove themselves, than guys who get  paid a lot to demonstrate apathy with W-L.  Boston fans can handle losing, if they know the players hate losing.  If they think the players are rich guys who could care less, it gets ugly.

Peter Vescey follows me on Twitter and you should too @ScottieNTCF.

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Brother to Brother: Episode 2

I have decided to change the title of this feature to NTCF.  “From Austin to Providence” was too close to Brandon Austin and the Providence College Friars in my mind.  I hope y’all can deal with the change.  If you have any suggestions for a better title please don’t hesitate to comment!  A reminder: My brother’s (Steve) comments will be in regular font.  My responses will be in italics.

Here is what was on the minds of the Patterson boys this week!

NBA:
1.  Miami Heat – Recently read how the Heat would be the first team to go make 4 consecutive finals appearances since the 1987 Celtics.  You have often asked about Bird and the 80’s Celts.  No better way than history repeating itself in a rarity.  So Jordan, Hakeem, Duncan, O’Neal, Bryant, Stockton/Malone, Isaiah etc. and even Magic, never did it.  Possibly, it gives you an idea of how good the Celts were in the 80s.Big-3-win
1) I know I always argue Pierce belongs in the all time great Celtic conversation.  The truth is, I was too young to really remember those 80’s teams.  That is pretty incredible the Celtics were able to get to 4 Finals in a row without free agency really being a factor.  I also believe Jordan’s Bulls would have easily made 4 and probably won 4 in a row if he wasn’t suspen- ahem, if he didn’t leave to play baseball.  Keep in mind The New Big Three Era with the Celtics.  If they avoided injuries to KG, Perk, and Avery Bradley it is very likely they could have achieved the same feat.
2.  Pacers – Like their chances if Granger contributes off the bench.
4.  Portland Trailblazers – Head Coach Terry Stotts deserves some serious accolades.  Look at their roster and tell me they would be 26-8?  Hopefully, they stay healthy and make a trade deadline deal to help with some wing scoring.
2/4) The Pacers and Blazers are particularly interesting because they both built their teams through the draft.  They are the anti-Heat, anti-Nets.  They also do not have a superstar on their team that David Stern smashes you over the head with in his marketing ventures.  I will make the argument Damian Lillard is the best point guard in the NBA.  Also Paul George and Lance Stephenson have been great in Indy this year.  It wouldn’t be the sexiest NBA Final, but I would definitely watch it from a pure basketball standpoint.
3.  Tanking – This is a really big issue for the NBA.  You could make the argument that 13 of the 15 teams in the East would prefer NOT to be in the playoffs or Finals.  Enough said.
3) There has to be a remedy to stop the tanking issue.  Even if teams aren’t tanking, the perception is there.  Maybe the 9th seed from each conference should get the most ping pong balls in the lottery.  Do it that way, and keep the league more competitive.
5.  Kobe and KG – Interesting how the media plays out the end for players, meaning as if it is unexpected.  Both players always played hard and now the years and mileage catch up.  Then, you look at Duncan at 17 pts and 9 rebs and you wonder why Coach Pop gets criticized for resting players.
5) You have dealt with this more than I have but man is it difficult watching the guys you grew up watching get old.  It’s like the media expects KG to be a 20-12 guy every night.  Remember how much of a beast he was in Minnesota in his prime?  His last years as a Celtic he started to taper off but was still very serviceable.  Sad that he is getting criticized.  He does not deserve it.
NFL:
1.  Pats – Getting home field was big, I think they can get it done against the Colts.  Talib neutralizes TY Hilton, the defense bends, not breaks.  Brady dials up some vintage clutch 3rd down play and…..Blount, Ridley, Vereen do the rest.
1) Everyone around here seems to think the Pats will coast by the Colts.  Have Patriot fans not learned their lesson the past few untitledseasons?  Remember when they were suppose to spank the Jets a few years back? Then they lost.  Granted the Colts only true weapon on offense for Luck to utilize is TY Hilton.  I actually expect Kyle Arrington to play him since Hilton plays primarily out of the slot.  Losing Brandon Spikes bothers me because he brings an attitude to the defense.  Not many guys like going over the middle when he is playing.  The injuries this team has suffered over the course of the year is bordering on ridiculous.  3rd down has been a mammoth issue up here.  Brady doesn’t have that dependable guy to go to on 3rd.  For some reason this game scares me.  Once again the Patriots will only go as far as Brady and The Hoody can take them.
2.  Bengals – A lot of criticism on Andy Dalton and he did not play a good game.  But the infatuation with QB controversies could be a really bad trend.  People forget, he is the guy who got your sorry franchise in the playoffs in his first three years after about 20 years of nothing.  The Bengals should be AFC favorites next year.  Guess who lost his first 3 playoff games? Peyton Mannning.  Not comparing Manning to Dalton, just stating that overreaction and knee jerk can get a franchise in a lot of trouble.  Just ask the Raiders, Bucs, Jags, Titans, Bills…
