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Preview: Chad Finn's Touching All The Bases

Chad Finn's Touching All The Bases

Updated: 2016-03-26T05:47:45.041-04:00


Looking for me?


I'm over here.

You find out who your friends are


Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .1. Wonder if Pistons fans are aware that Kevin Garnett's good buddy Chauncey Billups advised him, when KG was uncertain if Boston was the right fit, that accepting a deal here would be a wise career move, in part because it would be "easier to win." You have to give Billups credit for being a loyal friend, though should the Celtics bounce the Pistons from the postseason, I wouldn't blame Detroit fans for questioning his loyalty to them.2. Sure, I admit it. I've hopped aboard the Bruins' playoff bandwagon much in the same way noted college hoops aficionado Bill Simmons suddenly thinks he's some sage combination of Jay Bilas and Pat Forde every March. So take my opinion on this with a whole shaker of salt, but from my mildly informed perspective, it seems like Claude Julien has handled his team brilliantly in this series. Consider: After a gruesome Game 1, he decides his team's only chance of making this a series is to emphasize smart aggression and discipline, so he sits talented softie Phil Kessel. That strategy works for the most part and the Bruins scrap to make it a series, yet they struggle to put the puck in the net, so Julien brings back a clearly motivated Kessel for Game 5. Not only does Kessel (who looks like a young Gary Busey) score a goal, but he tries to do all the little things that he usually avoids. Pretty astute coaching and knowledge of your personnel, I'd say.3. One more Bruins item: Got a kick out of watching the Montreal "faithful" stream out of Le Ribbit Centre Thursday night after the Bruins took a two-goal lead with about 10 minutes remaining. Who knew those little towels they like to wave were actually white flags? In that sense, the Canadiens fans reminded me quite a bit of Yankees fans, except with a much better command of English.4. Just can't imagine the Falcons will spend that No. 3 overall pick on BC quarterback Matt Ryan. They've already had Joey Harrington once.5. Manny's turning Mike Mussina into his personal batting-practice pitcher while crushing the ball like he's 28 again. Papi's hitting like he's possessed by the ghost of Calvin Pickering (until last night, thank goodness). And strangely enough, both developments have left me with the same thought: Man, we've been so lucky to watch these two phenomenal hitters do their thing all these years. Savor it while it lasts, because, damn, is it ever going to be a bummer when it ends. 6. Having seen him quite a few times for the Sea Dogs last season, I can say with confidence that defensively, Jed Lowrie will never be an everyday major league shortstop. His range is Jeterian, and his arm isn't all that accurate. But the kid's going to be a good hitter for a middle infielder - it wouldn't shock me if he duplicated Mark Loretta's career - and it is barely an exaggeration to say he's helped the Sox more in his first week here than shortstop incumbent Julio Lugo has in a year-plus.7. Though you, me, Todd McShay, and especially Mel Kiper have no idea what they are going to do, the hunch here is that the Patriots will spend the No. 7 pick on one of the recent graduates of Jacked And Pumped University - linebacker Keith Rivers or defensive lineman Sedrick Ellis. I just can't see them taking a cornerback in that spot. (And with that said, watch, they'll take a cornerback in that spot.)8. Of all the wonderful developments with the Celtics this season, one of the most satisfying is the emergence of Leon Powe as a tough, reliable, and remarkably efficient force off the bench. My only question is this: What took so long, Doc? I never understood why Powe couldn't get significant minutes on last season's flame-engulfed zeppelin of a basketball team.9. I don't think I laughed more than once or twice during the first 20 minutes of "The Office" Thursday, and I have to admit, I caught myself wondering whether this uneven fourth season is a sign that the show has lost its way, that it would never be as hilarious and heartwarming as it was in its outstanding second and thi[...]

TATB Live: Sox-Yankees


Yup, I'm here. Joining me are the Baseball Prospectus, the Baseball America Prospect handbook, the Bill James handbook, a matching pair of Shipyard IPAs, and my already bored wife, who between sighs mentions she would much rather be watching something called "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" on, I'm assuming, Lifetime. Fortunately, I have removed the batteries from the remote. I predict she'll catch on to my scam sometime around the fifth inning. (Oh, okay, she's actually being sweet enough to DVR the ridiculous thing. The best marriages are based on compromise, my children. Sincerely, Dr. Phil.)Anyway, baseball. The big news of the night so far: No Papi. Tito Francona wisely gave his frustrated, .070-hitting designated hitter a much-needed night off, and that tells you all you need to know about the value of Sox-Yankees games in April. I have a feeling both Papi and Derek Jeter (who has not played in this series due to a dislocated girdle . . . er, strained quad) would be in the lineup tonight if this were August.One other pregame observation: As a reader pointed out in the comments on the last post, this is huge one for Dice-K, at least as far as April ballgames go. He's had two terrific starts in a row, aggressively challenging hitters and pitching with what seems to be increased confidence - Gammons just mentioned that he looks "comfortable in his second act," an articulate way of putting it - but we all know this Yankees' lineup is traditionally relentless and disciplined. And Matsuzaka certainly had his troubles with them last year, posting a 6.12 ERA in four starts while walking 13 batters in 25 innings. Is he up for the task? I'm hopeful considering how he pitched in his last start against Detroit, but we'll know for sure in about three hours. Maybe four. Hell, with these teams, probably six.All right, the game's underway, and I'm already falling behind here. Hopefully we won't say the same thing about Dice-K too often tonight.FIRST INNINGTwo walks (Damon, Abreu) in the first three batters. Not what we had in mind there, Mr. Matsuzaka. Didn't you read the intro? Fortunately, A-Rod is already in his mid-autumn form, and obligingly rolls Dice-K's first pitch to Kevin Youkilis, who starts the 5-4-3 double play. It's amazing how A-Rod can justifiably be considered the best player in the game, and yet fans of the Yankees' opponent don't mind seeing him at the plate in big situations. I mean, he hit 54 homers last year. More than a few of them must have been meaningful, right?Jon Miller tells us that Yankees starter Phil Hughes (who I am convinced will be a legitimate No. 1 starter, someone who will still be winning in the majors when Joba Chamberlain has a scar on his elbow and Chris Farley's midsection) grew up a Red Sox fan. I knew there was a reason I kind of like the kid.Jacoby Ellsbury works a walk, bolts for second, and zips over to third when Jose Molina's throw sails wide into center field. There's no doubt he's an absolutely electric athlete who makes things happen on the bases. I'm just not convinced - yet - that he's a disciplined enough hitter to make it to first base with any consistency. I'll admit it: I still think Coco Crisp is a better option in center field for this season. I imagine all of my Pink Hatted readers will cancel their subscriptions now.Hughes whiffs Dustin Pedroia on a 3-2 count, then walks J.D. Drew, batting in the No. 3 spot while Papi takes his mental health break. Hughes is doing what we worried Dice-K would, struggling with his command and racking up a high pitch count in the early going. For all of Hughes's talent, it's easy to forget he's only 21, three years younger than Clay Buchholz.Heeeere's Manny with runners at the corners. Care to walk him now, Girardi? (Sorry. Couldn't resist.)Nope. And Manny makes the Yankees pay yet again, roping one over Robinson Cano's head to score Ellbury, and it's 1-0, Sox. Jon Miller tells us that's Manny's 154th career RBI against the Yankees. Someone needs to get that statistic to that washed-o[...]

Sox-Yanks live blog tonight????


Possibly. Check back in later if you're one of the seven readers interested in such a thing . . .

Update, 3:52: I'm in. See you around 8 for four hours of Joe Morgan's unique brand of stupidity.

