Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gonzalez The Price To Pay For Future of Sox

Curt Schilling has repeatedly said that the Sox got rid of an MVP in Adrian Gonzalez to make this week's blockbuster deal with Los Angeles happen.  While Gonzalez has performed well in his time with Boston, and has far and away been the closest to living up to the slew of big contracts handed out by Red Sox management in the past two seasons, he is more than dispensable in the big picture.  While his gold glove caliber defense and RBI numbers have been outstanding, the expectation for him was that his power numbers from his time at pitcher's haven Petco Park would project to astronomical at Fenway Park.  That simply has not been the case.

Personally I think that the power production that is thought to be needed from certain positions is vastly overrated, and the lack of home runs out of the 1B position is not a major concern, especially with David Ortiz at DH.  That is one of the reasons the Dodgers were so willing to part with James Loney, who has consistently hovered around the 10-15 home run mark with the Dodgers.  My take on that is if the guy is still driving in 90 runs, and the overall goal of the game of baseball is to score runs, why does that matter?

However, the money Gonzo was receiving from Boston was worthy of that perennial MVP that Schilling thinks Adrian is.  That money will be better spent allocated towards the true downfalls of this team moving forward, namely the entire pitching staff.  The arms in this deal, outlined in Norm's reaction to the deal, give the Sox a foundation towards where they need to be to get back into the playoff picture.  De La Rosa and Webster become two of the top prospects in the organization, which has seen a steep drop in pitching depth since the days of Buccholz, Papelbon, and Lester breezing through the organization.  The farm system is loaded with positional talent for the near future with Jose Iglesias and Will Middlebrooks, and down the road with Xavier Boegarts and Jackie Bradley Jr.

It may take a few years and better luck in the free agent market, but we could be looking at a fresh start for an organization that looked to be on the verge of perennial dominance when Pedroia and Ellsbury came up with MVP type seasons in their first four seasons.  If those two players can be extended and even just a couple of the aforementioned prospects pan out, this deal may be looked back on the turning point for the Boston Red Sox making a return to relevance later in the decade.  The Los Angeles Dodgers gave Ben Cherington a chance to wipe away the poor signings of the Theo Epstein regime and start fresh with a new outlook and an education on the peril of big free agent signings.  Let's hope he takes advantage of it.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dodgers, Red Sox unprecedented trade official

To get straight to the chase, here are the specifics of what has been transpiring over the past two days, and is now official between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers:

Red Sox obtain: 
1B James Loney
OF/1B Jerry Sands (AAA) 
RHP Rubby De La Rosa (AAA)
INF Ivan DeJesus (AAA)
RHP Allen Webster (AA)

Dodgers obtain: 
1B Adrian Gonzalez
RHP Josh Beckett
OF Carl Crawford
UTL Nick Punto

Out of the four players that the Dodgers obtained from the Red Sox, a combined $274 million dollars is owed to them. Here's the unprecedented part: The Dodgers agreed to pay $262.5 million of the remaining money. 

That leaves the Red Sox with an incredible amount of flexibility to move in a completely different direction as an organization. An organization that hasn't won a playoff game since 2008, and who's having one of it's worst seasons in the past 20 years. Change is needed, and it happened in a matter of days.

Yes, losing Adrian Gonzalez hurts, but he didn't come close to putting up the power numbers that Red Sox ownership was hoping for. The fact that Josh Beckett's contract and personality was dumped from the organization is a win in itself. And as for Crawford, he has had a miserable year and a half in Boston. Even if he gets back to his TB days in LA, he will never be worth the money. 

So the question now is, what's the next step for the Red Sox after freeing up all this money?

If you think ownership is about to go on another free agent spending binge, think again. They want to get back to doing things the way they did in 2003-2007. Stock up the farm system and find "blue collar" guys who WANT to win. (Dustin Pedroia, Clay Bucholz, Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury, Will Middlebrooks)

Now I'm not saying they are going to fully cut back on their big spending, because fans will demand perennial players in a Red Sox uniform. But, they will be more careful. Ben Cherington won't be handed a blank check from the owners like Theo Epstein was.

If you take a look at the free agent list for 2013, nothing really pops out at you where you say- "we need him." The two biggest names that will be on the market next year are Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke. 

Hamilton is a big risk and is asking for a ton of money. At 32 years old, he has a history with alcohol and drug abuse and is prone to injury. He's going to be asking for a contract around $100 million dollars (if not more), for 7-9 years. If the Sox learned their lesson from their 2009-2010 spending binge, they will not offer Hamilton more than $50-$75 million for 4-5 years. 

As for Greinke, I'm not sure he would be a great fit for Boston. He was lights out for small market teams when he was with the Royals and Brewers, but since he was traded to the Angels he is 2-2 with a 5.22 ERA. If he can't handle L.A., what makes you think he can handle Boston?

I just don't see the Red Sox ownership going after these guys with any type of ferocity. If they did, they would be contradicting their entire motive of dumping all of this money and getting rid of their "bad" contracts. 

What the Red Sox can, and in my opinion should do, is this:

1. Sign Jacoby Ellsbury to an extension. He's a young, extremely talented athlete who never starts drama and just plays the game. 

2. Sign Dustin Pedroia to an extension and solidify his "captain" status of this team. You can't ask for a better role model or guy to look up to than Pedey. Let him know that this is his team until his last game is played at Fenway Park. 

3. Sign Felix Hernandez after the 2013 season. This guy has been a dominant pitcher in the Bigs since he was 19 years old (posted a 2.67 ERA) and will be 27 years old when he becomes a free agent. If there's one thing we've learned over the past year, the Red Sox need pitching. Felix Hernandez would be the most exciting and beloved pitcher to wear a Red Sox uniform since Pedro Martinez. 

Regardless of what the Red Sox decide to to with the recent flexibility, this trade will go down as one of the most historic trades in Red Sox history. The last time the Red Sox were involved in a trade of this magnitude was when they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees back in 1920. That turned out to be the biggest mistake in Sox history. 

Will this one be for the better, or for the worse? That remains to be seen. But they are in a damn good position to succeed in the near future. So be patient, Sox fans. 

By the way, when was the last time you saw Josh Beckett smile? Nick Punto tweeted this picture about ten minutes ago while on their way to LA.

 P.S. If you're curious about the guys that Boston is getting in return, Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo wrote a column earlier this morning describing their abilities:

Loney is a free agent at the end of the season. He’s never quite lived up to his billing. He’s a line-drive hitter with marginal power, but did drive in 90 runs twice and 88 once. He was hitting .254 with four homers and 33 RBIs when he was yanked from Friday night’s lineup. Red Sox third base coach Jerry Royster instructed Loney early in his career.

Sands is a big guy (6 feet 4 inches, 225 pounds), and a righthanded hitter who has put up impressive minor league numbers — 35 home runs one season, and 24 homers with 101 RBIs this season at Triple A Albuquerque — but it’s never translated to the majors. Would a short porch in Fenway bring that out? That’s the hope. The Dodgers projected him as a fourth outfielder who can play some first. They aren’t sweating this loss.

De La Rosa, 23, seems to be the prize. He once threw 100 miles per hour, before blowing out his elbow last year and undergoing Tommy John surgery. When he returned to the Dodgers Aug. 22, he was throwing 96 and still had an outstanding throwing motion. The Red Sox watched him that night. One of the issues with De La Rosa is that he likely cannot be traded at this time. It appears the Sox and Dodgers would have to make a separate deal at the end of the season because he was claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays, and then pulled back. Because he did not clear waivers, he will not officially be in this trade.

