Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Shut up and play...and ruminations on the potential Santana trade

This has been a tiresome week for me.

I live in Whine Country in Maryland.

I watch the boards and read various articles about the NFL games for several days after the games end on Sunday and Monday. For weeks I have heard fans of other teams bitch and moan about the lack of class of the Patriots. This week I have heard, both locally, and nationally (mostly in interviews with Ravens) how the officials took the game from them (thankfully the national press has pretty much said what follows here...well, with the exception of my sentiments on Samari Rolle).

To that, I answer the following - since Belichick took over, you have never heard players blame each other for any of their losses (Peyton Manning, I'm looking at you), you have never heard the Patriots blame the officials (Ravens, I'm looking at you). The team has gone longer than any other team in the NFL without a player arrested (Bengals, Redskins, Cardinals, Bears, Dolphins, and...well the rest of the NFL, I'm looking at you). The team hasn't had any assistant coaches get into trouble on their own time (Detroit, and Arizona). As a matter of fact, other than Belichick being named in a divorce proceeding and the tragedy that took Marquise Hill, the Patriots are pretty much in the news for playing football.

As for the Ravens and their fan base, the idea that the refs took that game from them is patently ridiculous. While I have made many of the following points elsewhere myself, I would like to thank Peter King for the following summary of the end of Monday night's game -

• New England ball, fourth-and-1, Baltimore 30, 1:48 left, Baltimore up 24-20. At the last second before the snap, Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan calls timeout. The play went on, with Baltimore stuffing Tom Brady for a loss and, theoretically, that should have been New England's last gasp. One problem.
Only the head coach is supposed to be able to call time on the sidelines. But in
this case, the league has interpreted the rule on a last-millisecond timeout call that the side official cannot be responsible for seeing whether it's the head coach or another coach who calls time. So it's technically legal for Ryan to have called the timeout, and the league's point is the head coach is responsible for controlling his bench. In this case, Brian Billick has to be responsible for his sideline, and when Ryan calls time, the burden is on Billick to accept the call because it happened on the Baltimore sideline.
• New England ball, fourth-and-5, Baltimore 13, 55 seconds left, Baltimore up 24-20. Brady retreats to pass. From the right side of the line, tight end Ben Watson runs downfield into the end zone, with nickel back Jamaine Winborne riding him tightly downfield. Once Watson gets past the 8-yard line, it's illegal for Winborne to have anything but incidental contact with Watson, but he clearly has an arm on him well past the 8, and all the way into the end zone. Maybe the call should have been holding, maybe the call should have been illegal contact, but it was a legitimate call, not a ticky-tack one. Winborne impeded Watson's path.
The back judge, Billy Smith, called holding, a five-yard penalty and automatic
first down. I would have called illegal contact, but both penalties have the same impact, which is to give the Patriots a first-and-goal at the Baltimore 8. Great guts by Smith to make a call in that atmosphere.
• New England ball, first-and-goal, Baltimore 8, 50 seconds left. Brady throws to the left corner of the end zone for Jabar Gaffney, who catches the ball in front of his body with both hands while getting both feet down. During the time he gets both feet down, Gaffney moves the ball in front of him but never takes either gloved hand off
the ball and never juggles the ball. It is ruled a touchdown, and there is a booth review ordered by replay official Dale Hamer. The play is reviewed by ref Walt Anderson and confirmed. Let's remember what replay is: It's to be used to overturn a call only if there is indisputable visual evidence that the call is wrong. There's no way you can look at this play -- and I've seen it 10 times, in slow-motion -- and say there's clear evidence he didn't have control of the ball.
• Baltimore ball, second-and-10, Baltimore 45, eight seconds left. Kyle Boller throws a Hail Mary to the 3-yard line, and, in the middle of the scrum, Baltimore wideout Derrick Mason puts his hands on Patriot cornerback Asante Samuel's shoulders and pulls Samuel down. Mark Clayton makes the catch and is tackled at the three. There is no flag. Big mistake. There certainly should have been offensive pass interference ... but even if that was the call, it would not have changed the outcome. Because the clock expired, and the game can end on an offensive penalty, the game would have been over without the Ravens having another chance to score.

Let's also address Samari Rolle's complaint about the 53-year old former player, and official who called him "boy at least five times." The large black man whom Rolle accused, by his own admission, of having "never strapped on a helmet," in relation to what Rolle felt were bogus calls.

The more that comes out about Rolles complaint, the more it sounds like he incited the ref. Rolle claims that he was told by 110, "boy, shut up and play." Part of his complaint is that Rolle himself is 31 years old and a father of three, and "you don't call a grown man 'boy.'" To which I say, maybe he should act like a grown man and accept responsibility for his actions, and not blame the refs for his teammates screw-ups.