Paps, Papi, and the rest


A few scattered notes on Saturday's Sox-Yanks rain dance . . .I'm officially worried about .070-hitting David Ortiz. Not so much about his slump, which seems to grow deeper and more hideous by the day, but about what might be causing it. I cringe when I read he's hobbling around the postgame locker room with a Pedroia-sized icepack on his surgically repaired knee, and it's as logical as it is terrifying to wonder if he's hurt. While I don't put much stock in the theory that aching knees are preventing him from going into his familiar crouch at the plate - even in good times, Papi fiddles with his stance - it's obvious that something is preventing him from getting comfortable at the plate, and it's damn disconcerting to watch him struggle this way. I just hope it's something one well-timed 450-foot home run can cure, and not something that requires a prolonged visit to the disabled list . . . I'm sure I wasn't the only one who fretted about the burden on Jonathan Papelbon's right shoulder while watching him warm up three times before he even threw a pitch today. But while the circumstances weren't exactly ideal, the result - a three-pitch strikeout of Alex Rodriguez with two outs and the tying run on second in the eighth inning - couldn't have been more impressive. Usually you don't see A-Rod look that overmatched until October . . . It's a good thing Lucchino had the Coke bottles taken to the redemption center, because Manny's home run might have shattered them. He really does look like his old self, doesn't he? (Somewhere, Mike Mussina takes a swig of his Zima and nods in agreement) . . . Though the scouting reports tell us he's a Rey Sanchez-type - slick glove, salami bat - Yankees temporary shortstop Alberto Gonzalez has been better than adequate at the plate in this series, and from what I have seen of him defensively, his reputation is justified. Which, by my accounting, makes Captain Jetes the third-best defensive shortstop on the Yankees' roster . . . Two very encouraging pitching developments: Josh Beckett, who had a lost spring due to back and hip injuries, looked like his ace self, allowing just one questionable infield hit through the first five innings. He ran out of gas a little bit in the seventh, but that brings us to the other good sign: an effective, overpowering, one-batter performance from Manny Delcarmen, who relieved Beckett with two outs in the inning and blew away Jose Molina. The more I see of this Sox bullpen, the more convinced I become that Delcarmen is the key to, well, everything . . . This was the kind of game the Sox used to lose to the Yankees. The Yankees would scratch and claw for a few runs against Boston's ace (Pedro in those days), the Sox would make some noisy outs with little to show for it against one of the Yankees' lesser starters (and make no mistake, that's what Mussina is these days - he has nothing), and then New York would steal the win with some timely hitting and/or a fortuitous break in the late innings. I don't know about you, but I like the endings much better these days . . . It's kind of weird without Joe Torre, isn't it? Though I have to admit, it was nice to be able to watch a ballgame without the usual shots of him mining his nostrils for treasure . . . I'm thinking Girardi walks Manny the next time, though pitching to him with first base open is exactly the kind of move you'd expect from a manager who has drawn comparisons to Buck Showalter for all the wrong reasons.* * *As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:Framingham Lou has quickly become the best thing about the Big Show. I know, that sounds like it should be filed under "Damning With Faint Praise," but in his new co-host role the former Sox utilityman and Nomar concierge is funny, frank, willing to share an inside-baseball anecdote or two, and clearly has a future in the media game if he wants one.[...]

Nine innings: 04.08.08


Playing nine innings while hoping Terry Cashman is banned from the premises today . . .1. Might as well get used to it: Until the Red Sox, 3-4 and slumbering at the bottom of the AL East, start playing up to their capabilities and string a few wins together, we're going to continue hearing about the effects of the trip to Japan. I'm not saying that's how it should be: Really, it's impossible to tell whether their uninspired performance in Toronto this weekend was due to the lingering hangover from all the travel, or the fact that they ran into a pretty damn good opponent, one that has had their number lately. But I will be disappointed if the excuses and gripes come from within the Red Sox clubhouse; the last thing we want is for someone on this accountable team to pull a Mussina and use the whole thing as a chronic excuse for lousy play. While we've heard a couple of mild complaints from Papi, Mike Lowell, and Jonathan Papelbon, I hope the rest of the team leaves the why-me melodrama to the WEEI banshees and mimics Dustin Pedroia's typically blunt take on the whole thing: "Yeah, we had to go to Japan and yeah, we had a 19-day road trip, but that’s the schedule, we have to accept it, no excuses. We played like (expletive) for three games and got our (butt) kicked, how’s that?” Yes, the trip was an ill-conceived money grab. Yes, the abbreviated spring training put their starting pitchers at a disadvantage. Yes, the schedule is hellacious. They have plenty of excuses within their grasp. But this team is rich with talent and has a roster full of experienced professionals, and they have too much going for them to ever have to reach for them.2. I'm not one of those contrarian dopes who picked the Blue Jays to win the AL East; I still think that when all the innings are accounted for come October, Toronto will end up in its usual spot in third place behind the two superpowers in the division. But after watching them rake the field with the Sox in a three-game sweep over the weekend, I have to admit that the Jays have the potential to be a summer-long aggravation, and if everything falls right, a legitimate contender for a playoff spot. They probably have more "ifs" than the Sox and Yankees do - if A.J. Burnett pitches up to his talent level, if Vernon Wells bounces back, if B.J. Ryan's elbow is sound, if Scott Rolen can stay off the operating table - but it's apparent to me now that J.P. (Sure, I'll Give You A Quote) Ricciardi has put together a pretty damn good baseball team north of the border. 3. Judging by a couple of threads on SoSH (this is the milder one), it appears I was the last remaining human being in New England who had any use for Kyle Snyder. Honestly, I don't get the venom. He was fine for what he was - an 11th or 12th man who knew his role, handled it at least adequately (3.81 ERA, 124 ERA+ a season ago), and had an odd knack for the Three True Outcomes (32 walks, 41 strikeouts, and 7 home runs in 54.3 innings last season). I'm not convinced Julian Tavarez is a better or more useful pitcher, and while David Aardsma and Bryan Corey may prove to be upgrades, there's also a reasonable chance that they will be worse. Snyder will get a big league job, and he deserves one.4. I'm trying to give Julio Lugo the benefit of the doubt in his sophomore season with the Red Sox. Really, I am. But then he spends the first seven games of the season strangling the bat into sawdust, then makes three careless errors in a Sunday's ugly loss to the Blue Jays, and again I catch myself wondering just what it was that made the front office so fascinated with this guy. Oh, well. At least J.D. Drew looks his second season in Boston will be a major improvement over his first. It appears to me he's swinging the bat better now that he did at any point last season prior to his fateful at-bat against Fausto Carmona.5. Jacoby Ellsbury is playing center field exactly the way Coco Crisp did during his [...]



Well, at least they got the cover right.That was my reaction after taking an impromptu spin through the 2002 Baseball America Prospect Handbook the other night while avoiding any real work in my home office. The cover boy, as you might have noticed, happens to be the Red Sox' starting pitcher this afternoon. Josh Beckett* not only was rated the top prospect in the Marlins' system, but he was also the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball.* - Stealing a Pozterisk yet again, here are two snippets from Beckett's writeup that jumped out at me:1. "[Beckett] had a serious scare with two tours on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis in 2000. Offseason tests diagnosed two tears in his labrum, fraying in his rotator cuff, biceps tendinitis, and an impingement. Dr. James Andrews advised against surgery. Beckett worked hard to rehabilitate his shoulder in the winter, and came out firing." I think we now know why the Sox were terrified of his MRI before trading for him.2. "He has a maturity beyond his years, easily trading barbs with older players, writers, and club officials and always looking people in the eye. He's good, knows he's good, and never would think of shrinking from his apparent destiny." Sure sounds like Beckett to me.Anyway, back on point . . . you don't need a copy of Beckett's baseball resume to know he has justified every word of hype that preceded him to the majors. But check out these names that were ranked in the top 25 of one writer's top 100 prospects list:Joe Borchard. Ryan Anderson. Nick Neugebauer. Corwin Malone. Dennis Tankersley. Ty Howington. Wilson Betemit.Betemit, a former hotshot Braves farmhand, is the most successful big leaguer from that crew of who's-hes? and never-weres. He currently serves as A-Rod's rarely utilized stunt double in the Bronx.Now, I don't mean to bust on Baseball America. I've been a faithful reader of their magazine since I was in college, I own every Prospect Handbook since 2002, and I genuinely respect the work they do and the insight they impart. It's because of their hard work that we fans (and nitwit bloggers) can be informed of the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the likes of Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury (and Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson and . . . ) before they ever set cleat in Fenway.It's just that I have this theory about evaluating and ranking baseball prospects, and while it is rather rudimentary and probably even obvious, I do believe it's the whole truth:I think it's fairly easy to spot the superstars-to-be, the Becketts, Miguel Cabreras, and Joe Mauers, but forecasting the future for anyone other than the truly elite is a feat not even the most sharp-eyed scout, adept numbers-cruncher, or clued-in Baseball America columnist can accomplish with any consistency. And that's before you factor in injuries, which seem to derail a couple of top pitching prospects for every one that makes it. In other words: There's just no foolproof way of knowing how good a 20-year-old kid will be at baseball when he's 25. It's a virtually impossible pursuit.All of that considered, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of individual teams' Top 30 prospect lists from that 2002 Handbook. After all, six years later, we should have a pretty accurate picture of how things panned out . . . or, in most cases, didn't pan out. In parentheses is the player's rating within his own organization. I'll probably add a few more teams in the coming days - it's not like we can pass up the chance to remind Yankees fans that 3B/QB Drew Henson was once their Next Big Thing. (Snicker.)As for today's offerings . . . enjoy, my fellow nerds:ANAHEIM ANGELSPhenoms: RHP Bobby Jenks (2), RHP John Lackey (3), RHP Francisco Rodriguez (6), RHP Johan Santana (9)Flops: LHP Joe Torres (5), 3B Dallas McPherson (12). . . and those lingering somewhere in between: 1B Casey Kotchman (1), RHP Chris Bootcheck (4), OF Nathan Haynes[...]

