Friday, December 12, 2008

Those option years don't look so bad now, do they?

Evidently Manny Ramirez isn't getting a whole lot of love in the free-agency market.

His reaction is to threaten retirement if he doesn't get the deal he wants.

So far the only contract offer the 36-year old Ramirez has received is the two-year $45 million contract that the Dodgers have since pulled off the table.

I said before that Ramirez and his agent Scott Boras were working under some delusional assumptions, one of which being that someone was going to throw a ton of cash at a 36 year old slugger in a long term deal, but that's only one part of his problem. Ramirez dug his own hole, and here's how...

Ramirez, a supremely gifted hitter, helped the Red Sox and Dodgers to, and in the case of the Sox, through the post season, and could, possibly, have four good seasons left in him. However, he has a history of playing only when he wants it - and his time with the Dodgers is a perfect example of that.

After obviously giving up on the Red Sox (including an obvious attempt at interfering with a fellow fielder by rolling over and sitting on the baseball in one game), Ramirez, knowing that his option years were voided in the trade with the Dodgers, very obviously turned the switch back on and was playing for a contract. Yes, Ramirez has the talent to help a team...almost any team, but GM's everywhere are going to wonder everyday which Ramirez they're going to get - the guy that plays hard? Or the prima donna that's going to lay down like railroad tracks just because he doesn't feel like playing that day?

This is not a guy who toughs it out, he's not a guy who plays through injury, and, by all accounts, is not a team guy. No, he's not the Barry Bonds who destroys club house chemistry, but he's also not the guy the goes out and has a beer with his teammates - unless he's playing for a contract.

Another issue for Ramirez was his complaint about the lack of privacy playing in Boston. Well, the only other team that can lay out the money over four to five years the way the Sox can is in the Bronx - and there's no more privacy there. Not so curiously, Brian Cashman has stayed away from Ramirez thus far. Now, I'm not saying it can't or won't happen - as a matter of fact, I think that the Yankees will go after him if the Sox sign Texiera, but I still don't think Boras is going to land his client the contract he kept telling Ramirez he could get if only he didn't have those option years.

The bottom line - either Ramirez makes good on his promise to retire because he's not getting the contract he wanted (and he won't), or he sucks it up to take a shorter contract (which assures a GM he will play hard for the next contract) with less money than he wanted. I think the latter happens, because no GM is going to invest $100 million over four years in someone he's worried is going to quit on him. In today's economic climate, those people that can still pay to go to games will run that GM out of town for paying a guy like that if he's not earning his money.

Can't say I feel for ya, Manny.

Fashion Statement

The Red Sox unveiled new uniforms yesterday.

It's not the first time the team has tweaked their uniforms, although it has been a while.

I'm not usually one to comment on sports fashion - uniforms tend to either be garish (Houston Astros, San Diego Padres of the 1980's, the Denver Nuggets as recently as five years ago, the list goes on and crosses all sports), to sleek and pretty for the sport (the Patriots when they went with the flying Elvii Blues in the 1990's, Jacksonville Jaguars, etc), or just the sort of thing you don't mind getting dirty (Pat Patriot, Steelers, Packers, etc). I'm a bit of a traditionalist.

That said, the primary home uniform for the Sox...well, I like it. It has a throwback feel to it - like turn of last century throwback.

However, the away blues and the alternate home uni look like Spring Training jerseys.

Don't like 'em.

If they win in them, I won't really give a rat's ass, but my initial reaction is that the team shouldn't be playing their regular season games in what look to be Spring Training uniforms.

Winning absolves a lot of sins - the least of which, in my head, are fashion faux pas.


The Patriots are facing the woeful Raiders this weekend. It could very well be a trap game - the game against a depleted Seattle team almost was.

Consider, for the Seattle game, Richard Seymour was pretty quiet against a back-up left tackle, and Seneca Wallace looked like he didn't come into the game with a career 1-3 record as a starter.

But now the team goes to face another team at the bottom of its division in the 3-10 Raiders. They bring with them Raiders castaways Lamont Jordan and Randy Moss.

Funny thing about the majority of the free agents and other acquisitions (trades) the Patriots have had the last couple of years. There are a lot of players that have been castaways, cast-offs of other teams. Outside of Adalius Thomas, however, most have been taken off the scrap heaps of some sub-standard teams - Jordan and Moss from the bottom feeding Raiders; Wes Welker, Heath Evans, Billy Yates, and Sammy Morris from sub-.500 Dolphins (and in the case of Morris, Bills) teams; Rosey Colvin, cut from the Houston Texans who also once had Jabar Gaffney; Sam Aiken from the Bills; Kelley Washington, and Deltha O'Neal from the Bengals; Lewis Sanders from last season's attrocious Falcons team.

That list is comprised of 12 individuals that played on losing teams before coming to the Pats. It doesn't include any players on injured reserve, nor does it include players like Juniour Seau, or (the injured) Rodney Harrison, or Mike Vrabel, among others, who were all cast-offs from winning teams - teams that thought these players would not fit into their long term plans because they were either too old to contribute, or (it was believed they) just weren't good enough to crack the starting line-up.