2) I agree with you 100%.  I believe people like to bash because it is fun to bash.  The bottom line is Andy Dalton has brought the Bengals into respectability.  Peyton Manning lost his first 8 playoff games all the while resurrecting the Colts franchise.  No, Dalton is not Manning but at the same time he shouldn’t be facing the level of heat he currently is facing. 
3.  Westlake HS – Drew Brees and Nick Foles both went to Westlake.  Just so you know, that is only about 10 miles from our house.
3) Everyone will be quick to criticize Mack Brown for not recruiting either Foles or Brees, but remember who was quarterbacking the Longhorns at the time Foles and Brees were in college.  Foles graduated college in 2011. (Colt McCoy)  Brees graduated in 2000  (Chris Simms-Major Applewhite)
4.  Kaepernick – Not sure what it is, but I am not sure I am a fan.  Respect his ability, athleticism, but there just seems to be something missing?  Maybe I like the traditional Manning, Brady, Brees, Rodgers guys more than the RGIII, Kaepernick guys.   Here is a thought, I think the 49ers would be in the same spot with just about 18 other QBs in the league, their roster is loaded on both sides of the ball.   For argument, any of the following would have them in the same position (Manning, Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Rivers, Romo, Cutler, Foles, Vick, Newton, E. Manning, Stafford, Ryan, Wilson, Palmer, Roethlisberger, Luck, Smith).  I would say that Kaepernick could NOT get the following teams to the playoffs with the current roster.  (Giants, Packers, Bears, Lions, Vikings, Bucs, Cardinals, Rams, Jets, Bills, Dolphins, Browns, Titans, Jags, Raiders, Chargers)untitled
4) Interesting way of looking at the quarterback argument.  I love/hate Kaepernick.  Love his talent.  Hate that he screwed my fantasy football team this year.  I think he is better than Matthew Stafford.  Stafford is so insanely overrated it’s beyond anything that could be considered a rational thought.  Give me Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush, hell just give me Calvin Johnson and I can throw for 350 yards, too!  I also absolutely 100% believe Kaepernick takes the Bears to the Super Bowl and wins it no matter who the opponent is.  Also the 49ers would be worse with Carson Palmer as their quarterback.  He is terrible.  Same can be said for Jay Cutler.
5.  Versatile HBs – Woodhead, Sproles, Charles, McCoy really like those guys.  If Manning did not have such a monster year, I really think J. Charles is the MVP.  He is Priest Holmes and M. Faulk 2.0.
5) Jamal Charles should be the MVP.  He did more with less talent around him.  Peyton Manning had a video game like roster on his hands.  If he did anything less than what he did this season, he’d be considered a failure.  Heck, I’d even say he underachieved this season.  Records mean nothing to me anymore because the rules now protect the offensive side of the ball.  If he had these numbers 5-10 years ago, maybe I’d be impressed.
6.  Coaching Fires – Brutal profession, but I guess most of the guys who were let go, there is reason.  Only guy who did not get a fair shake was Chudzinski in Cleveland.  Seriously, one year and all the injuries at QB (not to mention the QB choices were Weeden, Campbell and Hoyer).  He did not draft those guys and he did not pick or trade Richardson.
6) Completely agree Chudzinski got the short end of the stick.  Then you have a guy like Jim Schwartz who should have been fired 3 years ago.  The Schwartz was not with him.
MLB:
1. Sox – Nothing
1)  The story with the Red sox right now is whether they will bring back Stephen Drew or not.  I hope he signs elsewhere.  If he stays, he stunts the development of Will Middlebrooks and Xander Boegarts.  In a full season, Middlebrooks will hit 30 home runs and drive in 100.
2. Astros – Less than nothing
2) I think the Astros will win more than they did last season.  Shouldn’t be hard since that total is 51.  Only players worth watching on their roster are Jose Altuve and Dexter Fowler.  Can’t believe they gave Scott Feldman a 3 year contract for $30 million.  Feldman…from across the hall!  (Bizarro Seinfeld-world Kramer!)
3. Pujols – Saw the other day, he is only 33 years old.  Playing like he is 43.  Wait, I am 43.  Ok, 53 then.
4. Hank Aaron – Look up his numbers some day (then Gehrig and Ruth).  Man!  Basically, Pujols would have to average 30 homers for the next 7 years to reach 720 career home runs, 35 short of Aaron.  Of course, Aaron needed 700 more games than Ruth to hit 755.  Bonds needed 483 more games to hit 762 than Ruth’s 714.  Yeah-yeah, not to mention PED assisted.
3-4) Hank Aaron’s power numbers are absurd.  I say Pujols has an outside chance at some of them because he will likely DH the rest of his career. 
5.  Greg Maddux – Gotta be unanimous – right?untitled
5) Maddux should be unanimous but there is always that one dink writer that wants to make a story and not vote in an obvious selection.  The BBWA is a bigger joke than anything Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, or Ron White ever delivered.
I CAN BE FOLLOWED ON TWITTER @SCOTTIENTCF
(Will Middlebrooks follows me. Obviously you should, too!)

