Friday, June 27, 2008
Catcher – Jason Varitek (.231/7/25)
I understand the nuthuggers who point to Varitek’s due diligence as captain and starting catcher of the Red Sox. He does his homework, always has his pitchers prepared, and caught the 4th no-hitter of his career earlier this season with Jon Lester on the hill. Sure, I give him all the credit in the world for that. But the guy has been miserable offensively, and it’s pissed me off two-fold because I tolerated it for most of the first-half on one of my fantasy teams. The last three years have been woeful for ‘Tek at the plate, starting in 2006 when he hit .238 and missed 59 games due to injury. He bounced back, ever so slightly, with a .255 clip and 17 homeruns in ’07, but a .131 average this June is downright paltry. Theo better be searching for the heir apparent, because this is becoming a trend, and not one that can be tolerated much further.
First Base – Kevin Youkilis (.303/13/47)
Personally, I hate the guy after having dealt with him last season as a member of the media. But I’ll give him his props, because he’s delivered so far in ’08. The average and defense are becoming somewhat expected, but the power has been a pleasant surprise as he’s 2nd on the team in RBI and has a slugging of .539 and OPS of .913. Pretty solid numbers that could very well earn him a spot on the All-Star team. While he isn’t a bona fide slugger at that position, he delivers in the field to make up for it. The question, as always, will be whether or not he can continue at this torrid pace. I seem to think he’ll turn the corner this year, especially with Sean Casey backing up. A serviceable veteran who can deliver will allow Francona to be more liberal in giving Youkilis much needed days off. I think he finishes right around .300 with 25 homers and 90 RBI to go with it.
Second Base – Dustin Pedroia (.289/7/34)
Pedroia struggled throughout May, hitting .260 and seeing his average hit as low as .260 on June 12 and 13. He’s been leading the All-Star voting at 2nd for most of the season, and at that time, I couldn’t believe people would actually give him the nod with such brutal numbers. But he’s been on a tear of late, hitting .442 over the last twelve games (23 for 52) and you have to appreciate his intensity, although like Youkilis, it’s a tired act at times. But Pedroia is a gamer, and while his average is down from last season, the power is up and he’s been more of a run producer. A grade of B might be a bit harsh, but after his ROY campaign in ’07, it’s difficult to let May’s production – or lack thereof – slip without a slap on the wrist.
Third Base – Mike Lowell (.287/11/41)
I grade Lowell a little higher than I probably should here, solely because I think he’s been phenomenal since returning from his wrist injury that sidelined him for almost all of April. At the time of the injury, he was 6 for 30 and hitting a lowly .200. Since returning, he’s hitting .300 (60 for 200) and has 11 homeruns in 230 at-bats on the season. To put it in perspective, his current numbers in ’08, when matched up with the number at-bats he had last season (589) would have him on pace for 28 HR, 41 2B, and 105 RBI; that’s seven more bombs, four more doubles and 15 less RBI. While the average is lower, let’s not forget the early hole he was climbing out of.
I mention this for those of you that thought last year was a fluke and more a testament to it being a contract year. I think Lowell is showing he’s got plenty of juice left in that swing. And with his defense seemingly more consistent that last season, I’m quite happy with his production thus far.
Shortstop – Julio Lugo (.274/1/17)
Consider this me officially clamoring for Jed Lowrie as the new everyday shortstop for the Boston Red Sox. Lugo’s average may be almost 40 points higher than last year’s final tally, but he was driving in runs in ’07; this year he’s not. He’s a punching Judy hitter and that’s it. He’s not stealing bases or scoring runs as frequently as a guy making $9M/year should. Consider this: he’s second to last in runs scored among regular starters, Coco Crisp has more stolen bases despite considerably less playing time, and Dustin Pedroia, who is by no means known for his speed, has only two less steals than Lugo (8 to Lugo’s 10). Lugo sucks, and so does his contract.
Left Field – Manny Ramirez (.291/15/49)
I’m actually quite pleased with the way Manny has played so far in ’08. His power numbers are up considerably from last year, when he only hit 20HR and drove in 88 runs. Right now he’s on pace for 30/98, which is still a bit low for Manny standards, but if he’s stays healthy, I think he’ll finish similar to his 2006 campaign when he finished at .321/35/107. He had a rough month of May, which is why the average is down a bit, but before the season I said he’d be the MVP of the American League and there’s still half a season to go. He may not quite reach that level, but I think he’ll be in the discussion when all is said and done.
Center Field – Jacoby Ellsbury (.275/5/23 and 34 stolen bases)
As a leadoff hitter, you need a guy who can get on base and score runs. That’s exactly what Ellsbury has done. He’s 7th in OBP among leadoff hitters, which is modest. But he leads the AL in steals and is second to Willy Taveras (35) in all of baseball. As far as scoring runs, Ellsbury has crossed the plate 53 times, good for 5th in the AL and 16th overall. This is more than impressive for a guy playing in his first full major league season. Let’s not forget, he’s doing all this for the 3rd best team in all of baseball, the defending World Series champs, and after a two month stint at the end of last season in which he could have arguably been World Series MVP and saw his stock rise dramatically. That’s a lot of pressure for a 24-year old kid, but add in the way he’s utilized that speed to cover ground in the outfield and that’s some electrifying stuff.
Right Field – JD Drew (.308/14/45)
Drew has been my favorite player for years because he’s a five tool guy that makes the game look easy when he wants to. Last year was tough to watch, especially since I had a first hand glimpse at the field and in the clubhouse. But this year, Drew has lived up to the hype and delivered when the Sox need him most with the absence of David Ortiz. His OBP (.414) and OPS (.987) are the highest since his 2004 season, when he put up a .436 and 1.005, respectively. And his average and slugging (.573) are the highest since ’01 when he finished with a line of .323/27/73/.613. He’s only on pace for 134 games, but the depth of the Red Sox outfield allowed Francona to sit Drew some days when otherwise he might have asked the $15M man to play. And in the month of June, Drew has been hot at a .359 clip with 10 homers and 23 RBI. I think by season’s end, barring any significant injury, Drew will finish as a .300/30/100 guy, and his resurgence will also allow the Red Sox to slow the recovery process of David Ortiz and ensure that the burly DH is fully healthy before returning this season. When he does, that will be a scary offense with four significant run producers in the 3-6 spots of the order.
Outfield – Coco Crisp (.271/5/22)
Crisp has been respectable filling in as a 4th outfield for the Red Sox thus far, and the fact that management has convinced him to co-exist with heir apparent Jacoby Ellsbury speaks volumes about that clubhouse. I don’t think he’s done much in raising his stock significantly, but I’m not sure the Sox are looking to deal him anymore considering the injury to Ortiz. It seems to be at least a month before he returns, and even then, it’s tough to say how significant his playing time will be to start. The Sox need Crisp to solidify the outfield late in games and also give Ramirez a spell as DH now and then. And with his speed (12 of 15), it makes pitchers fret even more when he’s in the lineup along with Ellsbury and Lugo.
DH – David Ortiz (.252/13/43)
He’s been injured and missed all of June, so it’s hard to say. But I’ll grade him for his body of work up until that point. After a horrific month of April, during which he his .198, hit only 5 homeruns and drove in 21 runs, Ortiz acquitted himself well in May. He hit .318, clubbed 8 bombs and drove in 22. That month of April certainly skewed his overall numbers, particularly his average, but he was coming on strong offensively. His walk and strikeout numbers were no different than the norm, so it’s safe to say that Ortiz was putting the ball in play as consistently as he had in the past; it was just a matter of getting them to fall. It will be interesting to see how effective he is when he returns, but the offense has not missed a beat without him, so hopefully that will afford him more time to fully recover and rehabilitate.
Bench – Kevin Cash, Sean Casey, Brandon Moss, Alex Cora, Jed Lowrie
Cash has been a significant upgrade from Doug Mirabelli, who couldn’t crack the Mendoza line in 2006 and barely made it in ’07. Casey is hitting .350 in a part-time role, but his addition to the clubhouse has been tremendous. I think Moss needs more playing time to truly show his ability at this level, but he won’t find that in Boston for a couple years. In the interim, I think he’s been serviceable at best but is still a threat as a left-handed bat off the bench. Cora is certainly invaluable now for his defense late in games with Lugo’s troubles in the field. He’s a professional, and as always has filled in wherever and whenever. And let’s not forget Lowrie, whose out of .310/1/7 over 17 games more than impressed me. As I said earlier, I wish this kid was the everyday shortstop, but at $9M/year, it’ll be tough to supplant Lugo unless he pulls a Shawn Chacon on Theo Epstein, who can’t be far away from having an Ed Wade moment in the dining hall at Fenway.
