Thursday, March 15, 2007

My God, we Red Sox fans are now officially Moonies...

I've heard that Baseball is a religion, and more so for some than others. People will often bring up Red Sox and Cubs fans, Yankees and Indians (but they never address those small cults on the West Coast...just kidding). But the following is a little too much, even for me -

According to the Sports Illustrated Web sites' "This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse" weekly feature, the current sign is this -

"Ben Affleck will narrate a DVD series that prepares infants and pre-school children to become Red Sox fans."

It begs certain questions like - what will the specials be on the DVD?

Learn to speak like a fan from Southie!
Learn important phrases that will get you immediate acceptance from the other bleacher creatures such as, "I'd nevah sit in the Monstah seats, too many Bahneys sit up theah."
or the ever popular, "Jetah sucks!"

Learn the face of 2004 playoff hero Dave Roberts so that you may fulfill your responsibility as a Sox fan in never allowing him to pay for another meal.

See the Dropkick Murphy's video for "Tessie."

Learn in a painfully long documentary, directed by Ken Burns and narrated by Ben Affleck, why the Sox started playing "Sweet Caroline" during the seventh inning stretch.

See the Red Sox help Dora get to her destination while having to cross the lake filled with the evil Yankees!

DVD interactive features include games to help your child improve their spelling, exposing them to names like Varitek, Okajima, Youkilis, Papelbon, Matsuzaka, and many, many more!

The DVD case is a mock-up courtesy of my wife. The news is real, but the stuff after qualifies as my own sarcastic take on the thing. I'm anxious to hear the titles - I like "Horton Hears a Homer - raising your kid to be a Red Sox fan with Sox-Nation lifer Ben Affleck" or, "All Big Papi's Children."

Matthews Speaks...

Rolls over, and possibly plays dead apparently only on the advice of his lawyers.

Mattews yesterday finally came clean, sort of, with the general public, issuing a denial in the use of hGH to boost his on field performance. According to an AP report, the Angels issued a four paragraph release to the press that said the following:

"I have never taken hGH -- during the 2004 season or any other time. Nobody
has accused me of doing so, and no law enforcement authority has said I am a
target of any investigation for doing so.
"Before saying anything publicly I wanted to make absolutely sure of my
ground. In particular, I needed to try to learn whether anybody in authority --
in or out of baseball -- felt they had reason to accuse me of anything with
regard to hGH. If they did, I would have to deal with that. It has taken me, and
those representing me, 16 days to make certain that's not the case. And that is
why it has taken longer than I would have preferred to make a public

That statement comes approximately a week-and-a-half after the following from Matthews' lawyer, Robert Shapiro (of OJ Simpson fame):
"Gary wishes to cooperate with Major League Baseball, the Los Angeles Angels and
any other investigative agency that may look into this matter. He is eager to
tell his side of the story and looks forward to providing a statement once all
investigations into the matter have been completed.
"However, it is my long
standing policy not to allow clients to comment while an investigation is
ongoing. To do so would be inappropriate and I believe irresponsible."

Now, I will admit to being no lawyer, but these statements ring hollow and leave a whole series of other questions, but precious few answers. Let's cover some of them:
  • If Matthews indeed never used hGH, then why wait 16 days to deny use?
  • Why did he need to know if someone in baseball was going to accuse him of use before he could deny use?
  • Sure, the investigation both he and his lawyer cite - but if he's clean, why did he need to wait?
  • Couldn't he have issued a statement when first linked to the pharmacy records denying use and stating that he was sure his name would be cleared? I'm guessing not, or he would have done so. More on that below.
  • If he was waiting on the results of this so called investigation to exonerate him, why not release the findings of the investigation?
  • Why would it have been irresponsible to issue a "not guilty" earlier than this?
  • And most importantly, can he address how his name, address and credit card "mistakenly" ended up in the database of a distributor of the drug along with an order attributed to him?

It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes (or John Holmes for that matter) to deduce the following - the investigation was solely to establish that, beyond his enhanced numbers last season, there would be no way to link his order with him actually taking the hormones. Once they established that a potential break in the chain of evidence existed that would allow him his denial without the possibility of a "Palmiero" coming back to bite him in the ass, then - and only then - Shapiro told him to issue his denial.

Unfortunately he still left the question of how he got into that business' customer database, and really avoids answering the question of why the denial took so long. Personally, I don't buy what he and his lawyer are selling.

Interesting things are afoot at the Circle K...or over at the Razor...

According to a report in today's Boston Herald, Troy Brown is thinking about returning for a 15th season. It poses some questions since Brown has previously said he doesn't see him finishing his career anywhere else, but the Patriots are suddenly rich at wide receiver with the signings of Kelley Washington, Donte Stallworth, Wes "I'm Troy but younger" Welker, and hold-overs that include Reche Caldwell, Jabari Gaffney and Chad Jackson (currently recovering from knee surgery).