Webster was the pitcher the Dodgers would not include in the Ryan Dempster deal with the Cubs. He is generally considered the Dodgers’ second-best pitching prospect, and is 6-8 with a 3.55 ERA at Double A Chattanooga. It appears the Sox were trying to get pitching prospect Zach Lee in this deal but were unable to do so.

A righthanded-hitting utility infielder, De Jesus has never shown great promise after a home plate collision slowed his career path.

Monday, May 7, 2012

NHL Playoff Suspensions

Over the years, especially since the 2004 lockout, concussions have been an epidemic in the league.  Many of the league's stars have fallen victim to it in varying degrees.  Patrice Bergeron missed almost an entire season right after the lockout with a concussion, then missed just 2 games with another last postseason.  Sidney Crosby has missed large parts of the last two seasons with concussions, a huge blow to the sport being that Crosby is arguably the premier player in the league.  Marc Savard, the Bruins' best pure scorer, suffered two separate injuries, one on a dirty hit by Penguin Matt Cooke in 2009, and a career ending concussion on a relatively clean play in Colorado last year.

Claude Giroux, probably the best player left in the playoffs, was suspended today by Brendan Shanahan,  the league's decision maker on player safety, for one game following a shoulder to a Devil player in game 4 yesterday.  The internet blew up today with Flyer fans up in arms over the decision to take Giroux out of the game that could potentially eliminate Philadelphia (NJ leads 3-1 in the series).  THIS IS ABSOLUTELY THE CORRECT DECISION, AND HE IS LUCKY HE DIDN'T GET MORE.  

Most of the arguments are based on the decision that Shanahan made not to suspend Nashville's Shea Weber earlier in the playoffs for slamming Henrik Zetterberg's head into the glass in the final seconds of game 1 in the Preds' first round series with Detroit.  And those arguments are warranted, as I was shocked myself that Weber was allowed to play in game 2.  However, the big problem with the league office handing down of suspensions prior to this year was inconsistency.  There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it before Shanahan took over.  After every hit that is reviewed, the NHL releases a video clearly explaining their decision.  Here is the link to the Giroux video.

Putting the Weber situation aside for a minute, you can't argue with this at all from a neutral position.  Giroux's full intent was to release a high, late hit on Zubris after his disagreement of a hit earlier in his shift (which was clean).  Giroux himself missed time earlier in the year with a concussion, so he of all players should be on board with getting rid of head shots in the game, and any league attempt of doing so through suspensions.  Philly fans will blame the league if they are to lose this series, even though they have been thoroughly outplayed by an inferior New Jersey squad.  

Shea Weber should have been suspended, and I'm not quite sure why he wasn't.  Get this straight though, Shanahan's efforts to make his explanation videos at all is a giant step in the right direction for the league.  He has been completely right in almost every single one of his decisions, so stop harping on the one he got wrong and realize that no matter who you are a fan of, Claude Giroux deservedly will sit in a luxury box while his team fights for their season without him tomorrow night.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reality Check

(Hannah Foslien)

The 2012 Red Sox are not a good baseball team, plain and simple. They have Pedroia, Gonzalez (went 0-8 today), and Ortiz, and that's it. The other six guys in the lineup are solid major league bench players, not every day MLB starters.

Let's take a look at the other six starters:

Mike Aviles (SS): Has surpassed everyones expectations and has been solid for the Sox. But solid isn't going to get the job done in the AL East. He is a career .286 hitter in five seasons and is hitting just .257 this year.

Ryan Sweeney (OF): Also has surpassed peoples expectations this season as he is hitting .354 on the year. He is a career .286 hitter as well and is a not what you would call a high-profile player. He is a "good" big league player.

Cody Ross (OF): Has hit over .300 only once in his nine year career and has a .261 career batting average in those nine years. Ross is hitting .267 this year with five home runs. Ross is another guy who at this stage in his career is a solid bench guy to have on your team. But to be an every day starting outfielder in the AL East? Nope.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C): There was a point in Salty's career where he went to see a sports psychologist because he couldn't throw the ball back to the pitcher, literally. He is also a career .244 hitter and is hitting .238 this year for the Sox. Granted catchers aren't known for putting up great offensive numbers, but let's not forget about the Sox 29th ranked ERA with a 5.44. Salty is in charge of the pitchers and has to be held somewhat responsible for the terrible ERA.

Will Middlebrooks (3B): The Sox top prospect has adjusted well to the big leagues, but he is not a proven big leaguer by any means. Middlebrooks hit his first career home run today (grand slam) and is on his way up to making a name for himself.

Marlon Byrd (OF): An early season trade between the Sox and Cubs brought Byrd to Boston who was 3 for 43 in Chicago this season (.070 BA) and is hitting .256 as a Sock. This season marks Byrd's 12th season in the Bigs and his "prime" is far behind him.

Bench players:

Nick Punto: Hitting .148 on the year with nine strikeouts in 27 AB's.
Kelly Shoppach: Hitting .242 with 16 strikeouts in 33 AB's. For all you non math wizzes, that means he is striking out almost 50% of the time.
Darnell McDonald: Hitting .184 on the year.

To sum it up, the every day starters are solid bench players for MLB standards, and the bench players are every day AAA players, not MLB players. Not a very good recipe for success. Thanks, Theo.

Now on to the pitching staff...

Jon Lester: The supposed "ace" of the staff has posted a 4.62 ERA and is 1-2 on the year.

Josh Beckett: The other guy who is supposed to have "ace" stuff has a 4.45 ERA and is 2-3 in five starts.

Clay Bucholz: Where should I start with Mr. Bucholz? He has an 8.69 ERA (league worst) and has given up seven home runs already. His 1.897 WHIP is also among one of the leagues worst. Opponents are hitting .331 off of him.

Felix Doubront: He has been one of the more consistent starters for the Sox, but still has a 5.19 ERA. Doubront is a definite work-in-progress but has looked O.K. this season. But being just O.K. is not acceptable if you are wearing a Red Sox uniform.

Daniel Bard: You can argue he has been the most impressive starter this season. Bard has posted 4.38 ERA and is 2-3 on the year. Pretty remarkable when you are reminded that he hadn't started a game since 2007.

Granted the Sox have $79 million on the disabled list right now, there aren't any excuses for being seven games back and 11-16 overall other than simply not having the talent. This 2012 Red Sox team is only going to be as good as their starting pitching.

Ellsbury will be back, Crawford will be back, and you have to think Gonzalez will snap out of his funk sometime soon. But as for now, this team just doesn't have the talent and it's no surprise that they are seven games back in the AL East.

I also want to add that this is not Bobby Valentine's fault at all. Yes he has been a batter too late here and there with the pitchers, but when it comes down to it, the players have to perform and they haven't been. He also doesn't have many options on the bench or in the bullpen as we have seen.

Cherry on top: Chris Davis picked up the win against the Sox today. He is a position player.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sox drop two of three to Oakland

(John E. Sokolowski-US Presswire)

Disappointing is the only way to describe these past three games for the Sox. The A's held on to win 4-2 tonight and in what was a great opportunity to get on a roll against a struggling A's team, the Sox go on to lose two out of three games and drop to 11-13 on the year.

Besides the positive performance from the BULLPEN and the promising debut of Will Middlebrooks (2-3 with a double, stolen base, and a walk), there was nothing really positive to take out of this series. The offense was abysmal, Adrian Gonzalez continues to struggle, Kevin Youkilis was put on the 15-day DL, and the starting pitching was just O.K.

The Red Sox currently have $78+ million of their payroll on the DL. You can make all the excuses in the world for this team, but the bottom line is they just have to play better.

The offense was 0-12 with runners in scoring position tonight and left ten men on base. Teams will lose nine times out of ten with a stat as miserable as that.