Josh Beckett – (7-5, 3.73, 97K, 1.11 WHIP)
I said from the beginning of spring training that my concern was Beckett did not apply himself this past offseason. After a lower back injury that forced him to start 2008 on the DL and some instances of inconsistency since his return, it appears that may have been the case. Nonetheless, Beckett has begun to acquit himself of late, turning in a solid month of June during which he’s gone 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA. He’s posted quality starts in three of his four starts and surrendered only 26 hits in 27 innings to go with a 22:5 K to walk ratio.
Jon Lester – (6-3, 3.13, 65K, 1.33 WHIP)
He threw a no-hitter against Kansas City on May 19 and has been absolutely superb in the month of June. Over his last four starts, Lester is 3-0 with a 1.63 ERA. He’s only walked 3 batters in 27.2 IP, and his 39 walks in 103.2 IP this season is a big reason he’s found success. Lester is no longer falling behind in counts, nibbling on the corners when he’s ahead or getting rattled as easy. He’s pitching to contact and working deeper into games which is a far cry from the Jon Lester of old, who at times needed 100-plus pitches just to qualify for a win. It’s been a significant boost to the rotation, particularly with the absence of Curt Schilling and injuries to Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Bucholz.
Daisuke Matsuzaka – (8-1, 3.46, 56K, 1.42 WHIP)
I’m still not sold on Daisuke being more than a decent 2 or solid 3 starter in the American League. His record is deceiving, in my opinion, because he hasn’t been able to make it past the 5th our out of the 6th inning in 7 of his 12 starts due to high pitch counts. His K:BB ratio (65:46) is pathetic, especially given that he’s pitched 65 innings this season. And to top it off, he got lit up in his first start back from the DL. Thankfully the Red Sox have considerable depth in starting pitching or else this would have been a costly top of the rotation guy. Hopefully he’s settles down and pitches to his capabilities, but for now, I’m still disappointed thus far.
Tim Wakefield – (5-5, 3.88, 69K, 1.25 WHIP)
This guy is like everyone’s favorite pet dog. No matter what happens in the world around you, he’ll always be there right by your side. Quality starts in 11 of 16 games, his lowest ERA since 2002 and he’s gone seven or more innings eight times. Every year it seems he may be the odd man out, but injuries happen and they rarely seem to happen to Wake. Thus, he remains in the rotation and not only that, but he delivers. These are solid numbers for any major league pitcher, never mind a 41-year old knuckleballer. He’s been so good of late, I keep thinking about adding him to my fantasy team, but never pull the trigger. After his 5th quality start in a row, it may be time, but regardless, it’s hard not to appreciate his consistency year in and year out. To have him pitching above expectations is an added bonus, especially given the rash of injuries.
Justin Masterson – (3-1, 3.43, 32K, 1.19 WHIP)
I’d say Tuesday’s game against Arizona was Masterson’s first true test of adversity, and he delivered. After surrendering a 2-run shot to Chad Tracy in the 3rd inning, the youngster was facing a 4-1 deficit and en route to his worst performance as a big leaguer thus far. But he answered the bell with three consecutive shutout innings, keeping his team in the game. The result? Boston came back with four in the 8th to take a 5-4 win.
Masterson has show tremendous stuff so far in his rookie campaign, and I think the Red Sox brass will be hard pressed to send him back to the minors. When Bartolo Colon returns, I’d like to see Masterson move to the bullpen and shore up innings 6-8 with Delcarmen, Hansen and Okajima. If Colon fails to return and deliver, Masterson should stay in the rotation while Clay Bucholz continues his development in Triple-A. I said it last year and I’ll say it again. Throwing a no-hitter is a tremendous accomplishment, but it’s not a right of passage. Just ask Bud Smith.
Bartolo Colon – (4-2, 4.09, 26K, 1.39 WHIP)
No one was expecting much, but Colon has been a welcomed addition to the staff. Until his recent stint on the DL, he’d been solid and serviceable as a back of the rotation guy. While he still hasn’t shown glimpses of his Cy Young stuff from 2005, he was progressing nicely and settling in. I was watching the game against Philadelphia which eventually put him on the DL, and I could see in the 1st inning, during which he surrendered homeruns to Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, that something was wrong. He was only throwing 84-87 and the ball was up. Hopefully the DL stay will cure what ails him, because the Sox were enjoying the depth with him in the mix. For little to no money at all, this has been an absolute steal. Let’s hope he returns to form.
Bullpen – Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, Mike Timlin, Craig Hansen, Javier Lopez, David Aardsma
It’s been a case of good and bad for the Red Sox bullpen. Papelbon has been good all season despite a few minor hiccups that typically happen with closers. But he’s reliable and about as much of a shutdown closer as you’ll see in baseball. Delcarmen was terrible to start the season, but with 10 shutout innings in June and 11 straight scoreless appearances, he’s returning to old form. Okajima, however, has been awful. I hate to say teams have figured him out, but he’s been awful in June averaging 2 hits per inning pitched. Francona simply can’t rely on him in the 8th inning at this point, and you have to wonder if he needs more rest.
In the second tier of relievers, Hansen has delivered some encouraging outings, while others have shown he’s still learning. His save against the Reds on FOX television impressed me, more so because he found himself in a tight jam and didn’t crack. He appears to be maturing as a pitcher, and I think come September and October, he’ll be a valuable piece of that bullpen.
Lopez and Aardsma have been nice complimentary pieces to the bullpen. Both have been consistent all season long and present solid options out of the bullpen for Francona. Particularly when regular late inning guys are in need of rest, it’s comforting to see these back of the bullpen guys have put up solid numbers.
As far as Mike Timlin goes, I think it’s time he joined Curt Schilling on the CNLP (Can No Longer Perform) list. He’s finished, and has become more a liability than anything else in a big league game. I wouldn’t trust him at my brother’s little league practice. Offer a buyout and have him retire as a member of the Red Sox. They can put together a nice little ceremony and let the team honor him. All he’s doing now is taking up a roster spot that someone else deserves.
Overall – A-
The team has overcome several injuries including the loss of Ortiz. Despite that, it owns the 3rd best record in the majors, has held off a first-half surge from the Tampa Bay Rays, solid play from Baltimore and New York, and the Blue Jays are somewhat dormant, but possess enough talent to wreak havoc in the division. The AL East is as competitive as it has ever been, so to be in this position at the midway point, on pace for 98 wins, is certainly impressive. The Yankees have played much better over the last couple months and are 14-9 in the month of June. With Chamberlain added to the rotation, I’m excited to see how Boston and New York match-up later this season. I’m also excited to see if the Rays can continue this play through the rest of the season. It should be an interesting second half, one that will leave at least a couple of these teams on the outside looking in come playoff time.
So there you have it. The mid-season report card for the Boston Red Sox. Let me know your thoughts on any of the grades, players, or comments above.
Here are just a few observations from last night's NBA Draft.
-I could not be more thrilled about what the Celtics did. Going into the night they held the #30 and #60 picks. What can they do there? Well Danny Ainge has always drafted well late in the first and in the second. In my piece Don't Ignore Round 2, I mentioned 3 players I thought could be sleepers in this draft. They were Bill Walker, D.J. White, and J.R. Giddens. I'm giddy, for lack of a better word, at what the C's were able to do. D.J. White went 29, so they didn't even have a chance for him, plus he plays the same spot as Leon Powe and Glen Davis. He's a good pick, but not for Boston. Instead they go after uber talented J.R. Giddens who went to Kansas out of high school only to transfer to New Mexico. He could turn in to a nice shooter/ scorer off the bench.
