January 2007

Thoughts on Schilling and Helton

I never thought Curt Schilling should retire after 2007. He still has too much to give. If a physical specimen such as David Wells can pitch into his mid 40s, I’m thinking that Schill has a few more good years left in him.

It would have been a pity if Schilling had retired after ’07 because it would have left him smack on the bubble for the Hall of Fame. As a matter of fact, I think those numbers would have left him a little short in the eyes of many of the voters.

With 207 career wins, Schilling could close in on 250 wins with three more quality seasons. I think that would be the magic number for Schilling. Put 250 career wins with Schilling’s legendary reputation in postseason play and I don’t think he’d have any problem going to Cooperstown.

The big question is whether Schilling will wind up in Boston beyond ’07. I would think that with the relationship that Schilling and Theo have, they’ll be able to strike a deal. But stay tuned on that one.

On to other matters, I think the Red Sox did a very smart thing not overpaying to make a Todd Helton trade happen. The Red Sox have a good enough offense to win. Helton would have made them a more relentless offensive team, to use one of Theo Epstein’s favorite adjectives, but Helton was much more of a luxury than a necessity.

With Helton’s age and recent decline in performance, it wouldn’t have made a lot of sense for the Red Sox to mortgage their future and deal a top prospect.

More later,

Ian.

Frigid weather brings thoughts of spring

Now that this whole overblown J.D. Drew contract snag is behind us, the team is officially in place and it’s time to start looking ahead to Spring Training.

On this coldest day of the year to date, I’m very much looking forward to my arrival in Fort Myers on Feb. 15. Here are the issues I wonder about now that there is no more Patriots to obsess about:

Who the heck is going to close for this team? I’m just not buying the whole Joel Pineiro thing. Do we think Theo has a trade up his sleeve?

What kind of shape will Lester be in? And if he’s on schedule, how will they fit him into the rotation?

Is Pedroia a legitimate starting second baseman?

Will Manny show up on time?

Will Coco be the Coco we hoped he’d be last year?

How will Papelbon fare in the rotation?

What are some of the things on everyone else’s mind? Let’s talk some Red Sox. I’m sick of winter.

Ian.

25 days until pitchers and catchers

The translation of that headline is that football season is over — at least in these parts.

As a long-time follower of Boston sports, I can only find a few other losses that could be comparable in terms of pure gut punchers. Two of them are Red Sox and one of them is Celtics.

Game 6 of the 1986 World Series — enuf said.

Game 4 of the 1987 Finals — Celtics-Lakers. Does anyone remember how in control of this game the Celtics were? They led by something like 17 points late in the third quarter and were still up by about eight with under two minutes left. Does anyone remember that Kareem actually missed a free throw to set up Magic’s hook shot? If McHale had just gotten the rebound instead of batting the ball out of bounds, the Celtics would have had the game won. Instead, Laker ball, and Magic did the rest.

the other one was Game 7 of 2003 — Red Sox-Yankees. No need to rehash this one.

Seriously though, a 21-3 lead? How do you let that get away? Does anyone remember that they were on the verge of another field goal at that point only to have a penalty get them out of field goal range? how did they lose this game. How does a team like the Patriots commit a too many men on the field penalty and a roughing the passer penalty in the late stages of such a crucial game?

Maybe that somewhat lucky win over the Chargers did take too much out of them. They just didn’t have that same focus, mentally or physically that they usually have in games like this. In hindsight, how big was it losing that regular season game to the Colts? If only they had won that game, yesterday’s game would have been in Foxboro. I think we all know how it would have turned out in that case.

Another side note is that they really missed Charlie Weis in this game. I thought the offense was WAY too conservative down the stretch. I’m going to see those passive third down draw calls in my sleep. Go for a bomb downfield like Brady threw to Caldwell last week in SD. Where was the aggression? It was like the Colts were trying to win the game and the Pats were trying not to lose it.

Belichick needs to go back to the drawing board and add a few more horses. Brady needs a couple of downfield threats. Gaffney and Caldwell can only fake it for so long. They also need one or two more difference-makers on defense. The defense looked a little old yesterday.

All in all, I give the Patriots credit. They were a gutty team in a year they didn’t have the same depth of talent that they had during the Super Bowl years. I wouldn’t bet against Belichick and Pioli putting this thing back together. Remember, the 49ers won five Super Bowls in 14 years. The Pats need to just win two more over the next eight years to match that run.

And that, my friends, is the last words of football wisdom you will hear from me until next year’s Hot Stove season. From now until then, it’s all baseball all the time. Unless, of course, you want to dissect the wonderful Celtics and their 1-14 record since Pierce went down :)

Can’t wait for Fort Myers.

Countdown to Colts

Amazing isn’t it? All the big games the Patriots have won over the last six years, and it seems that the national media still hasn’t learned to give this team the benefit of the doubt in a big game.

I’m laughing reading some of the predictions. One expert thinks that the Colts will win because "it’s Peyton’s time."