Daniel Bard cruised through five innings, but fell apart in the sixth. It seems to be a reoccurring theme for Red Sox starters where they look great for the first half of the game, but have that one inning where they implode and allow three or more runs to score. Something that needs to be fixed, fast.

And you may be thinking, relax, it's only May. Well here's the deal. The Red Sox missed the playoffs by one game last year. Every game matters whether its April, May, or September.

The Sox have a day off tomorrow before hosting a three-game series with the Orioles who are off to a hot start in 2012. Josh Beckett has a sore lat muscle and will miss his start on Saturday. Aaron Cook will fill in for Beckett and try to make a case as to why he belongs in the rotation.

Beckett is expected to make his following start on May 10 against the Indians.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sox option Lars Anderson to AAA; Cook recalled?

(Kelly O'Connor)

Following the Sox 5-3 loss to the A's tonight, Ben Cherington told reporters that Lars Anderson was being sent back down to AAA.

Anderson came up in a big spot with the tying runs on base in the 9th and struck out on a ball not even close to the strike zone. Something tells me that even if Anderson did get a hit in that spot, he would still be packing his bags for Pawtucket due to the Aaron Cook situation.

As of today, Aaron Cook can opt out of his deal and become a free agent, although it seems that will not happen and he will join the Red Sox as early as tomorrow or Thursday.

The big question is, what are the Sox going to do with him? Cook is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in 33.1 IP for Pawtucket this season. Is he going to be put in the bullpen? Or are they going to go with a six-man rotation for a while? While Cook would rather stay as a starter, he would certainly be a welcome addition to a sketchy bullpen.

It isn't out of the question to go with a six-man rotation. Following tomorrow night's game, the Sox will prepare for a 20-games-in-20-days stretch. Having a six-man rotation for this stretch could help keep all of the starters fresh and give each of them one extra day of rest in between starts.

It would also be a great time for evaluation and figure out roles for the staff. If Bard continues to pitch well as a starter through this stretch of games, the bullpen chatter has to stop. If Doubront struggles as he did tonight, maybe you throw him in the bullpen and give Cook a shot in the five-man rotation.

And don't forget about the return of Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is expected to return to the Sox at the end of May. Needless to say, every starter (with the exception of Lester and Beckett), is fighting for their spot in the rotation. With the promising production from Cook, and the return of Daisuke, a few bad starts in a row could mean a trip to the 'pen, or even AAA.

Assessment of Bruins Title Defense

At this point one year ago, the Bruins were getting ready for game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series up 2-0 against Philadelphia.  As fans, the dream of a Stanley Cup was still in the beginning stages, but the B's were playing their best all year and looked as good as any team in the league.  Fast forward to now, and Claude Julien's squad is a week removed from a season ending game 7 loss to seventh seeded Washington.

Unlike any other sport, all 16 teams that qualify for the Cup playoffs have a truly equal shot at finishing as Champions.  That has never been more evident as it was this year, with favorites Vancouver, Boston, and Detroit being taken out before the playoff beards truly took shape.  While the end result is just as devastating as any, there are a few things that need to be taken into account before writing off the B's title defense as a failed one.

First of all, Andrew Ference has been quoted on WEEI as saying the players on last year's team attributed their near perfect health as the main reason they were able to win it all in 2011.  That was clearly not the case this year, as Adam McQuaid, Tuuka Rask, and Nathan Horton all had their seasons end before the playoffs even started.  Patrice Bergeron led a cavalry of banged up Bruins that were able to play through the pain courageously in the Capitals series.  Bergeron, possibly the premiere face off man in the world, was not able to take his usual spot in the center dot, creating a huge disadvantage right off the bat.  While Boston certainly won't make injuries an excuse, good fortune was not on their side this time around.

Also, there is no shame in losing a series to the high octane, physical Capitals.  This team was much better than their seven seed indicated, as a dreadful start led to the firing of their coach before January.  Alex Ovechkin led his team on a tear in the second half, and on a pace that would have made them a shoe-in for the Southeast division title and a three seed if not for the bad start.

This series was also the CLOSEST SERIES IN PLAYOFF HISTORY, with all seven games being decided by one goal, including four games that went to overtime.  One more lucky bounce, or Braden Holtby not playing the best hockey of his entire life and the B's not only win the series, but face Philadelphia in a bloodbath second round rematch.

The 2012 Boston Bruins will be remembered for their disappointing finish following up a Stanley Cup season.  However, night in and night out this team played hard and fought through adversity to another division title.  Through all the injuries and setbacks, they never wavered and defended their title with dignity, the way a defending champ should.  Their core will remain intact, and the front office has done a great job ensuring that they will have as good a chance as any to win another Cup with this group for the next five or six years.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lester and Co. shutout ChiSox, earn sixth straight win

(Associated Press)

In Jon Lester's last eight starts dating back to 2011, he was 0-5 with a 7.01 ERA. Tonight, he went 7 innings of five-hit ball without letting a run cross the plate as the Red Sox beat the White Sox 1-0.  His command was better than it has been in those last eight starts as he struck out seven, walked just one, and threw 78 out of 122 pitches for strikes.

The Sox are now 6-0 on this road trip and 9-5 since losing 5 of 6 to start the season. An even more impressive stat is the bullpens ERA during the road trip. Coming into tonight, the bullpen had a 0.66 ERA, and after two scoreless innings tonight, that number will decrease even more. Franklin Morales and Vicente Padilla combined for a scoreless eighth inning before Aceves took care of the ninth.

As for the Sox offense struggles tonight, they ran into a hot pitcher in Jake Peavy and strung together just four hits and one run on an RBI single by Adrian Gonzalez in the fourth inning.

This offense has scored 44 runs in the past five games, so you had to wonder when their bats would be cooled down a bit. Jake Peavy sure did that tonight, but Jon Lester was on his game and performed like the ace the Red Sox need him to be.

Something worth noting, Alfredo Aceves has been criticized this season for overthrowing which has hurt his command. He hit 98 MPH tonight and was sitting at 95-97. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning. It seems as though he is getting more comfortable as a closer with each save opportunity and is starting to embrace the challenge, rather than being fearful of failure as we saw earlier in the year.

The Sox will turn to Josh Beckett tomorrow afternoon and go for the four-game sweep, win their seventh straight, and get above the .500 mark for the first time this season. First pitch is set for 2:10pm.

Sox offense stays hot, Bard impresses

(ESPN Boston)
In what was a cold, bitter night, the Boston Red Sox strung together 10 runs on 13 hits and have now won five straight games with a 10-3 win over the White Sox tonight. 

Five players in the Sox lineup had two-hit nights, most notedly Darnell McDonald who broke the game open with a bases-loaded clearing double in the sixth and a solo home run in the ninth to finish with four RBIs on the evening. 

Cody Ross also continued to swing the bat well as he tacked on two more hits and drove in two runs. In Ross' past six games, he has driven in 11 runs on 7 hits. I said it during spring training that Ross was a huge pick-up for the Sox and I will stick by it until he gives me a reason to stop believing in him.

And I can't forget to mention the sizzling hot start that David Ortiz is having thus far. Ortiz is hitting .425 and knocked his fifth home run of the season out of the park tonight in the second inning. Pretty incredible to think that two years ago the Sox were thinking about releasing this guy after the horrific start he had, and now he is second in the Bigs and first in the AL in average.

As for Daniel Bard, he is making a strong case for himself as to why he belongs in the rotation and not the bullpen. Bard went 7 strong innings giving up three runs, two of them earned, walked one and struck out six. Bard is 2-2 on the year with a 3.76 ERA.

The Red Sox pitching staff is dead last in the MLB with a 5.86 team ERA and Ben Cherington and company are going to have some tough decisions to make within the coming days. With Bard doing well as a starter, and Aaron Cook's opt out date nearing, someone has to get demoted. I don't care how good their offense is, the Sox won't survive the season with the way they have been pitching. 