-Bill Walker was a 2nd round pick? I'm splitting the Celtics break down up a little bit, because Walker deserves his own space. Outside of the top tier, Walker is my favorite player in this draft. He was a high school teammate of O.J. Mayo, where they won back-to -back state titles in Ohio, and before they could make it 3 in a row, Walker was deemed ineligble. This caused quite the turn of events. Walker, at the time, was one of the best "juniors" in the country and was supposed to be a part of one of the best senior classes that consisted of the likes of Mayo, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Jerryd Bayliss, Derrick Rose, and Eric Gordon. Rather than sitting out the season, and feeling sorry for himself Walker took excellerated courses to graduate from high school early and enroll in college. He had to do this, of course, because high school players can not enter the NBA Draft. An article in ESPN the Magazine stated that Bill Walker may have been the first casuality of the no high school rule.
Walker graduated high school, and decided to go to the school coached by Bob Huggins, Kansas State. Huggins, the long time coach at Cincinnati, had built a relationship with both Walker and O.J. Mayo while in between jobs while the boys were at North College Hill High School in Cincy. (Mayo transferred from North College Hill once he knew Walker would not return. Mayo went back to Huntington, WV and teamed with now Kentucky star Patrick Patterson.) So Walker became one of the best freshmen in the country at K-State. He had to sit out based on NCAA rules an X number of games, but when he came back he played well. Until he blew out his knee. Walker red shirted, and came back to school for another year. This time, however, without Bob Huggins, and playing in the shadow of Michael Beasley.
With all that said Bill Walker is one of the most athletic players in the entire draft. Can he stay healthy? That, of course, will be the key. I'm not sure how much either Giddens or Walker will play next year for the Celtics, particularly if they re-sign James Posey, but I'll be rooting for them the whole way.
-Celtics used their 60th pick on 7'1 center from Turkey named Semih Erden. Not a bad idea to draft a foreign player when you have extra picks. Keep him over seas and see what happens.
-Speaking of foreign players, the 1st one selected was Italian Danilo Gallinari by the Knicks at 6. The fans booed the pick, but this could work. It's going to be a long turnaround for New York, so I don't see the need to take a guy who can help right now. Help what?
-The Miami Heat fooled everyone. They don't want Michael Beasley? Really? Great draft by the gang in South Beach. Beasley, and Kansas teammates Mario Chalmers and Darnell Jackson in the 2nd round. Great job. A lot of new "Big 3's" following the draft, and one of the most formidible is the Heat's 3 of D.Wade, Shawn Marion, and Michael Beasley.
-The Bucks trades and picks leave them with a core of Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson, and Joe Alexander. Not bad. The Nets giving up Jefferson for Yi and Bobby Simmons still leavs me scratching my head.
-The Nets did make the most of their 3 draft picks though. Brook Lopez at 10, Ryan Anderson (the leading scorer in the Pac-10) at 21, and Chris Douglas-Roberts in the 2nd round. They'll need all the help they can get after dealing Jefferson for a pair of bodies.
-The Bobcats are not a fan of their current point guard Raymond Felton (#5 pick in '05) as they select Texas PG D.J. Augustin with the 9th overall pick. This right after the ESPN crew said Charlotte should get help up front. Oops.
-Pacers work a few trades and walk away with Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert. I like Rush a lot, think he can help them right away. T.J. Ford, Danny Granger, Brandon Rush, Mike Dunleavy... without O'Neal they're going to need Hibbert to play.
-T-Wolves and Grizz worked a late night trade. O.J. Mayo for Kevin Love and Mike Miller as well as both teams swapping horrible contracts. Could work out for both teams. Doesn't look like Mayo will play poing guard in Memphis though, like he would have to play in Minny.
-Jerryd Bayliss joins an unbelievably young and fun team up in Portland. The youngster from Arizona can play both guard spots much like new teammate and former Rookie of the Year, Brandon Roy. Bayliss will have competition from his own team for that award, as Greg Oden makes his much anticipated return.
-The Sonics made 5 picks. The more the merrier I guess.
-And if you're a fan of the Hawks, Nuggets, or Hornets, pretty boring night, as those teams combined for a grand total of 0 picks.
-Now we still need the dust to settle on some of these trades. Starting on July 1st we will see a lot more shake up in the NBA with signing free agents and even more trades. I'm already looking forward to what should be another exciting year in the NBA.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Every year there are lottery busts. These are the picks that set your franchise back, and often cripple your fan base. Dating back to the past 10 drafts, here are just some of the Top 10 picks that did not pan out: Michael Olowokandi, Raef LaFrentz, Robert Traylor, Jonathan Bender, Darius Miles, Marcus Fizer, DeMarr Johnson, Chris Mihm, Kwame Brown, Eddie Griffin, Rodney White, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Dajuan Wagner, Darko, Mike Sweetney, Rafael Araujo, Marvin Williams (ahead of Chris Paul and D. Williams), Adam Morrison, and Patrick O’Bryant. It’s too early to criticize last year’s picks. But looking at those names its obvious there are no sure things in the NBA Draft. Along with lottery failures, teams can totally redeem themselves in the 2nd round. Contracts aren’t guaranteed, so why not take a shot.
Here’s some players who slipped through the 1st round in the past 10 drafts, and make up my list of 2nd round steals.
How about the All- 2nd round team? You’ve got All-Stars and Olympians. You can play a lineup of Gilbert Arenas, Michael Redd, Manu Ginobili, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur with Monta Ellis, Rashard Lewis, Jason Kapono, and Eddie House coming off the bench. Not bad for round 2 right?
Don’t sleep on the 2nd rounders, or you’ll be the team that passed up on the next Boozer, not once, but twice. This isn’t the NFL Draft where you have 7 rounds to find that late steal. Only 60 players will be drafted on Thursday night, making the scouts’ job even tougher.
Who could be this 2008’s 2nd round sleepers? With so many Freshmen and foreign players dominating the draft its easy for guys to be picked too high, but on the flip side guys will slip past their value. I really like Kansas State’s Bill Walker, but injuries are a concern. Late in the 1st, it will be hard to pass up on him, but if a team is too worried about his knees he better not go past 31. D.J. White from Indiana is another guy to watch. He’s only 6’9’’ but we’ve seen so many short young bigs have success by hustling and rebounding. He would be a great fit somewhere, and will absolutely have a better career than many of the 1st rounders. And lastly, New Mexico’s J.R. Giddens, by way of Kansas is very intriguing. Loads of talent, but it will ultimately come down to the situation he lands in. So on draft night look for Bill Walker, D.J. White, and J.R. Giddens.
(Personally I will be rooting for Colorado’s Richard Roby to be drafted, strictly because I played against him in high school. He was on the same team as the 15th pick in the 2005 draft Antoine Wright, as well as guys who went to Arizona State and Colgate. Roby is the half-brother of Kenyon Martin, and almost went pro after his sophomore season. He had a poor shooting junior year and had to return as a senior. He put up big numbers all four years in the Big 12, but now will have to sweat it out to see if he gets picked.)
As for guaranteed 1st round guys, I obviously like Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley like everyone else. I’m very high on O.J. Mayo, can play both guard spots and will have a solid NBA career. Eric Gordon could be a great scorer, and Brandon Rush will be a valuable piece on a championship team some day.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
“We’re very excited about this partnership with WGAM, The Game,” said Tristan Besse, co-founder and contributing writer of The Sports Brief. “Through this partnership, we anticipate both mediums to continue regional expansion while delving into a broader, more national audience. It’s a tremendous opportunity - propitious and auspicious in all facets of sports journalism.”
The two parties came to a verbal agreement last week, but did not formally sign off on the deal until early Monday morning. Anticipating that the deal would go through, WGAM had already gained prominent placement on The Sports Brief’s website at the end of last week. As of end of day yesterday, WGAM had posted a link on its website for The Sports Brief, completing the foundation to what both sides anticipate will develop into a sports empire.
WGAM co-host and Boston radio talent Mike Mutnansky offers his thoughts on the merger, “At the end of the day, people want more sports. Whether it’s a professional sports radio veteran like myself – or a duo of Internet Simmons-come-lately’s like Rich and Tristan. To Joe Six Pack it’s all the same. And if we have a part in bringing that to the people, then by all means lets get it on.”