A brief tribute to Matt Stairs


My perception of Matt Stairs through the years? A fat guy who could hit a little. A better version of Morgan Burkhart. I doubt he'd take either of those comments as compliments.

But as I was poking around for some Blue Jays info a day or so ago, I happened upon his page and quickly came to this somewhat surprising realization: Stairs has had a remarkable and distinctive big league career. Judging my the numbers, he's much more accomplished than you - or at least I - ever realized.

Now, I suppose he's easily underestimated by dopes like me in part because he's ringer for the guy who took your recyclables this morning. He's built like a Heineken Keg Can and is probably familiar with the concept. He looks exactly like what you'd think a high school hockey coach in Bangor, Maine, would look like - which, coincidentally, is precisely what he happens to be in the offseason.

But he's much more impressive on the back of his baseball card than on the front. He's hit at least 10 homers every year since '96, and at least 16 nine times. He's tied with Jesse Barfield, Rick Monday, Alfonso Soriano, and Cecil Cooper for 200th place on the all-time home run list with 241. His lifetime OPS+ is 120, four points lower than Jeff Kent's and two lower than Derek Jeter's.

He's had a hell of a career by most any measure, and you have to wonder how much more impressive it would be if he'd caught a break sooner. Stairs debuted with 30 at-bats for the Expos in '92, bounced back and forth a few times, was a transient member of the Duquette Taxi Squad for the '95 Red Sox (he hit .261 in 88 at-bats), and has played for 10 teams along the way, even spending a game at second base for the '01 Cubs. I'm assuming he made Jeter look rangy.

His breakthrough came at age 29 when he hit 27 homers for the '97 A's. Two years later, he bashed 38 homers for that wild '99 Oakland club, and I'm guessing not even Billy Beane figured he'd outlast a certain 23-year-old teammate with a No. 1-pick pedigree who whacked 27 homers of his own that season. Where have you gone, Ben Grieve?

Stairs turned 40 in February, and he's signed through next season with the Jays, which means he has a great shot at spending at least a part of 17 seasons in the big leagues. Given that he hit 21 homers with a 138 OPS+ last season, hell, he may not be on his last contract.

I hope he lasts another five years, and I'll be following him with interest now that I recognize the truth: Still and always, late start and all, Matt Stairs is a supremely capable big league hitter. Even if some of us didn't always notice.

TATB elsewhere


Just a quick link to a recent informal chat about the AL East with my much smarter friends at And for the record, I still think Justin Verlander, not Josh Beckett, is the favorite for the AL Cy Young. Beckett's the most likely candidate from the division (though Toronto's Dustin McGowan is a hell of a compelling sleeper) but in the Analysts piece I make it sound like I think he's the frontrunner to win the thing. Not so; it's Verlander, as I wrote here the other day. Hey, I never said I had a way with words . . .

Season's greetings


A few thoughts on the new season while kind of missing the late, not particularly great Fox column . . .Player you'll regret not taking with your first-round pick in fantasy: Hanley Ramirez, who is no longer that skinny kid who tailed Manny, Papi, and Edgar Renteria like a puppy in spring training three years ago. At age 24, he's now built like an NFL safety, and I wouldn't be stunned if his stats this season actually surpass those of last season's monstrous breakthrough (.332 average, 212 hits, 29 homers, 125 runs, 51 steals, 145 OPS+). He's that good.Most likely to pay a career-altering visit to Dr. James Andrews: Albert Pujols, whose damaged elbow is apparently a porcelain remnant from the Scott Williamson Collection. It's noble of him to try to play through the injury, but the hunch here is that he'll shut it down sometime around July once the punchless Cardinals are hopelessly out of it. Honorable mention: The Rays' Scott Kazmir. Maybe the Rays are just being cautious, but this "elbow strain" sure seems to be taking a long time to heal.One reason Joe Posnanski will enjoy writing about this baseball season even more than usual: The Royals are going to be better than most so-called experts think, and may even finish ahead of the Twins in the AL Central. Joakim Soria will emerge as a bona fide relief ace, Zack Greinke, finally at peace with the great expectations, will blossom, Billy Butler will stake his claim as one of the best young hitters in the AL, and Alex Gordon will justify last year's hype. Dayton Moore, formerly John Schuerholz's personal Smithers in Atlanta, is building this franchise on the Braves' model . . . and with little fanfare he's doing a swell job.Two baseball writers (other than Poz) who have become must-reads: Jonah Keri, who writes with an easy affection for baseball and is doing his damndest to keep the spirit of the Expos alive at; and Keith Law, a former member of the Toronto Blue Jays front office who is still pissed J.P. Ricciardi took someone named Ricky Romero over Troy Tulowitzki in the '05 draft.Most likely to be found dead in a hotel room with a needle stuck in his dumb #*^: Best-selling author Jose Canseco. And the suspects will be aplenty. (Man, I can't stop re-reading that Pat Jordan masterpiece/evisceration on Deadspin.)Roy Halladay, No. 2 starter: Because Dustin McGowan, who had a 3.67 ERA in the second half last season, will take over the ace role from the former Cy Young winner, whose K-rate these days is less than impressive (partially by design, but still) and who hasn't won more than 16 games since '03. And the awards go to . . .: AL MVP: All logic says to go with A-Rod, who will be aiming to win the prize for the third time in five season in pinstripes. If there's any justice, however, Papi, with his five top-five finishes in five seasons, will get his due one of these years. AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander, who takes no-hit stuff to the mound every fifth day and who should lead the league in run support for the second year in a row. NL MVP: Mark Teixeira, who will parlay a monster year with the Braves into huge pile of Old Man Steinbrenner's loot. NL Cy Young: The great Mr. Santana, which means WEEI listeners will be forced to spend the summer listening the banshees yowl "Why can't we get guys like that?" God help us, it's already starting.The standings: AL East champion: It's my new tradition to pick the Yankees solely for reverse jinx purposes, but let's just say I like this Sox team a lot, provided, of course, that Josh Beckett makes approximately 30 starts. The trendy Jays? Third place, at least until Ricciardi starts returning my calls. And the Rays are intriguing, but they're a year away from being a legitimate contender. James Shields (184 Ks, 36 walks in '07) is a budding ace, and you can tell how good Evan Longori[...]