As much as it hurts to say, my vote goes to Clay Bucholz for a demotion. Bucholz is 2-1 with an 8.87 ERA. In four starts (22.1 innings), he has given up six home runs, has a .340 opp BA, and a 1.93 WHIP. Bucholz has by far been the least productive starter for the Sox, and I think it would do him well to option him to Pawtucket for a few starts and give Cook a chance in the rotation. 

Jon Lester looks to pick up his first win of the year tomorrow night as he takes on Jake Peavy who is 3-0 on the year with a 1.88 ERA. First pitch is set for 7pm. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pats improve defense with two 1st round picks

Boston.com, Hightower (left), Jones (right)

"With the 21st pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the New England Patriots select Chandler Jones, defensive end, Syracuse."

Those words were heard through the televisions around New England to the delight of Patriots fans, who have been blessed with Tom Brady, but haunted with one of the worst team defenses in the league for several years in a row.

So who is Chandler Jones?

Standing in at 6'5, 266 pounds, Jones is known for his freakish athletic ability and has been compared to Giants standout Jason Pierre-Paul, who tortured the Patriots and every other offense he went against this past season.

Jones recorded 38 tackles, 7.5 for a loss, and 4.5 sacks in seven games last season, missing five due to a knee injury. His career numbers include 27 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. Some say he is the best pure pass rusher in the draft, which the Patriots have been searching for since they traded away Richard Seymour to Oakland in 2009.

Jones also comes from an athletic family. His brother, Arthur, is a defensive lineman for the Ravens, and his other brother, Jon "Bones" Jones is a champion UFC fighter.

But the Patriots weren't done improving their defense as they traded up from 31 to 25 with the fear of the Ravens taking Dont'a Hightower before them. Hightower is a 6'2, 265 pound versatile, athletic linebacker who can play several different positions. He will fit in perfectly with Bill Belichick's system as he is known for moving guys around all over the place. Example: Julian Edelman played some defensive back for the Pats.

Hightower recorded 85 tackles, 11 for loss, and 4 sacks last season and helped lift the Alabama Crimson Tide to their 13th national championship title in school history.

Sox "humble" Phillip Humber

(Associated Press, Reuters) 

After posting a 4-10 record through their first 14 games, the Boston Red Sox are unbeaten in their last 4 games and are two wins shy of reaching the .500 mark for the first time this season. Sitting at 8-10, the Sox offense has exploded on this road trip thus far after sweeping the Minnesota Twins, and taking game one from the Chicago White Sox last night 10-3.

Felix Doubront has been the Sox most productive starter and picked up his first win of the year last night after going six innings and giving up three runs on five hits. Junichi Tazawa continues to impress in the bullpen after he was recalled to the team a few days ago as he went three innings of two-hit ball and picked up his first save of the year.

In their last five games, the Red Sox are batting a scorching .363 as a team with 10 home runs and 43 total runs scored. They are averaging more than 8 runs per game. Now you may be thinking to yourself, no lead is safe with this teams bullpen. While that was all true during the first 14 games of the season, the pitching staff as a whole has stepped up, but it still isn't where it needs to be.

Some other notes:

-Carl Crawford has been diagnosed with a sprained UCL in his elbow. The team has not released a timetable for his return but say it could be as long as three months. Needless to say, the Crawford signing seems to get worse as each day passes by.

-Bobby Valentine said lefty specialist Rich Hill could return to the team as soon as this weekend against the White Sox. Hill has thrown three innings for AAA Pawtucket giving up 1 ER, 2 hits, 5 Ks, and 1 BB. The Sox need all the help they can get in the bullpen and Hill will be welcomed with open arms. I expect they will move Justin Thomas down once Hill returns to the Big Club.

-Aaron Cook continues to deal in Pawtucket where in four games he is 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA in 27.0 IP. Cook has an opt out date of May 1st and can become a free agent if the Sox decide to let him go. If the Sox do sign him (highly recommended), it would give them the flexibility to move Daniel Bard back to the bullpen, which brings me to my next point.

-Moving Daniel Bard to the bullpen seems unfair, unethical, un-whatever, but it's what the Red Sox need as a team. Though he has done all the Sox could ask for as a starter, he is far more valuable in the bullpen. Alfredo Aceves is not a big league closer. He is an elite middle relief guy, but as we have seen he is overthrowing the ball which in turn makes him miss his spots, and 96 MPH fastballs over the plate get crushed by professional hitters.

UPDATE: The Red Sox recalled LHP Rich Hill from Pawtucket and sent Justin Thomas down.

Thoughts on anything, feel free to leave a comment.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pats Sign Lloyd

Sources have reported that New England has come to terms with free agent WR Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd is a receptions machine who has the ability to stretch defenses and is widely regarded as having one of the best set of hands in the entire league.

New OC Josh McDaniels developed a great relationship with Lloyd, first in Denver then with St. Louis last year. This was the major selling point the Pats had, as the wideout made it well known that he wanted to stay with McDaniels. Signing a pro-bowl caliber wide receiver gives Bill Belichick some more freedom going into the draft as one of the only offensive team needs has been filled.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pats To Work Out A Deal For Ochocinco?

After an abysmal 2011 campaign with the Patriots, reports say that the Pats are actually trying to restructure Ocho's contract. He is scheduled to make somewhere around $3 million next year, coming off of a 15 reception, 276 yards, and 1 touchdown season.

Most people thought that after the Super Bowl loss, Ochocinco would be looking for a job with another team. But it seems as if the Patriots see something in him and think he will have a positive impact on the 2012 season. If they didn't believe he would contribute to the team, he would have already been cut and these contract talks would not be happening.

I was a part of the "Ochocinco hopefulls" every week where I would say, this is it, this is going to be Chad's breakout game. Unfortunately, that never happened and Patriots fans were disappointed with the once loud mouthed receiver week in and week out. The word is that this guy works harder than anyone on the team and his work ethic is what kept him on the team throughout the entire year. Out of the hundreds of things that the Patriots organization thrives at, dealing with personnel is one of their greatest skills. They seem to always release players at the right time (Albert Haynesworth, Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law to name a few), and they never seem to overpay for anyone.

It will be interesting to see if Chad Ochocinco is willing to reconstruct his contract at a lower value than $3 million. In Belichick we trust.

P.S. Brady needs to bring back the flow.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Spring Training Notes

Spring Training is in full effect and it seems as if the 2011 collapse is still lingering. The media is mainly to blame, including the newest addition to ESPN, Terry Francona. Francona was quoted today on an ESPN radio show that the beer ban that Valentine recently released is a "PR move." Valentine didn't go into great detail on what he thought about the comments, but he did say "you get paid over there (at ESPN) for saying stuff. You get paid over here for doing stuff. I've done both."

Personally I think Francona needs to stay away from the situation. I understand its his job to be an 'analyst,' but with a touchy subject such as this one, it's best for both parties to forget about it and move on.

Carl Crawford underwent wrist surgery back on January 17th and was questionable coming into Spring Training whether he would be in the Opening Day lineup or not. Crawford has been taking swings off a tee and says he feels a lot better than expected. He is optimistic and says he is striving to be in the Opening Day lineup. Crawford has also come into Spring Training with a brand new attitude. He says he was completely out of sync last season in all facets of his game and is ready to contribute to the team in the manner that he did during his tenure in Tampa Bay.

As of now, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Bucholz are locked into the starting rotation. Daniel Bard has transitioned extremely well to being a starter and seems to be a mortal lock for the 4th spot. That leaves the 5th spot up for grabs to Alfredo Aceves, Vicente Padilla, and Andrew Miller.