It's possible that Jackson will be on IR this upcoming season due to the tear in his ligament which is supposed to take 8 to 12 months to heal (the surgery was in February, so the earliest he will be running is likely to be August, and he probably won't be ready for hitting until the end of September - and that's if he recovers quickly).

Does Brown get resigned as a receiver low on the depth chart? Does he get resigned as a nickel-back? Does he still have enough in the tank to beat out any of the five healthy receivers that the team has under contract - all of whom are younger than him?

I would like to see him go out on his own terms, and go out as a Patriot - but with the current roster, is that really possible? I don't know.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Clearing the dust off the metaphorical shelves of my mind

Well, I think the Patriots are officially the winners of this year's Free-agent Bowl. Typically the winners are the Washington Redskins who go about free-agency with no real regard for what they are trying to accomplish on the field.

To wit - last year the Redskins landed the biggest names available in free-agency and via trades last year in defenders Andre Carter, Adam Archuleta, as well as Antwaan Randle El, and Brandon Lloyd. The problem was Archuleta is the same sort of player as safety Sean Taylor - a hitter with mediocre cover skills. The two did not complement each other in the defensive backfield creating a defensive liability deep in the secondary.

The Patriots seem to be trying to fill all their needs before the draft so that they can focus solely on drafting the best possible player to fit their system rather than having to draft for need.

Entering this off-season the Patriots needed to get younger and faster at linebacker, needed to deepen the receiving corps, needed a blocking tight-end, and needed a back-up running back. If they could get help for the secondary, that would have been a bonus.

Including resignings, this is what they have done -

Adalius Thomas, LB (5yr, $37.5M, $3.4M v. next season's cap)
Larry Izzo, LB (1yr, $820K, $482K v. next season's cap)

Heath Evans, FB (2yr, $1.56M, $720K v. next season's cap)
Sammy Morris, RB (4yr, $7M, $2.125 v. v. next season's cap)

Billy Yates, G/C (3yr, $2.1M, $845 v. next season's cap)
Kyle Brady, TE (2yr, $5.3M, $2.3 v. next season's cap)

Donte Stallworth, WR (6yr, $33.1M $3.6M v. next season's cap)
Kelley Washington, WR (5yr, $22M, estimated $3M v. next season's cap)
Wes Welker, WR (5yr, $18.1M, $1.7M v. next year's cap)

Asante Samuel, CB (1yr, $7.9M, same v. next year's cap - franchised and numbers are subject to change)

The contract numbers were compiled from multiple sources and might not be exact in regards to next year's cap hits.

While the numbers in the contracts may seem puzzling - particularly in the cases of Washington and Stallworth - some of the deals might not really be what they appear. Realistically, Stallworth and Washington are on one year deals that can be extended if the Patriots pick up the options of the players around this time next year.

Both are regarded as highly talented players but both have been plagued by injuries, and Stallworth has had some hits to his reputation as a touch on the lazy side (he has been fined for showing up late to meetings and oversleeping in training camp). If the structure of the deals isn't incentive enough for these players (both of whom gave up more guaranteed money from the Dolphins to play in New England), then the Pats can cut their losses at the end of the season without incurring dead money on the cap.

It's also obvious who the Patriots are betting on as a long-haul sort of player. To pick up Stallworth for next year the option will put his cap hit over $11 million, Washington's hit would likely be in the $6 million to $7 million range. Somehow I get the feeling that Stallworth is one and done with the Pats.

Heard around the 'Net...
Riding the message boards before free-agency I saw a lot of fans from other teams talking about how free-agents don't want to come to New England and play for Belichick because of the Pats penny pinching ways. So much for that idea.

...and on the same subject; for those of you out there upset that the Patriots are spending money to make themselves better, Thomas, Evans, Washington, and Stallworth all took less to sign with the Patriots than they would have made elsewhere. What a refreshing concept in professional sports - taking less money in the hopes of winning.

The car appears to be stuck in reverse...
Jerry Jones must be stuck on permanent meltdown without Bill Parcells to temper his hand. This off season he has hired Wade Phillips as his head coach, and then its been down-hill. Rumblings among long-time friends of Parcells is that he was indeed tired of having to deal with prima-donna Terrell Owens and when Jones didn't release TO that Parcells decided it was time to hang up the whistle. This is the same TO that it has now come out that he couldn't be bothered to learn his playbook and had to be told in the huddle where he needed to be.

Funny thing about that - when Drew Bledsoe was still starting and throwing primarily to Terry Glenn all you heard was TO whine about how he wasn't getting the ball. Interesting how, to this day, you haven't heard Bledsoe say a thing about how maybe he would have thrown TO more balls if the receiver knew where he was supposed to be.

Then, after siding with TO in this little circus called Big D, Jones goes out and signs one of the league's worst starting offensive linemen, Leonard Davis, to a seven year $49 million contract.

I guess Jones learned nothing after driving Jimmy Johnson out.