Jose Canseco: Dumber and meaner than your average idiot


Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . . 1. I think we all knew Jose Canseco was a blinking moron, but his public image - or at least the way I perceived him - was that of an amiable caricature, a mostly harmless if egomaniacal doofus, the kind of guy who, I don't know, might get busted racing his Ferrari at 120 mph or let a fly ball doink off his thick coconut for a home run. Man, have I been set straight. In this this probably NSFW piece, written for Deadspin by the brilliant Pat Jordan*, Canseco is exposed beyond a doubt as an incurable scumbag, a stupid and pathetic shell of a man who seems on the fast track for an early demise. A snippet: Jose spends his days at his house in Sherman Oaks, California, off the Ventura Freeway near the San Fernando Valley, home of the porn industry, waiting for producers to call to inform him that the time is ripe, America is now hungry for a Kung Fu movie starring a steroid-inflated, Cuban, ex-baseball player in his forties. In anticipation of that call, Jose showed off his martial arts moves to the man who choreographed "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." The man watched Jose's 250-pound body spin and kick and leap into the air for a few minutes and then he told Jose that his moves "were stiff, not very fluid, and you don't kick very well." Jose told Rob, "That guy doesn't know what the ---- he's talking about." While there's much more tragedy in Canseco's life than comedy, I have to admit the visual of that oblivious meathead breaking out the ninja moves made me laugh out loud. * - Jordan, a famed and prolific freelancer, authored two of my most beloved books, "A False Spring," about washing out as a Braves' bonus baby in the '50s, and "A Nice Tuesday," a sort of follow-up memoir about returning to the pitching mound at age 56. Read them if you haven't. I promise you'll be glad you did. Jordan also had a memorable take on Roger Clemens in the immediate aftermath of the release of the Mitchell Report. Check it out here. And finally, yes, I stole the asterisk concept from Posnanski**. I only wish I could steal his talent. Or Jordan's. ** - Who admits he stole the concept from David Foster Wallace. So there. 2. Chris Webber limped into retirement this week, the health of his knees and the last remnants of his vertical leap sacrificed to the Hardwood Gods long ago, and I guess that makes him something of a sympathetic figure. But there will be no sentimental farewell coming from this corner for Webber, a charming, charismatic chameleon who coasted by on his natural talents and who must be remembered as one of the least clutch players in the history of the sport. He departs with some fine numbers and countless Stu Scott-voiced highlights, but I'll remember C-Webb as one of is game's great underachievers given the gifts he possessed. Or maybe I'm just bitter, since his retirement left me with the realization that the Fab Five - Michigan's high-flying, trend-setting freshman class of Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwon Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson - burst onto the scene 17 years ago. God, I'm ancient. Maybe I ought to retire. 3. And while we're here, might as well also add this to the list of things that make my pre-geezer self consider swigging a Metamucil-and-Drano cocktail: I remember watching Davidson phenom Stephen Curry's dad play . . . when he was in college at Virginia Tech, before he embarked on a 16-year NBA career. And the son definitely got his father Dell's dead-eye jumpshooter gene - his release is blink-and-you'll-miss-it quick and his form, save for a slightly low release point, is nearly as picture-perfect as his old man's. While I'm tempted to equate Stephen Curry's NBA chances with those of someone like Salim Stoudamire, the wish here is that all of his hoop dreams come true[...]

One down


Jumping to a couple of super-quick conclusions after 1 of 162 . . . * * * I'll refrain from becoming the 490th person you've heard today mention that Manny Ramirez is on pace for 648 RBIs - whoops, maybe I won't - but it is worth mentioning that Manny had just two four-RBI games during his subpar '07 season. (July 22 against the White Sox and July 26 against Cleveland.) So, yes, I'd say we're justified in at least hoping his dazzling season debut - which included his patented "Oh, $*%*, I'd better stop admiring my handiwork and start running" move - is harbinger of a huge comeback season to come. Do I think Manny is capable of accomplishing the improbable and rediscovering his Monster-mashing mojo in a season during which he'll turn 36? Let's put it this way: My fantasy baseball draft is Saturday, and Manny rose more than a couple of spots on my draft board at around 10 a.m. Monday morning. Hell, I was a believer before today, but it was nonetheless reassuring to see him actually deliver. * * * I like Dice-K, and admire him for ease in which he became one of the guys in the Sox clubhouse despite some obvious barriers. I'm glad he pitches for this team, and I believe he'll have the kind of season you'd expect from the No. 2 starter on a legitimate championship contender. Anyone who considers his first season in the majors a disappointment falls somewhere between unrealistic and irrational; not even Pedro in his prime could have lived up to that amount of hype. Now, sincere disclaimers aside, here's my one recurring frustration with him: It's maddening to watch him nibble and refuse to challenge the mediocre likes of Jack Hannahan and Emil Brown. He'll get the count in his favor, say 1-2, then throw the next three pitches just off the plate, which is how he ends up walking hitters who have no business reaching base against him. It severely detracts from the experience of watching him pitch, and I was hoping John Farrell or someone in the organization had convinced him to trust his stuff a little bit more now that he has a year of big league success documented on the back of his baseball card. But based on what we saw today - five walks in five innings - he's still intent on trying to throw the perfect pitch, even when the moment doesn't call for it.* * * Finally, the most interesting baseball story I read today comes from stellar (if Yankee-centric) Tom Verducci, who looks back on the 2005 amateur draft and how it provided a turning point in terms of philosophy as well as an infusion of young talent for both the Red Sox and the Yankees. I thought the following extended segment was the most interesting part in a genuinely insightful piece:Epstein had his doubts [about Buchholz, who was caught stealing laptops from a middle school while in college]. Scouting director Jason McLeod thought that Boston should take Buchholz with an early pick, but Epstein, worried about the baggage, would roll his eyes every time McLeod mentioned him. Finally, Epstein told McLeod, "Listen, if you feel that strongly, the only way I'm going to feel comfortable picking him early is if I can meet him. Let's bring him to Fenway, have him throw and then grill him. Let's find out if this is a bad guy who got caught or a good guy who made a bad mistake."One week before the draft, Buchholz threw in the Fenway Park bullpen for Epstein and McLeod while the Red Sox took batting practice. Says Epstein, "His stuff was ridiculous." Then the three of them left the bullpen and stood in Fenway's centerfield, while David Ortiz whacked balls off the Green Monster, over their heads and at their feet.Asked about the theft, Buchholz told Epstein that he had been just a lookout and it was a dumb decision he regretted. "Look," Epstein told him, "we're thinking abo[...]

2008 Red Sox preview capsule


Foul tips and other observations: I suppose there will be some lingering effects from the Japan trip, whether it's an extended case of jet lag for a few players or, less likely, a team-wide outbreak of the dreaded Giambi Parasites. And given their hellacious early schedule - they have five games with the Yankees, three with the Angels, three with Detroit, and two with Cleveland in a stretch from April 8-27 during which they have exactly zero days off - they'll be fortunate to escape the season's first full month with a .500 record . . . And you know what happens then: the WEEI banshees and "Francoma"-bashing morons will be screeching in all their miserable glory . . . But to anyone with a shred of patience and a dollop of common sense, it should be apparent that this is a very good baseball team - hell, it's basically the same team to a man that rejoiced in Colorado last October - and the chances of back-to-back championships (and three in five years, as you might have heard) are at the least realistic, even with a slow start . . . The key to it all? Mr. Beckett, of course . . . The new Mr. October may not have been the best pitcher in the majors last season, but he was in the argument, and there's no one else you'd want on the mound in a big moment . . . Beckett's career postseason numbers would make Bob Gibson tip his cap in tribute: 9 starts, 6 wins, 2 losses, 1.73 ERA, 72.2 innings. 40 hits (yes, 40), 14 walks, 82 strikeouts, and two World Series rings . . . But if this back injury lingers, well, let's not think about that right now . . . In some respects, Daisuke Matsuzaka remains as much of a mystery now as he was before he ever threw a big league pitch . . . The consensus seems to be that he will be better in Year 2, but it's mildly alarming that Hideo Nomo wasn't the only Japanese pitcher to peak in his first big league season . . . The expectation here is pretty much more of the same: 15-16 wins, an ERA in the high 3s, 200 or so Ks, and a maddening habit of nibbling against subpar hitters . . . I would not be shocked if Jon Lester surpassed Dice-K as the second starter. John Farrell is adamant that the admirable 24-year-old lefty can win at least 15 games this season, and I've learned it's wise to listen to John Farrell . . . A subtly crucial development that helped the Sox lock down the AL East last season: Tim Wakefield winning 17 games. I wouldn't put it past ol' Knucksie again, though he is on the wrong side of 40 and has broken down at the end of each of the past two seasons . . . Bartolo Colon should be able to collect the 8-10 wins they were counting on from Curt Schilling, though there surely is no comparison between the two when it comes to October. . . I've been watching "Bull Durham" as I write this, and the truth dawned on me: Jonathan Papelbon is Nuke LaLoosh, albeit with a more compact (okay, masculine) delivery . . . It's funny, this is the beginning of Papelbon's third full season with the Sox, yet he's such a staple now, one of the franchise's icons, that it feels like he's been around so much longer. Hard to believe he was in Single A during the '04 season. I tend to think of him as a member of that championship team . . . Count me among those who think Manny Delcarmen will emerge as one of the better righthanded setup men in the AL. The stuff is there, and his confidence should finally be as well. He's been around long enough now to know he can do this . . . It's unlikely that Hideki Okajima will duplicate his staggering brilliance of last season, especially now that the league is familiar with his quirks, but the "Hero in the Dark" will still be plenty good enough. What a find he was . . . I'm starting to think Mike Timlin will be pitching for this team when Manny and P[...]

2008 Red



(Update, 5:23 p.m.: Uh, yeah, hello. The actual post, with words and everything, that belongs here will be up at some point late tonight. Contrary to current perception, it will not be about one of Lionel Richie's many catchy hit singles, but a capsule look at your 2008 Boston Red Sox. In the meantime, while I'm retaking Blogger 101, you may converse amongst yourselves regarding my bleepin' stupidity. Thank you. -- TATB Dept. of Incompetent Blogging.)