And the big news of the day is the announcement that Jason Varitek will retire on Thursday. Not to the surprise of many, Varitek will retire after 14 MLB seasons (all in Boston). The Red Sox will be losing one of the best leaders in baseball and he surely will be missed.

Here is the Sox upcoming Spring Training schedule:

Thursday: "B" game at Minnesota (Aceves)
Saturday: Northeastern University (Lester)
Saturday: Boston College (Doubront)
Sunday: Minnesota (Beckett)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pitchers and Catchers Report Sunday

Finally, baseball season is here. Although almost everyone showed up to camp early, the official date for pitchers and catchers to report to Sox camp is this Sunday the 19th, and the first official workout will be on Tuesday. One thing we do know is that Tim Wakefield will not be reporting after doing so for 19 straight years, 17 with the Red Sox. Wakefield retired from baseball earlier this evening at JetBlue park. Many of Wake's current teammates and former teammates, including Derek Lowe were at the reception.

I want to focus on the fact that most of the team showed up early to camp, including the position players. After such a disastrous ending to last season, it's good to see that the team actually cares and realizes that something needs to change. Not sure if these guys got together and talked about it mutually, or if there was one guy who stepped up and said hey, let's get to camp early and move on from last year to make sure it never happens again. If that is indeed what happened, I would bet a lot of money that Pedey was the one who called for the early arrivals.

Adrian Gonzalez was quoted today saying, "the fans deserve for us to make the playoffs, we let them down last year in an inexcusable way." Red Sox management was also quoted by saying that Spring Training ticket sales have actually gone up from 2011, and regular season tickets haven't dropped one bit, which for some reason was a worry once the collapse happened. Do people not know what city this is? Boston went 86 years without winning a championship, yet had one of the highest attendance averages in the MLB for all of those years. They also currently hold the MLB record for consecutive sellouts. Since May 15, 2003, they have sold out every home game (about 665 games). And this record doesn't seem to be stopping at 665 anytime soon.

As for Bobby Valentine, I love what he has done with this team so far. There seems to be more competition than there has been in the past years. Guys have gone into camp knowing that they will be the starter in previous years whereas this time around the right field spot is up for grabs, the shortstop spot and the fourth and fifth starting spots in the pitching rotation are all going to be won and lost in spring training.

One last note is that it seems like this team isn't getting any attention from the media, for good reason. With the collapse of last year, a lot of change happening in the front office and on the field, no one really knows what to expect from this team. I have a gut feeling that they are going to be playing with a chip on their shoulder and have an amazing year, extending deep into October. I think they are all sick of hearing the "beer and fried chicken" jokes, and want to quiet the critics questioning their lack of leadership in the clubhouse by coming out and winning the AL East, in convincing fashion.

Tim Wakefield To Announce Retirement

Tonight at approximately 5PM, Tim Wakefield will announce his retirement from baseball at the age of 45. "Wake" will finish his 19 year career with 200 wins, a feat he reached this past September.

His career accomplishments also include 2 World Series rings, an All-Star berth in 2009, 1995 AL Comeback Player of the Year, and 2010 Roberto Clemente Award winner, an honor he was nominated for eight times.

To Sox fans however, the knuckleballer will be remembered for being a world class team player who's sacrifices as a pitcher and an athlete in general are unparalleled. He was constantly asked to change his roles from front line starter, to middle reliever, and even a successful stint as a closer. This was something that most fans thought was easy since his style allowed it, but Tim has come forward recently as saying it was extremely difficult and uncomfortable.

In my mind, all you need to know about Wake happened in 2007. After finishing as one of the more reliable starters for Boston with a 17-12 record that season, he volunteered his roster spot in the World Series for a healthier rookie, Jon Lester, who won the clinching game against the Rockies. Name the players who have done that in the history of professional sports and you will undoubtedly come up with a very short list.

After being drafted as a first baseman by the Pirates in 1988, a scout told Wake that he would never make it above the AA level as a position player. Doing "anything he could to make it" Wakefield began to develop a knuckleball, and the rest is history. He burst onto the scene for Pittsburgh in '91, throwing a complete game with 10 strikeouts against the Cardinals in his Major League debut.

He finished the season as the best rookie NL pitcher with an 8-1 record and 2.15 ERA. More impressively, Wakefield beat Tom Glavine in both of his NLCS starts that year, a series that he would have been the MVP of if not for a game 7 collapse in the 9th inning against Atlanta.

After having control issues, Wakefield was released and picked up by Boston, and went on to have one of the best careers by any Boston pitcher in the 100+ years of the team. Here is where he ranks on the all time lists.

Wins at Fenway Park- (2nd to Clemens)
Wins- (3rd to Young and Clemens)
Innings- (1st)
Starts- (1st)
K's- (1st)

A Red Sox Hall of Fame career from one of the classiest and hardest working athletes this region has ever known. RTB wishes Wake a great retirement.

College Baseball Opening Day

I'd like to take the time to wish all of our college baseball-playing readers healthy and productive seasons, including my co-writers of the blog and hosts of the radio show Norm and JCole and all of their teammates. Many teams in the north east are looking to break out and challenge for spots in the NCAA tournament and respective conference championships. Here is how some local squads are predicted to finish in the upcoming season.

URI- 2nd in A10, open this weekend at William and Mary before playing at Vanderbilt, College of Charleston and CS Northridge among others.

- 3rd in Big East, coming off of a record season for a New England team, making it to Super Regionals. Will deal with the loss of two players who went top 20 in last year's draft.

Hofstra- 10th in CAA, open at Florida State this weekend before playing Notre Dame later in the month.

Bryant- 3rd in NEC. An up and coming team that is regarded as a high level team in New England, the Bulldogs are coming off of a 30 win season.

Boston College- 5th in ACC Atlantic Division. Looking to improve on a down year, BC will have to deal with 5 ranked teams in conference-- not including powerhouse Virginia.

Holy Cross- 4th in Patriot League. Coming off of a 24 win season, the Cross boasts the league's top rated draft prospect, 3b/rp Mike Ahmed.

Division 3 pre-season top 25 teams from New England: Eastern Connecticut (12), Western New England (15), Wheaton (18), Tufts (24).

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sox and Ortiz Agree on Deal

The Red Sox have come to terms with David Ortiz on a 1 year deal worth $14.75 million, avoiding arbitration. The deal is the exact midpoint of what the Sox offered and what Ortiz and his agent were asking for. As painless of a negotiation as possible.

Say what you want about the off-season or lack there of that the Sox have had this winter, but this is an outstanding deal for both sides. Nobody has to worry about Ortiz throughout the season being unhappy or disruptive as has been the case the last couple years with contract disputes. Let's face it, he's the 15 million for this one season based on the way he has swung the bat and the sacrifices he's made for the team over the past 2 seasons, being shuffled up and down the lineup card and inconsistently being in the lineup at all against left handers.

Bobby Valentine's lineup will be better with a content but still motivated (it is a one year deal) with a healthy Ortiz behind Pedroia, Gonzo and Youk. Hopefully Cherington has a plan for the outfield to fill out the rest of the lineup but locking up the best pure DH in the game doesn't hurt.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rule #76 No Excuses, Play Like a Champion

If Torry Holt hadn't slipped at the line of scrimmage, allowing Otis Smith to pick off Kurt Warner easily setting up the Patriots first field goal of the game in Super Bowl XXXVI, then Ricky Proehl's 4th quarter TD would have won it for the Rams.

If John Kasay didn't kick the final kickoff of Super Bowl XXXVIII out of bounds, the Patriots would not have been in field goal range for Adam Vinatieri to win the game.

If game 3 of the 2004 ALCS hadn't been rained out, pushing the final 5 games of the series on consecutive days, the Yankees would have had a day off before game 6 to settle down and kill the Sox momentum, as well as possibly allow Mike Mussina to start game 7 rather than Kevin Brown.

