Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Cardiac Kids

I'm not a big basketball fan. I don't watch a whole lot of it until the playoffs come around - and even then, I watch a whole lot less than most basketball fans.

That said, with the exception of the one blow-out win, the Celtics aren't making this easy on their fan-base. Through five playoff games the Celtics and bulls have played four overtime periods following the end of regulation three times. In all but one game the margin of victory has been three points or less. I could be wrong, but I would venture to say that this hasn't ever happened before in a contest between the two and seven seeds in the NBA playoffs.

There's a chance that the results would be different if Kevin Garnett were on the floor, but with the way the Bulls are playing, I'm not convinced that would be true. Maybe one of the other close games swings in the favor of the Celtics, but I don't know that they would have opened up a big lead on Chicago even with the big man in the middle.

Over on the diamond -

So the Sox were handed their first loss in eleven games. Not surprisingly, it came during a Brad Penny start. Penny failed to make it out of the third inning, giving up seven runs (four earned), which has put him on a pace for roughly one earned run per inning worked.

One has to wonder how many more starts Penny will get before he gets yanked from the starting rotation.

The Penny signing I still maintain was a smart signing. For his career he has generally had an ERA between 3.00 and 4.75 and over the course of the previous nine seasons has averaged 10.5 wins per season. That included last year's off year when Penny had an ERA over 6.00 and started fewer than 20 games for the first time in his career.

Additionally, Penny signed a small money contract of $5 million that can earn an additional $3 million in performance bonuses: $500,000 each for 160 innings or 55 games as pitcher, 170-65 and 180-75; $500,000 for 190 innings or 35 games finished, and $1 million for 200 innings or 50 games finished. Right now I would say odds are he won't earn those incentives unless he turns it around soon.

My guess, if he struggles through his next four or five starts, and Daisuke Matsuzaka comes back strong, that Penny will end up on the DL with "arm fatigue" like Matsuzaka did and that Justin Masterson will get a few more turns in the rotation.

Bon Voyage, Ellis Hobbs...

I sincerely wish Ellis Hobbs the best as he moves onto a new career in Philadelphia. Hobbs will be remembered by many, quite unfairly, as being the goat in the Super Bowl against the Giants. At the end of the game, Hobbs - playing with a pulled groin and a badly damaged shoulder - was asked to cover Plaxico Burress on the game deciding play.

Twice earlier in the same drive, however, Asante Samuel screwed the pooch...badly. Samuel had a game-clinching interception go through his hands on one play, and was the cover guy on David Tyree on the helmet catch. Samuel can be seen in certain angles on the play jogging behind Tyree rather than running with him. Had Samuel been where he was supposed to be, it's unlikely that Tyree would have come down with the ball on that third down play.

Good luck Ellis, you played hard for us and your kick returns were things of beauty.

And a final gift for my football fan readers -

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Congrats to Mackenzie Brown, the 12-year old little leaguer from Bayonne who recently tossed a perfect game. It was the first in the history of that little league. She mowed down the entire team she faced - all boys - and in so doing, she got to throw out the first pitch at Saturday's game between the Mets and Nats at CitiField.

The Sox have now won 11 in a row. I can't help but think it's because a 42 year-old knuckleballer put the team on his shoulders when they needed someone to do it, and were it not for that near no-no by Tim Wakefield 11 games ago, the team might still be struggling.

Another note regarding the pitching - Jonathan Papelbon is on pace for 40 saves this season. Former Dodgers closer Takashi Saito could have close to 20, playing Jesse Orosco to Papelbon's Roger McDowell. Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen were tied for second on the team last season with two a piece to Paps' 41. From 1985-88, the wacky McDowell averaged 20 saves per season for the Mets while Orosco, the older veteran, averaged 18 per season as a complimentary piece. While not quite the same, it will be the first time since Papelbon became the team's closer that another pitcher has reached double digits in saves - providing the pace continues. The last time another pitcher even had more than five saves as a member of the Sox was when Mike Timlin racked up nine saves in 2006.

It's been nice to see the Red Sox bats come to life over the last eleven games. Through the first eight, it was as though they were still in extended Spring Training. If the Sox miss the playoffs by a game or two, that 2-6 start will weigh heavily on the team.

One draft note - I have to say that I'm surprised. I really thought that if Clay Matthews, Jr. were available when the Pats were picking that he would be a member of the Patriots today. The flip side - while the team's last two drafts have only been okay, this is a team that has averaged 12 wins per season since 2001, and has missed the playoffs only once in that time - last year when they still won 11 games. So...what do I know?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cashing out

It was a metaphorical jolly stomping in the Fens - an early season referendum on the moves made by Yankees' GM Brian Cashman.

The Sox beat the Yanks in every conceivable way over a three game stretch - out-slugging, out pitching, and just plain out-executing the highest paid team in the majors. The Yankees, with over $200 million in annual salary (since the start of the 2005 season the Steinbrenners have spent over $1 billion on the team and seen their record slide) - again - the Bombers are off to a 9-9 start, have the worst bullpen in baseball, and have the worst overall ERA of any pitching staff in the majors.

Here's what else $200 million has bought New York -

A team outscored 25-16 in three games by their arch-rival.

A team that saw 11 runs and two leads evaporate when the bullpen entered the game.

A team whose second biggest free-agent pitching acquisition was smoked for eight earned after being spotted a 6-0 lead.

A team that saw home stolen on them with two outs in a close game. Let's face it - that last one shows a complete lack of respect for the Yankees. There's no aura left, they're just another team.

And to compound matters - the Red Sox don't even have the second highest payroll in baseball - they're fourth (and a lot closer to being seventh than they are to being third). They lost ugly, are unable to hold a lead, and just look brutal in the field (great play at first by the sure-handed Mark Texiera, huh?).

Anyone else wondering which Celtic team is going to show up for game five? The one that's shot ugly in the close games, or the one that dismantled the Bulls on their home-court in game three?

Kudos to the Bruins for moving on. It would be nice to see Boston land the Stanley Cup before the end of the decade to get that final jewel in the championship crown for the big four. They do it, that will mean that between 2001 and now the city will be home to three Super Bowls, two World Series, an NBA (I still think a second one of these is unlikely this year) and an NHL championship. Not bad.