(P.S. - I could blame this on my hellacious cold, but that would be just so Simmons of me. Also, my back hurts.)

Cornering the market


Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . . 1. Loved the Pats' signing of Fernando Bryant today, not only because he's a smart, proven veteran cornerback who's an upgrade on Randall Gay at the least, but also because he indirectly inspired probably the most heartfelt column I wrote in my time at the Monitor. He struck me as a great guy then, and I was glad to learn today that my initial perception was correct. And one more thing: This transaction convinced me beyond a doubt that the Patriots will not use the No. 7 pick to reach for one of the cornerbacks (McKelvin, Talib, Rogers-Cromartie) who are more qualified to go at the back end of the first round. You, me, and Mel Kiper's hairdresser really have no idea what they will do, but I suspect their priorities looks something like this: 1) Trade out of the spot, preferably for Dallas's two No. 1s. 2) Grab Vernon Gholston if he gets past the Jets at No. 6. 3) Take someone they like who no one is considering right now. (Well, except for Mike Reiss, who might be on to something with his educated speculation that they might covet Florida's Derrick Harvey.)2. Either Glen Taylor doesn't know the definition of the word "tanked," or he's intent on battling James Dolan for the top spot in the NBA version of the Idiot Owner Power Rankings. And given that he oversees a franchise that lost five - 5! - first-round picks for trying to circumvent the salary cap in a shady free agent deal with Joe Smith, I'd say the latter is more likely. It's a damn disgrace that he'd ever question anything Kevin Garnett did for that mismanaged, undermanned franchise. 3. Three semi-sleepers I really like in fantasy baseball this season: 1) Phil Hughes, Yankees: He has to prove he can stay healthy, but every time I have seen him from Double A on up, he's looked like a future No. 1 starter, and that future is near. 2) Jeremy Hermida, Marlins: One of the best prospects in baseball two years ago, he lived up to his talent in the second half last season, hitting .340 with a .956 OPS. 3) Dustin McGowan, Blue Jays: Seven wins and a 3.67 ERA in the second half, he's a much smarter bet than A.J. Burnett to be the Jays' No. 2 starter. 4. In case you missed it, Joe Posnanski had a Q-and-A with Bill James recently on his blog, and it was just as entertaining and informative regarding baseball matters as you might expect. But my favorite part? This: Q: In The Office*, were you happy or ultimately disappointed that Pam and Jim got together?Bill: Relieved. They couldn’t have kept that going any longer; it would have fallen flat. If they hadn’t gotten together it would have ruined the show because it would have turned into a cliché.*It just so happens that The Office is both of our favorite TV show. I was skeptical about The Office because Margo and I loved the original British Office so much. More than skeptical. The first year of The Office — which was a virtual frame by frame copy — was, I thought, awful because it was so derivative. But then the American Office found its voice and took off in my mind, because of the writing, because Steve Carrell’s so great, because of the secondary characters and because I believe it is humanly impossible not to fall in love with Pam.I tend to agree with that last sentiment, as you probably suspected. And who would have thought Bill James liked "The Office"? I love it when my little obsessions collide like that.5. Well, looks like we can pinpoint the first time Peter King verbally fondled Brett Favre. Seriously, the Sports Illustrated archives are going to be irresistible - I can see myself losing a couple hours there in the same way that I do on - and I[...]

Shining moments


As we begin our annual descent into Madness, we give you a completely self-indulgent look at TATB's all-time favorite college hoops players . . . Benny Anders, Houston: One of the most mysterious characters in recent college basketball history, his legend grows by the year. Anders (No. 32 in the picture) played with Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler on the skywalking 1983 University of Houston Phi Slamma Jamma team that beat Louisville in a dunkfest in the Final Four before falling to N.C. State in the final, and by all accounts he more than held his own with his future superstar teammates. Said former Houston guard Reid Gettys: "Clyde will concede Benny tore him up in one-on-ones. Now, Clyde won't concede Michael Jordan tore him up, but he concedes Benny would get him." While Drexler went on to become one of the NBA Top 50 players of all time, Anders's talent went unfulfilled, by all accounts due to a lack of self-discipline. He didn't last at Houston, never played in the NBA, and, sadly, hasn't been heard from in years. But no one forgets him.Kenny Anderson, Georgia Tech: It's hard to believe the lethargic, seen-it-all NBA veteran who passed his time front-rimming 15-foot jumpers for the Celtics a few seasons ago was the same dynamic player who in 1990 earned justified comparisons to Tiny Archibald while leading Georgia Tech to the Final Four. But Anderson really was something to behold in his youth, a super-quick lefty slasher with rare creativity as a passer and finisher. Though he averaged over 25 ppg as a sophomore and played 15 years in the NBA, it's not unfair to say he peaked as player as a freshman, when he joined long-range gunner Dennis Scott and versatile Brian Oliver to form "Lethal Weapon 3," one of the most fun and memorable trios in college hoops history. If you saw him in college, you can't help but wonder what happened along the way to sap his joy for the game. Danny Manning, Kansas: Manning carried the Jayhawks to the '88 title, and "carried" is the appropriate word there - his most notable teammates were Milt Newton, Kevin Pritchard, and Scooter Barry, whose claim to fame is being the least gifted of Rick Barry's hoop-playing spawn. In the title game against Oklahoma, Manning posted this hop-on-my-back-fellas stat line: 31 points, 18 rebounds, 5 steals, and 2 blocked shots. For a player of such immense talents - he scored over 2,500 points in his four seasons - he also had unusual amounts of intelligence and savvy to his game, little baby hooks and touch passes and clever moves in the post. I'm not convinced he would have been a bona fide superstar in the NBA had he not blown his knee out 26 games into his rookie season with the Clippers - he was never that quick in the first place - but he would have been a hell of a second banana on an outstanding team. Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse: Even in his one year of college ball, his game was a polished blend of Hip-Hop and Old School (I'm a sucker for that midrange rainbow jumper), and his easy charisma has always been off the charts. Solely because of him, I picked Syracuse to win it all in '03 - the only time I've had the last team standing as far as I can remember. If that's not a good reason to include him here, I don't know what is.Chris Jackson, LSU: One of my laments as a sports fan is that I was born too late to see Pistol Pete Maravich play at LSU. For someone of my generation, watching Jackson, who averaged 30.2 ppg his freshman year (1988-89) for the Tigers, was as close as we'll come. He had seemingly limitless range, only a hint of a conscience, a dancer's balance (he always seemed to shoot on the move), and a handle that would wow even the AND1 [...]

Changes in latitudes


Just a quick note to tell confirm something you might already know, and possibly may even give a damn about (or not): By Opening Day, TATB will be moving over to permanently, and the Blogspot version you see here will exist only as an archive. Yup, the little website is going all corporate on you. I'm fairly sure I even get to hire a cute secretary and a couple of Smithers-like yes-men. Remind me to get my agent to look into that.(I'll pause a moment here to let my Original 6 readers howl "Sellout!" in unison.)(Pause.) (Is that good? You guys done? You too, mom? Okay, good. Let's move on.) Yeah, so . . . it is. We agreed to a formal deal a few weeks ago, and as you might expect, I'm psyched. The increased readership and an actual paycheck for pecking out this nonsense are the obvious benefits. And I'm absolutely thrilled to have a chance to be a semi-prominent voice on what amounts to the electronic wing of the Globe. In terms of prestige, I realize of course that this puny blog is not even in the same ballpark as, say, being a featured writer in the actual printed sports section. But this is as close as I'll ever come to fulfilling that boyhood dream, and you can be damn sure I'm going to make the most of the opportunity.It's funny, when I started this thing in December, 2004, I never would have considered this as a real possibility; I had no conscious aspirations to turn this into something bigger or profitable, none at all. I just wanted to write, man. I love my desk job at the Globe, I truly do, but as I've said here many times before, after so many years of cranking out columns about the Sox when I was in New Hampshire, it crushed me not to have a venue and a voice when the they finally won the World Series. Three-and-a-half years, roughly 1.3 million visitors, and another World Series title later, and that's still my mentality. I just want to write, man.I am glad to report that not much is changing in the transition. I mean, yeah, it will look different - it'll be on the template and will be cleaner and better organized and such - but the tone and content will remain the same. I'll still feature the Completely Random Baseball card and the Nine Innings column, live blogs and all the other staples you've come to, uh, tolerate. (Thought "love" was too strong of a word there, yes?) Even Rodney Craig, Ombudsman, is coming along. I'll still apologize for Manny, unabashedly admire KG, aim every cheap shot my tiny brain can conceive at Slappy McBluelips and Capt. Derek J. Intangibles, and pine for Jenna Fischer in an awkward and possibly law-violating way. I'll still be me, suckers. For some inexplicable reason they seem to want that. I'm as stumped as you are.I suppose there's one thing that might change, but I desperately hope it doesn't - that's the quality of the commenters. One of the surprising joys for me is popping into the comments the morning after I post something and reading what you guys have to say. Sometimes your response is positive, and sometimes you tell me in so many words to go do something that from what I can tell is anatomically impossible. But your take is almost always well-articulated and reasonable, and often makes more sense than what I wrote. (Frankly, it pisses me off when that happens. Knock it off, smart guys.) Seriously, what I'm saying, in my usual roundabout way, is that I hope all of you - and you know who you are - will follow me to the new address. As happy as I am to be doing this, it would not be as rewarding without you. So that's that. I'm signing off for the night now. I look forward to seeing you in the comments in the[...]