“It’s the perfect marriage,” said Rich Keefe, co-founder and contributing writer of The Sports Brief, and on air personality for WGAM. “When Tristan and I created the Brief we envisioned being a fundamental component of the sports landscape. As someone who has a hat in both rings here it’s difficult to say who I’m happier for. The collaboration with ArmchairGM.com, and now WGAM Radio, the dream to one day have our articles read by more than just our family and friends is soon becoming a reality.”
About WGAM Radio The Game
WGAM "The Game" is Sports Radio for New Hampshire. With WGAM 1250-AM in Manchester and 900-AM in Nashua, and streaming online at www.wgamradio.com "The Game" has you covered 24-hours a day. “The Game” provides a full daily slate of sports talk radio, including local production of “The Hometeam”, nationally syndicated talk shows, such as Dan Patrick and Jim Rome, and full play-by-play coverage of the Red Sox and Patriots. When you listen to WGAM, you can also expect to hear the NFL, March Madness and other local college coverage, high school play by play and more. It all adds up the best mix of local and national sports coverage in Southern New Hampshire!
About The Sports Brief
The Sports Brief was founded in 2007 by Rich Keefe and Tristan Besse as they break down the world of sports as they see it. The website is designed to bring a factual, opinionated and entertaining sense of sports journalism to its audience. Keefe has been a co-host of “The Hometeam” since graduating from Hobart College in 2006, where he did extensive sports radio work at the school station. Keefe can also be heard announcing Rivier men’s and women’s college basketball, and the state high school tournament. Besse formally worked for Entercom and Red Sox Radio after graduation from Northeastern in 2007. He has made several appearances on “The Hometeam” and was a contributing writer to the Concord Monitor in 2001 and 2002.
Monday, June 23, 2008
I’ve got good news and bad news concerning my review. What do you want first? Ok, the bad news is I have not seen the 2003 Hulk, therefore can not compare the two. The good news? I have seen just about every other comic book movie that’s come out since X-Men in 2000. And simply put, it’s not the best, and it’s not the worst.
I was never a huge fan of the Hulk character, one of the early creations for Stan Lee, rather than simply being a mutant like the X-Men, Bruce Banner needed a reason why he became the Hulk. This film does not show exactly how it happened, instead makes references to the Gamma Rays, and how it went down. To me, it was going to be difficult for the Hulk to carry an entire movie. He’s not exactly with the Avengers… yet.
Similar to Iron Man, the villains are not as well known as other comic book characters. The first villain is essentially General Ross (William Hurt), who wants to capture the Hulk despite his daughter’s (Liv Tyler) attachment to him. The super villain in the film becomes Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) who morphs into Abomination. Comic book fans will recognize this monster, but there is only one subtle mention of his name. The Hulk and Abomination have an epic battle where you can see where the $125 million went in making the movie. There are many comparisons to The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man; on purpose I’m sure, but none more than their main villains. The Iron Monger is basically a guy who finds similar powers to Iron Man then boom a fight. Abomination is like a roided up Hulk (pretty crazy right) and then boom they fight. It’s like they have the same play book.
One of the best parts of the entire movie, and it’s not even a spoiler because it’s in some of the trailers now, is when Robert Downey Jr. reappraises the role of Tony Stark to meet with General Ross. I have been pushing for some sort of “Team Up” since the first Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Punisher. Get these guys in the same movie! You saw in the X-Men series references to other characters who weren’t in that particular film. This is something all comic fans thoroughly enjoy. In addition to Tony Stark, you can find mentions of S.H.I.E.L.D., (like in Iron Man) and Nick Fury (also in Iron Man). All I’m going to say is if the Hulk and Iron Man join forces with Nick Fury and others (maybe Captain America) that could be one hell of a combined sequel.
But that’s not always a great sign when I’m looking forward to the next movie more than I am enjoying the current one. Like I said The Incredible Hulk was right in the middle as far as comic book movies are concerned. No surprise Edward Norton was great, and he made the Hulk character stand up to an admitted non-Hulk fan for nearly 2 hours. If you saw Iron Man I recommend seeing this one, at least before the mega-sequel comes out.
Final Rating: 7.5/10
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Like Steve Carell at the end of 40- Year Old Virgin it finally happened. Ok, the Celtics didn’t have to wait quite as long to capture another NBA Championship, but it sure felt like it. The Boston Celtics are the 2008 NBA Champions… Read that again, and see if it sinks in. If you’re a C’s fan it probably won’t just yet. To the sports fan outside of New England it looks like just another title for a spoiled fan base. But the reality is the Celtics were at their worst while the Sox and Patriots were at their best. The Green overcame that and were the only story in the Boston area the past few months. If you’ve stuck with this team (and I hope you have, it means a lot more) you understand where they have come from and where they are today. It is truly amazing.
For some perspective, the Celtics won 16 playoff games this year, they won 24 regular season games all of last year. They lost 18 games in a row, and played lineups such as Allan Ray, Kevin Pinkney, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, and Ryan Gomes. The first three guys aren’t even in the league anymore. The lineup in the Usual Suspects probably gives them a game and definitely plays more defense. Not only were those players getting minutes for last year’s Celtics team, but there wasn’t a plan set in place on how to improve. Or so we thought.
365 days ago we were discussing the make up for the 2007-2008 Celtics. Part of that conversation was who the team would draft with the 5th overall pick. Seriously, check the blog archive. Possibilities included Jeff Green, Yi Jianlian, Al Thornton, or as I hoped, a trade. And when I said trade I thought of names like Ron Artest, AK-47, Shawn Marion to pair with Pierce and Al Jefferson. The addition of Ray Allen raised an eyebrow, but KG got people out of their chairs, and that was before the season started.
The Celtics busted out of the gates to an incredible 29-3 start before ultimately finishing 66-16. The questions of whether or not the 3 stars could come together for the good of the team were answered immediately, but critics wanted to see it in the post season. Pierce, Garnett, and Allen had never made the Finals before, and it was well documented, but to have 9 of the 10 ESPN “experts” pick the Lakers was an absolute joke. Marc Stein had LA in 5 games. You think he’s got the Celtics in the top spot of his power rankings today? Got to love a 66 win team being the underdog.
The 17th Celtic Championship means so much too so many different people. Whether it’s the past Celtic greats in attendance, like Bill Russell, Tommy Heinson, Jo Jo White, John Havlicek, and Cedric Maxwell, who had to be thinking if this was ever going to happen again to a franchise that used to be so dominant. To Celtic greats who could not be in attendance, at least physically, Red Auerbach, Dennis Johnson, and Reggie Lewis. (Len Bias was drafted 22 years ago to the date that the Celtics snapped a 22 year drought… Bias was 22 the day he died, he also wore 34 in college same number of the series MVP, there’s way more of these.) To Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers who built and coached this team after having the worst record in the East to the best in the league. To the fans old and new. To some this reminds them of the glory 80s days or even earlier, and to others this is the first time they can celebrate.
But most importantly to the players. The stars, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, fellow starters, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, bench guys Eddie House, James Posey, Tony Allen, Leon Powe, Glen Davis, rentals Sam Cassell, P.J. Brown, and seat fillers Scot Pollard, Brian Scalabrine, and Gabe Pruitt, they can all be called NBA Champions.
For KG, Pierce, and Allen it’s like Martin Scorsese finally winning that oscar. Everyone knew he was a fantastic director even though he had yet to win the Academy Award. The Boston 3 Party were each incredible players with great resumes, but alluding them was that ring. Now they are off the list that includes Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Dominique Wilkins, and Patrick Ewing, and join the distinguished company of Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird.
Speaking of Bird I fully expect Paul Pierce to now join him atop the rafters of the new Garden. Before the season even started I felt the same way, but now that he has won a championship, like nearly every other number hanging above the court, there is no possible way the 34 doesn’t make it up there. What a group he will join too, Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Tommy Heinson, Kevin McHale, John Havlicek, Jo Jo White, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, Reggie Lewis, Dave Cowens, Red Auerbach, and more. It’s an astonishing group of players, and you know Paul Pierce may be in the top 5.
