Wednesday, October 08, 2008


I am back from covering the World Beer Festival in Durham.

I highly recommend the event for any beer fans out there. They hold it at the home of the Durham Bulls - an absolutely beautiful ballpark. We stayed a ten minute walk away at the Morehead Manor Bed and Breakfast. If you ever have reason to be in Durham, I both recommend staying at the B&B and visiting the stadium for a game (season permitting).

Now onto the busy sports news of the last couple of days. I'm going to start with the Pats before I get to the Sox...

I was happy to see the Pats win. There were a number of things that I found encouraging that the team did on Sunday. However, there were times that the offensive line looked overwhelmed, and there were times that the Niners gashed the Patriots in the middle of the defensive line. Those things keep me concerned moving forward.

As does the fact that Cassel has only once thrown the ball away to avoid the sack.

Fairly or unfairly, Cassel will be compared to Tom Brady for the whole season. Unfairly, it will be to the Tom Brady of 2007, not 2001 when Brady, like Cassel, was still wet behind the ears and filling in for an accomplished veteran. I'm not going to make the mistake of comparing him to Brady.07.

No. What I'm going to do is look at what an untested, unproven late round draft-pick does from start to start against what another untested, late round draft pick did when he got his shot.

And the biggest difference between the two? After four appearances, including three starts (for both) Brady had been sacked eight times for 45 yards. Cassel has absorbed 15 sacks for 68 yards - a pace that will get him sacked 60 times during the season (Brady was sacked 41 times in 14 starts/15 games. Even projecting for Cassel's 16 games, Brady still would only have been sacked 47 times). He has to get better at just getting rid of the ball when there's nothing there.

Otherwise, this is how the two compare -

Cassel - 3-1 (2-1 as the starter), 70 of 104 for 707 yards (67.3 completion percentage), 3 TD's, 3 INT's.

Brady - 2-2 (2-1 as the starter and the team was 3-2 overall), 63 of 111 for 664 yards (56.8 completion percentage), 2 TD's, 0 INT's.

Brady's offense had turned the ball over eight times in the four games in which he appeared, to six times for the Cassel led teams.

The other interesting stat lies on the other side of the ball. The defenses in both seasons for the first four games in which they were dealing with the back-up signal caller on offense gave up exactly 79 points. The defense in 2001 forced six turnovers from the fateful Jets game in which Bledsoe injured himself, through to their 29-26 victory over the Chargers (putting the team at -2 in the turnover ratio). This year's defense has forced five (putting this year's team at -1).

As I've said before - I don't expect Cassel to develop into Tom Brady. But I think that Patriot Nation needs to back off. Despite his flaws, and I acknowledge he has 'em and they do worry me, I think we need to be patient with him.

Four of the team's next six opponents make up four of the five worst pass defenses in the league. Throw in a Colts team that seems to be clawing and scrounging for every win it gets, the hardest game between now and week 11 appears to be with the Bills.

If Cassel can guide the team to a 4-2 record during that stretch, not out of the question given the fact that the only team that looks truly dominant right now is playing in the Meadowlands (and I'm not talking about Gang Green), a 7-3 record at game ten puts the Pats in good position for a ten win season, and a likely playoff berth given that the only team in the AFC that looks en route to 12+win potential is Tennessee.

And onto the playoffs...

And so the Red Sox move on.

It seems like they're doing it differently each time.

In 2004 they had to come back from the brink. They did it with veterans - it was Curt Schilling and Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez. It was David Ortiz, Dave Roberts, Manny Ramirez, Trot Nixon and Kevin Millar. The list goes on, but it was a largely veteran squad of mostly imports that liked to go by the name "the Idiots".

It was appropriate. They were loud, grungy, silly and had a lot of fun.

In 2007 the team absolutely dominated the Angels in the first round, scrapped around with the Indians in the second, winning that series 4-3. In the games the Sox won that round they averaged 10 runs per game while holding the Indians to an average of 2 runs per game. And then the Sox stomped on the hottest team in baseball, sweeping the World Series.

This year the Sox are getting it done with a lot of home-grown talent mixed with mid-season acquisitions. Jon Lester, Manny Delcarmen, Jed Lowrie, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Bay, Mark Kotsay.

This year there are no Colorado Rockies-type teams in the playoffs.

There were the Angels who won more games than any other team in baseball. Three more than the Rays and five more than the Red Sox. They still buy into their own hype, believing they were better than the Red Sox.

Yes, the Red Sox got lucky bounces, and didn't drop balls, and didn't miss the clutch hits - except in game three when they had multiple opportunities to put the game away. They did things that the top teams are expected to do - perform under pressure, make the plays when needed. John Lackey can believe that the Angels are the better team all he wants. It doesn't make it true.

The better team doesn't outright miss getting the glove on routine grounders at short. The centerfielder doesn't pull up and fail to call off the second baseman on a short pop-fly to shallow center, a move that costs the team three runs. The better team's closer doesn't spit the bit in real pressure situations. I could go on, but I won't.

I do want to touch on Jon Lester, though.

He got jobbed out of a win in game four, but that's okay, the team won. Lester has been absolutely dominant in the post season, throwing 22 and 2/3's scoreless innings over three starts. Only one lefty in the history of the sport has thrown more in October - Babe Ruth with 29. Now we're seeing the team head into a potential seven game series against the Rays with a rotation that should see both Josh Beckett and Jon Lester pitch twice if it goes to a seven game series.

While the Rays have been impressive this year, this is new territory for them, but it's old hat for the Olde Town Team. Just because it's old hat, however, doesn't mean it's a sure thing...which brings me to my last thought.

Yes, I want to see the Sox win it all again - but I won't be crushed if the Rays do (I think that the eventual winner of the World Series will come out of the American League). Why, one might ask, wouldn't I be upset at the Rays winning?

Well, I won't lie - I would be disappointed if the Sox didn't make it, but there's a certain poetic MLB flipping of the metaphorical finger to the Steinbrenners should the team with the second lowest payroll in the league walk away with the championship. There's just something beautiful about that. Maybe no more than seeing the Sox win their third in five seasons, but it's still pretty damn good.


Suldog said...

Of course, Torre winning it all in LA would also be a way of giving the Yankees the bird.

Kevin Smith said...

True, but I just can't root for Manny to get another ring - not with what he did this year.

Personally, I don't think the Dodgers are making it past Philly.

the blue state blogger said...

"there's a certain poetic MLB flipping of the metaphorical finger to the Steinbrenners should the team with the second lowest payroll in the league walk away with the championship."

Especially considering he's promising to break the bank in the offseason. Not a man who learns from past mistakes...