Get back


Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . . 1. Worried about Josh Beckett? Eh, I'd call it mild concern at this point; I'd be more bothered if he had a blister. While back problems for a pitcher obviously can cause bigger problems down the road if it affects his mechanics, it sounds like this strain or pull or whatever it is will cease to be an issue with proper rest and treatment. The Sox, unsurprisingly, are being appropriately cautious with their ace. It's a long season, and they can survive without him in the short term. Maybe it's even a blessing that he misses the ridiculous trip to Japan; we wouldn't want him suffering a debilitating season-long case of Mike Mussina Jet Lag, now would we? 2. Thrilled to read that "Friday Night Lights" has, against long odds, been renewed for a third season. I've been banging through the DVD of the first season, and it has to be among the best written and acted dramas on TV. I appreciate that the writers rarely cop out with a neat, tidy, ending to an episode; even the most likable characters are complex and flawed, and the result is a rare authenticity. It's criminal that Kyle Chandler, who is spot-on as gruff, good-hearted Coach Taylor, hasn't even been nominated for an Emmy, let alone won one. And Tim Riggins is fast becoming one of my favorite TV characters of recent memory. He's hilarious, in a brooding, greasy-haired sort of way. It's not quite at the level of "The Office," in my personal TV ratings, but it's getting close.3. All right, what the hell, might as well say it: I honestly believe the Celtics will - will - win No. 17 this season. I promise to write a longer column on this when time permits, but I just wanted to get it out there now, because I am completely convinced that they are the best team - and that's the key word, team - in the league this season. They are an absolute joy to watch at both ends of the floor, there seems to be uncommon camaraderie among the players, they just added one of the finest big-game players of his generation as a willing role player, and the kids seem to improve on a nightly basis. Detroit can't keep up with them, and I don't think the survivor of the West bloodbath will, either. It might be the most fun I've had watching this team in, oh, 22 years. Can we just skip ahead to the playoffs already? 4. My hypothetical NBA MVP ballot: 1) LeBron James (I am scared to death of the Celtics having to deal with him in the playoffs, though I remind myself that two of his key teammates are the fossilized Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West . . . which makes all that he has accomplished all the more impressive. 2) KG (The national media seems to be overlooking him now, probably because the Celtics continued to win when he was hurt. But his importance, especially defensively and emotionally, cannot be overstated. Knew that, didn't you? 3) Kobe. (If the Celts don't make the finals, I'd love to see Cavs-Lakers, just to watch him and LeBron try to one-up each other.) 5. Gerald Green, upon being traded by the Timberwolves to his hometown Houston Rockets Feb. 21:“It’s like a dream come true. Never in my life did I think this would happen. I am on cloud nine."The Rockets cut him barely two weeks later. Maybe that will be the dose of reality Green needs, though I doubt it. While he has oodles of physical talent - players with his ups and photogenic jump shot are scarce - he hasn't improved at all in his three years in the league, which tells you that he either has no work ethic, or that his IQ, on the court and off, is in the sub-Tony Allen category. At this point, he might as [...]

Three-point stance


A couple of quicky thoughts in between naps . . . For the first time since Eli Manning got the ball back with 83 yards to go and 2:42 on the damn clock, I'm feeling good about the Patriots. Randy Moss returning obviously has a little something to do with that, and while I was bordering on full-scale panic as he hit the free-agent market, in retrospect you have to give kudos to both the Patriots' front office and Moss for how they handled the situation. The Patriots were careful not to offend the, um, "quirky" receiver, negotiating a long-term deal in good faith rather than franchising him. And Moss deserves praise for realizing he has a good thing going in New England and signing for less than he likely would have received on the open market. While Moss's return is of course the biggest and best news, we should also be encouraged by the small but potentially significant gains the Pats have made in free agency. Tank Williams is a particularly intriguing addition; he was a helmet-cracking demon for those perennially tough defenses Jeff Fisher puts together in Tennessee, but a fractured knee cap halted his ascension to stardom. He's only 27, he's smart (he's a Stanford grad), he played well in a reserve role in Minnesota last season, and the hunch here is that he'll be regarded as a steal next season. Jason Webster and Lewis Sanders are depth signings, positioned to replace the departed Randall Gay, whom you might remember as this year's recipient of the Tebucky Jones Award, given every few seasons to the so-so Patriots defensive back who is comically overpaid by the Saints. Should the Belichick/Pioli braintrust bring in a useful linebacker or two - Adam Seward? Takeo Spikes, perhaps? - you have to feel very good about the state of this team heading into the draft . . . where, by the way, we're hoping they take, oh, a trio of defensive backs and another four linebackers, just to be safe.* * *And somewhere (in Afghanistan, apparently), Peter King rips his Brett Favre Fathead off his bedroom wall and collapses into sobs. Seriously, we all knew the media fawning when the beloved Gritty Ol' Gunslinger Who Just Loves To Play He's Like A Kid Out There finally hung 'em up would fall somewhere between saccharine and insufferable. But that doesn't make the over-the-top coverage from the past few days any easier to endure. And I like Favre. He was fun as hell to watch, seems like a genuinely decent guy (though there surely is some calculation behind the lucrative aw-shucks persona), and the NFL is a little less interesting without him. But c'mon now . . . he was not a "national treasure," as one heartbroken ESPN hairdo called him this morning, to solemn nods from his mourning nitwit peers. What was he? In truth, this: An extremely gifted passer who often took his physical talents for granted, played recklessly right down to the bitter-cold end against the Giants, yet rarely got called out on his flaws because A) his ability and charisma were often enough to win the day, and B) he was accommodating and savvy enough to return the right phone calls and fill the right notebooks. Oh, and mark these words: He may not play another down in the NFL, but I guarantee there will be well-placed rumors next season that he would at least consider coming out of retirement in "the right situation." I once wrote these words about Roger Clemens: "If anyone has an ill-fated comeback in him, it's Rocket, the Human Ego Trip." That was, I believe, three retirements and one Congressional hearing ago for the future Leavenworth ace. The same goes for Favre, just you wait and [...]