Pierce (30 years old) is a 6 time All-Star, 6th on the all-time Celtics scoring list (10 points back of #5 Cousy), and has the 20th highest scoring average in NBA history. He has been lost in the shuffle playing with clowns like Orien Greene, Dwayne Jones, Kevin Pinkney, Dan Dickau, Andrew DeClergc, and was expected to go places with Ron Mercer, Ricky Davis, and Wally Szczerbiak. The only other time he played with someone who went to an All-Star game in a Celtics uniform, Antoine Walker, they went to the Conference Finals. Give the guy 2 All-Star and the results, an NBA Championship, and a Finals MVP.
You probably saw the graphic that showed in the first year that Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, and John Havlicek played together (1962-1963), they won the title. The first year the Big 3 of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish teamed up (1980-1981), they won the title.
And now the first season for Pierce, Garnett, and Allen (2007-2008), they won the title. Cousy never played for the Celtics again after that ’63 season, but it was in the middle of the Green winning 11 titles in 13 years. Bird, McHale, and Parish won 3 times as a trio, now we’ll have to wait and see what lies ahead for Pierce (30), Garnett (32), and Allen (32).
Cue the awkward song and dance from the very end of 40- Year Old Virgin.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
I’m most disturbed by the timing and logistics of the situation. While the 34-35 record for the Mets thus far is unacceptable with its current payroll, I didn’t feel the blame should point solely at Randolph. The Mets were reeling last week, caught in the midst of a 5-game losing streak and having lost 6 of its last 7 games. But two of those games were blown by closer Billy Wagner, and the team lost three consecutive games to the Padres by a score of 2-1. Perhaps Willy could have made a move here or a move there to generate an extra run or two along the way, but when your offense scores 3 runs in 3 games, the onus needs to fall on the hitters and not the manager.
But nonetheless, if you’re going to fire a manager, the right time to do it might be during a losing a streak or at the tail end of it. Instead, Minaya chose to do after a 9-6 win last night and the Mets’ second win in a row. Not only that, but the team had won four of its last six and just received a boost in the return of Pedro Martinez who had been out since early April. To me, however, that’s not the worst part. The Mets’ 4-2 win over Texas on Sunday split a doubleheader as the team took two of three from a high powered offense. And they did it at home, in Shea Stadium, in New York, where the team plays its home games, where the players, coaches, and organizational employees all call home and lay their heads. Again, if you’re going to fire a manager, do him a favor and fire him at home before a long road trip out West. Yet again, instead, Minaya decided to let Randolph lead his troops over 3,000 miles across the country to LA for a 3-game set against the AL-West leading Angels. And after that aforementioned 9-6 victory over said division leading Angels, Minaya then decided to fire his manager. On the road. On the other side of the country. After two consecutive wins. At 3:15 in the morning. When the rest of the country is sleeping. Ridiculous.
So let me get this straight, Omar. You have your manager pack up his things and travel across the country so he can win a game and then you can fire him so that he can again pack up his things and fly back across the country and go home without a job. Way to show some class. The fact that he fired him after winning two straight games indicates this was pre-meditated. Which makes the situation even worse. If the intention of Omar Minaya was to fire Randolph, why didn’t he do it after Sunday’s doubleheader at home? Or at least wait until another uninspired effort from his ball club led to another disappointing loss? Or, as I mentioned earlier, why didn’t he drop the axe last week after the five-game losing streak? Minaya doesn’t seem like the type of guy whose forte is good timing. You know the kind. The guy who tells his wife he’s leaving her the same day she gets fired from her job. Or the friend who reminds you at a relative’s funeral that you owe him $20 from that bet you guys made last week on who could chug a beer faster.
The bottom line is that Minaya made the move that everyone has been clamoring for since last September, but he couldn’t have screwed it up any worse. And I think he should follow his former manager right out the door for his transgressions as GM, this latest incident being his most offensive gaffe.
And I feel the situation sheds light on the question as to who should ultimately be held responsible for the poor performance of a baseball franchise: the manager or the GM? The GM and front office builds the roster with which the manager must work with. Unless the manager makes a seriously glaring error or serious of blunders, why should he be held responsible for poor signings? As a family friend so aptly stated this morning, it is the manager’s job to make chicken salad out of chicken $hit.
So let’s revisit the Omar Minaya track record as GM. During his time in Montreal, he traded away a trio of prospects for hard-throwing right-hander Bartolo Colon. Not bad, right? Well, those prospects were Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips. He also dealt away Jason Bay, Orlando Cabrera and Chris Young during his time there. Sure, the Expos were always positioned for an annual yard sale out front, but that doesn’t excuse Minaya.
Flash forward to 2004 when he came on board with the Mets and promptly signed free agents Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran to overpriced contracts. Martinez is making $11.8M this season while Beltran is collecting $18.6M. Minaya then acquired Carlos Delgado in 2005 in exchange for Yusmeiro Petit and Mike Jacobs, who is now the slugging first basemen for the Florida Marlins. Jacobs is making $345,000 while producing a stat line of .245/16/43 while Delgado rakes in $16M for a pedestrian .242/9/43.
Minaya made a flurry of transactions between 2005 and 2007 that saw the likes of Xavier Nady (.314/10/49 in ’08 for the Pirates), Brian Bannister (17-15, 4.26 ERA, 41 starts in ’07 and ’08 for the Royals), and Padres’ setup man Heath Bell (10-7, 2.00 ERA, 2 saves and 46 holds in 117 appearances in ’07 and ’08) all depart New York and flourish. And he’s overpaying other players, as well. Moises Alou ($7.5M), Orland Hernandez ($7M), Oliver Perez ($6.5M), and Luis Castillo ($6.25M) are all cashing big checks with little production. Like his counterpart in the Bronx, Minaya has turned the Mets into an overpriced retirement home for ball players. He brings in big name players at a high cost to drive revenue, yet his teams aren’t winning ballgames because of injury, age and lack of talent. He certainly needs to be credited for brining in players like David Wright, Jose Reyes, John Maine and Ryan Church, and his work as GM certainly played a role in the Mets winning the NL East in 2006 and coming within a game of the World Series. But let’s face it, Minaya’s percentage of success is 50/50 at best and he never really gave Randolph a World Series caliber team.
That’s why I like what they did in Seattle. A month ago I listed John McLaren’s name on the chopping block, and rightfully so. The woeful Mariners are 24-46, worst in major league baseball. But the team recognized that it may not entirely be McLaren’s fault. The team is littered with low talent hitters, does not have viable arms in the bullpen and the rotation has two potential aces and three no talent losers. How is a manager supposed to win under those conditions? He’s not. So by ridding itself of the GM, it allows a new guy to come in, try and correct the issues at hand and give a guy they believe in an opportunity to win under new terms. Perhaps that’s what the Mets should have considered first before disgracefully dismissing its manager in the wee hours of the morning after the team’s second consecutive win, 3,000 miles from home. There was a better way and another way to do it, and the Mets and Omar Minaya chose neither.
Monday, June 16, 2008
33 finalists were chosen a couple years ago to both qualify for and win the Olympic games. With less than 2 months before the Opening Ceremony, I thought I would offer my humble opinion on who should make up this “Gold Medal or Bust” team. There has still been no official word on who the 12 players will be, but looking at the lists of hopefuls you can clearly see, locks to me on, and locks to be off. Let’s take a look.
The 33 players available to Team USA:
For my first round of cuts I will simply get rid of the obvious picks. Some of these guys just have no business being on Team USA in 2008, and in a few cases, ever.
1st cuts: Bruce Bowen, Nick Collison, Kevin Durant, Kirk Hinrich, Brad Miller, Adam Morrison, Greg Oden, J.J. Redick, Luke Ridnour
That leaves you with 24 players, exactly twice as many guys as you are allowed to dress out in Beijing.
2nd round of cuts gets rid of 6 very talented players. It’s difficult picking any of these players to leave behind. Injuries play a major role in saying goodbye to most (not all) of these guys. They may be healthy by Beijing, but after missing time in the regular season no need to rush back with so many other able bodies. I’ll have to reluctantly part with: Gilbert Arenas, Shane Battier, Chauncey Billups, Elton Brand, Shawn Marion, and Tayshaun Prince.
Now you have to start looking at positions. If you’ve seen the international games you know that it’s different that just a point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center. Quality lineups usually have 1 big man, a point guard, and basically 3 wing type players.
