Friday, January 30, 2009

Super Sunday

I'm already on record as saying that I don't think this if going to be a good game.

I can't help but feeling that we may be looking at a blow-out with the Steelers stomping all over the Cardinals.

Overall, the Cardinals haven't been good away from home. With the exception of the playoffs, they haven't played well against quality teams and they gave up an average of 27.25 points per game against AFC opponents. This game has the makings of being ugly.

I hope I'm wrong.

I hope this game comes down to the last couple of possessions.

Arizona has a lot going for them, but I can't convince myself that it's enough - they have the better quarterback. They have the underdog card. They have coaches that know the Steelers offensive personnel inside and out. They have three wide receivers that racked up over 1000 yards each this season going against a secondary that has had issues against good passing teams.

But they don't have the defense that Pittsburgh has. Nor the running game. And those things are integral to success in January.

I could be wrong. I hope that I am.

But this just doesn't have the feel of a good match-up.

The latest rumor is that the Pats now won't franchise Matt Cassel. While franchising and trading Cassel makes a certain amount of sense - I'm not sure it makes as much sense as letting him become a free-agent. In theory it is better to get something for Cassel rather than letting him walk, but what is Cassel really worth on the free-agent market?

Would the Pats only tender Cassel if there was an understanding that he wouldn't sign the tender?

I have my doubts that any team would sign a deal with Cassel for $14.6 million, making
a trade difficult, unless the Pats only retained Cassel's rights. My guess, if Cassel hits free-agency, he's looking at between $9 million and $11 million per year.

All of this of course begs the question of where Tom Brady is in his rehab. Rumors are that Brady is running, and doing drop back drills, putting his rehab on pace to be ready to start the season. If the Pats are satisfied that Brady is going to be Brady come September, I think they let Cassel walk.

I have a hunch that if the Pats do franchise Cassel, it means that Brady isn't where the Patriots think he needs to be.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Experiencing Tek-nical difficulties

According to the Boston Globe Jason Varitek is now considering sitting out the season or retiring rather than accept the 50 percent pay cut being offered by the Red Sox.

Let's face a basic truth - at age 37, if Tek takes a year off, considering the only offer he has on the table now is from the Red Sox, he might as well be retiring.

This man is looking for a multi-year deal at $10 million per year.

This same man was 26th in batting average among catchers that appeared in at least 90 games. Only five catchers in the majors that appeared in at least 90 games had a worse batting average.

My only assumption is that agent Scott Boras believes that the reason that Varitek is not getting offers from the other teams is that the teams don't want to give up a draft pick as compensation. I have a hunch that is indeed part of it - but I also think that no team wants to pay top of the market rates for bottom of the market offensive production.

Tek is an interesting case.

There is no catcher behind the plate right now that has caught as many no hitters as Varitek. Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester. Hell, he got Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez into the ninth.

But let's face it - there's a reason that Jim Rice was at one point the highest paid player in baseball, and not Dwight Evans.

Is Tek's ability to call a game worth $10 million? Frankly, no. If it were, then a team would also have been willing to part with a draft pick considering draft picks are far from a sure thing - and teams would at least know what they're getting with Varitek.

I like Varitek, but I just don't think there's enough in his tank to merit giving him starter money - and if he thinks there is, then he's just not facing reality.

A little more dirt on the grave

Well, I guess this means that Barry Bonds didn't come through his drug tests clean like he claimed.

I can't say I'm terribly surprised. The Feds don't go after someone unless they're sure they can nail the person - they have a 95 percent conviction rate. In other words Bonds and Roger Clemens have about a 1 in 20 chance of getting out of their respective situations.

Yup, the longer this goes the more it looks like Bonds is screwed.

I would like to take a moment to bid adieu to John Updike who passed away this week. I was never a big Updike fan, but he still has the best description of Fenway, calling it in an essay about Ted Williams' retirement a "lyric little bandbox of a ballpark" and "a compromise between Man's Euclidean determinations and Nature's beguiling irregularities."

A Sox lifer, it's nice to know that he lived to see the Sox break through all the years of fan heartache to win the Series in 2004 and again in 2007.

Rest in peace in that great big bookstore in the sky big guy.

On a final note - all I'm hoping for this weekend is a good game. I can't help but think we're looking at a potential blowout. I really hope I'm wrong about this.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sentimentallity be damned

I've been bad about blogging this month. Mostly because I've taken on two projects - one, I'm organizing a blues festival (hopefully it works out - I should know in a week or two if it's on the scrap heap), and two, I'm working on a comic book adaptation of the Tain Bo Cuailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley - those of you familiar with Celtic Mythology know what I'm referring to).

As such, I'm a little bit behind.

Let me get to the Jason Varitek situation.

Let's begin with the following - I understand the decision to not accept arbitration. However, Scott Boras was off his rocker looking for Jorge Posada money. I mean, completely and totally mental.

I understand that Varitek calls a good game and works well with young pitchers, but he's a gaping hole in the lineup. Over the last three seasons the Red Sox captain has averaged .238 at the plate, struck out 331 times, and grounded into 32 double plays.

Players are paid for their offensive production, and as much as it pains me to say it, Varitek is no Posada.

Over the same three year span, Posada has batted .303, struck out 233 times, and grounded into 25 double plays. Hell, only twice in his career has Posada batted below .262. Varitek hasn't hit higher than that since 2006 when he had the third highest average of his career at .281.

On the defensive side - Varitek gunned down 30 percent of would-be base stealers over the last three seasons while Posada puched out 38.5 percent of them.

Varitek can take offense all he wants at the Red Sox $5 million one year offer (with an option) if he so chooses, but it's more than generous for a 37 year old catcher who should have to fight for a starting spot going into camp.

There are a lot of people that might disagree with my assessment, or that I'm comparing the Captain so unfavorably to a Yankee, but I'm not given to sentimentality in regards to winning - neither should Red Sox management or coaches.

I have enjoyed Varitek thoroughly for the decade-plus that he has been the team's backstop. I would love to see him come into camp and tear the cover off the ball and prove everyone wrong - but his recent production just doesn't merit top pay, and if he truly believes that it does, then it's time to cut ties.

Fans are a different beast. Fans can afford sentimentality when management can't. Unfortunately, because the fans can afford and do let emotion cloud their views of a player's value - particularly at the end, fans often get unjustifiably upset with a team for the team's treatment of a favorite player.

Truth be told, I would have loved to have seen Troy Brown come back for a last hurrah in Patriots blue, or even Drew Bledsoe, but I understand that Brown probably wouldn't have been able to get anywhere near the top of the depth chart and would have languished on the bench. Bledsoe - well, he just wasn't a Belichick guy, so I get that neither was about to happen.

Offensively, Varitek is just not starting material anymore. Five million big ones is still starter money. Realistically, the way he's hit the last couple of seasons, we should be looking at someone who should have been offered in the $2 million to $3 million range. The Sox have been more than fair in offering $5 million. If Varitek doesn't take it, my guess is that he'll be unemployed until at least April.