From Austin to Providence: 12/2-12/9 Weekly Report

My brother and I send a weekly email in which we catch up, go over the week in sports, etc.  I thought it would be a good post to put on the blog as far as diversfying the content, which as of late has just been NFL picks.  My brother lives in Texas and doesn’t really get the full feel of the New England sports scene down there.  He has been disappointed with my lack of content on the site lately.  So here is to keeping the site alive and interesting.  For faithful readers dating back to the Mongoose days, this will be reminiscent of my “Mumbles” column, but with an added twist courtesy of my brother.

My brother’s opinions/statements are in regular font.  My responses are in italics.  Enjoy.  As always, any feedback is greatly appreciated!

1.  Gronk – Tough injury.  Clean play.  The DB said he was afraid to hit him high because of a fine.  Well, I am not sure if that is the thing you are thinking of during the game with a split second to decide on how to hit an opposing player.  Everyone hits Gronk low because hitting him high is a foolish attempt to bring him down.  I hope he recovers well.03982814.r

1) I honestly would not be surprised if Gronk never plays another down of football in his life.  At what point does he say enough is enough?  He was hurt in college often, too.  I find it funny he basically Danny Amendola when it comes to injuries but does not receive the same criticism.  They aren’t soft players, more fragile.  They suffer significant injuries more than the normal athlete.  There are some reports saying Gronk suffered a concussion as well as the knee injury.

2.  Knee injuries – ACL/MCL – I had the same injury (adding torn meniscus, I am willing to bet he has a meniscus tear and it will be corrected in the same surgical procedure), I was hit from the side vs. straight on.  It occurred 6 months ago and I can run, jump, swim and bike.  Here is my point:  I am 43.5 years old, do not have access to world class medical and training staff.  My job is not to be a professional athlete, it is not my only focus.  Under those circumstances (age, time, resources, medical staff), I can honestly say, I would have been able to rebound in 5 months.  For Gronk, in 5 months, that would be Apr/May, then he would have 60 more days for camp.  He can fully recover.  Psychologically, that is another matter.

2) TJ Ward is not at fault here.  That was a clean hit in today’s NFL.  I disagree with you in thinking he processed the thought to go for the knee in that split second.  Safeties and linebackers have been trained to go for the knee for the past few years in order to avoid the 15 yard penalty and subsequent fine.  Going for the knee is second nature, muscle memory, a learned behavior now.

3.  Yankees – So if ARod is not suspended, Yankees cannot afford Ellsbury, McCann, Beltran (or to keep Cano).  This further supports my conspiracy theory that the Yankees and MLB are in collusion to not be on the hook for the contract.  That is not to say that ARod did not use PEDs, it is just stating that he is being treated differently than any other player who has been caught to date.  Because of how his case has been treated, the largest and richest team can shop for free agents after missing the playoffs and the TV revenue that goes with it.  Hmmmm, suspicious maybe?arod-cigar1

3) I would love to see A Rod win his lawsuit.  More over, we, as fans, are appalled at some of these contracts.  I would love to see the owners open up their books and see what type of coin they bring in.  No business man would shell that kind of dough if he didn’t have 125% of said contract.  The numbers boggle my mind.

4.  Pats – Gronk loss is big, but the issue is really the injuries on defense and poor secondary.  They have given up a lot of points.

4) Gronk loss effectively ends the Pats season.  Thankfully all the guys on the offensive side of the ball have experience and can step up.  Edelman has been huge in his contract year this season.  Interesting to see what happens there.  Patriots need to start getting ahead early and then run the bejesus out of the ball and eat up time of possession.  Their best defense is keeping the other offense off the field.

