Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Not a lot of Cohesion

Aside from the Patriots loss in Super Bowl XLII (more on that later) there isn't a hell of a lot of big things going on right now in sports. There are a couple of small things and I'll try to touch them all in this odds-and-ends edition of 19 Thoughts.

+ Curt Schilling is out for at least half the year, maybe more. There have been some conflicting reports as to how long Schilling is going to be sitting on the bench. Some people (including Schilling and the Red Sox) say that he'll be back right after the All-Star break, while Schilling's own doctor thinks that he might be gone for the entire year. Either way you look at it, it's a blow to the Red Sox.

It's now up to the kids (Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz specifically) to anchor the back end of the staff, which may be a bit ahead of schedule. Josh Beckett should be his normal dominant self and after a year in the Major Leagues, I'm expecting Daisuke Matsuzaka to pitch lights-out this year. I assumed that Tim Wakefield was going to miss some time and that Buchholz would make a spot start or two after spending some time in AAA. However, this is going to change, barring a trade for a starter.

How will having two young pitchers in the rotation work for the Sox? Will Lester be on a strict pitch count (it's assumed that Buchholz will be)? Does Julian Tavarez make some appearances for the Red Sox, and if so will how awkward is it for Terry Francona since Tavarez was left off last year's postseason roster?

And when is Francona going to get his contract extended?

+ Speaking of questions: what the hell is up with these trades? After months of speculation Johan Santana was sent to the New York Mets for a quartet of prospects that were decent, but not great. Erik Bedard was sent from Baltimore to the Seattle Mariners, and the Orioles got centerfield prospect Adam Jones. The preeminent Seattle Mariners blog The USS Mariner feels that their team got royally screwed.

In the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers aquired Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies for essentially Kwame Brown and a couple of draft picks. Not to be outdone, the Phoenix Suns traded Shawn Marion and the rotting corpse of Marcus Banks to the Miami Heat for the Big Aristotle himself, Shaquille O'Neal.

Two of these trades look like outright steals for one of the teams, one looks like it could be a steal and the other doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense. The Mets and the Lakers made out very well for themselves, as New York didn't have to give up their best prospect in exchange for the best American League pitcher over the last five years and they didn't have to pay him as much as was expected. Imagine being fleeced by Omar Minaya. The Lakers gave up on a stiff and two low first-round picks for a guy that will work really well with Kobe Bryant. And when Andrew Bynum comes back, watch out for Los Angeles in a tough Western Conference.

I'm not sure that I completely agree with the USS Mariner, as I think that Bedard is a special pitcher and will do well in Safeco. However, I do agree with their assertion that the Mariners were not really an 88-win team last year. According to the runs scored/runs allowed metric, the M's scored a bunch less than their opponent. This means they were lucky to have won as many games as they did and probably should have won between 82 and 85. Getting Bedard for your top prospect to augment a .500 team is not a good idea, especially if Seattle regresses. Mariners GM Bill Bavasi better hope that Jones sucks, or he's going to be the Lou Gorman of the next century. This is a toss-up, especially if the Mariners don't sign Bedard to a long-term deal.

As for the Sun/Heat deal, it's a head scratcher. Phoenix loves to push the ball up the court. Shaq can't run any more. What style is going to shake out in the end? This could either be a brilliant trade that allows Amare Stoudemire to play his more natural power forward or this could completely destroy this team during the stretch run. Like Bavasi, GM Steve Kerr has a lot riding on this trade and news out of Phoenix was that Shaq was winded during his first practice. Of course, Shaq hasn't played in Miami in awhile because he's been injured. We'll have to wait and see.

+ The Patriots lost the Super Bowl. I'm not going to write too much about this because it's done and there's nothing that can be done about it. The New York Giants upset the Pats, despite giving New England at least five chances to win it at the end. You know the old adage, “Give a good team five chances on one final drive and it will come back to bite you in the ass.”