Me, myself, and I


Inspired by my wife's friend Heather's list (and with an assist from my own massive ego) here are 50 Things About Me . . . 1. Butch Hobson, who never saw a bat rack he couldn't crash into, was my favorite Sox player as a kid. My favorite player today is Manny Ramirez, who's the anti-Butch in terms of how he plays the game.2. Eighteen years after we met at Gannett Hall at dear old UMaine, I still don't understand how I duped my wife into going out with me, let alone marrying me. And the Jenna Fischer comparison a mysterious commenter made a few posts ago? Well, hey, no argument here. 3. My two biggest fears are something happening to my wife and kids, and me failing them.4. I used to think that had I been blessed with foresight and a trust fund I could have had the career of Bill Simmons. But I've come to realize that he deserves more credit for his talent and remarkable success than he often gets from us bitter Internet hacks. I'd destroy him on the basketball court, however, and I'd enjoy doing it.5. I ran a 5:20 mile in high school. Nowadays it would take me twice that long . . . on a bike.6. Five years ago, I could bench-press over 300 pounds. Nowadays I heave up 135 and can't lift my arms above my head for a week. 7. If I could have my kids' picture taken with anyone on the planet, I'd choose David Ortiz.8. My cat, named after Otis Nixon, is 15. When he goes to the Great Kitty Carrier in the Sky, I'll be sadder than my children will.9. I haven't played an organized baseball game in 21 years. I still miss it dearly.10. I once hit 3-pointers on five consecutive possessions in a men's league basketball game to turn a nine-point deficit into a six-point lead (or vice versa), scored 38 points in another game, hit nine 3-pointers in another. 11. Yet my greatest basketball accomplishment is pouring in roughly 2.7 points per game for the 1987-88 Class A state champion Morse Shipbuilders. Just win, baby.12. Twenty years ago, I played hoops against Celtic-to-be Sam Cassell. He was just as handsome then. 13. I get offended when old friends don't make as much of an effort to keep in touch as I do.14. I wish I was sipping a coconut-flavored beverage at the Frangipani in Bequia right now. 15. I've been around athletes my whole life. But the toughest, most resilient person I've ever known is my mom. 16. The first record album I ever bought was Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" when I was in fifth grade. The first 45 (I refuse to explain what that is, children) was John Lennon's "Just Like Starting Over." I'll argue that both were fine choices given the era. 17. When people first meet me they tend to think I'm quiet and shy; it's later on that they realize I'm primarily a vulgar smart-ass.18. My best friend from my freshman year of college died of a brain aneurysm 12 years ago while jogging. He encouraged me to pursue sports writing when I wasn't sure I had the talent or the dedication. I keep his picture in the top drawer of the desk in my home office, and I still think about him often.19. I refuse to read newspaper stories about people being cruel and abusive to children. I can't comprehend it, and it breaks my heart to hear about it. 20. In the past few years, to my surprise, country has become my favorite musical genre. I think it's because it's gradually losing the hillbilly twang and moving toward the mainstream. Or maybe just because in my old age I'm getting sentimental, and country is nothing if not that.21. While I find the whole bleepfaced Parrothead thing a little much in an amusing sort of way, I'm a loyal Jim[...]

Sam I am


Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .1. Two quick thoughts about the Celtics while I worry that someone (Denver? Dallas>) will ruin the master plan by snatching up Sam Cassell on waivers: • Call it the luck of the Irish, I suppose, but how fortunate are the Celtics that the two pieces they most need to pursue a championship - a veteran big man who can rebound and play D, and a veteran guard to run the offense and knock down a big jumper or two - are both available as free agents with 25 or so games remaining in the season? • I'm actually more excited about getting Brown than Cassell, if only because Kendrick Perkins has been extra sluggish lately (one rebound against Cleveland the other night). If Perk isn't rebounding and hustling on defense, there's really no reason for him to be on the floor. Truth be told, I'd rather see undersized but remarkably efficient Leon Powe out there over him in most situations.2. By the way, remind me to cross Marty Burns of off my reading list. Here's what he wrote recently about the possibility of Antoine Walker getting bought out by the Timberwolves:If Minnesota did buy out Walker, and he cleared waivers, he would be free to sign with any team (he must be waived by March 1 to be eligible to play for another team in the postseason). The Celtics, Rockets, Warriors and Nuggets are among the clubs that might be interested in his services.Now, I'm not questioning Mr. Burns's credentials or credibility, and he did couch his suggestion with the word "might," but let's put it this way: There's a better chance Danny Ainge names himself and Doc Rivers the starting backcourt than there is of him even considering adding Hurricane 'Toine to this team. 3. Sure, you mock Tony La Russa and his mighty big brain right now after hearing about his latest look-how-smart-I-am scheme, but let's hear what you have to say when Matt Clement and Joel Pineiro combine to bat .320 with 102 RBIs from the No. 8 hole this season.4. Can't help but have kind of a what-might-have-been vibe to Rosevelt Colvin's departure from the Pats. He ended up being a steady and dependable player during his five seasons here - don't tell me you haven't wondered if he might have made a difference against the Giants - but it's fair to say he was never again the dynamic speed rusher he was in Chicago after suffering that devastating hip injury in Week 2 of the '03 season. It's to his credit that he somewhat reinvented himself after that injury, becoming a better all-around defender. He was a fine player and seemed like a class act, and I wish him well.5. Really curious what motivated Jose Canseco, baseball's Typhoid Mary of steroids, to testify under oath that Roger Clemens wasn't at his infamous pool party. It's possible that Canseco's chicken nugget of a brain doesn't have enough storage space left to retain 10-year-old memories. But given that Canseco reportedly is hard up for cash (ask Magglio Ordonez), one can't help but wonder if there's some sort of devious deal at play here. I wouldn't put such a thing past either one of them. 6. I get the sense Joe Maddon wants the Rays to take a chance on Barry Bonds, and why not? Provided he's still taking the right mix of vitamins, the swollen tick of a slugger still has enough left to anchor a Tampa Bay lineup that has a chance to be one of the best in the AL. Besides, after dealing with the clinically insane Elijah Dukes and raging jerk Delmon Young last season, Maddon is well-equipped to deal with Bonds's unique br[...]

Center of attention


Catching up on the news from Camp Tranquility (better known to much of the media as Camp Ohhowwewishformelodrama) . . . Coco Crisp says he'd rather start elsewhere than be a backup in Boston: Can't say I blame him, can you? He's in the heart of what should be his prime at 28, he's coming off the best defensive season a Red Sox center fielder has had in who knows how long, and has proven he can be a valuable contributor to a winning ball club even when he struggles at the plate. He is completely justified in wanting to play, and the suspicion is that he will be accommodated before the Sox head north . . . er, make that to the Far East. And I think that is a mistake. Crisp will not be divisive force here (let's stop the comparison to the reprehensible Jay Payton now), he's one injury to Manny or J.D. Drew from playing just about every day, and the argument can be made that he's still the best center field option on the roster, at least at the moment.In praising Crisp, the intent is not to make a case against Ellsbury, to suggest he's some combination of Ted Cox and Dave Stapleton, a rookie tease destined to fail. The job will be his soon enough, and it may still be his a decade from now. I happen to believe Ellsbury will become a borderline star, play in an All-Star game or two, ultimately enjoy a Brett Butler-type career. But his star turn in October has already made him an idol here, particularly among the Pink Hats and Men's Vogue readers, and while the Bill James Handbook (somewhat more credible on baseball matters than Vogue) projects him to hit .320 with an .810 OPS and 42 steals, I'm not quite convinced he's ready for center stage. His minor league slugging percentage (.425) is only slightly higher than Crisp's as a big leaguer (.409), and it appeared to these untrained eyes that the book was out on Ellsbury last September: get two strikes on him and he'll hack at anything. The Rockies evidently didn't have a copy of said book, but it's cause for at least mild concern. The kid still has some adjustments to make.Again, my point here is that it's not necessary for this to be an either/or deal. I like both players a lot, and the Sox are a better team with both players. And until Ellsbury proves beyond a doubt that he can lay off a low, inside breaking ball and make the center field job his own - or at least until the Sox get a more than fair offer for Crisp - the status quo is the way to go. Terry Francona signs a three-year contract extension with club options through the 2013 season: I think we've made it clear how we here at TATB feel about Tito: He's far and away the best manager the Red Sox have had in the 30 years we've been watching, and there's no current manager we'd rather have running this team. He's the right man at the right moment with the right team, and we were incredibly . . . well, relieved to realize that the Red Sox front office appreciates him as much as we do. Francona is the rare manager who is adept at both game management and people management. Part of what makes him so effective in relating to the personalities in his remarkably diverse clubhouse is that he has seen baseball from so many perspectives: he's been a phenom (he and some Ripken kid were the hot shot rookies of '82), a journeyman (after injuries sapped his talent), a minor-league manager, a big-league coach, and front office assistant (for Mark Shapiro in Cleveland). It's almost as if everything in his career - including his failed managerial stint in Philadelphia - w[...]