5.  Angels – Was thinking the other day, does the Pujols and Hamilton contracts prohibit the Angels from re-signing Trout?  If Cano gets $240M, Trout is better.  I am sure the arbitration rules kick in somewhere, but I am not that familiar with the rules.

5) Trout is under Angels control for 4 more years.  He will get a 10 year 300 mil contract when he hits free agency. They  Bryce Harper will get a tad less than that.  Scary.  Trout’s money is beyond manageable for the next 4 years. 

6.  Bruins/Thornton – Do not follow hockey as much, but saw the Thornton thing.  Bad for Bruins organization and bad for NHL, they need to make some serious changes regarding fighting and “enforcers”.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to advocate unnecessary violence in pro sports.  Need to look at ejections more oftenost he will get is $15 mil a year in arbitration.Unknown

6) I am in no way supporting Shawn Thornton.  I do not condone what he did.  However, the whole issue could have been avoided if Orpik fought Thornton earlier in the game when Thornton wanted to drop the gloves.  Orpik has fought ONCE in the last 5 years and that was against Alexandre Burrows, a wuss in his own right.  Orpik goes around with these cheap shots and then doesn’t own up to what he did.  Pittsburgh seems to be the Candiens of the Continental United States in the NHL.  James Neal knees Marchand in the head on purpose and then doesn’t own up to it.  After the game Thornton took full responsibility for his actions.  He was damn near in tears and apologetic.  He will get a 10 game suspension for something that could have been avoided if Orpik sacked up earlier in the game.

7.  MMA – Then of course, you see MMA and wonder what all the fuss is about, they have no protective gear and 4-6 oz gloves.

7) Still not really into MMA.

8).  Auburn – If they win it all, they have a great season highlight DVD (Georgia, Alabama and Mizzou games)

8) The final play of the Auburn-Bama game is up there with Doug Flutie and “the band is on the field” in terms of greatest finishes in college football history.  Havent decided who I am rooting for in the national championship yet.  Texas should coast over Oregon since the Ducks lost Marriota for the season.  But they will probably get smashed.  When reading anything I predict, remember I told you and the Green’s the Texans would be in the AFC Championship this season. Grain of salt saying applys here.

9.  Roy Halladay – Announcing retirement, would have loved to have him in Boston during his prime when he was with Toronto.

9)  Halladay was a beast for sure. Last pitcher that routinely threw a minimum of 7 innings every start.  Often times he went complete.Don’t see starters get out of the sixth anymore. Surprised he hung em up.  Thought he would try for a rebound year.  Always strange seeing a guy you watched growing up retire.

10.  World Cup – Tough draw for USA with Germany and Portugal.  I have been watching some Premier League, still love the sport.  I am going to go out on a limb and say that this comment does not have any relevance for you.  🙂South Africa Spain US Confed Cup Soccer

10)  You are forgetting Ghana in that group.  Ghana has knocked the US out the last 2 World Cup’s.  It surely is the group of death.  To devil’s advocate, Portugal is overrated and never plays to their potential.  If they can beat one of the team’s and play the other two to a draw, the permutations would show they advance right?  Boom.  Bet you didn’t see that analysis coming.

11.  RGIII – The shine has kinda worn off, don’t you think?

11) Shanahan will get fired before I am done typing this email.  I feel for RG3 outside of Alfred Morris, he has no supporting cast.  Jordan Reed was good for 3 weeks and that was about it.  Pierre Garcon is a #3 maybe a #2 receiver in the NFL.  Can’t fault RG3, he can’t do it all himself.  I watched a few of his last games, and he hasnt thrown the ball down the field like he did before the injury.  I find that strange.  Until he gets some help, the Redskins will be 4-12 no matter who coaches them.

Peter Vescey follows me on Twitter @ScottieNTCF and you should, too.

Dear John, I am Sorry

The 2013 ALCS has been nothing less than an instant classic through the first three games.  The Red Sox will go into Game 4 with a 2-1 series lead, something that seemed improbable at best going into the 8th inning of Game 2 at Fenway Park.  In Game  1, the Red Sox were only able to produce 1 hit…1 god damn hit… to quote the great Harry Doyle en route to a 1-0 loss.  In Game 2, Detroit looked to take a commanding 2-0 lead with the Sox facing the unenviable task of facing Justin Verlander down two games to none.  Then Big Papi struck.