Point guards left: Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Deron Williams
Wing/ slasher/ shooters left: Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, LeBron James, (Antawn Jamison), Mike Miller, Lamar Odom, Paul Pierce, Michael Redd, Dwayne Wade
Big men: Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Tyson Chandler, Dwight Howard, (Antawn Jamison), Amare Stoudemire
In my opinion you need 2-3 from group 1, 6-7 group 2, and 3-4 from group 3.
Starters: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwight Howard
2nd unit: Deron Williams, Dwayne Wade, Michael Redd, Antawn Jamison, Amare Stoudemire
That’s my 10 man squad; therefore you’re left to pick 2 players out of the following: Jason Kidd, Joe Johnson, Mike Miller, Lamar Odom, Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, and Tyson Chandler.
There are 2 point guards, 5(6) wings, and 2(3) big men. Probably should take a low post rebounder type (Bosh, Boozer, or Chandler) and a slasher/ scorer (Johnson, Miller, Odom, Pierce). I love Paul Pierce, (he’s my favorite player and pre-series pick for Finals MVP) but his history with the front office of Team USA, and fellow wing players will keep him off. Miller isn’t bad, but with Redd on the team he can stay home, and Lamar Odom doesn’t do it for me here either. I’ll take Joe Johnson, a guy who can do it all, and as the 11th man that’s a luxury. Up front is difficult to sort out. Chandler is the best defender/rebounder, Boozer the best scorer, and Bosh probably a combination of the two. You’ll do well with any of these guys. However I wouldn’t expect a ton of time from any of them. It’s hard to leave Kidd out, and maybe they’ll want his experience, but his play in Dallas coupled with the growth of both Paul and Williams leave him off my roster.
So here is my 2008 Team USA Olympic Team:
Let’s hope they can bring back the gold.
Friday, June 13, 2008
1. Randy Couture
2. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
3. Fabricio Werdum
4. Brandon Vera
5. Frank Mir
6. Heath Herring
7. Cheick Kongo
8. Gabriel Gonzaga
9. Brock Lesnar
10. Shane Carwin
Couture is still our champ, so he is number one. The departures of Andrei and Big Tim really hurt this weight class, where a fighter who is 0-1 in the octagon can be ranked 9. Vera doesn’t fall much due to what we thought was an early stoppage vs. Werdum.
1. Quinton Jackson
2. Chuck Liddell
3. Lyoto Machida
4. Forrest Griffin
5. Wanderlei Silva
6. Maurcio ‘Shogun’ Rua
7. Thiago Silva
8. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
9. Keith Jardine
10. Rashad Evans
This division is tough to figure out since everyone has beaten everyone. I (Keefe) really like Shogun still, but his inactivity and loss to Forrest drop him to 6. You can make a number of intriguing match ups here. Rampage vs. Forrest finally comes next month. And one of the biggest questions for this weight class still remains, what organization will former champ Tito Ortiz sign with?
1. Anderson Silva
2. Dan Henderson
3. Rich Franklin
4. Yushin Okami
5. Patrick Cote
6. Ricardo Almeida
7. Nathan Marquardt
8. Thales Leites
9. Chris Leben
10. Michael Bisping
Knocking on the door: Jason MacDonald, Nathan Quarry, Damain Maia
Like Tom Hanks, Anderson Silva is in a league of his own. He owns dominant victories over everyone he has faced in the UFC including close to half of this top 10. Rumors of a Spider vs. Iceman fight linger, and we wouldn’t object to that. Henderson against Franklin would be intriguing, but what do you do with the winner? Hendo/ Silva II or Franklin/ Silva III? Don’t think so.
1. Georges St. Pierre
2. Jon Fitch
3. Thiago Alves
4. Josh Koscheck
t-5. Matt Hughes
t-5. Matt Serra
7. Diego Sanchez
8. Karo Parisyan
9. Mike Swick
10. Marcus Davis
Alves didn’t make weight, but still the performances against Karo and Hughes vault him up the leaderboard. GSP fights Fitch for the title in August. Mike Swick looked very comfortable at 170 against Davis, and let’s hope we still see Hughes vs. Serra.
1. BJ Penn
2. Sean Sherk
3. Joe Stevenson
4. Kenny Florian
5. Roger Huerta
6. Tyson Griffin
7. Clay Guida
8. Frankie Edgar
9. Nate Diaz
10. Gray Maynard
Knocking at the door: Spencer Fisher, Matt Wiman, Rich Clementi
Similar to the middleweight division it’s a one man weight class. B.J. Penn cemented himself as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in MMA after blowing through Sherk. Huerta vs. Ken-Flo is upcoming, but does Penn fight the winner or GSP? It’s shaping up to be a pretty deep division, solid Top 10 with good honorable mentions. Yes, we showed “Some Love” to Rich Clementi.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
1. Babe Ruth (.342/714/2217 over 22 seasons)
Imagine for a moment that Tiger Woods and John Daly spawned a child that played baseball. Enter Babe Ruth. Think about it…you have the best player of his craft during that era who also happens to be a complete rogue. Ruth is clearly one of the most accomplished hitters of all time, swatting 2,873 hits, 714 homeruns and an OBP of .474. He even stole 123 bases, never struck out more than 93 times in a season and drew 2,062 career walks.
Not bad, but it all comes into perspective when you consider the guy played Major League Baseball like it was high school. Over the course of five seasons he was the kid everyone buzzed about but never wanted to face. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year. The kid signed to go D-1. The kid who had hundreds of scouts lined up at his games to see him play. The first round draft pick. The “Can’t Miss Kid.” And finally, the best, and perhaps only, six tool player any has ever seen. He could hit for average, power, run a bit (in that era), field, throw and yes, pitch.
Ruth pitched over 133 innings in five seasons before his pitching career phased out and eventually went on a 10 year hiatus. He was 94-46 over his career with a 2.28 ERA and a filthy 1.159 WHIP. And he was an innings eater, too, especially in 1916 and 1917 when he tossed 323.2 and 326.1 IP, respectively. That’s unheard of. Nowadays you’re lucky to hear about guys eclipsing the 200 IP mark. He won over twenty games in each of those two season and pitched a combined 85 games, starting 79 of them.
You have your Micah Owings, Carlos Zambrano and Mike Hampton of old, but none of those guys hit and pitched with the regularity of Ruth. But the best part of Ruth was his Daly-like lifestyle off the field. He boozed, smoked and was a womanizer. John Goodman, the severely overweight father from “Roseanne” and the VO for the Dunkin Donuts commercials – how fitting – was chosen to play him in “The Babe.” That should tell you enough. I’m still convinced that there’s a video of Ruth playing sandlot ball with his buddies shirtless while polishing off the last of a 30-rack. I’m holding out hope that it will end up on YouTube soon enough.
2. Barry Bonds (.298/762/1996 over 22 seasons)
I personally don’t care for Bonds as a human being as his name continues being dragged through the mud with the allegations of steroids, HGH and other performance enhancing drugs. You can argue that said drugs helped provide Bonds with longevity that his otherwise injury prone body could not have sustained. Perhaps that’s why he played significantly more games between 2001 and 2004 than his 90’s counterpart Ken Griffey, Jr. did. But that’s speculation for another debate, another article and another time.
In the meantime, until proven guilty you can’t deny the sheer talent and eye-popping numbers that Bonds put up, especially in the late 80’s and early 90’s when he was that rail-thin son of father Barry, Sr. with the Pirates and then Giants. In fact, go back and look at his statistics each year of his 22-year career. Go ahead and pick out your favorite one. It’s impossible. The guy is the most prolific hitter of all-time. Bonds was a 7-time MVP, 14-time All-Star, 12-time Silver Slugger, 8-time Gold Glove winner, stole 514 career bases including 52 in 1990 and a 40/40 season in 1996. His career OBP is .444, slugging is .607 and has 2558 walks, nearly 400 more than Rickey Henderson in second.
I could go on and on, but an article doesn’t do justice to the ridiculous numbers that Bonds put up. Go to baseballreference.com and have a look for yourself, it’s stupid:
If Bonds pitched, he’d be at the top of the list. And on top of that, he did everything to better his body while Ruth did everything to destroy. Because of that, Ruth gets the nod for being a man’s man.