And don't forget George Foster


Back by, well, almost no demand, it's Random Lists of Five . . . Five alleged contenders that won't win the NBA title this season:1. Dallas. Kidd has slipped, especially defensively. They'll regret giving up Devin Harris for him in the long run.2. Phoenix. I hope the Shaq gamble works, and he looks like he's in decent shape, but I just don't believe he can make a difference as a rebounder and defender after so many years of indifference.3. San Antonio. They remind me of the Patriots team that lost to Indy a year ago. Still smart and proud, but just not quick enough anymore.4. Cleveland. Though I do not want the Celtics to have to face Team LeBron.5. Detroit. The Flip Saunders factor. Five name players I wouldn't touch In fantasy baseball this season with Bea Arthur's ----:1. Albert Pujols. Tough to hit with one decent elbow. Anyone who takes him in the first round will have a season's worth of regret.2. Andy Pettitte. If his elbow acts up again, it's fair to assume the elixir this time won't be HGH.3. Derek Jeter. He'll be 34 in June. Our long national nightmare is almost over.4. Scott Rolen. He's as physically cooked as Trot Nixon.5. Miguel Tejada. Think the dolts in the Astros' front office have heard about the Mitchell Report yet?Five recent players you forgot played for the Celtics:1. Jamel Thomas. Sebastin Telfair's half-brother, played three games for the '99-'00 squad.2. Bruno Sundov. A poor man's Stojko Vrankovic.3. Bryant Stith. A smaller version of Ryan Gomes, I always liked him, though the end was near by the time he arrived in Boston.4. Chris Carr.5. Ruben Wolkowyski. Yeah, I have no recollection, either.Five receivers who caught a pass for the Super Bowl XXXVI champs (and we don't mean the Rams, William Gary, whoever the hell you are):1. Charles Johnson2. Fast Freddie Coleman, scourge of the Jets.3. Torrance Small4. Bert Emanuel5. Curtis Jackson. (Not to be confused with him.)Five primary personnel needs for the Patriots this offseason:1. One or two young inside linebackers. I suppose 34-year-old Zach Thomas qualifies by current standards2. One or two cornerbacks, minimum, depending upon whether they resign Asante Samuel or Randall Gay. Count me in for a Ty Law sequel.3. A quality backup QB, just in case the unthinkable happens. They've pushed their luck with Matt Cassel long enough. 4. Defensive speed, anywhere. Perhaps another young safety to go with Stonehands Meriweather.5. Some kicking competition for Gostkowski. Belichick seems to have lost faith in him.Five 1985 New York Mets:1. Billy Beane2. Calvin Schiraldi3. Clint Hurdle4. Joe Sambito5. Larry BowaLast five songs to pop up on the iPod as I write this:1. Elevation, U2. Nothing wrong there.2. Sick of Myself, Matthew Sweet. Underrated '90s alt rocker.3. Come Monday, Jimmy Buffett. Even those who loathe Parrotheads have to respect this song, Buffett's first hit.4. Mama Said Knock You Out, L.L. Cool J. And to think I snickered at Simmons for his ridiculous Mt. Rapmore earlier this week. Of course, the Choate Sports Guy pontificating on hip-hop makes about as much sense as Tupac returning from the dead to tell us about his favorite elitist New England prep schools.5. High Enough, Damn Yankees. Well, almost made it through without humiliating myself.Five baseball players I wish I'd seen play:1a. Jackie Robinson1b. Roberto Clemente3. Ted Williams4. Satchel Paige5. Lyman BostockAnd five for football:1. Gale Sayers. The NFL Films footage of his best kick returns is mes[...]

Nine innings: 02.18.08


Playing nine innings while waiting for Derek Jeter to have his Gold Gloves revoked . . .1. I believed this before reading Gordon Edes's outstanding front-page feature the other day, but now I'm convinced more than ever: Jon Lester is going to make a significant breakthrough this season. I'm thinking 15 wins and an ERA right around 4.00, and I'm trying to be cautious. It's not easy, though. John Farrell adores him, which counts for a lot in my eyes, and the most recent picture I have of Lester in my mind was his spot-on imitation of a vintage Bruce Hurst in the World Series clincher. I honestly don't think I'm going overboard here when I say he day will come - and soon - when we're glad the Sox refused to part with him for Johan Santana. 2. Jorge Posada's defense of Roger Clemens, at the expense of a current teammate's testimony and in the face of all common sense, automatically makes me suspicious of just what methods the Yankees catcher used to post a career-best OPS+ of 154 last season in contract year at age 36. It's probably not fair and even a little irresponsible, I know, but I just can't comprehend why he'd take Clemens's worthless word over Pettitte's unless perhaps his misplaced sympathy was born from having something to hide himself.3. Trivia question I plucked out of an AP story at work last night: In the last six seasons, Roy Oswalt leads the majors with 98 wins, and Roy Halladay is second with 93. Who's third, with 92? Hint: You've booed him, cheered him, and maybe even had a beer with him. Also, his name is not Roy. Click the link for his ID.4. I applaud the Red Sox' caution with Clay Buchholz, especially considering that the No-Hit Kid's 2007 season was abbreviated in part due to a tired shoulder. But they're taking it too far if they send him down to Pawtucket while a proven mediocrity such as Julian Tavarez or Kyle Snyder occupies the fifth spot in the rotation. Buchholz has a chance to be an impact pitcher immediately - with his uncommon command of his excellent secondary pitches, I would not be completely shocked if he was the Sox' No. 2 starter by the end of the summer. I don't fault them for babying their prized prospect, and limiting the skinny righty to 180 innings or so this season makes perfect sense. What doesn't make sense: having him pitch anywhere but where he belongs. 5. I wasn't sure whether to pity Debbie Clemens for being another victim of her lying oaf of a husband's runaway ego, or to dismiss her as a vapid, delusional enabler, a Stepford baseball wife. I'm leaning toward the latter, however, after hearing the story about her and Mrs. Canseco comparing, um, assets at the now-infamous barbecue. Turns out Roger wasn't the only boob to make an appearance that day.6. The Sox really have no choice but to sign Jason Varitek to a contract extension, and I don't mean to suggest that's a bad thing. Compared to other catchers, the 36-year-old captain was very productive last season, batting .255 with 17 homers and 103 OPS+, and we're all aware of his value when it comes to leadership, preparation, and all the small but significant things. (Yes, I refused to use the word "intangibles" there. Jeter owns the copyright, I believe.) It's just that, at his age, durability has to become an increasing concern, and the safest bet for the Sox would be to sign him to something like a two-year, $24 million extension. But with Posada, a superior hitter but inferior to Varitek at just about e[...]

Questions we'd have asked the Texas Con Man while he was under oath


Do you realize that everyone with a shred of common sense in these chambers realizes you are completely full of b.s., to the point that even the comatose rodent nesting atop Rusty Hardin's head is rolling its eyes?Is "K" the only letter in the alphabet you can identify?Whenever you joined a team as a free agent, it was never because "the guys" begged you relentlessly, or because you respected Mr. Torre, or because you didn't want to disappoint Mr. Steinbrenner, or because you desired to win a championship, or because you had a fondness for a particular city, or because you wanted to be closer to your family, but because that particular team happened to be the one throwing the biggest stinkin' piles of loot your way, was it not?You really did think Toronto borders Texas, didn't ya, you big dummy?Back when you were Best Friends Forever, did you or Mr. Pettitte ever utter the phrase, "Why can't I quit you?"Do you have to suppress a guffaw when you hear the phrase "injected Debbie in the buttocks in the bedroom"?Do you like gladiator movies?C'mon, even you must admit the "I thought it was the ball," excuse after raging at Piazza was lame, even for a dim-witted hillbilly like you . . . agreed?Does Debbie cry herself to sleep at night listening to "Stand By Your Man"?Do you realize that if Debbie really did load up on HGH, there's a decent chance she is seriously going to kick your bloated #*# when you get home?So, whatcha getting Debbie for Valentine's Day? Perhaps Whitman's offers an injectable sampler?Do you realize this man will probably be whupping you at shuffleboard when you're both 80 years old?At what point will you plan on breaking out your tried-and-true escape plan from pressure situations and attempt to limp of here with a "tweaked" hamstring?Are you terrified that your future fellow prisoners will someday chant, "Where is ROG-AH?! In the SHOW-AH!!"?Has it dawned on you how much Dan Duquette must be enjoying this?Who wrote your opening statement, Miss Teen South Carolina? (Hat tip: The Big Lead. Dammit, they beat me to it.)Do you think the Post will go with the "Oaf Under Oath!" headline tomorrow, or will it be the Daily News?Does it make you feel better that prisons and your beloved University of Texas essentially have the same uniform colors?Do you consider Suzyn Waldman another satisfied customer?Do you really expect us to believe Mr. Pettitte, Mr. McNamee, Mr. Knoblauch, and indirectly, the honorable former senator Mitchell, are being dishonest here, while you, a man with a long history of being a compulsive and transparent liar, is telling the truth?Do you really believe all these geezers in Congress were born yesterday?And just one more, Mr. Clemens. While we're here, why not come clean on your longest-running lie: You asked out, didn't you?* * * As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:I don't know about you, but Pettitte gets a standing ovation from me the next time he pitches at Fenway. He's my new favorite Yankee.[...]