This will result in a talking to the officials by Goodell, but it should also result in a smackdown on the Ravens who seem to think that the officials are trying to help the Patriots by edict from the league offices.

One of the most ridiculous accusations is that the league wants to help Bill Belichick, who has pretty much become the NFL version of Darth Vader in everyone's eyes, win. It was obvious in the way the game against the Colts was officiated, and the way the officials helped AJ Feeley toss three picks, and of course the way the officials ignored an obvious penalty on the Baltimore Hail Mary in the closing seconds. If Clayton gets into the end zone, that's a potentially game changing play on which the refs blew the call. Do Ravens fans think the NFL told the refs to blow that call too?

Bottom line, they need to get their heads out of their asses and really look at how that game was called. Yes, it was poorly officiated, but it was poorly officiated on both sides. And if the second most penalized team in the AFC really thinks that the refs were quick to throw the flags on them, then maybe it has a lot less to do with the Patriots record than the fact that year in and year out they play disciplined football, and, as such, are one of the least penalized teams in the league. That might have followed the Ravens into the game more than any conspiracy by the NFL to keep the Patriots without a loss.

If they don't want the flags thrown, maybe they should try playing with discipline - hell, Ed Reed was five yards off-sides on an extra-point attempt. How often do you see that?

As for Santana, and I'm not talking the guitar legend...

I'm pretty much on record at a number of other blogs as not in favor of this trade. Johan Santana is a superb power pitcher whom I would love to see on the Red Sox for the right price. The deals as structured combined with the rumored contract demands are not the right price. Maybe if Santana were 27, it would be, but he's 29, has already pitched over 1300 big league innings, has faded down the stretch and has been mediocre, at best, in the post season.

This doesn't even take into account Santana's Fenway park numbers - 1-3 (15.2 innings) in three starts and one relief appearance with a 6.89 ERA, 12 K and a 1.85 WHIP. The only win came in the relief appearance and his last Fenway start was 5 innings with a 7.20 ERA. Part of what has hurt Santana in Fenway is the fact that he's a flyball pitcher. Those flyballs that are outs in the Metrodome are going to be doubles off the wall in Fenway.

I can't help but feel that given the fact that Jon Lester is 23, was solid in a year that he came off cancer, and put up better numbers in his first year than Santana in his first, I can't help feeling that giving the Twins Lester and three to four prospects that will likely be playing in the majors within the next two seasons, that the Red Sox are grossly overpaying ala the Vikings for Herschel Walker for a bauble they don't really need. What surprises me here is that the Twins haven't jumped on this offer, given that the Sox are currently not bidding against anyone else.

Why do I compare this to the Walker trade? I think, like Walker in Minnesota, that Santana will have limited success in Fenway, and that his propensity to give up flyballs will negate any upgrade he would otherwise represent over Lester who is likely to average 14 to 16 wins per season over the next couple of seasons (health permitting).

Power pitchers who begin to develop elbow problems like Santana has been exhibiting begin to show significant drop off in numbers between the ages of 33 and 35. Given Santana's demands, I can't help feeling that in four years that the Sox would be paying $20 to 25 million per year and dealing with the same situation that the Mets did this year with Pedro Martinez - paying gobs of money for a guy who couldn't get off the bench until late August due to injury.

And none of this takes into account the domino effect of paying Santana obscene gobs of money in spite of the fact that he's nowhere near the post-season pitcher that Beckett...or for that matter, Lester is.

Given the way last year's JD Drew signing went down, it feels like Theo has become enamored of another shiny bauble that the team doesn't need, and is bidding against himself in an effort to get it.

I understand not being able to do Lester straight up for Santana, even Lester and one player, but Lester and three seems too much for a team that doesn't actually need Santana. Don't even get me started on Buchholz or Ellsbury, neither of which I think should be included in any deal for the Twins ace.


sugarshane024 said...

The funny thing about that Gaffney touchdown were the two personal fouls by Bart Scott that were tacked on after the play. So, had the touchdown been overturned, the Pats would have ended up with a first-and-goal at the 2 anyways.

As for Samari Rolle...really? I saw this story on ESPN and felt it was worthy of a read. I'm disappointed I wasted the half calorie clicking on the link. I am still in disbelief that is making such a big deal because an official called him "boy." What's next? Troy Polamalu accusing an official of calling him "dude?"

Kevin Smith said...

He needs to get his head out of his ass and grow up. Geez.