3. Willie Mays (.302/660/1903 over 22 seasons)
The Say Hey kid was a top shelf five-tool player. A Rookie of the Year, two-time MVP and 20-time All-Star, it’s incredible to think that he missed almost 270 games due to military service. He averaged a homerun every 16.5 at-bats, and over that time could have potentially hit another 59.5 bombs which would land him 3rd all-time (I did some rough math there, but it’s right). He stole 338 bases, had an OBP of .384 and scored 2,062 runs, as well.
And we all know about his defense with 12 Gold Glove awards and some memorable highlight reel catches to boot, including that famous over the shoulder grab running back to the wall. He had 195 career assists from the OF to go along with his defensive range.
To have done it consistently over such a long stretch of time is a testament to Mays and his ability to stay healthy. For that, he sneaks in at number three.
4. Ken Griffey, Jr. (.289/600/1730 over 20 seasons and counting)
Like everyone else on the face of the planet, I can only wish that Griffey never got hurt. For his first twelve big league seasons he was like a comic book super hero, an invincible character who could do all and never be destroyed. Some of his highlights were almost mythical, Roy Hobbes like in “The Natural.” Then in his second season in Cincinnati he became mortal, and it wore on for four long seasons. I’m convinced that if healthy, Griffey would be chasing Bonds’ homerun record and relieving us all of that stigma attached to it. But nonetheless, he currently stands with some impressive numbers…
Griffey is a former Rookie of the Year, MVP and 13-time All-Star. He’s won 7 Silver Sluggers, 4 batting titles and 10 Gold Gloves as probably the best defensive player in the 90’s. His career numbers a bit diluted due to the injuries that forced him to miss substantial time, but even still he has serious presence across the board in career ranks. He has arguably the best homerun swing in the history of the game, and his numbers are a testament to that. When he hit his prime, Griffey slugged 249 bombs over a five year span (’96-’00). His 2,615 hits, 1,730 RBI, .550 Slugging and 1,575 runs scored are an impressive body of work. Again, this all while missing significant chunks of time over a six year span. And let’s not forget his memorable moments in the Home Run Derby, particularly his three victories in ’94, ’98 and ’99.
5. Hank Aaron (.305/755/2297 over 23 seasons)
Perhaps the most underappreciated member of this historic fraternity, Hank Aaron seems to always be a forgotten man when discussing the most prolific players in the history of baseball. Not only did he hold baseball’s most sacred hitting record for 33 years, he still stands top-5 in games, at-bats, plate appearance, runs scored, hits, total bases, home runs and RBI. That can be attributed to two things: Aaron was a hell of a player and he played for a heck of a long time. You can argue that if Griffey remained healthy throughout his entire career, he could put up career numbers that finished in the ballpark of where the likes of Bonds, Mays and Aaron stand.
But I rank Aaron 5th here because he didn’t possess that defensive element in his game that could define him as a complete player like Griffey and Bonds. He took home three consecutive Gold Gloves early in his career (’58, ’59, ’60) but was never snagged another one in his remaining 17 years in the league. Griffey and Bonds certainly saw their defensive skills decline towards the tail ends of their respective careers, but sustained stud status on a longer period of time – try an entire decade.
My other reason for ranking Aaron 5th is a detraction as much as it is an indication of his longevity in the game. The guy has ridiculous number, sure, because he was a ridiculous hitter. But lest we forget, he also sits 3rd in career games played, 2nd in career at-bats and 3rd in career plate appearances. While I’d be remiss to fault a guy for remaining healthy and productive for 23 years in major league baseball, you have to consider his career numbers are a result of his longevity just as much as his skill as a hitter. Barry Sanders ranks 3rd all-time in NFL rushing yards behind Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton. Smith played 15 seasons while Payton lasted 13. As for Barry? We all remember him hanging them up prematurely after only 10 seasons in the league. Had he stuck it out a couple more years, he would easily be the leading rusher today. You can probably make the same argument for Curtis Martin while you’re at it. So while skill has everything to do with it, so does longevity and thus, opportunity.
6. Samuel Sosa (.273/608/1667 over 18 seasons)
Easily the ugly sister of this group, Sosa comes in with the worst batting average, lowest RBI total and will have the lowest homerun total when Griffey passes him sometime this season. Slammin’ Sammy was the affable, loveable guy that everyone couldn’t help but root for in ’98 during his pursuit of Roger Maris with Mark McGwire. Sosa averaged 58.4 homeruns from ’98 to ’02 and was an RBI machine, cranking out as much as 158 in ’98 and 160 in ’01. He was ridiculous. But he never had much of a penchant for hitting for average or hitting to contact. It was all or nothing for Sosa, which is a large reason why he finished with such a lower career average and struck out 2,306 times, 2nd all time to Reggie Jackson.
He did swipe 234 bases, but most of those came before his inflated days in Chicago and for a guy of his hitting prowess, he certainly didn’t draw many walks. His most came in ’01 when he drew 116, but over his 18 year career, he only averaged 51.6 a season. That’s terribly low. Not to say that a power hitter like Sosa should have had great plate discipline, but you’d think guys would opt to pitch around due to fear. Instead, it was a matter of going right at him with fastballs. If he beats you, he beats you, but you have just as good a chance to strike him out as he does hitting a homerun.
To top it off, Sosa was more of a liability in the outfield than an alcoholic in a bar. Quite possibly one of the worst outfielders I’ve ever seen, playing in the National League was the only reason he didn’t DH. Fans loved cheering him when he ran out to right, but that was probably the only way he could receive applause out there.
I don’t want to sound like I’m entirely bashing Sosa here. He was one of the most feared hitters in baseball for almost a decade. But let’s face it, he was a power hitter only and not anywhere near the complete hitter, or player that any of these other men were. He was a seven time All-Star and completely adored by fans, but much like Bonds, the aura of steroids and performance enhancing drugs will forever linger and most likely resonate when discussion of Sosa and baseball transpire.
So that does it. If I was drafting these legendary members of the 600 HR club, above is how I’d expect them to fly off the board. While ranking certainly exemplify preference and opinion of superiority, I think John Kruk had it right last night when he said, “Let’s face it, whether you’re drafting 1st or 6th, you’re getting a hell of a ball player.”
Hope you enjoyed, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on where each of these great players stands amongst one another.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Give the marketing department a lot of credit for the trailer. This was the sole reason I had to see this movie. In fact, more often than not, the preview is what makes or breaks one’s decision to hit the theater. Few exceptions to this rule include comic book or other well known stories coming to the big screen. You say Spiderman or Ironman, go ahead and show 90 seconds of Tony Stark looking at his suit, and I’ll still run out on opening night to see it. Or if Vince Vaughn (or your favorite actor/actress) is in a new film, don’t think the preview will detour you, you’re going to see it. Case in point, I’ll probably see Zohan just cause of Sandler. But if someone said there’s a movie coming out called the Strangers and it’s about people in a house with weirdos outside, you’d say ok… when’s it going to be on TV? But then you see this preview and it’s, when can we go?
Unfortunately horror movie fans this one could not live up to the hype. It reminds me of the Dave and Dan situation with Reebok prior to the 1992 Summer Olympics. Maybe the trailer set the bar too high (much like the bar set on the pole vault that Dan couldn’t get over thus failing to qualify), and there was no way the actual movie could live up to it. How could extrapolate that 90 seconds into 90 minutes? Well I’m not sure they did. Simply, it was not as scary as the preview, and as the movie went along it became pretty predictable.
It was not a complete failure though. There were a bunch of “what are they doing? I wouldn’t do that”- moments, but what horror movie doesn’t have that? They had some unique ideas (no spoilers), which is saying something in this day and age of remakes and copy cats. The Strangers can not be put in the same class of newer horror films such as The Devil’s Rejects, Saw, The Descent, or even House of 1,000 Corpses. With that said it was better than many others including the new Black Christmas, See No Evil, Feardotcom, The Grudge, and The Grudge 2.
I didn’t hate it. In the range of horror movies out there today it ranks somewhere in the middle, and that would have been fine if I wasn’t so pumped up to see it. Maybe I have to see it again, I don’t know. I’d like to get someone else’s perspective on it (besides my girlfriend, whose thoughts you can read below), and see what you think.