I'm not saying that the Giants suck. They played a perfect game and controlled the tempo while the Pats played like crap. They had no answers for the Giants' defensive line, for some reason the offense never really got going until two minutes left in the final quarter and I still have no idea why Coach Bill Belichick went for it on 4th and 13 instead of kicking a 48-yard field goal.

And looking on the bright side, the Patriots went to four Super Bowls within seven years and won three of them. That's pretty awesome. Look at the Minnesota Vikings or the Buffalo Bills, they went to the Super Bowl four times and came away empty handed. You think that those fans (especially the Bills, who are on the verge of losing their team to Toronto) wouldn't trade places with New England fans?

There's a thought that New England fans were being greedy but the thing that's so disappointing about this loss was that the Patriots blew a chance to make history. They blew a chance to get rid of the 1972 Dolphins forever—the most arrogant, pretentious collection of assholes ever. Do football fans have to wait another 35 years to see a team come close to perfection? By that time I'll be 68-years-old. Jesus. I'll just about be dead. My three-month old will be older than I am now. That's so damn depressing, I think that I might go drink a bottle of Jack Daniels.

+ The Bruins. Who cares about them? 68-years-old. Gah.

+ The New York papers are claiming that the Yankees are going to keep Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen, instead of turning him into a starter. In addition there is going to be a strict 140 inning count for the entire year. That's bad news for Red Sox fans, as long as there weren't any bugs around, Chamberlain was nasty last year. I thought that the Yankees were making a big mistake by putting him in the starting rotation. Seems as if they realized their mistake early. Or perhaps they have a deal cooking for a starting pitcher? C.C. Sabathia or Joe Blanton, maybe?

+ Well at least I'm not Roger Clemens. Tomorrow the seven-time Cy Young Award winner faces his toughest opponent ever, the United States government. He's getting dragged in front of Congress to testify under oath about his involvement with steroids. His former trainer, Brian McNamee was an instrumental part of the Mitchell Report, which fingered a bunch of current and former major leaguers as steroid abusers and cheats. Clemens was one of the players in that report.

Most of those named have come clean with some sort of lame excuse like, “I was just trying to get better after an injury” or “I only did it once”. However Clemens has been steadfast in holding his ground and says that McNamee is a lying liar who lies. From his awkward interview with Mike Wallace on “60 Minutes” to his press conference where he played a tape of a phone call he had with McNamee that didn't prove anything, Clemens has gone out of his way to try and prove that this is all a gigantic falsehood.

The problem is, no one is believing him. Clemens' best buddy Andy Pettitte was named in the same report and has pretty much gone along with everything that McNamee has said. McNamee has old syringes, bloody gauze pads and other evidence that he claims is from Clemens. This could get real messy for the Clemens kin as McNamee even claims that he shot the Rocket's wife up with HGH before the two posed for a swimsuit picture for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.*

* Two things, one what could be more horrible than walking to the mailbox and getting the swimsuit issue and finding out that your mom is posing in it? That's a terrible image. And does anyone really care about the swimsuit issue any more? Isn't this just a relic from a more pedestrian past? If I want to see half-naked models there are a million places I can go. And if I want to see naked chicks, there's even more places to find them. Being naked or nearly nude does not care a stigma any more. For all of the talk that America is a conservative place now, the reality is; it isn't.

Whatever happens tomorrow, and there are whispers that if Clemens screws this up he can be going to jail for perjury, the court of public opinion has already rendered its opinion on him: guilty. And while I don't have a lot of love for Roger Clemens any more (give me an hour and I'll tell you why), he was the first baseball player that I idolized. I can remember getting his poster for Christmas after he his first great year—it was one of those old Sports Illustrated ones, with the clunky white borders, the san sarif type font, an action shot and that was it. So it is with a bit of melancholy that I'm going to watch him hang himself in front of the world.

Because as he's proved time and time again, Roger Clemens can pitch; he just can't speak.

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