The Eagles dominated on third down conversions in Super Bowl XXXIX, going 9/16 while New England was only 4/12. Imagine what Terrell Owens would have done on two completely healthy legs?

If Joel Skinner sent Kenny Lofton from third base, game 7 of the 2007 ALCS surely would have gone down differently.

If Andrew Bynum was healthy for the 2008 NBA Finals, the Lakers would have had a much better chance.

If Corey Schneider started game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals last year, rather than Alain Vigneault waiting for Luongo to give up 3 goals in the first period before being pulled, the Canucks could have finished off Boston in that game rather than sending it to game 7.

All of these arguments are obviously ridiculous. Every champion gets a break here or there on their way to glory. That's just the way sports work. While some of these are more far fetched than others, all seven of these Boston championships got breaks here and there.
Yes, the Giants were given some of those breaks as well on Sunday night. Yes, the Patriots were not given anything in the Super Bowl.

The one thing the Giants have in common with the '01, '03 and '04 Patriots, the '04 and '07 Sox and recent Celtic and Bruin winners is that while luck might have been on their side at times, they capitalized on their opportunities and covered up for their own miscues. What goes around comes around.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Coping with Another Super Bowl Loss

As a 9 year old, my first taste of success as a football fan was the 1996-97 season when the Patriots led by Bill Parcells made it to the Super Bowl with a young up and coming team. When Brett Favre, Reggie White and the Packers outclassed the Pats in New Orleans, I vividly remember crying myself to sleep. This was also the first time a team I had ties to had gone anywhere in the playoffs, and it sucked.

Fast forward through the Red Sox winning two world championships and the Patriots dynasty and there hadn't been much to complain about since that time other than the Red Sox losing twice to the Yankees in the ALCS ('99 and '03). The Patriots were surely going to finish an undefeated season and go down as the greatest football team of all time. Brady would have his 4th Super Bowl, Belichick would do the same, and a new dynasty would take shape.

I watched Super Bowl XLII with a bunch of friends at college and when the final drive came up well short of field goal range, we all sat there in stunned silence. I went over to the TV, hit the power switch, and avoided all contact with media, sports, and anything that might make me rehash any memory of that game. To this day I have never seen any video clip, box score or article having to do with that game.

Last night, as Tom Brady's hail mary pass hit the ground a yard past Rob Gronkowski's outstreched hands, I prepared myself to do the same thing. I wasn't going to display my frustration on twitter or facebook or watch Sportscenter or listen to sports radio on the way to and from work like I normally do. I didn't think I could deal with Giants fans, the New York media, the Boston media picking apart every play. I couldn't deal with the pink hats placing blame on small points in the game that really had little to do with the outcome.

Then this morning I realized that this game and this season were just different. Sure, members of the media and the Giant players are running their mouths and deservedly so. There was no luck involved, the Giants deserved to win the Super Bowl. They had a terrific gameplan, and made the plays they needed to make to win the game. The refs didn't play a part in the game. No matter how it is normally called, Tom threw the ball away under pressure in the pocket and in the end zone, and the refs got the call right.

Expressing my thoughts on the game is a much better feeling than trying to duck the aftermath of the biggest event of the year. It still hurts as a fan, knowing that everything this franchise hangs their hat on was what went against them and cost them the Super Bowl. Certain players did not "do their job", players that we are so used to making every play. Clock management and preparation was not on our side, and we did not jump on the opposing team when we had a chance to put the game away. Receivers who never drop balls seemed to drop everything. Tom, although I thought he played much better than people are giving him credit for, certainly could have played better.

I think that the right people are taking accountability for the loss, and that's really what will help this team in the future. Instead of waiting for next season and forgetting it all I think what this organization has to do is stand by their foundation, learn from the mistakes of this game, and address areas of need. I'm starting to see this year's team for what it is, and I urge you as a Patriot fan to do the same. It was a young team patched up with undrafted rookies playing huge roles, players playing out of position, and a core group of extremely young players who got a valuable experience of playing on the biggest of stages before they hit their prime.

We will get in to what this team has to do moving forward as far as personnel in our RTB radio show this week, but one point that cannot go without saying is that Tom Brady has somewhere between three and five years left of playing at a top level if he remains healthy, and this organization has to do everything in their power to surround him with talent and taking another run at that elusive fourth ring. Welker needs to sign, they need to lock up Gronk and Hernandez long term, and they need a deep threat to stretch the defense and open up those three. The defense obviously needs help but I think the way they played in the playoffs will be a launching point for what has the potential of being a championship caliber unit.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Time Has Come

In roughly an hour and a half, arguably one of the biggest games in Boston sports history kicks off. Pats vs. Giants, Boston vs. New York, Brady vs. Eli, hopeful revenge from the devastating Super Bowl 42 loss, does it get any bigger? No. 

So, without further adieu, here are the RTB predictions.

Norm: Pats 24, Giants 21
Batz: Pats 26, Giants 20
JCole: Pats 23, Giants 17

P.S. Something that has really been bothering me is the whole "ALL IN" thing the Giants and their fans have going on. What is this poker? What happened when the Giants were 6-6 and all the fans and media did was bash these guys. Where was this "all in" jargon at the beginning of the season? Now all of a sudden they make a playoff run into the Super Bowl and they jump on the bandwagon. As far as I'm concerned, the Patriots have been "ALL IN" since week 1 of the pre-season. I mean it's nothing new for a team to give 100% and be "all in" for their season, right?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T.

Let me preface this blog by stating the fact that I know that this era of NFL offense is geared up towards the passing game and that leads to some inflation of numbers. My response to that argument is that the QB's today have infinitely more responsibility and pressure on them and the margin for error is absolutely less than in prior eras. Perfect example: Terry Bradshaw had a 38.1 completion percentage with 6 TD's and 24 INT's his rookie year. Can you imagine any player performing like that in today's game and having a career?

I researched this topic in great detail, and one thing I saw in the argument of who is the greatest QB of all time was that there are two ways of going about it. You have the best statistical QB's, who are Peyton Manning, Favre, Marino, Brees, Elway, and Brady. When they are all retired they will be the top 6 in passing TD's and depending on Brady and Brees length of careers, probably yards as well.

On the other side of the argument you have the "winners". Montana, Bradshaw, Brady, Aikman, Starr, Roethlisberger and depending on who you talk to, Elway (2 titles in his last two years, but before that was known as the guy that couldn't get over the hump). They are all multiple Super Bowl winning QB's, with Montana and Bradshaw leading the way with 4, until Brady hopefully joins that club on Sunday. I've always been on this side of the argument, naturally because of the Manning/Brady arguments centering around wins vs. stats.

I decided to put all twelve of these prolific passers into one big list of the best of all time, and compare their career numbers in pure statistical dominance and numbers that have more to do with winning.

Winning Percentage:
Brady 78
Montana 71
Roethlisberger 71
Manning 68
Bradshaw 67
Unitas 65
Elway 64
Favre 62
Starr 62
Marino 61
Brees 60
Aikman 57

Right here you can see that two of the 'winners' are at the bottom of this category, so we can eliminate Aikman and Starr. Now let's look at playoff records, when it really matters.

Playoff Wins and %:
Brady 16, 76%
Montana 16, 69.6%
Bradshaw 14, 73.7%
Elway 14, 66.7%
Favre 13, 54.2%
Roethlisberger 10, 71.4%
Manning 9, 47.4%
Marino 8, 44.4%
Brees 5, 55.6%
Unitas 6, 75%

I know they're more known for their statistical relevance, but Manning and Marino have both lost more playoff games than they won, and if I'm trying to figure out who the best ever is, he will not have a playoff win percentage of less than 50. See ya Dan and Peyton.