Seriously? Come on. The Patriots are just tougher and better than the Colts. 13-2 for Belichick in the playoffs; 12-1 for Brady. Is this just a fluke? There must be a reason the Patriots keep winning big game after big game. Of the 12-1 streak, I find two wins that were sort of flukey. The Raiders snow game and this past Sunday against the Chargers. The Patriots probably should have lost both those games.

But every other win during this historic run has been because of physical talent and mental toughness. And I don’t see that changing against the Colts this Sunday.

Sure, Manning is a Hall of Fame talent and he’s tough in the Dome. But is the Colts defense going to stop the Patriots like they stopped the Chiefs and Ravens? I highly doubt it.

One thing the Patriots need to do to win this game is control time of possession. In order to do that, they need to run the football. We need to see a lot of Dillon and a lot of Maroney. Keep Manning off the field as much as possible.

At the end of the day, my score is Patriots 32, Colts 24.

the NFC Championship game will be Bears 20, Saints 17.

it should be fun.

Ian.

Charged Up, Part 2

What a Sunday that was. All I heard all week was about how the Chargers were the next great Super power and how they couldn’t be stopped. Why does everyone fall for this stuff every time?

How can you go against Brady and Belichick this time of year until they give you a reason to. That was some kind of football game.

I went 4-0 on my picks this weekend. Just proof that even a blind squirrel finds a nut from time to time.

Seriously, that was one intense game. That was the first time since the Super Bowl win over the Rams when the Pats won a game in the playoffs and I was asking myself for an hour after the game, "How did they do that? How did they win that game?"

I can’t believe LT was whining after the game that the Patriots were mimicking Merriman’s sack dance and how that was disrespectful. Give me a break LT. You’re better than that.

I’d like everyone else’s thoughts on the game as well. Sunday should be unreal. Predictions later this week!

Ian.

Charged Up

Let’s take a brief break from the game of baseball and talk some football!!!

My mind is on those New England Patriots, and the big game vs. the Chargers on Sunday. In my estimation, this is by far the biggest challenge the Pats have faced since Super Bowl XXXVI against the Greatest Show on Turf.

I wonder how much of the game-plan Belichick used against Marshall Faulk in that epic Super Bowl will be deployed in this one against LT. And I wonder how much Marty Schottenheimer might study that tape to see what he might expect.

This is going to be a fantastic football game. Here are my predictions for the weekend and I’d like everyone to chime in with there’s.

New England 38, Chargers 34: Shootout for the ages ends with the Brady having the final possession.

Indianapolis 21, Ravens 10: Ravens D does a decent job on Manning, but their "O" comes up small.

Saints 32, Eagles 21: The feel-good team of these playoffs lives to see another week.

Bears 30, Seahawks 14: The Bears will be stopped short of Miami, but it won’t be this week.

Closed case?

I’m not so sure the Red Sox have their closer just because Joel Pineiro is signed. It’s hard for any of us to know that Pineiro has what it takes to thrive as a closer in Boston after carrying an ERA of nearly 7 last year.

This is something that will play out all through Spring Training, and perhaps even beyond. Maybe Hansen will step up and win the job by the second half.

Also, for all of you going to Spring Training, the first workout for pitchers and catchers will be on Feb. 18. It was originally reported as Feb. 17, but the Red Sox actually have physicals that day and won’t work out. The first full-squad workout is Feb. 22.

A month has now passed since Scott Boras told the world that J.D. Drew was a member of the Red Sox. Still, no contract has been signed. But look for it to happen early next week.

Opening year with closing thoughts

Happy New Year everyone!

As we start 2007, the Red Sox have one burning issue left on their Hot Stove plate. No, not the J.D. Drew contract situation. We all know that will get resolved with a handshake between Scott Boras and Theo Epstein.

The issue, as you know, is that this team does not have a closer. This internal idea is a little scary. Julian Tavarez? Loved the guy as a starter late last season. He brings energy when he starts. But I don’t think he’s a closer. If he was, wouldn’t someone have already made him a closer aside from that cameo he had with the Pirates all those years ago?

Timlin? When he’s right, he’s a terrific setup man. At best, he’s an average closer. Keep him as a setup man and hope that he gets back to 2003-2005 form.

Donnelly? He’s always been a setup man so I’m not sure why that would change all of a sudden.

Hansack? He can throw five no-hit innings in a rain-shortened game. We know that about him. But what else do we know about him? Not enough.

Delcarmen? Nice kid, but just doesn’t have the makeup to be a closer. I’ve heard that from people in and out of the organization.

Hansen? The hope is that he is the future closer. Can the future be the immediate future? We won’t know the answer to that question until Spring Training at the earliest.

So where does that leave the Sox? In a precarious spot, that’s where. We remember what happened in 2003 when they didn’t have a closer. They won 95 games by bashing the ball and getting decent starting pitching. That generally isn’t a formula for getting deep into October.

So who will the closer be in 2007? It doesn’t seem as if anyone is any closer to knowing that now than when the 2006 season closed down.

Stay tuned.

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