Friday, February 06, 2009

Of trucks and tags

In honor of Truck Day at Fenway Park, I would like to present my readers with today's Non Sequitur -

Click on it to enlarge.

So the Sox signed Brad Wilkerson to a minor league deal the same week that Mark Kotsay has back surgery. Coincidence? I think not, given that Wilkerson lists as, like Kotsay, as a OF/1B. If Kotsay is healthy and swinging the bat well by the end of Spring Training, I don't think Wilkerson makes the team, and is likely given his outright release. If Kotsay has trouble getting healthy, the 31-year old Wilkerson is the team's insurance policy fourth outfielder.

Overall, there is a drop off, career-wise, from Kotsy, a career .281 hitter, to Wilkerson who hit .247 for his career. As far as being an insurance policy, Wilkerson isn't terrible, but he's not thrilling either. The more at bats he gets, the better he's been - batting .259 in seasons during which he had a minimum of .500 at bats, but has batted .223 in seasons with fewer than 500 at bats. Also interesting to note is that Wilkerson suffered a severe drop-off when he moved from the National to the American League.

Of course, it can be argued that Wilkerson was already declining when he left the Nationals - batting .268, .255, and .248 in his last three seasons with Montreal/Washington before moving on to Texas.

The flip side - Last season Wilkerson batted .220. In his time with the Sox last season Kotsay batted .226.

Cassel building -

So the Pats franchised Matt Cassel - there were a lot of reasons to do this as well as a lot of reasons not to. Among the reasons not to - the Patriots now have $29.3 million tied up in two players at the same position. While the cap for 2009 is expected to be $123 million, a significant leap from 2008, it also needs to be noted that Randy Moss, Adalius Thomas and Richard Seymour combine for a cap hit of $26.7 million. That means that the team will have $56 million of money, or 45.5 percent of their entire cap tied up in five players. That's been contrary to the Patriots team philosophy since Bill Belichick has taken over.

According to Miguel's unofficial Pats Cap page (I've found it to be pretty reliable), trading Tom Brady, as some have suggested, would save the Patriots only $4.3 million against the cap, meaning that Brady getting traded still leaves the Pats with a $24.95 million hit at the QB position alone - meaning that Cassel, whose entire $16.5 million comes off the books if traded, is the likely player to be traded, in spite of Brady's age and recovery from injury.

All said, I still think that, unless Brady is struggling in his rehab, that Cassel opens the season as the starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs while Brady is under center for the Flying Elvii.

Reaching new Summits -

Congrats to Pat Summit on win 1000 (1000-186 overall). Summit nailed her 1000th win in her 35th season. The next winningest basketball coach in the history of the NCAA is Bobby Knight with 902 spread over the course of 42 seasons. Seven more seasons and almost 100 fewer wins for second place - that's domination.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Better than expected

That was not the game I was expecting.

It was much better.

A couple of reactions -

The James Harrison interception was the difference in the game. I'm not convinced he got into the end zone on his run back. Actually, I'm pretty sure that his head and his lead forearm were down before the ball crossed the line, but I have to admit that there wasn't enough on replay to overturn the play.

I'm not sure it would have mattered, though, because one of the Cardinals, after the change of possession, committed a facemask penalty and the half can't end on a defensive penalty. As such, the Steelers would have had a final play on offense just before the half from the half-yard line to punch ball in.

The Cardinals played a fairly undisciplined game, committing eleven penalties for 106 yards, and still nearly pulled out the win.

I didn't expect the Cards to run the ball well, but I was a little surprised that the Steelers rushed for only 58 yards (2.2 yards per carry). While the Cards didn't run it often - and only for 33 yards, they averaged 2.8 yards per carry.

I thought there were times that the Pittsburgh defense came across as desperate bullies - once on a punch thrown by a defensive back while out of bounds, and the other time when James Harrison blatantly committed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a punt.

I believe that had the Cardinals won Larry Fitzgerald would have been named the MVP - or at the very least that he should have.

Ben Roethlisberger looked fairly pedestrian for most of the game.

The Cardinals defense was better than advertised this post season - much better - but they came up one series short.

As much as I'd like to see them build off of this season, I can't help but think that the Cardinals are going to suffer the post-Super Bowl hangover. As good a season as Kurt Warner had, I think Lisa over at A Red Sox State of Maine has hit on something with Warner - he has not handled losing well. His 16 starts following the 2001 Super Bowl loss - 5-11. From 2001 until this 9-7 season he is 13 - 29 as a starter.

Over and above that, for you pundits that think he's a Hall of Famer (which I have heard too much recently), this is a man that has started 16 games only three times in his 11 year NFL career. To use one of Don Banks arguments against Drew Bledsoe, which was that no Hall of Fame QB has ever lost his starting job three times - Warner has lost his job five times total to the likes of Marc Bulger, Eli Manning, Josh McCown, and Matt Leinart (twice).

I'll write more about this issue later, and cover other off-season goodies in both baseball and football soon.