Final rating: 6/10; probably rent, netflix, download for free, or whatever it is you do.
This is what the girlfriend thought of The Strangers:
Review of The Strangers: 1 estrella
What a complete let down. The plot was horrible; they did not develop any of the characters and the clincher… it was not scary! Liv Tyler barely spoke 5 words throughout the movie, there was little dialogue, and little scares.
With that being said I really love a good horror flick, I enjoy the suspense but this movie did nothing for me. In fact my pulse did not rise over 75 the entire time. I was more scared of the teenage boy sitting by himself at the movie. I was completely paranoid he was going to shoot up the place halfway through the movie. To make matters worse the screen went black at the end of the movie, technical difficulty I suppose or the teenage employee/s up in the cinema stand had lit the reel on fire, not really sure, but it really made the movie that much worse when we had to wait for the movie to restart to find out the ending did nothing to make the 90 minutes any better or any more frightening. “Surprisingly” at the very end of the film the writers leave you with “hopes” for a sequel, to be named Strangers: Revenge of Tamara.
Keefe: (I’d have to say that the lights going out may have actually been the scariest part, which isn’t a good thing.)
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
The Sox are hitting .283 as a club, which is 2nd only to the Cubs in all of MLB and best in the AL. Rather impressive, especially considering that Ortiz is in the midst of his worst offensive season since joining Boston in 2003. He’s on pace to match his HR and RBI totals of last year, which were easily the lowest since that first year in ’03. Yet his overall power is down, on pace for only 27 doubles and currently batting just .252. While you can argue that he got hot in May, batting .318 and raising his average from .198 after April, it’s been the contributions from the rest of the lineup that have been significant.
Take Kevin Youkilis for example, who has slugged nine homeruns and 35 RBI’s while batting .305. Or Manny Ramirez, who has 12 bombs, 39 RBI and a .296 average after hitting career homerun 501 last night. There’s Mike Lowell, last year’s World Series MVP and perhaps regular season team MVP who has returned from a wrist injury. Since coming off the DL, the third baseman has hit .305 with seven homeruns and 25 RBI in 34 games. And Jacoby Ellsbury has been electrifying, batting .287 out of the leadoff spot, stealing 27 bases in 30 attempts and contributing 12 extra base hits, as well. Long story short, the Sox has five starters hitting over .285 (Youkilis, Ramirez, Drew, Ellsbury and Lowell) with two others batting .279 (Pedroia and Lugo).
And while the loss of Ortiz will certainly put more strain, pressure and importance on the at bats from these guys, I don’t see them slipping with Big Papi in the dumps. Not to say Boston is better without Ortiz by any means, but I think the team’s improvement in other areas will, to a certain degree, counteract the significant loss in power and balance things out.
Ramirez should move to the DH role, opening up a spot in left. Ellsbury could easily shift to left while Coco Crisp moves back into center. I think this is the best option, as Crisp was incredible defensively last year and should have won a Gold Glove over Torii Hunter, who has essentially been grandfathered in as the perennial Gold Glove CF. And while the team gets a little thin with the OF corps, Jeff Bailey is a big right-handed bat currently with the club, while Brandon Moss could see a call-up if necessary. I’d actually like to see it. He’s hitting .405 over his last 10 games in Pawtucket, and had a three-homer game last week. Jed Lowrie is another guy Theo could call on to fill in as a reserve in case the team’s resident patient, JD Drew, goes down with another case of vertigo or a yeast infection.
Regardless of whom they bring in, if anyone, to fill that need, the Red Sox are going to see a significant boost in speed. Having Crisp, Lugo and Ellsbury in the same lineup night in and night out will give opposing batteries migraines, and I expect to see a variation of small to come from Terry Francona’s club. Crisp only has seven swipes on the season so far, but that should skyrocket over the next couple weeks because he’ll be playing every day as opposed to catching the short end of a platoon situation. The Sox have never done much in terms of bunting over runners and I don’t expect that to happen now either. But with a lineup that is consistently making contact throughout, we’ll see more hit-and-runs, stolen bases, runners moving over on balls the other way, etc. With the speed on the base paths, balls in the gap will easily score runs and if guys like Crisp, Ellsbury and Lugo can force a throw to the plate, help move the hitter up an extra base, as well.
As I said, I don’t think the team is better off without Ortiz, nor do I think it’ll change its approach. But I do think we’ll see more speed, better defensive play, and continued success until Ortiz returns.
Much like the depth in pitching, Boston has a “problem” in that it has significant depth with hitters. And much like Masterson and Colon have answered the call with injuries to Clay Bucholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka, I think the hitters in that clubhouse, collectively, will find a way to do the same in the absence of Ortiz.
Another reason the Sox should be fine without Ortiz is the aforementioned depth at pitching. Josh Beckett is slowly returning to form, while Jon Lester has been much improved over the past month, especially with his no-hitter against the Royals. Despite Dice-K and Bucholz both being on the shelf, Colon and Masterson are certainly contributing beyond expectations, and Tim Wakefield has been his steady self. It’s not exactly a murderer’s row of starting pitchers, but all are serviceable and capable of contributing six strong innings. The question will be if the bullpen can hold a lead or stop a threat and get the ball to Papelbon. Manny Delcarmen, Craig Hansen and David Aardsma have all throw well over their last few outings, and with Okajima struggling, each will need to continue this recent run of success if the Sox will be able to stay afloat.
While the Rays will be a tough test at Fenway the next three games, the Sox then move to Seattle and Baltimore. At home, they should easily take 2 of 3 in both. Then it’s on to interleague play and series at both Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Because they’re in NL parks, Ortiz effectiveness here would have decreased anyway with there not being a DH. By then, we should have a clear perspective on the health of his wrist and a more definitive timetable, as well. Papi’s bat will certainly be welcome by the end of the month, when the Red Sox embark on a string of games against St. Louis, Arizona, Houston, Tampa Bay and New York.
So let’s give him his time to rest on the 15-day DL before jumping off the Tobin, because depth and scheduling are playing into the Sox favor right now.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Let’s take a closer look at the Celtics and Lakers in the past 21 seasons. (This takes into account everything after the Lakers win in the 1987 Finals over Boston).
Celtics – 0
Lakers – 4
Finals Appearances (counting 2008):
Celtics – 1
Lakers – 8
Years in the Playoffs:
Celtics – 12/21
Lakers – 19/21
Celtics – 11
Lakers – 3
Celtics – 8 (K.C. Jones, Jimmy Rodgers, Chris Ford, Rick Pitino, Jim O’Brien, John Carroll, Doc Rivers.)
Lakers – 11 (Pat Riley, Mike Dunleavy, Randy Pfund, Bill Bertka, Magic Johnson, Del Harris, Kurt Rambis, Phil Jackson (2x), Rudy Tomjanovich, Frank Hamblen.)
Celtics – 9 (Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge, Robert Parish, Reggie Lewis, Antoine Walker, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen.)
Lakers – 8 (Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul- Jabbar, James Worthy, A.C. Green, Eddie Jones, Nick Van Exel, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant.)
Celtics – Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff, and draft picks for Kevin Garnett.
Lakers – Javaris Crittenton, Kwame Brown, Aaron McKie, rights to Marc Gasol, and draft picks for Pau Gasol.
Celtics – Joe Johnson, Randy Brown, Milt Palacio, and 1st round pick for Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk. Also Chauncey Billups for Kenny Anderson.
Lakers – Caron Butler for Kwame Brown.
Celtics – Donnie Wahlberg
Lakers – Jack Nicholson
Well as you can see these two proud franchises have taken different routes from 1987 to make this rematch happen here in 2008. I truly believe these are the best two teams in all of basketball and deserve to be here. After Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett joined the Celtics there were rumblings that, in the East, this team has a shot at the Finals. Then during the season, once Kobe decided he wanted to stay in LA, the Lakers had their young big man Andrew Bynum go down forcing them to hit the market. The beginning of February the Lakers made the most 1 sided trade in sports history (least in the conversation), and suddenly there was a legit chance of a Celtics-Lakers Final four months later. It gets started on Thursday in Boston and I am ready to go.
Early lean: Celtics in 7.