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 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.