I posted my AL Central predictions over at Bitterfans yesterday. Go on over and take a look, I'll wait for you.

Genarlow Wilson and the idiots in the Georgia legislature...
Eric Johnson (R-Savannah, GA), the self-appointed executioner in the case of Genarlow Wilson has a really twisted view on justice. Here is what he wrote about his efforts to block legislation that would allow the courts to go back and review Wilson's case -

Mr. Wilson decided to fight – and he was convicted by a jury of his peers. (My
personal opinion is that the jury would have preferred to convict him of the rape charge due to sex with the older girl after she was passed out and incapable of consenting, but since she had earlier had consensual sex, they felt they couldn’t. So they used the minor to convict him. Remember, they could have found him “not guilty” and didn’t.) Between conviction and sentencing, he was offered [a plea bargain which would have labeled him a sexual predator] instead of the mandatory 10 year sentence. He refused and accepted the sentence. That offer, by the way, is still available today. He can go before the judge any time and request a new trial. He and his lawyer appear to prefer martyrdom to the 5 additional years in prison. The Georgia Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court has upheld the conviction.
As you know, Georgia passed a very strict sexual predator law last year. Within the
new law was flexibility for prosecutors for consensual sex between a 15 and 17 year old. However, I don’t believe the legislature anticipated permitting leniency with a 6 on 1 situation as occurred here.
The issue before the Georgia General Assembly is SB 37. Genarlow Wilson’s case generated it, but it isn’t limited to this single case. The bill would allow defense attorneys to petition judges to re-open every case of a convicted sex offender who engaged in sodomy, child molestation, aggravated child molestation, or enticed a child for indecent purposes if the criminal and the minor were less than 4 years apart.
The victims involved could be as young as 13. I strongly oppose any legislative effort to require the courts to revisit over 1100 cases like Wilson’s. They violated the law. Police arrested them. District attorneys chose to prosecute them. Grand juries decided to indict them. Juries convicted them (when they could have found them “not guilty”). Each of those convictions left a scarred victim. The legislature should not second guess the process. We did not listen to the testimony or see the evidence. I hate to think of the emotional burden on thousands of victims, the cost to the taxpayers, and the delay in justice to pending court cases if this bill were to pass.
People seem to forget that a 15 year old girl was the victim. I stand with her. I also stand with future possible victims of politically correct apologists who want to turn loose convicted sexual predators. Remember, one of Mr. Wilson’s buddies impregnated a 12 year old while awaiting trial and has been convicted of statutory rape.
Wilson is NOT the victim. The minor girl in a hotel room with 6 stoned adults is the victim.
Usually, society complains about sentences that are perceived as too soft. Granted, this sentence was harsh. But it was MANDATORY under the law. Life comes with accountability for our decisions. Genarlow Wilson could have selected different friends to hang with. He could have joined millions of law-abiding teens all over the country enjoying New Years’ Eve without alcohol, drugs and sex. He could have left the hotel when “the fun” started. He didn’t.
He made a choice. Now his life has changed forever. That is sad. I hope other young men and girls will learn from this tragedy and avoid his errors.

Interestingly enough, that new law that he talks about was passed because of the problems that were found with the existing law due to the Wilson case. But it gets better. He claims to talk on behalf of the jury, saying they convicted Wilson of the one because he was guilty of the other and just couldn't get him on it, but at least one juror describes it very differently.

From an ABC interview with juror Marie Manigault:
She (Mar. 9, 2006), reported that the jury saw the rape case as very weak: “[I]t
wasn’t even an hour. We immediately saw the tape for what it was. We went back
in and saw it again. Then everybody immediately said not guilty.”

This doesn't even take into account the following:
  • That the 15-year old for whom Wilson was convicted of "sexually preying" on initiated the act and had been sexually active since 11-years of age. You might stand with her senator, but I have a hunch she's not standing with you.
  • That the senator would rather let people rot in a jail cell than get the spirit of the law right (the legislator who originally penned the law that Wilson was convicted under has publicly said that the way the law is being applied does not match the intent with which it was presented - and that it needs to be changed). He notes that there might be up to 1100 people jailed in Georgia under similar circumstances - that's an awful lot of people to be marked child predators that might not really fit that scarlet letter. I don't know about anybody else, but I'd rather have my courts overburdened in the name of getting the ruling right than my jails burdened with people that don't belong in them.
  • I have read nowhere that Wilson was stoned, and as I understand it, none of the seven were 18 or older at the time, so calling the others "6 stoned adults" reeks of hyperbole in order to inflame the emotions of his voting base.
  • From reading other accounts the jury didn't want to convict Wilson of anything and were very upset when they learned that he had to serve a mandatory ten-year sentence.
  • He claims that the legislature "should not second guess the process." Isn't that exactly what the checks and balances system is all about? Isn't that how the Jim Crow laws were struck down? Some legislator somewhere second guessed a process and the laws changed.

God, I hate politicians.