David Ortiz.  Big Papi.  Senor Octubre.  Red Sox fans have witnessed Ortiz’s heroics for a decade now.  It came to the point 963805-tigers-red-sox-baseballwhere many fans were almost expecting Ortiz to deposit a first pitch Joaquain Benoit change-up into the Boston bullpen for a grand slam to tie the game. A grand slam that sent Torri Hunter sprawling head over heels into the Boston bullpen.  A grand slam that made a Boston Cop a local hero and coined a term, Horganing. A grand slam that will be talked about for generations. A grand slam that gave the Red Sox life. The Red Sox offense had been anorexic through the first 17 innings of the ALCS.   The Big Dog ate, and completely changed the complexion of the series with one swing of the bat.  Red Sox fans take what Papi does for granted.  But let me be the first to say, the man is clutch.  Time and time again he has come up big, in the times the Sox have needed him most.  I mean a grand slam! In the eighth inning! With 2 outs!  Are you kidding me?  Isn’t that what small children dream of every day?

One inning later Jarrod Saltalamacchia plated Jonny Gomes to walk off with Game 2.  The Red Sox were going to board a plane to Detroit with the series tied at 1.  A series, which arguably, would’ve been 2-0 in Detroit’s favor.  Think about it for a second.  The Red Sox were no hit through the first 5 innings of each game.  Detroit fired their absolute best shot at the Red Sox.  What have we said about the Sox all year?  Man, these guys are resilient!  Every time we were ready to discount the Sox, they came right back with a massive win.  Game 2 was no different.  Why are we surprised?

Going into Game 3, all the talk was about Justin Bie- sorry Verlander.  Verlander has been incredible in October, nearly lackey-big-10340.runtouchable.  No one was talking about John Lackey.  No one has been more critical of The Underbite then yours truly over the lifetime of the Lackey contract.  What Lackey did in Game 3 against a potent Tiger lineup will rank right up there in Red Sox lore with the names Pedro and Schilling.  Lackey matched zeroes with Verlander, through 6 innings.  I can’t think of another Boston athlete in my lifetime that has drawn as much ire from the Fenway Faithful, then made amends, and now has drawn the same amount of praise from Sox fans.  From chicken and beer, to Tommy John, to pitching like an ace in the biggest game of the season, John Lackey has earned this year’s salary and then some.

Mike Napoli came to the plate in the top of the 7th inning boasting a feeble .111 batting average in the playoffs.  Napoli changed Game 3 with one swing, mashing a Verlander offering to give the Sox a 1-0 lead.  Coincidently, Napoli’s first major league at bat came against Justin Verlander.  Napoli turned the clock back to 2006, and hit a home run to the same exact spot at Comerica Field in 2013.  This proved to be enough.

I wasn’t overly excited about the quick hook John Farrell gave Lackey after 6.2 innings and 97 pitches.  During the regular imagesseason the Red Sox bullpen was much maligned.  In October? They have been lights out.  Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa preserved the 1-0 lead giving way to Koji Uehara who slammed the door on Game 3 giving the Sox a 2-1 series lead.  Tazawa struck out Miggy Cabrera with straight gas with ducks on the pond.  Each pitch, New England held its collective breath as the young righty struck out the reigning AL MVP in the biggest spot of the season.  Uehara came in and made rather quick work of Prince Fielder with runners on.  Fair to say Uehara and Tazawa both have Marbles!

Now the Red Sox go into Wednesday night with 2-1 series lead.  Doug Fister will be the opposition.  While he is nothing to sneeze at, he is not Verlander, Scherzer, or Sanchez.  Red Sox fans had been dying to get the Detroit bullpen after the aforementioned triumvirate had pitched 21 innings struck out 35 and given up just two runs.  Now Boston is in the driver’s seat in this series.  Jake Peavy will take the mound tomorrow night.  Peavy, who will be motivated to show Boston they were the big winners in the deadline trade that sent Jose Iglesias to Detroit.

Speaking of Iglesias, he is who no one is talking about.   In Game 2, he made a horrible decision trying to throw Jonny Gomes out on a sure infield hit.  His throw went into the Boston dugout and Gomes was able to take second base with no outs.  Gomes’s run won the game.  In Game 3, he pinch hit, yes Boston fans you read that correctly, and struck out on three pitches.  Meanwhile, Peavy was awesome in the ALDS against Tampa going 5.2 innings giving up just 1 run and throwing just 74 pitches.

There is no doubt this series has been an instant classic.  It will continue tomorrow night at 8 o’clock.  I wish life had a fast forward button.