That's a lot of other teams' trash - particularly that of losing teams - that seem to be performing better than what those teams expected of them.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Players, Guns, and Money

A thought on the Plaxico Burress situation before I move on to other things.

A lot of players have come out of the woodwork with reasons to have guns or not have guns. Miami's Joey Porter, in an ESPN interview uses two justifications on behalf of Burress that are just stupid.

One, and he's not the only player that has said this, he noted that people know their schedules and know when they're out of the house, so they need the firearm for home protection. If I know I'm not going to be home, how is carrying a gun going to help me protect the home that's getting broken into? It's not.

Two, he challenges people to not carry a gun if they've had to deal with someone carrying a gun - a mugger, an assault. He gives the "see what you would do in that situation" defense. Years ago I worked as a teacher in a school for the emotionally disturbed. I helped my principal take a hand gun off one of the students. To this day I don't carry a gun.

And let's face it, while Porter says that Burress didn't hurt anyone but himself, he misses the points, and there are two. Burress COULD have hurt someone else and is just lucky he didn't. The second point - it was unregistered, and as such, an illegal weapon.


Quick thoughts on the MVP...

More often than not, the MVP goes to a quarterback. I get it. Outside of the QB, only the center touches the ball on virtually every play. So, here are some of my thoughts on the players, including some dark horse candidates, who could be considered in a year that has no clear cut candidate...

Drew Brees - Brees leads the league with 4100 yards through 13 games and is on pace for 5046 yards passing for the season and 32 touchdowns. Number like that automatically demand consideration. Brees has kept the team's head above water.

Cons - While Brees has kept the team from slipping below .500, his gaudy numbers haven't helped the team in the standings. In fourth place in their own division, the Saints are on the outside looking in at the playoffs. To even make the post-season, the 7-6 Saints are currently behind the Buccanneers, Falcons, Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins, and Bears for the two wild card slots in the NFC.

Kurt Warner - Warner's numbers are second only to Brees and he has led the historically woeful Cardinals to their first division title since the 1970's. Because of Warner's arm, the Cardinals are one of only four three teams that have already clinched a playoff spot. Warner is also having his best season since his years with The Greatest Show on Turf - a big part of the reason that Warner is demanding consideration for the award.

Cons - Warner has put up those numbers in one of the worst divisions in football, and the team has struggled against opponents with winning records (2-5 against teams with winning records, with the last one against the Romo-less Cowboys in early October).

Michael Turner - Admittedly, a dark horse candidate, but I like him for the award more than Adrian Peterson. The old black and blue division still isn't what it once was, but Turner has logged his 1200+ yards on the ground against defensive stalwarts like Carolina and Tampa. Without Turner in the backfield, Matt Ryan likely doesn't have the Rookie of the Year sort of season that he's been logging.

Cons - As good as the Falcons have been, Turner hasn't put the team over the top in regards to positioning Atlanta for the playoffs. Also, he just hasn't been garnering the attention for this award that he deserves, making it unlikely that he will turn up with a significant portion of the vote.

There are others out there that deserve consideration in a year like this, with no clear cut candidate. Arguments could be made for the likes of Peyton Manning and Bob Sanders, both of whom have kept the Colts in contention, in spite of injuries and a bad start to the season. Todd Collins for the Titans, who surely would not be where they are with Vince Young under center. Brandon Jacobs, whose running has made a legitimate championship quarterback of Eli Manning.

The list goes on, and while I don't believe that all of those mentioned here will garner consideration, I do believe that one of the ones mentioned here is the player who is most likely to win.
Chad Pennington - For all that the "Wildcat" offense has done for the team, the Dolphins aren't in position to wrest the AFC title from the Patriots without Pennington under center. Possible proof that Eric Mangini didn't know how to utilize him, the former Jet has out-performed his replacement in the Meadowlands, throwing for more yardage, and a higher rating. Sure, Brett Favre has thrown for eight more touchdowns, but he has also thrown nine more interceptions and been sacked four more times.

Cons - Pennington has to fight the perception that a fair percentage of those wins were built on a gimmick offense early in the season. Also, like Turner, he just hasn't entered the conversation.

Matt Cassel - Cassel got some love for the award from the pundits after his back-to-back 400 yard games. Cassel, like Pennington, has kept his team in the playoff hunt. While Pennington is doing it with a team that only won one game last season, Cassel is doing it with a team decimated by injury on both sides of the ball. In spite of filling in for an NFL MVP, not starting a game since high school, missing his starting tight end for two games, losing his starting half back for the season, and the second and third backs for a quarter of the season (and more), and missing the right side of the offensive line until the sixth game of the season, Cassel has kept the Patriots in contention for the AFC East crown.

Cons - Like Warner, the team has struggled at times, with four of the team's five losses coming against quality opponents. Cassel also leads the league in sacks and is in the top ten in total yards lost due to being sacked.

