Friday, May 04, 2007

The Non-Story of the Sporting Year so Far...

Much ado about nothing...

Evidently Tom Brady has been spotted lately wandering around Manhattan wearing a Yankees cap. The various national sports media outlets are making a big deal out of the signal caller for the New England Patriots wearing something other than the hometown Red Sox cap.

Let's note a couple of things here - first, he grew up in the Giants and Athletics territory, not Massachusetts. Second, this isn't the first time he has been seen wearing a Yankees cap. Third, who cares? Everyone that's a sports fan develops their own tastes and preferences and I don't expect that to change just because the individual ends up playing in the territory of the team that is the rival of whom they root for.

I played football in high school, and had I been large enough and good enough to play in college and get drafted, let me tell you how I would have signed that big fat contract with the teams that I hated growing up. If I ended up on the Jets, yes you would have seen me wearing my Sox cap and jersey at Yankee Stadium.

Now, if he were to go and sign a contract to play for the Dolphins or the Colts...well then, all bets are off.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Rounding up those stray little thoughts like the sheep they are...

The NYpon Ham fighters...
Okay, so I stretched a little for a pun here, but right now the Yankees seem to be feeling a little hamstrung. Over the course of the first month of the season the Bronx Bombers have lost four pitchers including the latest casualty, pitching prospect and expected phenom, Phil Hughes to hamstring problems. Since spring training under the stretching program instituted by the Yankees new strength and conditioning guy Bobby Abreu, Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Mike Mussina each went down with ailments that could potentially be tied to conditioning and stretching issues. That's four starting pitchers and three starters for those keeping score at home.

According to the NY Daily News - "After Mussina strained his hamstring on April 11, Cashman threw his full support behind [trainers] Miller and Cavalea, saying, 'None of these injuries have anything to do with this new program.'" Yesterday Miller was shown the door, possibly in a move by Cashman to avoid that same door himself. Someone had to take the fall for the Yankees' slow start, and it appeared that the trainer was ripe for the kicking.

If the Yanks have a May like their April, rest assured there will be other heads that roll before the end of the month.

Not exactly waiting for Godot...
Josh Beckett has accomplished something in a Red Sox uni that not even Pedro did...six wins in six decisions to start the season. Only a handful pitchers in Sox uniforms equaled or topped that feat - Roger Clemens and the ole' southpaw, George Herman Ruth are among them. Not bad company to be in.

The early returns seem to be that Beckett is on course, as long as he stays healthy, for a 20-win season, even if he stumbles a bit, and a strong candidate for the Cy Young. Right now he has 6 wins (1st, which could put him on pace for close to 14 by the All-Star break), is 9th in innings pitched (39.2), 8th in strike outs (35), 9th in ERA (2.72), 8th in Walks/Hits per Inning Pitched (WHIP) with 1.06, and opposing batters are hitting only .219 against him (10th).

If he maintains these averages, he has every chance of finishing in the top five in every important pitching category. The big question is, can he do it? As a Sox fan, I sure hope so.

What is truly amazing is that in almost every one of the categories I mentioned, there is another Sox pitcher in front of him - Schilling in innings pitched, Wakefield in ERA and opponent's batting average, and Matsuzaka in strike outs.

I think Sox fans would be hard pressed to find a time in the team's history when four members of their pitching staff were in the top ten of those statistical categories over the course of any one month period of time in any season. Hitting? Sure. But pitching...

Feeling a little drafty...
As readers may have noticed, I'm not much on covering the draft, but I am going to say a couple of things about this past year's draft -

Feeling Patriot-ic - I think some good and some...well let's just say that the jury is out as to what happened here. I honestly don't know enough about Brandon Merriweather to claim he's a bad guy. Yes he was involved in a gun incident, no, the police found nothing illegal in his involvement - the gun was licensed and it was determined that he was indeed acting in self-defense. I'm not happy about it, but to borrow a Belichick-ism - it is what it is...and what it is appears to be an isolated incident.

Then there was the brawl where he was caught on film stomping on a Florida International player's head. I understand that football is a game of great emotion - when in high school I had to be restrained from going after another team's center, but I was 15 at the time, not 21.

Are these red flags? Yes. But people have been comparing this to picking Pacman Jones which I believe is...shall we say a touch of hyperbole. Jones had been arrested for assault in a bar incident in West Virginia and had a history of trouble in high school including suspensions from both school and team, I have not heard the same in the case of Merriweather. Merriweather could easily be heading in that direction, or it's quite possible that there will be nothing else along these lines. He has shown, from what I've read, little indication of following the troubled paths of Jones, Chris Henry, Tank Johnson, or even Washington safety Sean Taylor.

Trading places - The Pats made one pick on day one of what was considered a weak draft class, trading picks for extra places in next year's stronger draft. One of the big coups for the Pats was getting San Fran's number one next year. While the Niners figure to be better next year, I'm guessing it will still give the Pats a pick in the teens.

Rolling stones gather no Moss - There are a lot of positives to the Moss deal. The Pats picked up a talented player for virtually little to no real cost to themselves. The controversial wide receiver automatically makes the offense better. Currently, he's saying all the right things - even lauding Troy Brown as the best receiver to come out of Marshall. I still don't like the deal.

I don't feel they needed him to put them over the top at this point. I have no respect for a player that, "plays when I feel like it," and feel that it's the equivalent of the Red Sox going out and getting Derek Jeter (or in the past, Don Mattingly or Catfish Hunter) to play for them - it just wouldn't feel right.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Formerly PMSing Moss now with New

So, for what appears to be a bargain (potentially just one year $3+ million and a fourth round draft pick) the Patriots landed Raiders' trouble child Randy Moss. There's just something about this deal that feels...well...icky. This guy is about a half step up from Terrell Owens. It's like George Steinbrenner owning the Red Sox. There's just something wrong about this deal.

Does it make the Patriots team better? Probably, but at what cost? Moss is a highly talented and likely motivated player, with a desire to show the league that he is the same player he was before his two years in Oakland. However, he is also a notoriously selfish player. Despite his protests to the contrary this past weekend, his selfishness is well documented, as he often publicly complained that he did not get the ball enough, did nothing to sell routes when he knew running plays were going away from him, and seldom blocks.

How long, in the Patriots team first system, will this guy last before becoming a problem?

It will be difficult for me to root for this guy - too often he has been in the news for the wrong reasons, and that is something that is important.

Generally I'm willing to give the Patriots brain-trust the benefit of the doubt...this move has just left me wondering.