Now we'll hit up the passing stats, starting with the completion percentages of our surviving QB's:
Brees 66
Brady 64
Montana 63
Roethlisberger 63
Favre 62
Elway 56.9
Unitas 54.6
Bradshaw 51.9

Not a good look for you Terry. Barely completing half of his passes throughout his career, he actually threw the same amount of picks as touchdowns in his career. No thanks.

At this point in time, Brees and Roethlisberger's (and looking forward, Rodgers) status' really depend on how long they're able to keep up their production, so while they remainin the pack, at this point in time they are not on the same level.

The last thing I looked at was the best season for each QB for each main category. Montana's 1992 season led the way with a 71.4% completion. Brady crushed the rest of the remaining competition with his 2011 passing yardage of 5,235, as well as his 50 TD's in 2007.

So at this point in the research, Brady and Montana have really separated themselves.

The very last thing I found was a stat on NFL.com called career TD and INT%, which basically looks at the percentage of all attempts that ended in TD's or INT's. The average of our top 12 QB's was about 5.0 for TD's and 3.1 for INT's. Favre threw the most INT's in history, and his 3.3 number reflected that. Elway didn't throw nearly as many TD's as you think when you look at how often he threw the ball, and his TD number was 4.1. Unitas threw a ton of picks as well, and his 4.9 INT number was the second worst of the whole group.

After looking at how our QB's fared in this category, I realized that I finally had proven my hypothesis if you will, that Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T. Not only is he one of the best winners in football history. Not only did he throw for the most TD's in a single season, and second most yards in a different season. Not only has he taken 3 completely different sets of players to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady's career TD% of 5.6 is the best of all time, and his INT% of 2.2 was BY FAR the best ratio among the elite of the elite. He led them all in both categories.

If New England wins the Super Bowl this Sunday, there will be no argument on the planet that can refute what I have proclaimed here today, that TB12 is the best ever.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

RTB Radio Live On-Air Super Bowl Preview At 11:00pm Tonight

RTB Radio will be live at 11:00pm tonight on blogtalkradio.com at this link. Be sure to call in at 323-417-6822 to speak with Norm, Batz, and JCole about anything that is on your mind regarding the game. And we aren't just looking for Patriots fans to call in, Giants fans are encouraged to call.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Weekend Recap

The weekend before the Super Bowl is seemingly irrelevant in the sports world. However, the NHL and NFL, along with their respective networks, have made use for the gap in playoff football by holding their all-star games the Sunday before the big game.

The closest the Patriots got to Oahu this year was Doug Flutie being on NBC's broadcast team, with all of the Pats landing in Indy early Sunday, including the 8 Pro-Bowl selections on the roster. This makes the all-star festivities in Hawaii irrelevant to our blog. The despicable play and ineptitude by the NFL to create an exciting display of their talent outside of meaningful games makes it irrelevant to every blog.

The NHL All-Star Weekend on the other hand, was heavily embedded by the Bruins. While the game displays little to no defense as you would expect, the changes the league has made since the 2005 lockout have made it an extremely entertaining weekend.

The second Fantasy Draft was held last Thursday, with B's captain Zdeno Chara selected as a captain/GM of one of the teams. He chose Boston goalie Tim Thomas with the 3rd overall selection, and although he made him sweat, chose Tyler Seguin with one of the last picks. Chara also added fuel to the fire that is the Boston-Vancouver rivalry by refusing to select any of the three Canucks in the draft pool. He would probably give you the politically correct answer if you asked him, and state that he was picking the best team he could and not worrying about what team they were from. However, with all defensemen needing to be taken by round 15 however, Chara chose a four D-men in 6 rounds before the cutoff, forcing Team Alfredsson to take Canuck Alex Edler.

In the skills competition, Chara took his slapshot to new heights, shattering all perceived human possibilities and winning the hardest shot competition, which included a world record 108.8 mph bomb in the first round.

The weekend came to a close with the aforementioned game, which his team won 12-9. Tim Thomas set a league record as the only goaltender to win 4 consecutive all-star games as he stopped 18/21 shots on goal in the third period to clinch the victory. Tyler Seguin added a nifty assist in 15 minutes of ice time, and Chara scored a goal to help the cause as well.

A great showcase by the Boston Bruins in a great celebration of the game of hockey leads us into what should be a great second half of the year, and most importantly, Super Bowl week. Tune in to Rhode To Boston Radio tomorrow night as the team previews Pats-Giants.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Are the Celtics back?

Last night the Celtics reached .500 for the fist time this season at 9-9 with a win over the Pacers. In two previous tries against Indiana the C's got rocked. Paul Pierce came up with one of his best games in a couple years going for 28 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists. So is this just a blip on the radar or can this team really compete?

It has been my belief that this team, while not championship caliber the way they are currently constructed, can still compete in the East. I think they have as good a shot at any in the division. New Jersey and Toronto are terrible and I just don't believe in the Knicks. Philadelphia is a bright young team and probably poses the biggest threat to Boston, but they've yet to go through injuries to key players, which it seems like every other team in the league has had to deal with to this point. (side note: Tony Battie really plays for this team. I'm blown away that he isn't in his mid 50's.)

A division lead would be good for 3rd place and home court advantage in the first round. IF the young bench players like Stiemsma, the Purdue boys and Avery Bradley can continue to mature and contribute solid minutes I think this team will be able to get to that point in the playoffs and win a series. They will need Rondo and one of the other star players to put forth a superstar like performance if they are going to beat Miami or Chicago in the second round though. What we saw from Pierce last night is what they will need night in and night out when May comes along and the jury's out on whether or not that's possible.

I'd also like to commend KG on playing all 18 games up to this point in the season. There have been 25 games missed due to injury on this team, including 5 from Rondo, 3 from Pierce and even 4 from Ray Allen. Garnett and Brandon Bass are the only players to appear in all of the games to this point. If they can stay healthy with the anti-reliable Jermaine O'Neal starting to break down they will keep the Celtics in it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Throwback Player of The Day

Bronson Arroyo
The cornrows, the high leg kick, and one of the best number 5 starters the Red Sox have ever had. Arroyo  posted a 24-19 record and a 3.97 ERA with the Sox over three seasons. He was apart of the 2004 World Series championship team and played a big role in ending "the curse." Arroyo was traded to the Cincinnati after the 2005 season for Willy Mo Pena. Needless to say, this trade wasn't one of Theo's best.  Arroyo was also the pitcher on the mound during one of the best Red Sox/Yankees brawls of all time. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

RTB Radio on Air at 11:00 Monday

RhodeToBoston Radio will be live and on the air at this link at 11 PM tonight. Listen in as JCole, Norm and Batz recap the AFC Championship Game. Feel free to call in and ask the team any questions or give us your take on the game, or any other subjects you want us to touch in on in the world of Boston sports. The number is 323-417-6822.

Super Bowl!

Double or nothin' Eli, double or nothin.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

R.I.P Joe Paterno


ESPN has reported that Joe Paterno has lost his battle with lung cancer and passed away at the age of 85. Although we are a Boston sports blog, it would be unethical not to recognize such an inspirational individual. Even though Joe Pa's reputation has taken a pretty big hit over these past few months, his legacy will forever live on and will be remembered as one of the best college football coaches in the history of the sport. 

The RTB team wants to send out prayers and thoughts to the Paterno family. They have gone through more devastation in a short amount of time then any family should ever have to go through.  

Throwback Player of the Day and Trivia Answer

Who is the only fullback to make the Pro Bowl without a single carry in the regular season?