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF

5 Thoughts on the Red Sox

I admit I have let down the loyal NTCF following by not posting on the Red Sox days off like I had originally promised back in April.  Do not think for one second, however, that I have lost my focus on all things Red Sox.  The magical story has continued into the middle of September where the Red Sox find themselves with a magic number of 10 to clinch the American League East.  More importantly, the Red Sox are 4.5 games up on the Tigers for best record in the American League.  If the Red Sox are able to secure the #1 spot, they will face the winner of the wild card matchup in the Divisional Round.  Here are 10 thoughts going through my head as the Red Sox finish off a memorable 2013 regular season.

1) Cy Uehara

Go ahead an laugh at me.  When you pick yourself up off the floor and clean the tears out of your eyes, read these numbers.Koji Uehara  1.10 ERA. 0.59 WHIP. 19 saves. 91 strike outs. 65.2 innings.  When he enters the game, you know it is over.  The other team has had zero chance against him.  And he only throws 89 MPH! Opposing batters are hitting .129 against him. Some say those are video game numbers.  Well, I want to meet the man that can put up those numbers in a video game.  There are no words or analogies to describe how good Koji has been this season.  If Craig Kimbrell drew consideration back in 2011, why shouldn’t Koji get that same respect? Koji is my Cy Young winner.  High Five!

2) Jacoby’s Final Exam

Jacoby Ellsbury will miss the next two weeks because of a broken bone in his foot.  This is the same bone Dustin Pedroia broke in 2010 and the same bone Cody Ross broke last season.  Many people have coined Ellsbury as soft.  I have mostly stuck up for Jacoby because of how he has been injured in the past.  I know I wouldn’t want to collide with Adrian Beltre.  I also know I wouldn’t want a shortstop landing on me as I slide into second base to break up a double play.  This injury and his recovery are fascinating.  Jacoby is going to free agency this winter.  It’s no secret Scott Boras will get top dollar for his client.  No one will give him the $120 million he is seeking if he can’t stay on the field.  It is in Jacoby’s best interest to get out on that field and build his free agent resume.  For the record, I want Ellsbury back in Boston for another six years.  In my estimation, he has about $40 million riding on it.  Will he man up?

3) Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

The Red Sox have four aces on their staff.  Granted they are not aces today, but over the course of their careers, they have been at one time an ace.  Jake Peavy won a Cy Young Award with the Padres in 2007.  John Lackey was the Game 7 starter in the 2002 World Series for the champion Angels.  Jon Lester finished 4th in the Cy Young voting in 2010.  And don’t tell me Clay Buchholz wasn’t the ace of this staff up until June of this year.  The rotation is deep and full of experience.  By all appearances, they are healthy and primed for a deep playoff run.

4) The Valuable Victorino

The Red Sox brought Shane Victorino to Boston for 3 years and $39 million because he was a nice guy who smiled a lot and dt.common.streams.StreamServer.clsis known to be active in the community.  Red Sox ownership was concerned about the image of the team because of how much the region hated the Red Sox last year.  I don’t think any one expected Victorino to actually be good at baseball to boot!  Victorino has run into walls, dove into the stands, and provided some of the biggest hits of the season for the Sox.  Keep in mind another name on the free agent market last winter: Josh Hamilton.  Hamilton signed a 5 year contract for $125 million with the Angels.  The Angels are paying that kind of cash for a guy that is hitting .243 with 20 home runs and 67 runs batted in.  The case can be made that Victorino has been the most valuable player (other than Koji) for the Red Sox.

5) Is the future now?

I have been one of the few Red Sox fans that have been in Stephen Drew’s corner all year long.  He has been clutch when the Sox have needed him to be clutch.  He has played stellar defense all year long.  He has been solid all around.  Xander Boegarts is with the big club.  In limited action, he has been everything he was cracked up to be.  Drew has struggled against left handed pitching this season.  For the life of me, I can’t understand why John Farrell won’t play Xander against lefties.  It is my hope Xander makes the playoff roster because I believe he can be an asset in October.  Along the same mindset, Will Middlebrooks is in Boston to stay.  I am psyched the Red Sox held on to him at the trade deadline and showed their faith in him.  He will only reward them with great pop from the corner spot.  While everything is great in Boston at the present time, the future looks even brighter.

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF

The Road to October

It’s been a long time since I have sat down to write about the state of the Red Sox.  A lot has happened in that time.  But the more things change, the more they stay the same.  The Red Sox are in first place, just like they were on July 17.  They sit atop the American League East with a 3 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.  According to my calculations, the magic number to clinch the division is 49.