Wes Welker - Cassel's safety blanket, without Welker, Cassel is probably nowhere. Welker, in spite of having only one touchdown on the season, is the battery that makes the Patriots offense go this season. Welker is the human third-down conversion, with 47 of his 96 receptions converting for first downs. The king of the bubble screen, Welker is also tied for tenth in the league in yards after the catch with 6.8.

Cons - The fact that he has only one touchdown will be held against him, as will the fact that he plays opposite of Randy Moss. Also, when's the last time a slot receiver was even considered for the award.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It's not the size, it's how you use it and other thoughts

Get yer minds out of the gutter. I'm talking about Wes Welker, the Slot Machine.

Yes, I know that's what the announcers were calling him, but it fits.

Welker, with all due respect to Randy Moss, has been the Patriots best receiver over the past two seasons. Sure, Welker's the slot receiver, and yes, Moss has been the go to guy in the red zone, but Welker is the team's number one guy.

Over two seasons Welker has already far exceeded any other receiver's two season total of receptions with the 208 he's had since joining the team. Last season he set a new team record with 112. Through 13 games Welker, who has become Cassel's safety blanket, has 96, and is averaging 7.4 receptions per game, which puts him on a pace of 118 for the season. Welker is also on pace to finish with 1233 yards for the season after logging 1175 last year.

He is the guy that makes the offense work right now and possibly the toughest guy on the field.


The news that Tedy Bruschi is heading to the IR is not reassuring given the number of injuries on that side of the ball. Yes, Seau looked rusty, but I expected that given only one day of practice. Hopefully he's up to speed for the Raiders game. The flip side on Seau - what if the Pats hadn't signed him?

Given the news regarding Bruschi, I'm guessing we're going to hear about some other roster move to bolster the defense.

If Vince Wilfork is lost for any significant amount of time, that's a problem.

The secondary has already been exposed due to a lackluster pass rush. The last thing the DB's need is a weakened D line.

Before anybody whines about Asante Samuel - he would be just as exposed in this defense. Samuel, for all his reputation, was not significantly better than Ellis Hobbs last season (he did have a career year in regards to interceptions, but that's the only place) according to STATS, Inc. Samuel, this year, in a defense that was not getting to the QB the way the Pats were last year, has only three interceptions. A good line makes a pro-bowl defensive back. It doesn't work the other way around.

Yes, the Pats secondary has struggled this season, but that's in large part because the team has had trouble applying pressure to the quarterback. And before anyone argues that with me, think back to all of Ty Law's INT's of Peyton Manning - every time Manning has been flushed out of the pocket and was facing hits from the likes of Jarvis Green and Richard Seymour or Mike Vrabel.

It is the area in most need of being addressed by the Patriots whose defense has often looked more like the 2002 edition than any of the other editions since the Super Bowl in 2001.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

War of Attrition

It was an ugly win, but I'll take it.

The New England Patriots are tied atop the AFC East with the Jets and Dolphins after a much tougher game against the Seattle Seahawks than almost anyone could have predicted. The team's struggles from last week continued as the offensive line often seemed over-matched by a mediocre defense, Matt Cassel returned to some of the poor decisions that plagued him in the first couple of weeks, and the defense, while it did some good things, it continued its deterioration.

The line and the quarterback both struggled with the blitz. Cassel sometimes tried to run when he should have just loaded up and overthrown a receiver on the sideline. Moss continues to be plagued by the dropsies - a season long problem (and don't tell me that one was good defense; the ball hit Moss on the hands and ricocheted off his chest without the defender ever touching it on the one play). The defense made Seattle's offense look like the second coming of the Greatest Show on Turf on the Seahawks' first two drives.

Injuries haven't helped this season, but they still have to go out and perform.

I want to see the Patriots in the post season, make no mistake about it. That doesn't mean I believe they can actually do anything in the post season should they get there.

Admittedly, the fact that they are still in position to possibly win the division given what this team has gone through is nothing short of amazing.

The team played their first game without Kevin Faulk, Stephen Neal, Nick Kazcur, and largely without Tom Brady. Ty Warren has missed games and when he's played it's been obvious that he's injured.

The list of regulars that have missed multiple games, or have been lost for the season -

Rodney Harrison
Adalius Thomas
Laurence Maroney
Lamont Jordan
Sammy Morris
Ben Watson
Lewis Sanders
Kelley Washington

And other players who have missed at least one game, or a significant chunk of a game...

Tedy Bruschi
Vince Wilfork
Wes Welker
Pierre Woods

I'm sure I've missed somebody in all that mess, but this is what it comes down to - the team has played significant portions of the season without:

  • The starting right side of the offensive line
  • The starting quarterback
  • The leader of their defensive backfield
  • Half the starting linebacking corps
  • The top three half backs on the depth chart
All of that and 8-5 with three weeks to go. No way I would have believed it if someone had told me at the beginning of the season that the team would have experienced this sort of attrition.