Sam Gash
Patriots Fullback 1992-1997

Sam Gash had an outstanding career with the Pats, Bills, and Ravens. In 1999 with the Bills he caught 20 balls for 163 yards and 0 carries for 0 yards, but played well enough to start in the Pro Bowl for the AFC. Gash was the perfect blocking fullback. He blocked for All-Pro's Curtis Martin, Jamal Lewis, Thurman Thomas, and Willis McGahee. Bill Parcells mentioned his value to the Pats 1996 AFC championship team in his postgame speech. Along with former T.P.of the D. Ben Coates, he picked up a deserved Super Bowl ring with the 2000 Ravens.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Blitz: Championship Sunday Edition

Our newest RTB members over at "The Blitz" by That's Sweet Productions previews this weeks AFC and NFC Championship games. Great work done by Justin LaVorgna and Bill Sweet.

RTB predictions:
Norm- Pats 31 Ravens 21, Giants 21 49ers 17
Batz- Pats 34 Ravens 20, 49ers 24 Giants 19
JCole- Pats 27 Ravens 17, Giants 24 49ers 23

Throwback Player Of The Day

Tony Battie

Tony "The Batman" Battie has to go down as one of the most reliable bench players during his tenure with the Celtics. He averaged at least 5 rebounds per game and had his best years from 2001-2003 where he averaged 6.5 boards and 7 points per game. Very productive for a "6th man" roll. Something that the 2011-2012 Celtics could use...

Compensation For Theo Epstein Still Not Settled

John Henry and the rest of the Red Sox front office couldn't have handled this situation any worse. Theo Epstein resigned as the Red Sox GM back on October 21st and a deal has not been agreed upon. They lost all of the leverage the second they let Epstein walk out of the Fenway Park gates and head for Chicago.

The last time a GM left his team for another position with a different team was back in 1994 when Minnesota Twins GM Andy MacPhail was allowed to leave the team with two years left on his contract to take over as the Cubs President. Ironic, huh? The Twins received a 30th-ranked prospect and $200,000 for compensation.

When the talks of Epstein surfaced between the Cubs and Sox back in late Septemeber, the Cubs promised "substantial compensation" if the Red Sox let Epstein walk. Well, from the way things have been going, Red Sox president Larry Lucchino says the Cubs have not met those expectations. This is where Bud Selig comes in. Larry Lucchino recently asked the commissioner to intervene on their behalf and help fix the situation and to make sure the Red Sox don't get screwed in this deal.

The best case scenario for the Red Sox would be to create a deal for Matt Garza. Pitching has been the main focus of the offseason and Ben Cherington and the crew must do everything they can to get this guy. Garza would fill a big hole in the Sox rotation and would allow for Daniel Bard to stay in the pen. I think this was their plan at the beginning of all of this, but where they went wrong was letting Theo Epstein walk out the door without any compensation settled. It seems highly unlikely that the Red Sox will receive "substantial compensation" for Epstein at this point, but with Bud Selig involved, hopefully the Sox receive more than a few bats and some pine tar.

Old Heroes to Make Appearance at Title Game

Robert Kraft and the Patriots organization announced this week that they would bring out four honorary captains for Sunday's AFC Championship game. Drew Bledsoe's second visit to Foxboro this season will be with Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, and Ty Law.

All four players were on the field for the first ever conference championship game in Foxboro against Jacksonville in 1996. Five years later they were a part of the team's first Super Bowl victory. In honor of the 10th and 15th anniversaries of those two seasons, these current and future Patriot Hall of Famers will be out on the field prior to kickoff.

This is just another example of this organization doing things the right way. Boston's teams as a whole have had a knack for choosing great players for first pitches, ceremonial puck drops, and all other sorts of events involving/thanking players from their pasts.

Baltimore will also have an honorary captain. He's an athlete I have the ultimate respect for. He's an icon for the city of Baltimore and a Hall of Famer. Strangely that hall of fame is in New York, not Ohio. The Ravens have chosen Cal Ripken Jr. as their honorary captain. You win a Super Bowl and all of those players are still alive and the best you can come up with is a baseball player to walk out with the likes of Bledsoe and Bruschi? Was Trent Dilfer too busy in faraway Bristol, CT? Tony Siragusa is not on Fox's NFC championship crew, and Shannon Sharpe will be at the game if CBS sticks with their custom of being on location for conference championship games.

All in all a strange decision by the Ravens brass. Should be a very cool scene at Gillette for Patriots fans to be able to see four of their favorites on the turf together again. It just shows that Belichick's players see it as an honor to come back and support the team and be part of the organization. Obviously that is not the case with the Ravens.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

#1 Reason to Feel Confident as a Pats Fan This Sunday

You can break it down any way you want.

You can look at the matchups.

You can look at the X's and O's.

You can watch the likes of Trent Dilfer, Merril Hoge, and Herm Edwards break it down on ESPN.

You can listen to the RTB radio show AFC Championship Preview (recommended).

You can watch games, look at stats, or home field advantage. The number one reason why I believe the Patriots will earn a spot in the Super Bowl this season is summed up by none other than Ray Lewis and Darrell Revis right here...

Throwback Player of the Day

On this, the 10th anniversary of Tom Brady's first playoff game, a divisional round victory over the Oakland Raiders... who else could be our Throwback Player of the Day?

Adam Vinatieri
Patriots Kicker 1996-2005

The most clutch kicker in the history of the NFL did the majority of his damage in a four year span starting with the two kicks against Oakland and ending with the game clinching kick to put the Pats up 10 on Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXIX. Undrafted out of South Dakota State, Vinatieri spent a year with the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe before being picked up by New England. He has played in five Super Bowls in all, including a loss to Green Bay in SB XXXI and a win for the Colts in XLI. Named to the Patriots all decade teams for the 90's and 2000's, as well as the 50th anniversary team and the NFL's all-decade team for the 2000's, Vinatieri has a good chance to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when it is all said and done.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chara named one of ASG Captains

The NHL announced that Big Z will be one of two captains for the second annual NHL All-Star Game Fantasy Draft later this month. The other will be Daniel Alfredsson of the game's host Ottawa Senators.

This is a huge honor as it seems that the league will reserve one captain spot for the host's best player every year, with the other going to the most respected captain throughout the rest of the league. Last year it was Detroit's Lidstrom, who is a first ballot hall of famer. Chara and Alfredsson (along with Iginla) are tied for the lead in this year's contest making their sixth appearances as well. With Boston playing so well in the first half and coming off of a Stanley Cup, Chara is a logical choice, with the only other realistic options being Jonathon Toews of Chicago or Iginla in Calgary.

Alfredsson is likely to take teammate Erik Karlsson with his first pick, leaving Chara an opportunity to take either Tyler Seguin or Tim Thomas in the first round. The NHL Fantasy Draft was very successful last year, and has added a really cool and unique twist to the midseason classic. The idea comes from the league's marketing campaign leaning towards the game's roots in pond hockey.

Splitting up and picking sides also led to some interesting sub plots that should carry over this year as well. The Sedin twins were split up last year, but if I were Chara, I'd ensure that they'll play together this year by not picking either of them regardless of what happens. It'll be very interesting to see if Chara goes for either the Sedins or Alex Edler, the only other Canuck in the draft pool. It also showed who the least liked player in the pool was last year, Phil Kessel. (My college roommate ran into him in NH a few years ago and the distaste for Kessel seems to be warranted.) It should also be noted that Chara has a decided advantage over Alfredsson because the Sens' captain will be pressured to take the three teammates he has playing in the game, opening up some free spots for Z. I'm very interested to see how Chara plays it at the end of this month in Ottawa.
Some predicted Chara draft picks:
Seguin, Thomas: BOS
Wideman: WAS
Stamkos: TB
Price: MON
Weber: NAS
Kessel: TOR