Perhaps the biggest change to the Red Sox is the addition of Jake Peavy.  Peavy was excellent in his Red Sox debut at imagesFenway Park against the Diamondbacks.  He went 7 innings allowing 1 run in the victory.  He was not as good in his next appearance against the Royals where he was only able to get through 5 innings.  I love the Peavy deal.  Jose Iglesias is nothing more than a gold glove shortstop with a below average bat.  Turing Jose Iglesias into Jake Peavy is the equivalent of turning water into wine, Ben Cherington should be worshiped by the apostles of Red Sox Nation for performing this miracle.  Peavy is under contract through next season.  When healthy he adds a quality arm to the rotation.  I hate to use tired clichés, but nothing is more true than the old adage, “You can’t have enough pitching.”  With guys like Xander Boegarts, Will Middlebrooks, and Garin Cecchini in the pipeline, Iglesias was more than expendable.  If the Red Sox are able to get into the playoffs, I believe Jake Peavy is your Game 3 starter behind Lester and Buchholz.

 

Speaking of Jon Lester, his season has continued to be a roller coaster ride.  In April he was lights out going 4-0 with a 3.11 ERA.  He had an ok May going 2-2 with a 3.91 ERA before a brutally atrocious June.  In June Lester threw up a 7.62 ERA in five starts.  I have actually been encouraged by what I have seen from Lester lately.  He recovered nicely after a difficult first inning against Kansas City.  His defense wasn’t very helpful in that one either.  Since the All Star Break, Lester is 2-1 with a 3.28 ERA.  He is using his fastball a lot more than he has in previous months.  His command is coming back.  I believe the addition of Jake Peavy will help Lester immensely.  Many people in Red Sox Nation are down on Lester.  I am not among them.  I believe Lester is your Game 2 starter when the playoffs commence.

Believe it or not, I like the way the bullpen is starting to shape up.  Koji Uehara is your closer.  His WHIP this season? A mind images-1blowing 0.69.  I don’t understand why his 89-90 MPH fastball is blowing the opposition away.  He has 74 strikeouts in just 53.1 innings!  Junichi Tazawa is your right-handed set up man.  He has been fairly consistent all season long.  What’s best about Tazawa? He rarely gives his opposition a free pass.  He has walked just 8 men in 54 innings.  Ruby Delarosa is another right-handed option aside Tazawa.  He featured an impressive 98 MPH fastball and a diabolical changeup. Craig Breslow and Drake Britton are your left-handed options in the pen at the moment.  I am interested to see what the Red Sox do with Franklin Morales now that he is eligible to come off the disabled list.  Will the Red Sox carry 3 lefties in the pen?  Maybe they will make Morales the left-handed long reliever with Brandon Workman as the right-handed long man.  I have said it time and time again.  Workman reminds me of Justin Masterson and Bronson Arroyo with his ability to give the Sox 3 innings out of the pen.  The last idea for the bullpen will be Ryan Dempster.  When Clay Buchholz returns, someone will get moved to a relief role.  My money is on Dempster.  He has had success out of the bullpen in years past, and I believe his slider and sinker are weapons that can be used when the Red Sox need a double play late in the game.

I could go on a long diatribe about the frustrations of owning Mike Napoli in fantasy baseball have brought me.  The fact is Napoli is striking out way too often as of late.  I don’t want to get to down on Napoli because he is one of the streakiest hitters in baseball.  Optimistic me says Napoli will be okay and a power display is coming soon.

Count me as one of the few happy to see Will Middlebrooks get one final chance before the arrival of Xander Boegarts.  I images-2loved WMB last season before he broke his hand.  The kid can hit.  I am hoping he has the mental problems worked out after a stint in Pawtucket.  Middlebrooks reached base 4 times in his first two games back with the big club.  He knocked in two runs and scored twice.  The Red Sox could really use the Middlebrooks of last year at this point.  Brandon Snyder and Brock Holt are nice and all, but they are utility guys off the bench.  Nothing more.  If Napoli continues to struggle, the Red Sox will need a bat to put behind Ortiz.  Middlebrooks would be that guy.

The Sox have a somewhat easy schedule before they meet with the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers (which will be an interesting series for a variety of reasons).  They travel to Toronto for a three game set, come home to Fenway for three against the Yanks, before flying out to San Francisco to take on the Giants.  In the same stretch, the Rays have the Mariners, Blue Jays, and Orioles.  Hopefully the Sox can maintain or even extend that three game lead.

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First Half Red Sox Recap

When the Boston Red Sox left Fort Myers in March to embark on their 2013 campaign, few (if any) believed they would be in the position they are at the All Star break.  I thought I was wearing my usual hometown shades when I said they would be a .500 team.  What the Red Sox have done is amaze everyone.  On this date, the Red Sox are in first place in the American League East.  They also have the most wins in all of baseball.  There are many different people and various factors Red Sox fans can attribute this success to.

Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington was finally given the keys to the car from Larry Lucchino late last season.  Cherington quickly unloaded a ton of ben-cherington4salary and even more ego in one foul swoop by sending Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford to Los Angeles.  Cherington then went to work in the offseason by bringing in solid baseball players that had an even better attitude.  Goodbye headaches. Hello Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, and Mike Carp.  More importantly, Cherington was able to give Bobby Valentine the pink slip.  Keep in mind Bobby V was never Cherington’s guy in the first place.  With Bobby V gone, Cherington traded Mike Aviles to the Blue Jays to grab the man he wanted all along, John Farrell. What was once labeled as a season where the Red Sox needed to win their fan base back, they now find themselves in playoff contention.

John Farrell

Farrell has been exactly what the Red Sox needed coming into the 2013 season.  He has been the anti-Bobby V.  Have you heard any incidents within the Red Sox clubhouse this season? Remember last season when we knew everything that was going on between manager and players? Remember when Will Middlebrooks made 3 errors in one inning and he came in to the dugout to be greeted by Bobby V saying “nice inning kid.” Farrell has handled any issues going on in-house expertly.  He has even handled the unpredictable Alfredo Aceves admirably.  Farrell also helped Jon Lester get back to his old self early in the season. Granted Lester has struggled recently.  Be that as it may, the pitching staff as a whole, has benefitted from having Farrell in the dugout.  Clay Buchholz is 9-0 with an ERA below 2.  If not for a nagging shoulder injury, he would have started the All Star Game and would undoubtedly be the front-runner for the Cy Young award.  Thank you, John Farrell.

The players

Remember the criticism Red Sox management received when they gave David Ortiz his long-awaited multi-year deal in the off-dustinseason?  Big Papi has rewarded that decision to the tune of a .317 batting average with 19 home runs and 65 runs batted in.  Many baseball writers (Heyman, Morosi) have Dustin Pedroia as their first half American League MVP.  Yes, they have Pedroia over Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera.  Pedroia has missed one game this season.  He has made one error.  He is hitting .316 with 6 home runs and 56 runs batted in.  He is doing all this with a torn ligament in his thumb.  The man is a beast.

Daniel Nava has turned in Trot Nixon.  Nava should have been named an All Star after the stellar first half he put up for the Red Sox.  In the preseason Nava was an after thought.  Many people figured he would be playing elsewhere by now.  When Jackie Bradley, Jr. struggled in April, Nava was red-hot.  He is yet to really cool off.  He has been a steadying presence whether hitting leadoff, second, or sixth in the lineup.  The man the Red Sox once acquired for one dollar is hitting .288 with 10 home runs and 52 runs batted in.  Tell me he doesn’t remind you of Trot Nixon with a clean uniform.

At this point in the season, Jose Iglesias has to be the Rookie of the Year in the American League.  Iglesias started out the season with the big club while Stephen Drew recovered from a concussion.  Iglesias was hitting over .500 when Drew came back. Iglesias was in Pawtucket for about a month.  He was pressed back into duty and has continued to hit the ball well for the Red Sox.  Many were concerned about his offense.  Often times it may not be pretty.  It may be an infield hit, it may be a blooper down the line, but either way it looks like a line drive in the box score.  Keep in mind Iglesias is just 23 years old. I do not expect him to hit over .350 the rest of the year.  As a matter of fact, I fully expect him to finish the season slightly below .300.  But I do know this.  I want him to play shortstop everyday for the Boston Red Sox.  The kid plays spectacular defense.  The kid belongs in the big leagues.

The last man I need to mention in this post is John Lackey.  Who would have thought he would be the Red Sox horse going intobos_a_lackey_b1_600 the All Star break.  Lackey is throwing the ball extremely well after an awful first 3 years with the franchise.  He is hitting 96 on the gun.  He is getting numerous swings and misses.  His ERA is below 3.  Now, anyone that has read my writings over the past few years now my hatred for John Lackey.  I would be remiss if I failed to give credit when credit is due.  With Jon Lester struggling and Clay Buchholz “hurt”, John Lackey has been the man in the Boston rotation.  To think his season looked over before it got started in Toronto in his first game this year.  Lackey has been awesome for the Red Sox and I do hope it continues.

The Red Sox are 58-39 and 2.5 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays.  The second half of the season begins Friday.  Saddle up Sox fans the road to the playoffs is upon us.

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF